The Alexandrian

Go to Part 1

Richard II - Coat of ArmsGiven the deep connections between the two plays, it would be logical to assume that either Richard II was written as a sequel to Richard II: Thomas of Woodstock or that R2: Woodstock was written as a prequel to Richard II.

Since it’s comparatively more common for authors to write sequels rather than prequels, let’s start with that hypothesis. If Richard II was written as a sequel to R2: Woodstock, we would expect to see callbacks to the earlier play. In just such a fashion, Shakespeare in Henry V has the king pray to God to forgive the deposition of Richard II by his father; and in Richard III he explicitly builds upon the murders seen onstage during the Henry VI plays.

Richard II similarly seems to build upon R2: Woodstock. Take, for example, the Duchess of Gloucester. She appears in the second scene of Richard II, laments the loss of her husband in commiseration with the Duke of York, and then disappears from the play entirely. Why? From a dramatic point of view, her brief presence seems to contribute very little (if anything) to the narrative of Richard II.

On the other hand, the scene serves admirably as a bridge between Richard II and R2: Woodstock, where the Duchess is an integral and pervasive character throughout the play. Viewed in this light, her appearance neatly ties off the plot of the previous play and helps transition the audience into the new circumstances of the sequel.

The frequent references to Richard as the “landlord of England” in R2: Woodstock might also be an example of this. The epithet is deeply tied into the narrative of R2: Woodstock (which revolves around the “renting” of the kingdom to Bushy, Bagot, Green, and Scroop). In Richard II, where the “leasing” of the kingdom is barely mentioned, the “landlord” reference is used only once, by the Duke of Lancaster:

Why, cousin, wert thou regent of the world,
It were a sharm to let this land by lease;
But for thy world enjoying but this land,
Is it not more than shame to shame it so?
Landlord of England art thou now, not king.

The line is a memorable one, and its power and meaning can certainly be carried through performance even when an audience doesn’t really know what Lancaster is talking about. But can’t it also be read as a dramatist reminding his audience of the events they saw in the previous play?

On the other hand, there are aspects of the play which make Richard II‘s role as a sequel seem doubtful. The most egregious example is the character of Greene, who dies dramatically in the closing scenes of R2: Woodstock only to “reappear” without explanation in Richard II (only to be executed by Bolingbroke).

The death of Greene in R2: Woodstock is completely unhistorical (he was, in fact, executed by Bolingbroke), but that’s of little consequence. (Elizabethan history plays, like modern Hollywood movies “based on a true story”, are studded with historical inaccuracies for the sake of dramatic necessity.) What seems impossible, however, is that an author would write a sequel to their own work featuring a character they had killed off in the previous installment!

… right?

Actually, it’s not quite so clear-cut. Consider the example of Jurassic Park: In the novel written by Michael Crichton the character of Ian Malcolm (played by Jeff Goldblum in the movie) dies. In the movie, on the other hand, Ian Malcolm survives. And when Steven Spielberg went to make the sequel, he wanted it to star Jeff Goldblum. But he also wanted it to be based on a novel by Crichton. Which is why Crichton’s The Lost World stars the formerly dead Ian Malcolm and never really bothers explaining how that could be true.

Am I saying Shakespeare had a film deal? No. I’m just pointing out that continuity errors ““ even a continuity error as significant as ignoring the death of a character ““ aren’t enough to prove that Michael Crichton didn’t write The Lost World.

In the case of Greene, there are any number of hypothetical possibilities: The actor playing Green could have proven popular enough to bring back the character. Our copy of R2: Woodstock could have been altered to include Greene’s dramatic death at a point where continuity with Richard II had become irrelevant. Or it could predate a rewrite which would have made R2: Woodstock more consistent with its sequel. Or perhaps the Shakespeare simply discovered he needed the character of Greene in Richard II and decided he didn’t care about the continuity problems.

Unfortunately, all of this speculation still leaves us at an impasse: Was Richard II written as a sequel to R2: Woodstock, building on its predecessor while recalling its dramatic arcs? Maybe. Was R2: Woodstock written as a prequel to Richard II, deliberately fleshing out material left undeveloped or merely evoked by the earlier play? It seems just as likely.

Go to Part 3

Originally posted on September 16th, 2010.

Updated Bibliography!

December 20th, 2014

The Bibliography page here at the Alexandrian — listing the more than two hundred books, articles, and reviews I’ve had published — has been updated and integrated into the WordPress site!

(That only took about four years longer than it should have…)

The layout of the new page is not as pretty as the old bibliography, but it’s far more accessible now and the buy links actually work properly. You can check it out here, or below the fold.
Read more »

RoboRally - 1st Edition RoboRally - 3rd Edition

RoboRally is 20 years old this year. It remains one of my favorite boardgames of all time: The combination of clever puzzle-solving, long-term strategic thinking, and half-crazed chaos is brilliantly balanced. I wrote a detailed review of the original edition of the game back in 1998.

One of the things I always wanted to do back in the day was pick up the three expansions that were released in the ’90s: Armed & Dangerous, Radioactive, Crash & Burn, and Grand Prix. Unfortunately, I was a poor high school / college student back then and I couldn’t afford to snap them up when they were released. Then, with the release of the second edition of the game, the expansions were taken out of print and immediately skyrocketed in price.

Last year, however, I decided to bite the bullet and track down all of the expansions for the game.

I also picked up a copy of the 3rd Edition published under the Avalon Hill brand in 2005: This edition replaced the metal miniatures with plastic ones and used much cheaper stock for the map boards, but significantly upgraded many of the other components. (I’m particularly enamored of the plastic flags.)

Once I had this mass of material, however, it took a little extra effort to figure out how to combine all of it together for the RoboRally: Utimate Collection. So I’d like to take a moment to share that effort with all of you. (And some of what I’ve done I think you’ll find useful even if you aren’t interested in owning an Ultimate Collection of your own.)


In order to assemble the RoboRally Ultimate Collection, you’ll need to buy:

  • RoboRally - Armed and DangerousRoboRally (1st Edition)
  • RoboRally (2nd Edition)
  • RoboRally (3rd Edition)
  • RoboRally: Armed and Dangerous
  • RoboRally: Radioactive
  • RoboRally: Crash & Burn
  • RoboRally: Grand Prix

You will then collect from these editions:

ROBOTS: You’ll be able to use the robots from all three editions of the game (giving you a total of 24 different robots). Some of the robot models from the 1st Edition are replicated in 2nd Edition (and Twonky appears in all three editions, albeit with different sculpts). Simply paint the duplicates different colors. You’ll also want to take the Archive markers from all three editions.

GAME BOARDS: Take the game boards from the 1st Edition and 3rd Edition of the game. Then take all of the game boards from the expansions (Armed and Dangerous, Radioactive, Crash & Burn, and Grand Prix).

PROGRAM CARDS: I personally prefer the program cards from 3rd Edition.

OPTION CARDS / TOKENS: You’ll want to use the Option cards from the 1st Edition of the game and combine them with the Option cards from Armed and Dangerous. Take the option tokens from Armed and Dangerous.

FLAGS: 1st Edition used red flag chits. 2nd Edition used green flag chits. 3rd Edition uses plastic flags that stand up from the game board. The plastic flags from 3rd Edition are clearly superior, but you can actually pull the flags from all three editions if you want to run some truly insane rallies. (For example, you could run through the plastic flags, then the red flags, and then the green flags for an insane course featuring 24 rally points. Put them all on a single game board for sheer insanity.)

MISC. COMPONENTS: Take the damage tokens, Power Down tokens, and life tokens from the 3rd Edition of the game. (You’ll want to use the 3rd edition components to match the program sheets.) Also take the thirty-second timer from the 3rd Edition.

And that’s it! The tricky part these days is actually finding all of the original 1st Edition expansion sets.


In order to wed the disparate components from across multiple editions together, I’ve also prepared the RoboRally Ultimate Collection Rulebook and the RoboRally Ultimate Collection Factory Guide. The latter pulls together the information from all of the different board element guides into a handy reference guide that you can print on a single sheet of paper. The former provides the most authoritative version of the complete RoboRally rules ever produced.

In fact, whether you can (or want) to assemble a full Ultimate Collection, I think you’ll still want to check out the Ultimate Collection Rulebook: It reorganizes and streamlines the rules while simultaneously clarifying them in order to resolve a number of vague corner-cases that none of the official rulebooks can handle properly.

RoboRally - Ultimate Collection Rulebook

Ultimate Collection Rulebook 

RoboRally Ultimate Collection - Factory Floor Guide

Ultimate Collection Factory Guide

Alex Drummond1. Species that simply prefer living underground (either because they fear the sun like the drow or because they love the dark like the dwarves).

2. Magical construction techniques that make huge, underground constructions more plausible.

3. Magical creatures that either have an instinctual need to create underground complexes or which create them as an unintentional byproduct. (Where did all these twisting tunnels come from? Well, they started as purple worm trails. Then the goblins moved in.)

4. Catastrophes on the surface world that prompt people to flee underground are also a great explanation for underground complexes. (See Earthdawn. Or just an Age of Dragons.) Mix-and-match with the techniques above to explain how the huge cataclysm refuges were built. Then simply remove the danger and/or (better yet) introduce some new danger that came up from below and drove all the vault dwellers back onto the surface.

It’s also useful to establish a method for underground species to generate food. In my campaign world there’s fey moss, which serves as the basis for fungal gardens. Huge, artificial suns left behind in underdark chasms by the vault builders or the under-dwarves also work.

I don’t find it valuable to do full-scale urban planning or figure out exactly how many toilets the goblins need, but I do find that at least some degree verisimilitude makes for better games: If the goblins get their food from fungal gardens, then their food supply can be jeopardized by destroying those gardens. And that’s either the basis for an interesting scenario hook or it’s a strategic master-stroke from the players or it’s some other surprise that I hadn’t even thought of before the campaign started.

Thought of the Day – Fey Moss

December 9th, 2014

Fey moss itself is useless. It’s a black, scummy substance. If left unchecked it will cover almost any surface with a thick, tar-like substance.

Sunlight almost instantly destroys fey moss, causing it to burst into flame. Unadulterated fey moss is also extremely flammable.

But, like the plankton of the ocean, fey moss is the bedrock of the underdark’s ecosystem.  Ecosystems on the surface all ultimately draw their energy from the powerful rays of the sun – plants capture that energy; herbivores eat the plants; and carnivores eat the herbivores. But in the underdark the ecosystem ultimately derives its energy from fey moss (which, in turn, draws it directly from the magical ley lines).

Animals in the underdark either eat the fey moss directly or they eat the wide variety of fungal species which have adapted themselves to parasitically grow upon the fey moss. Civilized species establish vast fungal gardens to feed their populace.



Recent Posts

Recent Comments


Proudly powered by WordPress. Theme developed with WordPress Theme Generator.
Copyright © The Alexandrian. All rights reserved.