Saturday, October 30, 2010

EDITORIAL: Innovation Versus the Merry-Go-Round of the Mind

I have heard rumblings and, dare I say, didacticism, from some that claim that RPG design from the many companies now publishing compatible material should not be about innovation, that it in some way instead equates to a moment which appears to them to be frozen in time.  I will say this in response to those who actually believe this and promote it as truth:  It is the MOST patently absurd idea I have ever heard.

If we had thought that way prior to D&D's publication, the MOST INNOVATIVE GAME in the history of games would have never been published.  That D&D set a standard to be overcome is a matter of historical fact.  The very day that people form companies and cease being amateurs by accepting money for their products they approach the realm of professionals.  There is no differentiating; one cannot slide this way or that by whim nor escape their separate truths while embracing either.  In rising above the amateur state one must embrace a professional acumen that is always being propelled to the forefront and through which you take a hard look at yourself, your philosophies and your ways and means.  If indeed much of what brands itself as emulating the past stands out and proclaims itself as new, then I say:  prove it.  Prove it like the fans turned amateurs turned professionals did to make something innovative, who strived to continue improving upon that innovation, and who continue to do so today.  Embrace professionalism and the future of imagination as the originators of the game did or stop accepting money and remain amateurs--it is not a two-way street of convenience.  It's earned, just as E. Gary Gygax and David Arneson earned it.

To true creators, innovators and those individuals with plans of making careers out of their writing and design like I have done, please follow this advice as a saviour-path to it: Flee!  Run as fast as you can from such abhorrent thoughts and suggestions that your creative paths are best suited to the past.  Separate yourselves from those who do not know or do not care and those who say they do even though in your heart you feel otherwise.  Upon the singular plain of your own creative spirit will you find the true expressions of your soul and mind and not in the endless circling caravan of regurgitated thought or upon a merry-go-round of the mind.  Divorce yourself from the group; for at that time you will have the complete freedom to express yourself; in that hour will come your best work; and in that serene moment you will arrive at your truth.


"Being involved in the RPG industry as long as you have, surely you’ve collected bits of wisdom and knowledge along the way. Is there any advice you could give to budding game designers?

"RJK:  Seriously: Throw out everything you think you know, including the rules. Challenge established norms, redefine what imagination and creativity “really” are, ignore the jealous and the pundits (re: critics), push past the mundane and open up possibilities, don’t close them, no matter how absurd someone says you are, or how off base they say you appear to be. With that, follow the words of my oft-quoted author, Orson Scott Card: “How can we experience the literature of the strange if we stay in well mapped lands?”-- my advice from one of the many interviews I've given.

"If we all think alike, if we all become uniform and bland, we shrivel up and die, and the great process shudders to an end. Uniformity is death, in economics or in biology. Diversity within communication and cooperation is life. Everything your forebears, your ancestors, everything you have ever done, will have been for naught, if we ignore these basic bacterial lessons." Autopoiesis and the Grand Scheme, Greg Bear

"Most of the time I look at my work as an ocean of missed opportunities...My lack of talent & knowledge bedevils me no end... But I realized a long time ago that my art is a race I run alone..."  Michael Bair

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Taking D&D "Back" To Its Future Level: Part 1

There has been overwhelming interest in The Machine Level project.  Besides my receiving many personal emails of encouragement on it, within a matter of 3 days the very topic stands at #2 for the month! Incredible!  And thank you!
I do not attribute this interest alone to it being an original Greyhawk Castle level. The very fact that it prompts the imaginative viewing of a rich RPG landscape little explored is what I feel is the main attraction.  In fact Black Blade Publishing had my 6 levels to choose from and elected to lead off with the Machine Level. Why?  Why so much specific interest in this subject matter by fans, designers and the publisher?

That is the question I will attempt to answer here; and while doing so I will point back to D&D’s past and into its infinite future. I will expose a little known fact that its relation to other genres such as SF, Steam Punk, Sword & Planet, Planetary Romance, Post-Apocalyptic and other such related matter has never been far and away from the game as originally conceived and played-tested and that this easily included core matter was instead separated into distinct RPG types for commercial reasons only.

I begin the examination with a quote from the introductory article in which I stated:  “Even though our genre inclusive game experience was soon to be fragmented into several RPG types—with medieval fantasy claiming sole rights in the original version of the game--this initial segmentation was a weighed choice made for D&D’s immediate commercial introduction only. We had previously felt that the game had more range and infinitely more possibilities than what the lone S&S element produced.”

What we had been play-testing in 1972 was the first role-playing game experience for us;  and note that there is a different interpretation of "role-playing game experience" for those who purchased the game as consumers as opposed to those like myself who play-tested and contributed to it. Yes, it was a game in both cases.  But moreover this was entirely new to us.  It was role-playing. That’s what we keyed on during the play-tests, how to incorporate all imaginative RP elements, not just S&S RP elements.  Yes, D&D in part derived from the Chainmail miniatures rules by way of Dave Arneson’s contribution of the F-RP element; and seemingly that would be consonant with it being a Medieval/Fantasy "experience" back then for us as it is now for you.  But the idea of it being one type or another type was not as strong then as it was to become through its publication and being marketed as a game strictly derived from Swords & Sorcery.  

Gary’s foreword to D&D attempts to clarify this apparent division and riddle by extolling the influence of the best selling author of the pulps and perhaps in the entire history of all such related literature, Edgar Rice Burroughs (I will expand on this idea fully in Part 2). David Arneson was so inclined as well, as he had been busy during D&D’s inception taking his players in Minneapolis into “The City of the Gods,” which was indeed the first, to my knowledge, RPG link between Fantasy and SF.  More importantly regarding the latter, it was the first coupling of two distinct genres; and in my estimation there is a singularly important thread exposed in the above examples: these point to no other understanding or application of creative form than an open and inclusive one by both of D&D’s original authors and by both of their gaming groups.

Let me present some more examples extracted from my earliest days of playing the PC Robilar, as co-DM of the Greyhawk campaign alongside EGG, as EGG’s DM and finally as his co-author for GREYHAWK:  Supplement 1, Mordenkainen’s Fantastic Adventure and other contributions by myself, Gygax and Arneson that I will note hereafter.

The elevator on level 3 (EGG/GrhCastle 1). Seems simple, but the idea is very complex for a supposed medieval society.  And it wasn’t magical.  Type:  SF (i.e., future).

The Black Pudding/Slimes (EGG):  This has been examined in depth.  It is not the Horta from Star Trek; and as EGG did not have any C. A. Smith books on his shelf (I was to later introduce him to that master storyteller) there was no apparent influence there, so that really leaves such creatures to the beautiful camp movie, “The BLOB.”  Type:  SF/Horror.

Flesh Golem (EGG):  Straight out of Mary B. Shelly’s, “Frankenstein.” Type:  SF.

The ANGRY VILLAGER RULE (EGG; OD&D and its play-test):  Taken right from the angry torch-wielding villagers present in the movie Frankenstein.  Type:  Modern day SF.

EGG as DM: Tenser’s trip to Mars, ala John Carter:  Nothing more need be said.  Type:  SF/Planetary Romance.

Dinosaurs (EGG):  Very much influenced by ERB’s “The Land that Time Forgot” and Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and in all of their media forms. EGG found dinosaurs fascinating like all of us; it’s just that he never pulled out books on them as he did with Burrough’s fiction, nor did he not jump at a chance to watch such related matter on TV whether it was the two aforementioned titles, or similar. Type:  Modern Hollow Earth theory/Lost Civ.

Shambling Mound (Arneson/EGG):  From such comic book monsters as the “Swamp Thing,” the “Heap” and the “Man-Thing.” First encountered during our “Journey to the City of the Gods” adventure by myself and Gary and as DMed by Dave Arneson; later incorporated into the MM by EGG. Type:  SF/Horror.

Mind Flayer (EGG):  Influenced by Lumley’s “The Burrowers Beneath.” Type:  Modern day Cosmic Horror.

Phantasmal Force Spell (EGG):  Directly extracted from (and bragged about by EGG) ERB’s Thuvia, Maid of Mars where telepathic illusions of (Lotharian) archers fire illusionary arrows and kill those “believing” they are real.  Type:  SF/Planetary Romance.

Cerebral Parasite/Brain Mole/I.D. (EGG):  These are alien creatures of the sort that appeared in different forms in SF, Horror or mixed. Greatest influence was the “Mind Parasites” by Colin Wilson.  Type:  SF/Space Horror.

Portable Hole (EGG):  (1) the name is taken directly from the Looney Toons cartoon, “The Hole Idea.”   (2) the bag of holding effect is from Jack Vance's story of "Chun the Unavoidable." [Thanks to Drew for absolutely jolting my memory on these two merged ideas]. Type:  SF (modern fantastic invention)/Fantasy.

Bag of Tricks (Kuntz):  Straight from the Felix the Cat cartoon, “The Magic Bag.” Type:  Modern day Fantasy.

Tharizdun (and “Temple of,”)/Tharzdu’un (Gygax/Kuntz):  The latter is based on 1.5 typed pages of my interpolation of Clark Ashton Smith’s Thasaidon and as reworked as an imprisoned Mythos god bent on destroying the planet. Used as a base by EGG to create the former. Type:  Cosmic Horror.

Cube of Force (Kuntz):  I always loved Star Trek force fields, but its prior influence derives from a great Outer Limits episode, “The Bellero Shield."  Type:  SF.

Magic Missile and Shield spells (EGG):  From Roger Corman’s movie, “The Raven,” possibly one of EGG’s favorites as he always watched it when televised and enjoyed it immensely.  Type:  Victorian Occult Fantasy.

Giant Ants (EGG).  Though one could easily place these as deriving from some fantastic literature of the past if they dug deep enough, the reality is they derive from two modern movies:  “THEM”; and “THE NAKED JUNGLE."  Type:  Modern Day SF/Modern Disaster w/Horror elements.

Carrion Crawler (EGG):  Very Mythos like.  May be influenced by the pulps and HPL.  May be original.  Type:  Undecided but studying.

Doppleganger (EGG):  Similar to a changeling, put consistent with pulp or comic stories of those aliens who imitate forms.  It has a strictly alien appearance in the MM. Type:  SF/Space Horror.

Cult of Roloc/Mandarin (Kuntz; as per “Bottle City” and unpublished).  I took the Mandarin name, his ring and the alien tech he learned/gained straight from Iron Man’s nemesis, Mandarin (see below for my inset drawing of the ring).  Type:  Modern/Futuristic SF fused with magical and spiritual (Far Eastern).

“Bottle City” mega-dungeon within a dungeon (Kuntz):  The container and many inhabitants were influenced by the “Superman” Kandor storyline.  Type:  Several SF origins.

“Machine Level” (Kuntz):  Comprehensive; mostly original, some influenced by strange inventors and their patented inventions.  Type:  SF/Future.
Ear Seeker (EGG):  The “ear wig” out of the Rod Serling Night Gallery episode “The Caterpillar." Type:  Modern/Horror.

Gelatinous Cube (EGG):  Appears influenced by more Mythos HPL.  Type:  Horror/Undecided.

Narshuan’s Comet (Kuntz; “Sir Robilar’s City of Brass”):  Directly inspired by those great Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers spaceships (see below for inset original mapped illustration).  Type:  SF/Planetary Romance

“City of the Gods” (Arneson):  Inspired by A. E. Van Vogt’s, “Voyage of the Space Beagle."  Type:  SF.

Narshuan's "Comet"
“Temple of the Frog” (Arneson; TSR “Blackmoor”: Supplement #2):  Type:  SF/Horror elements.

“Expedition to the Barrier Peaks” (EGG/from initial prepublication Origins tourney adventure by Kuntz):  Type:  SF/Space Horror.

“Dungeon of Krazor the Mad” (Kuntz):  Where EGG (as Mordenkainen) discovered a rocket ship that launched and his PCs teleported out of.  Type:  Some solid SF elements.

“Fomalhaut” (Kuntz):  Alien Mythos planar jump.  Type:  Cosmic Horror/Weird Fantasy.

Teleport Spell (EGG):  Though occurring in many pulp and comic book stories under different guises, the idea was modernized by way of Star Trek’s transporter tech (using the same concept of “materializing in a solid object”).  Type:  SF/Various related genre takes.

“Church of the Later Day Ancient Ones” (Kuntz):  Type:  Mythos/Horror Elements/Arcane and Alien Science.

“The Dirdir (Level)” (EGG):  Send up to Jack Vance’s Planet of Adventure series novel of the same name.  Type:  SF/Planet Adventure.

“Monkeying Around” (GrhCastle 2)/”Isle of the Ape” (EGG):  Directly from “King Kong,” the 1933 movie.  Type:  Adventure/Lost Civ.

Lewis Carroll Pastiches (EGG; EX1, EX2):  From “Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass.”  Type:  Transplanted Victorian era weird fantasy.

Cosmodius and his orbiting station (Kuntz):  Type:  Hard SF via a related Cosmic Horror story thread.

“Lost City of the Elders” (Kuntz): Main inspiration by Clark Ashton Smith’s “Empire of the Necromancers” and HPL’s “The Doom that Came to Sarnath,” with other significant elements. Type:  Alien Science/SF/Post-Apocalyptic/Cosmic Horror.

The Great Stone Face Enigma of Greyhawk, GrhCastle 2 (EGG):  Though EGG never admitted to its source, I always assumed it was at least partially influenced by the Easter Island Moai.  Type:  Mystery.

The Imprisoned Face in the Floor, GrhCastle 2 (EGG):  Directly from A. Merritt’s, “The Face in the Abyss.”  Type: Adventure/Supernatural/Lost Civ.

Fu’s Front (Kuntz; City of Greyhawk secret society/assassins):   Inspired by Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu.  Type:  Modern.

“Garden of the Plantmaster” (Kuntz):  Influenced by Clark Ashton Smith’s “The Garden of Adompha” and the “Maze of Maal Dweb.”  Type: Cosmic Horror/Weird Fantasy/Heavy Supernatural.

“The Stalk” (Kuntz):  The stalk component itself is straight from “Jack and the Beanstalk”; the shrinking component was heavily influenced by the movie, “The Incredible Shrinking Man.” Type:  Elements of Folk-Fairy Tale/SF.

“Circle of “Eight”/The Gygaxian “Golden Horde” (EGG; and as DMed by Kuntz).  EGG took this group’s insignia from the “Magic 8-Ball” fortune-telling device so popular back in the day; he patterned the Circle (and the moniker I attached to them) after the Mongols and Genghis Khan.  Type:  Elements of modern day culture/Historical.

Part 2 is in the works as recollections/writing merge…

All images and text Copyright their respective owners. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


I finished the essay-introduction for The Machine Level on 10 October.  Here it is with some inset images.  The latter images, excepting perhaps for Andy Taylor's fine image, above, will not be included in the printed version. Some of the text as used for this web introduction will be omitted from the final printed version as well.

Special Note! Kyrinn Eis (aka TIMESHADOWS) and I are also sculpting a fantasy-sf adventure which I am quite excited about as it includes a very unique creation of mine called the Whools and incorporates her intense and imaginative writing in a shared plot we devised.  Not sure as yet who we might publish that one through when finished.  But for now, the MACHINE LEVEL!

Prelude:  In Dragon Magazine #17 James Ward penned an article entitled, "BOREDOM AND THE AVERAGE D&D DUNGEON."  Here is the reverse-highlighted extract wherein he reveals some details on the Machine Level:

Also note that James, a regular player in our campaign then, makes a sidelong reference to my large level he'd adventured on, "Horsing Around," otherwise known as the "Greek Mythos Level."

That gives some historical grounding for the level from published matter.  What follows is the full, first draft introduction...

The Machine Level – A Glimpse at the Machinations of Fantastic Fiction in the Original Campaign

©2010.  Robert J. Kuntz.  All Rights Reserved.

A long time before Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was published, EGG and myself had been experimenting with machinery and science fiction in the Original Campaign.  Our aim was to always befuddle our ever-wary players and to keep the sharp edge of suspense and expectancy rising within the story. Both of us deemed suspense to be a high mark in adventure storytelling; and it is no wonder, looking back, that both of us appreciated the films of Alfred Hitchcock that we were to watch together quite often whenever they were televised. 

The Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

On top of that, EGG and I were both naturally creative individuals whom as co-DMs sought out expansion (and expression) of concepts and ideas as these gathered to us.  These ideas were often spawned during game play, by reading a book the night before an adventure, through scouring our ever-growing notes and sometimes were derived from voiced, but errant, surmises on the players’ parts, such as … “I bet it’s a…”  …or … “It seems like a watcha-ma-jigger” or, more emphatically, “It’s a (fill in the blank for a monster or situation)!”

It was all fantasy to us and so there were no holds or stops put on the range or type of experimentation used in furthering our stories. To our glee this measure was satisfactory for our gamers. They had not only grown to expect anything from us, they indeed looked forward to change.  I sometimes suspect that they knew that we were going to do what we wanted to as DMs anyway and upon that realization also knew that it meant we were having as much fun as they were.  And believe me, OUR players wanted us to have fun, for a grouchy DM was in no way wanted sitting across from them at the gaming table!

So before EGG was about sending his son’s PC to Mars, I had been creating for Castle El Raja Key a level with machinery.  But it was to be no ordinary level, as it was to soon host EGG’s PCs.  His “grouping” of PCs (described in various works related to the World of Greyhawk) were started in my Castle El Raja Key and only by creative transition through the melding of parts ERK and parts WoG did they then root themselves in the latter setting. I soon started co-DMing in the original Greyhawk home campaign; and this became a catalyst, by great urgings from EGG, for moving many of ERK’s original levels into EGG’s and my own 2nd Castle Greyhawk.  The Machine Level (also known as EAST 8 in our original campaign terminology) is one such level from ERK that made the transition soon after being adventured upon by EGG and crew.  Such luminaries as James Ward’s PC, Bombadil, were to later venture into its precincts.

What is (and was) to be expected within this level?  Pure and simple:  mayhem.  It was designed to continue challenging EGG’s voracious play, so therein is the real clue to its design intent.  It was not meant to challenge other players, though it finally did so by its later inclusion in Castle Greyhawk.

But, “Why machines,” you ask?  Gary and I would have simply answered back then,  “Why not?”  This was a time when the literature we read was a mix of many subjects and genres:  fantasy, horror, noir fiction, history, military history, science and science fiction.  Therein lies a clue to the richness of our adventures, a richness which I often feel is now partly lost to succeeding generations of DMs and gamers.  And that is:  A story is a story, no matter how you wrench the mechanic to make it fit into a game.  Gary and I were well read storytellers.  Our players were well read gamers.  Storytelling and story “acceptance” was a natural state between its then participant groups.

Even though our genre inclusive game experience was soon to be fragmented into several RPG types—with medieval fantasy claiming sole rights in the original version of the game--this initial segmentation was a weighed choice made for D&D’s immediate commercial introduction only.  We had previously felt that the game had more range and infinitely more possibilities than what the lone S&S element produced.  

While perusing the DMG’s sections for including different genres within the expanding game, one does not feel that these are hurried attachments of after-matter by EGG. To the contrary, EGG’s up front insistence of Barsoom’s relevance in his original foreword had already paved the way for Hiero’s Journey in Appendix N.  This “addenda” was in fact the natural outgrowth of both our realized views as experienced through play, 1972 onward. While EGG honored Jack Vance with his Dirdir level, I did the same for C. A. Smith & Lovecraft with my Lost City of the Elders (which more recent convention-players have experienced and where mutated creatures and hovering metal devices were seen and fled from).

After D&D’s release, Gary and I continued to experiment with SF and other genres, but this time by way of both play and through publication: We were to co-create Expedition to the Barrier Peaks; we encouraged the creation of Metamorphosis Alpha and adventured upon the Starship Warden; there could soon be found my mysterious and wily visitor from the stars known as Cosmodius that Ward’s Bombadil contested with for his vast knowledge of technology; select items of a SF nature were placed at key locations in both our castles; and there would be some inclusions of M.A.R. Barker’s Tekumel “magic” and creatures in the Bottle City level and upon the outdoor. I created many SF-variant creatures and sluiced them into our city, one by the name of “modern man.”

Extracted Cosmodius page from the RJK Collection.

Further, horror would often closely meld with SF and S&S elements to promote a cosmic terror by way of alien locales, their technologies and an ancient, arcane magic, all of which was realized through play in secreted settings (ala A. Merritt, C. A. Smith or Lovecraft). One such place was Fomalhaut, yet another large adventure I designed to keep the adventurers quite curious of their newfound surroundings just prior to terrifying them. As you can note, EGG and I were very diligent in keeping our adventures, and the adventurers, fresh.

These were not meaningless contrivances by us; and neither of us lacked the creative verve for producing solely mundane or earthly elements or situations.  We knew the players would not only be intrigued through such imaginative story matter, but they would be wondrous about where it derived from.  Through these relations we were promoting story by introducing several elements that good storytellers use:  intrigue and suspense.

Because of our openness to elements that could be easily fitted into any storyline Gary and I never lacked for stimulating or compelling story matter. We were both willing and able to include whatever it took to keep the story interesting for the players.  And that’s the real answer to the question, “Why machines?” Just as important, and from a design view, this kept us constantly fresh as DMs, as we were always alert to the possibilities of creative inclusion of any type of material, however varied in content.

So.  Now is the time to strap on your gear as EGG did back in 1973! And forget your prayers.  For upon this level there reside no gods of flesh…

Rob Kuntz
10 October 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Select H. P. Lovecraft Quotes

My opinion of my whole experience varies from time to time. In broad daylight, and at most seasons I am apt to think the greater part of it a mere dream; but sometimes in the autumn, about two in the morning when winds and animals howl dismally, there comes from inconceivable depths below a damnable suggestions of rhythmical throbbing ... and I feel that the transition of Juan Romero was a terrible one indeed.
The Transition of Juan Romero
Men of broader intellect know that there is no sharp distinction betwixt the real and the unreal...
The Tomb
I have dwelt ever in realms apart from the visible world; spending my youth and adolescence in ancient and little-known books, and in roaming the fields and groves of the region near my ancestral home. I do not think that what I read in these books or saw in these fields and groves was exactly what other boys read and saw there; but of this I must say little, since detailed speech would but confirm those cruel slanders upon my intellect which I sometimes overhear from the whispers of the stealthy attendants around me.
The Tomb
Just before dawn Arcturus winks ruddily from above the cemetery on the low hillock, and Coma Berenices shimmers weirdly afar off in the mysterious east; but still the Pole Star leers down from the same place in the black vault, winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing save that it once had a message to convey. Sometimes, when it is cloudy, I can sleep.
Sometimes I believe that this less material life is our truer life, and that our vain presence on the terraqueous globe is itself the secondary or merely virtual phenomenon.
Beyond The Wall of Sleep
I yearned mightily to enter this fascinating yet repellent city, and besought the bearded man to land me at the stone pier by the huge carven gate Akariel; but he gently denied my wish, saying: "Into Thalarion, the City of a Thousand Wonders, many have passed but none returned. Therein walk only daemons and mad things that are no longer men, and the streets are white with the unburied bones of those who have looked upon the eidolon Lathi, that reigns over the city."
The White Ship
But he was unmoved, and cried: "If I am mad, it is mercy! May the gods pity the man who in his callousness can remain sane to the hideous end!"
The Temple
Life is a hideous thing, and from the background behind what we know of it peer daemoniacal hints of truth which make it sometimes a thousandfold more hideous. Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species -- if separate species we be -- for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.
Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family
Kuranes was not modern, and did not think like others who wrote. Whilst they strove to strip from life its embroidered robes of myth, and to shew in naked ugliness the foul thing that is reality, Kuranes sought for beauty alone.
*There are not many persons who know what wonders are opened to them in the stories and visions of their youth; for when as children we learn and dream, we think but half-formed thoughts, and when as men we try to remember, we are dulled and prosaic with the poison of life.
But some of us awake in the night with strange phantasms of enchanted hills and gardens, of fountains that sing in the sun, of golden cliffs overhanging murmuring seas, of plains that stretch down to sleeping cities of bronze and stone, and of shadowy companies of heroes that ride caparisoned white horses along the edges of thick forests; and then we know that we have looked back through the ivory gates into that world of wonder which was ours before we were wise and unhappy.
I have harnessed the shadows that stride from world to world to sow death and madness...
From Beyond
Searchers after horror haunt strange, far places.
The Picture in the House
By necessity practical and by philosophy stern, these folk were not beautiful in their sins. Erring as all mortals must, they were forced by their rigid code to seek concealment above all else; so that they came to use less and less taste in what they concealed.
The Picture in the House
I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places.
Wherefore do ye toil; is it not that ye may live and be happy? And if ye toil only that ye may toil more, when shall happiness find you? Ye toil to live, but is not life made of beauty and song? ... Toil without song is like a weary journey without an end. Were not death more pleasing?
The Quest of Iranon

Creativity and Madness?

"Men have called me mad; but the question is not yet settled, whether madness is or is not the loftiest intelligence-whether much that is glorious-whether all that is profound-does not spring from disease of thought-from moods of mind exalted at the expense of the general intellect.  

"They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night.  In their grey vision they obtain glimpses of eternity.... They penetrate, however rudderless or compassless, into the vast ocean of the "light affable."

(Edgar Allan Poe, cited in Galloway, 1986, p. 243 )

"Since the time of the Greek philosophers, those who wrote about the creative process emphasized that creativity involves a regression to more primitive mental processes, that to be creative requires a willingness to cross and recross  the lines between rational and irrational thought."

(Maureen Neihart, Psy.D.)

The article is here.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Golden Quill Award

While Doug Rhea of North Texas RPG Convention and I were exploring my idea of the Three Castles Award™ last year, I was also nursing another idea in the vein.  This one is more personal and depends less on voting. It's my personal choice.   It's not limited to RPG but includes all table-top games.   It doesn't require someone submitting a game, but if the author or publisher feels strongly about their creation, they may do so.  It's meant to recognize truly inspirational and original game design.  I will be looking about the net as I always do, searching for that needle in a haystack; or if some fan, author or publisher of said game feels I should have a look at a particular piece,  I will read reviews if any, attempt to query the author/designer, explain the award and thereafter if I feel assured that there is a likelihood of it being a high grade in my estimation, I will purchase it, read it, seek others opinions, if possible, and then make a decision.

A small overview beyond that is presented below.  My caution is this:  Don't go suggesting your most recent fan-driven experience without first considering whether you have prior insight into what would be considered good or better game design. Though I can appreciate that sort of excitement, please look before you leap to save time for everyone involved in this, yourself, myself and perhaps even the author(s).  I expect for the most part to do this on my own with some product-pointers here or there from friends, associates or colleagues.  The monetary conferment available per annum is $500.00 in private funds earmarked for escrow and generated through the sale of my publications.  One such title, a reprinting of my adventure, "ICE GRAVE" which first appeared in TROLL MAGAZINE #1, 1997, is nearly finished.  It just requires some additional art that I am waiting on.

Original Cover Art for TROLL MAGAZINE #1 Featuring the Attack of the Ice Morph, from my Adventure, Ice Grave. Illustration Copyright Melissa A. Benson

I am happy to note that Black Blade Publishing will be hosting the .pdf of this old adventure set in my WORLD OF KALIBRUHN™, but as always, quite useful as a generic adventure outside of this due to the isolation of the adventure locale. There can be multiple awards (thus reducing the conferment to each designer), for instance, if I find more than one who is deserving.  The more originality presented in a design will earn it a higher cash award to the limit of the per annum amount. True designers will know what is original or not and what is merely a formulaic approach or add-on to past designs, which in essence may make them unique when set side-by-side with their predecessors, but hardly original.  I'm looking for the platinum here, not the electrum.

If there are questions, you can either post them here or reference my profile for my email to write me directly.

Kings and Things Update

Z-Man Games will be releasing this classic in November.

Here are some snaps:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Dungeons n Dragons: Cartoon Ideas Worth Using

In Greyhawk Supplement #1 (TSR, 1975, Gygax and Kuntz) to the Dungeons n Dragons game there can be found some magic items that were influenced by cartoons, most notably the portable hole and the bag of tricks.  Though I assume that most informed fans might be aware of this, I include hereafter those two inspirational cartoons:  one is a Looney Tune, "The Hole Idea"; the other, "The Magic Bag" from Felix the Cat.  EGG was influenced to create the portable hole name and in combination with the effect/item described in Jack Vance's Dying Earth story, "Chun the Unavoidable"; and I was so inspired by the Felix' cartoon to create the bag of tricks.  Note that both were changed substantially from their original idea base.  Also note that one can easily re-imagine different creative matter from these, as I am now doing for a couple of projects.

The Hole Idea
After years of futile experimentation, Professor Calvin Q. Calculus astonishes the world with his amazing invention, the "portable hole." Unfortunately, the Prof's invention is stolen by a shadowy criminal, who uses the mobile hole to rob a wide variety of banks and jewelry stores, ultimately "graduating" to Fort Knox. Meanwhile, Prof. Calculus comes up with a devilish method of escaping his eternally nagging wife. Watch for the "inside" references to Denver, Colorado, home town of director Robert McKimson, who always regarded The Hole Idea as one of his favorite cartoons. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide.

Felix the Cat 1959 The Magic Bag

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"To The Bat... Serial"

One of my all time favorite super heroes is Batman.  I followed his exploits in D. C.'s many comics, including Detective, Brave & Bold, etc., and relished the camp of the TV series with Adam West & Burt Ward and the many great actors turned villains for that show.  I slowed in my enthusiasm for the movies, which hit or missed with me.  But I still love the old comics.  So, I was delighted to find that the Golden Age of Comic Book Stories, at thins link, posted some of the Sunday Batman Comic strips from years ago. If you like Batman, take a look.

Guillermo Del Toro talks about At the Mountains of Madness


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Writing According to George Orwell

"The problem of language is  subtler and would take too long to discuss. I will only say that of late years I have  tried to write less picturesquely and more exactly. In any case I find that by the time you have perfected any style of writing, you have always outgrown it. Animal Farm was the first book in which I tried, with full consciousness of what I was doing, to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole. I have not written a novel for seven years, but I hope to write another fairly soon. It is bound to be a failure, every book is a failure, but I do know with some clarity what kind of book I want to write. Looking back through the last page or two, I see that I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don't want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, and lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives there lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. For all one knows that demon is simply the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention. And yet it is also true that one can write nothing readable unless one constantly struggles to efface one's own personality. Good prose is like a windowpane. I cannot say with certainty which of my motives are the strongest, but I know which of them deserve to be followed. And looking back through my work, I see that it is invariably where I lacked a political purpose that I wrote lifeless books and was betrayed into purple passages, sentences without meaning, decorative adjectives and humbug generally."

His full essay is HERE.

Google Slideshow

Want some insights into expanding culture and innovation?  Check out this Google Slideshow here.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Collector's Trove TSR Alumni Auctions (To Date)

As many of you might be aware, I auctioned a huge portion of my mss., art, game material many years ago.  Those auctions were conducted by Paul Stormberg of the Collector's Trove.  Here's the link to his page; and what follows is his grouped summary description of my auctioned items, with the original picture and notes of my Bottle City adventure (later to be published by PPP with great editing work by Allan Grohe).  There is a lot of information on Paul's page worthy of noting if you are at all interested in the history of that era.

"Robert J. Kuntz (4 auctions, 375 items sold to date):
Rob Kuntz is one of the original players of Dungeons & Dragons and helped to shape the design of that game through clever play and eventually writing and designing. Rob served as co-DM with Gary Gygax in the famous Greyhawk Castle campaign in the early to late 1970's. His character Robilar a number of near-mythological feats in the Greyhawk campaign, many of which are the subject of everyday conversation of gamers all over the world. Highlight's of Rob's many contributions to game and RPG design and writing included: King & Things (a Charles Roberts award winner), WG5 Mordenkainen's Fantastic Adventure, The Maze of Zayene, Garden of the Plantmaster, Sir Robilar's City of Brass, WG8 The fate of Istus, Dark Druids, Dark Chateau, CAS1 Cairn of the Skeleton King, CAS2 Tower of Blood, The Bottle City, Lake Geneva Castle Campaign: The Living Room, and more! His collection for auction was simply fantastic. It contained nearly everything imaginable, from the earliest relics of the pre-D&D days, to artwork, to manuscripts, to letters and contracts, to fiction mss., to original El Raja Key and Castle Greyhawk dungeon levels, and many more items that are too numerous to list here. In total the Robert J. Kuntz auctions reached nearly $33,000! The auctions garnered so much attention from collectors and fans that they received mention in SCRYE magazine (No. 86, pg. 10). The highlight of these auctions was the Bottle City level of Greyhawk Castle by Rob Kuntz. This 17" x 22" map and eight pages of level notes sold for $3,650!"

I make specific mention of this because Black Blade Publishing and I are seriously examining ways of getting the scans of these and other items onto a DVD and even making some matter available in print.  I have my take on it and so does Allan, who is in control of the project on the BB end.  Sooner or later we will asking the fans, by way of sampling the descriptions of the content, just what they feel is of weighted interest.