Tuesday, 31 December 2019

LIBRARY OF BABEL SPECIAL: THE TOP 5 POSTS OF THE YEAR

With the year drawing to a close in less than one minute (if you're on ICT, that is) it is perhaps germane to round things off with a summary of the blog posts that have really made me tick this year.

In case you haven't clocked it yet (and alarm bells should be ringing if you haven't), I'm making a number of "amusing" horological puns (in comedy timing is everything). There will be more: watch this space.

So here follows my top five blog posts of the 2019 OSR blogosphere.

First though, a disclaimer: this year marked a return to the hobby after a three year absence. My 2015 blogroll hadn't aged so well: some of them had become obsessed with making ill-mannered attacks against those with a passion for social justice, some had built paywalls around their content, others had simply given up. It took me a while to catch on, and I've still got a lot of catching up to do.

None of the blogs listed below were on my reading list at the start of the year, though this is obviously indicative of my own ignorance, as each is considered an OSR luminary. Indeed,  some even possess shiny awards.

Special mention should be made for https://www.google.com/amp/s/dragonsneverforget.wordpress.com/2019/10/16/3063/amp/ as it was their insane dedication to the art of RPGs in compiling this list if over 450 blogs. Incredibly, each entry has a description and, where possible, a current posting frequency. Such a labour of love can only inspire those who gaze upon it: it was this post that made me realise that I too should be doing my bit to develop the OSR blogging community, hence the birth of these Library of Babel posts.

But if we're going to talk about people with sincere dedication to the OSR blogosphere, it would be remiss of me not to mention Froth's Humpday Blog-o-Roma. Froth scours the blogosphere and records a weekly podcast summarising his own personal highlights, which are extensive to say the least. What's more, each episode is accompanied by a very thorough blogpost, with links to the material covered in the episode. The man is a champion of the hobby and deserves our respect and adulation! Or you could follow the blog and  also follow him at THAT OTHER PLACE

So, now that's all said and done, here are my personal highlights from the blog-o-sphere this year: no doubt you have your own, and I'd be delighted if you would share it with me below:
This list is in chronological order, eldest to youngest:

GOBLIN PUNCH
THE RUINED CITY OF BRAXA / UNDEAD ARMIES
Picture the scene: it's around springtime, I've just dusted off my dice and taken them for a spin (or a roll, i suppose), I've been reading the Tao of D&D and stroking my chin, thinking Yes, Mr Smolensk, that does sound like the correct way one should have fun when somehow I was nudged into a different space. I can't quite recall how it happened, but somehow I found myself embroiled in Goblin Punch
This post epitomises what makes the OSR fantastic: it starts with a common RPG premise or trope (in this case, the animate dead spell), extrapolates upon that (animated skeletons would effectively replace labour), and leads to an shuddering conclusion that easy provides some "gameable content" or suggestions for how our table could be different.
LEGACY OF THE BIETH
A SPECTRE (7+3 HD) IS HAUNTING THE FLAENESS: TOWARDS A LEFTIST OSR
https://lotbieth.blogspot.com/2019/06/a-spectre-73-hd-is-haunting-flaeness.html
I was sceptical upon first seeing this on reddit, more so on my first read through, but the ideas fermented and I kept returning to this post over the course of summer 2019. The central concept - that community building could be a PC/ party goal as opposed to the pursuit of wealth - is exciting even without the political context (although, that might actually depend on your politics). Of course, PCs are free to do with their treasure as they wish, but the post discusses further ways in which the XP mechanic could be tied to such endeavours.  
There's also a link here to a legendary Grognardia post which summarises the role of the picaresque in old-school gaming, which serves as both a foil and a scaffold to the ideas that  Humza Kazmi presents here.

HMMM MARQUIS
COMMANDMENT: MAGIC-USER SPELLS BASED OFF EGYPTIAN + MESOPOTAMIAN + GRECIAN MAGIC
https://hmmmarquis.blogspot.com/2019/08/commandment-magic-user-spells-based-off.html
Frequent are the occasions I have linked this post: the tone it strikes is perfect, for me at least. I like magic that is a) unorthodox b) involves ritual and some work and c) has a chance of backfiring in a spectacular fashion. This post has a) and b) covered so well the omission of c) is barely worth a mention.
Perhaps what really sets this post apart is the evocative names used for each spell. Paint a Curse Upon the Tomb and Ruin That which Ruins Me sound much more like real magical spells than magic missile or Melf's Acid Arrow. Classic D&D spells always sounded as though they came out of a recipe book rather than a grimoire... not that there isn't a place for that, but I like my old school stuff with a new twist. 
Finally, the spells are listed are all inspired by "real" bronze age magic: while not direct translations (see Ancalagon's honourable mention below), they take the flavour of Ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome and re-skinned perfectly for a Sword & Sorcery setting.
CAVEGIRL'S GAME STUFF
WOUNDED DAUGHTERS
https://cavegirlgames.blogspot.com/2019/08/wounded-daughters.html
I thought very hard about whether or not to include this: not because it was jostling for position with another post, but rather because it's such a personal piece of writing it almost feels crass to put it alongside other pieces of "gameable" content. Ultimately, I have to respect the fact that the author has already made the choice to make this available to the public and it's a little bit... repressed/repressive of me to not further promote it.
What excites me most about this is the idea that a character can grow and develop through mechanisms apart from (and, indeed parallel to) experience points. It was this post that introduced me to the concept of lateral advancement, and thus was kind of a gateway drug to Spwack's Die Trying
This is essentially a more sophisticated version of the GLOG cursed class, and I will be attempting my own version at some point next year.

HMMM MARQUIS
DROW & LLOTH - A RETELLING OF THESE POISONOUS PEOPLE
https://hmmmarquis.blogspot.com/2019/10/drow-lloth-retelling-of-these-poisonous.html
Finally, the last post to truly blow my socks off this year was once again courtesy of Marquis Hartis. 2020 could well be a big year for this guy - not that he hasn't already experienced considerable success with the Scavenger kickstarter campaign.
This post is an overhaul of the Drow: their faith, their culture, their magic and, most importantly, their otherness. Revisions to D&D have done a great job of making humanoid monsters more human: the best OSR bloggers have done an incredible job of making them more alien.
More than anything though - and as with the commandment post, above - Marquis Hartis creates a magical system that seems both otherworldly and real, true fantasy magic, in this case of the faith-based variety. any further attempts to dissect it on my part will undoubtedly ruin your enjoyment of the post so, if you are yet to do so, please indulge yourself.

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:
These are posts that I've mentioned more than once here, and haven't discussed above (though they may have featured in Five on Friday):

Interview with Fiona Maeve Geist & Jarrett Crader (Bone Box Chant)
https://boneboxchant.wordpress.com/2019/11/05/fiona-maeve-geist-jarrett-crader/
Exploring the Meatropolis (A Blasted, Cratered Land) https://crateredland.blogspot.com/2019/11/exploring-meatropolis.html
THE GREATEST OSR BLOG POSTS KNOWN TO MAN (Monsters and Manuals)
http://monstersandmanuals.blogspot.com/2019/10/the-greatest-osr-blog-posts-known-to-man.html
ORACULAR DUNGEON GENERATION AND THE PLEASURE PALACE OF THE MADMAN KING (WAS IT LIKELY?)
https://wasitlikely.blogspot.com/2019/10/oracular-dungeon-generation-and.html
Playing D&D can save your life (Sly Flourish) https://slyflourish.com/playing_dnd_can_save_your_life.html
OSR: D1000 Mutations (Coins and Scrolls)
https://coinsandscrolls.blogspot.com/2019/11/osr-1d1000-mutations.html
Monsters with Triggered Abilities (Goblin Punch)
http://goblinpunch.blogspot.com/2019/11/triggered.html
Heat Tomb, Mend Tusk, Spin Centipede (Meandering Banter)
https://meanderingbanter.blogspot.com/2019/11/weird-spells.html
1D10 THINGS THAT HAPPEN WHEN YOU INHALE THE ASHES OF THE OUTER GOD YOU JUST KILLED (Chaotic Magick User)
https://magickuser.wordpress.com/2019/12/04/1d10-things-that-happen-when-you-inhale-the-ashes-of-the-outer-god-you-just-killed/
Petit Albert: an 18th Century French Grimoire (Of Slugs and Silver)
http://slugsandsilver.blogspot.com/search/label/Grimoire
Automatic List to HTML Generator (Meandering Banter)
http://meanderingbanter.blogspot.com/2019/12/automatic-list-to-html-translator-v3.html
Roguelike Advice for Tabletop Games (DIY and Dragons)
https://diyanddragons.blogspot.com/2019/12/roguelike-advice-for-tabletop-games.html  
But now, Old Father Time's scythe is hovering just above us, and soon 2019 will be dead forever. I wish you all a happy and creative 2020.

Don't get lost in the labyrinth... but if you do see the minotaur, offer him a cigarette.


- Sofinho
DM in Exile

PS. I would have included more puns but I ran out of time. Does this count? Happy New Year!

2 comments:

  1. Hey, a bit belated but I just saw that you listed "Haunting the Flaeness" here.

    Thank you so much! I'm glad that the post kept on sparking ideas for you, and I'm honored to be in such good company.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your post was a big moment for me and set a lot of wheels in motion: I refer back to it regularly and find myself recommending it at least once a week, so my humble praise is more than deserved!

      Delete