I always admired how the Judges Guild people used the material in Gods, Demigiods, and Heroes – the 4th OD&D supplement – in their supplements. In the CSIO, for example, some of the gods listed are formally worshiped in the city’s temples and other happen to be hiding out, incognito, in the city itself, mixing it up with the rest the colorful denizens on the streets and shops of that fantasy metropolis.
My brother is a successful minister in an evangelical church. I often pick up ideas and phrases from him – expressions which are common parlance in that particular community. One of the most memorable is: “That’ll preach!” Generally speaking, this means that a story or incident has a particular resonance or immediately understood application to their teachings – that it is, by itself, illustrative of what they are trying to convey. If a pastor says this aloud, you may be sure that they are thinking about how to use that anecdote or story, or deploy it, in a future sermon.
So… What does this have to do with OD&D and FRPs?
Pretty much everything.
The art and illustration used in role playing games is, as it has probably always been, a contentious subject. Everyone has their favorite icons and it’s going to be hard to find 100% agreement anywhere. That said, the art and illustration issue still needs to be addressed.
As I reviewed recent Traveller products, like Zozer Games’ somewhat-ballyhooed Orbital, I began to shudder at all the use of Poser and Photoshop-type artwork. It is, sadly, ubiquitous in the current OSR Traveller scene. The art produced for the Mongoose Traveller series is, at best, forgettable and, at worst, lamentably boring. If it wasn’t done using a cheap computer program, then its total lack of any discernible charm or personality indicates that it might as well have been.
Is this really the best we can expect?
“If it wasn’t for Horselover Fat and his encounter with God or Zebra or the Logos, and this other person living in Fat’s head but in another century and place, I would dismiss my dreams as nothing. I can remember articles dealing with the people who have settled near the lake; they belong to a mild religious group, somewhat like the Quakers (I was raised as a Quaker); except, it is stated, they held the strong belief that children should not be put in wooden cradles. This was their special heretical thrust. Also — and I can actually see the pages of the written article about them — it is said of them that “every now and then one or two wizards are born (…)”
– Philip K. Dick
When I awoke this morning, KFOG was playing the Brother Iz (Israel Kamakawiwoʻole) mash-up of “Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World.” When Peggy and I stayed on Kauaʻi there was a radio station that seemed to exist solely to play this recording over and over again. It made me think about how different the MGM Oz film was from the original L. Frank Baum books – and how each can be enjoyed without either one intruding on the other. I liked the MGM film and I liked the books. I can appreciate each of them separately.
While much has been made of “Appendix N” in the DMG, I haven’t seen too many people discussing the same kind of bibliography presented in David Hargrave’s The Arduin Adventure. I went through his list and was delighted to rediscover many books I remembered from the mid-’70s. Fantasy wasn’t as omnipresent a genre then – you often had to hunt these titles down. When I came across books like these – collections of folklore with new and whimsical art, coffee table-sized books of classic science fiction magazine illustrations – I remembered them vividly, even when I couldn’t afford to buy the books with what little my allowance and/or paper route money allowed me to spend.
1) The nine Artificial Intelligences (Difference Engines – or AIs) that seem to rule different sections of the city have no way to communicate with each other and each appears to be totally unaware of the existence of any of the others. They have no way to propagate themselves and each is as old as the others. There are no “young” or “old” AIs. They are all the same age and they all seem to have a common creator – thought who, or what, that was (or still is) is knowledge lost in time.
“It is very edifying and profitable to create a world out of one’s brain and people it with inhabitants… By conversing daily with such beings and accustoming your eyes to their glaring attire and fantastic features — you acquire a tone of mind admirably calculated to enable you to cut a respectable figure in practical life.”
– Charlotte Brontë