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Just a place for the odd thoughts, updates, and the detritus of my mind that doesn't belong on social media.

Posted: Nov 4th, 3:59am

The Church Grim

Over on rpg.net, forum member Felix has been conducting a read-through of the AD&D Monster Manual II. One of the entries is the Grim, a shapeshifting black dog in the finest tradition of the many "Black Dogs" appearing in British fairy folklore.

Unlike most Black Dogs, which are generally fairy creatures, the Church Grim is a spirit that protects churchyards from grave robbers and other criminals.

The tradition (which appears both in England and Scandinavia) has the Church Grim as a person, the first to be buried in a new churchyard, whose soul has to watch over it. To spare a human soul this duty an animal might be buried first. In England this seems to always be a dog, but in Scandinavian tradition the Kirkegrim might be a bear, pig, or horse as well.

One of the biggest influences on my childhood imagination was Katherine Brigg's 1976 Dictionary of Fairies, a book that was battered and dog-eared when I got my copy, and which is even moreso now, many years later. In the dictionary, Briggs describes hundres of fairy entities and tropes, indexing them all with a list of descriptive themes and motifs (which you can look up at the back of the book). As soon as I saw the RPGnet post about the Grim I was sure that it was included in the Dictionary, and indeed it was.

[...] when a new churchyard was opened it was believed that the first man buried there had to guard it against the Devil. To save a human soul from such a duty a pure black dog was buried in the north part of the churchyard as a substitute. Katherine Briggs, A Dictionary of Fairies

Eden Phillpotts (a very prolific author of the early to mid 20th Century) wrote a story called "The Church Grim" in 1914, revolving around the mystery discovery ...

Posted: Oct 21st, 4:14am

Waxing Lyrical about Hypercard

Apple's late lamented Hypercard (lamented by me at least) was my first real brush with computer programming. It certainly led me to become a programmer, and it probably had a lot to do with my later interest in MUSHes and MUDs (which had some coding similarities), which in turn is how I met my wife — so you could say it was moderately influential on my life.

What was Hypercard?

Hypercard was what you'd now call an app development tool, but in black and white bitmaps on old Apple Macs in the 1980s.

If that sounds dry, it wasn't. Hypercard appeared, for free with every Mac, in an era when websites were unknown, and writing software for PCs and (especially) Macs, was a full-time undertaking with a massive learning curve. In that era of gated programming, Hypercard let you create your own software with a few clicks of a mouse, and share it with other people. Hypercard stacks came free on the CDs on the fronts of magazines. You could subscribe to user groups that would send collections of stacks around on floppy disk. Hypercard scripts appeared in fanzines, in much the same way that BASIC scripts had been listed in the gaming mags of the Commodore and Spectrum era.

Grimmoire Hypercard Stack
You want a picture, here's one of my stacks

How well I remember the joy of getting a new Hypercard disk in the post from one of the members of my fan group. I even sent out a few of my own, if I remember rightly (it was 30 years ago). Yes yes, you get all that joy now on the Internet for a fraction of the work, but that was then.

Hypercard also became a commercial tool of choice. If you bought yourself an electronic encyclopedia, catalogue, or educational program for the Mac in the late 80s and early 90s it probably came in the form of a Hypercard stack.

How did it work?

Hypercard let you create stacks. Stacks were a series of cards (screens) each of wh...

Posted: Oct 18th, 7:27am

Recent Artwork

I've been participating in Inktober, as I have for the last few years, and posting the results on DeviantArt for those interested, but I've also been working on some gaming art for various projects.

Game Covers

I recently uncovered (or rediscovered) some old gaming projects that I haven't worked on for years. DiceWars and A Parliament of Rooks. (Want to playtest either of them, let me know!). As part of bringing these games back to life I needed new covers for them, and here they are.

DiceWars Cover Parliament of Rooks Cover

Posted: Oct 2nd, 8:35am

Benefits of Living Standards in D&D 5E

The 5th Edition of D&D defines six levels of living conditions, from Wretched up to Aristocratic with different costs associated. However, apart from hob-nobbing with the rich (or the poor) there are no real mechanical benefits to each standard of living. This leads many players to ask: "Why pay 25gp a night to live at a Wealthy Standard, when I could sleep in a ditch for free?"

The most obvious answer is: "Because you won't have to sleep in a ditch!" but roleplaying benefits are not mechanical rewards, and some people are more focussed on the later than the former, which is a perfectly fine way to play. If you need your gold to buy diamonds for ressurection, you won't want to waste it on expensive inns.