Thursday, December 30, 2021

Word of the Day -- Apricity

I found this word while looking up the definition for yesterday's WOTD Hygge.  It came in an email with words having to do with winter.  And this is one that I absolutely love though apparently it is antiquated and not an official word even.  I say we bring it back!  I mean, after all, who hasn't experienced this?  

Apricity -- Warmth of the sun; basking in the sun, especially in winter.

Years ago I was on a Q&A panel for some convention with friend and creator of Hyperborea, Jeffrey Talanian.  Somehow we got to talking about how I was in Maine and he was in New Hampshire and how much we loved the weather in winter.  He remarked about snow shoveling in shorts and I laughed and said I know exactly what he meant.  

Sometimes, when the sun is beating down on you in winter, and the humidity is low and there is no wind, it can feel like a summer's day.  Those who live in cold climes will know what I mean.  It's such a pleasure to bask in the sun when the weather is cold and there is snow all around you.  

I guess you could say I "appreciate apricity". Sorry... I just couldn't resist.  :-)


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Word of the Day -- Hygge

 I'll admit I'm a fan of this word.  I didn't know what it was, or what it meant until this year, but there is something very satisfying about both it's sound and it's meaning:

Hygge -- a cozy quality that makes a person feel content and comfortable.

While not winter-specific, many of the elements of chilly weather — like hot tea, a fuzzy blanket, sitting around a crackling fire with friends — evoke hygge. Pronounced HOO-gah, this Danish word means coziness and creating a sense of being in the moment. It comes from the Old Norwegian word for “wellbeing.” As the winter holidays approach, Danes love embracing hygge with plenty of candles and mulled wine. You can create hygge alone or with a group, so bring forth the comfy slippers and mugs of hot cocoa and bask in the relaxing atmosphere while watching the snowfall from a comfy chair. (courtesy of merriam-webster and word genius).

As for my hygge, it is curled up on the futon with coffee in the morning before sunrise with my wife, my cat and my dog.  We turn on some small twinkle lights we have on the wall and more often than not in winter, a fire in the wood stove and it's the most content I feel all day.  



Death from Afar – the Atlatl and Weapon’s Damage

This is more about damage rules and limitations than the atlatl. I am just going to assume the following about the atlatl. I don’t need no science nor nothing (I did do more research than was necessary). The atlatl is useful for close range and far range. It is very accurate. It has the virtually the same impact power as a hand thrown spear (this is backed up by numerous studies). It takes practice to use properly (as does everything). It does not require much strength to use effectively. The atlatl has deep penetrating power.


As I am going to be adding to Arms and Armor over the next year, the following issue will come up daily. What damage should be assigned to the Atlatl? This is a constant befuddlement where I tend to overthink everything. Effectively, virtually every iteration of The Game is limited to damage ranges by a d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12. Sometimes a d20 is thrown in there. That really is a small range of damage to create meaningful mechanical differences between weapons.

Step Uno: Simple and Complex Solutions on the Way

The simple approach to weapon’s damage would be to break weapons into five categories.

Category              Damage               Weapons

1                              1d4                         dagger, dart, club, etc

2                              1d6                         short sword, mace, scimitar, etc

3                              1d8                         longsword, battle axe, trident, etc

4                              1d10                      two handed sword, great axe, etc

5                              1d12                      weapons reserved for giants or large creatures


By moving everything to those categories, one great simplifies weapon’s damage. From there it is a matter of choosing the category. That is the simple step and mechanically works very well. However, it does not differentiate between weapons. The only differences of import outside of damage are ‘cultural’ selections. I rather like that because if foists a role playing dynamic into the game. In one area of a setting a character may only have access to a falx whereas in another a katana.  


But that never really seems to satisfy anyone. Here is the cool thing about weapons; they are tools designed for specific purposes and have optimal manners of use. Some weapons are far superior to others (outside of just the creation of the weapon). Some weapons are superior to others in certain contexts. A scimitar or similarly curved weapons is better suited to cavalry warfare than a straight sword. As one can see the complexity of weapon’s damage can escalate very quickly. Mechanically though, there are limitations.

Step Duo: I already have a Headache.

The next step is to make a quick modifier to weapons. In lieu of straight d4, d6, d8, d10, or d12, the weapon receives a die with a +1 modifier to damage. For example, instead of 1d6, the weapon becomes 1d6+1. This effectively gives one ten categories for weapons. By halving the result of a d10, d6, and d4 one adds three more categories giving us 13 categories of weapon’s damage. By subtracting 1 from the d8, d10, and d12 (with a 0 being a 1), we add three more categories for a sum of 16 weapon damage categories.

Does it make a difference? Yes, in the long run it does make a difference in damage output, which, let us be honest, is important. It’s easy to notch up the complexity with critical hit spreads, unique characteristics, to hit advantages, weapons versus armor charts, defensive advantages, and other factors. But just how complex does a weapon need to be for use in a game and at what point does the complexity detract from the game rather than add to it?


A well armed knight would carry a variety of weapons in combat. Each serving a particular purpose.

I really have no idea. Having a bent for complexity, I have a lingering desire to keep adding charts and modifiers. As a player and running the game, I want it simple and fast flowing. The actions and story are not in the weapon’s average damage output, the action is in the fight. So my real question, does that weapon’s complexity add to the story or become the story?

I may come up with the atlatl damage today and may not as I, apparently, have decided to go about redesigning weapons in general.

PS: don’t tell Steve, he’ll screech at me.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Word of the Day -- Triskaidekaphobia

This word makes it's way around the internet every few years it seems, especially when we have a Friday the 13th:

Triskaidekaphobia -- fear of the number 13.

I don't have that fear, but my brother was born on Friday the 13th and he is one of the clumsiest injury prone persons I know.   Probably coincidence, but you never know.  Got this tidbit from Merriam-Webster:

It's impossible to say just how or when the number thirteen got its bad reputation. There are a number of theories, of course. Some say it comes from the Last Supper because Jesus was betrayed afterwards by one among the thirteen present. Others trace the source of the superstition back to ancient Hindu beliefs or Norse mythology. But if written references are any indication, the phenomenon isn't all that old (at least, not among English speakers). Known mention of fear of thirteen in print dates back only to the late 1800s. By circa 1911, however, it was prevalent enough to merit a name, which was formed by attaching the Greek word for "thirteen"—treiskaideka (dropping that first "e")—to phobia ("fear of").


Hunting Megafauna in Your Game – The Atlatl – and Weapon’s Design

A dart throwing device, the atlatl, is know to have been in use 20,000 years ago though it was likely used thousands of years before that. It’s a simple tool, consisting a shaft about the length of a forearm and a ‘cup’ at its base. The atlatl was used to throw a long thin dart that was anywhere between a foot and four feet in length or more. The dart could be thrown a considerable distance with average throw lengths of one hundred yards but up to two hundred yards is possible. The dart also carried considerable force on impact. Studies have shown the dart could penetrate the thick hide of an elephant and reach deep into the body. 


The atlatl is, apparently, very useful in taking down large prey.

I think the first and most obvious advantage of an atlatl is that it can be used at great distances. The average distance in tests is 100 yards (the length of a football field). That is a very long distance and gives the thrower distance and time between their prey.

It is also very accurate at great distances in the hands of an expert. If hunting large prey, one does not have to hit a specific part of the animal, just hit the prey. Several people in tandem could pinion a large animal at around a hundred yards and wound it enough that it could potentially bleed out eventually.

And as a final note on the atlatl, it has great penetrating power. Despite the darts being narrow with small heads, the power of the dart comes from its velocity. As mentioned, the dart can penetrate a foot or more into the body of an elephant (by comparison a 50-pound draw strength bow could only reach 2-3 inches into the hide of an elephant at 40 yards).  

The big stuff done went and died.

So why would anyone use an atlatl? The bow has its undeniably utility. This is also a chicken and the egg discussion, which came first the bow or megafauna extinction (hint, they coincided). It is excellent for close range small fauna hunting, warfare, portability, and rapid reload. Where the atlatl excels is long range shots and deep penetration. This would be perfect for hunting megafauna. At least, one might surmise that was its great utility. The atlatl began to disappear about 12,000 years ago (though is still in use today). Use of the bow became widespread shortly after and the Pleistocene megafauna were dying off.

So where does this leave the atlatl. In the famous words incorrectly rendered from some astronaut, “Houston, we have a problem.” Effectively, in the rules, we are limited to damage ranges; d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12. If one were to use an atlatl, what would its damage be? Another factor to examine is range. The bow has most effective ranges covered. Under what circumstance then would the atlatl have an advantage over the bow but not supplant it. 


I would have to say that the atlatl would have a very specific set of advantages against a specific set of targets in specific settings. Later today or in the morning I will offer up the atlatl as a weapon with tentative rules attached to it.  

Monday, December 27, 2021

Word of the Day -- Kilter

Today's WOTD is one of those words that you recognize from the phrase more than the actual word.  For instance, Mary and I were doing our morning puzzles and she said something didn't look quite right on the screen.  I noticed the laptop was partially on the blanket and I said, "Yeah, it's off kilter".  That got me to thinking, I really didn't know if the word kilter was an actual word or not.  Turns out it is:

Kilter -- proper or usual state or condition.

But no one ever really says: "That looks kilter".  Do they?  I don't at least.  Pretty cool stuff for a Monday; at least for word guys like me.


Too Near a TPK for Comfort.

Yesterday (the 26th) we did a long 10 hour session of Castles & Crusades. Four players, one CK. It was a blast and we watched one of those peculiar incidents that make these games so crazy and not a little bit bizarre. 

This group, sailing down the Mist Bane River (in the world of Aihrde or on World Anvil), was hammered by 5 wyverns. A random encounter almost TPKed an 8th level, fully healed, spelled up and equipped party.  One of the players rolled five nat ones, was paralyzed twice and dropped his weapon three times. Two of the others were paralyzed at one point or the other and the gnome divine knight (Adventurers Backpack) had to use all his mana to keep the party functioning. He raged at the table for a few good solid minutes. His frustration at being the only one unwounded and unparalyzed was wild! The battle went on for round after round after round. It was exhausting to everyone.

They staggered out of the grueling battle by the hair of their teeth - and I did offer to just kill them all so they could start over, the rolling was so bad :) - to meander down the river.

Many hours of play later that involved some town adventures, more river travel, some more encounters, they finally climbed the steep cliffs that brought them to the Coven's Meadow, their destination. Here they encountered a death knight of tremendous power (unbeknownst to them the actual object of their journey). There was some hit and run between them, but by the time they all gathered around the death knight, the undead high lord unleashed a mass harm and knocked 3/4s of the party to 4 hit points. They went from fully healed to nearly wiped out in one melee round.

Nightmares of the wyven encounter from earlier rapidly surfaced. But undaunted they carried on.

Then.....the epic....

Winning initiative the next round they hammer f#*&@ that death knight, dealing 60 hit points of damage in that round alone. A few nat 20s and back stab and a stunning spell use crippled the knight to less then 4 hit points. The creature missed his swing and was obliterated in the following round.

It was pretty stunning and we all surmised that the dice held their luck until unleased during the battle that counted, wasting none of it on the wyverns by the river. 

Another wild ride.

Friday, December 24, 2021

Word of the Day -- Organoleptic

I came across this word in an article I was reading from Pocket (that service that posts articles when you hit a new tab on Firefox; very addictive.  I almost always find one I want to read) from Taste magazine.  I can't offhand remember what the article was titled, but it was about making Arlettes, which are a french pastry if I recall correctly.  Anyway, they were describing them as:

Organoleptic -- being, affecting, or relating to qualities (such as taste, color, odor, and feel) of a substance (such as a food or drug) that stimulate the sense organs.

English speakers got an early taste of organoleptic in an 1852 translation of a French chemistry textbook. Its spelling is an Anglicization of the French word organoleptique, which derives from organ (same meaning as in English) and Greek lēptikos, meaning "disposed to take or accept." Lēptikos is also an ingredient in neuroleptic (a type of powerful tranquilizer). The parent of lēptikos—the verb lambanein, meaning "to take or seize"—contributed to the formation of several English words, including epilepsy and syllable. ~ merriam webster



Fans Make Castles and Crusades the Best Game Ever.


There is a debate amongst historians, social scientist, and the like as to whether social movements give rise to those men we associate with them or a few insightful men give rise to social movements. It is an interesting debate that has gone on for quite some time. I tend to fall on the side that social movements propel some few people to the forefront. Did Julius Caesar conquer Gaul or did the mass of Roman will conquer Gaul? I think one can safely say that without the legions and the will of Rome behind him, Julius would never have conquered Gaul.

Several thousand years ago the Roman Empire fell under the capricious rule of Caligula. " Would that the Roman people had but one neck!" he has been famously quoted as saying. But Rome did not have one neck and Caligula was foiled in his desperate effort to destroy that which reared him. Rome was not a place but an idea carried forth by the multitudes who believed in that idea. Would Gaul have been conquered without Julius? Yes, it most certainly would have. The conqueror’s name would be different, the timing may have changed, the circumstances as well, but the inevitability of it is clear.

Why Rome? My point being, the best thing, by any stretch, about Castles and Crusades is the mass who wills it forth. The fans. You of course. Without those who play the game, Castles and Crusades would be nothing more than a sheave of notes stuck in a red notebook on a shelf (or more likely used as kindling for a bonfire). There was, it seems, a confluence. Stephen and I were rightly positioned at the right with an almost right idea that only needed a spark to ignite its fire. The will for a simple game, that embraced its roots, but that needed to grow new branches, was in the air in the early 2000s.  


Imagine, if you will, 2003 (maybe ’04 or ’05). By happenstance Stephen had become friends with Gary. We were eating dinner at one of his favorite restaurants and The Game came up, more a philosophy of The Game. At the convention of that year, we here at TLG were rendering our own nascent game (which can still be found in a few collector’s dens) as we were dissatisfied with the complexity of the then current iteration. There were also so many people we met (many of whom have become friends) who echoed a similar frustration and desire for something a little less and a little more. The collective will of that convention quite simply pushed us forward in a direction we had, up to that moment, never envisioned.

It is to you we all owe our undying gratitude and thanks. Without you, TLG would be something else entirely. The mantle is in your hands, not ours. You, the fans, rule your worlds by the instruments you guided us to make. We are but pawns in your game. 

I have also only ever once come across such a good group of people. As an archeologist I was essentially homeless and living in the woods and various hotels for almost fifteen. Both that lifestyle and profession attract a very specific type of person. Good people all. I can say the same for the all the fans of CnC I have met. The kindest, most understanding, and generous group people I have ever met. Sorry guys though, you'll never drink as much as archaeologists. We got that market cornered and were it not for living in abject poverty (and unbridled happiness) at the time, i am sure archeologist all tilt to the windmill and would, were the pennies there, end up in a halfway house somewhere.

I hope the coming weeks provide you with all you ever hoped and dreamed.


Songs from the Drowned Lands ~ Kernaghan

Recently I took a trip to New York (the city) and needed something to read that I could easily carry on the plane. I don't really buy pa...