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The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Eight

December 20, 2018 12 comments

My eighth book of Christmas is another mythology title: Thor: Viking God of Thunder, which was my first title for Osprey’s Myths and Legends series.

Thor

The original sources for Norse mythology are surprisingly limited, so I had the space in this book to retell all of the major stories in which Thor takes part, and to mention those in which he is a secondary character. It was interesting to see how, in the Christian era, the myths were shorn of religious content and became, effectively, early superhero stories: Thor’s battles with the giants of Jotunheim read very similarly to the ’60s slugfests of Marvel and DC comics.

This comes as no surprise, of course, considering Thor’s success as a superhero in recent decades. Marvel was not the first publisher to use him in comics, but the Marvel Thor is the most enduring version. In addition, he has given his name to a radioactive element (Thorium), several Norwegian and German warships, and two American rocket systems.

Most notoriously, of course, Thor’s hammer has been adopted as a symbol by some neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, following the swastika – a universal design which in Scandinavia represented one of Thor’s thunderbolts – which was co-opted by the Nazi Party in 1920. We would all do well to remember that these are stolen emblems, and those who use them have no right to them – and equally, that not all those who use them are racists or fascists.

Here is what some reviewers had to say about the book:

“If this book is any indication of the quality of this new series, readers are in for a treat.”
– Kirkus (starred review)

This book is a nice, concise, beginning look at the legends of Thor. All tales that include him are at least briefly mentioned here, though most are told in full with extra bits of information to add depth to the reader’s understanding.
– Goodreads

Like all Osprey titles, the book is gorgeously illustrated, and the plates by Miguel Coimbra are outstanding.

The book’s page on the Osprey web site is here. Links to various online retailers can be found on the My Books page.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Six

December 18, 2018 11 comments

My sixth book of Christmas is the third title I wrote for the Dark Osprey line. Knights Templar: A Secret History was actually my first contribution to that series.

Templars cover

I first read The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail back in the 80s, and I was amused when The Da Vinci Code turned the same basic story into a blockbuster success. I had a lot of fun chasing the Templars through a maze of history, rumour, conspiracy theory, and wild speculation, and I crafted the device of Dr. Emile Fouchet as an overarching structure to hold everything together, and create a fiction within which everything – absolutely everything – was true. I have since been approached a couple of times by people wanting to get their hands on Fouchet’s research, which I take as a sign that my fiction was a successful one!

Here is what some reviewers said about the book:

“It all makes for a fascinating read, and like the best fiction, leaves that nagging thought that it just might be true.”
– RPGNow.com

“…the most interesting retelling of the Knights Templar history I’ve seen …  this is the first time that I’ve seen the dots connected so flawlessly.”
– Weirdmage’s Reviews

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Four

December 16, 2018 11 comments

It’s another Osprey book today, this time from the Myths and Legends line. This series of books set out to do for mythology what Osprey’s main lines have always done for military history: provide compact, authoritative, and well-illustrated reference works. I wrote two titles for that series, and Theseus and the Minotaur was the second.

index

Everyone knows the story: maze, monster, fight, and home in time for tea. But there’s a lot more to the myth of Theseus than that.

For a start, the Minotaur was not the first enemy that Theseus faced. On his way to Athens, he dealt with six foes who terrorized the road, ranging from a rampaging pig of immense size to a deranged smith who insisted that passers-by try his bed – and then racked them or lopped bits off until they fit perfectly!

After reaching Athens and being recognized by his mortal father, King Aegeus (who would give his name to the Aegean Sea), he defeated a rampaging bull; avoided being poisoned by the evil sorceress Medea (who had set her sights on Aegeus after leaving Jason of the Argonauts); and routed a powerful faction of nobles who had designs on the throne of Athens. And remember how I called Aegeus his mortal father? Theseus had a divine father, too: the sea-god Poseidon, who had slept with his mother on the same night. Those Greek gods!

Theseus went on to become King of Athens, but that didn’t slow him down. When he wasn’t consolidating Athenian power across Greece and laying the foundations for the city’s domination of the Classical Age, he was kidnapping princess Helen from Sparta (long before anyone from Troy set eyes on her), going to the Underworld to kidnap Persephone, the wife of Hades, and having all sorts of adventures elsewhere. In fact, as the Official Hero of Athens (TM), he was retconned into a wide range of myths, until the Athenian boast “nothing [happens] without Theseus” became true.

The book is stunningly illustrated, including some magnificent plates by José Daniel Cabrera Peña. Here is what some reviewers had to say:

“Stories like Theseus and the minotaur laid the ground for the fantasy adventures we all enjoy, and understanding them a little better can only help you to appreciate their modern legacy that much more. Lavishly illustrated in full color original paintings accompanied by images taken from the span of recorded history, Davis’s book is truly an outstanding work.”

– Suvudu.com

“A very good addition to an interesting and informative series

– Goodreads

…and here’s a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like. Links to online retailers selling this and many of my other books can be found on the My Books page.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Two: Nazi Moonbase.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

The Twelve Books of Christmas: Part Two

December 14, 2018 11 comments

In the run-up to Christmas, I will be talking about twelve of my books that might make good last-minute gifts for gamer and geek friends – or for yourself, if you are expecting some gift tokens. Details of all these books, including links to various online retailers, can be found on the My Books page.

I wrote Nazi Moonbase for Osprey’s excellent Dark Osprey line, which also includes Ken Hite’s The Nazi Occult and a couple of other titles of mine that touch upon Weird War II. The main Dark Osprey page can be found here.

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To write the book, I collected every Nazi superscience conspiracy theory I could find online, added a few details from movies like Iron Sky and games like Castle Wolfenstein, and created an overarching narrative that links everything together. My intention was to create an entertaining read for history and conspiracy buffs, and a coherent setting that could be used for strategy and roleplaying games set anywhere from 1945 to the near future. As well as Nazi UFOs, foo fighters, and zero-point power sources, you will find orbital mirror weapons, lunar drone strikes, and an explanation for mysterious light sources observed on the moon since the 1960s.

As one would expect from an Osprey publication, the book is packed full of historical (and not-so-historical) illustrations, including some gorgeous paintings by Singapore-based artist Darren Tan, who also illustrated The Nazi Occult. Here is what some critics have to say:

“I have to say that the author has done a superb job of melding events of the time with some rather fanciful, but fascinating fiction. It is a book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading and give it my highest recommendation.” – Modeling Madness

“I highly recommend this book as it gives some great ideas for what if models and with the detailed illustrations give you great information for potential dioramas.” – IPMS

…and here is a link to the book’s page on Osprey’s web site. It is available in paperback, ePub, and PDF formats.

I would never downplay the evil of Nazism or the horrors perpetrated by the Third Reich, but one has to admit, they do make the perfect bad guys for a story or game. Mel Brooks once said that his mission was to ensure that no one took Nazis seriously ever again, and I see their reduction to a pop-culture trope, fueled by over-the-top conspiracy theories, as part of the same process. Your mileage may vary.

Tomorrow, and every day until Christmas, I will be covering another title. If you’re not done with your Christmas shopping, or if you are expecting to receive some gift tokens, take a look: you might find something you like.

Click here for Part One: Colonial Horrors.

Click here for Part Three: Werewolves – A Hunter’s Guide.

Click here for Part Four: Theseus and the Minotaur.

Click here for Part Five: The New Hero, vol. 1.

Click here for Part Six: Knights Templar – A Secret History.

Click here for Part Seven: The Lion and the Aardvark.

Click here for Part Eight: Thor – Viking God of Thunder.

Click here for Part Nine: Tales of the Frozen City.

Click here for Part Ten: Blood and Honor.

Click here for Part Eleven: The Dirge of Reason.

Click here for Part Twelve: More Deadly than the Male.

 

 

 

2016: The Year in (belated) Review

March 10, 2017 Leave a comment

Here it is, March already. How did that happen?

While a lot of the most popular posts on this blog are about the old days (and especially my Games Workshop days), I also like to keep readers up to date with what I’m doing now – so go to My Books and BUY! BUY! BUY!

Ahem.

Anyway, here’s a brief look at what came out in 2016.

GAMES AND BOOKS

Dawnbringer
Danish game developer Kiloo is best known for their hit mobile game Subway Surfers. They hired me to help develop the setting and characters for this high fantasy swipe-and-slash game for iOS and Android. You play a fallen angel battling demons in a ruined world, and searching for redemption along the way.
Kiloo’s Dawnbringer page
My earlier post about Dawnbringer

Of Gods and Mortals: Celts
The first army supplement for Andrea Sfiligoi’s mythological skirmish game, and yet another chapter in my ongoing love affair with Celtic history and myth.
Ganesha Games’ Of Gods and Mortals page
My earlier post about Of Gods and Mortals: Celts

The Investigators of Arkham Horror
I contributed five stories to this gorgeously-presented collection based on Fantasy Flight’s acclaimed Cthulhu Mythos boardgame.
Fantasy Flight Games’ page
My earlier post about The Investigators of Arkham Horror

Nazi Moonbase
All the Nazi super-science conspiracy theories I could find, collected and wrapped up in a unifying narrative that also explains the urgency behind the Cold War space race.
Osprey Publishing’s Nazi Moonbase page
My earlier post about Nazi Moonbase

Cthulhu Confidential
I edited the text of Robin Laws’ thought-provoking solo Cthulhupulp game, where the Mythos is arguably the least of the horrors.
Pelgrane Press’ Cthulhu Confidential page

 

ARTICLES

Pyramid 3/92: Zombies
I contributed “The Viking Dead” on Icelandic draugur and haugbui, as well as a systemless look at several varieties of “Indian Ghouls.”
Buy it here

Pyramid 3/87: Low-Tech III
“Tempered Punks” contains some systemless advice for dealing with gadget-happy players whose modern knowledge wrings unbalancing power from old-time technology.
Buy it here

Fenix, Kickstarter special edition
I contributed a systemless article titled “Mummies: A New Approach” to support this bilingual Swedish-English roleplaying magazine. It includes seven mummy sub-types based on the ancient Egyptian multiple-soul concept, along with descriptions of ancient Egyptian mummy amulets with powers to affect both the living and the undead.
Fenix Kickstarter page

Fenix #6/2016
My Call of Cthulhu adventure “Spirit of the Mountain” takes the investigators into the Wild West.
Fenix back issues page

Fenix #2/2016
“La Llorona” discusses the famous Southwestern ghost, with notes for Speltidningen’s Western RPG. I’m told that an English-language edition of Western is in the works: I’ll have more to say about that in the future.
Fenix back issues page

Aviation History, September 2016
I indulge my love of vintage aviation with “Aussie Battler,” tracing the rushed, post-Pearl-Harbor development and surprising career of Australia’s home-grown (and largely improvised) CAC Boomerang fighter.
Aviation History magazine

Freebies
I posted a couple of new pieces in 2016, including “Converting Between Call of Cthulhu and Colonial Gothic” (which does exactly what it says on the tin) and “A Green, Unpleasant Land,” which presents some previously-unpublished British Call of Cthulhu adventure seeds I wrote in early 1986 for Games Workshop’s supplement of a similar name.
Go to the Freebies page

 

 

HR3 Q&A: The AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook

June 7, 2016 7 comments

ADD Celts

 

Every so often, I get an email out of the blue from someone who is interested in some corner or another of my long and varied career as a writer for tabletop roleplaying games. They never fail to surprise me – people are still reading things I wrote twenty years ago or more? Inconceivable! – but last weekend I got one that surprised me more than most.

Tamara Rüther is studying for a Master’s degree in Celtic Civilization at Philipps-Universität at Marburg in Germany. As part of a study of how the Celts have been presented in popular culture, she wanted to ask me some questions about my work on the AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook from 1992.

Tamara graciously agreed to let me post her questions and my answers here on my blog. I hope you find them interesting. As for me, I’m still staggered that anything I wrote could possibly end up as the object of academic study.

 

– My first question then would be, whether TSR asked you to write the Sourcebook or whether you approached them about it?

 

Here is how I remember it, although my memory may not be 100% accurate after all this time. When I went to GenCon for the first time in 1991, I talked to a lot of people about finding work, including someone at TSR. I think it was Bruce Heard, but I may be wrong. I mentioned my background in European archaeology and my long-standing interest in the Celts, and so I suppose I proposed the idea to them, although of course it was a good fit with their HR series of supplements and they may already have been thinking that a volume on the Celts would be desirable.

 

– Was it your first official attempt at writing mythology/history into a fantasy-based roleplay or were there others (and if so how was this one similar or different)?

 

It was not my first attempt. I had written a few historical and mythological articles already. Most were for TSR UK’s Imagine magazine, which had published two Celtic-themed issues (#5 and #17) as well as issues on Egypt, Asia, and the Vikings. When I left Games Workshop to pursue a freelance career, one of the first contracts I won was for GURPS Vikings, and GURPS Middle Ages 1 followed shortly thereafter. I wrote both of those in the months before I started work on the AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook.

 

 

– Also, I read on your blog that you had started working on a Celtic RPG setting early on in your ‘Gaming career’. Did any of that material make it into the Celts Sourcebook or did you take a completely new approach on it when you started working on the AD&D Sourcebook?

 

I drew on the same pool of research, of course, but my embryonic game Fianna used a home-brewed game system and was set exclusively in the Ireland of the sagas, so it was not possible simply to copy Fianna material into the AD&D Celts manuscript.

 

– Possibly a slightly random question – but how much time did you put into research and how easy was it? (I’m asking because some of the books you mentioned are still used in Academia today and they’re not always easy to get.) Did you still have access to University libraries or did you have to find everything elsewhere – and how did it go?

 

When I started work on Fianna, I was still working on my never-completed Ph.D. project at Durham University in England. I had access to the main university library as well as the Archaeology Department’s library and my own college’s library. When I started work on the AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook, I had some photocopies of key passages from various books from those libraries along with my notes for Fianna, as well as my own copies of most of my undergraduate archaeology textbooks. While writing, I relied mostly on what was already in my head, although of course I paused to look things up as I needed to. The most research went into the monsters, I think, but I was working from books with which I was already familiar.

 

– Also can you think of any books that you used at the time that didn’t make it into the ‘further reading’ section, but that helped with your work? (And if there’s reasons other than space issues, why didn’t they make it into the further reading?)

 

There were some books that didn’t make it into the reading list: mostly archaeology textbooks such as Barry Cunliffe’s Iron Age Communities in Britain. I tried to focus the list on titles that the general reader would find accessible and useful.

 

– Did TSR have any specific requests concerning the Celts Sourcebook (i.e. its accuracy, for example whether things should be closer to the truth or easier to understand) or were you able to do whatever you wanted? And did they do much editing after you were done?

 

If my memory can be relied upon, I submitted a proposal with an outline before the contract was issued. I based the structure of the book very closely on that of HR1: Vikings Campaign Sourcebook, and I do not remember anyone at TSR asking for any changes. They requested a few minor changes after I submitted the manuscript, but these were so minor that I cannot now remember what any of them were. The only editing that I remember is the omission of the rules for the tathlum (which I have since posted to my blog ). At the time I thought this was because the subject matter was rather gruesome, involving severed heads as it did, but I never found out the reason for the cut. Perhaps my rules were weak, too – this was my first attempt at writing for AD&D Second Edition.

 

– How closely did you work with the illustrator of the Sourcebook, or did you have any influence on the graphics at all?

 

I submitted detailed art briefs as part of the contract requirement, and the artist followed them very closely. I do not remember having any opportunity to approve the art before publication.

 

– I’ve seen you’ve written other games afterwards, which more or less touch on Celtic materials (Gurps Faerie, or the more recent Camelot-related games) – do you think the AD&D research has played into that a lot, or did you treat each of these topics seperately? Also, was the approach to the topic the same each time or, if not, what were the differences?

 

The AD&D Celts Campaign Sourcebook included a lot of material taken from the later folklore of the Celtic Fringe, especially Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. This was partly because the Irish sagas which made up my main documentary source contained very little in the way of monsters and magic and I felt that an AD&D supplement absolutely needed these elements. Since my earliest days of playing D&D, and then AD&D, I had turned to British folklore and faerie lore as a source of ideas, and at the time of writing the New Age movement, then in its early days, was beginning the process of coalescing Celtic traditions and later faerie lore into a coherent world-view.

 

To answer your question, though, I approached each project separately, but drew on the same well of education and experience – my academic background in archaeology, my lifelong interest in myth and folklore, and my emotional attachment to the history and culture of the Celtic Fringe – for each one.

 

– Compared to other Sourcebooks how popular was/is the Celts campaign? (is there anywhere I can get sales figures?)

 

I never saw any sales figures. My contract was work-for-hire (one-time payment with no royalties) so I could not even guess from how much money I made. If any sales figures still exist, I would guess that they are somewhere in the vaults of Wizards of the Coast, along with all the other financial data that came with WotC’s purchase of TSR. My guess, though, is that such figures would have been destroyed by now, or would be on 1990s-era media that are probably no longer readable.

 

 – The book itself is out of print by now, isn’t it, but I think the PDF version is still available, so do you know whether it’s still bought today and how frequently?

 

I have no idea. The only source of book sales data I have available is Nielsen BookScan via Amazon Author Central, and that tells me that no copies have been sold through that channel for as long as their records go back.

 

– Did you get feedback on how people found it? What they liked and didn’t like etc.?

 

I did not see many reviews at the time. I remember hearing from one German reader who was disappointed that the book focused so heavily on the insular Celts, and a couple of reviewers were pleased that I had distinguished the Druids and Bards of Celtic lore from the standard AD&D character classes of the same names. The enech rules (which I stole from AD&D Oriental Adventures) were also well-received, I seem to remember. A few people expressed disappointment that I did not cover all the standard AD&D character races: I remember one reviewer listing the choice as “human, human, or human.”

 

– Is there a specific age group that would be more likely to use the Celts Sourcebook more than others?

 

I intended the book to be used by anyone who played AD&D 2nd Edition. At that time most players were aged 15 and up, I think, although I heard of some as young as 8 – which may account for the cutting of the tathlum mentioned above.

 

Nazi Moonbase – The First Reviews

May 21, 2016 9 comments

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My Dark Osprey book Nazi Moonbase has been out for a couple of weeks now, and is starting to garner some good reviews. If you’d like to know what other people are thinking about the book, here are some links. I’ll add more in the comments section below as I come across them.

Amazon.com: currently rated at 4+ stars. “A great read,” “great dark fantasy … good fun!” and “very well melded fact and fiction” are among the comments.

Goodreads.com: Currently rated at 3.5 stars. “…for those of you who like science fictional worldbuilding (or Nazi Moonbase-building), you’ll have quite a treat.”

Suvudu.com: A nice background article on my book and its place within the greater realm of Nazi superscience conspiracy theories. It sums up very nicely how this became such an irresistible topic for conspiracy fans.

As a lifelong vintage aviation geek who was lucky enough to grow up during the hottest part of the space race, I had a lot of fun researching and writing this book. There are some wild conspiracy theories out there, from Nazi flying saucers to the hidden Antarctic base to the faking of the Apollo moon landings, and I set myself the task of constructing a narrative to support the proposition that every one of the conspiracy theories was true. I also snuck in a few references to movies and video games for people to find.

Whether you use it as a systemless game sourcebook or just as an entertaining read, I hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Click here to order Nazi Moonbase and my other current books from your favorite e-tailer.