Words from the Wise (Guys)

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2008

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion


To the 110th issue of The Guild Companion.

RIP Gary Gygax

The cocreator of Dungeons & Dragons and by extension the cocreator of the whole roleplaying game industry and hobby, E. Gary Gygax, died on 4th March 2008.

My first introduction to gaming came through the red box of Basic D&D with its odd polyhedral dice and its pamphlets (and yes, grandparents wondering where the board was for the game). And for a while, a trio of school friends and I played and DM'ed our way through 1st to 3rd level several times on the bus to and from school (you can get a lot of gaming done in hour-long commutes). Some of my friends bought into Expert D&D, Advanced D&D, and other games such as Call of Cthulhu, Warhammer and MERP, while I migrated into the roleplaying games presented as paperback books (Tunnels & Trolls, Maelstrom by Alexander Scott, Fighting Fantasy (including its Advanced edition) by Steve Jackson, and Dragon Warriors by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson) because they were easier for me to get my hands in my teenage years and they were much easier to use as rulebooks for running games on the school bus!

I'd be back to Dungeons & Dragons with the advent of 3rd Edition where I GM'ed a campaign partly to get experience with the new improved rules and partly because there was player demand in Cambridge for a return to the latest descendant of the original RPG. It was a fun campaign, though I had wearied of creating monster and NPC stat blocks for foes to pitch at high-level characters by the end, and the combats were no shorter (and less exciting) than equivalent Rolemaster fights at that point. And while I may not intend to GM 4th Edition, news of Gary Gygax's death did spur me to preorder the core rulebooks for 4th Edition D&D.

Without the legacy of Gary Gygax, our gaming hobby would likely not exist; personally I'd have had hundreds of hours of boredom on a school bus, never had reason to meet the various gamers who've since become good friends, and not be author of several role-playing books in my own right. All our worlds owe Gary Gygax a tremendous debt.

RIP Gary Gygax.

RIP Sir Arthur C Clarke

On 19th March 2008, Sir Arthur C Clarke, eminent science fiction writer and futurist, passed away. It's been said that Clarke put the science into science fiction. For me, he was one of the great science-fiction authors who shaped and expanded my imagination for decades. Novels such as Rendezvous with Rama, Imperial Earth, The Fountains of Paradise, the Space Odyssey quartet, and The Songs of Distant Earth still have pride of place in my collection, and echoes from those and other works can be heard in HARP SF and its Tintamar universe. I'm impatiently waiting on Firstborn, the finale of Clarke's and Stephen Baxter's Time Odyssey trilogy, to hit paperback, so I'll be celebrating his life by reading his last works.

RIP Sir Arthur C Clarke.

Xa-ar and Rolemaster Companion I Updates

A quick update on Xa-ar. Terry Amthor handed in a complete manuscript of The Land of Xa-ar module last month. I've edited my way through Section 1 (Background) and Section 2 (Adventures), returning those sections to Terry so that he could make some tweaks. I still have to go through Section 3 (NPCs) and produce RMSS/FRP stats to complement Terry's RM2/Classic stats.

Andrew Ridgway, aka ictus, has sent the first twenty-five pages of Rolemaster Companion I to me for approval. It's a fresh, roomy layout coupled with the new interior art from Rick "Ironmaul" Hansen makes a very impressive product. I approve.

Xa-ar probably has the lead currently in the race to publication.

Something Wicked - Concept Thrashing

I've been involved in a serious bout of concept thrashing on Something Wicked. This has taken the original outline of eight chapter headings and a sentence or two's worth on each and expanded it into ten putative chapter headings with likely sections for each and notes on most of the sections. Where appropriate, I've included suggestions from the forum discussions.

One area that has received particular attention to determine whether the concepts are feasible has been that of new professions. You may recall that in the February 2007 editorial, I remarked on the likelihood of creating a Demonologist profession and a Conjuror profession as new spell users who would be variously interested in summoning and mastering demons by spell magic (as opposed to ritual magic or foul Sorcery). By producing long lists of possible spells, it is clear to me that both the Demonologist and the Conjuror/Summoner professions are viable in terms of sufficiently full Circles of Magic. If we consider the various variant Mage professions and their magical foci, the Necromancer is the opposite of the Vivamancer, Mystic is the opposite of the Thaumaturge, and the Demonologist is a valid opposite to the Elementalist.

The Conjuror/Summoner is strictly viable but a profession whose sole power is based on summoning elementals, demons, monsters, etc., and getting them to do the dirty work is irksome in terms of extra work to players and GMs in managing the multiplication of numbers when it comes to combat. It is also a one-trick pony of a character profession compared to the other Mage professions. So I've decided that it isn't a concept that should be developed further for Something Wicked.

If the Demonologist is the academic and arcane approach to demonology, then the Warlock/Witch is the spiritual (divine or infernal) approach to drawing upon supernatural beings for favors, summoning and mastering them to do their bidding. Some Warlock/Witch characters will be steeped in wickedness - and they'll be the ones with access to spells for meddling with demons. Just as Demonologists need not be evil (though it is an occupational hazard), not all Warlock and Witch characters need be evil. Non-evil Witches and Warlocks will gain spells relating to a specific class of Elementals.

Elementals? How do they fit in a sourcebook on Evil magic? Elementals are one of those categories of supernatural beings whose position on the Good-Evil axis depends on the setting. In some worlds, they are definitely aligned with the forces of Good. In others, they are merely neutral. And in still others, they are so divorced from human morality that their actions can be deemed "evil" because they are totally inhuman. Some GMs will find them effective examplars of nihilistic destroyers and will want to use them as such. From the perspective of the GM who seeks to expand the powers and beings available in HARP, Elementals are simply too useful to exclude and it's about time HARP had a canonical treatment of them.

So we have a variant Mage profession in the Demonologist and a variant "channeler" in the Witch/Warlock. The third concept is for the Manabinder, which would be in terms of potency a semi spell user in Rolemaster parlance, but the exact shape of this profession is still in flux, so that's all I'm going to say about it for the moment.

Farewell for now ...

Next month I will report on some of the material that has been written up for Something Wicked. We'll be back in May with issue 111, but until then …

Keep gaming and have fun,
Nicholas HM Caldwell
General Editor for The Guild Companion