Episode 80: Sometimes the God Anoints Him With Lightning


This month, Roger and Mike consider some more fantasy gaming tropes: the lawful good but still feudal kingdom, and the vast disparities of power found among people in fantastic societies.

We mentioned the Peasants’ Revolt, A Distant Mirror, Savonarola, the Deryne novels, The Curse of Chalion, Anthem (Ayn Rand novella), the D’Shai series, Cthulhu Confidential and the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin.

“Quantity has a quality all its own” appears to have originated with Thomas A. Callahan Jr in 1979.

We have a tip jar (please tell us how you’d like to be acknowledged on the show).

Music by Kevin MacLeod at incompetech.com.


The main example of a good kingdom I can think of in recent RPGs is probably Blue Rose from Green Ronin. It doesn’t mirror actual mediaeval reality in many ways and deliberately attaches many modern day attitudes to the setting, but it’s still an interesting approach, not least because it is such a rarity among the generally grim and gritty fantasy worlds currently in fashion in gaming.


I think that to a modern attitude, which in the podcast I was trying to avoid, a “good” polity has a lot of interdependence: if there’s a monster ravaging your village, you call the police-equivalent, rather than trying to bribe wandering psychopaths into dealing with it for you. And it’s dealt with out of your (and everyone’s) taxes: the next county over didn’t get a monster this year, but the police will turn up if and when they do.

But of course that reduces the need for wandering psychopaths, and the tradition that RPGs inherited from pulp Westerns (via Conan) says that those are the people you play.

I’ve not read or played Blue Rose. I’m a bit dubious about magical telepathic animals but otherwise it looks interesting.


I rather like it. The new edition, using Chris Pramas’ AGE system, is beautifully done and has some excellent content. Of course it’s not perfect and sometimes the focus on how inclusive and tolerant the society is becomes a little overdone, although that’s more of an issue for the fiction line. It certainly compares well with The Deryni Adventure Game.

If it helps, think of the animals as sort of furry versions of The Tomorrow People :grin:


Who is the canine participant in this month’s episode? What are her RPG credits?


Comrades!: while listening to your musings about the questionable compatibility of manorialism and feudalism with goodness, I was put in mind of the work of the Rev. Tho. Malthus of sainted memory. If goodness is incompatible with starvation, epidemic, high infant mortality, conquest, invasion, devastating war etc. (a position I think seems tenable), chastity and contraceptives might turn out to be seen as prerequisites for sustained Goodness,


The point of the hero funnel, Michael, is that in such levelling systems adversity does not discover but produces power (in those that survive). It’s not a matter of discovering the talented or the consistently lucky, but of actually making people powerful (or dead, at random).

“Expert Class” accountants in D&D 3+ do gain hit points, yes.


But in earlier editions it’s entirely possible for an NPC to be a “Normal Man” with no combat skills for his or her entire life.


Indeed. I do not recommend use of the hero funnel in those editions. Better to have a test for the potential to develop levels when such a thing exists.

But in universes in which everyone has levels in something, a funnel with giant rats in the wide-open mouth may well be the way to go. Sure, it exposes a lot of schlubs to risk that might be avoided, but you don’t get any seventh-level heroes to defend your populace with some getting nibbled to death by rats.


I took an unreasonable dislike to AGE when Wil Wheaton was doing Titansgrave and described the thing that generates stunt points (double or triple on 3d6) as a “critical”, even though it happens about half the time. To be fair to the system, I’ve just checked the Fantasy AGE core rulebook and it does not use this terminology, so really it’s just another reason to dislike Wil.

@Agemegos: Anzac again (¾ collie, ¼ huntaway). I’d like to say that she saved five lives on Mardia by barking a warning, but in practice she is an efficient converter of kibble into affection, hair and faeces.

To get political for a moment, as far as I can see the only thing that consistently reduces population growth is to turn children from an insurance policy (you need them to look after you when you’re old) to a liability (it costs you to raise them) – in other words, to make people richer and give them safety nets.

OK, that’s my next dungeon design sorted…


Remaining political for just that moment, I never saw any evidence to support the economic theories of family-size choice and the demographic transition. To the contrary, birthrates fell before death rates in places where effective contraception was made available (and women were allowed to read). As I can see the only thing that consistently reduces population growth is contraception.

People had children not to provide for their old age but because the alternative was abstinence.


Sorry, I missed a bit - I did mean to add “once people have a choice in the matter”.


Yes… that was a difficult thing to watch even though I was actively trying to learn how the game worked.

He also added some sort of “legendary stunt” nonsense where rolling triples meant your actions were spoken of through the ages, which is also not in the actual game and makes no sense in terms of the numbers. I forget exactly how often doubles come up on 3d6 but I think it’s something like 47% of the time: the system is clearly designed with that frequency in mind, one reason why stunts are very definitely not the same as criticals. They have more in common with the effects generated in Monsters & Magic, in a more refined and codified style.

Incidentally, I think you could be doing much more to use that dog to generate PayPal donations. People love dogs.



I make it ninety times out of 216 (41.1%), not counting the triples as doubles.


They would still count in AGE.




That’s close enough to “about half the time” for me.

@BigJackBrass - yes, the idea of having points that you can spend on nifty stuff did seem familiar in M&M, though I think we didn’t really explore the options very far - using up resources didn’t really come into it, for example.



My cheque is in the PayPal.


I like Will Wheaton. I also like AGE. I am not sure why he can’t call them criticals, what is the definition of a critical across RPG? (Clue, there isn’t one).

I had Blue Rose True20 and loved it. I have held off on the AGE version since someone said it had problems at high levels. But I never run high level games, so why should I care? Apparently the FAGE Companion has a fix for GMs who do.