Since I never have much to write in this section, now that my work is closed-source, I think I’m going to drop this section as a regular feature going forwards. If there’s something big to say, I can always bring it back for a one-off.
This week I read:
MOAR! Monsters Know What They’re Doing by Keith Ammann
Like the earlier Monsters Know What They’re Doing, which I read and enjoyed a while back, this covers tactics for D&D monsters starting from the assumption that they are “real” creatures which live in a world governed by D&D mechanics, so they should have evolved or developed an approach to combat which works in such a world.
And like the earlier book, it doesn’t claim to be system-neutral. This is explicitly a book for people running D&D.
Unlike the earlier book, I didn’t find this one very useful to my non-D&D games. I suppose I can’t really fault it for not living up to a standard it never claimed, but it was a little disappointing to finish the book and realise it was mostly just a waste of time. Even worse, it wasn’t even very interesting.
The book covers monster tactics for all the things introduced in Modenkainen’s Tome of Foes and Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Even though I’ve never run D&D, the first book was good for getting into the mindset and thinking about monster tactics, and also a lot of the Monster Manual monsters are classic monsters present in lots of fantasy games. So, while the mechanics didn’t directly translate, a lot of stuff did. Whereas this book, by virtue of covering stuff introduced in supplements which have now come out like 4 to 6 years afterwards, has way more D&D-specific things which don’t show up elsewhere. Oh well.
If I were running D&D, however, it would be fantastic.
Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
I’ve had this sitting on my shelf for a while, probably since around the time I read and enjoyed V for Vendetta back in 2014, but not read it until now.
Well, I wish I hadn’t put if off for so long. It’s great, I really enjoyed it. I’d seen some of the more memorable individual panels before (like Dr Manhattan disintegrating Rorschach), but I knew almost nothing about the story,1 so it was a lot of fun to see them actually in context. While it was consistently good throughout, I thought the ending in particular was great.
This week I got the Hot Springs Island books:
Luckily, I was in time to get the second edition before it runs out and they switch to the new (much more generic-looking) third edition cover. I’ve only flipped through it so far, but it looks good. I might run this if I start a second fantasy game before my Dolmenwood game ends: running the same setting in two games concurrently feels like it could be confusing.
I now own the three big OSR original settings: Wormskin / Dolmenwood, Yoon-Suin, and Hot Springs Island.
We had the first real session this weekend, the previous session being character creation and a bit of setting introduction. We started the session with the party arriving in the town of Prigwort, a sizeable settlement in the centre of Dolmenwood, and overhearing a bunch of rumours as well as getting involved with some NPCs. A lot happened!
The party minstrel negotiated an offer of employment, as a performer, from one of the inns. Their secret motive is to use their power to ensorcell members of Prigwort’s ruling council and learn their secrets.
The party squire learned that the daughter of his liege lord had been kidnapped mere days ago by brigands hiding in the nearby ruined abbey and talked the rest of the party into taking up the quest to save the child.
The partry friar overheard a hunter telling a tale of being driven out of the woods to the north-east by one of the Drune, a sinister cabal of mysterious sorcerers, as if the Drune were protecting something. The party made note of it as something to investigate later.
The party hired their first retainer, something I don’t think we’ve ever done in one of our games before.
In trying to save the young noble girl, the party were attacked and driven off by an undead creature made of beaks and talons called “Mr Rag-and-bone”, who seems to have charmed the girl and two other children, and uses them to dig up graves and collect teeth. The minstrel sustained a nasty scratch and has some sort of black rot upon her flesh…
While hiding from Mr Rag-and-bone, they encountered an undead monk, who begged that they end his blasphemous existence, and told them that the abbey has been cursed ever since a ritual to invoke the spirit of their patron saint went awry one century ago.
It was a pretty fast-paced session, it wasn’t action all the time, but there wasn’t much in the way of downtime either. One character, the minstrel, almost died (and would have if Mr Rag-and-bone had rolled higher for his attack)—a character near-death in the first session, wow!
I’m very much looking forward to the next session, in which the party plan to go to a herbalist to ask about the minstrel’s condition (it’s not good, there will only be two avenues open to them, both of which will lead to further adventure), and to visit the noblewoman to say they found her daughter and can they have a force of knights to rescue her please. And I’ll also seed some more hooks whenever I can, I definitely want some pointers to more interesting NPCs and locations, and to start Winter’s Daughter, which I recently ran for my other group using the Forbidden Lands system.
I’ve taken a lot of inspiration from the 3d6 Down the Line Dolmenwood series on Youtube, which is a great series for getting into the setting and the OSE system more generally.
We’re on the verge of the new anime season, and there’s a lot of stuff I’m interested in checking out: Devil is a Part-Timer! season 2 (that getting announced was a surprise, you don’t often see a sequel 10 years after the original), Overlord season 4 (I just hope the animation is better than season 3), Made in Abyss season 2, Shadows House season 2, Luminous Witches, and more!
It’s a very promising line-up, definitely one of the better seasons in recent memory.
Not that going in blind is needed to enjoy a story, of course. I’m a firm believer that it’s about the journey, not the destination, and that if a story only works if you fastidiously avoid spoilers, deriving all of its quality from surprise, it’s probably not a very good story.↩︎