Well, it’s back to full-time WFH for me: they’re closing the office until the end of September for refurbishments.
This week I read:
The Once and Future King by T. H. White, which I picked up mistaking it for a translation of the more famous Le Morte d’Arthur.
But despite not being what I expected, T.H. White’s retelling of the classic tale was still a good book. This is my first foray into Arthurian literature (well, unless you count those bits of The Mabinogion). The book is obviously heavily inspired by White’s experiences of World War II, and a central theme of the book is Arthur (at Merlin’s behest) trying to find a good outlet for might and force, so that the world could progress to a state beyond “might makes right”.
There’s an amusing scene where Mordred accuses Lancelot and Guinevere of having an affair (which is an open secret that Arthur is aware of), in an attempt to bring Arthur down by forcing him to execute his wife and denounce his friend. Arthur responds by saying that the Queen would, of course, be able to choose a champion to fight for her honour. Mordred protests, saying she will choose Lancelot, who is the greatest knight, and will therefore win regardless of her guilt.
But then, you see, moot points have to be settled somehow, once they get thrust upon us. If an assertion cannot be proved, then it must be settled some other way, and nearly all of these ways are unfair to somebody. It is not as if you would have to fight the Queen’s champion in your own person, Mordred. You could plead infirmity and hire the strongest man you knew to fight for you, and the Queen would, of course, get the strongest man she knew to fight for her. It would be much the same thing if you each hired the best arguer you knew, to argue about it. In the last resort it is usually the richest person who wins, whether he hires the most expensive arguer or the most expensive fighter, so it is no good pretending that this is simply a matter of brute force.
So even in a world of laws, Might still makes Right: it’s just the might of riches rather than arms.
This week I ran Winter’s Daughter, an adventure for Old School Essentials (which I previously used for my Forbidden Lands one-shot), for a group at work. Two players had played a bit of 5E before, two hadn’t played any RPGs before. We also only had two and a half hours to get through character creation and enough of the adventure to leave a good first impression.
So we’d hit the ground running, before the session I:
Printed a bunch of character sheets and two copies of the Ability Score Modifier tables (page 21 of OSE Advanced Fantasy Player’s Tome)
Picked a list of classes they could choose from:
- Fighty types: Cleric, Dwarf, Fighter
- Magicy types: Druid, Elf, Magic-User
- Sneaky types: Halfling, Ranger, Thief
Rolled two sets of random equipment for each class (using the Dolmenwood tables: Dwarf equipment as Fighter; Druid armour as Hunter, weapons as Friar; Halfling equipment as Thief; and Ranger equipment as Hunter)
I was going to roll up two full characters of each class, but didn’t get around to it. Then, when the game began, first we rushed through an abbreviated character creation in which I made sure their characters were a little tougher than usual:
- Roll 4d6 drop lowest, in order, for ability scores
- Pick a class (ignoring requisites and XP bonuses / penalties, in fact they didn’t look at the class descriptions at all, I just gave the names hoping the tropes would be enough context—they were)
- Note down ability score modifiers
- Choose a set of equipment
- Note down AC
- Roll hit points (re-rolling 1s and 2s)
- Elfs and Magic-Users roll for spells and choose what they have prepared
Then I gave a very brief intro to old-school play, which boiled down to these three points:
- Describe what you’re doing, don’t just ask to roll
- Think creatively, this isn’t a video game or board game
- Be cautious, 1st level characters are flimsy
And then the adventure started! I’d prepared an intro spiel beforehand, wherein I gave a bit of background, described their immediate surroundings, and finished with a good old “what do you do?”
You have all been hired by a wizard to go to a centuries-old burial mound and retrieve for him a ring that was buried with the occupant. A bronze band set with a moonstone, with fittings in the form of woven branches. He said he doesn’t know who was buried there, but that his magical researches have led him to become aware of this ring. And as for why he’s interested in the ring, well, he said that all you really need to know is that he’s sufficiently interested in it to pay you 5,000 gold pieces to fetch it, which is quite a good sum of money.
So, you journeyed through the forest all of yesterday, camped for the night, and got up well rested this morning for your assault on the burial mound. You can see ahead of you the trees open up, into what looks like a clearing, and there’s a very overgrown path heading in. In the clearing you see the mound: a large flat-topped hillock, clearly artificial. And you can hear, coming from along the path, towards the mound, the quiet sound of clanking metal.
What do you do?
Over the course of the session, they:
- Spent a while looking at and throwing rocks at the iron owls in the trees (they decided it was time to move on when I described two of the owls taking off and flying away in the same direction)
- Licked the standing stones outside the mound
- Managed to pry open the big granite slab in front of the door
- Dealt with some magically animated objects (the Magic-User, one of the new players, finished them off with Sleep, which was excellent timing as they then had to leave early: right after saving the day by using their one prepared spell)
- Explored the burial mound
- Annoyed some skeletons
- Tied a rope to the one character who got covered with magical levitation slime, and dragged them around the dungeon like a balloon
- Figured out what the riddle meant, and found half of the answer
- And finished the session by finding a portal to Fairy
The two players who had some experience with RPGs before were more proactive at the start of the session, but the two newbies gradually got into it too, which was great to see happening. By the end, everyone had had a good time, and they were asking about next time.
So next time will pick up with the Magic-User returning with two other companions (I said I’d run for up to 6 people, but only 4 could make it this week), and then, I assume, them heading into Fairy. I think they think the second part of the riddle is there (it’s not, they missed a secret), so I have no idea how that will turn out.
I haven’t really thought about what the campaign will turn into after Winter’s Daughter, I’d planned this to just be a single adventure, but everyone seems keen to continue… it’ll have to be something fairly easy to drop in and out of, because there’s more than 6 people in total who want to play, and also I don’t expect consistent attendance (this being an after-work game), or for everyone who tries it to stick around. I’ll hold a session 0 after we finish the adventure and see what everyone’s interested in.
I watched Prey, the 2022 Predator film this week.
I liked it. It just repeated the successful formula of the first Predator film: one Predator against a bunch of people who go from “there’s something out there, maybe a bear?” to full-on invisible Predator leaping between trees while blowing people up with futuristic weaponry.
My only complaint would be that the big fight at the end felt a bit rushed. They’d spent the film building up the Predator as this super strong fighter, but then two people are able to deal with it without a huge amount of difficulty (well ok, one of them dies) when they manage to figure out that it uses heat vision.
- HAVING, a less understood SQL clause (despite saying it’s about
HAVING, the more interesting thing in this article to me is
GROUP BY CUBE, which I’d never come across before)
- How I Used DALL·E 2 to Generate The Logo for OctoSQL