Archive for April 2011

Dragons and Goblins and Trolls   1 comment

Creating fantasy games, reading fantasy novels and comics, and thinking and writing about such things are all things that I also do for fun.  Here are some slightly chaotic thoughs inspired both by Tunnels and Trolls and also by the card game known as Magic the Gathering.

Muscular Tunnels and Trolls goblins deal with a tentacled horror that lives in their lake. This picture was painted by and used here with the permission of Simon Lee Tranter. You can see more of his work, and possibly engage his services at

Dragons and Goblins and Trolls!

Oh, my!

Dragons and Goblins and Trolls!

Oh, my!



I think that I’m likely to die.

Oh my!

With a tip of the Trollish sombrero to A. A. Milne and Winnie the Pooh . . .

Yesterday I was talking a little bit about my latest Magic ™ deck–modified from the Dragons and Knights set.  Today it won some games against my son’s decks–lost some too.  I felt it did well, and the modifications were successful.  I still need to try it out against a variety of other decks.  Here’s a picture of my favorite dragon in the deck.

Voracious Dragon gets its power by devouring goblins.  I wonder where the card designers over at WotC got that idea.  To the best of my knowledge I have never read any fantasy story that used the idea of dragons eating goblins.  The great archetype for all fantasy role-playing games was Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien.  Tolkien used both goblins and dragons in his book about THE HOBBIT, but they didn’t eat each other.  In fact, they were widely separated geographically.  The Hobbit started out as bedtime stories of John’s son Christopher, and featured trolls first, goblins, second, and Smaug the Dragon for the grand finale.   When Tolkien got serious about his fantasy, the goblins disappeared, and the main bad guys became Orcs.  Tolkien invented the Orc.

I’ve read a ton of fantasy–probably hundreds of different novels and stories.  I’ve never read about dragons eating any goblins.  If dragon’s eat anything, it’s usually domesticated animals, or the occasional human army foolishly trying to slay them.  But the very imaginative card designers at WotC came up with the planar world of Jund–a place where the two most common Kindreds are–you guessed it–Goblins and Dragons.  Dragons have to eat something, so why not have them chow down on the most common other critter in the landscape–namely, Goblins.  It makes perfect sense.

Dragons don’t seem to spend much time eating Trolls in fantasy literature either.  As far as I know, I’m the first person to even postulate the idea of a massive war between Dragons and Trolls.  I set it at the very dawn of Trollworld history.  Even then, Dragons wouldn’t eat my Trolls.  My Trolls are made of living rock–they would break the teeth of even the mightiest dragons.  Granted, the Dragons could melt my living rocks down into slag, but T & T trolls certainly aren’t good to eat.

Dragons and Goblins both feature prominently among the cards available for playing Magic.  There are dozens of varieties of both.  On the other hand, Trolls are few and far between, and not very interesting.  The only power the Magic designers have given Trolls is regeneration.  They all regenerate.  Kinda boring, really.  And there is something called Troll Shroud–the immunity to spells and effects cast by the opponents.  It’s a nice power.  I’d like to see it used more often, and more creatively.

Magic Trolls all seem to have been inspired by Dungeons and Dragons.  They are all what I call Meat Trolls–that is they are made of flesh just like you and me.  They may be big and mean and regenerate like crazy, but there aren’t any Trolls that I have found in Magic the Gathering that are actually made of living stone.  I protest!  Tunnels and Trolls is being unfairly slighted by the world’s greatest collectible dueling card game.  (grin)

Well, Dragons don’t eat Trolls, and Goblins don’t eat Trolls, but guess what . . .?  Trolls are more than happy to eat both Goblins and Dragons given the opportunity.  They especially like the crunchy calcium bones.

Dragons and Goblins and TROLLS!

This rock troll in a stone boat was drawn by David Ullery and is used by his permission and that of Trollhalla Press.


The Stylish Blogger Award

A couple of days ago i was given the Stylish Blogger Award by two of my blogging friends who both run excellent blogs.  It looks like this:

This award is making the rounds.

While I appreciate the honor that my friends offered me with this award, it comes with conditions.  I’m supposed to link back to those who gave me the award, and I’m supposed to tell you all seven true things about myself.   However, I’m kind of grumpy and contrary today–I’m not accepting any conditions.  I don’t want to list seven true things about myself?  Pontius Pilate once asked Jesus “What is Truth?” and I repeat the question.  Nobody knows the real me.  I don’t even know myself.  I’m not going to do it.  I guess that means I’m not a Stylish Blogger.  To Hell with it!  I never aspired to that title.

To some extent WordPress controls what I can do in these blogs.  They limit me by the tools they provide.  I accept those limits in order to put my messages on the internet for anyone to read/see.  If I were more savvy about the tech, I could do more than I do with the WordPress tools–I really don’t know much–I can put up words and pictures.  Sometimes I can’t even get that simple format to come out the way I want it.  I’m a pretty lazy guy.  My motto is K.I.S.S.  Keep it simple, Stupid.  I’m Stupid.  I like things simple.

So, WordPress can limit my blogging form because the site is making the whole blog possible.  I don’t see why I should accept any other limits on what I choose to enter.  I’m only accepting my own self-imposed limits on what I share.  Just because some yahoo thinks up an award and it starts going around on the internet doesn’t mean I have to follow his rules for what I write.  I reject it.  I write what I want to write–tell you what I want to tell you.  You read what you want to read, and think what you want to think.  That’s our bargain as blogger and reader.

If you want to know more about the Stylish Blogger Award, and perhaps find the many stylish blogs that have accepted it, then Google it.  I’m opting out.

(The civilized and courteous thing to do with the Stylish Blogger Award, other than complying with its restrictions, would have been to simply ignore it.  Well, I choose to express myself on how I feel.  I’m neither civilized nor courteous today.  I am Atroll.)


Everybody Wants to be a Game Designer   1 comment

And . . . everybody can be.  Game Design isn’t Rocket Science.

Some games automatically turn their players into game designers.  Role-playing games are pretty good at this.   Once you have gone adventuring in someone else’s dreams and ideas, you inevitably want to be the person in controll.  Thus you will make up your own scenarios, and your own rules variations–that is, you will if you have any creativity at all.  A good role-playing game for testing your wings as a budding game/scenario designer is Tunnels and Trolls.

If y ou do not change the rules at least a little, you are not really playing Tunnels and Trolls.

But there’s one game that really makes game desiners of us all.  It’s a card game–you’ve probably heard of it.  It’s called Magic ™.  It was designed originally by Richard Garfield, a math professor in his secret identity, and it was published by a small company called Wizards of the Coast.  WotC became a big company after its card game became the most popular game in the country and perhaps the world.
Saturday I took my son off to Walmart to buy some blue jeans.  On the way out he spotted the Magic display, and, being gamers, we of couse had to check it out.  The best thing there was the Knights vs. Dragons duel decks–two complete decks in one package with the classic fantasy theme of Knights and Dragons–natural enemies.  He talked me into buying it.  He took the Knights; I took the Dragons.

What a pretty, pretty knight!

We played three game using the decks just as they came out of the box.  The Knights won two of them by crushing margins.  I barely squuezed out a victory with the dragons in game two of the set.  While we were delighted with the rare cards and mythic rare cards that came with the set, neither of us were very happy with the original decks.  So we modified them.
I felt that the Dragon deck needed fewer goblins, more kill spells, and a knockout punch.  It also needed some way to get the big guns out faster.  I added swamps, poison goblins, and kill spells like Go for the Throat and Terminate.   The deck as released by WotC was weak.  Too much land, too little actual magic, everything on the theme of flame.  Themes are great, but they don’t often win games or tournaments.  What wins are killer combinations.

Big, nasty, powerful--just like Dads are supposed to be in our real world.

What I did, in essence, was design my own winning scenario in Magic.  I’m thinking of beating those pesky knights, but I want it to beat everything.  Everybody does that with Magic.  The game invites you to use your own creativity.  It sells you the parts–cards with various strengths and weaknesses and abilities, and then you have to put them together to make a playable deck.  This is a real test of your game-designing ability (and cash).  How good is the deck you make?  Does it win or lose?
Regular card games like Poker or Bridge don’t make game designers out of the players.  The decks are the same for everyone, and so are the rules.  Creative, imaginative play will help you succeed in playing those games.  But you don’t design anything.  You don’t really create.
Collectible card games like Magic, Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, Naruto and others turn their players into game designers.  To make a deck you have to think about such things as Game Balance and Pace.  You want a fast deck to knock out your opponents before they can get going.  The Dragons had the greater power in the original sets, but the Knights were faster and deadlier.  To beat those Knights, I had to change the way Dragons fight.  Have I succeeded?  I don’t know yet, but I’m eagerly looking forward to a rematch.
Once you start thinking in terms of Game Design, it’s hard to stop.  Everywhere you look you will see pieces that can be turned into games and contests. 
After that comes the really hard part of the Game Designing life–convincing others to play Your game instead of Their game.  Somehow, your game has to be more fun than their game if you want to make any converts.  Good luck with that! 

We Game Designers all want to be dragons--powerful, influential, and known far and wide. But, we mostly wind up as goblins, and goblins are dragon food.


Geology–the Science of Disasters   2 comments

Wave if you think the Japanese have the good life!


At the age of 63 I went back to school this year.  I’m only taking a single class, and with such a light schedule, I’m enjoying it.  There’s no pressure.  I intend to get an A, but even if I flunked, it wouldn’t matter.  I’m just here to learn what I can and enjoy the college experience all over again.  Actually, it’s the junior college experience.  I was always at university before, and I was rushing like mad because I had degree programs to finish.

My class is Physical Geology 101.  It is by default the easiest physical science course available.  I think the administrators only put it in the catalog to give athletes a chance to satisfy their physical science requirements.  It is a much easier course than Biology, Chemisty, or Physics.  I know it’s a dump course because there is no geology 102. 

I don’t care.  I took the class because I wanted to know more about rocks, the earth, and geology itself.  I’m having a ball.  I’m learning a lot.  Even though this is the easiest of all physical sciences, it is too hard for most of the jocks who signed up for the class.  I know it’s too hard for them because they don’t show up.

We just finished a chapter about something called Mass Wasting.  Translation: landslides.  There’s Creep which is gradual movement of soil downhill at speeds as slow as 1 cm. per  year, and there are slides at speeds up to 400 km. per hour.  The slides are the ones that kill people outright.

A mudslide in Peru completely wiped out this village. This seems to happen a lot in Peru.

The geology textbook is full of all these pictures of great landslides, landslips, mudslides, deformed graveyards built on hillsides, etc. 

This prompted me to comment that “Geology is really the science of disasters.”  And the Geology Professor answered, “Yes, and that’s why we love it!”   Julietta added that Mother Earth is always seeking equilibrium–balance out the forces at work.  These balancing movements are almost always harmful to the stuff that we human beings are doing.  Nature works to increase entropy.  Men work to reverse it.  

Well, I can tell you, from my experiences of being involved in minor disasters–they are no fun for the people experiencing them.  Injury, death, property damage, and the loss of everything a person loves–these are human tragedies.  I feel sorry for the people of Japan.

And yet, if one can pull back from the experience of disaster and watch it from a distance, there is something awesome about them.  I don’t get any pleasure from the suffering that disasters cause.  I do, however, experience awe and delight in seeing these amazing natural forces in action.  It is the same glee that comes from watching lightning bolts in the sky during a storm.  I don’t want to be hit by one, and I’m sorry for anyone who is, but wow! those natural forces are superb.

Lightning attack on the city.

Geological disasters have many forms: earthquakes, tidal waves, volcanoes, landslides, and even simple erosion by means of such things as floods and windstorms count.  We live by the motto of “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”  When the big stuff comes along, we are very likely to die from it.

But everything is relative–one person’s catastrophe is another person’s opportunity.  In the short run Nature fights a losing battle with us.  For every town and village that Geology destroys, two or more will rise to take their place.  Men die, but Man perseveres and conquers.

And Geology enables us to understand it all.

It looks like destruction, but it's really basic world-building in action.

Kali, how I love you and the destructive forces of Nature!  Just don’t destroy me, please.  And if you do, make it quick.


Posted April 12, 2011 by atroll in Geology, Natural Disasters, Uncategorized

The Rest of the Pix   Leave a comment

Lacking anything really important to say today, I thought I’d just put up the rest of the pictures from the Hobby Japan RPG anthology.

Cover art is so generic. This could be for any fantasy rpg in the book.


This may be the rpg version of Jack and the Beanstalk. That's a mighty big door.


Artists, when in doubt what to do next for your project, draw a beautiful woman. They go well just about everywhere.


And even better than beautiful women is naked women! The Japanese aren't afraid of the human body.


Let's switch universes! Armor styles have changed a lot.


I think I'd hate it if all the aliens I met were taller than me.


It's always the Dwarf male and the Elf Female. You never see it the other way around. I wonder why!


Moonbathing! This girl is going to have a moontan all over.


Time to Head for the exit!


That’s it!  You’ve seen everything in that gamebook.

Wizardry–Pix from a Game Book I can’t read   2 comments

The perfect generic fantasy rpg pciture. Guy with a sword + naked elf woman + monsters in the background,

Back in 1991, Hobby Japan released an anthology of 5 tabletop rpgs, and I showed a little of their illustrations for it in my blog yesterday.  Then WordPress went crazy on me, and refused to allow me to finish my blog.  I don’t understand why the software worked up to a point and then stopped working, but I don’t care.  I’m back.  I’m going to show all the illos for the Wizardry section of the book, since that was the only rpg in the bunch that was actually written by the Japanese–even though they based it on the American computer game D & D clone–Wizardry by Sir Tech.  The computer game was successful in the U.S., but much more successful in Japan.  There it was so successful that water ran uphill, time went backwards, and they created a tabletop pen and ink game from the computer game, instead of the other way around.

Well, I’ve never managed to actually play either of the games–not one of the 8 computer games released in the series or the Japanese tabletop game.  I’m not that fond of D & D clones anyway  unless the game mechanics can be very well hidden, but I do like the art that the game inspires.  Here then are the pix from the Hobby Japan republication of Wizardry the RPG.

The well-equipped adventurer is armored on every inch of his body andhas plenty of ways to carry things.

And it's always good to have an Elf friend who's very good with bow and arrows.

"Leave the lizard alone, Fred. It isn't bothering us."

The path of dungeon delving never did run smooth. Monsters! Monsters!

Not only are the Elves always good guys, but you can count on them to supply a hot dungeon girl or two.

Somebody doesn't like the plan.

Don't piss off the Elvish wizardess. It's always a bad idea to have women mad at you.

"If I don't get to kill something soon, I'm going to scream!"

Lost in the wilderness again.

Black bat-winged dragons. Now, that's the ticket. Death or glory, here we come!

Finally, the evil wizard behind the Dragon Plague. Let's kill this bozo and head for home, or the nearest tavern.

And that’s our epic fantasy for today.  Hope you enjoyed it!


Scenes from Japanese roleplaying   Leave a comment

The cover scene might be from Tunnels and Trolls. Note the elf woman in the background. We see her again in the T & T section.

Way back in 1991 Hobby Japan published an anthology of popular tabletop roleplaying games.  Five games were included: Rune Quest (Avalon Hill Dark Ages Europe version), Mega Traveler, Tunnels and Trolls, Call of Cthulhu, and Wizardry. All of those games originated in the United States, but Wizardry started as a Dungeons and Dragons clone of a computer game.  When it went to Japan, it became so populsr (ca. 1988) that they made an original tabletop rpg out of it.

I can only read a single kanji character so the contents of this book are wasted on me, but I sure do like the art that accompanies it in the manga/anime style of Japan.  The purpose of this blog is just to show off a bit of it, and to encourage even non-Japanese readers to get their copies of Japanese rpgs whenever they can.  In my humble opinion, this is pretty cool stuff.

I also like the insight that the art gives into the way the Japanese see roleplaying.  What a blast it would be to game with them!

Presented below for your enjoyment: pictures from Japanese rpgs.

Rune Quest


Questing for runes, Japanese style.

Mega Traveler


Aliens! Why does it always have to be aliens? (from Indiana Jones in space)

Tunnels and Trolls


Could this be my favorite Death Goddess? Note the ears! Lerotra’hh is both half -elf and half-uruk. See the evil smile and the chaotic hair. This woman is Trouble!

Call of Cthulhu


Is Call of Cthulhu the Weird Sex rpg in Japan? Sure looks like it.

WordPress has gone strange on me. Going to have to stop and publish right here. To be continued . . .