douglas cole

End of April report

COVID-19 is still here, but my new mechanical keyboard isn’t. What a way to start this report! Truly, I feel so grateful to be safe and healthy, but I have grown ever more frustrated and weary with the world, especially my country and the people within it. Don’t worry. I won’t get too political—well, not yet, at least. However, I think I can fairly argue that one person’s freedoms and rights end where another person’s freedoms and rights begin. My expectation to not get sick can be greater than another person’s freedom to not wear a mask. It’s not tyranny. My expectation of safety on the road is more important than another person’s freedom to go 20 over or another person’s freedom to drive while intoxicated. Furthermore, it goes beyond that too. A law requires a person to wear a seatbelt while driving, but that doesn’t affect other persons (very often, that is). Yet, that’s not tyranny either. A person has the right to be dumb and reckless. A person has the right to say racist things. However, actions also have consequences. I was so frustrated about protesters that I even made two whole tweets on an otherwise empty Twitter account.

I have good news too. My arms has been feeling much better after slowly starting to work it out at home more. My symptoms from my infection still come and go, though, which is a real bummer, but it’s never as bad as it used to be. I have another appointment in a couple of weeks to see what can be done. I finally started playing tabletop RPGs again, which is so nice. I’ve been keeping up with therapy, and I even get to virtually meet with my old Al-Anon group from Bloomington. I’ve also been writing a lot. Anyway, where’s my damn keyboard?

Conlang stuff report

Oops. I have barely half an entry in my project document for this month, which I wrote yesterday, and the previous entry is from March 9th. It’s actually been nice to take a break. My next step is to really focus on function words again. I want to make sure I have a robust set before I start adding a bunch of content words. I also think I need to renew my Language Creation Society membership, so there’s another oops. As I spend less energy on writing and gearing up to start playing tabletop RPGs again, I expect to have much more energy for conlanging. It’s really nice to be able to switch between a few really core hobbies.

RPG stuff report

Well, I created a flexible powers/magic system for GURPS called Modular Powers that I ended up reworking into my Wildcard Power Pool system. I’m still having some internal conflict about game design, but that’s really only because I’m trying to bridge GURPS and…

Fate. Yes, I’ve jump-started my tabletop RPG hobby with Fate. It’s a generic and modular system like GURPS, but it puts the narrative first. It’s also not as exceptionally detailed. However, the positive way to put that is that it’s very streamlined. Of course, the first thing I did was hack in a logarithmic system for damage. It actually works very well. It’s not a crazy assumption to say that Fate could work on a +6 = ×10 scale. (I don’t know math. Please be gentle.) That allowed me to squeeze in some ideas from Knowing Your Own Strength and Conditional Injury, and, because it establishes that bridge, it allows me to convert between damage in GURPS to damage in my Fate system along with being able to say how many characters points a stunt or a skill level is worth in Fate (which seems to be ~16.67 points). It’s easier to start small again. It’s easier to take off the pressure of wanting to be perfect at GURPS because I love it so much.

Also, I virtually attended FnordCon. Here are my highlights:

  • Kromm said that coronavirus is not related to 5G, and I’m pretty sure he works for the Illuminati, so I think he would know. Conspiracy de-confirmed.
  • Kromm also said that he really likes Fate, so I feel like I have his indirect blessing.
  • They talked about doing a Space Opera line like DFRPG.
  • Douglas Cole mentioned doing some Secret Wars Mission X stuff after Norðlond. He mentioned it being inspired by X-Com games, so that’s interesting. Not my typical cup of tea, but I usually drink coffee anyway, so I’m happy to try new things and support his stuff.
  • In response to a question about what gives GURPS players the most grief, Kromm said something along the lines of when people ask a question on the forums only to receive 600 replies but zero actual answers. I can confirm.
  • Steve Jackson was asked about ways to make GURPS more narrative-first, but he said that GURPS isn’t really the best fit for that. He basically said that, if you want to play Powered by the Apocalypse, then play Powered by the Apocalypse. Though, Douglas Cole added that it is still very possible to sand off all the splinters (paraphrasing his actual words) to make GURPS a bit faster, lighter, and narrative-forward if not first.
  • I also was allowed to record Steve Jackson telling my best friend’s dad to clean up his house, which is the highlight of highlights.

Now that I really think about it, I guess I should’ve made a post-FnordCon post, but oh well! This is good enough for me.

Writing stuff report

I participated in the April Camp NaNo, I set my goal for 10,000 words in a month, and I hit my goal on April 20th. So, yeah, I’m pretty content with that. I worked on a continuation of the story I wrote last November, and it’s still coming along quite nicely. This is a small report for what was a good amount of story, but I think I’ll talk more about it when the first draft is actually finished.

Quick Review(s) of The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard are all part of the Norðlond Sagas (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG, which is coming out right about now. Also, I should specify that Hand of Asgard is an extra, but, of course, I had to pick it up. I’m reviewing these books at the same time because they were all part of the same Kickstarter, so it seems fitting to me. First of all, let me just go ahead and say that Douglas Cole has done it again. These are all fantastic products, the art and the maps are as great as ever, and I am super happy to have backed them, and I anticipate that I’d back anything he created for the DFRPG, which is good because he’s working on a bestiary next.

The Dragons of Rosgarth is another great micro-setting and adventure that’s part of the larger Norðlond setting that I love so much. More worldbuilding, more festivals, more information about climate and weather—that’s the stuff I live for. Then, there are detailed factions, which are unique and well-written. But I’m still happiest about all of the dinosaurs in the bestiary. A great book, a neat adventure in a wonderful setting, and I can’t wait to run it.

Forest’s End is another-another great micro-setting and adventure. Of course, I love all of the history, the information about population, a very detailed underworld, and even some stuff about taxes. Yes, Douglas Cole makes taxes fun and interesting. You can quote me on that. There’s a wealth of information on resources, points of interest, services (like magical healing), and festivals and holidays. And it doesn’t stop there. It fleshes out more of how the setting approaches dragons and druids and faerie, all of which are ever so prevalent in Norðlond. A big chunk of the bestiary goes to dragonkin, which is also fun.

Of course, it tickles me that The Dragons of Rosgarth has a lot of dinosaurs while Forest’s End has a lot of dragonkin. No problem with that—it’s just funny.

Norðlondr Fólk is my kind of book. It’s a short supplement that details the races of the Norðlond setting, and a lot of the pages are spent on fitting in the base races in the DFRPG while also providing some welcome norse-themed versions of those races. Sick of how all fantasy dwarves have big bushy beards? Then take a look at the dvergr for hairless dwarves that resemble stone. Of course, I also have a special place for the hrafnar (raven-folk) because they remind me of the kenku in D&D, which is the race that my youngest sister chose when I forced my younger sisters to play D&D with me way back when.

Hand of Asgard is even more my kind of book because it’s a short supplement that deals with the faith, religion, and surrounding culture of the Norðlond setting while providing some really cool abilities for clerics and holy warriors. My review is short, but this book is absolutely packed with great stuff. Plus, you get stats for valkyries at the end.

Many thanks to Douglas Cole (The Dragons of Rosgarth), Kevin Smyth (Norðlondr Fólk and Hand of Asgard), Merlin Avery (Forest’s End), and Kyle Norton (The Dragons of Rosgarth) for bringing these truly incredible books to life.

Other Quick Reviews:

Quick Review of The Citadel at Norðvorn from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

The Citadel at Norðvorn (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG came out last year in 2019, so I’m a little late to reviewing that as well. It is a lot like Hall of Judgement with more experience and content behind it, and I really couldn’t have asked for more. My favorite parts were (as they always are) the worldbuilding and the information about said world. Furthermore, it gives examples of villages and gives the GM the tools they need to create more villages. I love a good bestiary. Learning more about history and geography and holidays is a GURPS specialty, and I’m glad to see it represented here. And that’s not to say that Hall of Judgement was barebones—it certainly wasn’t! But The Citadel at Norðvorn does it all and then some. With more polish too! I’m talking in circles a bit, though, but it really deserves the praise. Oh, and the bestiary—that’s another favorite. As it always is. It’s great-sized book of great work (and great art!) that fleshes out what is now one of my favorite RPG settings of all time, so, yeah, it comes heavily recommended.

Other Quick Reviews:

Quick Review of Hall of Judgement from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

The Hall of Judgement (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG came out back in 2018, but that isn’t going to stop me from reviewing it now. 120 pages of a norse-themed setting and adventure for the dungeon fantasy sibling of my favorite table-top RPG ever? Yeah, I’m interested (and I was very happy to learn that it was only the tip of the norse-themed iceberg). The Warehouse 23 page describes the book in more detail than I would be willing to do in a ‘quick review’, so read it:

Hall of Judgment is set in the barbarian lands of the north (predictably called Norðlönd). It is designed to evoke the feeling of a nordic/viking culture without specifically invoking Norse myth and legend.

  • This product is a micro-setting and scenario for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Powered by GURPS)
  • It features non-linear adventuring for 4-6 250-point characters
  • Explore a Viking-flavored world trekking through cold, harsh mountains, facing dangerous faerie, and searching for a lost holy place, and the priceless relics within
  • Easily portable and usable with any GURPS Fantasy campaign

What’s in the book?

The book contains:

Preface. Contains a brief discussion of the original volume and how it came to be converted to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Isfjall. The town is described in enough detail to serve as a base for further adventures.

The Journey. This section is broken out and expanded from the original volume. Random encounter tables, weather hazards, and other difficulties that arise when nature itself rises against you.

Lögheimili Ruins. A dangerous place. Full of evil it is. In you must go. A micro-dungeon! You don’t have to go in. Or come out.

Domstollinn. The core scenario. It is presented as a set of encounters that can be tackled (or not) in any order. An encounter includes a set of Challenges, telling the GM what must be overcome, Concealed information the players don’t know initially, Alternative ways to short-circuit, bypass, or otherwise not just Leroy Jenkins one’s way through a challenge, and Rewards, where appropriate.

Bestiary. Each monster that may be encountered in the scenario is given a description, statistics (including brief stats used with the Fantastic Grappling Quick-Start), and combat tactics to make each one unique. Over 30 creatures, nearly all of them new.

Fantastic Grappling Quick-Start. Even if you don’t have the book, you can still use the rules. Two pages of grappling the way it should be: fast, fun, and well-integrated with the Dungeon Fantasy RPG mechanics, using the control damage type first introduced in GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling, but refined and simplified after years of play in multiple systems.

Pre-Gen Characters. Sixteen 250-point characters will be provided to allow the scenario to be played with minimal preparation; this adds to the excellent pre-gens already provided in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set.

All together, this is a complete adventure that can be run on its own or dropped into an existing campaign.

And that says nothing of the production quality of the book itself and the art within (especially the maps), which is great because I was a bit let down by some of the art in the DFRPG itself. It’s a great book, and it really whet my appetite for the books that would come next. Really, though—at this point, supporting Douglas Cole is like supporting the DFRPG and GURPS themselves. Even if his content wasn’t absolutely amazing (which it is!), I’d probably still be supporting him and his work. At least, this way, I am doubly happy about it!

Other Quick Reviews: