Tuesday, January 19, 2021


Every now  and then I get a bee in my bonnet about old timey fantasy/weird authors, particularly pre-Tolkeinian Brits from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. So I was looking around for the works of Wiliam Hope Hodgson the other day, author of such works as the House on the Borderlands--no, it bears no resemblance to B2 whatsoever, though it's interpretation of "borderlands" might add some depth to that setting. 

"Blah blah blah, what's your point, O Great Chucker of Dice?" you ask? My point is this: check out that little pacman-shaped dude in the lower right corner of the cover of The Night Land by WH Hodgson and then tell me that that isn't the inspiration for the dude on the right.


Thursday, January 14, 2021

Hobbitfest '14 Continues: Witcher style

While in Eastern Europe for a wetwork assignment some time ago I discovered a series of novels by an obscure Polish author named Adrzej Sapkowski. The series chronicles the adventures of a character called Geralt, who is a "Wiedzmin," which translates roughly as "Witcher." A silly name, to be sure; it is easy to understand why he's unknown in the English-speaking world.

I'm enjoying Mr. Sapkowski's output, despite the fact that I'm one of those obnoxious D&D nerds who professes to not care for fantasy literature all that much. I've enjoyed it so much that I've started translating The Wiedzmin series of books into English in hopes of finding a publisher here in the States. In the process I've come across a tidbit that hearkens back to late summer 2014 when, instead of pandemics and insurrection, hobbits were on everyone's mind.

Yes, it was Hobbitfest '14, a time when second breakfasts and foot-merkins were all the rage. At the time I posited that halflings in D&D needed to take some cues from other sources than the Shire and toughen up a bit if they wanted to survive in the modern gaming world. Sources such as Harvard Lampoon's Bored of the Rings, or the buff little dudes Jeff D. was rendering back in the day. 
R.I.P. Diego Maradona

So when I read this scene from Sapkowski's The Lady of the Lake--which I'm only now finding out was the last of the Witcher books--I decided I had to retroactively shoehorn it into Hobbitfest. 

In this scene, a family of halflings is tending their garden when they are approached by a band of mounted brigands lead by an exceptionally depraved character named Pike. The bandits demand that the halflings turn over all of their material wealth, food, and livestock, to which Rocco, the family patriarch, tells him where to shove it. The following ensues: 

Pike straightened up and reached for the shortsword hanging from his saddle.

"Have at them!" he yelled. "Kill them all!"

With a movement so fast it was almost imperceptible, Rocco Hildebrandt stooped down towards his barrow, took out a crossbow concealed under a rush mat, brought it to his cheek and sent a bolt into Pike's mouth, which was wide open in a yell. Incarvilia Hildebrandt, nee Biberveldt, swung her arm powerfully and a sickle spun through the air, slamming into Milton's throat... Ograbek, moaning, tumbled beneath the horse's hooves, with grandpa Holofernes' pruners buried in his belly up to the handles wooden facings... The entire incident took more or less the same time it would to utter the sentence 'Halflings are incredibly fast and can throw all sorts of missiles unerringly."

While this confirms the long held understanding that halflings are extra-ordinarily lethal with missile weapons (+3 to hit in good old fashioned AD&D), they also, based on their surnames, are of Dutch heritage. Ironically, the Dutch are currently the tallest people on this planet.