From Hell’s Heart I Stab At This Blog


Haven’t updated this in a while, partly because I’ve been doing what will hopefully someday become paid writing, if I can get an editor liquored up enough to buy it, but also because the fans in my video card decided to go all crakhed and burn themselves out – which, since the entire point of shilling out over a grand for this machine was to be able to play video games, was, to say the least, suboptimal.

I was researching new video cards, and occasionally ogling the new gaming machines on Dell (the only outfit shady enough to give me credit) when I realized: dropping half a thousand dollars every two years on new gaming stuff was exactly why I got out of gaming, way back in the days of the console wars.  (Which were shortly after the Punuc Wars, for you youngsters in the audience.)  Not only that, but ever since I got the new machine, my old one, which up to that point had worked perfectly, threw some sort of computer snit and now runs about as fast and efficiently as a brick.  And not Brick for Windows, either; I mean, like, Brick 1.0.  Brick Vista.  iBrick.  (Rim shot.)

I started getting migraines, and after the third day I woke up strangling my Bill Gates Realdoll, I decided to take a break from technology and drive out to the coast and eat donuts (seriously, they have some really good donuts in Arcata) and I almost didn’t come back.  After a pub crawl with an old buddy, I have to tell you, I was strongly tempted to just wander out on the dunes, strip naked, and live out my days grazing placidly on the seagrass.  But I didn’t, because I hate seaweed.

So I’m back, and I also have a sweet new desk, which is inspiring me to get back to writing, and I have some ideas that work best as blog posts, plus someday if I’m famous, this will be where I pontificate wildly about random conspiracy theories.

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This is how writers pimp they cribs.  Did I say that right?

But at least until I can get a new graphics card, I’ll be blogging less about video games and more about writing and whatever other randomness crosses my cerebral cortex.

Next up: postmodernism, the Death of the Author, and kitchen remodeling, as applied to Steven Brust’s Vallista.

 

 

 

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Angry Nerd Mode: Buy One, Get One Free!

 

It’s getting out of hand, it really is.  Eventually, we as a people are going to have to do something about these “buy 5 get 1 free” deals that have taken over the supermarket like some marketing version of Invasion of the Money Snatchers.

It didn’t used to be this way.  I remember, when I was a child (back in Ancient Sumeria) when a store had a sale, they just lowered the prices.  Really.  That was it.  You didn’t have to buy 3 sheep to get a fourth one half off, you just paid less for the sheep!

It was simple, it was convenient.  Of course, money hadn’t been invented yet, so there were still some flaws in the plan, but overall, everyone was happy.

Which of course meant it was time for marketing to screw it all up.  First we invent something cool, like Pokemon Go, or the wheel, and all is good in life and (most importantly) the nerds are happy geeking out with Wheel 2.0 or whatever, and then some slope-headed Neanderthal over in marketing, who couldn’t invent a stick if you gave him a broken branch, decides he needs to “monetize” the wheel, and before you can say “this is why we have ad blockers,” you’ve got rental wheels, short-term wheels, wheel locks, and of course, Ads on Wheels, and if chipping an entire cuneiform text into a stone wheel causes it to crumble at high speeds, occasionally killing the user, that’s just part of the new “Wheel Experience” and the nerds, who are sick of being asked to add more incompatible features to Wheel 2.5, like square corners, go off and invent something new, like pyramids.

Sorry, kind of got off on a rant, there.  We were talking about Buy 7.5, get 3.14 half off with PlendiTM Points, or whatever Byzatine sales tactic they’re trying out this week.

I think it was around 2002 I started seeing it, mostly at the Rite Aid, but that was probably because Rite Aid was the only store I could walk to and I didn’t have a car, which is why it was so helpful that I’d saved all this money on “buy 17, get the 18th one 1/18 off” sales, because I was gonna need that money to pay for fixing the herniated disk I got carrying 35 boxes of Extra Fiber Whole Grain Cheerio-Os home.

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Fortunately, the boxes made a great bed to recover one, because there was no place else to store them in our 2-bedroom apartment.

Listen, if you want to move the inventory, just lower the price, ok?  I may be fatter than most Arctic mammals, but even I don’t need 3 family size bags of Cheez Popcorn, nor do I have a Raiders of the Lost Ark style warehouse where I could keep my 15 boxes of excess Twix candy bars until I finished consuming them!  And even if I did, it would already been filled with bottles of shampoo and extra sticks of deodorant.

I’m not even sure who these sales are aimed at – maybe US Navy Quartermasters?  I’m pretty sure there are no orphanages in my town, so no one really needs 400 spare boxes of instant oatmeal.

 

I mean, the only way anyone could move 4 boxes of ice cream sandwiches would be to open a candy store in their house, and besides being super creepy, I’m pretty sure there are laws about that.

Speaking of children, the only people I can think who are taking advantage of “buy 924 freeze dried anchovies, get 1 free” are either:

  1.  insane rich people with households the size of some equatorial African countries, who have inexplicably decided to fill their homes with a display of American consumer goods, 2002-2020, or
  2. parents with large families

which … hey, thanks, breeders.  As I childless single person, I don’t already feel awkward enough trying to maneuver through the minefield of early spring family holidays like Easter, and now you’ve turned every sales transaction into a reminder of my multiple moral and societal failings.  Thanks!

 

We – and by we I mean the people without children or spouses or someone to share their life with, who go home every night, drink themselves into a stupor and then argue with Lydia from Skyrim about vampires, until the neighbors begin to furtively close their windows whenever they see me get home – managed to make it through Valentine’s Day without suffering any serious alcohol-related liver failure, and we’re just about braced up to deal with Mother’s Day, and now you’ve decided that every single shopping trip had to remind us we’re forever alone.

It used to be I could at least scurry through the aisles like a trapped rat, furtively grasping for the vodka and ho hos while avoiding the eyes of my co-shoppers, but now I”m reminded that the vodka is merely a symptom of my aching loneliness, the ho hos … well, I just like them, I guess.

You know what I say?  The hell with Mother’s Day! What they need is “Bitter Childless Single Person’s Day.” Instead of flowers, we’d give out booze, smokes, and slutty underwear. Then you shave your head, get a tattoo, and listen to punk rock records. Maybe we could get Jim Beam to sponsor it. I say, let’s celebrate the nonbreeders, ’cause there’s enough fcking people on this planet. Let’s all get wasted and listen to the Pogues, then crawl into a bathroom and pass out while simultaneously puking and crying. Or, as I call it, “Thursday”

And on BCSP Day, I should be able to get any single “buy 2 get 1 free” item at the sale price because FUCK THAT.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go inventory my shampoo supply.

Angry Nerd Mode: American Gods

A brief story to illustrate … well, me:
A long time ago, I read American Gods. It was okay. Liked the premise, did not care for the characters or world building. All in all, not my favorite book, nor even my favorite Gaiman book, but I continued to buy his work until we got in a Twitter spat about George RR Martin. Thus far, all was good in life.
Occasionally, people would mention that they really really liked American Gods. That’s fine; they’re entitled to their opinion. I personally thought Anansi Boys was better, and therein lay the seeds of many an interesting conversation. All was well with the world.
Then they made a TV show. And they will NOT FUCKING LEAVE IT ALONE. Every time I pick up a magazine, I have to read about how amazing American Gods is. Every time I get in a nerdy discussion, I have to hear how American Gods is the greatest television ever made. It’s on Yahoo. It’s on my Kindle home screen. I go online, and the headline is AMERICAN GODS CURED CANCER IN LAB RATS. I pick up the newspaper, and the lead is AMERICAN GODS WALKED ACROSS WATER TO HEAL AN INJURED SWAN.  They got advertising planes, and I think they may be sending people to my house.
And I am just – enough already. I am aware of the TV show. There is no way, not excluding frontal lobotomy or actual death, that I could remain unaware of the TV show, or the extreme excellence of the TV show. Unfortunately, since TV rarely improves the source material, I don’t think it will appeal to me. So just leave it alone, ok? Stop explaining to me what I am missing as if I just woke from a coma where the last book I read was the novelization for Hawk: The Slayer. I don’t plan on watching it.
But for the next six months, I will have to have everyone tell me how American Gods is the greatest show EVAR and OMG why aren’t I watching it and this Neil Gaiman guy, see, he’s a sign that fantasy isn’t as hokey as it was in 1995 and why aren’t you watching it and OMG it is just so amazing and on and on and on and on until I have to say, “If you mention American Gods again, I will fucking shank you,” and then they go, “why you gotta be that way Don?”

Skyrim: Hearthfire – The Dragonborn Buys a Dolly

I’m not sure why I bought Hearthfire, except that it was on sale for like a dollar, and I’d already spent several of those earlier at the casino bar, so my judgment was either

1. impaired
or
2. better than usual

depending on your opinion of me.

Anyway, I did, and soon after received a visit from the Courier.  I panicked for a moment until I remembered I wasn’t playing New Vegas,  then he handed me a letter asking me to consider the benefits of adoption.

I wasn’t planning on starting a family;  my home life was complicated enough, what with my wife having an affair with my housecarlnot to mention my obsession with Lydia.  So adding a child into that kind of situation just didn’t seem right.

But, I mean, how could I say no to this face?

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Especially when she tells me how her parents died and her dog ran away and her aunt kicked her out on the streets and now she has to work 16 hours a day assembling iPhones.  Seriously, your aunt kicked you out?  That’s so hardcore, it’ls like living in a Dickens novel.

And since they haven’t lifted the restraining order from the last time I asked the biology department what would happen if a cat mated with a monkey, it looks like adoption is the way to go.

Although apparently you have to build a house first, because when I offered to be Lucia’s daddy (is there any way that dialogue could not come off as creepy?  Ans: No.) she helpfully informed me I didn’t have a room for her to sleep in.

Right.

Because currently, you’re sleeping on cobblestones.  I may not be Bob Villa, but even some straw by the fire’s gotta beat rocks, kids.  I’m starting to understand why your aunt sent you to the iPhone factory.

But never mind.  I’ve got some land over by Falkreath that’s zoned for development.  Let’s go build a settlement, since that worked so well in Fallout 4.  At least Skyrim has a tutorial:

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That seems … less than helpful.

Oh.  Wait.  Apparently all I have to do is convert an existing room into a child’s room.  Ok, I guess since I have the kid and all, I can give up my alchemy lab in Riften.  I was only using it to homebrew BlackBriar mead anyway, and now that I’m a daddy, I probably need to stop hanging out with the guys at the Frat House.

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Well, all was well except Iona had a freakin’ meltdown.  No, Iona, I didn’t ask you opinion, ’cause you’re not the one who had to pony up the gold for the renovations, ok?  Sure, it’s a little crowded now, but whaddya want?  You wanna go pick up a hammer and renovate Lakeview Manor yourself?  Didn’t think so.  So now, I’m off to deal with this Harkon fellow …

… wazzat?

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Would I like to play a game?  Um … I really need to go take care of this vampire lord

Okay, just one quick game, then I have to go.

So I’m supposed to be playing tag which, considering my sense of direction on the best of days, is probably a bad idea.  I started out on the dock of Honeysides, and never did find Lucia.  She may have wound up in Afghanistan, for all I know.  I ended up swimming somewhere in the lake outside Goldenglow estates.  The quest marker said I was done, but I felt kind of bad just fast traveling to Fort Dawnguard leaving Lucia hiding in a barrel someplace, but I knew I’d never find her anyway.

When I finally got back and found she was still alive, and CPS wasn’t waiting for me, I let her have a dog.  The next day, she shows up with this:

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Um … wait.  Lucia?  That isn’t a dog, honey, that’s a fox.  Vulpes vulpes, I believe.  It is not a pet.  It is a wild animal.  It … watches you while you sleep.

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Maybe she would have been safer on the streets.

So now I’ve got Ysolda, Iona, Lucia, and a possibly rabid canid running around a 2-room lakeside shack.  I think I need to get some space.  Maybe take a vacation.  I hear nice things about Solstheim …

wazzat?

No, sorry, Lucia, I really don’t have time to play another game.  What’s that?  Did I bring you something nice?  Lesse … um … I’ve got:

10,000 gold pieces looted from ancestral tombs
enough weaponry to go on a UN watchlist
the severed heads of my enemies
an ancient forbidden tome of magic that melts the eyes of anyone foolish enough to read it
and
the totemic shield of a plague god.

So … take your pick!

Wazzat? A dolly? Why no, I did not actually happen to come across any dollies while I was looting the tombs of Draugr Deathlords.

<high powered orphan guilt>

Yes, love, Daddy will fetch you a dolly.

I suppose at some point I should do something about this “World Eater” guy, and maybe think about handling all these damn vampires, but for now – where the heck do I find a dolly?  I haven’t come across any while raiding Forsworn camps or ancient wizard towers, although really, that sounds like a pretty neat idea.  I mean, if I ran across a Master Necromancer who had a stuffed ragdoll named Pookie, I’d beat feet the hell out of that joint.  That’s a whole nuther kind of crazy, right there.

Turns out they have them in the shop that I don’t remember the name of, in Solitude, with the super snobby elf lady … oh yeah, Radiant Rainment.  So I just popped in there, then spent 10 hours drinking in the tavern because fast travel messes up the game clock worse than jetlag, and then easy as pie, I got …

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HOLY SWEET MOTHER OF JESUS WHAT IS THAT THING?!?

Straight from the nightmare factories of the Iron City of Dis to your child’s midnight bed wetting terror – the Dolly Of Ultimate Evil, from Hasbrononono.

Being a kid in Skyrim must suck.  You gotta work in the iPhone factory all day and night, get kidnapped by Forsworn cultists, and your only comfort is some demonic entity made from sackcloth, with soul sucking black holes where their eyes should be, that they have the nerve to call a “dolly.”

The way it’s framed there, it almost looks like it’s actual size, like maybe it’s just hanging out in the doorway until they notice it, so it can drag them in the closet and suffocate them.  I think I saw that in a horror movie once.  You can almost hear the music box playing in the background.

But it’s what Lucia wants, probably to go with the rabid fox, because apparently I adopted Christina Ricci.

Me?  I’m gonna give her the Doll of Evil and beat it the hell out of there.  She’s Ysolda’s problem.  I’m gonna hang out with plague gods and world eating dragons.  You know, normal people.  Not creepy little kids.

 

 

The Space Bankers: Space X Makes First Contact

Remember, you heard it here first.

As if we needed any further proof that the end is near.  Now SpaceX says it will send two “unnamed individuals” (read: big donors) for a weeklong flight “beyond the moon.”  (That is … somewhere in Deep Space.)

How interesting … it won’t let me hyperlink the article.  It’s probably coincidence … of course, everything is coincidence, right up until it isn’t.  They’ve been doing this for a while.  You can get away with anything, so long as nobody cares to look for the truth.  Don’t hide it … just make it boring.

Here’s the entire link: https://phys.org/news/2017-02-spacex-people-moon-year.html

“Just beyond the moon” … nothing more specific.  Wouldn’t want anyone to be able to point a telescope at it.  That would reveal more than They care to admit at this time.

The entire thing is purposely vague.  No times, no dates, no details.  Seems likely they didn’t actually want to say anything, but they had to before it was leaked.  So they said just enough to stop it from being newsworthy.  Just a couple of “anonymous donors” taking a rocket flight.  Just like any other day.  Right?

Just two space-happy billionaire tourists.  Right.  Why can’t we know their names?  We only know they paid a “significant deposit.”  Lodge fees, for the Bilderberg Group, that is.  Only the extremely wealthy could afford to do something like that.  Does anyone know Bill Gates’ itinerary?  Why spend all that money, to go to some unnamed point somewhere in Deep Space …

… maybe to meet with the Space Bankers?  The time must be drawing near.  Probably they received a message of some kind.

“Come and see,” it would have said.  “We’re waiting.  Show us you can get here.”

The Space Bankers are waiting, out beyond the orbit of the moon.

The plans are nearly complete.  The election is over, and the last steps are being made.  With restrictions off the market, soon we’ll see another financial collapse like 2008, funneling even more money upwards to pay for more rockets … the sky will be thick with them.

Count on it.  Soon after they return (if they return … there is no reason SpaceX has to make the reentry public … could They be sending something … or someone … back?)

Funny how Tesla is building a huge plant in Reno … close to Area 51, and Henderson.  There is a lot of desert out there to hide in.  But don’t worry.  He says it’s for making batteries.  Believe that, and you can sleep at night, until they take your home.

We have only just begun to piece together the truth, but all that I have written is coming true.  Keep your eyes peeled, my friends.  We’ve only just begun.

 

 

 

Call of Cthulhu: The Most Important Question

I’ve scoured the Internet high and low, to no avail.  I’ve gazed into the Nietzschean abyss, but lo! there was no wisdom to be found.  I even asked the crackheads at the Bottle Shop, and they usually know everything.

No one can tell me the most important thing about Call of Cthulhu:

Will we be able to unlock new haircuts?!?

Investigator
I’m thinking … Bob Ross afro

Or at least – some new hats?

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Maybe someone will write a mod

Or … OMG … could it be possible!  Think of the sanity-shattering implications of that most awful truth, kept hidden for centuries in the unhallowed corners of the distant and abominable earth, watched over by drug-crazed adepts of forbidden cults ….

Will we be able to dress up Cthulhu?!?

Speaking of the maddening abyss, Sunless Sea is free to play on Steam.  Go get eaten by a squid.

 

Call of Cthulhu: Lifting the Veil

I’ve been hearing rumors that Call of Cthulhu was due out sometime late in 2017, but I wasn’t able to find any actual links or announcements from the studio itself.  It was like IGN just went to bed with a terrible headache, and when it woke up, it just knew that CoC was “due for release 4th quarter 2017

The strangeness has been increasing as we come closer and closer to that time – it was rumored that half the production team had to be institutionalized due to “the maddening whispers of sussurating voices late at night where no words should be” but also, following a playtest session at their Charleston studio, the nearby wildlife became … tainted

Furthermore, a mysterious silence has fallen over The Sinking City, the other Lovecraftian game that was due out in 2017.  Shoggoths?  Perhaps.

But at long last, archaeologists working in forbidden corners of the Internet have unearthed an ancient and heretofore unknown interview with the game designers, along with some gameplay review.  Needless to say, all that follows is unspeakable, not to mention eldritch:

http://www.gamesradar.com/call-of-cthulhu-is-all-about-investigation-madness-and-surprise-surprise-dark-secrets/

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Also, that guy really needs to be in a Star Wars movie, along with this guy:

bug-eyes

although apparently in Call of Cthulhu you are not able to whip out a lightsaber and bring the lasery death.  Or actually, apparently defend yourself in any way.

One of the fun things about playing Layers of Fear after Skyrim was going from an undead-slaying demigod to an insane painter who walks with a leg brace.  It really felt like missing a step on a stair to reach for your trusty mace only to realize you left it in your other game.  Although by that point, the ghost was usually eating your face.

Same thing applies in Call of Cthulhu, where your primary weapon is “knowin’ stuff.”  I’m happy they’re keeping the RPG dynamic that “knowin’ stuff” about the Mythos also costs you valuable marble space in your head, and that you gradually go crazy as the true horror of the universe unfolds itself.  It will hopefully make a nice tradeoff where you spend the entire game uncertain of how much you can know before going off the deep end, always wanting to turn the next page but afraid of going too far.

Which kind of describes learning physics, actually.  I knew HPL was onto something.

The story starts with a mysterious fire –

I knew it.  When you absolutely, positively have to kill every eldritch abomination in the room, always go for fire.  It’s primal.  It’s cleansing.  It never actually seems to work, but it does give you some nice treacherous architecture to impale yourself on.

…. a mysterious fire on a foreboding New England island.  No, not that one!  Probably!

… a mysterious fire that no one seems to want to talk about, until you are hired to determine what, ultimately, happened on that fateful night.

It’s probably safe to assume things go downhill from there.

So don’t make any plans for Autumn, and in the meantime, keep you eyes on the heavens.  Watch out for planetary alignments, comet sightings, and most especially orange alligators.

Fhtaghn, cultists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old School D&D: Grampa’s Gettin’ His Geek On

Once again, I find myself thinking about old school Dungeons & Dragons (mostly because Facebook threw a Blackmoor movie page up as a sponsored post).

I have some inchoate thoughts, and since I am trying to turn this blog into something a real writer might call a “daybook,” I thought I would share them with you.  You’re welcome.  Whether you like it or not.

I don’t think I’m actually qualified to talk about “old school,” because apparently the “Golden Age of D&D” actually occurred when I was around 2 years old.  I’ve been told I was a precocious child, but even as a toddler, I don’t think I was thinking too much about THAC0; I was probably more concerned with giving up the bottle.  (Still having trouble with that one, but now it’s alcohol.  Hell, I was 2.  Maybe it was alcohol back then.  That would … explain a lot, actually.)

Ain’t that always how Golden Ages work?  You should have seen it when … there’s a poem there somewhere, and hopefully after wrapping this up, I can go write it.  But I don’t wanna get too sidetracked … D&D.

For me, there are a series of images or impressions that come to mind, but I can’t put my finger on what, exactly, those images are or represent.  Computers are definitely a part of it; while I might have missed gaming’s Golden Age, growing up in Silicon Valley in the 70’s, I was definitely at the epicenter of the personal computer revolution.

That’s one angle of it: the unformed nature of both gaming and computers.  There were no boxed sets (or at least, us neophytes hadn’t heard of them) or Internet.  Copyright protection for games usually consisted of a book or pamphlet with commands you had to type, or answers to puzzles; they called them “feelies.”  It was a strange, primitive form of multimedia, and it was confusing as hell.

No, awesome, I meant to say awesome.  OK, it was both of those things.  It seems like the 70’s were full of little pamphlets – Watchtower magazines, feelies, copies of album lyrics, D&D modules … there was so much more paper, back then.

As you can tell from how disjointed this is, I’m still not zeroing in on what I want.  Paper … no hyperlinks.  No depth.  No, at the touch of a button, having access to more information than you can possibly process.  Because paper cost money, details were limited; there was always some unanswered question.  Maybe that’s the “unformed” aspect of it.  Like Zelazny’s worlds, they’re only painted in enough detail to leave you wanting more.

But more than that: they hadn’t been codified.  There was no particular reason, back then, that gaming defaulted to the vaguely Northern European feudal landscape that it did.  If anything, the primary images are Middle Eastern: Dunsany and the Arabian Nights, Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser in some fantastic desert in a magical analog of Afghanistan.

That’s all a piece of it.  There is also a powerful sense of the “dungeon,” not the least of which is because when you’re 10, giant worldscaping political adventures aren’t as gripping as kicking down the temple door, killing everyone, and taking their stuff.  What I imagine, what I always keep coming back to, is a room underground – and most powerfully, the lack of windows.  Maybe because I worked 911 so long, that “boxy” aspect has a powerful resonance for me.

The museum I worked for had the same quality: rooms with rooms, a nested box from which there was no escape.  Here’s a picture:

 

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that doesn’t really show anything.  Kinda creepy, though, isn’t it?  You don’t know what’s there, but whatever it is, it won’t have a stat block, or a name, or a definable power.  It will be the embodiment of the unknown, and that is the frightening and appealing part about it, the mythic power that gets lost when you have to translate “medium sized humanoid” to a STR modifier.  Here’s another one:

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From the heart of the temple … museum, sorry.  I meant to say museum.

The question is, for me: what started this fascination with buried rooms?  I can’t actually recall being on any dungeon crawls.  Maybe the old Compuserve fantasy MUDs, the ones that were so primitive the graphics were printed in ASCII characters?  Perhaps.  I know I read about enough dungeon crawls; back then, I spent many more hours reading the old school D&D picks than I did actually playing.

Ugh.  This is rambling on and on.  It’s 10 on a Friday night, and since I have no actual life to speak off, I should probably crawl into bed and finish watching that documentary about chickens.

I plan on coming back to this, though, because it’s going to drive me crazy if I can’t eventually connect these images, and then hopefully get a poem out of it.

And if you’ve played, tell me in the comments when you started, and what your first impressions were.

In the meantime, here’s some more old school art for your viewing pleasure: