Friday, August 30, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (8/30/13)

Hmm, decisions, decisions...

Well met, folks. We're on the cusp of the Labor Day holiday. Over the long weekend, I plan to meditate and reflect on my roleplaying situation and aspirations. I want to go through the bounty of books in my lair, get them organized, and perhaps dispel a bit of the gamer ADD that's come over me again of late. I find that reading through the RPGs that are calling out to me often silences the siren call I hear.
I have to say, I'm not sure if my ADD is limited to just gaming, but that's a whole other conversation. Regardless, I felt like my gamer ADD was in check for a while. But, it's starting to creep back into my system. I'm feeling frustrated with myself, to be honest. I am trying to be happy and thankful for my very good gaming situation. I have a good group that I roleplay with on a pretty regular basis. I have a cool collection of game books to inspire me.
But I think I have some hiccup in my mentality toward RPGs that makes the proliferation of RPGs (both in my personal collection and out there in the world) into a major distraction for me. I try to sit back and tell myself that there's no rush for me to try out the different systems on my shelves. There's no "deadline" that will herald the end of my gaming career (that I know of). But assurances such as this just don't seem to stick.
Thus, the Elmore illo above - which depicts what appears to be indecisive adventurers - seems appropriate. Ah well, let's be real: I could have much bigger and real problems. So it's really no big deal, in the end. Talk about a First-World "problem." So, of course, this is all mostly self-deprecation, as is my habit.
I think there's going to be a longer post coming soon, where I might just ask you all to be a gestalt therapist for yours truly! Until then, I'm going to try and find some peace!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Call of the D6

You know, I just noticed that I made my 400th post a couple days ago.* Funny that it was a post about how I created another blog! Well, I don't intend Ethereal Jaunt to be a replacement for Once More Unto the Breach (OMUtB for short). Rather, I intend to use it as a supplemental blog, one that focuses more on reviews of games, fantasy literature, etc. from my perspective. Meanwhile, OMUtB will continue to be a chronicle of my roleplaying (mis)adventures, musings, and occasional self-pity/whining.
ANYway, I'll now get to my point for this, my 401st post: it seems that, lately, I’ve had a strong renewed interest in games that use only six-sided dice. What?! Roleplaying without the sacred twenty-sider involved?! Blasphemy! ;-)

Anyway, the d6 games I'm most interested in include:
I felt a strong drive to run a game using the Dragon Age RPG, and held my first session last week.
I've owned Paolo Greco's cool and quirky Adventure Fantasy Game for some time now.

I also own the wonderful Heroes & Other Worlds.
I have a copy of Jonathan Becker's Five Ancient Kingdoms fantasy adventure game.
I've also felt the urge to investigate the Ennie-winning Dungeon World (though this does use some other polyhedrals for damage, I believe...but primarily uses the d6).
But before all of the above, I had a long-time interest in Barbarians of Lemuria.

Wow, seeing the list written out sure makes me think my d6 obsession is bigger than I thought! I don't know what it is; there is just something so very cool about gaming with just the d6, if you ask me. It feels like a harkening back to a "simpler" gaming age, before all the "strange" polyhedrals came to dominate. It also strikes me as damned practical: even the most "non-gamer" home will probably have some lying around.

I am going to try to do some reviews of the above systems eventually (hopefully a sooner-rather-than-later eventually). And, of course, those reviews will be posted at Ethereal Jaunt!

So, what d6-based games have YOU come to appreciate?

* Perhaps 400 is not such an impressive number, considering that my blog is over three years old! I'm not the most prolific of bloggers...

Monday, August 26, 2013

My New Blog: Ethereal Jaunt

So, I created a new blog, called Ethereal Jaunt. Yes, I've become one of those people who has more than one blog. On the same topic, no less. I'm not sure what you think of those kind of multiple-blog people, but my hope is that you'll look upon this with favor! ;-)
Seriously, though, this is something of an experiment for me, among other things. The intro post at Ethereal Jaunt will, hopefully, explain my motivations and intent. The bottom line is, Once More Unto the Breach isn't going to go away anytime soon (does that cause you relief or chagrin, I wonder). Again, please read the first post over at Ethereal Jaunt for details. My hope is that you will feel a desire to follow my efforts there as well!
Suggestions of any and all kinds are welcome!

Friday, August 23, 2013

End-of-Week (NSFW?) Elmore and Question (8/23/13)

I've pretty much avoided showing any of Larry's many "cheesecake" illos on Fridays, just because I don't find them all that interesting or relevant to gaming. But I thought that, in light of what I'm going to ask all of you this week, one of Mr. Elmore's more "lascivious" pieces might be appropriate. Just a warning: the image that accompanies this post might be considered NSFW by someone out there, even though it is far more tame than some of his most risque offerings.
Anyway, Alexis at Tao of D&D wrote a post about sex in roleplaying, sort of a follow-up to an earlier post he did on the subject. I'm curious, folks: how has the subject of sex manifested itself in your games, and how has it been handled? What place, if any, do you think sex should have in RPGs?
Note: the D&D episode of "Community" had a pretty funny depiction of a roleplayed sex scene, actually.
For my own part, I think reluctance to explore sexual situations in RPGs can stem from the simple fact of a roleplayer's gender; i.e. a DM must "adjudicate" a sexual situation with a player of the same sex (and isn't attracted to others of the same sex). Some people, in that situation, can't maintain that "in-character versus out-of-character" separation...perhaps because of some ingrained "I don't want to appear homosexual" tripe, among other reasons. Beyond that, in single-sex groups or mixed-gender groups, the reluctance might stem from how well the people know each other.
In the example that Alexis gives at the end of his most recent post, the DM mostly describes the female NPC's actions/reactions, rather than speaking AS the NPC. I think some male DMs lose sight of the fact that they don't have to start speaking in a falsetto and pantomime provocative feminine body language ;-) If DM and players agree to that level of immersion, that's what they're comfortable with. But if they want to have sexual situations in-game, there are other ways to go about it that are perhaps less descriptive, but no less impactful. I would describe Alexis' example as being indicative of the latter.
As for me, when I gamed with my friends ages ago, there were times when sexual situations arose, and when that happened we did something similar to Alexis' example, and most often "faded to black" before the commencement of "the deed." These days, gaming with a new group of friends, I've mostly avoided the topic, except for the players running across NPCs that might be prostitutes. There's also been a couple brothels that the players have come across. And of course there's been double entendre and the like. But I am not sure the group would be comfortable with, say, the adjudication of an encounter that might involve sex.
So anyway, I'm interested to hear what you've experienced!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Review: Gygax Magazine #1

As regular readers of this blog probably know, I believe there are two different kinds of nostalgia: the kind that can enrich one’s enjoyment of the present, and the kind that can cause one to linger on the past and thus neglect the present (and strip away enjoyment of the now). Perhaps, to refine this concept a bit, one can take nostalgia and do either of these things with it. “Good” nostalgia can spur a dynamic present, such as when fond memories of one’s roleplaying youth spur on successful roleplaying now. “Bad” nostalgia, on the other hand, can cause one’s present roleplaying efforts to falter, if one continually considers their present roleplaying efforts to be inferior to their past activities in the hobby.

Gygax Magazine #1 created a flood of nostalgia for me. It was immediate upon looking at the cover, and only increased as I flipped through the issue. My very first thought was, “Here is Dragon Magazine reborn!” There were ads throughout that reminded me of what I saw in the old Dragon, which had enticed me to learn more about games beyond D&D, expanding my knowledge of gaming options. Seeing an “Ecology of…” article made me smile. The layout of the articles, the illustrations that accompanied articles, and comics such as Phil & Dixie were a sight for these sore, older eyes. It was definitely like seeing long-lost friends.

A side-by-side comparison with an issue of Dragon.
One is from 1993 and one is from 2013.

BUT, let's move beyond the nostalgia. Let's set those feelings aside, and consider Gygax Magazine #1 on its own merits, as a stand-alone product.

It seems to me that the publishers (which include Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. and Luke Gygax) are trying to assert a certain "pedigree" by using the name "Gygax" for the magazine title, as well as using the initials "TSR." So to me they are trying very hard to make that association with the old days of D&D. Which I don't think is a bad thing, but I can see how some might consider this to be too much in the realm of "standing on the shoulders of giants."

I won't go into an exhaustive review of all the articles, but rather give you impressions of the ones I found most interesting:

"The cosmology of role-playing games" by James Carpio was a fun exploration of the RPG universe, with D&D being the big bang, of course. An interesting analogy, at the very least.

"DMing for your toddler" by Cory Doctorow made me smile and reconsider introducing my kids (five and seven) to roleplaying much sooner than I've planned!

"The Gygax family storyteller" by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. was a nice glimpse into the life of the co-creator of D&D.

The "Gnatdamp" piece by the inestimable Michael Curtis was the biggest treat! I really enjoy his work across the board, and I can't wait to subject players to this village! ;-)

"An AGE of great inventions" by Rodrigo García Carmona was of particular interest to me because I've started a Dragon Age RPG campaign, so any material for use with the AGE System is welcome!

There were some editorial issues here and there. Some articles didn’t have the square mark that was placed at the end of other articles, leading to some confusion as to when a particular article had ended. I felt like this was a particular problem for Tim Kask’s "Still playing after all these years" fond-memories article, which seemed to finish rather abruptly, as well as Lakofka's "Leomund's Secure Shelter" piece.

The ending of "Keeping magic magical" by Dennis Sustare was, well, awkward:

"And if you design a magic that is compelling and new, perhaps some publisher will say, “That looks great. Let me print and sell that for you!”

It seems like they didn't know how to end the article, and slapped on a rather saccharine declaration.

The placement of games in James Carpio's RPG cosmology was a bit off. For instance, Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG should have been further out, in the 2012 area.

But these are relatively small quibbles.

I realize that my review is coming a bit late to the issue #1 party, and that a second issue has been released. But I wanted to join my voice to the review chorus, being one of the many who loved Dragon. I wish the modern era could support a monthly print gaming magazine the likes of Dragon, but alas I do not think that is to be. But I praise the people behind Gygax Magazine for their efforts, even if we only get four issues a year and not nearly as many pages.

Speaking of issue #2, here's the contents:

I think I still see some pure nostalgia pieces in there, but that's to be expected. I would expect to see such offerings become fairly non-existent as the issues come and go.

How the creators of the magazine are using their nostalgia is, to me, still up for debate. If they’re taking the initial issues to pay homage to Dragon as well as the early days of the hobby, I respect that. I think if they hadn’t paid respect to the past, they would have taken considerable flak for that. To bear the name Gygax, I think, must have seemed like a mandate of sorts for them to create a bridge to the past. Not to mention the fact that “cashing in” on the nostalgia of older readers would have been a foolish business decision, in I believe that’s a marketing tactic as old as the proverbial hills: make someone reflect on their younger days, which most of us also consider “better” days.

How we long-time gamers choose to use nostalgia is up to us. Let's see how the folks behind Gygax Magazine choose to use it going forward. I'm hoping it's for the good.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Book Alert: Of Dice and Men

I was listening to NPR yesterday afternoon, and I heard someone do a short interview with a man named David Ewalt. It seems that Mr. Ewalt has written a book called Of Dice and Men: The Story of Dungeons & Dragons and the People Who Play It.
Now, I've been avoiding Playing at the World, a book that has had some buzz on the gaming blogosphere. Why? Well, I have a stupid habit of spurning what is "popular," and it's really dumb of me, I know. But also, another (most likely just as stupid) reason is that by all accounts Playing at the World is not just about RPGs. Wow, that sounded really dumb even as I typed that. Am I wrong? I probably am. Ok, now I want to read BOTH of these books. Damn, I can't believe how narrow-minded I can be sometimes.
Alright, now that I've thoroughly embarrassed myself, let's discuss my hopes for Mr. Ewalt's book. I hope that it does true, deep justice to the subject matter. I hope it doesn't stray into mean-spirited lampooning of the hobby, and if it does it's from the perspective/vantage of a gamer. If it is the latter, it will be a charmingly self-depricating prodding of RPG players and the hobby as a whole, in addition to having sections that treat the subject matter seriously.
In other words, I hope Mr. Ewalt is really a gamer, and not someone who merely flirted with the hobby at some point and wants to cash in on the "Let's make sublte fun of D&D and roleplayers" thing that never seems to go away. I hope Mr. Ewalt becomes another voice trumpeting the many virtues and values of roleplaying. Above all, I hope that he's written a book that will appeal to non-gamers and give them insight into why so many of us love roleplaying so much.
OK, I am definitely going to check this book out, and hold out hope this is going to have meaning for both gamers and non-gamers. Let me know if anyone else out there has heard about this, or if you already have a copy.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Audio: GenCon 2013 D&D Next R&D Q&A Seminar

Have you heard this yet? I'd suggest you check it out, even if you don't have too strong of an interest in the next iteration of D&D. I listened to this recording today, and I have to admit I was encouraged by what I heard. I found myself believing the claims that WotC is attempting to honor all the editions of D&D, especially when the speakers went into examples of just how they were making that attempt.
Now, I say this as a person who signed up for the D&D Next playtest but didn't keep up with the playtest packets. Why? Mostly because I'm busy with life as well as spending my spare time running RPG sessions with game systems that aren't in development (in fact, I had a similar situation when I was offered a chance to playtest an OSR game while it was in development, i.e. I had to pass due to lack of time). If I was in a position to actually playtest D&D Next, I might have kept up with the process, answered their surveys, etc. Looking back, I wish I had tried to at least find some time to run, say, some one-off playtest sessions, or whatever (same with that OSR game I mentioned). Oh well.
Anyway, yes, I definitely like what I heard while listening to this seminar. So much so that I'm looking forward to eventually seeing the final form of D&D Next. How about you?

Friday, August 16, 2013

End-of-Week Thornborrow (8/16/13)

So, I'm about to begin a Dragon Age RPG campaign! Very excited about that, I am! I own the first and second box sets for the game, but I was feeling I wanted more in-depth information on the Dragon Age world (called Thedas) than the RPG books provide.
Enter Dragon Age: The World of Thedas! I've purchased a copy of this gorgeous hardcover and it does not disappoint! Now, I've got a much better idea of the look of the Dragon Age world, including clothing, cities, architecture, and more. Also, I've got more detailed information on races, creatures, history, nations, religions, traditions, cultures, all that good stuff! So, I'm feeling like I'll be much more prepared to breathe some life into the world.
Nick Thornborrow is a concept artist for BioWare who's done a lot of work for them on Dragon Age, including the cover of the World of Thedas tome. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some reading to do! Have a great weekend, folks!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Who will weep for lost Grognardia?

Okay, perhaps the title of this post strays into the territory of histrionics, but bear with me. It's been about eight months since James Maliszewski made his last post on his blog, Grognardia. And I'm feeling nostalgic for the days when James' posts were a regular part of my RPG blog-reading experience.

Perhaps the very damp summer we've experienced here on the East Coast of the US has me in more of a maudlin mood than usual. For whatever reason, I find myself once again missing the "old days" of Grognardia. By old days, I personally mean the two years between mid-2010 and mid-2012 (i.e. when I was reading it). As it was for many folks, Grognardia was one of the first OSR blogs that I came across, when I decided to search the web for the current state of roleplaying affairs in the world.

Look, I wouldn't describe myself as being someone who worshipped the man. It was more his content that kept me reading, rather than any deep interest in James as an "OSR superstar." I didn't return to the hobby in order to join a cult of personality. I was looking for kindred spirits. I was looking for those who, like me, were either coming back to gaming as adults, or those who had never left the hobby (the latter being sources of extreme inspiration for me, and perhaps some jealousy!).

Above all, I miss the enthusiasm and flow of interesting ideas that used to emanate from Grognardia. When James used to put out tidbits about his home campaign, before Dwimmermount became a commodity, I used to eat up the details eagerly. I really liked the creativity that James was showing, and it was an inspiration for me, as someone who was coming back to the hobby. There was a genuine feeling of dynamism to what James was doing back in the day.

But I think that some bloggers don't survive these attempts to become game designers/publishers. Some are cut out for it, some aren't. There's ample evidence of the "failing or failed amateur game designer," as outlined in regularly-scheduled detail at Tenkar's Tavern and other blogs. I blame those failures mostly on the dreaded stretch goals, but that's another blog post...

I'm thinking that James might have been able to handle the game designer burden, but it seems his life circumstances got in the way. Or perhaps, even if he didn't have issues with his father's health or whatever, he might not have been able to deliver on his projects. Who knows? I don't fault him for being emotional over his life issues, but in this digital age there are plenty of ways to reach out to the world at large, especially when it comes to business associates, even from the depths of grief. But, who am I to judge?

At any rate, I suppose my feelings are part of a normal "grieving" process, right? I mean, I don't claim to know the future, and it's very possible that James will return someday to the blog. However, that doesn't alleviate the memories of the Grognardia-that-was.

Anyone out there want to share their own memories of Grognardia? 

Friday, August 9, 2013

End-of-Week Elmore (8/8/13)

Another busy Friday, folks. August in general is always a hectic month for yours truly. Today, I am feeling a bit blue, perhaps as a result of how busy I am. Maybe I'm not quite as blue as the peeps in the illo above, but I can relate, you know? ;-) Unlike them, however, my "blueness" will eventually wear off! 
Anyway, there have been some developments on the campaign front for me and my regular gaming group, but I don't have time to get into all that at the moment. Details on the changes are forthcoming. Stay tuned, and until then, happy gaming!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Five Ancient Kingdoms in my hands!

A thousand thanks to Jonathan Becker for sending me a copy of his new game, Five Ancient Kingdoms! All praise to you, effendi! Congrats again to you for your accomplishment! It's a nice little package, with three books and those cool dice! Feast your eyes!

In the near future I hope to write up a more detailed exploration/review of the game. Hopefully it won't take me a thousand and one nights ;-)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Happy (belated) Birthday, Larry!

"Man, there needs to be a Create Undies spell in this game!"
Been feeling a bit under the weather the last day or so, folks. That's why I totally let Larry Elmore's birthday (yesterday) go unacknowledged on the blog! Well, I'm here to remedy that oversight today! And, in honor of the occasion, pictured above is Larry in his birthday suit (close enough)!
Happy birthday, Larry, and may you stride the earth for many years to come!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Beyond the Westwall: Sessions 4 and 5 (7/3/13 & 7/10/13)

Note: the following recap of sessions 4 and 5 was composed by the master bard Sir Charles Bakerson, a legend in the Grand Kingdom.

Mightily the adventurers strove against the giants, foul and two-headed,
With metal forged sharp but with wits all the sharper!

Muscle and mind the heroes combined in equal measure, and using
Weapons both metal and mental they slew the murderous ettins outright!

The band followed the trail of the abominations they'd killed,
Tracing it back to a scene of bloody slaughter.

The ettins had made an abattoir of the woodsmen's encampment,
Turning the snow on the ground to crimson ice.

The party turned their eyes and minds to the west, from whence
The trail of the two-headed giants appeared to have come.

Their path took them into the depths of Lanisdown Forest, where
They sought for some sign of an origin, a lair.

The group came upon a party of Dunbury halflings, lead by
A doughty sheriff and seeking some sign of the ettins as well.

After holding palaver with the small-folk but gaining little knowledge,
The adventurers chose to press north to the mystery of White Watch.

In due time they came within sight of the Westwalls, and there
They had their first glimpse of the long-abandoned fortress.

The once pure white walls of that Bright Empire ruin were now
The color of charcoal from time's ravages and scars of ancient battle.

Approaching the mist-shrouded fortress, the party saw a vast field of mud,
Strangely unfrozen despite the harsh winter.

The elf Umitsu, clever to the last, devised a way to cross the morass,
Using a spell to conjure a disk of floating metal on which to sit.

During their efforts to ferry themselves to the forbidding walls, they
Were attacked from below as things formed of mud erupted upward!

Once again by their wits did the adventurers prevail, foiling
The plot of the mudmen to drown the band in the murky depths.

The band then crossed into White Watch through a breach in the walls,
And looked on with wariness as mountain mists writhed in the courtyard.

As the heroes began their searchings, out of the swirling whiteness
Came a host of undead, long-perished victims of a conflict of old.

As the band sought safety in White Watch's gatehouse towers, it was
Umitsu who once again struck off alone to explore.

The elf-woman made her way stealthily through the mist, nimbly avoiding
Contact with the walking dead until she came to the walls of a keep.

Meanwhile her comrades fought to hold back the outnumbering undead horde,
Barring the doors of the gatehouse towers before seeking a means of escape.

The party fought back against the gathering undead, striking some down
While the Jarith the cleric drove some off with the power of faith.

But there's was a skirmish fought in retreat, as the tide of abominations
Grew into a flood that threatened to crush life in skeletal hands.

And while they fled before the relentless unliving, it was Umitsu who
First detected a new threat from the sound of beating wings above.

As Umitsu hid as best she could in the shadow of the keep,
A hulking, winged beast landed nearby in the courtyard.

She heard it sniffing the mist-filled air, as if seeking the elf by scent,
And she caught a glimpse of a grey-skinned creature with leathery wings.

The rest of the party also heard the beating of wings and inhuman screeching
As they made their way from the gatehouse to the top of the fortress wall.

The adventurers were attacked from above by the winged beasts, which were
Terrible to behold, with ember eyes and horned heads and taloned hands.

The band was able to find shelter in another tower along the wall, and found the
Bodies of long-dead defenders within, while threatened by the flying things without.

And Umitsu, who avoided the winged creatures, found a door to the old keep, and
Stepping inside, saw a mummified warrior in armor, sitting upon a wooden throne.

As the elf watched, the dessicated corpse stirred with life, shifting in its seat as it
Opened its eyes, to reveal glowing points of light in deep sockets.

Shriveled hands, more bone than flesh, gripped tightly the hilt of an archaic sword,
As dry lips cracked and opened to speak in a voice harsh with untold centuries:

"You dare to enter this place? The living are not welcome in White Watch!" The elf
Fled, but not before glimpsing the corpse-warrior rising slowly from its throne!

Friday, August 2, 2013

End-of-Week Chalk (8/2/13)


I wrote yesterday about the world of Magnamund featured in the Lone Wolf gamebooks. The setting may not be very divergent from traditional medieval Europe-style fantasy, but the artwork featured in those pages always seemed exotic and strange to me. I would say it is right up there with the work of Erol Otus and the other artists whose work was featured in the early editions of Basic D&D. You know, the art that evokes a more odd, bizarre, alien version of D&D than that of Elmore and others such as Parkinson and Caldwell.
I have to say I appreciate the "strange" art of Otus and his ilk as well as the "fantasy realism" of Elmore and his peers. Neither is "better" than the other, in my opinion. They represent different approaches, different styles, of D&D.

Which brings me to Gary Chalk. To me, he stands up there with Russ Nicholson's work as examples of the finely detailed and somewhat bizarre art found in 1980's British fantasy roleplaying. I was highly entertained when I saw the Chalk illo I included at the top of this post! This piece, like most of Mr. Chalk's other work, really inspires me!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The lure of the alien...

I'm having a yearning for running something not based in traditional fantasy tropes. No elves, dwarves, halflings. No strictly medieval European society. That sort of thing.

So strange of me, to have Gamer ADD, eh?
Hmmm, speaking of "no elves," that reminds me of Talislanta. A game I first encountered in the old days of the old Dragon Magazine, a game that I own and would dearly love to play. Ah, if you are like me, you remember those Talislanta ads as being exotic and mysterious! I mean, the ads in Dragon for ANY game that wasn't D&D were always intriguing to me when I was new to the hobby. But there was something alluringly alien about Talislanta. I had similar feelings for Skyrealms of Jorune...
These days, I'm also interested in Barbarians of Lemuria. Then there's Magnamund (the setting of the Lone Wolf gamebooks) and the Fabled Lands...though I suppose part of their appeal for me is that they originated "across the pond."
Then there's of course The Dying Earth (so far in the future that the earth itself becomes alien). And let's not forget Leiber's Nehwon. And I suppose Howard's Hyborea (so far in the past that the earth is alien) ...although these last three worlds are perhaps less alien when it comes to racial variety.
The upcoming Lords of Gossamer & Shadow RPG and the Amber RPG from which it draws inspiration also have something of the alien to them, of course. That reminds me, ugh...I need to really get on a retrospection of Amber and its monolothic place in my RPG career...

I even find myself thinking of Thundercats and Thundarr the Barbarian of late. Hmmm, cat people...
I suppose all this is connected to the sword & sorcery side of the genre. Ooh, and then there's sword & planet!
OK, I need to stop. Please, chime in and let me know your experiences, if any, with Talislanta or other RPGs that have a setting that could be considered more "alien" than the default medieval D&D world.