Second: Props to Zach for dropping by my office to let me fondle his copy of Better than Any Man that he scored on Free RPG Day. This is one sweet adventure and I wish I had been able to score a copy for myself. While I'm not a fan of gory gaming (splatterpunk, slasher horror, and full-on visual gore are not my thing), I recognize that Raggi is doing what all creative types should do: push limits in order to make us think and feel beyond the ordinary comforts of our lives.
Example: In "Queen of the Black Coast," Robert E. Howard writes:
. . . There was a confusion of movement, a writhing and
melting of lights and shadows, against a background of black jungle,
green stone ruins and murky river. Black men came up the river in long
boats with skulls grinning on the prows, or stole stooping through the
trees, spear in hand. They fled screaming through the dark from red
eyes and slavering fangs. Howls of dying men shook the shadows;
stealthy feet padded through the gloom, vampire eyes blazed redly.
There were grisly feasts beneath the moon, across whose red disk a
batlike shadow incessantly swept.
We skim right over this as we read; maybe we picture it as a loose sketch, a series of events. We get the intellectual gist of it. It's a comfortable fiction we can skim over. We don't see or feel the horror of those dying men, of those being eaten by beasts. We don't like to picture the actual flesh and blood too much. It's too distant, too removed from us. We like our horror manageable and make believe and digestable, thank you. The majority of meat-eaters among us have never killed, skinned, gutted, and butchered our own animals for consumption; we don't have the stomach for it because its easier to have someone else do it where we don't have to confront the reality of having to kill in order to live.
We even fight our wars this way. We let volunteers and hired hands go forth to wage our wars. No conscription for us, thank you. No universal service to protect our country. No risk, please. Keep us safe so we can continue to buy and consume and entertain ourselves to death. We Americans watch CNN or FoxNews and see (admittedly sanitized) images of protest and war in other countries, and then we sit comfortably away from life and death struggles and shake our heads and turn back to our games to distract us from the hum-drum of our lives (don't even get me started on the whole meh of public opinion on the actual content of the Snowden revelations). In other words, we have become well-sheltered sheep.
But Raggi is giving us the horror in our game anyway; he's asking us to face in our game what we won't face or refuse to face in real life. He's done with dancing around euphemisms and wants us see just how brutal the imaginary world of sword & sorcery should be, how life-threatening and soul crushing the fight for survival truly is: hellish, frightening, twisted, soul-crushing. And he asks us to guide our PCs through these worlds to become heroes. Or let them die trying. Here's the message he's sending in a nutshell: The world is actively trying to kill you. Will you let it?
Others are following his lead. Look at Rafael Chandler's SlaughterGrid and tell me this isn't inspired somehow by Raggi. Of course, the original Carcosa supplement started this all, but Raggi took those ideas and ran with them, and then brought along McKinney as a co-conspirator with the new version of Carcosa (which I really do need to get my hands on) and Island of the Unknown. And let's not forget the best supplement I've ever had the pleasure of reading, Zak S.'s Vornheim.
At any rate, Raggi raised the bar on the quality of a giveaway product; the Kickstarter (which I did not back due to limited hobby funds) was a genius move to produce what is essentially an advertisement for LotFP and a damn cool scenario/sourcebook for the rest of OSR-inspired gaming.
Also, I really dig the cover artwork of BTAM:
Because of this:
an illustration by Leonard O'Grady of Ywehbobbobhewy, Lord of Waters, King of Mirrors, Patriarch of the Most Profound, one of my Petty God entries.
Think these tentacled beasties are related? Hmmmm . . .
(the ranty parts of this section brought to you by four hours of sleep after starting to read In Cold Blood again for the first time in a long time.)
Third: It might be old news to many of you, but I just discovered this site:
They have over a thousand free icons for use in gaming products, websites, etc.
So, here's what I think would be neat: some sort of random glyph picker ala Rory's Story Cubes. There's a limited random glyph picker built into RPGSolo (go to the link and hit the "MAG" button down at the bottom of the page), but it doesn't use ALL the glyphs and it's built into this hideous looking website (sorry, RPGSolo, but . . . ugh).
I do not have the coding skills to do this. But Wizardawn does.
HEY WIZARDAWN! Can you get on this? Please?
Finally: Has anyone ever compiled all the GM Merit Badges as individual icons for download? Is there a zip file somewhere?