Monday, May 18, 2020

Today's Special

The other day I waffled about food in role-playing games and now here we are.

Roll 1d100 to determine your character's favourite foodstuff. Maybe eating it improves their morale, or if eaten during a rest your character gets extra healing. Dunno. I leave that up to you.

01 Vegetable lasagne 51 Sausage sandwich
02 Banoffee pie 52 Coffee ice cream
03 Bean burrito 53 Aubergine parmigiana
04 Bangers and mash 54 Three bean chilli
05 Egg fried rice 55 Heuvos rancheros
06 Aubergine katsu curry 56 Hot wings
07 Bread 57 Garlic bread
08 A nice cup of tea 58 Banana bread
09 Cucumber sandwich 59 Omelette
10 Spam 60 Meatball sandwich
11 Pineapple and jalapeño pizza 61 Cola
12 Apple crumble 62 Weird elf bread
13 Sunday roast 63 Full English
14 Big bag of Monster Munch 64 Cottage pie
15 Cheese and pickle sandwich 65 Calamari rings
16 Tomato soup 66 Pot noodle
17 Chocolate sponge cake 67 Toasted cheese sandwich
18 Barbecue ribs 68 Four cheese pizza
19 Falafel 69 Steak and ale pie
20 Eggs Benedict 70 Fish and chips
21 Nachos 71 Yasai yaki soba
22 Sticky toffee pudding 72 Banana sandwich
23 Pasta and tomato sauce 73 Cheesy potato skins
24 Cheeseburger 74 Onion bhajis
25 Beans on toast 75 BLT
26 Fish finger sandwich 76 Meatloaf
27 Maggots 77 Pancakes
28 Steak and chips 78 Clam chowder
29 Scones with jam and clotted cream 79 Vanilla milkshake
30 Bunny chow 80 Tuna sandwich
31 PB&J 81 A strong coffee
32 Cookie dough 82 Carrot and coriander soup
33 Chicken nuggets 83 Spam
34 Barbecue chicken pizza 84 Lasagne
35 Roast pork and apple sandwich 85 Plain toast
36 Pad Thai 86 Prune juice
37 Onion rings 87 Chicken soup
38 Waffles 88 Jaffa cakes
39 Dark chocolate digestive biscuits 89 Doner kebab
40 Weak lemon drink 90 Corn bread
41 Spam 91 Haggis
42 Beef stew 92 Potato salad
43 Rocket and tomato salad 93 Human
44 Mozzarella sticks 94 Avocado maki
45 Tea, Earl Grey, hot 95 Pumpkin risotto
46 Pickled beetroot 96 Lemonade
47 Cheese on toast 97 Welsh cakes
48 Quiche 98 Pork scratchings
49 Roasted peanuts 99 Curly fries
50 Carrot sticks 00 Cornish pasty

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Hardly Everchosen

I stumbled across this art today:


(I discovered that it's from a 2015 Age of Sigmar book and I can't tell you who the artist is because in 2015 Games Workshop wasn't big on giving credit to individual staff members.)

What struck me about the picture was how different it is to the standard GW house style, which tends to be more painterly. Actual drawings have very much gone out of fashion in Nottingham, so I was surprised but happy to see eight pages of this at the beginning of the book.

Alas, it's presented as a flashback and the final page blends from this style into your bog-standard GW painting, so there's a sense that it's literally "only a dream", but it's still nice to see a different style of art appear in a modern GW product. Maybe there are more that I have missed.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Yummy Yummy in My Tummy

Patrick Stuart has written an interesting post about tweaking the rules of D&D -- or rather tweaking how you use the rules of D&D -- to encourage a different play style, one that is gentler and more social. One of the things he talks about is food, how the sharing of food is an important social ritual, and how that could be reflected in a game.

(Be warned, I am now about to miss about 98% of the point of Patrick's post.)

That got me thinking about how food is used in role-playing games, or rather how it isn't. Meals and rations appear on equipment lists and you may have one of those GMs that pays attention to whether the player-characters are eating enough, but for the most part it's either a background element or a nuisance, a "starvation counter" that needs to be managed along with how many arrows or torches you have.

It seems a bit of a waste and it would be nice if more were made of food in games, as Patrick suggests.

(It's interesting that what fantasy games have taken from Lord of the Rings is the long walks but not the many, many pages of discussion of what the characters are eating and how it tastes. That's a bit weird.)

I've always been fond of how food is used in Fighting Fantasy, perhaps because I grew up reading-playing the books. There food is presented as a source of healing; if you are stabbed by a GOBLIN then you get better by eating sandwiches. It's an abstraction to the point of nonsense but the silliness is part of the charm. I love the idea of a battered group of adventurers having a picnic and emerging healed of their wounds.

Food-as-healing seems common in computer games, I suppose again because it's a useful abstraction that sort of makes sense, and the immediacy of the idea works well in context. Another seminal influence on my philosophy of games -- ludo-philosophy? -- is Sega's Phantasy Star, which has a science-fantasy setting somewhere between Greek myth and Star Wars, and in which the main healing items are burgers and cola. Again, the absurdity of the idea of adventurers going around a dungeon with a bag full of Big Macs and bottles of Pepsi appeals to me.

A recent and more complex implementation of the idea is Final Fantasy XV, which makes food the most important part of the resting mechanic, and gestures in the vague direction of the social elements Patrick is talking about. Ignis, the party butler -- they never say it, but he's obviously the butler -- cooks a meal for the adventurers every time they rest. Most of his dishes give some sort of bonus to character statistics and if the recipe is a favourite of one of the other party members, there's an added effect for that character. Travelling the world and speaking to people exposes Ignis to new ingredients and tastes that he can add to his notebook, which is a nice way to integrate the characters into the setting and reward exploration.




Almost all of the bonuses are combat related, because that's the sort of game FFXV is, so it doesn't get into the sort of thing Patrick discusses, but the fact that different characters have different favourites is a nice touch -- and one easy to pull into your average D&D game; a d100 table of favourite meals is easy enough to do -- and we are at least treated to a little cut scene each time, with the lads sitting around a camp fire in those flimsy folding fishing chairs, enjoying the meal and each other's company. It's a start, anyway.

Where am I going with all this? I don't know. Perhaps nowhere. I think all I wanted to say is that because of how I started in gaming I have this feeling that food should be more prominent in our games, even if it's just replacing healing potions with meatball subs and packs of Monster Munch, but it would be nice to do something more.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tin Wizard

The WizardIn the chat for my group's current D&D5 game Stuart asked is his wizard could be assumed to have the Mage Armour spell active at all times, without having to state it at the table. Stuart argued that since his wizard would be casting the spell every morning anyway, it would be simpler all round for it to be assumed to happen, and it's a good point.

Stuart cited a rules concept from the Burning Wheel role-playing game in which each character has a handful of these standard operating procedures, and that got me thinking.

Some have argued that Read Magic should either be dropped from the game or assumed to be a "free" spell that requires no resources to be expended; in essence, the ability to read magic is built in to every wizard because it's integral to the functioning of the class. Based on that, it makes sense that if wizards are known to be such fragile things then Mage Armour would also be something every one of them is taught as a basic skill.

This goes further than Stuart's request for his wizard; it's not just a SOP for one character, but a feature for the entire class. Yes, it feels a bit strange for the softest class in the game to change and become, by default, tough as old boots, but it makes sense.

(I thought 13th Age did this, because it's the sort of thing 13th Age does, but to my surprise it's not in there. 13th Age wizards can choose an ability that gives them the equivalent of Mage Armour as an additional, automatic, effect when casting other spells, but it's not quite the same.)

It's the sort of thing that would upset D&D purists but I like it.


Monday, April 20, 2020

Glam Metal Adventurers

My current D&D5 character is an elf bard. I decided that the best way to rescue her from the traditional fate of bards -- being dull and rubbish -- was to make her a glam metal bard. This is Althaleeleelee.


Sunday, April 19, 2020

Peace Be Upon You!

VimanaramaVimanarama by Grant Morrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overlooked at the time of publication in part because everyone was gushing over the contemporaneous We3, I suspect Vimanarama was also a bit too niche and weird for mainstream -- largely American -- comic audiences. A British-Pakistani protagonist? Ancient Sanskrit epics reskinned as Kirbyesque adventures? Flip-flopping between kitchen-sink comedy-drama and apocalyptic battles? It was probably all a bit too difficult for some to parse back in 2005.

I love it. It feels a bit like The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, with an ordinary British family -- and nothing seems more ordinary and British than the Pakistani family running the corner shop -- thrust into a genre for which they are not prepared, their personal anxieties and preoccupations clashing with the serious business of magic supermen battling in the skies. Which is, of course, not serious at all, because it's all very silly in comparison to real life. Which is sort of the point. Anyway.

It's also funny, but in an understated, laid back way. There are a couple of jokes and smart quips in there, but the humour arises in most part from people acting like people in the face of great adversity. All of the characters feel real, except for the magic supermen, who are stupid and over the top, but again, that's part of the point.

Philip Bond is one of my favourite comic artists anyway, but he and colourist Brian Miller do a great job. Although Bond has a cartoony style, he nonetheless has a talent for capturing ordinariness that other artists cannot match; yes, his people are cartoons, but they are cartoons of real people, which doesn't make as much sense as I thought it did now I'm writing it down. His style can also accommodate the more fantastical subject matter, and his comic timing and storytelling is perfect.

My only criticism of the book is that the last few pages feel a bit rushed and vague, but then I suppose the story isn't really about those characters and what happens to them, so a brief summary and update is good enough. I'm sorry if that is itself vague, but I'm trying to avoid spoilers.

Anyway. Read Vimanarama. It's great.

View all my reviews

(I'm not sure I will continue to post reviews like this; it's a test of Goodreads integration.)

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Short Stuff

While I have been locked inside my house, I have been drawing dwarves for an upcoming Lamentations of the Flame Princess book.




I have been drawing some other things too. More soon.