Monday, February 28, 2022

Word of the Day -- Mulct

I must admit, I came across this word by typing some random letters into the dictionary online at  I do this occasionally.  I liken it to rolling the dice and seeing what comes up.  You then take that and run with it, no matter where it goes.  So this is where I first heard of:

Mulct -- to defraud especially of money.

This led me down a wide reaching and fascinating journey to know more about mulct.  I can't tell you how rewarding searches like this are.   You just start reading and one thing takes you to another which takes you to another.   

A fine assessed as a penalty for an infraction is generally considered justifiable. Fraud, on the other hand, is wrong—it's just the sort of thing that deserves a fine. So in mulct we have a unique word, one that means both "to fine" and "to defraud." The "fine" sense came first. Mulct was borrowed from the Latin word for a fine, which is multa or mulcta. The "fine" sense is still in use, mostly in legal contexts ("the court mulcted the defendant for punitive damages"), but these days mulct is more often used for an illegal act. It has been speculated that the "defraud" use may have developed from an association with the verb milk, in its "to exploit, to coerce profit from" meaning (as in "she was milked by the lawyers for everything she had"), but that speculation has never been proven.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Word of the Day -- Ice

Okay, this word isn't so much chosen because it is odd, or rare, or interesting, as so much as it gives me a chance to complain about the...

Ice -- frozen water; or a stretch or sheet of frozen water.

We have been inundated with ice of late.  Starting Wednesday morning the skies opened up and it got to freezing, got to sleeting, and it got to snowing.   Mostly it was sleet and freezing rain however, and that made getting outside problematic.  We are on a bit of a hill and due to poor prior planning, the woodpile is halfway down the hill.  Basically I had run out of wood up near the house and was planning to move more closer when the storm came.  Yesterday in an attempt to get some wood I slipped and proceeded to slide down the gravel driveway.  I mention that it's gravel so that you know there were a lot of "bumps" along the way.  Needless to say it is hard to sit down today...

I love snow.  I frigging hate frigging ice.

Calamity Hill


Out with Old in with the Old

So, as some might have surmised, I am toying around with a new game. I keep writing rules and rules and rules in an effort to come up with a reasonable facsimile of what I want at the gaming table. As I am reaching the elderly statesman age, I better hurry up. (Ok, not as elderly as our average politician apparently, so sub-statesman would be better. Yes, I actually meandered across that information this morning which in turn prompted this blog post. :) And, back to the subject at hand.

I keep futzing around with the rules. I think I hit upon a few good ideas which prompted me to write a bit late last night. Now, this ‘new’ game has been floating around in my head for a few years and I keep promising Stephen that I should be able to write it up – three years ago. He has thrown in the towel. I have not, much to his chagrin. But I have to hurry or these ‘new’ rules will never see the light of day lest my ghostly visage can pen the draft.   

I say new, but they are not new. In going over the vast amount of gaming material I have at hand (print or electronic), it occurred to me that there are not any new rules out there (maybe – I am probably wrong on this as I usual am when I make grand sweeping declarations). It seems to me that most rules have been tried. If one cares to include the rules that have never been printed but remain as in-house rules or table rules, I am fairly certain every single rule has been tried at one point or another by someone. There is nothing new under the sun. The sun just does not shine on some. As to variations of rules, there are hundreds if not thousands of variations on simple core rule concepts at this point.

Maybe my brain is too old to think of anything new? Maybe it is in a rut? Maybe the most durable rules for The Game have been found and everything else is noise? I tend to think the latter is the case. I don’t mean noise in a negative sense. The noise is the music of anyone’s game. Those are the sets of rules that work perfectly (at least Ok) for that person or group. However, bundling the rules and sub-rules and variations together and mixing them up might has produced interesting results. 

One rule or observation or natural phenomena that rarely shows up in games is the law of averages. It might appear that it does, but, off the top of my head, it only regularly shows up in attribute generation. This is something “The Dragon’s Crucible” intends to address. A lot of averages show up in the game. Not sure if they will work, that will be in the hands of the play-testers when I have the document ready.

Another non-rule is the chaos of combat. I feel combats should be chaotic, unpredictable, and fluid. In my little game I have removed certain restrictive elements in traditional rules. There is no initiative. This is not new, but to those who have not tried running without a static initiative, I would suggest giving it a shot. It might surprise everyone at how fluid battles become and the fog of generates many interesting and unexpected results.

I can’t wait to get this draft document finished. As soon as I do, I will be looking for play-testers.  

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

OMG A Product Meeting

I stayed awake through this entire product meeting. I had to, Stephen was sitting across the table from me. That said, the night before I literally fell asleep in the middle of the conversation. When my body says sleep, it means, sleep. Dumb body. Product meetings can be exciting, but mostly not. The product meeting is basically when it goes from the idea stage to the “this is our tentative writing schedule and release schedule” stage. That is boring with a capitol B, O, R, I, N, and G. This has been exacerbated by the wonders of technology.

A gathering of the Trolls

I did take notes. I don’t know what they say so I will interpret them as I go down the line and try and give everyone a preview of projects we have lined up. This does not mean any will be finished in any specified period of time. But, I will say that those on my desk, if they are not finished, I starve. I’m thinking I should set up a tip jar somewhere. Or I could go back to begging. I’m fairly good at looking completely pathetic.

1. Book of Familiars – Gut. I am not sure what this means. I assume it means we will be doing a rewrite with fewer familiars and easier rules. It’s sorta too much for its intended use, essentially making it less useful. No timeline. Just something on the chopping block.

2. Monsters and Treasure – Gut.  2 years or so. Changes to layout I think. The current print run will be sold out by then I think. So yeah, put on the back burner where it will probably stay.

3. Halls of Wood Hall of Stone – this is bad ass. I can’t recall the authors name but he is a historian and fascinated by castles. To wit, we now have a castle book coming out with completed castes, from guilds to lords included. Not sure on the timeframe. This year probably.

4. Guild and Orders – guilds and orders. This is me (Davis). I am actually having a difficult time writing this because it is so…. Its not very exciting yet. But I am supposed to be done in 4 weeks. I am not going to be.

5.  Aethrop’s Guide – expansion. Chuck is in charge of this. It is a very popular book so we tasked Chuck with an expansion. No timeline or anything. But chuck did a great job. This is a guide to making stuff with animal parts and junk. Hahah. Ask Chuck

6. Patreon expansion – on me, late (been a bit obsessed by international events). Anyway, I will have an update in the morning for all patreon accounts and others. All I can say is, HEX CRAWL !!!

Points of interest/adventures

7. Planes Book – Stephen is taking the lead on this as he has the clearest vision. I will be doing backup writing. This will be out by fall. Planes and such.

8. Tainted Lands update or reprint. Not sure. Was not paying much attention. We have quite a bit of Jame’s material on hand so we will be doing something with that.

9. Weapons and Armor – expansion. Freaking finally. Now I get to include fantastical weapons that say some three fingered cricket creature might use. Ahaha. Peter Bradley will be helping me with this.  

10. A Series – yup…. Stephen should have information early next week.

11. Amazing Adventures – Jason is doing some stuff. Again this is Jason’s bag so, don’t really keep up. Jason did write a bad ass little game I want to throw out there. It has nothing to do with Amazing Adventures though.

12 Codex Sinarum is next up in the mythos line. It is complete and we are doing art/layout/ covers as we speak (as I write. I am not doing anything on it.)


Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Word of the Day -- Umbrage

This is one of the words that my father knew and I was so impressed that he knew it. I was in my teens probably and it was in a B.C. cartoon of all places.  Someone said: "I take considerable umbrage at your use of that word".  I don't remember the word in question nor can I say I am properly remembering this story, it was over 40 years ago after all.  But when I asked Dick (that's what my father's nickname and indeed what all of us called him) what it meant he knew right away:

Umbrage -- a feeling of pique or resentment at some often fancied slight or insult.

That's the version, but in the mail today I got this:  

Umbrage comes from the Old French ombrage (shade, shadow), and it was once used to talk about actual shade from the sun. It took on various figurative meanings having to do with doubt and suspicion or the giving and taking of offense. To give umbrage was to offend someone, to "throw shade." However, these days when we see the term umbrage at all, it is more likely to be because someone is taking, rather than giving it.  

That is where we get "umbrella"  Words are just fu**ing cool...

Friday, February 18, 2022

Word of the Day -- Butter

So this isn't one of those words that you would think people wouldn't know, right?  I mean everyone has heard of:

Butter -- a solid emulsion of fat globules, air, and water made by churning milk or cream and used as food.

Pretty simple right?  The product itself has been around for what seems like forever and the word butter has been around since before the 12th century.  It comes froom Middle English, from Old English butere, from Latin butyrum, from Greek boutyron, from bous cow + tyros cheese; akin to Avestan tÅ«iri- curds.

No, that's not what struck me as interesting to bring it up as the word of the day today.  That comes courtesy of an email I somehow get each day from "Interesting Facts".  You can check them out here, it's a pretty cool site.   Here's what was in my inbox today...

The ancient Romans thought eating butter was barbaric. Our friends in ancient Rome indulged in a lot of activities that we would find unseemly today — including and especially gladiators fighting to the death — but they drew the line at eating butter. To do so was considered barbaric, with Pliny the Elder going so far as to call butter “the choicest food among barbarian tribes.” In addition to a general disdain for drinking too much milk, Romans took issue with butter specifically because they used it for treating burns and thus thought of it as a medicinal salve, not a food. 

They weren’t alone in their contempt. The Greeks also considered the dairy product uncivilized, and “butter eater” was among the most cutting insults of the day. In both cases, this can be partly explained by climate — butter didn’t keep as well in warm southern climates as it did in northern Europe, where groups such as the Celts gloried in their butter. Instead, the Greeks and Romans relied on olive oil, which served a similar purpose. To be fair, though, Romans considered anyone who lived beyond the Empire’s borders (read: most of the world) to be barbarians, so butter eaters were in good company.


Who knew?  Well apparently someone did.  I must admit, I'm not a huge butter fan myself.  Don't put it on bread, or on my potatoes, or corn, etc.  It's good in dishes, good in recipes, but for just eating?  I think I'll take a pass.  But it definitely is one of those foods modern day could not survive without...


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Word of the Day -- Meander

Wow... I just realized it's been a week since I did a word of the day.  If I don't keep to a strict calendar, the day just gets filled up and I forget completely. Which is crazy because all I do is think about words.  But sometimes it's easier to think about them than to write them.  And sometimes my brain just takes a:

Meander -- a winding path or course; a turn or winding of a stream.

Meander comes from Greek Maiandros, an old name for a winding river in Asia Minor that is now known as the Menderes. Despite this origin, the word is more commonly used to refer to a person's wandering course than a river's.

All I know is, I gotta get my brain back from meandering and get back on the WOTD!

Monday, February 14, 2022

Amazing Adventures: A Deep Dive into the Gumshoe's Cat and Mouse

Recently I ran an adventure with one of my home gaming groups--my bi-weekly Friday group, several members of which had never played the game before. It was a really fun and eye-opening experience. The majority of my running SIEGE Engine games has been with my Sunday group, who (often unknowingly) were playtesting elements of it while I was working out the rules for Amazing Adventures. 

In any case, the advenure ran very well and we had a great time. It did, however, reveal one element of the game that may perhaps not be as clear as it should be in the rules as written. That element is the Gumshoe's Cat and Mouse ability. I thought I'd do a deeper dive here regarding what exactly the Gumshoe's Cat and Mouse represents. 

20386234 © Vladyslav Starozhylov |

Supernatural Investigators Extraordinaire

Gumshoes are built to be outstanding investigators of both mundane and paranormal crimes and events. This is all tied up into their Cat and Mouse ability. Many people--and rightly so--view "Cat and Mouse" as simply the ability to follow physical signs when looking for a target. Are there footprints in the dirt outside the window? Did they break a vase while running out of the room and trail bits of ceramic down the hall? Cat and Mouse certainly covers that. In truth, however, it covers far, far more. 

Urban Cat and Mouse and CSI

Cat and Mouse, as the Gumshoe uses it, encompasses just about every way you can think of to conduct an investigation into a mystery. Gumshoes are in many ways like Sherlock Holmes...or Batman. They're ace detectives, and Cat and Mouse is their ability to case a crime scene, pick up clues, and put the pieces together so they can figure out what's going on, whodunnit, where, and with what. It is, in short, their crime scene investigation ability as well as their perceptive logic skills. If Col. Mustard did it in the Ballroom with the Lead Pipe, it's the Gumshoe who wins the board game by putting all the clues together. 

From finding that lone matchbook in a pile of garbage with the name of Club Khalsa on the cover to calling upon a police contact to run a license plate number caught by a witness to taking fingerprints and looking for powder traces on a gunshot victim's hands, Cat and Mouse lets the Gumshoe find the necessary pieces of the puzzle to put everything together. A Survivor can find the clues with their Perception ability, and an Intelligence check might allow them to connect the pieces. A Gumshoe, on the other hand, makes a Cat and Mouse check and finds the clue, which leads them to the next piece of the puzzle. 

What Cat and Mouse Is Not

Cat and Mouse, while it represents the Gumshoe's ability to put together disparate pieces of a complex puzzle, should never be a magic bullet to let the heroes wind their way through a scenario with simple die rolls, with the Game Master doling out the answers in detail. A successful Cat and Mouse roll should allow the investigator to find puzzle pieces and clues, should point them to the next location or clue, and so on. It should always be left to the players to put together what's happening, A Cat and Mouse check can help provide hints and inspiration if they're missing something, but it shouldn't substitute for role playing and player ingenuity, nor should any class ability. 

On the other hand, it's likely that unless they are private investigators or police detectives in real life, your players probably aren't ace investigators for real. There's a thin line that GMs have to tread when running a game--making your players think is one thing, but you have to remember that they're not actually real-life Gumshoes with uncanny detection skills, superpowers, and vast knowledge of the occult. Class abilities let their characters do things they can't do in real life. 

In the end, don't let them get over-reliant on their class abilities to do everything for them, but as GM or CK, allow them to use those class abilities to represent their character's expertise. Drop hints to lead them to the proper conclusion, but don't just hand it out. It's also okay to send them off on a red herring every so often, just so long as eventually they hit a proper wall with that red herring which puts them back on the proper path. You can use Cat and Mouse for your own purposes, to move your story forward, as well as it being an invaluable aid to your players. 

If you haven't checked out Amazing Adventures yet, what are you waiting for? Even if you're a fantasy gamer, AA adds a wealth of tools, options, and character classes to your Castles & Crusades games, including the official psionics rules for the SIEGE Engine! Grab your copy today!

Wednesday, February 09, 2022

How can Alignment and Alignment languages actually work

My 10th level paladin, Ambrosia Cornucopia, dismounts his white steed, full of a robust will to do good in the world. He grabs his gleaming double bladed executioner’s axe from the saddle and enters the town of Babblybabblebrook with a righteous glory. He then flips on his detect evil switch and goes to work. Ten headless corpses later, Ambrosia Cornucopia mounts his steed and makes his way to the next town.

Talk about a menace.

The paladin from the eyes of a villager.

I think we’ve all had to deal with this at some point in our gaming past. For my part, it produced a lot of hilarity at the table until I did away with alignment, detecting good and evil, and even most mind reading magic. In a way I miss that. I also miss the ‘zoo’ dungeon, not a lot, but sometimes. I suppose everything has its place.

Having done away with alignment, I replaced it with…. adjectives. Basically, I gave NPCs and monsters three adjectives and a goal (more or less) that defined who they were. I replaced alignment with a ‘tenor of their being.’ This turned out to be better than alignment since it gave me more meat or gristle to work with at the table.

Now here was the interesting part of that. It took a few years until the idea dawned on me that the characters could read mannerisms, inflections of speech, language, and physical cues to, more or less, indicate the nature of the person with whom they were interacting – if they made a successful check. The paladin was better than others at noting characteristics of a ‘bad’ person, a thief would be more accurate in recognizing a thief - “it takes a thief to catch a thief”. That, in a nut shell, was alignment language. It is not a spoken language.

The ‘detection’ was not always accurate nor was it complete, but that was not important. What was important was allowing me to keep situations fluid and open to interpretation so the players were always a little off-balance.  


Now, why are orcs evil? They are not evil per se' but it i is certainly within anyone's self-interest to kill them all lock stock and barrel on site. I set it u such that a deity has decided to destroy the world. The act of destroying the world is manifested through the orcs. Orcs have but one job, they must destroy everything. Humans and others, realizing they are on the chopping block for destruction, fight back to eradicate the menace to their existence. or die.

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...