More Birthright

Something that irked me about Birthright, to the point that I had edited it out of my memory until I reread it last night, is the way they handled their gods. The big event that establishes the setting’s status quo is a legendary battle in which all the gods die and their divine essence flows out and into the mortals present at their demise. This is a pretty cool premise.

However, the lion’s share of said divine essence flowed directly into each god’s most favored lieutenant, turning them into gods. And basically the same gods. This is kinda lame.

It would be niftier, to my tastes, had they done something Unknown Armies-style, wherein a regent who enhances his or her bloodline sufficiently could ascend to divine status, possibly displacing the current holder of that status. (Among other things, it would add some depth to the quest to enhance one’s bloodline.)

Alternately, they could have gone totally hardcore and had no gods remaining, with clerics worshipping the most powerful regents and deriving their powers from them.

Then it occurred to me that Dark Sun was set up a little like that, with its templars who draw magic power from the sorceror-kings. Somewhere out there, someone has run a Birthright/Dark Sun crossover. I bet it was awesome.

Originally published on LiveJournal

Birthright and the Canonical Adventure

I’ve been mulling over some gaming stuff lately, because my brain has been slipping its chain and actively fleeing the world of law, what with the interviews and the journal and the gah my head.

Birthright was one of TSR’s 2nd edition AD&D settings, and one I’m very fond of. I have a weakness for that realm that lies somewhere at the junction of roleplaying, wargaming, and political science simulation. There have been a number of forays into that realm over time; most of them aren’t so good. Birthright is one of the better ones. It postulated a world where the gods are dead and their power has devolved to the ruling families of the world, who acquire thereby a mystical attachment to the lands they rule and the ability to do all sorts of awesome stuff with their divine right. It also has very clever mechanics for handling diplomacy, intrigue, war, and other incidents of kingdom-scale play. And yet, Birthright never really took off. I suspect this is because of its failure to articulate a canonical adventure.

For those of you who haven’t encountered the term before, a “canonical adventure” is a basic model of adventuring for a particular game that a group can always fall back on. It’s the simplest answer to the question, “What do you do in this game?” Not all games have them, but many classics do. The canonical adventure in D&D, for example, is “Go into a dungeon; kill monsters; take their stuff”. You can do many other things with the game, but you can always fall back on going into dungeons, killing monsters, and taking their stuff. The canonical adventure in Traveller is “buy low, travel in space, sell high”. Transhuman Space, as a counter-example, doesn’t really have one.

Birthright never really explains how to use all the neat kingdom-scale stuff it introduces. The set spends only a couple of pages on how to deal with party composition and adventure design, and its advice is unsatisfying. At times, it seems to assume that one PC will be a temporal ruler, with the other PCs being either noble characters with no kingdom or commoners, and the party will go on relatively ordinary adventures in between (or as part of) kingdom-scale events. At other times, it seems that each PC should have his or her own kingdom. Obviously, both are possible, but it means that “a Birthright game” doesn’t have an unambiguous meaning. The various resources and concerns that attach to rulership mean that the basic AD&D canonical adventure is, if not unavailable, at least complicated. It makes it harder to imagine exactly what to do with the set.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the designers tied their kingdom-scale mechanics fairly strongly to the setting; you can’t simply transplant the mechanics to a different setting where you want intrigue and political shenanigans. If you don’t want a world where nobles have powers by virtue of divine right, some significant kit-bashing is required.

The upshot of all this is that the stuff in Birthright makes me pretty excited to do something, but it would clearly take a fair amount of work. Which is a problem, compared to something easy to do out of the box. On the other hand, I do have these brain-cycles begging me not to make them think about patent licensing.

Originally published on LiveJournal

Impression: Goood Frikin’ Chicken: Recommended

10 29th Street
San Francisco, CA

I really like GFC. How can you not love a sassy Mediterranean rotisserie chicken place? Last night I stopped in to pick up a chicken meal ($15.75). I got the rotisserie chicken, but they also have chicken cooked over an open flame and a variety of other shawerma, kabab, and falafel options. The meal comes with olive oil pita, salad, and a side; I chose the macaroni and cheese.

The chicken is indeed pretty frikin’ goood. The meat is tender and easily stripped from the bones, and the seasoning is great — a little spicy, with a fantastic depth of flavor. Apparently a garlic lemon marinade is responsible. The whole chicken fed my wife and I for two meals; you can also get a half if you want.

The olive oil pita is also really tasty, though I wouldn’t have called it a pita if you had asked me. Jen kept calling it naan. The salad was fine — not ragingly delicious, but the lettuce was fresh and the tart, bright dressing was a good counterpoint to rich chicken. The mac and cheese was disappointing, though. If you just wanted a scoop of starch by the side of your plate, it would be fine, but it was bland. Like bad Salvadorean food, life is too short to eat bad macaroni and cheese.

That one blemish aside, however, it was a terrific meal. I will definitely be returning to try the open flame chicken or some kabab. And that time, maybe the pilaf.