Dyvers has been putting together a comprehensive list of RPG Blogs. This is a crazy extensive list and well worth checking out if you’re only familiar with one of the smaller corners of the RPG Blog-verse.
Tis the season to celebrate the White God’s descent from his fortress at the North Pole, for when he blows his mighty horn, the elves of the deep shall cower before him and surrender to him the treasures of Hell that he might reward the noble and the just.
The new HeroQuest 25th Anniversary Edition is probably dead in the water. Now, there are a lot of reasons for this. Of course there is the obvious trademark dispute between Moon Design Publishing and the Spanish company trying to reprint it. I’m not committed to the actual product “HeroQuest 25th Anniversary Edition” as was to be published by GameZone, but I’m a fan of the old game and would have welcomed its return to the commercial market.
Milton Bradley/Hasbro doesn’t really care about the game. This is a big part of the problem. There’s licensing entanglements regarding the name. Because of copyright laws regarding the rules of games, someone only needs permission to use the name to recreate the game? Or something? How GameZone ended up with even implicit permission to remake HeroQuest is sort of vague, and their inability to be forthcoming with written documented proof of implicit or explicit permission from Hasbro to do this has brought the whole thing into question, largely because of RuneQuest picking up the HeroQuest name and putting it on one of their own product lines (and paying licensing for it).
The last HeroQuest product was published sometime around 92 or 93. A decade later, Hasbro lets the RuneQuest people use the HeroQuest name. Now, honestly, I had never heard of RuneQuest or this new “HeroQuest” until a few years ago when I was looking for old HeroQuest maps I missed out on as a kiddo, but apparently it is a thing and it has been around since 2003. The current publisher of “HeroQuest” feels that their brand name would be diminished if HeroQuest boardgame product returned to the market. Being a fan of the boardgame, I’ll admit that this is a kind of asshole position to take, but “maybe you shouldn’t have named your product after an awesome boardgame that I liked, dudes!”
Someone pointed out to me that the guy who created RuneQuest had the idea for calling something “HeroQuest” back in the late 70s, but never published it in any way that would secure him the rights to the name, and OH Milton Bradley/Games Workshop just came out with a game that happened to have the same name almost a decade after he came up with name for something he didn’t publish! It kind of reminds me of a guy I knew from college who got mad when Psychonauts came out because he’d once drank a bottle of Tussin, proclaimed himself a ‘psychonaut’ and was gonna write a comic about it. Or something. Someday. Maybe.
Anyway, RuneQuest dudes, after HeroQuest came out, even after it went out of print, you should’ve called your thing something else, because your product that I know nothing about is stepping on the toes of my childhood! Grumbly grumble grumble.
(Please note that the above post should be read as though dripping with sarcasm.)
There are some indications that the Issaries Inc. publications of HeroQuest do predate the GW game; please accept that this is irrelevant to baseless internet ranting. Perception is reality.
So, how awesome is this? A guy in Tennessee taught himself to read Ancient Sumerian Cuneiform writing because his girlfriend bought him an ancient artifact with Sumerian writing on it so he could read what it said. Then, that same guy taught himself to write Ancient Sumerian Cuneiform to write a thankyou/love letter to the aforementioned girlfriend IN ANCIENT SUMERIAN ON A CLAY TABLET. Having learned to both read and write in ancient Sumerian, the guy happens upon a mysterious 4000+ year old clay tablet in the Library of Congress which had been declared ‘undecipherable’ and HE TRANSLATES IT.
Jerald Starr may have inadvertently stumbled on one of the most important and awesome historical finds that you’ve never heard of. Not only was Tablet #36 decipherable, it contained one of the earliest and most complex pieces of human literature ever written.
The story of the Great Fatted Bull contained on Tablet #36 is a tale of greed, corruption, usurpation, intrigue, political upheaval, and murder. Tablet #36 is also the very earliest political satire and the earliest recorded use of metaphoric caricature (the idea that someone could be both a man and a bull at the same time was an absolutely mindblowing concept to the ancients, so much so that it posed a major linguistic hurdle to anyone, even at the time of its writing, trying to understand the piece).
Astoundingly, this find, significant as it surely is, is a mere blip on the radar. Hopefully someday it will receive the attention it most assuredly deserves.
Jerald has a website, Sumerian Shakespeare, devoted to this find, as well as an extensive amount of information on other text, artifacts and the culture of Sumeria, which can be found here. Additionally, an excellent interview with Mr. Starr has been published here.
Thanks to Dither from Rumors of War for pointing this out to me.
See you next week, when Cirsova’s regular post schedule will finally return (maybe).
Of the 5 plays in the Aristophanes comp I just finished, really the Frogs is the only one that lends itself out and out to a dungeon-crawl module. Sure, you could use Lysistrata as a set-piece for your characters to puzzle over, arriving in some town only to find that scantily-clad women have barred entry to the local government offices. The Clouds might lend for some interesting NPC ideas in a town, namely an old guy who is doing anything imaginable to escape his debts, leading to a mad grudge against a local sage, but there’s not really an adventure there. There is an adventure in the Birds, but it would be some stupid high-level Mentzer crap, and could probably turn really ugly really quick. The Frogs, however, lends itself for an interesting non-hack & slash adventure into the underworld. Okay, I started out saying “dungeon-crawl”, and that may be incompatible with “interesting non-hack & slash”, but I think there’s potential in the setup.
For those who aren’t familiar, the setup of the Frogs is as follows:
Dionysus, the god of festivals & Hedonism, is bored and misses seeing plays by Euripides, who is dead. So, he does what any bored god/adventurer does; he decides to go into hell and bring his favorite playwright back.
First, there’s the matter of getting there:
Dionysus hasn’t been to Tartarus, apparently, but he knows someone who has: Heracles. The god shows up at the temple of Heracles with his buttmonkey slave, and finally gets Heracles, after much prying, to tell him how to get into hell.
Second, there’s the headache of getting into hell proper:
Gotta bribe the boatman, gotta hear the singing frogs, gotta put up with the idiot slave, gotta put up with all of the local demagogues who’ve made a name for themselves in hell as much as in life. Lastly, there’s the animal keeper of hell who’s still miffed about the whole Cerberus/Heracles incident.
Third, there’s finding the Playwright:
If you’re running this as an adventure, the characters are probably in the employ of some god, catering to his whim. So, there are a number of ways you could go about having to find the Playwright in hell.
Lastly, the contest:
In the case of the Frogs, there’s a power-struggle going on between the dead playwrights for the privilege of who is the best tragic poet in hell. Sophocles, being a decent and humble dude, is totally okay with being number 2. The problem is, Euripides has gotten a bunch of hell-churls to back his claim and desire to supplant Aeschylus as the number 1 tragic poet. What ensues is a competition, Judged by Dionysis and presided over by Pluto, between the two dead playwrights, in a criticism of older high-tragedy vs. newer low-tragedy. Being a political and cultural conservative, Aristophanes, by way of Dionysus, eventually declares the high-tragedy of Aeschylus the winner, and there is a big feast in hell before Dionysus and his new favorite return to earth, Sophocles is proclaimed #1 dead playwright, and Euripides is forever excoriated.
All of this lends to a pretty cool scenario that could be put together and run with a little bit of work. To avoid railroading, you can put the players in charge of judging the works of the poets and have the opportunity to bring back their favorite into the world of the living. The consequences of this journey into hell can be an excellent jumping-off point for future adventures.