Archive | December 2012

The Stak is Back

the stak is backThe party is watching out for Gray Weirds — who fortunately aren’t so good at climbing stairs. Picture by Dean. Write up by Dennis here.

The Gray Weirds


The Gray Weirds are the remains of certain wizards and sorcerers who sought to escape the ravages of Ur’s Fifth Cataclysm by transforming themselves into gray oozes.

In their inactive state Gray Weirds resemble stone columns supporting a stone mask or bust depicting the person they were before their transformation. When provoked they lose their rigidity and display all the characteristics of gray oozes. In addition to these abilities Gray Weirds may cast each of the following spells once per day: ESP, mirror image, and hold portal.

Gray Weirds tend to lair in the habitats of their former selves – wizards towers, isolated research facilities, etc. Whether or not they retain any aspect of their former personalties remains unknown — to date no one has successfully communicated with a Gray Weird or knows if such a thing is even possible. Gray Weirds often cultivate other slime creatures in their lairs.

An Ur Post

Ur Parade

The party started out on the banks of a forgotten subterranean river having come across by rope-pull after their boat sunk. They wandered through many caverns and encountered many strange things. Some of these things tried to kill them, others made them try to kill each other, and a few just gave them the willies so bad they turned tail and ran in the opposite direction. But when the night’s over, where’s the party? Back on the same riverbank. . . doing their laundry. All except the one guy who died trying to wrestle a REDACTED.

What cracks me up is when I make the adventure the day of the game, and it’s just a broad-stroke scribble-map of “Room 4: 3 Ghouls — 50GP in gems hidden under rock” – and then the players end in the dungeon, giving me another week to add stuff so that when we game again it’s “Room 4: 3 ghoul outcasts from the undercity. If the ghouls hear the party approach they move to the opposite side of the pit in Room 5 and leave a trail of gold coins to the trapped sarcophagi in Room 6.”

So players – if the DM says the adventure got made that day, then that’s the time to be bold. Otherwise those wheels within wheels start turning. . .

Artwork by one of my 3rd grade students.


Idle Question

While you were sleeping all the cats on the planet gained the ability to speak. What kind of accent do they have?

My answer is Sinister German. My wife’s answer is Texan.

Greatest Game-Related Thing I Read All Week

“NOTE: You do NOT need a Ph.D. in History to play this game. This game is based around the most superficial knowledge of U.S. history, and the personages therein. If you only know Samuel Adams as a beer, or think LBJ is a political group fighting for the rights of alternative sexual lifestyles, so much the better!”

From “Presidents of the Apocalypse” a gonzo superhero presidents versus radioactive mutants homebrew Dennis has been tinkering with.

This game is genius.

You can be armed with an Eisenhowitzer.


Favorite Reads 2012

It’s December. Here’s my list of ten favorite reads for the year.

1. The Vagabond – Colette

Rene Neree is a divorced woman in the first decade of the 20th century who has “fallen” from society and become a vaudeville performer. The crux of the book concerns the question of whether she should give up the stage and remarry or reject a comfortable marriage in order to pursue her career. What sweeps you along is less the plot and more just Rene’s character and perceptions as she lives and travels around Europe. You have to love Colette. She’s sharp, perceptive, and funny without being genteel. In the book’s first chapter she calls a man a whore. You have to appreciate that.

2. The Tartar Steppe – Dino Buzzati

Drogo is a newly appointed captain whose first assignment is a remote fort on the border. At first he hates the place but as time goes on he finds himself incapable of living elsewhere. It’s a bit funny and a bit sad. I wrote about this one in a One Book, Four Covers post.

3. Embassytown – China Mieville

Tons have been written about this book. It’s SF set on an alien world where the aliens speak a peculiar language that requires the development of genetically engineered human ambassadors. The main character is not an ambassador but a woman who is a colonist and has entered the alien language as a metaphor.

4. The Strangers in the House – Georges Simenon

 I like books about grubby curmudgeons with substance abuse problems who despite these traits or maybe because of them can face certain challenges and succeed over them. Simenon wrote a ton of books. When he’s good he’s very good indeed. Here’s a quote.

5. Riddley Walker – Russell Hoban

Post-apocalyptic wandering around radioactive England written in a crude degraded form of English – what’s not to love? Seriously. This is one of those books that can possibly make you drunk by reading it. The One Book, Four Covers treatment is here.

6. Dark Companion – Jim Nisbet

This book was just loopy. It’s a violently absurd noir novel about the relationship between a deadbeat drug dealer and his level headed Indian-American neighbor. Mayhem ensues. Sort of hard to say more about it than that.

7. Wild Life – Molly Gloss

Wild Life is set in the Pacific Northwest during the early decades of the 20th century and features a feminist single mother of five as its heroine. A child goes missing near one of the lumber camps and the woman sets out to find her despite the stories of a mysterious creature wandering in the woods. This description doesn’t do the story justice. It’s a powerful read. If you want a hint of Gloss’s style read The Grinell Method over here at Strange Horizons.

8. The Story of General Dann and Mara’s Daughter, Griot and the Snow Dog – Doris Lessing

This is the sequel to Mara and Dann. It’s not as intense as its predecessor, and mostly focuses on Dann who spends much of the book doing nothing except moping and drugs. As with the Simenon book mentioned above I like books like this. This one also had the added pleasure of being set millennia in the future when much of Europe is covered by ice.

9. Lolly Willowes – Sylvia Townsend Warner

I adored this book. Another early 20th century woman refuses to accept the roles society offers her, and in this case she packs off to the countryside and becomes a witch. Here’s the One Book, Four Covers for it. And here’s a bit more. Warner’s collection of fairy stories for adults The Kingdoms of Elfin is also pretty great.

10. Invisible Cities – Italo Calvino

Friends have been telling me to read this for years now. The frame story involves a young Marco Polo telling Kublai Khan of all the fabulous cities Polo has visited in his travels. The cities are of course fabrications  — fantasies and metaphors symbolizing human relationships with others and objects and ideas, and yeah, it’s great.

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And if you’re curious here’s the list from last year.