Monday, November 19, 2018

Invisible Cities

Invisible Cities is a novel by Italo Calvino.

I believe I heard of its existence through Monsters & Manuals.

I really recommend that you read it. Partly because, yes, it has some relevance to the topic of imaginary places (a central element of this hobby), but also because it is cunningly perceptive of our real world (and the image thereof we each build in our minds), and a work of art in its own right. Having read it twice, I daresay it is one of the most important books to who I am now.

Don't research it overmuch before you read it. The book is designed to open itself to you slowly. It is not long; you will not burden yourself by beginning it. It lends itself well to regular but episodic reading. A page or two before bed, perhaps.


(I am thinking of assembling my own "Appendix N," as it were, at some point. This book would definitely be on it.)

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Side Blog: One Line Metal Reviews

Just a quick announcement that I am splitting off much of my music-related content to a separate Tumblr: One Line Metal Reviews. I just post an album a day from my personal listening, with a quick line and a rating-out-of-ten. Mostly various kinds of metal, but some post-rock and ambient thrown in too. A mix of fresh and seasoned releases. It's been running for a month and I still have a solid backlog.

Tabletop RPG content will continue right here at Ars Magisterii. Hopefully this will allow me to deliver game-related content here without mixing in music that fewer people may be interested in, haha.

Check some of these out:
Bell Witch - Mirror Reaper - funeral doom, 10/10 \m/
Winterfylleth - The Divination of Antiquity - black metal, 9/10 \m/
Mgła - Exercises in Futility - black metal, 9/10 \m/
Orange Goblin - The Wolf Bites Back - stoner metal, 9/10 \m/
Krytps - Remnants of Expansion - death doom, 8/10 \m/
Apyxion - Aftermath - melodeath/metalcore, 8/10 \m/
High Plains - Cinterland - neoclassical , 8/10
Krisiun - The Great Execution - death metal, 7/10
Jungle Rot - Self-titled - death metal, 7/10
Odd - Memories and Monuments - post-rock, 7/10

Monday, November 12, 2018

So, I Found Some Rando Apocryphal Homebrew, Let's Dissect It

Title about covers what we're doing here. This will be a long post, written more for my amusement than scholarly merit, so I recommend that you just stop reading and do something more worthwhile unless you have time to waste. I'm not gonna proofread it, either, so brace yourself if you venture beyond this point.

The story in short: my girlfriend briefly played in a "D&D" group during college (she is now in grad school on a full ride scholarship). The following 17-page printout is the rules she was given.

My gf tells me she "decorated" the cover. I believe the red is intentional and the yellow is not.
So, this is "Dungeons and Dragons Version 2" (not Second Edition, "Version 2"). I can assure you, I have already skimmed it, and though there is no author mentioned, it is not D&D as published by Wizards of the Coast or TSR.

2/17, Part I
This document seems to be broken up into Roman-numeral "Parts," Arabic-numeral rules, and subrules using letters. I will note them as [Part]-[rule]-[subrule] (i.e. I-1, II-4-c, whatever).

I-1: I guess these "limitations" are laid out under I-9 and I-10 later on this page. Not sure why this needs to be a separate line.
I-2: stats are 3d6. Unspecified whether it's down-the-line or assigned. Also unspecified what the stats actually are, though I assume we will find out. (Probably the familiar six?)
I-3: Three classes, then? I mean, if you have to choose three, these are probably the most vital "core" classes. (Sorry cleric fans.) I guess mages (not wizards?) end up with ~7-8hp, rogues (not thieves) ~10-11, fighters ~13-14. So fighters stand to boast almost twice as much as mages, which is a difference but not a huge one.
I-4: magic point rolls are seemingly inverted from hit points - mages get the most (obviously)... but rogues and fighters start with magic points too? We will need to see how these magic points work.
I-6: "Alignment is an optional choice." Good author.
I-7,I-8: I think, if I remember from skimming, "affinity" is like the magical "element," and there are more than the big four. Jank like light and electricity and whatever. Anyway, each character starts with one, chosen out of three random. Why not just give straight player choice here if it "very heavily affects usage of Magick"? (Note that capital-M Magick with a k. Ugh.)
I-9: class "limitations"  are "not limited to:"... Heh. Anyway, these limitations are seemingly in three areas: 1) weapon size, 2) stealth, 3) magic.
I-9-a: mages can't sneak because of their "aura" which "can be detected quite easily." No word on whether the other two classes, who also have an affinity and a pool of magic points, have such an aura.
I-9-c: it is implied here that there is indeed a strength stat, which allows use of bigger weapons. Again, I guess we need to wait for more.
I-10: three races here - Dwarves, Elves, Orcs. No mention of humans. Do humans just roll without limitations? I feel like we're missing something here.
I-10-b: we've met the rogue already, but what is an "Elven Brawler?" Another name for fighter? Anyway, this subrule indicates the use of what I like to call "weird dice" (i.e. not platonic solids. The d10 is bad enough. Uugh.)
I-10-c: orc characters are "stunned in light." I assume we will learn what "stunned" entails (I should really keep track of the number of times I say we'll have to wait to find out what a rule means - and how many times we actually do), but what qualifies as "light"? Do orcs need pitch-black to function?
I-11: JOBS. Yes, your character has a job. (Uuugh.) I-11-a possibly implies that class=job? Well, let's check the next page.

3/17, Part I cont'd
I-11-b: WOW level 100? If it wasn't obvious already, this isn't the D&D we know, kids. Seriously, though, I do NOT know what this and I-11-c are going on about, though I of course have guesses. Oh, and apparently there are Psionics.
I-12: Okay, here are the stats. Good. They are listed in the old (AD&D?) manner and not the current WOTC order (I had to Google it. I am ashamed).
I-12-a-i: no sign what units carry capacity is (although pounds were mentioned earlier in I9c). So a character with 11 strength gets a carry capacity of 110, which seems high but not unthinkable if it's pounds?
I-12-a-ii: no bottom limit for this damage bonus. So a given character starts with at least +1 damage, and maybe +9 (with 18Str).
I-12-b-i: similar story with potentially high starting abilities - 18Int gives 8 extra languages (9 total?)
I-12-b-ii: not sure what "reflexively memoriz[ing]" spells means. Is this just daily Vancian casting? Anyway, Int=spells per day, then. I assume since all classes get magic points, they all get spells too?
I-12-c: okay, I guess Wisdom gives spells known, and Int gives spells memorized per day. But this wisdom thing sets up a weird edge case where if you have under 9Wis you know spells but can't cast them. Huh. Oh, and the spell level matrix runs to 29Wis and above... so I assume we'll see stats increase with level.
I-12-d: so increasing beyond your starting Con increases health, but having a high starting Con doesn't? (Remember, hitpoints were rolled per class in I-3.) I guess high Con gives you damage reduction, though... which seems fiddly to have in addition to hitpoints. Con should do one or the other. DR and hitpoints ends up being a lot of fiddly math. I think this is not the last we will see of fiddly math.
I-12-e-i: "Dexterity/10 (rounded up) is the amount of turns you may have consecutively." - wut? Is this, like, you get two actions if you're above 10Dex? Or something else? Oh, the mystery...
I-12-f-i: Charisma improves prices. Nothing else is mentioned. Great.

4/17, Part II
II: "Races are (obviously) a fundamental part of character creation" - really? "Obviously?" Like, I-10 didn't even mention humans, and only gave a few minor limitations (again, unless orcs being "stunned in light" means they need pitch-black, haha).
II-1: "There is [sic] a wide variety of races" Really? I saw three. "interactions between them may be confusing. There is (or will be) a link to an interaction spreadsheet here (Or may be attached)" - Well, I only have a physical copy of these rules, and there was no spreadsheet attached. *shrugs* ... Let's see what race interactions entail:
II-1-a thru II-1-e: Oh, it's a big janking screwjob where your attitude to every member of a given race is dictated (unless you have high enough Int or Wis for your character to form their own janking opinion). Big blow to player agency here, to say the least. The justification? "This is not the modern era, there are very few forward thinkers." AAAAAAA
(Seriously though, how does a multiracial adventuring party with average ability scores even adventure together? Is that not discussed?)

5/17, Part III
III: "The point of the class is to specialize your character." Okay, sweeping generalization there, but arguably that's technically true. "Previously, any class may have functioned exactly the same way. This is going to change." ?
The rest of this page is all in future tense. As if it isn't even technically the rules yet?
III-1 mostly reiterates I-9, but with seemingly arbitrary little additions or lacunae here and there. Most notably, no mention of the mages' stealth-killing "aura" here.
III-2: "There will no longer be an infinite number of subclasses" Well praise the Lord. Can't have that infinite list taking up all my hard drive space. "The current list of subclasses is here (Or may be attached)." Just like the rage relation spreadsheet. I'm actually thankful I don't have to read through those attachments... Anyway, I was pleased earlier that there were only three classes, but it looks like subclasses are a thing. There are... *reads down the page* SIXTY. SIXTY F@CKING SUBCLASSES AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
That ending "Side note" is hilarious. (As a matter of fact, Author, no, I am not "happy with 3 general classes with 60 subclasses" and what I want is a game I can actually sit down and play without spending my entire day reading these attachments I fortunately don't have. Let's stick with those three core classes, eh?)
Okay, in all seriousness, I understand that some person has invested hours and hours of personal time writing the game they want to run as a personal hobby and without earning any profit. That's cool and all, and I respect the drive. I'm being exaggeratedly dramatic, and if (somehow) you're reading this, dear Author, we should go get a beer or coffee or something and talk about our hobby sometime. Just, like, let's not play this ruleset in particular.

6/17, Part IV
"nearly" infinite this time, unlike our formerly infinite (reduced to 60+) subclasses.
We seem to be missing another linked/attached list here, so there's not much to say here other than that this seems to be the most straightforward page we've had.

7/17, Part V
V-1-a-i: "Sound confusing? It is." Great. Ya don't say. Seriously, Reader, can you tell me what V-1-a-ii means? (Is there a typo in that subrule?)
V-1-b seems to state that all characters do indeed start with at least one spell.
V-2 does not state what "the proper amount of Mana" (called "Magick Points" in I-4?) is. Is it equal to spell level?
V-2-a - so mana is per encounter, while spells are also limited per-day (per Int rules in I-12-b?) - though that rule is also lacking context.
Oh, and that throwaway: "Tip: if your Mana did not regenerate, the encounter is not over." I feel like there's backstory here, haha.
The other tip is good though, I guess.

8/17, Part VI
Okay, there are really no rules here in VI. Just saying that alchemy is a thing that you can do. Moving on...

9/17, Part VII
Another "can be confusing" - at least "hopefully, the new system is easier."
VII-1 differentiates grappling from melee - and, for some reason, weapons like swords or maces are melee while "hand-to-hand" weapons are under grappling?
VII-2: okay, attack rolls are opposed by other rolls. So, no armor class? Not a fan of what opposed rolls were chosen, either:
VII-2-a: Rolling Dex to dodge arrows doesn't make sense to me...
VII-2-b: if someone runs up to me with a sword, I'm not just gonna shrug, take it, and roll Con. I'm gonna dodge (Dex) or parry (Str).
VII-2-c: grappling should be Str vs Str.
VII-2-d: Int doesn't even power your spell rolls - apparently that's Wis.
Urgh. Still the bigger complaint from me is that every attack seems to involve two rolls - and we haven't even gotten to damage rolls.
VII-4: Okay, five damage types. "Blunt, Sharp, Pierce, Magickal" make sense... but throwing? "Throwing" is it's own damage type? Why not just have thrown weapons deal one of the first three types, ehhh?

10/17, Part VIII
"Dungeons and Dragons does not solely consist of combat and dungeons. Sometimes, it's just good, old-fashioned roleplaying." Okay, sure, Author, very good, no need for "roleplaying" rules, let's just move on and... OMF
WHAT THE F@CKITTY F@CK
Alright, I got dinner and a drink, let me try again. So:
VIII-2: skill checks require rolling 1d20 for every five points you have in the relevant stat (rounding up or down?) against a target also determined by rolling janking d20s. Let's see how many is the most we'll have to- F@CKING TWENTY-DEE-TWENTIES FOR SEDUCING A F@CKING GENDERLESS PERSON WHAT THE F@CK (VIII-2-e-vi)
Deep breaths...
Okay, so I guess for skills the Author just wants to roll janktons of dice without thought for mathematical considerations or usability. Each use of a skill means both the player and the DM have to roll (usually) multiple dice, up to 20 on the DM's end, just to determine if the player can seduce a genderless person (not asexual - that's a separate entry - genderless).
Oh, sidenote, according to VIII-2-c-iii: with 18 Wisdom - maximum starting wisdom - the odds are against you knowing even recent history.
I don't want to look at these skills anymore. Moving on...

11/17, Part VIII cont'd
OH F@CK THERE'S ANOTHER PAGE
Let me just cherrypick a few.
VIII-2-f-iv: YOU CAN ROLL TO BLUFF A BABY
VIII-2-f-v: NOBILITY ROLLS 25-F@CKING-D20 IF YOU TRY TO BLUFF THEM
VIII-2-g-iv: SAME AS ABOVE FOR INTIMIDATION
VIII-2-h-vi: WHAT DOES ROLLING AGAINST PAIN EVEN MEAN? Whatever it means, pain gets 12d20, sucker
VIII-2-i-vi: BARTENDERS ARE FAST F@CKERS
DEATH, TAKE ME

12/17, Part IX
"Here are some helpful tips for navigating the dungeons we will put you through." Emphasis mine. Adversarial GMing, anyone?
Okay, there's actually some decent (if basic) advice here, but... LOL that last line. I feel like there's some backstory there...

13/17, Part X
This is some stereotypical MMO jank right here. Ew. I'm just gonna note that "A Quest" (capital-Q-Quest lol) " is a specific goal set by a DM, and given to the players" which is technically true but, again, a super adversarial way to say it, like the DM is a janking dictator telling the PCs to go to the next village over to find a man's cat. Seriously, read this page, haha.

14/17, Part XI
"There is a Main Story Arc in DnD." A Main Story Arc, all caps. Oh, pray tell.
"There can, arguably, be an infinite number of them..." LOL
"an exciting plot to be transversed by the players in any way they so choose." Sure.
"Thieves, Mages, and Fighters" each had a guild in harmony with the others? The thieves weren't thieving from the others and the fighters weren't fighting? Uh huh.
"They kept each other in check. The darker Mages would be slain by the mercenaries in the Fighters Guild, the Fighers would never gain too much money because of the Thieves Guild, and the Thieves could never grow too powerful because the Mages kept a close eye on them." LOLOLOL this is like some Runescape combat triange sh@t, but f@cking backwards!
Okay, I'm not even gonna comment on the rest. "A plan to take over the entirety of the Universe"? "All that we know so far, is that he is influencing the Magickless?" LAWD there's still three pages left...

15/17, Party [sic] XII
Wait, I thought we already did skills in Part VIII! I guess those were "checks" and these  are "skills."
I guess the whole skill system is, like, MMO grinding?
There's really so much I dislike about this page that I'm just gonna say "more MMO sh@t" and move on.

16/17, Part XIII
"Here are some suggestions regarding Death." Thanks, Author. Suggestions.
So XIII-2 basically states that there are clerics running around finding bodies with more than 2,000sp on them and rezzing them for exactly that sum.
Next!

17/17, Part XIV
So, Titans = gods. "The Titans are not debatable, and are not fictitious."
XIV-2: you can pray to the Titan of the appropriate affinity and they might help ya out (for a price).
XIV-5: each Titan has a "Homeworld." (Home plane?)
XIV-5-a: "a Titan is unkillable, but conquerable."

THE END

Look, f@ck it, I've been at this for hours and it's miserable, so I may have gone quickly and lightly through that second half, but we made it. For whatever that's worth. (I, personally, regret this project, as I am sure you also do.)

Anyway, so now we know how to play "Dungeons and Dragons." Nominally. Let's not ever do that.


Addendum: I ask my gf how these rules worked at table. She told me the first and only session she showed up for was short a player and was cancelled, and the campaign never became a thing. *shrugs*