14 Hour Day: “What’s in its pockets?”

I’ve got a long day schedule in “the office”, my euphemism for the job site(s). I’ll only be in my actual office for a couple of hours. The rest of the time I’ll be overseeing load-in operations. It’s cumbersome to explain, but it means I’ve got a lot of time on my hands being where I am supposed to be and waiting.

So, I’ve prepared for a long day. I’ve brought a ham & cheese sandwich, a trail mix bar, a granola bar, and an apple to tide me through the first 6 hours before dinner. I’ve got two to-go mugs of coffee and a bottle of seltzer water. To occupy my mind I’ve brought a variety of reading material: Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar: the Knight and Knave of Swords, which is the seventh and I think last book in the Lankmar series, Jorge Luis Borges’ The Book of Imaginary Beings, which I’ll scour for ideas for my “A Faerie a Day in November” project, Realms of Power: Faerie, the Ars Magica supplement I’m using to statistically create the faeries, and Mythic Russia, Mark Galeotti’s stand-along game using the HeroQuest rules set. That should keep my mind active between gigs.

I both love and dislike Lankhmar: the Knight and Knave of Swords. Mr. Leiber writes well, and every few pages a gem of a sentence comes along that thrills the heck out of me. His heroes, after many frequent romantic couplings throughout the series, enter new relationships with the “minimum of commitments and the maximum of reservations.” He also folds the series back onto itself by reintroducing characters that we’ve met before, building on his past stories to add depth to the series as a whole. We re-encounter past lovers, old enemies, and previously visited locations, reminding us of the complexity of the World of Nehwon. Unfortunately, several of the past remembrances are nothing more than soft-core porno chapters. The Mouser watches a fairly descriptive scene of a dominatrix and her pair of slaves, which interested me more in how long Mr. Leiber continued the chapter rather than its contents. Nor does it add to the tale; the Mouser is trapped underground before the lengthy chapter and remains trapped underground after, although it ends in an painful display of Sister Pain, Death’s little sister, tortuously masturbating the trapped Mouser as he watches.

Several of my friends are leaning toward a more Leiber/Vance rpg game than the more typical, more brawny Howard and de Camp motif. Well, I’m suddenly wary.

The Book of Imaginary Beings is a wonderful resource for fantastic creatures. Reading and writing role-playing games gives me a fairly good familiarity with legendary monsters. Borges’ book surprises me. The included beasts range from the typical centaurs, nymphs, and valkyries, of which I’m very familiar, to the A Bao A Qu, the Devourer of Souls, and the Hare in the Moon, which I’ve never heard of. The beings are not all medieval, or European, the usual constraints on my work, nor does Borges cite any of his entries. Professionally, this isn’t a useful guide, but for my November project it is perfect. I’m not particular about the cultural or historical relevance of these creatures to the game, not this time. I’m more interested in ideas. Borges isn’t the only source I’ll use, but it is a fun one.

I don’t have much to say about Realms of Power: Faeries. I wasn’t involved in the writing, and it’s not the way I would have gone with faerie in Ars Magica, cut it is a direction and a way to go. The author behind the decision to link faeries to stories has differentiated faeries from magic creatures, which has always been a gray line in earlier editions of the game. It uses a slightly different system to make faerie creatures, but this too differentiates faeries from magic creatures. I like RoP: F more the more I use it, and I hope my the end of November I’ll truly appreciate its worth.

Mythic Russia is up my alley but unconnected to Ars Magica, my rpg of choice. It uses the HeroQuest rules, as I’ve said, that I’ve never used and only just recently bought. HeroQuest is a vary narrative game, and the core rules are very mechanical, sort of. Combat is not attack dice and then damage dice against hit points, but an attacker’s personal success against a defender’s personal success measured comparatively. I count up my advantage and wager portions of it to try to reduce my opponent’s advantage. It is noticeable different, but I haven’t play it yet to determine how much fun it is. The most exciting part of the system is in design, and it is easy to see how an author could take the core rules and create a world of cultures, occupations, and locations.

Easy to see is not easy to do, and Mark Galeotti has poured a great deal of time and energy into Mythic Russia. The scope is broad, covering 14th century Russia, Lithuania, Byzantium, and other neighboring areas. It is an exciting enterprise, and I’ve only read bits and pieces. I’m exciting to continue exploring the book.

Finally, I’ve brought my sketchbook and journal. Thus armed, I should be able to occupy the day’s downtime.

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One Response to 14 Hour Day: “What’s in its pockets?”

  1. Nathan says:

    I read The Book of Imaginary Beings when I was in high school, and quite enjoyed it. It made me interested in reading more stuff by Borges, certainly. I believe the Hare in the Moon is essentially the Chinese equivalent of the Man in the Moon. Where the Occident saw a man, the Orient saw a rabbit or hare.

    I’ve read a bit of Leiber, but that was a while ago. I did enjoy it, but I guess not enough to immediately seek out the next volume. I think I actually have a copy of Knight and Knave, but it’s probably in storage now.

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