Thursday, 25 May 2017

Some Thoughts on Gorgons

In Greek mythology, the gorgons were three monstrous sisters whose visage turned people to stone. Detailed descriptions vary, although they typically had snakes for hair. In D&D, however, these beings are known as "medusas", from the name of the specific gorgon slain by Perseus. The creature known as a gorgon in D&D is therefore, something else entirely, an essentially original creation, albeit still with the power of petrifaction, and perhaps partially inspired by the bronze bulls from the story of Jason and the Argonauts.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Some Thoughts on Displacer Beasts

Actually a photoshopped jaguar...
Like their supposed enemies, the blink dogs, displacer beasts have been present in every version of the Dungeon & Dragons game. Apparently based, at least in terms of their physical appearance, on an alien creature featuring in the works of early science fiction writer A.E. van Vogt, their signature power is nonetheless original to the game. They are among the few standard D&D creatures not to be included in the Open Game Licence, so that they are distinct to that game and not to any of its clones/adaptations, such as Pathfinder. But we're not restricted by that here, since we're just providing a review of the thing. So what can we say about them?

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Some Thoughts on Blink Dogs

In Basic Edition, blink dogs were said to resemble dingos
Blink dogs are a relatively well-known creature for the D&D game, being entirely original to it, and having been present in every edition since the very beginning. Compared with some other signature creatures, though, there doesn't seem to be much written about them. So let's see what sort of a take I can make on them.

As always, let's begin by seeing what the primary source material has to say about the creatures, using an admittedly incomplete sampling of various editions:

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Some Thoughts on Owlbears

No, I'm not very good with Photoshop...
Owlbears are arguably the most distinctive of the "mundane" animals of the standard D&D menagerie. Of course, that's taking a very broad definition of "mundane", referring solely to the fact that they possess no magical powers or particularly unusual abilities. To the people of the world they live in, they're presumably no stranger or more to be feared than tigers, alligators, or rhinoceroses are to us.

In our reality, though, they couldn't exist, since they mix and match mammalian and avian features in a way that doesn't happen in natural evolution. Even in the world of D&D they're usually said to be the creation of some long-dead wizard, rather than something natural - although it's worth noting that other hybrid creatures, such as griffons, aren't regarded in the same way. Still, it's at least interesting, for someone like me who writes a lot about real world animals, to consider how such a creature would work if, somehow, it really existed.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Some Thoughts on Dire Wolves

Yesterday, after watching some early episodes of season six of Game of Thrones, my thoughts turned to dire wolves. Clearly the dire wolves in that show are not the same as the animals of the same name portrayed in the classic RPG Dungeons & Dragons.

But this set me to wondering what the dire wolves of D&D would be like if they actually existed. It's an easier question to consider than what, say, a griffon might be like, since we do at least have real wolves to compare them to. A griffon, by contrast, may have radically different interpretations in different games, novels, or even real-world legends.

But even dire wolves, close though they are to real animals, vary noticeably between different interpretations. Those in GoT appear to be larger, slightly more intelligent versions of real wolves,which doesn't quite fit their depiction in D&D, despite the obviously similar source material. So what could we reasonably say about D&D-style dire wolves?

Let's begin by defining the animal we're talking about. I'll look at the versions in three different editions of the Monster Manual, not using other sources that may have expanded on them (of which there are doubtless many, official and otherwise).

Saturday, 12 December 2015

TW 1890: Setup

Last weekend, we held the first session of my Torchwood 1890 game. Having discussed the broad concept and rule system last time, I think it's time to talk a little more about the setting itself.

The year, as indicated in the title, is 1890. According to the TV series, the Torchwood Institute was established on the 1st January 1880, a few months after the events of the Doctor Who episode Tooth and Claw. As of 1890, therefore, the organisation has been going for ten years, and is very much in its early days. It's around this time that Torchwood Two (in Glasgow) and Torchwood India (in what was then Bombay) are established, which gave me an excuse to say that most of the pre-existing members of the organisation had de-camped to these new locations. At the beginning of the campaign Torchwood London consists of just two agents and a handful of staff. Both agents were, of course, PCs, with the remainder being new recruits.

One of the first questions I had to answer therefore, is where exactly Torchwood's headquarters are. In the TV series, the London branch is based in One Canada Square... which, as of 1890, won't open for over a hundred years. Where were they before that? I'd say that one of London's many abandoned underground train stations is a likely bet, and fits well with the Hub from the TV series. But, in 1890, there are very few of those around, and, besides, it wasn't the mood I was looking for.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Torchwood 1890

As anyone who has been reading the last two-and-a-bit years of posts on this blog knows, I've long considered the possibility of running a Doctor Who game. For various reasons, it's never happened, and it turns out that not all of my current group are particularly keen on the idea, either. But it turns out that I can get kind of close, and I will soon start GMing a game based on Torchwood. I have no idea whether I'll be able to post "actual play" summaries here on any sort of regular basis (although we only get to meet up about once a month, so it's not a ridiculous schedule, or anything). But I thought I'd at least outline some of the ideas behind the campaign here today.

The first issue with running a Torchwood game turned out to be the nature of the last two campaigns the group has run - with me as a player, rather than GM. Most recently, we've done Primeval, and before that, Supernatural. There is, let's be honest, a certain theme here, although it wasn't one that was particularly intentional (we'd done Call of Cthulhu and HeroQuest before that). The fact that they're all based on TV shows isn't really an issue, but I felt that the fact that they were all investigators running around the modern world might be if I made it three-in-a-row.

Doctor Who wouldn't have had this problem - alien planets, space stations, trips into history, it's all rather different. But Torchwood ran the risk of, in particular, being Primeval with aliens instead of dinosaurs. It's set in modern Britain, you're agents of at least some sort of vaguely official agency, and so on. Yes, we could have the characters be entirely unofficial remnants of the disbanded organisation, but that makes it more like Supernatural (only set in Britain), so it still didn't feel different enough to me.