The Tyranny of Distance: How Distance Shaped Australian History (1966) by Geoffry Blainey, explored how the vast distance between Great Britain and Australia shaped Australia's past, present and future, and cultural identity and attitudes.
When I first heard of this book a few years ago, I immediately became interested. However, my local library does not have this book available so I'll have see if I can get it from inter-library loan.
The book has piqued my interested because many science fiction stories posit a vast, star-spanning empire that has FTL ships and huge navies to protect it's colonies, very similar to the wooden ships of England's Royal Navy. Yet many of these stories also posit an ever-present enforcement when the sheer vastness of space requires the empire's ships to traverse these great distances to these far-flung colonies. It's no surprise that many stories explore issues related to rebellion and unrest.
A favorite set of novels of mine is the Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons. I think that these books do a good job of dealing with the distances by expressing them in "time-debt." Sure, the books have jump gates (or the equivalent) but even with them, distances take months and even years to travel, creating a relativistic time-debt.
I used to think that Traveller's Jump 1 spaceships were annoying, jumping one hex at a time, travelling for a week to get to each location, refuel there then do it again, from system to system. But it should have been a bit more than that, more far flung.
It's something to think about when, instead of getting there days later, you get there years and decades later. What changes will occur while your gone, in both your origin and in your destination?
After all, space travel is not simply driving down the street to the store a half-mile away to get milk........
It's got a brief flowchart on copyright and some links to music copyright and choosing a lawyer.
Another resource is the Creative Commons website. It allows you to choose what you want to do with your art, whether to share it freely or to clamp down on what others can use it for.
For Asshat Paladins, I've chosen the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, which requires anyone who uses my content to attribute me as the original author (Attribution), disallows using my content for financial gain (Non Commercial) and requires they use the same license (Share Alike).
While it may only be as good as I can afford to defend it, it's at least a start. At least until the copyright zombie apocalypse!
Fourth Street Live! is a "350,000-square-foot entertainment and retail complex" located in Louisville, Kentucky. I've never been there but I listened to the old Rolemonkey's podcast and they mentioned it quite a bit in several games (one a supers game and another in passing for a Changeling: The Dreaming game).
It opened in 2004 in an effort to revitalize a previous mall (which opened in the 80s as a revitalization of an older mall). Quite frankly, you can learn more about it from other websites, including wikipedia.
So it doesn't matter that it's in Kentucky and that I've never been there. What matters is that malls are great places for adventure, even malls you've never visited. Malls are all over the United States and some are really neat looking while many are not very cool, holdouts from earlier architectural eras.
But the possibilities of malls are great: from a place to loot during a zombie game to a place to fight in a supers game to places to hang out in a high school teen comedy game, the mall has it all (and a food court for eating that Shawarma after the fight.
While fully operational malls are great for games, let's not forget that some malls are not very successful and spend years languishing in obscurity. A website called DeadMalls.com has many of these malls listed by state with some historical information that may be helpful to your games.
Whether alive or dead, malls are excellent places to explore.
"FIERO is the feeling of TRIUMPH, of winning, of defeating a challenge, or overcoming adversity. People looking for that feeling are on the lookout for adversity – and they tend to want adversity where they can be partisan for their characters and the GM is actually playing against them a bit. If it's not a real challenge, with real dangers, then there's no payoff for a fiero-chaser. If you've ever died again, and again, in a computer game, and then finally manage to succeed, and felt a rush where you could stand on your chair and scream? That's fiero."
"NACHES is the enjoyment of seeing someone that you have taught, or are responsible for, go on to do well with that knowledge. If there's a player at your table who is always happy to teach the others about how things work, chances are they like their naches. Many GMs, unsurprisingly, get a lot of good naches and enjoy it. Some players can get this same kind of enjoyment from seeing a student or smaller ally of their character do well."
Read through them and see which are your favorite.
Perhaps you'll learn something about your gaming style, too.
As a fan of post-apocalyptic gaming, Twilight 2000 was one of my defining RPGs in the early 1980s. I played 1st edition for years and used the system for other post-apoxy games, like The Morrow Project. I avoided 2nd edition, mainly because I didn't like the system.
One of my favorite parts of running T2K was the NPC motivation system, a simple way to develop NPCs using a deck of cards. This was a very cool feature, one that I've mentioned before on this blog. Each suit focuses on a different core issue: violence (Clubs), Wealth (Diamonds), Fellowship (Hearts) and Power (Spades). The value of the card determines the strength of the motivation: 2-4 (low), 5-7 (medium) and 8-10 (high), with the face cards and Aces as special cards. For example, Clubs range from Murderer (Jack) to Stubborn to Brute to War Leader (Ace).
The Baiji, nicknamed the Goddess of the Yangtze, is a critically endangered freshwater dolphin native to the Yangtze River in China. Considered by some biologists as functionally extinct, the last captive Baiji died in 2002 and the last reported sighting was 2007.
The Baiji declined due to pollution, over-hunting and collisions with ships, among other factors. Baiji fossils that have been found have been dated to 25 million years ago and have been traced to the Yangtze 20 million years ago.
The Baiji is linked to an ancient Chinese story about a princess who was drowned for refusing to go through with a loveless marriage. She was reborn as a Baiji and is a symbol of prosperity and peace.
The Baiji would be an excellent addition to an Imperial Chinese game, either as a source of a quest or a transformed court poet in need of rescue.
Pedro Cabral (c. 1467 - c. 1520) was the Portuguese explorer who discovered Brazil on April 22, 1500. He was born into a noble family (with a family coat of arms of two purple goats on a field of silver) and a family story that their ancestor was Caranus, the first king of Macedonia, who was himself a descendant of Hercules.
As a young nobleman, he learned to fight and campaigned in North Africa for his king and country. Reputed to have been vain and overly concerned with his position and honor, he was also known for courtesy, a generous and prudent nature, was well-educated and tolerant to his enemies.
Appointed commander-in-chief of a fleet of 13 ships by the King of Portugal in 1500, he landed on the coast of Brazil in April with only the loss of one ship on the voyage to the New World. Cabral's men erected a large wooden cross to celebrate Portugal's claim to the land and one of his ships was sent back to inform the King of the discovery.
The fleet continued sailing along the coast of Brazil then crossed the Atlantic to Africa in May but a storm sank four ships, with a loss of nearly 400 men, one ship became lost and the remaining six regrouped. Although damaged, the fleet made repairs along the east coast of Africa before reaching Calcutta in September.
Cabral's stay in Calcutta was less than ideal. Fifty of his men were killed in a confrontation in the streets and Cabral seized 10 Arab merchant ships, killing 600 crewmen, looting the ships and then burning them as a reprisal.
The Portuguese fleet sailed to Kochi, a city beholden to Calcutta and forged an alliance with it's king, exploiting the king's desire for independence from Calcutta. Cabral filled his ships' holds with spices and sailed for Africa.
Along the way, they lost another ship, burning it where it ran aground with the loss of the cargo. At Mozambique, the fastest ship was sent ahead to the King, one was sent on another errand, while a third became lost.
Cabral's remaining two ships met up with another Portuguese fleet (and found the lost ship from the Atlantic crossing with only seven men left alive). Part of that fleet sailed to Brazil with Amerigo Vespucci (the navigator credited with naming the Americas) while Cabral sailed for home.
Five of the original 13 came home with full holds, two returned empty and six were lost. All told, the profit from the voyage more than made up for the cost, making Cabral (and the Crown) wealthy.
Cabral was chosen for a new voyage but was replaced with a rival nobleman and he lost favor with the King. He married a rich woman in 1503, had four children and remained estranged from the royal court. He was knighted in 1518 and he died two years later.
Pedro Cabral would be an excellent NPC in any exploration game set around 1500, either as a patron or an enemy (especially in India).
The Gill is a unit of measure equivalent to one-quarter of a pint–5 imperial fluid ounces for an imperial gill or 4 U.S. fluid ounces for a U.S. gill.
I remember seeing this unit for a variety of brandies and liqueurs on the menu of The Inn of the Welcome Wench when I played AD&D module T1: The Village of Hommlet.
I don't think I ever had a character order a gill of anything in Hommlet but I learned plenty of new words when I was a kid just starting out playing D&D. It was one of the leading factors in improving my vocabulary and prompted me to read more and more fantasy and science fiction.
The gill is probably appropriate in a fantasy game due to D&D tradition but feel free to shake it up.
Apollonius of Tyana was a philosopher and miracle-worker from the 1st Century, often considered a contemporary of Jesus.
He was born into wealth and traveled throughout the Mediterranean and the Middle East, from Spain to Rome and Greece through to modern-day Iran and India.
One of his philosophical writings that has survived is called On Sacrifices, which posits that god eschews prayers and worship, and is only interested in interacting with humans by intellect, known as nous.
Historical facts about Apollonius, much like Jesus, are severely lacking, leading one historian to state "the most that can be said ... is that Apollonius appears to have been a wandering ascetic/philosopher/wonderworker of a type common to the eastern part of the early empire."
His miraculous powers included ESP and prophesy. In fact, on September 18, 96 CE, he foretold the death of Roman Emperor Domitian that very day and it came to pass. Apollonius was more than 800 miles away at the time. After his death, Apollonius appeared to Palmyrene Emperor Aurelian in 272 CE in a vision following the emperor's capture of Tyana. Aurelian spared the city destruction.
A biography titled The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, comprising eight books, was written by Philostratus and completed around 220 CE. It included a lot of information on his travels, teachings and powers but many scholars consider it pure fiction of the time.
The medieval church cast Apollonius as an enemy of the Church and a magician who consorted with demons and Satan to overthrow Christianity. From the 17th century, anti-Church writers, promoting a Reason-based non-denominational religion, would often compare Apollonius to Jesus in order to attack Christianity.
Since many of Apollonius' writings are lost to antiquity, finding one of his mystical tomes (or racing to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands) would be an excellent adventure.
One of the standards of American Television is it's tendency to poach T.V. shows from other countries, often the United Kingdom.
Before the House of Cards (U.S. series, 2013), there was the U.K. version (1990). While I haven't seen the U.S. show (I have it added to my Netflix queue), the British show is going to be very hard to beat.
Francis Urquhart (played with distinction and style by the late Ian Richardson) is the Conservative Party's Chief Whip, a thoroughly amoral character that is an excellent template for villainy. Urquhart spends the miniseries wheeling and dealing all the way into 10 Downing Street to become the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
No deal is too low for Francis–he gleefully blackmails other politicians, leaks sensitive information to the press, manipulates a young journalist into an illicit affair, murders one of his drug-addicted underlings with delight, remove rivals to the PM's office and ..., well, I don't want to give all of his crimes away.
But he's so likeable! He frequently breaks the fourth wall by talking directly to the audience in a tongue-in-cheek manner and has his own, unique catch-phrase "You might very well think that; I couldn't possibly comment" that he uses with aplomb.
Much like the character of Harry Lime that I wrote about in 2011, Francis Urquhart is another amoral archetype that a GM would be crazy to omit from their NPC toolbox.
At one time, Japan had nearly 5,000 castles but now there are only around 100 left in the country.
Made with stone and more wood than European castles, many were destroyed during the Warring States period, known as the Sengoku period, between 1467 and 1603. Some, due to their important strategic locations, were rebuilt.
Japanese castles went through innovations over the centuries, with many made when firearms were introduced to Japan. While large cannon were expensive and rare, matchlock arquebuses were more common. Castles developed more man-made, rather than natural, fortifications by building upon large stone foundations with wooden fortifications above.
These castles were focused on ranged attacks with matchlock guns. Additionally, the layout of the castle became more complex, creating a series of baileys and courtyards that allowed defenders to attack and defeat those who breached the walls.
Even before playing RPGs, I played the boardgame Cluedo (known as Clue in the US) with my siblings.
The game was a popular one in my house and with my friends. After secretly (and randomly) choosing a weapon, suspect and murder room, and placing them in an envelope, the remaining cards are distributed to the players.
Then each player takes on the persona of one of the suspects: Miss Scarlet, Mrs. White, Mr. Green, Mrs. Peacock, Professor Plum and Colonel Mustard.
Pieces move around the 9 room mansion and on each player's turn, they make a suggestion of who is the murderer, which of the 6 weapons was used and the room the murder occurred in (and the player's piece must be in that room to make the guess).
The other players then have an opportunity to prove it wrong by secretly showing the guessing player one of their cards, thereby showing one of the facts of the crime is not true. The players spend the following rounds of the game seeking to learn what weapons, suspects and rooms to discard and solve the crime with the remaining items.
Clue was a great game to play for an imaginative kid, prior to learning about RPGs. We each developed characterizations of the suspects, making Colonel Mustard a stuffy British soldier, Mrs. Peacock as a flighty housewife and Professor Plum as an absent-minded academic, and, dare I say, roleplaying each character.
There have been many different editions and spinoffs of Cluedo, including board games, interactive media games and computer games. Hollywood even made Clue into a movie in 1985, starring Tim Curry, Leslie Ann Warren, Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd and Madeline Kahn.
In 1745, a treasure was floated across the water to Scotland in support Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Rebellion. The first part of the gold ended up captured by Clan Mackay, a clan loyal to George II.
Another shipment arrived in Scotland in April, 1746. Seven caskets of gold. But it arrived too late, after the Battle of Culloden on April 16th.
Macpherson of Cluny had the secret of it's location. Hiding out in a cave at Ben Alder, he kept the secret even when Bonnie Prince Charlie joined him and after Charlie fled to France in September.
For the next eight years, Macpherson stayed in that cave, known as "The Cage," and used the gold to finance rebellions that came to naught. Bonnie Prince Charlie never saw any of it and blamed Macpherson for the loss of it.
After 1753, no trace of the treasure was found though the Stuart papers have a series of contradicting stories about the gold and one of the clans mentions French coins found in the 1850s.
This treasure could be used in a treasure-hunting game set between 1746 and today. It could also be mixed with the legends and myths of the Highlands of Scotland for a mystical game. The possibilities are there, ripe for the taking.
A society that limits the ages of it's citizens! A group of soldiers that enforce it! A giant cuisinart that chops people up while surrounded by cheering crowds! A post-apocalyptic world beyond the city! A secret path to escape! Crazy robots and old men surrounded by cats!
Logan's Run (1976) has all of this, plus the cheesy goodness of 1970s science fiction! And it spawned a 14 episode TV series with some familiar faces.
It's a great movie with lots that inspired some of our greatest RPGs. The film is a mish-mash of different games.
I can see at least three!
You can see the corporate drones and security from Cyberpunk 2020 in the city's bland, futuristic society. You can see the Computer from the Paranoia RPG running the show, following it's crazy programming. You can see out-of-control robots from the Gamma World RPG in the crazy robot Box, following it's crazy programming.
Russell Thorndike wrote the Scarecrow of Romney Marsh series starting in 1915. Set in Kent during the reign of George III, it features the Reverend Doctor Christopher Syn as the Scarecrow, the leader of a band of smugglers who bring in goods from France to avoid the high taxes levied by the King.
The series combined pirate tales (as Syn was a famous pirate named Captain Clegg) along with the secret identity of the likes of the Scarlet Pimpernel or Batman (who would have imagined that the local priest was the Scarecrow?).
Dr. Syn was popular enough to generate seven books in the series between 1915 and 1944, three films between 1937 and 1963 (the last by Disney), and four audio adaptations.
The Scarecrow of Romney March presents plenty of ideas that would work in your campaigns, either with the PCs as part of the gang or hunting them.
The Prince-Electors of the Holy Roman Empire were seven individuals that selected the next Holy Roman Emperor.
Comprised of three lords of the Empire (the Margrave of Brandenburg, the Duke of Saxony and the Count Palatine of the Rhine), three members of the Church (the Archbishops of Cologne, Trier and Mainz) and a neighboring independent monarch (the King of Bohemia), the Electors originally had power to select the Emperor, following the ancient Germanic tribal tradition, but in later years, it was merely a formality.
The lords represented the dukes of the nations of the Franks, Saxons, Swabians and Bavarians, while Archbishops represented the Church's most powerful Episcopal Sees in Germany.
Histories note that the electors made their selections in 1152 and 1198. In 1648, due to the Treaty of Munster, there were eight electors, which later increased to nine in 1692. By 1777, it was back down to eight. And between 1152 and 1777, due to politics and warfare, a number of electors were banned from choosing the Emperor.
In 1803, the number of electors increased to ten, removing some of the old hereditary electors and adding four new ones. But they never got to cast any votes because, in 1806, the Holy Roman Empire ended.
Electing kings is a pretty radical idea for feudal societies. It would make an interesting addition to a campaign centered on medieval political intrigue.
Jasper Meskelyne was a successful stage magician in the 1930s. Then WWII started and he used his magic skills for England.
Or did he? Accounts of his exploits vary, a mix of some myth and some reality. Which was which? David Fisher wrote The War Magician (1983) extolling his abilities, as Meskelyne had done himself in his ghost-written book Magic: Top Secret (1949).
Others weren't as kind. Magician Richard Stokes, in a series of 21 articles published in issues of Genii Magic Journal, compared Meskelyne's and Fisher's books with military sources and concludes that most of it never happened. Another article in Wired by David Hambling was equally critical of the fables.
So what do we really know? Maybe not even this:
In 1940, while in the Royal Engineers, Jasper found himself at the Camouflage Development and Training Center in Farnham Castle. While his stage show was popular among the trainees, he was unsuccessful at camouflage.
Posted to Cairo, he was transferred to a variety of posts, one to design hidden escape equipment for captured soldiers and one to develop new camouflage techniques.
By 1942, he was back to doing what he did best: magic shows for the troops. After the war, he tried unsuccessfully to revive his career and ended up in Kenya.
Jasper would make a great contact in a game set during WWII or the Interwar period. Whether a fake or a real wizard, he'd make a good fall guy to blame, an innocent bystander that distracts the party, a master villain with a nefarious plan or an occult boss in-the-know for the PCs to interact with.
The cross is an ancient symbol, used across human cultures and during many eras. It's the major symbol of Christianity and is present in coats of arms and art and flags.
There is no single cross, but a variety of different crosses that add different parts to different sections of the cross.
The Papal Cross and the Cross of Salem have two extra cross-bars (in different locations), while the Patriarchal Cross and the Lorraine Cross has one extra (in the same place).
The Iron Cross has flares at each end, while the Budded Cross has three circles at each end.
(I'm not going to continue because it's far easier for you to go to the link above and see all the varieties to choose from.)
Using a broken cross like the swastika for a bad guy's symbol in a game and everyone at the table is keenly aware that they are fighting Nazis. The Iron Cross in a game with WWI biplanes and the players know they're fighting the Flying Circus. Present a Celtic Cross to bring your players into an early Christian Ireland, rife with myth and the after-effects of the Roman invasion.
Images of crosses are readily available all over the internet. Do a search and you'll find some that are really cool looking. And see how you can fit them into your game.
One of the things I love about this hobby are all the opportunities to learn history. And swords. Because swords are present in nearly every game I play.
Historian Ewart Oakeshott wrote a book called The Archaeology of Weapons: Arms and Armour from Prehistory to the Age of Chivalry (1960) that outlined 13 types of medieval swords (Type X to XXII) that were made from the 11th to 15th century.
Oakeshott's book was a continuation of Jan Petersen's De Norske Vikingsverg (1919), translated as The Norwegian Viking Swords, and R.E.M. Wheeler's book London and the Vikings (1927), outlining the first 9 types of swords (Type I to IX).
Lady Justice, the philosophical descendent of Dike, the Greek goddess of Justice, is personified in modern law as a symbol of the legal system
Armed with a bared sword, blindfolded and holding a balanced scale, Lady Justice stands in front of courts all across the world, from Hong Kong to the Old Bailey, from Memphis, Tennessee to Tehran.
There are lots of pictures of Lady Justice and those images would make excellent visuals for an inspired Golems. Or used as flavor in courthouse scenes. Or used as statues from an ancient culture. Or even used as a template for a female order of blindfolded paladins, spreading justice across the land.
The imagery of Lady Justice could be used for many games.
According to a reliable source, there's a secret society called the Pentavirate, made up of the five wealthiest families and people in the world. They include the Vatican, the Queen, the Gettys, the Rothchilds and Colonel Sanders.
But few people outside of Scandinavia know about Erik's daughter, and Leif's half-sister, Freydis Eriksdottir.
Freydis was, quite frankly, a bad-ass. She was the epitome of a shieldmaiden.
In the Saga of Erik the Red, she travelled with a Viking band to Vinland. The band was attacked by Skraelings. Even though she was pregnant, she "came upon a dead man, Thorbrand, Snorri's son, with a flat stone fixed in his head; his sword lay beside him, so she took it up and prepared to defend herself therewith. Then came the Skraelingjar upon her. She let down her sark and struck her breast with the sword. At this they were frightened, rushed off to their boats, and fled away."
In the Groenlendings Saga, she joined another expedition to Vinland. Before they depart, she and her partners, Helgi and Finnbogi, agree to each bring the same number of men but she betrays her partners and brings more men. Once in Vinland, she and her men kill the others. Because none of her men have the stomach for it, she executes five women that were with Helgi and Finnbogi's group.
When they return to Greenland a year later, she claimed that Hegli and Finnbogi stayed in Vinland and made her men say the same, under pain of death. Yeah, because threatening lives of your followers always works, right?
Word gets out and Freydis' half-brother, Lief, grabs three of the men from the expedition and tortures them for the truth. Even though he learns the truth about his sister, he can't bring himself to bring her to justice.