Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Board games in Fairmont

Played board games in Fairmont this evening, 1 game of Vegas Showdown [1, 2, 3] and 1 game of Cosmic Encounter (the Avalon Hill version) [4, 5, 6].

This was the 1st time I've played Vegas Showdown and the 2nd time I've played Cosmic Encounter. I'll need to play a lot more before I figure out good strategies.

Idol of the Orcs, Session #2


We're playing Idol of the Orcs, so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.

This session lasted from 6:15 pm to 9:30 pm.


Clockwise round the table, starting with the Labyrinth Lord:

  • T.A. — Labyrinth Lord

  • M.A.

    • Gustavio, a Gnome. HP 4, AC 5. (green lego base)

    • Karl, a Dwarf. HP 4, AC 6. (yellow lego base)

  • T.K.B.

    • Orm, a human Cleric. HP 5, AC 3. (red lego base)

    • Skeggi, a human Cleric. HP 6, AC 4 (3 with shield). (blue lego base)

  • E.A.

    • Semiriah, an Elf. HP 3, AC 5 (4 with shield). (sparkly pink lego base)

    • Maury, a human Thief. HP 5, AC 6. (tan lego base)

Actual Play

Orm and Skeggi switched places in the marching order.

Tristan agreed that “Shields will be splintered!” and magic and falling.

Balin, who died last session, had chain armor, 2 darts, and a longsword. Oin, who died last session, had leather armor, spear, and 2 darts.

We gave Balin's chain to Zenith.

6. Orc command post, leader with 12 warriors. Gustavio and Maury went down (to negative hit points) but were healed to positive hit points by Skeggi and Orm respectively.

Killed leader and 6 warriors. There was a crude map with X marks showing the location of recent raids. Loot bodies: leader had scale armor, shield, and longsword. Others had leather armor, short swords, hand axes.

Loot others as we retreat. 16 other orcs: leather armor, 2 spears, 6 hand axes, 6 slings, 8 spears, 8 short bows.

220 XP for 22 orcs, 140 XP for 4 wolves, 10 XP for leader. 360 XP total = 60 XP each. XP each.

50 gp plus 24 sp plus 7 sp plus gold from equipment = 96 gp 8 sp 3 cp each.

Total including gold from selling treasure is 159 XP.

Back to village, sell all stuff.

Pay all hirelings 1 gp, and 1 gp to families of 2 dead hirelings. (The funerals were last session.)

Alana — healer from nearby town — discovered parchment wandering in the hills as a child with friends. It reads:

Right then left and left again
Avoid the wood and right again
Right once more and right once more
Knock upon the wooden door
Right now twice and left is nice
And takes you to the water
Back up son and left is one
To take you to the hotter

Caysec is the girl who takes care of a PC's dog while we are in the caves.

We go on a trip with Gustaff, looking for alternate entrances, traps, etc. We spend 3 days searching, and on the third day at midmorning we surprised 7 orcs. We killed 6 and captured 1.

7 leather armor, 7 hand axes, 7 slings. 46 sp 32 cp, and 70 XP.

They were going to swear loyalty to warlord Ngarsh in Sacern Hills where the Hidden Dagger tribe have taken refuge. Warlord Ngarsh acts on orders from a powerful demon that resides in the idol. The orcs are gaining stength due to the demon.

The only entrance that this band of orcs knew was the entrance that we used before.

Gezn worshiped demons below the Sacrern Hills.

There is an ogre! Walk through walls? No! Not that he knows.

Agashhak is the captured orcs name. He submits, and becomes our follower.

Books Read 2012-04 and before

I'm not sure when I finished most of these books, but I'd have read them sometime in 2011 or in 2012 before May.

  • The The Heirs of Alexandria.

    A very good alternate history fantasy series.

    • The Shadow of the Lion, by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, Dave Freer; copyright 2002.

    • This Rough Magic, by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, Dave Freer; copyright 2003.

    • A Mankind Witch, by Dave Freer; copyright 2005.

    • Much Fall of Blood, by Mercedes Lackey, Eric Flint, Dave Freer; copyright 2010.

  • The October Day, by Seanan McGuire.

    • Rosemary and Rue

    • A Local Habitation, finished 2012-01-15.

    • An Artificial Night

    • Late Eclipses

    • One Salt Sea

    The next book in the series, Ashes of Honor, is due out in September 2012.

  • Discount Armageddon, by Seanan McGuire.

    The first in the InCryptid series.

  • In the Allie Beckstrom series, by Devon Monk:

    • Magic on the Hunt

    • Magic on the Line, finished 2012-03-28.

  • In the Kate Daniels series, by Ilona Andrews:

    • Magic Bites

    • Magic Burns

    • Magic Strikes

    • Magic Bleeds, copyright 2010.

    • Magic Slays, copyright 2011.

  • In the Edge series, by Ilona Andrews:

    • On the Edge

    • Bayou Moon

    • Fate's Edge

  • In the In the Time of the Sixth Sun series, by Thomas Harlan:

    • Land of the Dead, third in the series.

    I've read one of the other two books in series but don't know if it was the first, Wasteland of Flint, or the second, House of Reeds.

  • The Dragon Lord, by David Drake. One take on the Aurthurian legends.

      1. Stirling's retro-pulp series, read sometime in 2012:

    • The Sky People

    • In the Courts of the Crimson Kings

  • In Glen Cook's The Instrumentalities of the Night series:

    • Surrender to the Will of the Night, book three.

  • In the Sookie Stackhouse series, by Charlaine Harris:

    • Dead as a Doornail, copyright 2005.

  • Angel Town, by Lilith Saintcrow, copyright 2011. The sixth Jill Kismet novel.

  • In the Dante Valentine series, by Lilith Saintcrow:

    The whole series.

    • Working for the Devil, finished 2011-7-04.

    • Dead Man Rising

    • The Devil's Right Hand

    • Saint City Sinners

    • To Hell and Back

  • Heart's Blood, by Juliet Marillier.

  • In the Blood Singer series, by Cat Adams:

    • Siren Song

    • Demon Song

  • In the Tara Sheridan series, by Alayna Williams:

    • Dark Oracle, finished 2011-08-12.

    • Rogue Oracle, finished 2011-08-19.

  • The Last Wish, by Andrezej Sapkowski. The first Witcher novel.

  • In the Annabelle Lee series, by Stacey Jay:

    • Dead on the Delta, finished 2011-07-15.

  • House of Many Ways, by Diana Wynne Jones. This is the sequel to Howl's Moving Castle. There is another book set in a different part of the that world, too.

  • In The Necromancer Chronicles, by Amanda Downum:

    • The Drowning City, the first book in the series.

    • The Kingdoms of Dust, the third book in the series.

  • In the Void City series, by J. F. Lewis:

    • Burned, the fourth book in the series.

  • The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson, which a friend bought for me when I was in the hospital and had run out of books to read.

  • In the Kencyrath series, by P. C. Hodgell:

    • Honor's Paradox, book six in the series.

  • In the Kara Gillian series, by Diana Rowland:

    • Sins of the Demon

  • Nameless Magery, by Delia Marshall Turner

  • Of Swords and Spells, by Delia Marshall Turner

    These two books are connected, though they mostly have different characters, and I've seen online a book that collects them, The Ways Of Magic.

  • Raven Cursed, by Faith Hunter, the fourth book in the Jane Yellowrock series.

    There is an eBook, Cat Tales, Four Stories from the World of Jane Yellowrock, that I haven't seen.

  • In the Cassie Palmer series, by Karen Chance:

    • Hunt the Moon, finished 2011-10-30. #5.

  • In the Alpha and Omega series by Patricia Briggs:

    • “Alpha and Omega”. This is the story that begins the series, collected in On the Prowl.

    • Cry Wolf. This is the first book in the series.

  • On the Prowl, a collection of four stories by Patricia Briggs, Eileen Wilks, Karen Chance, and Sunny.

Idol of the Orcs, Session #1


We're playing Idol of the Orcs, so if you haven't played that you might want to skip this entry.


Clockwise round the table, starting with the Labyrinth Lord:

  • T.A. — Labyrinth Lord

  • M.A.

    • Gustavio, a Gnome. HP 4, AC 5.

    • Karl, a Dwarf. HP 4, AC 6.

  • T.K.B.

    • Orm, a human Cleric. HP 5, AC 3.

    • Skeggi, a human Cleric. HP 6, AC 4 (3 with shield).

  • E.A.

    • Semiriah, an Elf. HP 3, AC 5 (4 with shield).

    • Maury, a human Thief. HP 5, AC 6.

Actual Play

For some reason, Skeggi thinks Gustavio is a dressed up goblin. Semiriah is only too glad to fall in with this notion.

We started off by getting some rumors in town about the area.

Gustavio heard that a beautiful elf of great power is trapped beneath the Sacern Hills.

Orm heard that mad lords of the Sacern Hills left great treasures.

Skeggi heard that there is an underground shrine in the the Sacerns.

Semiriah heard that the orcs were lead by an intelligent ogre.

Maury heard that there is a place where one can walk through walls.

We found some hirelings: a guide, Gustaff (no weapons and armor), and some willing to fight: Dwalin (3 HP, Chain, 2 darts, longsword), Balin (4 HP), Gloin (6 HP), and Oin (4 HP). No, not Dwarves, though that's where we got the names, when T.A. didn't some names pre-planned. Unless otherwise noted, each hireling has a short sword, leather armor, a spear, and two darts.

Gustaff was willing to lead us to the clearing near the entrance to the caves, and was willing to stay with our beasts and stuff, but wasn't willing to fight.

Gustaff tells us that the caves were natural, used by many folks, Gezn worshippers, Orcs, all down through the ages.

Episode 1: we approach the cave mouth, and are attacked by 4 war wolves (wargs by any other name). In 4 rounds the war wolves were dead, but we'd lost Balin and Oin and had been seriously wounded ourselves. So, we head back to town, healed up, and hired nine more hirelings: Symna (6 HP), Zenith (6 HP), Ragnar (5 HP), Roger (6 HP), Pergold (3 HP), Poviteh (3 HP), Matil (3 HP) Murgar (3 HP), Zathar (1 HP).

Several days pass.

Episode 2: we enter through the cave mouth. 16 orcs. Sleeping area, guard quarters. 24 sp 7 gp, knuckle bone dice. Wolf kennel is empty, thanks to our earlier attack. Arsenal: take all — 25 spears, 6 daggers, 5 shortbows, 10 quivers (5 filled), 8 shortswords, 8 pole-arms. Another guard room: silver plate (50 gp), 2 carving knives. (We leave the rather dubious roast.)

System Complexity and Gamer Preferences

From Howling Tower: Complexity and Option Fatigue « Kobold Quarterly, by Steve Winter (ex-TSR, ex-WotC):

In the late 1980s, TSR studied the sales appeal of AD&D compared to “Basic” D&D (Basic/Expert, B/X, or BECMI, as it’s now known). The common wisdom was that Basic D&D was the best choice for beginning players because it was a simpler game—it had fewer rules. New and inexperienced players, however, actually saw that paucity of rules as a drawback. To them, Basic D&D was more complex than Advanced D&D, not less, because the DM and players were faced with more situations that had no clear solution. In contrast, AD&D told you exactly (or approximately) what to do in an enormous range of situations. The answers might be hard to find, but they were in those books somewhere. Extensive rules that covered more situations translated to the DM spending more time flipping pages in a search for answers but less time sifting through options. The end result was a perception that while AD&D had more rules than Basic D&D, all those rules made it easier to play. Inexperienced players liked the confidence that came from AD&D providing all the answers, so they gravitated toward AD&D. Experienced players liked having open-ended options and were the main audience for Basic D&D.

That result surprised a lot of people inside TSR. It was an eye-opener, and it affected design and marketing philosophy for years.

See also the comments thread.