Busy busy busy!

I will be sticking ads in the magazine next week as I get them.

I have a review up for The Red Witch of Mercury, and just got finished working on a super exciting project that I’ll probably tell you about next week when I get a minute.

Started playing SPI’s Musket & Pike with Dad last night.  Man, now there is a great game!  Look for some analysis on that at Castalia House sometime next month.

Also, on Tuesday, some friends and I took another look at The Challenge, this time with a serious look at ways to tweak and improve the game for a potential updated 2nd edition.  Dunno if I’ll be blathering our design ideas here, but it’s a project we’re toying with.  Our conclusion: it’s actually a pretty good, fun game that simply needs clarification on existing rules more than anything else to make it potentially a go-to party game.

Lastly, here’s some belated gaming cheese, an in-game ballad in tribute to the fighter who thought it would be good to split the party and got torn apart by half a dozen ghouls while everyone else scrambled:

In a fort hid by the trees

‘long the coast of the seas

Ended the life of Blax Jax


There were bandits and paynim

But the warrior had slain them

The brave and cunning Blax Jax


The pirates died by his hand

and ‘pon his command

the warriors took to their post

No more trouble were they

For Jax’d won the day

Leading the victorious host


But down below in the stones

Was a murmuring groan

That called the attention of Blax Jax


With his friends by his side

He the darkness defied,

The strong and puissant Blax Jax


“You to the right,

and I to the left,”

He said to his friends at his back

“If trouble there be

‘neath this fort by the sea,

I will hold off their attack”


The dead rose from the tomb

meant surely the doom

of all of the friends of Blax Jax


An hundred he’d slain

Yet an hundred remained

To end the life of Blax Jax


“Get out while you can,

Am I not a man

‘pon whom you can count your life?”

Said he the brave knight

and his allies took flight,

Leaving him like a faithless young wife.


Oh, Hero – your name,

All others mere shame,

Blax Jax we must never forget

Your deeds with your fists

For Zyg in his pits

And the friends you’d not live to regret.

“Meet and Marry a Gorgeous Russian Queen” or Why White Feminists Never Get Invited to Rap Battles

The first lady’d be all:
“You’re gettin all triggered while you don’t have the mic
Cuz some other lady’s here sayin stuff you don’t like
I don’t even know you but you’ve taken offense
You need to get off the stage if you’re really that dense”

And then the other lady would be all:
*points & screams like a pod person*
*mic drop*

Some feminist lady wrote some snarky poem* about a loser dude who gets a mail order Russian bride. It gets read at an open mic at a feminists-only convention. Some other feminist lady identifies with the mail order bride so much that she completely loses her shit, claims that she’s being harassed & files a harassment suit with con organizers and goes out of her way to destroy the first lady’s career. This reminds me of the time that Alfalfa got kicked out of the He-Man Woman Haters Club.

People who are perpetually offended can neither create nor enjoy anything of artistic value. I’ve got no problem with the idea of Safe Spaces, but they are incompatible with art and performance as a venue.

It’s really not much different from the time a guy on my label was booked to play an open mic revue in his town and was run off by violent red-necks wanting to “smear the queer” because he was a “dress-wearing faggit” who was “gonna play devils music”.  Those people wanted a safe space where they could listen to each other sing gospel and country songs strumming on guitar; just imagine the Muppets from Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas all lost it and started coming after the Riverbottom Nightmare Band with clubs & pitchforks instead of giving them 1st place (sorry, Paul Williams, that shit is real life).

If you’re going to have people perform, don’t expect it to be a “safe space”.  If you’re going to have “safe space”, don’t ask people to perform in it, because someone out there is going to get butthurt.

*:The poem itself is remarkably inoffensive, though fairly clever and amusing.

Art – Death of Caesar

Vincenzo Camuccini, "Morte di Cesare", 1798,



In the Forum, I heard yesterday a man who prattled on
And did not seem to realize that better days had gone:
“Oh, Brutus, Brave Brutus, thy blade strike true!
For Freedom, the People, the Republic we knew
Are threatened, imperiled by dire tyranny
At the hands of a man beloved by the many
Fools who shower their blind adulation
For this man in colors of coronation.
With one swift strike, the old order returns
To those who remember the grand days
Of glorious honor which brightly burns
In the hearts of men, the old ways,
Times will be just like the days of yore,
They shall be just as they were before!
Oh, Brutus, Brave Brutus, thy blade strike true!”
I left there, my head shaking, though I felt a sting
That if this man here had his way, it would not change a thing.

The Ice Shall Take Us

Originally posted here as part of the Winter Is Coming Blog Carnival.

This song arrives to us in a fairly ramshackle form, such that its origins and meaning may be open to debate for some time, however the grim outlook contained in the poem, its link to the lost Northern Civilization in context of what we know of them through Polaris, brings sufficient concern to the academic community in regards to how we perceive the Northern Civilization, how Northern Civilization perceived itself and how the Polarans perceive their relationship with the heartland Cirsovan culture.

The song itself is only known to have been committed to writing in recent history, not long after the rediscovery of far Northern culture.  A linguist from Delivals, who travelled with one of the first parties to entreat Polaris to open her doors to trade, claims to have heard the song sung in the court of Gaciall.  It is important to note that the linguist claims to have never heard the song in its entirety, nor did the song sound the same upon subsequent hearing.  The order of the three stanzas he preserved is an interpolation; and a note accompanying the manuscript remarks that each of the three stanzas was never heard in accompaniment with the other two.  It is therefore thought that there are either three different songs, with similar structures, themes and lyrics that were sung in the court during their visit, or a single long-form song that may have been sung over the course of many nights.  In either case, these three stanzas are all that remain of what is probably a significantly longer piece.

Also problematic, the text is based on an early attempts at phonetic transcription of the then unknown language of the Polarans (who, it is said, were able to pick up Cirsovan in a matter of days “…as though the tongue had been their own, once, in a near forgotten dream.”).  Since the poem was written down, much has been learned about the language of the Polarans, and from that, corrections, interpolations and a translation has been able to be made.  This translation, which has been more or less accepted by the scholarly community, was done (unfortunately) with little to no direct input by any delegation of Polaran academes, who refuse to acknowledge the manuscripts as anything but fabrication and deny that it was ever sung by the minstrels in the noble houses of Polaris.  Despite this insistence, the corroborating reports and similar transcriptions (which have been used to eliminate many lacunae in the earliest version), indicate that this song, or a variant thereof, was still being sung for a few years after initial contact. At present, the song is not sung in Polaris or anywhere else.

1          Someday, the ice shall take us,(1)

And thus we wait and dream.(2)

Our brothers and sisters have gone before us (3)

Taken by the ice.

5          What sins we must atone for,

Grave they were indeed,

That we must forget them, lest we commit them again.

Ignorance is our curse, to take with us to our grave

The unspeakable atrocity to our name (4)

10        That none below us know. (5)

Someday, the ice shall take us,

And thus we wait for death.

The wizards of old had conspired against us (6)

Condemning us with ice.

15        Their sins are ours and ours theirs,

Grave they were indeed.

We still remember in our dreams, where we commit them again,(7)

That which we forget upon waking, yet strain our thoughts

To remember that which we must remember to forget(8)

20        That none below us know.

Someday, the ice shall take us,

And thus we wait to starve.

When traders will not brave the roads for us,

And all remains is ice. (9)

25        Our beds and dreams are all we have

And Graves they are indeed.

We shall sleep a final sleep, and in dreams shall come again

To that distant land we called dominion, kingdom, home,

That we may escape our past (10)

30       That none below us know.

1. This line appears as the first in all stanzas, in all transcriptions, in all accounts of the various songs.

2. Because we know so little about the Northern Civilization, we are unsure if the use of Shuul is exclusive to Polaris or if it were ubiquitous throughout their culture.  As the ice sheet grew, more and more of their cities must have been either abandoned or destroyed.  Thus, it cannot be said with any certainty that the song originated in Polaris or was an older traditional lament.

3. The words here used for “Brothers and Sisters” are actually proper names (Tyurani and Velina), either of gods or historical figures whose name have become synonymous with Men of the North (“Tyurani”), Women of the North (“Velinai”), and when used together, as here, “People of the North” (“Tyuravelinai”). No Polarans have ever confirmed or denied that they are or refer to themselves as “Tyuravelinai”

4. Lines 5-9 refer vaguely to a crime or betrayal, but many of the Polaran words used here have awkward translations; some Polaran linguists claim this is best described as “the Thing Which Should Not” (be done, be forgotten, be remembered, etc.; this is a commonly used phrase in Polaran).  Some anthropologists argue that this may be a reference to the story of Jorgora. However, since neither this song nor the tale of Jorgora have any known dating other than that they were composed before Cirsovan contact, the Jorgora connection cannot be confirmed.  A more popular theory supposes that it refers to something which occurred deeper in the heartland of the Northern Civilization.  Whatever it was, many theorize it is part of a deep-seated cultural guilt on which they blame (justly or unjustly) the Ice age which pushed their civilization to ruin.

5.  The word Polarans use for outsiders, “wyhossa”, means “those who live below (to the south) of us”, hence the choice of translation for this refrain. Whether “wyhossa” here means outsiders (non-Northerners) or more literally “People to the south of us” is uncertain, muddying speculation on whether the song was Polaran or had its origins further North.

6. Some versions, “dreamers” instead of “wizards”.

7. Lines 15-17, again, the collective guilt for a deed they feel has doomed them.

8. Lines 18-19 are a commonplace riddle or tongue-twister, still used now and then in Polaris by Shuul users.

9. Though lines 22-24 appear to refer to the Long Road, the circumstances could very well be universal among Northern Cities that were falling victim to the encroaching ice.  There would come a point that the surrounding areas would be too barren to provide enough food for the populace and the city would be forced to rely on imported food to sustain itself.  As the cold moved further south, the cities could be cut off from roads and slowly starve.  One case made for the farther north origin of the song is that scholars question why Polarans were already singing of the trade-route closing just as it was being opened.

10. Lines 25-29: Little is known about the beliefs of the ancient northerners, but it would seem from this, and other writings, many preferred to remain in their doomed cities than migrate to warmer climes. Oddly, neither the word “Shuul” nor reference to “the Kingdom of Shuul” is found in any transcriptions. Again, we do not know if these songs reflect the contemporary and modern views of the Polarans, as the songs have not be sung there for some time.  Still, it gives us a fascinating glimpse into the outlook of the first Polarans encountered by the Empire, and perhaps a snapshot of a culture that had resigned itself to disappearance.

Jorgora, a Poem

As translated by Garick Hellos of Owen.
(presented without annotation)

Who was, indeed, the greatest sleeper?
And Who was a mason and a craftsman
And a scholar? That none went deeper
Than he who built Jorgora.

Such a grand and majestic undertaking,
That king or wizard could commission.
Between the bounds of dreams and waking
That he did build Jorgora.

Imbibing Shuul, and lain on straw,
Some northern elf or mighty dreamer
Closed his eyes, and there he saw
The grounds around Jorgora.

As the evening sunlight died,
He dreamed of a forbidden act
That no great dreamer yet had tried,
His thoughts upon Jorgora.

The somnambulistic artisan raised
His hands, issued forth command.
The workers’ dancing torch fires blazed
Round what would be Jorgora.

Trenches dug and trenches filled,
The stones in place, the towers high,
Thought he might a palace build,
The palace of Jorgora!

The sun rode burning in one world,
Though time stood still for fools,
The dreamer’s banners were unfurled
On the walls of grand Jorgora.

A hunger fell upon the men,
Who’d labored through the dream,
And then nightmare settled in,
A Barrow was Jorgora!

All there and, with a sick and dying sound,
The great halls and the courts did sink,
Consumed by the grassy fields around
The tomb that was Jorgora.

He could not awaken from his dream,
Nor those he’d found to help him.
From his bed there was no scream
From he who dreamed Jorgora.