This week I read:
Elric: The Moonbeam Roads by Michael Moorcock
If I was still trying to maximise the number of books I read in a year, this one would have annoyed me as it comprises three originally separate novels which have been lumped together into this one volume. It’s huge! Way bigger than the other books in the Gollancz Elric collection. I’ve been slowly reading it over the last few weeks.
Despite ostensibly being an Elric book, the trilogy is more about the von Bek family.
The first story, Daughter of Dreams, has Ulric von Bek meet Oona, daughter of Elric and Oone, and learn about the Cosmic Balance and the Eternal Champion, of which he is one manifestation. One thing I always find funny in the Elric stories is how readily everyone accepts that there is a multiverse out there, and the worlds of man are the battlegrounds of gods seeking to control it. We also meet Klosterheim and Gaynor the Damned, recurring characters who actually showed up in previous Elric books in this collection. I don’t know if this is the novel that introduced them, but we get an introduction to them here.
The second, Destiny’s Brother is actually mostly about Oona, as Ulric gets kidnapped by transdimensional Native Americans near the beginning of the story and only returns towards the end. Like in the first tale, the climax involves Elric and Ulric merging together into a whole that’s greater than the sum of its parts to thwart the evil plans of Klosterheim and Gaynor.
The third, Son of the Wolf, focusses on Oonagh, granddaughter of Ulric and Oona, and on Oona’s twin brother who seems to go by several different names. While the other two I followed without difficulty, even though I recognised that some of the characters had clearly been first introduced in other books I’d not yet read, this one I felt that more keenly and I think I’d have got much more out of it if I’d read the Hawkmoon books first. Maybe I’ll re-read it after I do. Hawkmoon himself doesn’t appear “on screen”, though he is referenced, but the story is largely set in his world and we only get a basic explanation of who the characters are and what’s going on.
And that is it for the Elric collection. I’m going to take a break from Moorcock now and read some other books on my list, and then when I return it’ll be to Corum.
The Halls of Arden Vul
I made a few tweaks to my house rules this week, mostly to the philanthropy rules:
Previously I had a pretty basic “donate X gold, get 80% of it as XP” style rule, with some restrictions on the minimum amount you can donate based on the size of the settlement. I also noted that you could donate treasure instead of gold “if appropriate (e.g. donating a religious statue to a temple)”.
It worked, and we used it a lot, but I felt it wasn’t really fit for purpose any more:
There was only really one relevant settlement, so the rules for needing to donate larger amounts of money in larger settlements never came up. Besides, there’s already a penalty to donating only a little money: you get only a little XP.
The players never donated to specific causes, despite my hinting. So I decided to just make it really explicit by giving them a mechanical benefit for doing so. I want them to also engage with the factions outside the dungeon.
They’ve been talking for a few weeks now about founding a temple or a hospital, and I wanted that to be a bit more involved than just buying a building and getting a load of XP for it. I wanted them to have to have an ongoing involvement with any organisation they set up, with the potential of things going wrong, but lacked rules for that. So I pulled in the institution rules from Downtime in Zyan.
We’re all looking forward to trying out these new rules and founding the Free Hospital of Gosterwick, or funding the construction of the city walls so that Lady Alexia is more inclined to grant the party favours.
I also dropped my training rules, since it added a little friction on every level-up and in hindsight wasn’t really adding anything. I wanted training to be a gold sink, and also to force the players to engage with powerful NPCs; but philanthropy is already being a good gold sink, and I never actually played up the aspect of finding and engaging with specific mentor NPCs, it just became “ok, you go off and train with the knights for a week”.
And I simplified the carousing rules, since they were never being used. But actually, I think we’re just going to get rid of those as well. We had a chat about it and agreed that we’re not really playing the sort of fantasy that carousing models, that of sword-and-sorcery heroes who come back from adventure laden with loot and blow it all in a huge party, which sends them into enough debt to trigger the next adventure. Carousing fits well in other campaigns, but not really in one where the PCs are all philanthropic do-gooders.
As for the session itself, the players managed to find yet another route from the surface into the dungeon, down to an area full of goblins. They decided not to press on this time, but have noted it for future reference. They also found some valuable statues in a disused corridor, and hauled them out to sell in town.
I’ve been watching the 3d6 DTL actual play of Arden Vul and find the difference in how time passes in their campaign and mine a little funny. They’ve been playing for a year, but only a month of in-game time has passed as they spend most of every session carefully exploring the dungeon. We’ve just wrapped up the 15th weekly session, and about 3 months of in-game time have passed, as my players immediately head back to Gosterwick as soon as they have a little loot to put in the bank.
I fixed a little issue in my NixOS config that was bothering me. I’d come up with this nice abstraction which let me define containerised services which would run exactly the same config with either docker or podman: if under docker it’d set up the appropriate bridge networks for containers to talk to each other, and if under podman it’d set up the pods.
Very convenient, let’s me switch back and forth between docker and podman for system services, but it did have a problem. When running under docker, containers would be addressable by hostname, but when running under podman they’d only be available as “localhost”.
Well, it turns out that
podman pod create has a
--network-alias parameter which lets me set up docker-style hostnames. So I fixed that, and now I can define services as groups of containers which will just do the right thing.