Rediscovering Powers & Perils

"I'm doing a review of the system which wavers between love and hate, enthusiasm and dismay. I've loved the ideas behind P&P for decades, but convinced myself it was probably as terrible as my friends thought it was, and now that I'm going back through it ... it's not perfect, but I have to admire it."

"Yep. Powers & Perils. Avalon Hill's entry into early-80's RPGs, complete with the requisite ampersand. I've been completely fascinated (at times obsessed!) with this system for no real reason ever since I was a kid. Through some accidents of fate (and companies dumping stock onto Kay*Bee Toys) I have all three published works - the box set, the Perilous Lands box, and the Tower of the Dead adventure.
I don't know why I loving love this game, but I do. Its combination of earnestness and terribleness hits me right in the ... well, the imagination balls if there's such a thing. It's a splendid mix of math-heavy gonzo early-80's games, high school algebra, and a weird implied setting with some real charm. It's packed full of interesting ideas because, near as I can tell, the author had no clue what he was doing and just vomited a bunch of rules into a box set, numbering them as kind of an afterthought. It didn't matter - I loved this game, made characters in it, and even figured out the system a little bit.
I could never get my friends to play it with me, though - they were convinced it was a piece of poo poo. And ... um ... they might be right? I'm not convinced this game was ever playtested, and I'll wager hardly anyone managed to actually play it once they bought it. I was so desperate to get people to try it out that I even copied the loving rules into a notebook by hand to try and trick them into playing it. Yeah, dick move, but you should have seen the Dimension Lord my friend Brad threw at us in his D&D game ."

A guy under the nickname of "Dwarf74" is currently writing a sort of overview of the Powers & Perils system.

It is worth checking out, you can find all the articles he has written until now here.


The Nine Doctrines of Darkness

"In the time before Men, Elves, or creatures of any kind walked the material plane, there were created three caves of power. Although their origin has been lost in antiquity, the caves have retained the awesome force with which they were originally endowed. Each cave contains a pattern of arcane knowledge inscribed upon its smooth-surfaced floor.

In order to maintain the balance of nature, one cave of each alignment (good, neutral, and evil) was created, and within each recorded all laws pertaining to its nature. Throughout history the caves were mentioned in legend though none had actually been seen.
mages and Mystics had at times gained brief glimpses of the caves through their meditations, but such visions were always obscured by the fields of power abiding within. Thus, the location of the caves remained a mystery until Lord Erlich, an evil Arch Mage, found the Cave of Darkness after three decades of searching.

Under the great roots of a giant oak,deep within the old forest, he noticed a small hollow which proved to be the cave entrance. Entering the low-vaulted chamber, Elrich was awed by the sight of a golden pattern etched flawlessly upon the smooth ebony floor. Entranced with the vision of great power, he slowly began to walk the pattern. A full nine days later, he had walked the pattern in its entirety, and thus comprehended the nine principles upholding all Evil. This knowledge tore at Elrich, piercing his soul like a mortal wound. Deep in despair, Lord Erlich, Arch Mage and sole possessor of the nine principles arcane, began to fade.

Hoping still to master his fate and possess completely the knowledge of perfect evil, Elrich began to conjure. Through his art he formed nine blackbound texts and upon them he wrote "The Nine Doctrines of Darkness". Tirelessly, he transcribed into each text one of the nine principles of Evil. Though his task was arduous, he labored obsessively, and within two days time the texts were complete and perfect in their detail.

Working his magic once more, Elrich then polymorphed each volume into different common-place objects, and instructed his Homonculous to hide them carefully throughout the world. When his servant had departed, lord Erlich created a scroll empowered with a spell of summoning to gather the Doctrines at will. After he had completed this, he sat on the cave's smooth ebony floor and summoned all his will in an attempt to conquer the terrible power surging within him.
The struggle was awesome, but Lord Erlich knew he had no choice. Numbness spread slowly throughout his limbs preventing his escape, and still his will endured. For three months he fought, using all his power and knowledge to ward off impending doom. Finally, his soul wrought with pain and his body numb and lifeless, Elrich gave  a great cry of despair and collapsed on the cave floor. The knowledge of perfect Evil had brought the Arch Mage to utter and final destruction.

Though they appeared to be common objects, the Doctrines retained their inherently high charisma and were, in time, discovered and carried away to differents part of the world. Time passed uneventfully and the Doctrines changed hands many times, usually under very odd sets of circumstances.

Nearly four centuries had passed when the polymorph spell began to lose hold on the Doctrines. The first text appeared in the forest of Gelden Minor in the hands of Locklomin, King of the Elves and holder of the sceptre of Lawful Good. It was late afternoon in the month of July, when the King's favorite wine flask suddenly appeared in its true form. News spread quickly throughout the land and those of both good and evil natures became profoundly interested in the discovery. Defenders of the land began a pilgrimage to Gelden Minor either to guard or destroy the Doctrine. Evil creatures of every description set out for the forest of the Elves with their own ambition, to obtain the Doctrine. The time was short before news of the Doctrine reached the Underworld, provoking concentrated interest among the Arch Devils. Asmodeus himself was not the least of those interested in obtaining the Doctrine for his own use. Turned by the power of a great artifact, the sceptre of Lawful Good, all attempts by the underworld to enter the castle of the Seven Towers had failed.

Unable to obtain the Doctrine themselves, the Arch-Devils began to enlist the aid of mortals promising them great treasure and giving them what aid possible. Thus began the War of the Doctrine, a great war centered around the small forest of Gelden Minor, which influenced the entire land and involved many holders of power".


Maze of zayene is mine and pondering Powers & Perils thrice

So, i finally bought the entire "Maze of Zayene" series (here), and it's on its way to me.

In the meantime we just stepped into the core heart of another impossibly beautiful adventure which was published in 1980 for AD&D 1st edition. This one is pretty rare and divided into TWO parts, i'm going to write a long post about it this saturday.
If someone is able to decipher which adventure i'm talking about before saturday, i promise i'll scan it for everyone out there! (since it is still missing from the internet and when i say that i mean you can't find it anywhere, not even on DC++..)

Besides, i'm reading Powers & Perils for the third time, and i started re-writing it on sheets of paper.
I just compiled the first two of them and i am already pretty proud of how i wrote and condensed the rules.
If only Richard Snider's style of writing had been different! P&P would have a wider audience, i'm sure of that.

And as i delve into it i'm realizing more and more the beauty of its complexity.And its Magic system amazes me.Almost (and i say, almost) as much as that of Chivalry & Sorcery.

I hope to have more drafts ready by next summer, i will take my time, if it be years, let it be.


No brotherhood amongst old-school players

There is no such thing as a brotherhood in the old-school renaissance community.

I play "Powers & Perils", i am simply not able to comprehend you's, your frame of mind, your viewpoint, i cannot understand how your neurons behave and act on one another, cannot come to know how your brain operate.

Much as Tolkien and Howard, or Lovecraft compared to Edgar Allan Poe, the uniqueness of fantasy rpg's is overlooked and underestimated.
This is every day clearer and clearer to me, it is an evidence: fantasy role-playing games, although they may have similarities among them, in spite of this there is an abysmal distance which separates them without hope of reconcilement making them totally different from one another.

At times i felt how "outrè" is the mere fact that i'm playing , say, Chivalry & Sorcery or Powers & Perils instead of Dungeons & dragons. I (we, if i decide to consider the tiny communities that still exist for these games), we feel kind of outsiders.

I am not saying that we are the fools and the others are doing it right, nor vice-versa.
I am just pointing out and stressing the fact that - in the final analysis - i am now playing Powers & perils and that is how the world works for me.

When you adhere to a system, when you "abide by" its principles, you forget the rest, because you have come to grasp the "spirit" of the game - and each game has a different soul, a different scent. You end up being imbued with its philosophy.

We are not a brotherhood, this is false, each one of us is alone under the system of his choice and caged inside his own brain.

You don't believe that?

Try to read, absorb, and figure out a complex FRPG such as Chivalry & Sorcery, Powers & perils, Rolemaster 2nd edition, AD&D 1st edition or even Arduin.

I'm not talking about a cursory read.
I said: read, absorb, and figure it all out.
After weeks of solitude in doing that, you will sink in them and realize what i'm trying to convey with words.

I maintain that they have almost nothing in common with one another, apart from the fact that they are all FANTASY games.

And never - under any circumstances - listen to anyone whispering in your ear they are all mirrors of the grandfather of all fantasy rpg's - that's a falsehood, but if you delve into them you'll end up recognizing the truth by yourself.

Everyone is caged inside his own brain and you will never witness a reunion of C&S, P&P and AD&D players under the same roof, be sure of that.

Choose your game carefully, choose your abode wisely.

And especially to you, who are young and have just started perusing the multitude of old school fantasy rpg's, once more i'd like to say: there is no brotherhood among us, there has never been one as far as i know; rather, know that there may be disdain among different old-school traditions, each claiming to possess the final truth, and it is likely that an old school tradition of some sort speaks disdainfully of another and gives itself superior airs.

Who is living in the ebony tower?
AD&D players, securely confined in their shining empire, or we - who dwell alone sipping the kind nepenthe that drip from defunct and forsaken games?

Perhaps none of us is - but what is certain is that we are not a brotherhood and i see no way how we could or should ever be one.


How not to forge another Dungeons & Dragons zombie

My dear nephew is approaching that age where he is starting to be enticed by fantasy images, be it dragons, fighters, wizards, etc.. and whenever he enters my room where my cherished rpg collection is hoarded his eyes are set ablaze when he sees the covers of the various fantasy role playing games.

He started posing me questions and he's trying to convince me to teach him how to play those games.
I decided i will never show him a copy of D&D or AD&D (it's easy, i don't own it, i think it's the only fantasy rpg that i miss).

What could i show him? or maybe the question is: "What should i show him"?

There's little doubt that the first game we stumble upon is the one we become hooked to ever since and it's very likely it will be the one we'll have the fondest memories about in the far future- all in all, it's the one that is going to have the biggest impact on our minds.

What will i show him?
What is the fantasy rpg most suited for his baptism?

far from being a silly question, the kind of fantasy rpg we meet first is bound to shape our minds and our hearts forever.

A proof of this is the myriad of players worldwide who still find difficulties in getting rid of what they loved for the first time.
I have a friend of mine who's been playing AD&D 2nd edition for twenty years and he can't stand any offer of playing - even just trying - 1st edition AD&D- not to mention if i made him the proposal of changing and switching game altogether.

This blindness has always scared me, because most of the time i noticed it stems from a kind of powerlessness. This friend of mine cannot WILL it, he doesn't have the necessary strenght needed in order to change his mind.
It is as if the habit of solely playing this game for so long has made him uncapable-unable to exercise his will in a different direction. Quite frightening. Sort of the effect of a charm incantation.

So, my nephew's baptism.

Powers & Perils: he wouldn't find it complicated if he played this as his first game, he's so excited he could devour any rules-set.

Or maybe i should opt for Chivalry & Sorcery? He would be utterly fascinated by it and would forget forever anything else.

But why not "The Compleat Warlock" instead of Original Dungeons & Dragons?
This way he'll eventually come to despise OD&D as inferior to Warlock.

Or Dragonquest? Lands of Adventure?
Or maybe the gigantic Rolemaster? He won't fear anything after that.

Anything. anything will do, except for AD&D. I'm not planning to creating another D&D zombie.
There are already too many out there in the wide open world.

I will bestow a different gift upon his infant mind.

And who knows, perhaps he will be grateful to me one day because of this.
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