Thursday, 3 September 2015

Social Justice Scylla and Rapey Charybdis

Steve Wieck, I kind of feel for you. You are falling into the centre of a storm.

But I feel for myself more.

I'm Patrick Stuart, with Scrap Princess I wrote Deep Carbon Observatory which is currently an Electrum pick on RPG.NOW and recently won Indy Supplement of the Year. I hope to be releasing more stuff on One Book Shelf soon including another book we created called 'Fire on the Velvet Horizon'. I also have stuff coming out at some point from LotFP and other publishers. So the way OBS classifies its products may have a big effect on me. Nothing I am likely to produce is going to be anything like 'Tournament of Rapists', but everything I produce is likely to be very strange, Id-driven, possibly-horrific and often made without a fine-grained appreciation of social justice. I am worried about what might happen.

The Social Justice/Free Speech fight is basically a Rorschach fight in which, when you see it take place, you imagine yourself on either one side or the other and respond accordingly.

I do not see myself being attacked by the Free Speech side of that battle any time in the future. There are some conservative factions of Role Playing that might be pissed of by what I do, but they don't have a big influence over the culture in the same way as the Social Justice people.

I think its much more likely that, as a friend of Zak Smith, freelancer for James Raggi, CIS-male and creator of very-strange-things, the Social Justice crowd might come after me, either directly or as part of a whispering campaign.

The 'slippery slope' in case you were wondering

A game called Tournament of Rapists in which all the rapists are bad and you have to stop them, but which no-one seems to think is any good >


LotFP product where rape is both described in the text as a product of particular agents in the scenario and not explicitly condemned, i.e. you can possibly witness rape, be raped or even commit rape, though there are no rules for it and it is not required it is a reasonable possibility given the nature of the adventure and it is up to you what you make of this >


Patrick/Scrap product in which a solid proportion of the people being asked thought certain monsters had serious overtones of paedophilia and racism i.e. many people who read the Strangel description for Fire on the Velvet Horizon thought that something like rape or paedophilia might be taking place in the inferred background of that monster. And that was people who like us.

Is this likely to happen? No, it probably won't.

Is this possible? I would have to say its very possible. The American culture-war just keeps expanding and intensifying to infest and take down more and more fields and systems. The Hugos pretty much collapsed under the weight of the competing factions and I doubt anyone watching a few years ago could have predicted that would happen.

It’s quite possible that one or more RPG products might attract the attention of one of the culture war sides and if it does, like the US and USSR in the cold war, once one side has been brought into play, the other side will have to summon its forces to oppose them.

The most recent battle wasn't too high intensity as the product in question seemed to have no redeeming value to almost anyone, but the next one might be quite different. If you have a product of legitimate artistic validity and meaningful aesthetic quality, but that also triggers the hell out of the Social Justice crowd, then you could end up at the centre of an intensifying storm with no clear way out.

So I have some questions and though I would not request that you make your policy in public, I would urge you to ultimately answer some or all of them in public when you have some idea of what the answers are.

- Are we allowed to know who voted against us?

- Will the reasoning behind a decision be made public as well as the decision itself?

- Will there be a process of appeals?

- The term 'offensive' must, by necessity involve the consensus of the majority, will there be any element in the process of review whose job it is to offer a dissenting opinion?

- Do you have a plan for if or when Culture War breaks out and everyone votes against everyone else and nukes the site like the Hugo awards?

- As a side note to the above question, one of the major creators and top sellers in the OSR scene is outright loathed by a small but organised and well-motivated group of other creators, how will you deal with it if your site becomes a battleground of that war?

- In marginal or morally complex cases what person or agency has ultimate authority? Is it you and only you? What if you are sick, on holiday, missing, fall down some stairs, a power cut takes down your internet access while a twitter storm rages over the RPG-sphere?

- Its almost impossible to prove that a product encourages rape or other social effects, its also almost impossible to disprove them, without proof of that kind, what will you use to decide whether something is moral or immoral?

- How many votes are required before a review process is triggered?

- Is there a 'statue of limitations' in case political partisans repeatedly tag or vote on the same product even though its passed already?

If there has to be a rule and a process than it should, as much as reasonably possible be an open and specific rule and an open and specific process.

Having an open and specific rule means you lose out because people will use fine legalisms to game the system and produce things that are deliberately offensive and rapey but without being formally offensive and rapey. They will do this specifically to fuck with people whilst claiming to be supporting free speech.

But the alternative is saying to people 'there is a rule', waving your fingers mysteriously and then letting them work out what it is from your behaviour.

That essentially leads people to censor themselves out of fear and that amorphous and vague fear becomes the new rule. And since the rule is both powerful and vague it produces a powerful but invisible pull towards conservatism.

Authority without a rule to govern it is madness.

I really do feel for you because there is no way for you to resolve this sanely without turning yourself into an authority on the nature of good and evil in RPG's and that is an insane role to take on, but if you don't then you are lost in the tides of the raging factions. Whatever you do people are going to be writing wrathful blog posts about how you betrayed them and are destroying the hobby.

And I'm not happy about the inevitable influence of consensus politics on a developing market, I am a strange person and the power of the consensus is rarely good for us.

I do not demand or even request a response to this, it’s not an ultimatum or even a semi-matum, but I urge you to consider the issues raise and, if possible, to make that consideration, not a product of public consensus, but at least open and accessible to the public.

Monday, 31 August 2015

We Won a Thing!

Specifically, we won Indy Supplement of the Year!

Which apparently is for thisThis is a unique and very subjective Sub-Award. It goes to the designer who displayed the best support of their 2014 published game or supplement. This could be through the creation of forums or mailing lists about their game, their response times to questions about their games, the designer's use of marketing to get the word out about their game, the organization of the game's website, and of course support materials like free downloads, rules, starter kits, materials, adventures and supplements.

I'm not sure if we did much of that, but I remember answering some emails, so maybe that counts..

We, of course, means me and Scrap Princess

Who no doubt has her own speech to make..

About a year and a half ago Zzarchov Kowalski contacted me pretty much out of nowhere and asked if I would like to write an adventure for his NGR game. When he asked what artist I would prefer I said 'Scrap Princess' and he said that was handy because that's what he was thinking too.

Despite the fact that it took fucking ages to make and that it was actually statted for LotFP/BX because that's what I was familiar with, Zzarchov not only paid me for the adventure and for all the layout, proof reading and art, but also let Scrap and I keep it for ourselves, sell it and retain all the profits and rights.

If he hadn't done that it probably wouldn't exist and maybe a lot of the stuff that happened afterwards wouldn't have happened either.

So the Patrick Stuart award for Trew Knichthood goes to Zzarchov Kowalski.

The award will be hurled into the sea AFTER I AM DEAD.

DCO came out a little over a year ago. Since then about 595 people have bought it on RPG.NOW and maybe a few more have bought print copies on Lulu. I would be surprised if the total number goes over 1000 people, which is not bad for an ultra-niche product with no marketing budget and no advertising budget.

It's been a good month for DCO. First the Rammy for best writing, then a surprisingly good review from Bryce Lynch (I thought he would find it pretentious and hate it) and now two Indie RPG awards.

I'd like to thank all the small collection of weirdos that liked the book and who gave it so much support in the tiny microculture we all swim around in. We may be bacterium living in a drop hanging from the nose of gaming in general, but big things often have small beginnings...

If you dream it, it CAN be real.

There are three Patrick Stuarts on Wikipedia and, if I am to rule I must voyage to the Halls of Mandos to challenge and defeat them each in turn. Then when I finally stand over their blackened corpses the way will be opened for me to face my greatest nemesis

Ageless One you will taunt me no longer!
There can be only one.

I should take a moment to talk about what I am up to now..

Veins of the Earth - This is in its second proof-read. Jez Gordon is working on the layout. It's about 90,000 words so it will be big and it will take a while. Scrap has created the best art ever seen in an RPG book and if it doesn't win a 'Best Art' Ennie I will join Isis in protest for western culture will have lost any validity.

Maze of the Medusa - This once-cursed Space Hulk of  a project may have drifted into the orbit of  Imperial AgriWorld Baumann-Urbana. Terminators of the Void Dorks chapter have penetrated the initial layers. Remains of previous expeditions have been found. Reports are still coming in.

False Readings - This is an actual 'book' book that is half actual completed sword and sorcery stories and half fragments of weird writing projects from the last decade or so. It will also have to story of how Ghar  Zaghoun got that strand for his bow. As soon as this final tale is done I will hand it over to Paolo Greco who should bring out the whole thing through Lost Pages.

Broken Fire Regime - This 'sequel' or at lest companion to DCO is currently paused. As soon as the final False Readings story is done I will go back to working on it, expect it some time (hopefully) in early 2016. It will be bigger, stranger, more open and with quite a different mood. DCO was heavily influenced by the LotFP aesthetic and adventure style, BFR will probably move even further from that into strange new territory occupied only by itself.

Thinking about BFR makes me a little nervous. I'm not sure if we can pull it off and if we can I'm not sure it will sell, but if we can it will be an entirely unique thing.

Knights Of The Snail - This is a long-term probably-very-large actual book-book featuring twenty interlocking tales of the Knights of the Snail. To be illustrated by Matthew Adams. Whenever I am not working on BFR I will be doing this. Two of the twenty stories are done so far and both will be in the False Readings book.

My apologies for the low level of blogging recently, its going to continue like that, at least for a while. If I want to get anything done at all I need to narrow down projects so I am only working on one thing and just try to do that till its done.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

The Five Factions of WarGamia

In the ancient/future planet/nation/galaxy/dimension of WarGamia, there is only waaaaarrrr.

In and across WarGamia, five mighty forces battle endlessly for dominance.

And of these, the greatest and most powerful is:


The forces of ShoulderPadz are defined by having massive shoulders. In our world both strength and military prowess are usually considered hyper-masculine virtues. Men have better strength overall and significantly better upper body strength. The classic V-shape of a pumped upper body and a proportionately narrow waist is both symbolic of, and carries a direct sense impression of male and military strength.

Therefore, if you want your mini to look and 'feel' tough, strong, ultra male and ultra military, give it massive shoulders. It is the simplest and most primal way to turn something into a war-toy.

Massive Shoulders plays best between the 15mm and 28mm range. Below that scale the ShoulderPadz cannot be easily made out, fading into the general mass of the mini. When we get up to 54mm, large ShoulderPadz begin to look increasingly ridiculous.

(Depending on your tolerance for ‘ridiculous which, considering its war mini’s, should probably be high.)

It’s a curious question as to why this happens.

ShoulderPadz also play well into the physical conceptualising of armour. It’s rare for something to have actual massive shoulders, that is more common with AniMonster forces below. The figures of ShoulderPadz almost always carry an inferred inner self, smaller than the armour or mech suit they are wearing. The message they send is of a more vulnerable or human figure attired for war, hidden and protected by its battle aspect, which has also given it massive shoulders.

It is a strange hidden counterpoint of vulnerability in the ShoulderPadz which possibly adds to their story-potential and the way they intermesh psychologically with the user or player. Like the player they are a 'normal' or at least fleshy and vulnerable individual taking on a warlike role and clothing themselves accordingly.

Though the forces of ShoulderPadz have long ruled Wargamia, they are opposed. Most of their opponents are of roughly equal power but there is one which calls upon a psycho-cultural matrix almost as powerful as that of looking really strong and having massive shoulders:


The forces of SexyTwist are almost entirely female and always entirely sexy.

Unlike the forces of ShoulderPadz, the armies of SexyTwist attempt to delude the eye, not into believing they are really big, heavy and dense, but into thinking they are fast, light and caught in the action of movement.

The forces of SexyTwist and ShoulderPadz occupy fundamentally different temporal signatures. ShoulderPadz forces tend to occupy a perceived moment in time perhaps two or three seconds long. Sometimes even longer. They are almost never modelled with one foot off the ground or with their bodies in a state of torsional twist (core muscle asymmetry is often perceived as un-masculine). They may be shown with a weapon raised to strike or fire, but just as common is a stance with weapons held at arms or at the ready, a pose that, if imagined as part of a real situation, could be several seconds long.

The forces of SexyTwist are much more likely to be frozen mid-movement, like high-speed photography. (And in fact this idea of movement could not really full exist before high speed photography, up until that point no-one had ever seen time ‘frozen’, they had to guess what a moment looked like. )One foot will be off the ground, the torso will be twisted, both arms are likely to be engaged in wide counter-movements. Long hair and chains caught in the moment of whipping back and forth will be included to increase the impression of speed and fluid movement.

The forces of SexyTwist tend to have enhanced female sexual characteristics. Long hair is standard, amazing boobs are common. (Though unlike the hair and chains the boobs never shift in response to movement, the forces of SexyTwist have either amazing sports bras or extensive plastic surgery.) Even when this is not the case, a great deal of attention can sometimes be paid to the area of the hips and lower torso. Strong men turn into V shapes, female strength goes on around the hips, buttocks and core muscles. A strong woman is thick and curved like a vase, not V shaped and angular. Women tend to be lighter in mass and more flexible so possibly when we think of female potency and physical power it transforms into movement and twisting more easily in our minds.

While the weapons of ShoulderPadz are usually enhanced by increases in width, depth and size to create an impression of mass, strength and directly-employed power, the weapons of SexyTwist are generally narrowed, lengthened and curved to increase a sense of speed, sharpness and dexterous employment.

ShoulderPadz weapons smash, SexyTwist weapons cut.

The third faction of Wargamia is:


AniMonster forces have bits of animals and people mixed up and extremified with some made-up stuff added on top.

They usually have their mouths open. Snarling, spitting and wild vocalising are considered animalistic properties and these minis feel 'loud' in a way others do not.

The classic physical base for an AniMonster figure is the build of a gorilla, with something else mixed in. Gorillas are human-like enough to soak up human semiotics, they can be a 'person' more easily than other animals. As well they exemplify the classic swole-torso-indicating-strength

AniMonster figures are often bent or bowed over at the waist. Unlike ShoulderPadz minis which are usually straight backed, and unlike Sexy figures which are twisted in motion but not crouched over forwards as a normal means of positioning.

Animonster figures tend to have open simplistic haptically pleasant facial features with big mouths and teeth.

They also get to have HAIR, lots and lots of HAIR.

Though they are always 'savage' indicating the pleasurable absence of deliberate control, the 'evilness' of an AniMonster figure generally relates to its closeness to humanity on the evolutionary scale. The further away an AniMonster figure is from us evolutionarily, the more closed-off and 'other' it seems.

Apelike - Apelike AniMonsters are fun and wild and might still eat you but do not feel 'evil'. People smile and laugh when they play with these mini's and like the creatures shown, are more likely to be loud, boisterous and ridiculous.

Other Mammals - AniMonsters based on other non-simian mammals are a little less fun, a little more aggressive or potentially violent than the ApeLikes but still somehow often 'on our side'.

Reptiles - Reptile AniMonsters are usually a beautiful Other. Though somewhat alien they are rarely utterly evil and even when gigantic in size are more representative of indifferent charismatic danger rather than a personalised existential threat. More like a storm or tsunami than a punch in the face.

Birds - Birdlike AniMonsters are rare and usually carry a similar feel to Reptiles with the added impression of intelligence, awareness and craft.

Insects - Insectoid AniMonsters are almost always the devouring Other. Opposed to human life and human qualities in almost every sense. Not indifferent like the Reptiles or opposed-but-interested like the birdlikes, they simply do not give a fuck and wouldn’t know how to anyway

GeigerShit - GeigerShit AniMonsters are essentially Insectoid AniMonsters with extra alien crap and porn stuff added into the shape. They are always evil as fuck. By this stage the shift in player personality is complete, GeigerShit AniMonster players do not hoot or holler, they are silent.

The forth faction of Wargamia is directly across from AniMonster on the human-monster axis, this is the army of:


Army-Man forces were the first to discover and colonise WarGamia and for a long time, all the inhabitants of the CosmoBellum were Army-Man, except for a few toys that snuck in when people were very young and maybe their sister would play.

Army-Man exemplifies humanity. Its proportions are classically human with almost no massively extended or enhanced physical characteristics but only some shifting of width around the 28mm scale.

Army-Man is also almost-entirely male, even more so than ShoulderPadz, though in recent years some female Army-Man forces have been seen

The Army-Man wears clothes instead of armour and these clothes often have actual folds in them, not of dramatic movement but of simple wear and gravity.

Army-Man forces are based on real-world military forces. Their guns and weapons are smaller than those of any other faction but look like they are heavier. A ShoulderPadz or SexyTwist figure can hold out a weapon almost as big as they are at an angle of almost 90 degrees from the body with no apparent pressure on the wrist or arm, but an Army-Man figure carrying a rifle or a rack of bazooka rounds seems to bow under the weight.

Army-Man figures tend to be more centred. They do not massively extend their limbs. Someone (I think it was Raphael) said a good sculpture is one that you could roll down hill and nothing would break off. Army-Man figures are most likely to match this description. They are contained and more likely to be single-cast minis rather than assembled ones.

(It's almost like Army-Man figures are *about* weight and gravity somehow.)

Though Army-Man figures often embody a resilient bravery and muted resistant machismo, they seem made to suffer in the heightened atmosphere of WarGamia. They do not 'feel' powerful and are much more likely to have a segment of their set which includes figures sculpted as wounded, dying or being carried off.

 They are an army much more likely to have some medical personnel as part of their set. They are also much more likely to have a complex command structure, not only as part of their background but actually modelled onto the miniatures. They have multi-person command teams, commanding officers and sergeants.

These take place in ShoulderPadz as well but to a lesser extent. An Army-Man figure is much less likely to be a single 'heroic' figure. They come in large groups and look like they need them to survive. They tend to have a strong group identity but without an alienating total uniformity.

Army-Man forces have an inferred social reality that exists between them, they care about each other and have a wider social and emotional range than any other faction, though it is not immediately visible through the strong genre-fied signals of ShoulderPadz, SexyTwist or Animonster

Sometimes they are modelled as if looking at or checking on each other.

They seem a bit sad, like something bad might happen to them.

They are people you might meet.

Although less apparently-charismatic than other factions, the forces of Army-Man are truly vast, it is said that an entire other dimension of WarGamia exists, inaccessible to the other factions, where vast tides of Army-Man clash endlessly re-fighting their ritualistic history-battles.

The last great faction of WarGamia is:


One way to think about Robotish is as if the armour of ShoulderPadz had slowly colonised the imagined human inside, resulting in a creature that was entirely-armour.

Robotish forces are defined by the combination of a humanly-recognisable will, but the absence of a human personality. This produces a strong two-toned emotional signal quite different to GeigerShit. GeigerShit figures say simply 'I am other'. Robotish figures say 'I am a creation of yours, like a thought you had forgotten of a machine you abandoned, but my nature is not yours'.

Human intent, or at least human-derived intent, without human fear.

Robotish figures use the strength and threat-signifying signals from the machinery of the industrial age. Oddly, this makes the sense of them more familiar than even Army-Man figures. Relatively few of us have been in the army or seen one fight up close, or been a vampire combat-stripper or that thing from alien, but most of us are familiar with movements of weight and mass in technological form that would ahve staggered our ancestors to behold (and did for a bit when trains arrived.)

We know machines are dangerous, we ride inside them, we feel their power and mass, we have a strong sense memory of them. Stronger, probably than that we have for animals at this stage.

Robotish figures are often the human body transformed, muscles become cables, the heart becomes a turbine or engine, the face becomes a blank, eyes become sensors.

They also incorporate massive military threat-signals incorporated directly into the human form. A Robotish that shoots missiles from its hands is the modern equivalent of greek armour with cast-in abs. And like armour, they can incorporate symbolised or hugely inflated threat signals.

As with AniMonsters, there is a slight twinge of a good/evil axis when moving from a humanid to non-humanoid form. Human shaped Robotish minis are a little bit more likely to be 'good' I think. Multi-legged Insectoid Robotish's are a little more likely to be 'bad'.

Robotish are war and they are our fear of the technology of war

You can describe any wargame mini using the above five ideas BUT there are sub-species and wild cards that some people think should be included as their own faction:

GeigerShit - maybe this should be a thing on its own.

iPhoneSleek - This is often included under Robotish but perhaps is its own thing.

Pirate - It always seems like this is going to be its own thing but it never quite is.

SpaceTolkien - Rubbish till it evolves a new form.

Kawai - whatever.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Well, they are dead now..

and the fellowship disparbled.

Here are some things.

The first is from Caxtons epilogue to the printing. He is talking about whether Arthur was real and noting various evidence that he was, and he gets to this bit (my italics);

"..and yet of record remain in witness of him in Wales, in the toune of Camelot, the great stones and marvelous works of iron lying under the ground, and royal vaults which diverse now living hath seen."

Marvelous works of iron?


Second, a quote from the "Buke of Knychthede" (Properties of the Noble order and Office of Knychthede.) by Gilbery Hay

"Item, office of knighthood is to maintain and defend widows, maidens, fatherless and motherless bairns, and poor miserable persons and pitiable, and to help the weak against the stark, and the pure against the rich; for oft-times sick folk are, by more stark than they, beaten and robbed, and their goods taken, and put to destruction and poverty, for fault of power and defence.

For right as the hewing axe is ordained to cut down trees that hinder ploughing of lands, and carts and chariots and merchandises to pass through the forests, so is the sword of knighthood ordained to cut away and destroy the wicked unworthy weeds and vines of thorns of evil men that hinders labourers, merchants, traitors to travel through the world which is as a forest and wilderness when it is not well tended; of the which evil men should be weeded out by knights, keepers of the law, that good men might live in shelter; and he that is a knight, and does not this, but does even the contrary, should be taken by the prince, or by other worthy, faithful, and honourable knights, and put till dead.

For when a knight is a reaver, or a thief, or a traitor or a murderer, or a lollard, schismatic or heretic, or in such crimes openly known and proved, then he is unworthy to live, but to be punished in example of others that defoul that most noble and worthy order and abuse it against the points and the properties of that order.


Third, one of Malory's few direct interjections into the text, from the final book:

"Then came there word unto Sir Mordred that King Arthur had raised the siege from Sir Launcelot and was coming homeward with a great host to be avenged upon Sir Mordred; wherefor Sir Mordred made great writs upon all the barony of this land. And much people drew unto him; for then was the common voice among them that with King Arthur was never other life but war and strife, and with Sir Mordred was great joy and bliss.

Thus was King Arthur depraved and evil said of - and many there were that king Arthur had brought up out of nought, and given them lands, that might not then say him a good word.

Lo, ye, all Englishmen, see not what mischief here was? For he that was the most king and noblest knight of the world, and most loved the fellowship of noble knights - and by him they were all upholden - and yet might not these Englishmen hold them content with him.

Lo, thus was the old custom and usage of this land; and men say that we of this land have not yet lost that custom. Alas, this is a great default of us Englishmen, for there may be no thing us please no term.


And finally, in his largest interjection, the reason, I think that so many people who read Malory are caught up in the mystery of the man, especially for those of you who remember his rap sheet.

This is the criminal and possible rapist in prison five hundred years ago, talking about a time he imagined about a thousand years before he was born:

"And thus it passed on from Candlemas until after Easter, that the month of May was come, when every lusty heart begins to blossom and to burgeon. For, like as trees and herbs burgeon and flourish in May, in like wise every lusty heart that is any manner of lover springs, burgeons, buds and flourishes in lusty deeds.

For it gives unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May, in something to constrain him to some manner of thing more in that month than in any other month, for diverse causes: for then all herbs and trees renew a man and woman, and in like wise lovers call to their mind old gentleness and old service, and many kind deeds that was forgotten by negligence.

For, like as winter raisure does always erase and deface green summer, so fairs it by unstable love in man or woman: for in many persons there is no stability, for we may see all day, for a little blast of winters raisure, anon we shall deface and lay apart true love, for little or naught, that cost much thing.

This is no wisdom nor no stability, but it is feebleness of nature and great dishonour, whomever useth this.

Therefore, like as May month flowers and flourishes in every mans garden, so in like wise let every man of honour flourish his heart in this world, first unto God, and next unto the joy of them that he promised his faith unto. For there was never honourable man nor honourable woman , but that they loved one better than another; and honour in arms may never be foiled. But first reserve the honour to God, and secondly thy quarrel must come of thy lady - and such love I call virtuous love.

But nowadays men can not love seven night but they must have all their desires. That love may not endure by reason; for where lovers be soon accorded and hasty, heat soon cools. And right so fairs the love nowadays, soon hot, soon cold: this is no stability. But the old love was not so: for men and women could love together seven years, and no lecherous lust was between them - and then was love truth and faithfulness.

And so in like wise was used such love in King Arthurs says. Wherefore I liken love nowadays unto summer and winter: for like as the one is cold and the other hot, so fairs love nowadays.

And therefore all you that be lovers, call unto your remembrance the month of May, like as dead Queen Gwenyver, for whom I make a little mention, that while she loved she was a true lover, and therefore she had a good end."

Sunday, 16 August 2015

you are - God I take to record - in a false quarrel

In the back of the Norton Critical Edition of Malory are a bunch of direct sources from 15th century England. In particular a sequence of letters between two families about the ownership of a particular property.

(The argument in these letters would eventually lead to the last battle between private armies on English soil.)

I have cleaned up the spelling but tried to keep the rest of the language intact. At the bottom of the letters are a bunch of isolated terms which you should be able to use with any word processor to customise the letters to any D&Dish campaign. This could be an argument between any two noble families in a pseudo-European setting.

The letters could be recovered separately in treasure hoards or on the bodies of murdered curiors, or their delivery could be the object of quests. The context they imply is effectively an adventure on its own, or just rich background for a world. If read out the language is quite a bit more interesting than the customary boxed text.

As events start, Lord T has occupied the manor of Wotton for some time. Lord B claims Wotton and his wife is in the capital trying to press the claim legally.


(To my right honourable and reverend lord and husband be this letter delivered.)

Right honourable and reverend lord and husband, I commend me to you with my whole heart, desiring always to hear of your good welfare, the which God maintain and increase ever to your honour.

And if it please you to hear how I fare: Thomas Roger and Jacket have asked surety of peace from me, for their intent was to bring me into the Tower. But I trust in God tomorrow that I shall go in bail until the next term, and so go home, and then to come again.

And sir, I trust to God, you will not treat with them, but keep your own in the most manliest wise, you shall have the land for once and all.

Be well ware of Venebles of Alderley, of Hugh Mull, and your false council; keep well your place. The Viscount Lisle lies right near you and shapes all the wiles that he can to distress you and yours, for he will not meddle with you openly no manner of wise, but it be with great falsedom that he can bring about to beguile you, or else that he cause that you have so few people about you; then he will set on you, for he says he will never come to the King again till he has done you an ill turn.

Sir your matter speeds and does right well (save my daughter costs right good; at the reverence of God send money, or else I must lay my horse to pledge and come home on my feet).

Keep well about you till I come home and treat not without me. And then all things shall be well, with the grace of almighty God who has you in his keeping. Written at London the Wednesday next after Whitsunday.

Isabel, Lady Berkley


William, called "Lord Berkley," I marvel you come not forth with all your carts of guns, bows, with other ordinance, that you set forward to my manor of Wotton  to beat it down upon my head.

I let you know, you shall not need to come so near for I trust to God to meet you near home with English men of my own nation and neighbours - whereas you by subtle craft have blowing about in diverse places of England that I should intend to bring in Welshmen for to destroy and to hurt my one nation and country; I let you know I was never so disposed, nor never will be.

And to the proof hereof, I require you of knighthood and of manhood to appoint a day to meet me half way, there to trial between God and our two hands all our quarrel and title of right, for to eschew the shedding of Christian mens blood - or else I shall meet you.

An answer of this by writing, as you will abide by, according to the honour and order of knighthood

Thomas Talbot the Viscount Lisle


Thomas Talbot, otherwise called "Viscout Lisle" - not long continued in that name but a new-found thing brought out of strange countries - I marvel greatly of your strange and lewd writing, made I suppose by your false, untrue counsel that you have with you, Hugh Mull and Holt: as for Hugh Mull, it is not unknown to all the honourable men of this Realm, how he is convicted of falseness and the raising of the King's records; and as for the false mischievous Holt, what his rule has been to the destruction of the Kings liege people in my lordship of Berkley, as well as to the hurt of their bodies and the loss of their goods, against Gods law, conscience, and all reason, is openly known - so that every honourable man should refuse to have them in fellowship - and also of his own free will, undesired of me, before honourable and sufficient witness, was sworn on a Mass book, that he never should be against me in no matter that I had ado, and especially in that untrue title that you claim, with which you withhold my livelihood wrongly.

And when you require me of knighthood that I should appoint a day and meet you in the mid way between my manor of Wotton and my castle of Berkley, there to try between God and our two hands all our quarrel and title of right, for to eschew the shedding of Christian mens blood, or else the same day to bring the uttermost of my power, and you would meet me: as for the determining of between our two hands of your untrue claim, and my title and right of my land and inheritance, you know right well there is no such determination of land in this realm used. And I ascertain you that my livelihood, as well as my manor of Wotton and my castle of Berkley, be entailed to me by final record in the Kings court by the advice of all the judges of this land in these days being.

And if it were so that this matter might be determined by your hands and mine, the King our sovereign lord and his laws not offended, you should not long desire but I would as soon answer you in every point that belongs to a knight: for you are - God I take to record - in a false quarrel, and I in a true defence and title.

And where you desire and require me of knighthood and of manhood to appoint a day, and that I should be there with all the power that I could make, and that you will meet me half way, I will you understand I will not bring the tenth part that I can make - and I will appoint a short day to ease your malicious heart and your false counsel that is with you: fail not tomorrow to be at Niblyes Green at eight or nine of the clock, and I will not fail, with Gods might and grace, to meet you at the same place, you who stand in the borders of the livelihood that you keep untruly from me, ready to answer you in all things, that I trust to God it shall be showed on you and yours to your great shame and dishonour.

And remember yourself and your false counsel have refused to abide the rule of the great lords of this land, which by my will should have determined this matter by your evidence and mine: and therefore I vouch God to record, and all the company of heaven, that this fact and the shedding of Christian mens blood which shall be between us two and our fellowships, if any happen to be, does grow of your quarrel and not of me (but in my defence and in eschewing of reproach), and only through your malicious and mischievous purpose, and of your false counsel and of your own feeble discretion.

And keep your day; and the truth shall be shown by the mercy of God.

William, Lord of Berkley


Lord B's first name - William
Lord B's surname - Berkley
The first name of the wife of Lord B - Isabel

Lord T - Thomas Talbot
Title of Lord T - Viscount Lisle
A lawyer of Lord T - Hugh Mull
A second lawyer of Lord T, Surname - Holt
An agent working for Lord T - Thomas Roger
A second agent working for Lord T - Jacket
A secret ally of Lord T - Venebles of Alderley

Title of a (presumed male) Ruler - King
Name of a God - God
Name of a famous prison - the Tower
Name of a Capital City - London
A holy book or object  - Mass book
A day of the week - Wednesday
A religious festival - Whitsunday

Name of the disputed property - Wotton
The place appointed for a duel or battle - Niblyes Green
Name of a 'good' home nationality - English
Name of the same good home nation - England
Name of a 'bad' neighbouring nationality - Welsh
Name of a religious or ethnic group - Christian

You may wish to replace in a medieval setting - guns

Thursday, 13 August 2015


An interview with Scrap and I by a Frog in which I claim to have eaten Micheal Fassbender's kidney.

I have not watched it because I do not like looking at myself.

An interview with my by Courtney Campbell from the blog 'Hack and Slash'.

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

The Sword You Never Heard Of

Names matter. Lets take a lesson on this from Sir Thomas Malory.

We enter towards the end of the Grail Quest. Sirs Galahad, Percival and Bors have come upon a strange ship..


And mmyddis the shippe was a fayre bedde; and anone Sir Galahad wente thereto and founde thereon a crowne os sylke. And at the feet was a swerde, rych and fayre, and hit was drawn out of the sheeth halft a foote and more.

And the swerde was of dyverse fassions: and the pomell was of stoone, and there was in hym all manner of coloures that ony man might fynde, and every of the colours had diverse vertues; and teh scalis of the hauffte were of two rybbis of two dyverse bestis: that one was a serpente whych ys coversaunte in Calydone and ys called there the serpent of the fynde - and the boone of hym ys of such vertu that there no hand that handelith hym shall never be werey nother hurte; and the other boone ys of a fyssh whych ys nat ryght grete, and hauntith the floode of Eufrate, and that fyssh ys called Eternax - and the bonys be of such maner of kynde that who that handelyth hym shall have so much wyll that he shall ever be werey, and he shall nat thynke on joy nother sorow that he hath had, but only on the thing that he beholdith before hym. (And as for thys swerde, there whall never be man begrype hym - that ys to sey, the handils - but one; and he shall pass all othir.)


Than Sir Galahad behylde the swerde, and saw lettirs lyke bloode that seyde:



And than they behylde they the scawberte: hit besemyd to be of a serpentis skynne, and thereon were lettire of golde and sylver (and the gurdyll was but porely to com to, and nat able to susteyne such a ryche swerde) and the lettirs seyde:



"Sir, seyde Sir Percivale, "turne thys swerde that we may se what ys on the other syde." And hit was rede os bloode, with blacke lettirs as ony cole that seyde:



Later, we learn where the sword came from, it was made by King Solomon, at the urging of his wife, in response to divine prophecy.

'.... the lady said to Salamon, 'Sir, syn hit ys so that thys knyght oughte to passe all knyghtes of chevalry whych hath bene tofore hym and shall com afftir hym, moreover I shall lerne you' sede she: 'ye shall go into Oure Lordis temple, where ys Kyng Davith his swerde, youre fadire, whych ys the mervayloustre and the sherpyste that ever was takyn in ony knyghtes hondys. Therefore take ye that, and take off the pomellle, and thereto make ye a pomell of precious stonys; late hit be so suttelly made that no manperceyve hit but that they beth all one.'

And aftir make there a hylte so mervaylously that no mand may know hit; and aftir that make a mervaylous sheethe. And whan ye have made all thys, I shall lette make a gurdyll thereto, such one as shall please me.'


"Now," seyde Sir galahad. "where shall we fynde the jantillwoman that shall make new gurdyls to the swerde?"

"Fayre sirres," seyde Percivals syster, "dismay you nat, for by the leve of God I shall lette make a gurdyll to the swerde, such one as sholde longethereto."

And than opynde she a boxe and toke oute gurdils which were semely wrought with goldyn threadys, and uppon that weresette full precius stonys, and a ryche buckyll of golde.

"Lo, lordys," she seyde, "here ys a gurdill that ought to be sette aboute the swerde - and wete you well, the grettist parte of thys gurdyll was made of my hayre, whychy somme tyme I loved well, whyle that I was woman of the worlde:

"But as soon as I syste that thys adventure was ordayned me, I clipped off my heyre and made thys gurdyll."

"In the name of God, ye be well-i-founde!" seyde Sir Bors, "for sereyse ye have put us oute off grete payne wherin we sholde have entirde, ne had your tydyngs ben."

Than went the jantillwoman and sette hit on the gurdyll of the swerde.

"Now," seyde the felyship, "what ys the name of the swerde and what shall we call hit?"


Ok, now this (depending on how you feel about it, is when it gets interesting. Lets count back elements about this sword shall we?

- Girdle made of gold thread and hair cut from a pure maid who is also the daughter of a king.

- Pommel and hilt made of precious stones by King Solomon himself.

- Each colour of each individual stone of the pommel has its own virtue.

- Blade is that of biblical King David, the most marvelous and sharp ever taken from any knights hands.

- THREE separate commands and prophecies on the blade and scabbard regarding usage and repair of the sword and its accoutrements. Some in letters like blood, others in letters like coal.

- Scabbard of a serpents skin.

- 'teh scalis of the hauffte', I am not sure what that means but I think its the handle. Ok, the handle made from the bones of TWO magical beasts

- One, bone of the fish Eternax who 'haunteth the flood of Euphrate' means no weariness and no thinking of joy, or sorrow, but only of the thing  before you. In D&D terms, immune to tiredness, charm, fear, etc. And lets not forget that in a book where only the names of nobles are bolded (except when a tired scribe makes a mistake), the name of the goddamm _fish_ is bolded like that of a king.

- Two, bone of the Serpent of Calydone, also called the Serpent of the Fiend. Whoever holds it is never weary or hurt.

- Oh I forgot to mention it comes on a fucking magic ship sent by god with its own set of warnings and is shown next to some spindles made from the wood of the apple tree that damned mankind, but that's extraneous.

Imagine you are in a meeting and tasked with deciding the name of this sword. Its the third really big sword to show up in the Arthur story. The first one was the Sword in the Stone, but maybe you forgot to name that one.

The second was Excalibur, that one is widely regarded as a classic. Great name, vaguely suggestive, bit of latin in there, suggests cutting and hardness, but also great powers, the blade cuts anything andthe scabbard means you can't die of bloodloss. So its a nice counterpoint.

So what do you call this third sword, the one recovered by Galahad. The R&D team came up with a load of great stuff for the background. Now you just need a name....


"Truly," seyde she, "the name of the swerde ys the 'Swerde with the Straunge Gurdyls:'


And that is why you have never heard of this fucking sword.