This week I read:
The First Ghosts by Irving Finkel
I find Mesopotamian history and mythology really interesting. It’s just so old! And yet I’m really poorly read in the area, I know what I know from online articles, the Epic of Gilgamesh, and a book of Inanna myths. I want to fix that, I want to know more.
So I picked up this book by Irving Finkel, who is the man I’d want with me if I found myself magically transported to ancient Babylon.
It starts by discussing Sumerian funeral practices and argues that this indicates a belief that ghosts exist and, more importantly, can come back. I wasn’t entirely convinced on that latter point, but then the majority of the book looks at ancient literature, spells, and myths, which all do very clearly show that they believes in ghosts in much the same way that you or I believe in doors. All very interesting stuff, I especially liked the copious amounts of translated cunieform, clearly showing what they thought about ghosts, and how to deal with them.
He also has an interesting chapter comparing the Sumerian and Assyrian ghost beliefs to sections of the Old Testament, arguing that the authors must have believed roughly the same sort of thing. I’m not sure how widely-accepted that theory is, but interesting and persuasive nevertheless.
I will definitely check out his other book “The Ark Before Noah”.
The Halls of Arden Vul
Not a lot of action this week, the players spent most of the time organising and then retrieving the contents of a treasure vault they came across at the end of last session. Unfortunately for them the haul, while physically large and impressive, was not quite as valuable as they’d hoped, consisting mainly of silver coins. But they did also retrieve a few artefacts they could sell for gold
I pushed the players for some indication of their longer-term plans, and it is largely as I expected: primarily, they want to go beat up the ghouls who killed their previous mid-level PCs, both for revenge and to recover their magical items; and secondarily they want to get a full set of teleportation tiles and start experimenting with that. They’re not too happy with how long it’s taking the curio shop to acquire tiles for them, so a change of plans there may be in order.
It’s now been a few in-game days since the party gave the goblins a direct route to the surface, so I need to figure out how that changes things when they return to the dungeon. The goblins might want to exert control over who enters the dungeon, which might throw a wrench in their plans. We’ll see. The goblins like the party a lot, but they’re not formal allies or anything and the goblins do have their own goals. I’ll think about it.
We’ve decided on the next break from the main campaign: it’s going to be ALIEN: Destroyer of Worlds, which I expect to take three sessions.
We’re all really looking forward to this. It’s not the same group I played the previous scenario, Chariot of the Gods, with (other than one of the players who I poached for Arden Vul when the Dolmenwood campaign ended); but that’s fine, they’re only very loosely connected. There’s no characters or places in common, and I think this scenario actually takes place beforehand, there’s just a few minor references.
I’ve picked up the Foundry module, because it was reasonably cheap, and the Chariot of the Gods module was fairly helpful even if I had to fix some errors in it, so I’ll be reading through the scenario and getting everything set up over the next couple of weeks.
I’ve played some more Ironsworn this week, mostly looking into the delve mechanics for site-based adventuring (dungeons, haunted woods, etc). I ran a little one-shot, working through a complex delve. It’s pretty neat, it essentially generates a pointcrawl as you play.
About half way through my delve I realised I was getting the rules wrong, which was making it feel a bit more abstract and less satisfying than it should have been. I was getting the rules wrong because Ironsworn has a lot of its content on physical playing cards.
For delving, for example, when you decide what sort of location it is you pick a “theme” card and a “domain” card, and they combine to form a random table which describes the sort of places you encounter as you explore.
But I don’t have the cards. I only have the PDF of the cards.
I read them, forgot about their tables, and so was rolling on the wrong table, and struggling to think of what I was encountering, rather than being inspired by the cards.
I normally don’t like physical components for games, I find they’re usually just gimmicks that cost a lot of money and you can easily do without, but I think I will actually get the Ironsworn cards. They’re print-on-demand, so they’re fairly cheap and can be easily replaced if I lose or damage them; unlike other physical components I’ve passed up on, like the very cool-looking but not-sold-separately maps for ALIEN: if you damage one of those you’ve got to buy a whole adventure box set again!
We’ve got hotels for the Japan trip! Two days in Tokyo for everyone to gather and recover from jetlag, then we catch the shinkansen down to Osaka and stay there for a week, then back up to Tokyo for the last week. I’ll be splitting off for a couple of days during the Osaka segment to visit some other friends in Matsuyama, which’ll probably be a domestic flight. I need to arrange that.
But it’s not all good news. I was looking at my wardrobe thinking about what would be suitable for Japan in April and it struck me just how few clothes I have, even if I took everything I’d need to do laundry two or three times during the trip, which is an inconvenience. I need to buy more clothes. Get it down to one instance of laundry at most.