OSR: Alloy Wizard, Civic Wizard, and Potion Wizard

These classes are intended for my Loxdon College game. They (along with an assortment of other wizards) will accompany the Brawler, Duelist, Thief, and Dandy.

Aaron Griffin

Alloy Wizard

Starting Equipment: spellbook, ink and quill, gold earring or gold ring worth 5sp.

Alchemists are obsessed with transformations. Alloy Wizards prefer to take metals as they are and make subtle improvements.

Perk: You are immune to mercury poisoning.
Drawback: You must be in contact with gold to cast your spells.

1. You can tell if a metal is pure or impure by touching it. Lick it to identify specific impurities.
2. Your fingernails are as hard as diamonds, and can be used to engrave metal or cut glass.
3. Your heart beats exactly 60 times per minute.

Nikola Matkovic

Alloy Wizard Spell List

1. Command Coins
R: 30’ T: [sum]x100 coins D: [dice] hours
Coins will leap up and obey your single-word commands. Affects all unattended coins in 30' of you and lasts 1 hour. Coins can be commanded to follow you, hide in crevices, or serve as rollers for heavy statues. They are mindless and feeble.
2. Detect Metals
R: 100’ T: self D: [sum] minutes
Allows you to identify the eight true metals. In order of brightness: occultum, gold, silver, mercury, iron, and tin. Lead and copper are nearly invisible. You see them through walls and barriers as faint shifting afterimages, but the spell bleeds into you other senses. If you cast this spell with 3 or more [dice], your eyes turn gold and the effects are permanent.
3. Magic Missile
R: 200' T: creature D: 0
Target takes [sum] + [dice] damage, no Save. As an Alloy Wizard, your spell is a silver dart with gold hoops and spirals.
4. Heat Metal
R: 30’ T: object D: [sum] rounds
Target metal object becomes warm. Each round after the first, it deals 1d6 damage to anything touching it, or 3d6 damage if the metal has become liquid. The maximum size of the object, and additional effects, depends on how many dice are invested in the spell: 1 [dice]: sword-sized, 2 [dice]: door- or armour-sized, melts lead and tin after 6 rounds. 3 [dice]: cart-sized, melts gold, silver, and copper after 6 rounds, 4 [dice]: cottage-sized, melts iron after 6 rounds.
5. Control Metal
R: 50’ T: metal D: concentration
You must choose a metal when you select this spell (MIR pg. 90). Each [dice] you invest increases the effects. One [die] is minor, 4 [dice] is a legendary display of metal control. At one [dice], control a fist-size lump of metal. You can a) make it hop or roll at a walking pace, b) magnetize or demagnetize it, c) slowly reshape it, d) gently heat or cool it, or e) slowly separate impurities.
6. Metal Chime
R: touch T: metal object D: [dice] days
You touch and enchant a piece of metal to make a terrific noise the next time it strikes a solid surface or is struck. All creatures within 100' (except you) must Save or be deafened for 1 minute. If used as a signal, it can be heard up to a mile away.
7. Light
R: touch T: object or creature D: [dice]x2 hours
Object illuminates as a torch, with a radius of 20’+[dice]x10’. Alternatively, you can make an Attack roll against a sighted creature. If you succeed, the creature is blinded for [sum] rounds. If [sum] is greater than 12, the creature is permanently blinded. You can chose the colour of the light. If you invest 4 [dice] or more this light has all the qualities of natural sunlight. Alternatively, if you invest 4 [dice] or more the light can be purest octarine, although it will only last for 1 round. Octarine light is extremely dangerous.
8. Explosion Containment
R: touch T: self D: [dice] hours
You may cast this spell as a reaction. Save, with a bonus equal to [sum]. Any incoming damage from an explosion or high-speed impact is stored in the palm of your hand. You also block damage that would be dealt to anything in a cone behind you. You can’t use this spell to stop an arrow, a magic missile, or a falling wall, but you can use it to stop a barrel of gunpowder, exploding magical equipment, or a fireball. Before the spell’s duration expires, you must release the explosion in a cone aimed from the palm of your hand.
9. Fool’s Gold
R: touch T: object weighing [sum]x10 lbs D: [dice] hours
Touched object, or heap of objects, appears to be gold for the spell’s duration. Alchemy or magic will reveal that it is not truly gold. This spell is Illusionary Fraud (MIR pg. 41).
10. Mercury’s Haste
R: touch T: creature D: [sum] rounds
Target creature’s body becomes mercury. Save negates. They can flow through gaps as a liquid, but sink in water. They are immune to piercing damage and reduce all other incoming non-magical damage by 2. They move at 2x normal speed, but cannot jump.
11. Leadfall
R: 30’ T: [dice] creatures or objects D: [sum] rounds
Target moves at ½ speed. Alternatively, you can cast this spell in reaction to a target about to take fall damage. They take double fall damage.
12. Magic Cramp
R: 100’ T: creature D: 0
Target takes 1d6+1 damage per the maximum number of MD they possess, or 1d6 damage per HD for magical creatures (unicorns, dragons, etc.). Additionally, they lose [dice] MD for [dice] rounds. Save for half damage and to negate MD loss. Nonmagical creatures, or creatures that have no spellcasting ability, are unaffected by this spell.

Alloy Wizard Mishaps

1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24hrs.
2. Take 1d6 damage.
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Blind for 1d6 rounds.
5. Loud clanging noise for 1d6 rounds. Audible within 500’.
6. Weigh 1,000lbs for 1d6 rounds. Movement impossible.

Alloy Wizard Dooms

1. All carried gold turns to lead.
2. All gold within 100’ turns to lead. All iron within 100’ turns to tin.
3. You transform into an iron statue of yourself. All mundane items are also transformed. Magical items get a Save. You can be de-petrified, but for a maximum of 1 hour every 24 hours.

Mechanical Notes on the Alloy Wizard

The Alloy Wizard is a replacement for the Drowned Wizard, made slightly more sensible for Endon's post-feudal world. Wearing a gold mask is not obligatory, but it's a great way to show off.

Shion Mirudakemann

Civic Wizard

Starting Equipment: spellbook, ink and quill, umbrella.

Endon’s prosperity has created a new breed of wizards; casters for whom magic is merely another tool or ornament.  

Perk: You can draw and open an umbrella as a reaction. This is unlikely to reduce incoming damage, but it might be a surprise.
Drawback: You must rest indoors in a room designated for sleeping to regain MD. Crypts and caves do not count.

1. In a street with cabs, you can always hail one with almost unnatural ease. You must still pay the fare.
2. If you tip someone and they don’t carefully examine the coins, they will assume you’ve tipped them approximately three times what you actually presented. They may start to notice a pattern after a few interactions.
3. You can accurately throw a coin up to 30’.

Edouard Guiton

Civic Wizard Spell List

1. Cure Wounds
R: touch T: creature D: 0
Target creature heals [sum] HP. It costs 2 HP to remove 1 negative HP and 4 HP to remove 1 Fatal Wound. This spell cannot restore lost limbs, remove injuries, or cure diseases.
2. Speak with Vermin
R: 0 T: self D: [dice] minutes
You can talk to rats and pigeons and they will respond. Pigeons are very dim, but can be given simple suggestions. Rats are clever, but they require payment and will attempt to involve you in conspiracies, relationship drama, and crime.
3. Part Crowd
R: 500’ line T: area D: 0
You raise your hands over your head, then swing them down. Along a 500’ line, creatures move out of the way, opening a clear path. Hostile creatures get a Save. The path closes naturally in 2d6 rounds.

4. Lock
R: 50' T: [dice] creatures or objects D: 10 minutes
Non-living object closes and becomes locked. If the object is a door, chest, or similar object, it will slam shut, dealing [sum] damage to any creature passing through it and then trapping them. This spell works on things that aren't technically portals (lock a sword in its scabbard, etc.). Requires Str 10+[dice]x4 to open. Alternatively, this spell can be cast on a creature's orifice. The creature gets a Save to resist, and another Save at the end of each of its turns.

5. Knock
R: 50' T: [dice] objects D: 0
Object is opened. Doors are flung wide, locks are broken, shackles are bent open, belts come undone. Treat this as a Strength check made with Str 10 + [dice]x4. If target is an armoured creature, Save or armour falls off. If target is an unarmoured creature, Save or vomit for 1d4 rounds.
6. Useless Spell
R: 30’ unless otherwise stated T: varies D: varies
You automatically gain this spell at first level. Roll for your other spell normally. Roll twice on the Discount Spell Table (MIR pg. 86). You gain both spells. The effects are adjudicated by the GM. They take up a spell slot, but require no MD to cast. You can still invest MD in them if you’d like to increase the effects, but it’s not worth it.
7. Newspaper Trap
R: touch T: paper D: [sum] hours
Enchant up to [dice]x10lbs of paper (traditionally a newspaper but any loose sheets will work). The next creature to approach within 10' of the paper will be attacked by it. The paper will blanket their head, blinding and stunning them for [sum] rounds. The creature can Save each round to remove the paper and end the effect. If you invest 3 or more [dice], the target also takes 1 non-lethal damage per round. The trap fades after [sum] hours.
8. Light
R: touch T: object or creature D: [dice]x2 hours
Object illuminates as a torch, with a radius of 20’+[dice]x10’. Alternatively, you can make an Attack roll against a sighted creature. If you succeed, the creature is blinded for [sum] rounds. If [sum] is greater than 12, the creature is permanently blinded. You can chose the colour of the light. If you invest 4 [dice] or more this light has all the qualities of natural sunlight. Alternatively, if you invest 4 [dice] or more the light can be purest octarine, although it will only last for 1 round. Octarine light is extremely dangerous.
9. Mage Hand
R: 30’+[dice]x10’ T: self D: concentration
Gain an invisible telekinetic limb. It can extend up to 30’+[dice]x10’ long and uses your Int. as its Str. You can use the limb to attack, but do not gain an additional attack per round. If you invest 2 or more [dice], the limb has fingers capable of delicate work.
10. Scuttle
R: touch T: [dice] creatures D: [sum] minutes
Your clothes and hair animate to carry you. You can move at full speed in any orientation, and you can freely rotate as you move. For instance, you could run while standing on your head, holding a torch, and turning counterclockwise. You can lie on your side and, while flipping end over end, move backwards. This effect does not allow you to climb up walls, but you can climb ladders or rope at twice your usual speed.
11. Triple Doorway
R: touch / 5 miles T: door D: [sum] rounds
Touch a closed door and clearly visualize an unlocked closed door of approximately the same size within 10 miles. The doors are linked for the spell’s duration. Stepping in one doorway and out of the other. If you invest 3 or more [dice], the duration is [sum] hours. If you invest 4 or more [dice], the effect is permanent.

12. Forget
R: 10’ T: creature of [dice]x4 HD or less D: 10 minutes
Target creature must Save or get the last 10 minutes. They may recall vague details but not useful information.

Civic Wizard Mishaps

1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24hrs.
2. Lose 1 permanent HP and take 1d4 damage.
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Fingers dribble ink for 1d6 rounds. Stains everything.
5. Wind gusts upwards for 1d6 rounds. May knock loose objects free.
6. Spell targets you (if harmful) or enemy (if beneficial) or fizzles (if neutral).

Civic Wizard Dooms

1. You fade from existence for a day, leaving only your shadow behind.
2. You fade from existence for 3 days, leaving only your shadow behind. Your shadow roams without you.
3. You permanently fade, leaving a ravenous shadow behind.

Mechanical Notes on the Civic Wizard

A slightly eccentric counterpart to the Orthodox Wizard. Some of the same spells, but a few powerfully useless ones as well.

Bjorn Hurri

Potion Wizard

Starting Equipment: spellbook, ink and quill, 1 potion (MIR pg. 97).
Starting Skill: Alchemy or Botany or Cooking.

Potions are increasingly common in Endon. Some wizards choose to specialize, though the drawbacks of ingestible temporary magic are significant.

Perk: When you drink a potion, you have a 50% chance to recycle it via whatever orifice you prefer. You have 10 minutes to excrete the potion.

Drawback: You smell distinctive. In unperfumed or neutral environments, you can be detected within 30’.

1. You can learn a potion’s approximate effects by tasting it or wafting it under your nose. Implausibly deadly poisons may still affect you.
2. Spend 1 MD to double the duration of a potion you drink, or double its numerical effects (HP healed, damage reduce, etc.)
3. Wave your hands wildly to deflect an incoming arrow or thrown weapon. Requires a Save. If successful, the attack barely misses you.

Dan Peacock

Potion Wizard Spell List

1. Flying Syringe
R: 100' T: object D: 0
You must hold a potion, vial of poison, or other liquid in one hand while you cast this spell. The spell changes the potion's container into a glass dart and fires it at an enemy within range. The target must Save or be struck and immediately take the effects of the potion. If you invest 2 [dice] or more, you can redirect a missed syringe, once, to a new target with a successful Save vs Int. If you invest 3 [dice] or more, you can mix [dice] potions together into the same syringe. If you invest 4 [dice] or more, the target does not get a Save.
2. Animate Potion
R: touch T: potion or liquid D: [sum] hours
You turn a potion into an obedient homunculus (HD 0). It is tiny (1' tall) and feeble (Str 1), but it can go where you direct and even bring you small items (like a single coin). The potion can be delivered by touch or by “drinking” the homunculus. Aware targets can swat the homunculus away to avoid the potion's effects. Works on any liquid except water.
3. Desiccate
R: 30’ T: creature D: 0
Hydrated target within 30' takes 1d6+[dice] damage. Can also be used to turn meat into jerky or concentrate water-based liquids (wine, most acids), up to 2 gallons per [dice]. You can make a cup full of very strong brandy from a bottle of wine.
4. Grease
R: 50' T: object, surface D: [sum] rounds
Can be cast directly on a creature or a 10' x 10' x [dice] surface. All creatures affected must Save vs Dex or drop held objects, or, if moving, drop prone.
5. Inebriate
R: 50’ T: living creature D: [sum] minutes.
Target becomes drunk. If they were already drunk, they must Save or fall asleep, and can't be awoken by anything less vigorous than a slap. If [sum] is greater than 6, the duration becomes [sum] hours.
6. Horrible Sobriety
R: 50’ T: living creature D: [sum] minutes.
Target becomes sober. If they were already sober, they gain a +4 bonus to Int and Wis (including Initiative) for the spell’s duration, but take 1 non-lethal damage every time they roll using those stats.
7. Control Glass
R: 50’ T: a bottle’s worth of glass D: concentration
Control a lump of glass. At one [die]: (a) reshape or reform the glass, (b) seal a bucket’s worth of liquid inside a glass orb, (c) melt a person-size hole in a window. Each [dice] you invest increases the effects. At 4 [dice], raise a small palace or warp windows along an entire street.

8. Potionify
R: touch T: spell and object D: [sum] hours
You take an echo of a spell from a spellbook, wand, or enchantment and transfer it to a potion. The spell activates when it is ingested, using ½ the [dice] invested in this spell if a roll is required. The potion loses all magical properties after [sum] hours.
9. Cone of Dense Foam
R: [dice]x10' cone T: area D: 0
A huge cone of white foam sprays from your hand. It's as dense as porridge, but tastes like seawater. Creatures inside must Save vs Con or begin to drown unless they struggle free. Any creatures covered in foam have -2 to Attack until they can wash.
10. Fog
R: 30’ T: self D: [dice] hours
You breath out a bunch of fog. Everything up to 30' away from you is obscured. Sunlight, wind, or heat dissipates the fog in 10 minutes. If you cast this spell with 3 or more [dice], other casters lose 1 MD while they remain in the fog.
11. Cloudkill
R: 30’ T: [dice] 10’ cubes D: 24 hours
Summon a cloud of ghastly yellow-green vapour. Creatures of 2 HD or less in the cloud are instantly slain (no Save). Creatures of 3 to 5 HD must Save or die each round. Creatures of 6 or more HD must Save or take 3d6 damage each round. The cloud is heavier than air and slowly drifts. It moves 10’ per round in a gentle breeze. A strong wind disperses the cloud in 10 minutes.
12. Duplicate Self
R: touch T: self D: [sum] minutes
You split in two. You and your duplicate have the same stats, but must divide current current HP, MD, and any single-target enchantments, curses, diseases, or effects as equally as possible. Items are not duplicated (so you may wish to carry spare clothes in your inventory). At the end of the spell’s duration, if you are within 30’ of your duplicate, you merge back together, combining current HP, MD, etc. If you are more than 30’ away, the version with more HP survives, while the other version withers.

Potion Wizard Mishaps

1. MD only return to your pool on a 1-2 for 24hrs.
2. Lose 1 permanent HP and take 1d4 damage.
3. Random mutation for 1d6 rounds, then Save. Permanent if you fail.
4. Bright sparks fly from your ears for 1d6 rounds.
5. Liquefied for 1d6 rounds. Effectively knocked prone. Any poisons or toxins within 10’ are automatically touched.
6. Spell targets ally (if harmful) or enemy (if beneficial) or fizzles (if neutral).

Potion Wizard Dooms

1. You cannot drink water, and cannot regain MD if you have not ingested a potion within the previous 24 hours.
2. You become very soggy. Your Str and Dex become 2. While unconscious, you are a liquid, and must sleep in a tub or cask.
3. You dissolve into a liquid slurry. You might be able to gurgle answers if stored in a glass jar, but mobility and coherent thought are no longer viable.

Mechanical Notes on the Potion Wizard

I've started to split classic GLOG biomancers into a potion variant and a Fleshcrafter variant... and possibly a creature-creating variant.


OSR: Flying Machines, Traffic, and Rollercoasters

This post is a medley of ideas that didn't make it into full post development, but which still deserve consideration. It's a scrapbook.

Part 1: Flight

Access to reliable flight changes a game. Overland exploration becomes trivial. Running away from a fight becomes far easier. The GM has to pivot to air-based encounters, which can be frustrating. It's hard to build interesting kinetic arenas in the air. Over the years, games have tried various methods to limit flight's appeal.

Most of these issues are covered in the AD&D DMG (pp. 50-53), but from the D&D-as-a-wargame perspective.

Limited Duration

In OD&D and AD&D, the fly spell lasts [level]+1d6 turns, with the 1d6 being secretly rolled. This makes planning difficult, but flying casters can always err on the conservative side. Flying creatures have to rest and eat.

Limited Speed
OD&D doesn't have the most consistent rules when it comes to flight duration and flight speed, but the gist is that flight is slow (by aircraft standards). Ask any pre-modern general if they'd like a high-altitude scout or courier that ignores terrain and can travel 10 miles per hour for several hours on end and they'd start to froth and salivate.

Limited Capacity
"Can a wizard with fly cast on them carry another person?" is one of those perpetual GM rulings. If the spell can lift a 200lb wizard, can it lift 400lb at half speed? 2,000lbs at 1/10th speed? Will the effort pull a wizard's arms off? Can one person ride on their back and fire a crossbow? Can the wizard fly upside-down?

Flying carpets typically become mobile casting platforms, a sort of dungeon helicopter. Flying brooms are most useful in pairs, with a sort of loot hammock between, ideally occupied by a  rascally urchin, a lantern, and a crossbow. Or maybe that's just my groups.

Setting Concerns
The GM can present a compelling reason why long-distance flights are unwise. In the Ultraviolet Grasslands, shards and wires of ancient force fields dot the landscape. Skyhooks, shattered shields, miscast spells. At ground level, they tend to accumulate debris and turn into hills or pillars, but in the sky, they're invisible hazards. And so, very few aircraft exist.

In by-the-book classic fantasy settings, players might be disappointed if the GM introduces high-altitude mosquito swarms, jealous lightning-wielding gods, and or 50' thick atmosphere to prevent flight.

Part 2: Flying Machines

Fairly early in D&D's evolutionary history, players started making airships. The process was eventually codified, but enchanting sailing ships and trying to invent the hot air balloon are old traditions. Airships are great. A convenient mobile base to satisfy the base-building furnishing-orientated players. Conventional wisdom says a game becomes a pirate game the moment the PCs acquire a sailing ship. An airship lets the GM use standard dungeon/land-based adventures.

Rapid long-distance travel is covered by teleportation spells, gates, or restarting a campaign with new characters in a new setting. 

Small fast flying machines do not have a niche in D&D. Brooms, carpets, mounts, and spells cover the typical combat use cases. Without a long-range machine gun, an airplane is a expensive way to deliver a crossbow bolt somewhere near a target.

Yet there's a delightful period of aviation history between the discovery of stable flight in 1903 (ish) and the pressing needs of war in 1914. To most people, a biplane is a biplane, but the variety of workable (if we're being generous) designs before the First World War is astonishing. This site lists most of them.

To make a plane, you need:

  • A method of 3-axis control.
  • A light power source. Steam engines and springs are too heavy.
  • -Some basic knowledge of aerodynamics.

If you can read, weld, and do algebra, you can probably make a functional plane that will get off the ground. The trick - as many pioneers found out - is control and stability. Up is easy; up and then immediately nose-first or sideways or back over is almost inevitable. It's probably best to buy a kit... or avoid the whole hobby. All the kit planes are designed to fly at sensible altitudes and useful speeds, while a 1910s replica is basically cross-country cycling with added danger. At low speed, the difference between flying like a kite and falling like a brick is a strong gust of wind.

Also, don't get your airplane-building advice from RPG blogs.

In a typical RPG setting, planes can't stay at the 1903-1914 pioneer phase. Settings are designed to be timeless and static. Technology does not change, outside of the occasional mad scientist type (who usually shares the same fate as their inventions). The timeline covers centuries. But in Magical Industrial Revolution, the setting is designed to progress, over a relatively manageable number of years. Powered flight can flourish in such a setting, if your players are so inclined.

Judge Magazine, Feb 1895. Colourized.
Side note: Judge Magazine's early issues are very racist. You've been warned, but you're not prepared. By the 1920s, it's become a slightly edgier Readers Digest or Life magazine.

Part 3: Deliberate Development

One of the eight Innovation tracks in Magical Industrial Revolution covers the development of personal transportation. "Miras" are car-like vehicles powered by moveable rods. They don't drive. They bounce, then featherfall.

Mira by Logan Stahl

This is fairly insane way to design a vehicle, but that's the point. Putting wheels on a Mira is something the players could attempt (though inventing brakes might be wise). 

By making a bouncing vehicle, I wanted to gently steer GMs towards unconventional civic development. Endon has carts and carriages; a horseless carriage suggests the same development arc as motor cars in this world. Traffic signals, intersections, crosswalks, highways, etc. But Miras aren't cars. They bounce. What do traffic signals look like? Are there designated landing and departure lanes or spots on each street? How are existing structures altered to meet the growing demand for personal transport? In the real world, cities turned themselves inside-out to accommodate cars and trains. What will your Endon look like?

Part 4: Buxton Beach

Very early in Magical Industrial Revolution's development, before the project had a name or a theme, I considered adding a Coney Island/World's Fair/boardwalk area a sort of adventure-exhibit hub. The idea never went anywhere for a few reasons, including (but not limited to):

  • It didn't fit with Endon's London pastiche.
  • It didn't serve any real purpose for adventuring groups.
  • Rides and attractions tend to rely on GM descriptions without presenting any interesting choices.
  • World's Fair exhibits feel like sanitized and saccharine versions of living, vibrant innovations, packaged into a propagandized form for mass acceptance. I wanted Endon to be about the messy process of a revolution, not about the telegraphed reports.
  • 1890-1910 Americana felt a bit too much like Bioshock: Infinite.

And so the idea was cut from the next planning diagram, but it might be worth revisiting on the blog, where ink is free and ideas don't have to fight to survive.

Half an hour downriver, or an hour by omnibus, Buxton Beach is the play-ground of Endon's Lower and Middle Classes. The Upper Class have their own estates (or aspire to them), and can afford to leave the city during the Off-Season to enjoy clean rural air. The Poor can't afford the price of admission, but it's an accessible dream. Both nevertheless seep into Buxton Beach. It is a dream-world, where people can escape their lives and the conventions that bind them.


Also see this map.

Bessy the Mechanical Cow
Ejects fresh ice-cold milk from her mechanical udder.

Panoramic Orbisphere
A huge hollow sphere, painted on the inside with a map of the world (speculative). Induces vertigo.

Tableaux Vivants
History, comedy, and literature, plus the most tasteful nude and erotic scenes from history and mythology. Scholars at Loxdon College can earn a few coins by scouring ancient texts for suitably obscure novelties.

Miniature World
A tiny city with tiny houses and (if the shrinking spells work) tiny people in tiny costumes. Shrink down for your shift, unshrink at the end of the day... hopefully. 

With stable short-range portal spells, roller-coasters can cheat gravity and borrow momentum. Surprisingly safe, if the occupants are sober.

Dread Necromancy is illegal in Endon, so those who trade in false hope and monetized grief must advertise their arts subtly.

And also: Bathing Machines, Brothels, Bear-Fights, Exhibitions from Foreign Parts, Novelty Undergarments Sold Discreetly, 

Part 5: Appendix N:1890s-1910s

The American Experience: Coney Island (1991)

About as much to do with American history as my medieval history posts have to do with medieval history. It's a summary, propaganda, nostalgia. Accurate in broad strokes, wildly inaccurate in detail, more interested in coherence and convenience than in the facts.

This documentary from Defunctland is more accurate, funnier, and more nuanced. 

Side Note: I've always maintained that theme park design and RPG book design have a lot in common. I send this post on Weenies to people on a regular basis.

Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines (1965)
I vaguely remembered watching this film, dismissing it as "unconvincing composite shots of matchstick models", and never revisiting it. I think it must have been the print quality or something, because, rewatching it recently, it's exactly the sort of thing I love. Ambition and folly. Sure, it's the sort of film that makes Jeremy Clarkson tumescent with nostalgia and imperialism, but they built the planes.

They actually built the planes. And then they put pilots into them and flew them, and all the pilots lived. And they all had a great time. You probably couldn't do that these days, but safety hadn't been invented in 1965, making any stunt inherently safe.

The Iceman Cometh (1973)
A very long time ago, I picked up this film by mistake, thinking it was "Encino Man". I was in for quite a surprise. The Iceman Cometh is four hours long and has two intermissions. I'd suggest going in without spoilers. I don't know if this play is one of the ones inflicted on indifferent schoolchildren in some parts of the world, but if it isn't, and you're seeing it for the first time now, you're in for a treat.

I was only aware of the director, John Frankenheimer, from Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, where he shows up to salvage the disastrous film project. In the documentary, he's presented as a tyrannical workhorse, the studio's idea of a US Marshal sent to clean up the town and restore law and order. All craft and practicality vs. Stanley's impractical but artistic vision. It's interesting to see the other side of a director.

The Iceman Cometh takes place in 1912 BCE (Before Conditioned Environments). It's a hot and greasy era, and few films make it feel as suffocating. It's also an old film made cheaply, and most of the commercial versions aren't taken from great prints, so there are fun colour jumps and noise. 

The weird part is that it's not the only film from the '70s set in the early 1900s that's 4+ hours long.

Flight of the Eagle (1982)
Slow, Swedish, and tangentially related to the themes of this post, but if you want to see a full-scale balloon and some folly and ambition, this film might interest you, especially if your players want to explore unknown regions via balloon.

And The Ship Sails On (1983)
Barely qualifies, as it's set in June 1914, but it's by Fellini and it's good. Not, perhaps, a work of genius, but it's charming and eccentric. As with Boris Godunov (1989) or Anna Karenina (2012), everything is a set. Since RPGs operate on the same sort of logic, it's useful to see it in practice.

There Will Be Blood (2007)
Famous and immensely quotable



OSR: Indexing and Intuition

Indexing is a difficult art. I've written about categorization before, but index formats deserve a closer look.

The man who publishes a book without an index ought to be damned 10 miles beyond hell, where the Devil himself cannot get for stinging nettles.
— John Baynes

Say I gave you a list of fruits and furniture (apple, chair, desk, plum, banana, etc.) and asked you to order it, without any further guidance.

You might divide methods like this:

  • Obvious-useful: alphabetical and alphabetical by category.
  • Obvious-not useful: alphabetical by last letter, grouped by first vowel.
  • Not obvious - not useful: grouped by things that remind you of your father, categorized as bourgeois and non-bourgeois items.
  • Not obvious - useful: oldest word to most recent, language of origin.

"Obvious" in this case means "immediately and without any further thought or outside knowledge." We can split hairs over what counts as outside knowledge and what counts as utility, but you get the general idea. While a book should contain some obvious-useful indexes, it's important - especially for RPG books - to consider non-obvious useful indexes. Lateral approaches. Ways to mark entrances. Ways to increase conceptual density.

The "Solve My Problems Sheet" from Magical Industrial Revolution has received favourable reviews. I didn't invent the idea, but it's the sort of thing I'd like to see in more books.

The Monster Overhaul

Here's some of the methods I'm using to index the Monster Overhaul.

The Alphabetical Index of All Monsters is a fairly obvious index. It's just a list. Short alphabetical list at the front of the book, long one at the back.

The HD(NA) section (direct PDF link) (original post) is an interesting concept. Listing monsters by their HD is obvious, but the results in most books tend to be simple bulleted lists under HD headers. HD(NA) tables are a list of related monsters combined with HD tables. They're an extravagant waste of page space... but I feel like it's worth it.

The Generic Megadungeon is my replacement for Dungeon Level tables. You know, the ones that everyone ignores. They're typically a series of weak random encounter tables split up by arbitrary difficulty. Turning the table into a map of a physical space made sense to me, even if it's not a complete index. I could add references for the various Generic Locations in the book (i.e. the Generic Space Wreck, the Generic Lich Lair), but since the page # references will get the reader close to those maps anyway it feels unnecessary.

The Index of Monster Utility (very WIP) is a sort of Solve My Problems sheet for the Monster Overhaul.

And finally, there's the Celestial Index of Benevolent Knowledge. A monstrous book deserves a monstrous index.