Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Death Test 2 Prints

The first MicroQuest, Death Test, went through a few different print runs and formats, starting with the first "baggie" edition/print in 1978(?), and went through changes in title format and, eventually, in 1980, a 3rd print in the "crush-box" format was released.

Death Test 2 was released in 1980, corresponding with the publication of the full TFT game system. As such, DT2 was fully compatible with the TFT rules, incorporating monsters from In the Labyrinth, some magic items, and even stats for jobs depending on rank achieved in the Thorsz' army as determined by performance in the dungeon.

There are two distinct prints of DT2. The most commonly encountered one is what I refer to as the "Pink Box" edition, which has the back of the box and the lettering on the front in a distinct pink color, and much of the cover art is tinted a weird green color, to include the skin of the two warriors depicted climbing into a chamber and being attacked by a large wolf. Recently, however, I was able to obtain a different version that hithertofore had only seen in a few pictures online, what I have called the "Orange Box" edition, which has the back and lettering a much better looking (and more distinct when set over the background) orange color and a much more natural color both for the torch light and the warrior's skin. The two prints are shown side by side, below:

(NOTE: I wasn't consistent when I took the 2nd picture - while the top photo has the Orange print on the left, I swapped positions in the second photo showing the back of the box and put the Orange print on the right. Sorry for the confusion!)

Why the two print runs? My guess is that the "Pink Box" is, in fact, a mistake; likely, the print shop screwed up in some fashion (whether due to faulty equipment or misunderstanding is an open question). Assuming this is true, then the next question is why weren't these destroyed and new ones printed? It's possible that time constraints played a role - Howard Thompson probably wanted to release DT2 right away with TFT, and may have chosen to overlook the problem. It is also possible that perhaps the print shop attempted to remedy the situation by offering a steep discount on the flawed print run. Given that HT had something of a reputation for being a cheapskate, this is not an unlikely possibility.

If I ever get ahold of Pat Hidy, I should ask for his comments on the cover art and if he has any recollection of what happened.

Note: There was a rumor that some very early print runs of DT2 were in the original pre-crush box format, with a booklet, counters, and die in a baggie as was done with early Metagaming releases, but this appears to be false.

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Fantasy Master's Codex, 1981 - Retrospective


One of the perhaps more baffling TFT products was the Fantasy Master's Codex, which reviewer William Barton in Space Gamer No. 41 summed up as follows: "While the index to TFT is quite useful (and should have been released separately at a lower price), what Metagaming seems to have done with The Fantasy Masters' Codex 1981 is too little for too much." Though billed as "THE BOOK OF THE UNIVERSE.... The FANTASY MASTER'S CODEX is a computerized guide to THE FANTASY TRIP, ..." the actual end product fell short. Here is the official description of the item from the back cover:

"THE BOOK OF THE UNIVERSE.... The FANTASY MASTER'S CODEX is a computerized guide to THE FANTASY TRIP, Metagaming's fantasy role-playing game system. It covers all THE FANTASY TRIP items published through the end of 1980. A new, updated codex will be published yearly to incorporate new material. The FANTASY MASTER'S CODEX is the kind of complete reference guide you've wanted and waited for. The Codex contains a complete index of the ten TFT items published through 1980. Also included are lists of Talents - sorted by name and I.Q., Spells - sorted by I.Q. and type, Magic Items - sorted by name, type and cost; Potion & Bombs - sorted by type and cost; Equipment - sorted by type, Jobs grouped by classes, Monsters, Races, Combat summary - including Dexterity Adjustments, and a Saving Throw table. Also included at the end are some answers to commonly asked rules questions. THE FANTASY TRIP has been enjoyed by over 100,000 gamers since its introduction in 1977. It offers a rational magic system and a precise combat system. It has the high degree of internal consistency Fantasy Masters need for more intricate adventures. It is the fantasy role-playing game system most preferred by those desiring intelligent adventures. The publication of the FANTASY MASTER'S CODEX further adds to the system's playability. If you are an active Fantasy Master of THE FANTASY TRIP you'll find the Codex an invaluable play aid. If you're playing some other system the Codex may convince you to change."
Certainly in terms of physical presentation it was disappointing - while the cover was fine, the actual contents were indeed page after page of a "computerized guide" - which in this case was a deceptive way of saying dot matrix printed data, that was difficult to read and parse. The textual deficiencies were compounded by a general lack of clear headings, uniform page numbering (each separate print run had its own numbering, leading to a constant "start-stop" for each section), and descriptions for each section.

What the Codex did provide, however, was a very useful index along with a question and answer section that addressed a few issues that had cropped up in the TFT rules. Was it worth $9.95 (about the price of an AD&D hardbound book at the time, or per an Internet inflation calculator, $27.67 in 2019 dollars)? Well, yes and no. "Yes" from the perspective of "an index was really needed for TFT" and "no" from the standpoint of component quality in terms of readability and defects in the presented data, in terms of poor utilization of page space and occasionally extraneous information that was not really needed.

In origin, the Codex was built around material compiled and submitted to Metagaming by Bill Gustafson, at the time a TFT gamer, who apparently wanted to address the lack of an index (or in the case of Advanced Melee and Advanced Wizard, even a table of contents - which seems to be a recurring problem for Metagaming, as not even the Codex featured one!) for TFT. Originally referred to as the "TFT Yearbook" the intention was to make this an annual publication that would "...keep gamers abreast of the latest rule changes, expansions and new enterpretations [sic.]. It will also contain variants and expansions supplied by gamers and game masters" (see Interplay No. 1, "Crossroads: Cidri", p. 8). The released Codex only barely met this goal, in that the bulk of the manual was the index, while the rule changes and interpretations were only several pages and only three new variants were mentioned: the Weakness spell (similar in concept to Clumsiness and Confusion, but for strength), and the Master Vet and Quick Draw talents.

The reason for this, as editor Trace Hollowell stated in the introduction to the Codex, was "Typesetting would have delayed publication and introduced chance for more errors." Which is really quite sensible, but in the end the presentation was so hard to read and took up far more pages than a properly typeset booklet would have done made this, in hindsight, a less desirable approach. And while having space for "...notes or changes which are needed to adopt the material to a particular player's universe" is not a bad goal, it certainly made the Codex enormously larger than it needed to be.

The Codex also has a rather cumbersome page numbering system, wherein each individual section is numbered from 1 to x, the rationale was to make a given location in the document easier to remember. The example given in the Codex was, "Job. 2 is easier to remember than p. 81, if you're looking for mercenary job information." In truth, though, it really makes matters a good deal more difficult. A given section might only be a few pages, and trying to locate that particular section within an 120 page booklet is a challenge, even if it is (theoretically) easier to remember the specific page within that section. In other words, and absolute page numbering schema ultimately is much easier to use, since I can simply look at the table of contents, divine the appropriate page, and then instantly flip to the approximate area in the document, and quickly find the correct page thereafter, rather than hunting for a specific section in a sea of sections.

Perhaps one of odder failings was the fact that the "Book of the Universe" was actually incomplete. For example, dragons are not presented (though 4- and 7-hex Dragonodons from Treasure of the Silver Dragon, which have slightly different stats, are included). Monster order varied from ITL for no discernible reason - while the monster section started with player races, it then went into the nuisance creatures, then plants, then aquatics, and continued on in weirdness. Each section was named M1, M2, M3, etc., rather than giving a more detailed and useful title. And though everything through 1980 was to be part of the Codex, there do not appear to be any references to materials from either of the Death Test MicroQuests, Tollenkar's Lair, or Grailquest. This is especially noticeable with Death Test 2, which had a separate jobs table for survivors of the labyrinth who go to work for the Thorsz. Granted, the lack of Death Test and Tollenkar's Lair materials was probably due to Howard Thompson's vendetta against Steve Jackson, but the omission of Grailquest is more puzzling.

How the Fantasy Master's Codex SHOULD have been released...
  • Proper typesetting and formatting was an absolute must. As for concerns about errors, Howard should have invested a little time and shekels into proofreading!
  • Proper headings and descriptions for each section.
  • Proper pagination
  • Make sure all monsters, MicroQuest, and Supplement materials are included and more logically organized
  • More new material (talents, spells, monsters) than was presented historically. At least the Harpy (which was mentioned in conjunction with the Weakness spell) should have been given! Adding a section that included full descriptions of all of the unique Treasure of the Silver Dragon monsters would also have been welcome. Perhaps additional maps or other background material for Cidri or Silver Dragon world? Whatever was dreamed up, at barest minimum a couple full pages of new material should have been provided - and more would have been better

Note that the Q&A section was very good, as far as it went, so no changes would have been needed there.

Had a second Codex been published in 1982 for everything added in 1981 (Security Station, Unicorn Gold, Master of the Amulets) an updated index (either full or just a delta to the previous index) would have been a feature, along with Q&A. More new/variant material would have been needed, as well.

In the end, had one been playing a different game system it is difficult to imagine that this poorly formatted Codex would have convinced anyone to change...

Unreleased TFT Stuff: Interplay Issue 9

It's been altogether too long since I've posted - most of it just has to do with life getting in the way, though I do have some other reasons that will be the subject of a later post. But for now I'm going to start posting some drafts that have been languishing for awhile, now...

So, in my post about unreleased TFT materials [Here], I pointed out that publication of Interplay ceased after issue 8, a full six months before Metagaming closed. At the time I wondered why another couple of issues could not have been published before going under, and speculated that the collapse of Metagaming had been building, Howard Thompson's protestations to the contrary in Interplay 8 notwithstanding:

"Without phones rumors were rampant that something had happened to Metagaming Concepts Inc. Our industry seems to revel in bad news about competitors.

With the recession slowly ending and the weaker firms going bye-bye it's time for Metagaming Concepts Inc to plan the future. Products have always been our key to everything.
"  ('Coming Distractions...', Interplay No. 8)
It is simultaneously amusing and sad to see how that bravado all worked out... It is noteworthy, though, that, on the one hand, Howard Thompson comments on how the industry loves bad news about its competition, but in the next breath talks about "weaker firms going bye-bye" which comes across as "revel(ing) in bad news about competitors."

Until recently, I had not given the matter much thought, other than regretting that the designer's introduction for Conquerors of Underearth promised for in Interplay 9 was never published (along with the game itself of course). However, over on the SJG Forums a certain Steve Plambeck posted details (including a .pdf file) of an article regarding a proposed Wizardry Talent that William Gustafson wanted to include as an optional rule in the upcoming 2nd Edition of In The Labyrinth. In addition, he wanted Mr. Plambeck to write up the talent as an article for the then upcoming issue 9 of Interplay. The full thread is here.

The Wizardry Talent itself seems like an excellent idea; I've had similar thoughts, albeit for different reasons, as mentioned here. However, what really piqued my interest was the fact that here we had a full article that was intended for this issue. Further, I remembered that Interplay 8 had mentioned some articles that were planned for the next issue, thus, in a limited sort of fashion, one could plausibly reconstruct the contents in a limited sense. Here is a list of all the planned material, as attested in earlier Interplay magazines:
  • Designer's Introduction to Conquerors of Underearth (mentioned in Keith Gross' Designer's Intro to Dragons of Underearth)
  • Designer's Intro to StarLeader: Assault! (mentioned in 'Coming Next Issue' section on the title page of the issue)
  • Trailblazer, Helltank, and TFT articles (also mentioned in 'Coming Next Issue' - note that the TFT article reference probably included Plambeck's article. Also worth mentioning is that in Interplay 7 Howard mentioned having so many TFT submissions that, "The problem is that we have enough good material to fill four more issue [sic] right now." Finally, Interplay 6 mentioned getting a designer's intro for Helltank.)
So right here we have a fair idea of what content would have been forthcoming, had the Fates been kinder. It is also worth mentioning that there might have been a designer's introduction to the forthcoming TFT superhero supplement In the Name of Justice, which had been displayed at the HIA show along with Conquerors of Underearth in early 1983, and perhaps some sort of mention of  the TFT MicroQuests Runesword at Regalan and Prison of the Spectral Demon which were also on display.

Going beyond this, Interplay 9 was also possibly going to feature the format changes that had originally been floated in Interplay No. 5, summarized here in the COMING NEXT ISSUE section of Interplay 8:

"Next issue may see the format changes that have been discussed before. The options are, keep INTERPLAY as is at a $2.00 price, go to 48 pages with thicker cover and interior pages for $2.50, or go to very good quality 64 pages at $3.00 but go to quarterly issues." 

This is very interesting, and we'll revisit these format changes again in a bit. But, based on all of the above, I here present a hopefully plausible reconstruction of the Interplay No. 9 cover:

The cover art I selected is actually an unpublished Pat Hidy piece that I won on eBay several years ago. Note also that the border format has actually varied pretty much from issue to issue during Interplay's short run - I chose the last format found in issue 8. And I decided to depict the issue with a $2.00 cover price, though for circumstantial reasons I'll get into in a moment, one of the other format and price options mentioned previous is much more likely to have been the one selected for issue 9.

Now, I'll say right off the bat that my cover art selection is WRONG. Not because of the obvious (i.e. an unpublished piece of art), but rather because I am 99% certain that the cover art would have been a black and white version of whatever art would have been on the Conquerors of Underearth cover. It is to be noted that the Interplay covers for issues 2, 4, 5, 7, & 8 all featured black and white or greyscale versions of existing game cover art (No. 2 - Unicorn Gold, No. 4 - Fire When Ready, No. 5 - Orbquest, No. 7 - Warrior Lords of Darok, and No. 8 - Starleader! Assault), so I'm pretty sure that would have been done here as well. However, since we will never know what that cover looked like (I reached out back in April 2019 to Denis Loubet to see if maybe he did the artwork for CUE, given that a pre-publication copy of CUE did exist and Loubet had done the art for both Lords of the Underearth and Dragons of Underearth, but alas he never responded to me) I chose to sub in a piece that is largely unknown by a different Metagaming artist (and my personal favorite) who did alot of TFT stuff instead.

I'll close this post with some speculation on why Interplay 9 never saw the light of day, even though at least some material was ready to go. The most obvious reason is that Metagaming may simply have run out of money. I've heard rumors that Metagaming stiffed their printers when they went under, and it could be that the funds just weren't there to get anything printed. Another possibility, though, is the aforementioned format changes - in particular going to more content with 48 or 64 pages. It may be that the additional time and work required to get the issue ready may have pushed the timeline to completion out so much as to doom it. Put another way, had they stuck with the same format and amount of content they might have squeaked the issue out. We'll never know, of course, but it is an intriguing possibility.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Johann Schmidberger, Armourer, Blacksmith and Bladesmith

So, back in the day before Museum Replicas, Limited (MRL) was bought out by Windlass Steelcrafts of India, and moved to selling pretty much only Windlass products, MRL used to provide the work of a variety of makers, such as Arms & Armor and Del Tin. One of the more unique crafters was an Austrian blacksmith, Johann Schmidberger. Probably his signature piece was the so-called "Austrian Masterpiece" sword, a large hand and a half type of simple but elegant form.

I wrote up a description of him and his work in the attached document for download. Enjoy!

"Smithery at its Finest"

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Thoughts on using TFT for Modern/Sci Fi Settings

A Blog visitor named NaRong left an interesting comment in my post "TFT Products that Should Have Been: The World of the Silver Dragon", which was simply "Any other thoughts on modern or sci fi gaming with TFT would be great."

I originally started to tap out an answer, but it quickly mushroomed into a very lengthy dissertation, and realized it deserved its own blog post. So here ya go...

Up front it must be pointed out that there are a few articles in Interplay and Space Gamer that touch on this, and some variant rules posted online. Specifically:
  • There are at least two TFT variants for Traveller floating around - an older one by Ty Beard and a more recent "The Traveller Trip"
  • Ty Beard also created a "HiTek" rules variant that covered modern weapons
  • Both Space Gamer (No. 27) and Dragon (No. 41) magazines had articles with rules for Medieval and Early Modern firearms; not directly related to modern or sci-fi but worth knowing about.
  • Space Gamer No. 65 had an article "Superheroes in TFT" by Ronald Pehr that, in addition to the title subject, also included rules for modern weapons
  • Interplay No. 2 had an article by Fred Askew "TFT: Wild West" which has material for that period, to include firearms. Some technical errors but generally good.
  • Chad Brandt provided an article on Sci-Fi TFT in Interplay No. 4, "Martian Vanguard Class MRAV"
  • Finally, if you can find them, in the fanzine Fantasy Forum there were a few articles on TFT/Barsoom. I've never seen them, nor do I expect to - if you can get ahold of these articles I'd love to get copies!
The most important thing is to my mind is to make sure your combat system is somewhat accurate, so that the effects of modern weapons have a degree of verisimilitude. Not to the point of being an exact simulation, mind you, but at least capture to some extent why we don't see swords in modern combat, but did see such weapons in fairly regular (if secondary or tertiary) use up to the mid-19th century. One detail is modifying the weapons to have a "penetration stat" to reflect the degree that armor can be ignored by a bullet, similar to spider and scorpion bites in ITL. Another important detail is that the Dodge option probably is not going to be as effective against firearms (let alone beam weapons...) as it is against arrows, thrown spears, etc. since the latter travel slowly enough to be seen and, well, dodged. As a minimum I would suggest for the Dodge option to work against modern weapons the figure must be moving at minimum of 8 or even 10 MA - basically running - to be able to throw off an attacker's aim.

Another point is figuring out how magic (i.e. fantasy sorcery) and technology (i.e. "gadget sorcery") interact. I touched on this in my Mnoren post - a good example is how exactly does the Invisibility spell work? Does it only affect visible light, or does it affect all spectrums, to include say infra-red and thus defeating all NVA and FLIR type technology? Of course, seismic sensors would be able to detect an invisible figure. But what about the IQ 15 Unnoticeabilty spell? What are the limits of that? The spell makes sense as written versus figures in the immediate vicinity (i.e. that can directly see/hear) of a figure using the spell, but what about someone many yards (or even MILES) away in a remote security room, viewing a security camera feed? Are they affected by this spell, or would they have normal odds of spotting the spell user in the video? I would rule that such remote viewers would not be affected, but one could argue the other way. Though the spell wording leans somewhat towards my interpretation, it does not irrefutably prove my conclusion. Note that how one rules on this would impact remote viewing via Crystal Ball in exactly the same manner.

How about the IQ 9 Darkness spell. Can it turn off a flashlight? Probably, but what happens if you simply turn it back on? What about IQ 10 Shadow - will NVG/FLIR see into that, like Mage Sight? Probably, I expect.

What effect would a Lock/Knock spell have on modern key card entry doors? Probably depends on how many features are associated with it. If it is just a card swipe, then one Knock spell will do it. If there is a keycode in addition to the swipe, or retinal scan, or whatever, then add one Knock spell for each additional feature required to open.

What about the IQ 11 Reverse Missiles spell? In a normal quasi-Medieval environment posited by TFT, a single arrow or hurled weapon coming back at the one who shot/threw it is disconcerting and a bit dangerous, but not unbalancing. But what happens when an unsuspecting mook lets loose a burst from a Tommy Gun at a figure protected by this spell? To some extent it is only fair, given what the burst would do to the unprotected target, but still something to think about. And what are the limits of such a spell? Is there a mass or kinetic energy limit to the size or power of projectile that can be reversed? Could it stop an incoming RPG? How about incoming anti-tank or artillery fire? Trebuchet or ballista shots? Bombards? ICBMs? Shrapnel from a nearby shell burst? Hypervelocity projectiles? Could one cast the spell on a vehicle rather than a figure? Imagine a Sherman tank with this spell - Tiger tanks would be knocking themselves out trying to stop it...

Can Reverse Missiles work on a laser beam? Most likely not, but the spell DOES work on lightning bolts. Even if the spell does not reverse a beam, would wizards in a tech world that have to deal with lasers then develop a Reverse Beam spell to deal with this sort of thing?

What about Images/Illusions? To a modern person a truly fantastical image/illusion might be automatically disbelieved - dragons don't exist, after all. It would just be regarded as awesome special effects, rather than a real "thing" as such. On the flip side, a medieval/fantasy world denizen might not understand what, say, a tank is, and not really be able to process it, thus allowing it to be disbelieved as well.

Going further, can a figure from a non-magic world even disbelieve something that don't know is a "thing," assuming that said "thing" is non-fantastic? If I make an illusion of a street-thug with a knife, or a vicious dog, attacking a modern person, would they think that it was anything but real? Not knowing of magic, how could they even conceive of it as being illusionary? Maybe a 4/IQ roll to "accidentally" disbelieve? I don't know - I'm open to suggestions.

How do Reveal/Conceal spells work against FLIR, MRI, ground penetrating radar, etc.?

Will IQ 13 Sticky Floor slow down or stop a vehicle?

Will IQ 14 Glamor be penetrated by looking at subject through a video clip, a photo, FLIR, etc.? Note that the use of Mage Sight allows a 4/IQ check to see through the spell when first encountered.

Would a figure under an IQ 17 Insubstantiality spell be affected by, say, radiation?  Note that Thrown spells can affect such a figure.

What are the effects of lightning and fireball, in particular, against vehicles, especially armored ones? Probably minimal, though that depends on where it hits (igniting a fuel tank would be productive, or perhaps the intake of super heated air into an engine might stall or disable said component. But simply hitting armor plate would be completely useless, since the spells likely lack any meaningful penetrative ability).

Will Monster Summonings work in a modern world? Elemental and demon summonings? Probably, but something to think about.

Will a Cleansing spell cure cancer? Probably not, but one might be able to argue otherwise. Imagine how popular you could be if you could do that...

These are just a few things I've come up with off the top of my head. I know that similar topics have cropped up on the old TFT Forums talking about "industrial disease" in terms of how certain spells as written have some interesting "real world" implications if applied creatively.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Proposed Cover for Melee, 2nd Edition

A 2nd edition of Melee, done properly, could have been a real step forward for the system. In some respects it would have been based on the Advanced Melee rules, but following to some degree the minimalist approach taken by Dragons of Underearth, and included a few (non-magical) aspects of In the Labyrinth. The key features I would have added to the rules would be the following:

(1) As mentioned in my earlier post on a different approach to publishing TFT (HERE), having IQ introduced as a statistic along with all the combat related talents (non-combat talents would be part of ITL) would have been the best approach. While ITL can cover the stats in general in more detail, having the basic concept in place would make the system work that much better, and allow one to omit Wizard altogether if a historical or modern non-magical role playing environment is desired.

(2) Definitely would add the proposed Defensive Quickness talents from Interplay No. 8.

(3) Combat scenarios, based on those found in Dragons of Underearth, along with some based on historical ancient and medieval battles, would be presented.

(4) A small, truncated bestiary of real world (and perhaps a few prehistoric) creatures would be included, to allow for the kinds of fights seen in the Roman Collusiums, or any sort of "encounter with nature" from pre-history to the Renaissance. No fantasy creatures (or races) would be included - see Wizard and the Bestiary guide for that.

(5) Revised and accurized weapons lists, to include early firearms, would be a feature. Armor would be similarly modified, and probably expanded in its effectiveness. For example, I would have mail stop at least 4, and likely 5 hits per attack. This still understates its effectiveness, but the game still needs to be playable so some exaggeration of combat effectivity for the weapons is quite all right. I would also modify armor to have a "ST" rating and a basic DX and MA penalty for each armor type. The ST rating is based on that found in the benefits of very high ST as described in ITL, but inverted so that having too low a ST translates into penalties to DX and MA, rather than assuming that a high ST reduces the "base" penalty for a given type of armor.

(6) Addition of a "penetration" stat to reflect that some weapons can overcome armor better than others, though not necessarily be better at wounding a figure. By way of extreme, modern example there have been instances of people surviving multiple hits from 5.56mm rounds fired from M-16s and similar rifles. Were one to model the damage based solely on armor penetration ability, one would greatly exaggerate the damage caused, and create a situation where even a couple hits would be almost universally fatal, which is at odds with real accounts of people surviving in excess of a dozen hits. I would argue that a 5.56 SS-109 semi-armor piercing round should probably only do 1d-2 damage per hit, but can ignore or penetrate (in a fashion identical to giant spider bites and giant scorpion stings as described in ITL) a significant amount of armor (~5-6 hits, at least).

(7) Terrain effects on movement and melee would also be covered.

(8) The map would be larger, probably like the one for Dragons of Underearth. Perhaps even two sided, one being an arena, and the other more wide open to simply cover a larger space that can be customized with terrain features.

(9) Some sort of fast cavalry rules, based on those found in Advanced Melee and Space Gamer No. 18 would be incorporated.

So the idea is for a robust, standalone game that can be played by itself for many hours of enjoyment or combined readily with ITL for role-playing in any historical, pre-modern epoch, and with Wizard 2nd Edition for any fantasy type world. I would further envision a follow on supplement to cover modern and future weapons and technology, to make a "GURPS before it was GURPS" type game with a fraction of the rules overhead of the published GURPS.

For the cover art I chose Loubet's arena combat art that was used for the cover of GURPS Man to Man, reasoning that had Metagaming not folded this art may well have graced the cover of a 2nd Edition Melee or other TFT product. Indeed, Denis Loubet had provided the cover art for both Lords of Underearth and Dragons of Underearth, so this is not at all an unlikely outcome. Here are the final front and back covers, as might have been realized in a late 1983/early 1984 Metagaming product:

Friday, October 21, 2016

European Maces of the Middle Ages and Renaissance (With TFT/D&D Game Notes)

Here is a group of European maces from my collection, covering the 11th to 16th centuries A.D. All are modern reproductions, some of which I assembled or modified.

From right to left:
1. An early mace from the 11th-12th century with a bronze head
2. A somewhat later mace from the 14th century, based on an example found in the Thames River
3 & 4. Gothic maces based to varying degrees on A978 in the Wallace Collection, along with one in the Royal Scottish Museum.
5. A spiked mace from the Renaissance.

The head of the first mace was obtained from Tod's Stuff; I made the haft out of birch turning stock from Rocklers.

The No. 2 mace I was able to get second hand off of SwordForum, International. It is an older, long discontinued Arms & Armor piece. It came in pristine condition and I have not made any modifications to it, finding it perfect "out of the box" as it were. This is a great reproduction, and its sad that it is no longer available.

The remaining three maces are all Arms & Armor production, as well. The two Gothic maces are long discontinued, and represent fairly early A&A work. Indeed, mace No. 3 is the second item I ever bought from A&A back in 1987 (the first was a dagger). The only change made to this piece is to rewrap the grip; however, I am thinking of making further changes.

The fourth mace was more or less identical to the previously described one, though I believe a slightly earlier piece. It has been extensively reworked for greater historical accuracy as described in detail in this blogpost.

The last mace I got for a song off of eBay, along with a discontinued A&A warhammer and an odd sort of "one-off" A&A sword. This type of mace (an "M3" following the typology introduced by Ewert Oakeshott in European Weapons and Armor - From the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution) is very rare in Western Europe, but fairly common in Persia and India. This particular example seems to be based upon one in the Musee d' l'Armee in Paris, though that is unconfirmed (I can't seem to find a photo anywhere, unfortunately). A line drawing of this example is found in Oakeshott's book, however. This particular mace would be dated to c. 1550 or so.


In game terms, whether TFT or D&D, an important point to note about maces (and also to some extent morning stars) is that they are very easy to use by even untrained people. Unlike most other weapons which require precise alignment of, say, the edge of a sword or axe, or the backspike of a war hammer or poll arm, etc., no such precision is demanded of a mace. Anyway it lands it causes great hurt. Further, the method of use, simply swinging the arm, comes most naturally to any hominid - indeed, chimpanzees in the wild have been known to swing clubs in an identical manner.

While for the most part the mace is simply a very fancy club, the concentration of mass at the end of the weapon significantly enhances its striking power, making it noticeably superior to a mere cudgel of wood. And the flanged maces of the later Middle Ages focus the striking power of the weapon onto a fairly small area on the target, greatly increasing the chances of transmitting the force of the blow through armour, breaking bones, etc. Thus, a mace is objectively superior to a simple club in melee combat; don't let any vapid "d6 only Old Schooler" try to tell you otherwise - it's simple irrefutable physics, folks.

Given the ease of use of the mace, the D&D restrictions that forbid Clerics from using most melee weapons apart from the mace have at least a little basis in fact - since the mace is a simple weapon to use it makes a bit of sense that figures who lack the specialized melee training of a Fighting Man might end up with a mace/morning star as a primary weapon. Of course, this theory does not account for why Magic Users cannot wield a mace (or a club, for that matter)... Still, it is food for thought. As an aside, I might allow Fighting Men to have a +1 to hit and/or damage with a mace, to give a bit more incentive to use this weapon. Or maybe not; it depends on the combat rules (official and homebrew) one is using. A good set of rules, however crafted, must take into account the enhanced striking power of a mace, and its ease of use.

For TFT the situation is more straightforward since that ruleset uses a skill system. As originally written the rules lump clubs, maces, and axes together under one talent (Axe/Mace). There are similar issues with Pole Weapons and even Knife. As this does not really make sense, I propose the following new IQ 6(!) talents (click to embiggen):

I included the SPEAR and KNIFE, PRIMITIVE talents as a contrast to show a slightly less intuitive/instinctual (though still very simple) skills at the "proto-human" range. These talents, by the by, are part of a more comprehensive rewrite I am doing of the TFT Talents - fodder for a future post.

Certainly very interesting weapons that pack quite a wallop! And I will leave off with this wonderful Filk Song, that I had first heard many years ago but only recently managed to find the lyrics for:


(verses 1-5 by Skald-Brandr Toralfsson
verse 6 is the original anonymous creation
verse 7 from the HOPSFA Hymnal 3rd Edition)

A grazing mace, how sweet the sound, that felled my foe for me
I bashed his head, he struck the ground, and thus came victory

My mace has taught my foes to fear, that mace my fear relieved
How precious did my mace appear, when I my mace received

Through many tourneys wars and fairs, I have already come
My mace has brought me safe thus far, my mace will bring me home

The King has promised good to me, his word my hope secures
I will his shield and weapon be, when he gives me my spurs

And when my mace my foeman nails, that mortal strife shall cease
And we'll possess within our pale, a life of joy and peace

A grazing mace, how sweet the sound that flattened a wretch like thee!
Whose head is flat, that once was round; done in by my mace....and me!

A grazing mace, how sweet the sound that smites a foe like thee
You're left there lying on the ground, you've left the field to me!

tune: "Amazing Grace"
@parody @SCA @filk