Friday, October 30, 2009


This is going to be a controversial post. I'll get that out of the way up front.

OSR, or "Old School Rennaissance" is a newish trend (ironically) in roleplaying games that's quite the rage in certain circles on the Internet these days. The OGL (Open Game License) enabled it; after running under the OGL for some time, someone got the bright idea of "reverse engineering" Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (first edition) out of the open content. The result was OSRIC, (Old School Reference & Index Compendium). OSRIC is basically 1e, but open. Because of it, anyone could publish material compatible for 1e by making it compatible with OSRIC.

Prior to OSRIC, there were other games that had a bit of "Old School" flavor under the OGL; Castles & Crusades, for example, was a kind of hybrid of some older rulesets and the 3e SRD. But for my purposes, the "OSR" really starts with OSRIC. Because the OGC is utilized to make a "clone" if you will of the older ruleset, OSRIC is often called the first "retro-clone." For a time, it was questionable whether or not what OSRIC attempted to do was legal, but after it became apparent that they were in the clear, other retro-clones popped up on the marketplace. Basic Fantasy Roleplaying Game and Labyrinth Lord are both slightly different takes on the Moldvay B/X ruleset. Swords & Wizardry is an attempt to retroclone the original D&D ruleset; before the bifurcation into AD&D and B/XD&D even happened. Because of broad similarities in the rules of all those original rulesets, material for one is mostly compatible with material for the other, and elements can kinda be mixed and matched as desired.

The interesting thing about this is that some other publishers have since put out material that's compatible with these products. OSRIC compatible modules. S&W compatible settings. Etc. There's even several magazines that are kinda like very old school Dragon magazines in some ways; dedicated to promoting these old school games and products.

Now; it's probably obvious from many posts in the past on this topic; I'm not really all that keen on playing any of these games myself. I don't like old school D&D. I left old school D&D for greener pastures and only the "modernization" of the rules that happened at 3e tempted me back. Since then, I've made RPGs one of my main hobbies again, and D&D is the game I play most often. 3e+, that is.

However, I have a keen interest in the development of the OSR, since with the advent of 4e, I'm kinda in a similar situation; looking for material that's compatible with an out of print version of the game. And sadly, this is where my problems with the OSR start. It's not with the idea of it, which I actually quite like. It's with some of the personalities associated with it. I've read a lot of OSR blogs, I've seen a lot of posts from OSR fans on places like ENWorld and even Circvs Maximvs, and frankly, these guys are a bunch of jerks more often than not.

Now, I get that a few loudmouths can spoil the fun for everyone. Most OSR players and fans are probably fine people. But a lot of the vocal ones, have a real problem. There's a strong vibe in OSR themed discussions online of smugness and fundamentalism. They reject anything that postdates the early 80s as wrong, mistaken, foolish, and occasionally treat it as if it's heretical. They're an insular, clannish group that is not interested in reaching out to the broader RPG fan community, and in fact often doesn't acknowledge their existance, other than with a teeth-gritting railing against them for somehow "ruining" the hobby.

I've been somewhat appalled to see otherwise even the reasonable and polite OSRers frequently make allusions to trying to recreate a "pure" Gygaxian playstyle; doing things for no other reason than because they believe that's how Gary did it. Gary was not a prophet, and the first edition D&D was not holy writ. There's nothing wrong with liking what you like (and not what you don't) but the outright dismissive and often contemptuous treatment of any other roleplaying paradigm or ruleset is a real turnoff at times.

Anyway, I guess my point is that my academic interest in the OSR movement has been considerably blunted by many of the people who are part of it, which is a real shame. It doesn't invalidate the movement for those who like it, nor is it meant to be a condemnation of those people who are merely enthusiastic for out of print games without being insulting, but sadly, I've found that sifting the wheat from the chaff in this regard isn't worth the effort to me personally.

If the OSR truly is interested in recruiting into their ranks, expanding their movement, and otherwise contributing meaningful to the hobby (which, honestly, I'm not sure if they do want that, or even if they should care) then they need to present a more accomodating front. The smug, self-satisfied, and dismissive tone of too many of the OSR people that I've encountered online has ensured that I will never develop enough curiousity to try out one of these games. Not even for a mere nostalgic temporary thrill-ride.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Books on deck

Just as a curiousity, here's the books I have on deck to read once I'm done with Abercrombie's Best Served Cold. Probably in this order.

Fool Moon by Jim Butcher

The Many-coloured Land and The Golden Torc by Julian May

Thief of Llarn by Gardner F. Fox

Swords of Haven by Simon R. Green

The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Editions of Dungeons & Dragons

I'm on record (repeatedly, as a matter of fact) as having a kind of love/hate relationship with Dungeons & Dragons. While there are a lot of things that I like about it, there are a lot of "D&Disms" that I really don't like also. That said, I still play D&D more than any other roleplaying game, and frankly, that's probably how I want it.

So it's fair to say that despite my reservations, I've come to terms in one way or another with the various D&Disms, and want to use the system again. But at this point, more than at any other point in the history of D&D, which edition do you play is an interesting and relevent question.

The reason for this is, first of all, the OGL. The OGL has inadvertently opened the doors back to every single edition of D&D that's ever been in print. The third edition is, of course, expressly open and therefore impossible to stamp out, but by utilizing the OGL, gamers have managed to reverse engineer "retro clones" of various older editions.

And, of course, 4e is available as well.

Here's my personal opinion on each of the various editions of D&D, including a few that are technically not D&D at all. The attached graphic is kinda preview of what's to come, but let's not get ahead of ourselves just yet...

OD&D - Original D&D, retro-cloned via Swords & Wizardry. Honestly, I've never played this, except once as a kid before I considered myself a gamer in any fashion whatsoever. But… I also wouldn't. It's primitive. The roots as a tactical wargame are very apparent. It lacks something that I think is crucial to a good game today; rules to define characters. The simplicity of actually running the game is to be applauded, but it's mostly just simple because it's so primitive that it hadn't occurred to the designers to define things yet. The game was very poorly written, assumed that you owned other products (including products produced by a competitor!) and simply lacked options overall. The retro-clone version of it cleans some of that up, but this edition still offers me too little of what I want, and what it does offer can be had elsewhere in better form.

AD&D (1e) - Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, first edition, retro-cloned via OSRIC (Old School Reference and Index Compilation). I actually have bad memories of this game. While many D&Ders see this as the golden age of D&D, this is the edition of the game that eventually made me throw up my hands and give up on D&D. A fair amount of complexity was added to the game, although the complexity didn't address the issues that I personally thought were important. The game still suffered from a very high degree of arbitrariness, poor organization, poorly thought out add-ons and subsystems, and (although this is a minor annoyance) poor presentation and graphic design.

BD&D (all versions) - Basic Dungeons & Dragons up through Rules Cyclopedia, retro-cloned via Labyrinth Lord. I'm not honestly familiar with all of the many iterations of this "edition", which properly should probably be split out into several editions of very similar but not identical games. Basic was a bit of a misnomer, though---in no way was the game basic. It evolved almost as much complexity as AD&D (although much of its complexity had a different focus), it was in no way simpler to run, and it wasn't really less limited than AD&D either, for that matter. It was merely a concurrent game that was similar to AD&D, but… not. For my money, of all the TSR editions of the game, this is the one I'd be most likely to be willing to return to, but that doesn't mean that I'd be very excited about it. It was a continuation, if you will, of the tone of the OD&D game, but without the AD&D like mechanics. Therefore, I like and dislike mostly the same things about it; the ease and simplicity of running the game is good, the arbitrariness and lack of good definition around character abilities and traits is poor.

AD&D (2e) There is no retro-clone of 2e, because basically all 2e was was a re-write of 1e, a reorganization of 1e, and a removal of some of the stuff that made 1e good. Other than the organization aspect of the change, these were all "Bad Things"™ in my opinion; they didn't fix any of the problems I did have with the game other than the organization of the core books, and instead we got a watered down, "politically correct" version that had notably caved to pressure from some non-customers about what the game should and shouldn't include. There's little to recommend this version of the game at least until it became significantly revamped with kits, skills and powers, and other mechanical add-ons that made the game more robust. And even then, a lot of those add-ons created more problems than they solved anyway. 2e was also an era of innovative and unique settings. Not all of these were successes (I never could get past the fundamentally stupid high concept of Spelljammer for instance. And the execution, which had ideas like generalissimo space hippos, didn't help) but many of them are still well-loved. Looking at some of them that I've since picked up (I didn't actually play D&D during the 2e era myself) it's painfully apparent to me that many of these novel and interesting ideas were significantly held back by a clunky rules system at its core that was in drastic need of overhaul.

D&D (3e) The split between AD&D and D&D (or BD&D) was finally brought to an end after TSR went backrupt and was acquired by Wizards of the Coast. They released D&D 3e in 2000. This edition fixed many of my lingering problems and concerns about D&D as a game, but sadly, it left many others unaddressed, and in fact got worse in a few others. What I liked; 1) much of the arbitrariness was gone. There were now few mechanical subsystems that operated differently than the core rules, the core rules themselves operated under a very streamlined and consistent paradigm, and player options were brought to the fore. 2) character definition was significantly improved via a robust skill and feat system. You also were able to define your character many different ways via multiclassing and prestige classes. The classes no longer felt like bland straightjackets. 3) Subsequent games based on the same "engine" showed that it could be easily modded to allow for various different feels. D20 Star Wars, d20 Wheel of Time, d20 Modern and d20 Call of Cthulhu were all reasonably good games. 4) The OGL allowed for "third party" publishers to produce their own material for the game. At first, this was mostly just add-ons for D&D itself; adventures, new monster books, settings, etc. but as the movement matured, it paved the way for all new games, like Castles & Crusades, True20, and for that matter the retro-clones themselves.
However, 3e came with its share of the bad, too. 1) the combat system made it difficult to run combat without a graphical representation of the characters and their environment. Realistically, this means minis and a battlemap. While I like minis for their own sake, and I don't mind playing a tactical minis combat game, I'd rather not have my roleplaying game practically demand minis. 2) The game gets increasingly complex and difficult to run, especially at higher level. Higher level games, I've noticed, include an awful lot of flipping back and forth through rulebooks to see how exactly did that rule work again? 3) It didn't really address a lot of D&Disms. Levels in particular and the incredible difference between a low and high level version of the same character, don't model anything I know from fantasy fiction at all. 4) this isn't a problem for me per se, but it's one that I've heard a lot and I can see where it comes from. I took seriously the motto "Tools, not rules" and it fitted the GMing style I'd been accustomed to anyway. So, to me, the fact that there are a lot of rules covering a lot of situations was a nifty toolbox that I could dig into as I saw fit. Other players, however, saw it as a straightjacket and a complexity inducing nightmare, as they felt duty-bound to accurately reflect every single rule. As an example, calculating Jump skill Difficulty Classes: I saw the examples as just that---examples that gave me an idea what an appropriate DC should be to get the effect I wanted. Others spent all kinds of time actually calculating all of the inputs into a DC for each and every Jump check. So, although it's not a problem for me, I can see how this is a problematic aspect of this edition.

D&D (3.5) To be perfectly honest, I'm still pretty ticked off about 3.5. 3.5 was written, allegedly, to fix some problems that had come up with 3e. It did do that. A bit. It also "broke" as much as it fixed. And mostly, it just changed stuff that was fine to something else that was fine, so that you got no improvement, but you got a lot of confusion. Then to cap it all off, you were supposed to buy all the books over again that you'd already bought. Or at least a great deal of them; the three core books were re-released with minor changes, and the original run of class-based splatbooks was also all re-released. I've grudgingly made my peace with the changes, since it's easier to find 3.5 players and books than 3e these days, since there is a small improvement, and since backwards compatibility and online SRDs means that you don't really have to rebuy the books if you don't want to and you can still play just fine. The subsequent splatbooks are a significant improvement, too, which went a long way towards convincing me. But the entire deal left a sour taste in my mouth.

D&D (4e) I've never played 4e. I have no interest in 4e. As far as I'm concerned, it came about at a time that I had no interest in migrating to a new system. Also, whatever lingering problems I have with the system don't seem to be the ones that 4e addressed; in fact, if anything they made some of my personal concerns worse rather than better. I'm not a hater; I don't have a personal beef against 4e like many people on the Internet. I just have no interest in it.

Pathfinder. While not strictly a version of D&D, Pathfinder could be considered an "alt.4e; what 4e could have been like if it were more like 3.5." Or, you could call it 3.75 maybe. It's not published by Wizards of the Coast, nor is it published under the D&D brand, but this, clearly, is an edition of D&D nonetheless. The reasons it came about were Paizo being put over a barrel somewhat in terms of their business model. Wizards of the Coast dithered on the OGL for 4e, and even sent out some hints that there may not be one or that it could be crippled by restrictions. Paizo needed to keep publishing stuff, but couldn't get distributors to sell it if it was support for an out of print game. So, they needed to put 3.5 back in print somehow. Since 3.5, as a complete game, is open content under the OGL, in theory, all they had to do was package the SRD and print it, and sell it. Of course, if they were going to go to all that trouble, why not see about tweaking it and making a few improvements? This is what lead to the Pathfinder RPG. While I applaud Paizo for acting decisively to protect their business and make sure that the edition that they (and I) prefer is still in print, in terms of what the game actually offers, Pathfinder is plagued by the same problems that 3.5 was… it doesn't fix enough to justify rebuying all my stuff. The good news here is that Paizo suspected that might be true, and offered it, in addition to a hefty and expensive full color book with beautiful artwork that really pretty much justifies the price by itself, as a $10 pdf. The Bestiary (i.e. Monster Manual) is available as another $10 pdf. At that price, like I said, even if you ignore everything except the art, you've got a pretty good deal.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Small update

Keen-eyed blogsters may note that I've removed both the "What I'm Running" and "What I'm Playing" icons over there on the side. Scroll down. Just under the three "What I'm Reading" icons. Remember those?

Anyway, it seemed apropos. I finished my Pbp game months ago. My kids game hasn't happened in months. Our Cthulhu campaign is on hold indefinately, and is likely to be something else when we get back into the swing of things anyway.

Gaming has reached a local nadir. It's sad, really, how our local group, which was once very healthy and vibrant, and most importantly, had a good solid group with lots of players, has shrunk to only three people who more or less consistently have time available to game. Two others are temporarily unavailable (but will probably be back again... sometime. Hopefully sooner rather than later) and two others just aren't at a place in their personal lives where they can consistently count on being available. Three others have moved away out of state.

*Sigh* In any case, I figured why leave those up as legacy icons when I'm not actually in the midst of those games anymore? When we really start back again, it almost certainly won't be those games, and not only that, who knows when that will happen anyway?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

On the Weird Tale...

Here's a paragraph, which I snagged from the Wikipedia entry on "New Weird", which in turn is from the introduction to The New Weird by the editor:

"New Weird is a type of urban, secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing realistic, complex real-world models as the jumping off point for creation of settings that may combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy. New Weird has a visceral, in-the-moment quality that often uses elements of surreal or transgressive horror for its tone, style, and effects — in combination with the stimulus of influence from New Wave writers or their proxies (including also such forebears as Mervyn Peake and the French/English Decadents). New Weird fictions are acutely aware of the modern world, even if in disguise, but not always overtly political. As part of this awareness of the modern world, New Weird relies for its visionary power on a "surrender to the weird" that isn't, for example, hermetically sealed in a haunted house on the moors or in a cave in Antarctica. The "surrender" (or "belief") of the writer can take many forms, some of them even involving the use of postmodern techniques that do not undermine the surface reality of the text."

Well. Quite the mouthful. Possibly even a bit pretentious at times. What I get from that, really, is that New Weird eschews the "genre binning" that has separated Horror, Fantasy and Science Fiction, and gleefully combines conventions from all three as needed. I also like the part about being aware of the modern world; some of the earliest High Fantasy (such as The Well at the World's End by William Morris, or even The Lord of the Rings itself) was very much aware of reflecting an earlier period in earth's history; William Morris the "high Middle Ages" and Tolkien the "heroic age" of Germanic sagas. Most later fantasy writers adopted the trappings of the middle ages without adopting the modes of thought and belief, cloaking essentially modern attitudes in a Medieval setting.

New Weird, then, is more self-aware; it doesn't try to be "medieval fantasy"; it's just fantasy and the attitudes of the characters reflect that of the modern author and readers, and in fact do so on purpose.

Although I'm a little skeptical of New Weird as a movement, I'm rather fond of the older concept of the Weird Tale; stories that existed before the calcified divisions that keep science fiction, fantasy and horror as separate genres with separate conventions, and often separate space on the bookshelf of bookstores and libraries. If you take the concept of New Weird to be merely an embrace of that paradigm, without adding pretentious jazz that seem like non-sequiters (why is New Weird called surreal or visceral, for instance? Answer: I dunno, because it isn't. Or at least, isn't necessarily.) then my own tastes are definately leaning towards the New Weird lately. My gaming settings no longer resemble Middle-earth all that much; they resemble Barsoom warmed over with Charles Dickens, H. P. Lovecraft and Sergio Leone. I don't like the "epic quest" plotline very much anymore; I take plot direction from modern thrillers like Robert Ludlum, Ian Fleming or James Patterson.

However, I see a lot of those same things going on in "mainstream" fantasy, not necessarily just stuff that's called New Weird. Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora is very Ocean's Eleven-like in terms of plot, for instance. Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold is a revenge thriller, part Count of Monte Cristo, part The Magnificent Seven, that just happens to take place in a secondary world, but otherwise isn't too overtly fantastic.

After going through a lengthy adolescence, where fantasy writers were very beholden to trends of the past and the long shadow of writers like Tolkien, Howard, Leiber and maybe Moorcock, finally the genre is growing up, and "mature" books are coming out that take it in new directions.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tale of the Thunderbolt

After blasting through the first three Vampire Earth novels, I'm going to take a little break before going on with them. Part of this is due to other external factors; I have constraints on the book I have right now; I have to read it within three weeks. Part of it is that I honestly need a little break from it.

While the book steps it up a notch in many regards, it also showcases some of the series weaknesses. The secret history of the Kurian world is further revealed, and that's always exciting. Valentine gets to go a bit more exotic with trips to Jamaica and Hispaniola, followed by a trek through Gulf Coast Texas. Woot! My old stomping grounds. The characteristics of the new Texas Rangers were cool. I liked them.

There's another hot girl in the story that he has sex with. This time she's much more of a major character instead of just a throwaway lust object. However, the sex scene was much more graphic. I thought for a moment there the publisher might have accidentally printed a page from a bodice ripper romance. That caught me a bit off-guard, since the previous two had done the "fade to black" oblique references to sex.

The plot feels eerily similar to that of the first two novels in most respects. There's a strong sense of deja vu after a while. It's also disappointing that vampires still play only a background role rather than a starring one... in a series called Vampire Earth, you'd expect that by book 3 you'd have seen more than a few "minutes of screen time" of vampires. Valentine generally has an easy time of it. Knight has him sprouting legends and cults, almost, in his wake wherever he goes, which is just a tad unsettling.

In spite of this, the book does show some maturation. Valentine grows as a character, being confronted with difficult decisions and the consequences of making them. The age old question of "how far is too far when you're at war" is broached. Valentine is presented with temptations to leave it all behind and take the selfish way out. The book ends not just on a cliffhanger, but on a double cliffhanger, with two major unresolved plot strands reversing direction literally in the last few pages.

Nonetheless, duty calls. I can't read the next one yet until I perambulate through some other stuff that demands to be read.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just a quick FYI...

I'm not moving as quickly through E. E. Knight's Tale of the Thunderbolt as I'd hoped. When I'm done with it, I'm going to stop reading (temporarily) the Vampire Earth series, because I've got some other stuff on hold from the library that I expect to arrive any day now. First off is Joe Abercrombie's Best Served Cold but I've also got the first two books of Julian May's Saga of the Pliocene Exile from Interlibrary Loan.

I better read those while I've got'em, because it could be difficult to get them again for some time. After that, before I check anything else out from the library, I want to read some of the books I own but still haven't yet read.

Then I can pick back up with the Vampire Earth and Dresden Files books that need to be read.


I got (via interlibrary loan) a book called The Proboscidea : evolution and palaeoecology of elephants and their relatives which is quite a bit more technical than I hoped, so I'm not adding it to my "What I'm Reading" list; I'm just flipping through it and reading parts of it, not the entire thing.

Basically, though, it's the story of elephants and their relatives. The (so far) to me most interesting insight from the book is that probiscidean radiation appears to have come in three waves: the first wave being "primitive" probiscideans, including deinotheres and mastodons, a second wave of the paraphylitic gomphotheres, and the final wave of stegodonts and real elephants (including the mammoth.) That's of course an over-simplification, but more or less true nonetheless.

The interesting thing to me is the survival of several "primitive" branches of the proboscidean tree until very late times. The true elephants (including the mammoth) are all late appearing animals, so that they survive today isn't particularly surprising. Nor is it surprising that their close relatives the stegodonts still survived. The fact that gomphotheres were still going strong in South America as recently as 10,000 years ago (or possibly even later) as well as the American mastodon lasting as long is it did. Heck, even the bizarre "hoe-tusker" Deinotherium seems to have lasted until only a million years ago.

Anyway, I find the notion of these animals that we just missed being able to see living a very compelling and frustrating and sad thought. For some reason the mighty probiscideans have been a lot on my mind, too. Luckily, we've got some really good artists out there who know how to give us a very nice view of what these animals may have looked like; I've attached some such artwork to various other posts, but here one of Cuvieronius, an "elephant" that paleo-indians seem to have fed on in what is today Latin America.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Choice of the Cat

With extended family in town and other things that tend to reduce free time for reading, it took me a little bit longer to get through E. E. Knight's second Vampire Earth novel, Choice of the Cat, then I might have liked. But last night, I finished it and immediately picked up the next novel in the series, Tale of the Thunderbolt. Because I happened to have picked them both up from the library at the same time.

This novel was just about as much fun to read as the first one, Way of the Wolf. Perhaps moreso, even, since there was much less set-up and a more immediate jump into post apocalyptic vampire fighting action. Of course, by vampire fighting, I mostly mean "human minion" fighting, but David Valentine does throw down with a few of the Reapers too. He leaves the wolves after being set-up by a career-savvy jerk of a CO, and is inducted into the cats... augmented humans who serve more as spies and scouts. Of course, as a former wolf, he's really a wolf-cat... he retains the augmentations of both. This point isn't made explicitly clear, although Knight does show Valentine being able to outperform his cat-only trainer in a few things, notably sense of smell and endurance, which were legacies of his wolf upbringing. Maybe he'll also end up a bear before all is said and done.

Anyway, this is a reasonably well written and fun book. I have a few minor quibbles; the main antagonist isn't properly set-up; he seems to come a little bit out of nowhere. The ending feels a bit rushed (possibly related to the former complaint) as do a few of the interpersonal relationships. The plot is, if you strip away a few of the details, almost exactly the same as the prior book's. However, none of these are crippling flaws, and like I said, I eagerly moved on into the next book literally as soon as I finished this one.

One thing that I enjoyed was the relationship and banter between Valentine and Duvalier, aka Smoke, his cat trainer. There's some incipient sexual tension, a kind of platonic partnership that's not quite platonic, and she's as interesting a character as he is. Maybe moreso in some ways. From the looks of it, she makes recurring appearances in subsequent books as well. I certainly hope so.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Just for fun; the first three of these are recent(ish) pictures of the surface of Mars. The next three are from North Africa. If I hadn't just told you, you wouldn't have much to go on to tell them apart, would you?

Halloween music showdown

I thought maybe I'd try this last night, but I started too late and I was too tired. About halfway through Nox Arcana's Transylvania, I was nodding off, so I quit and went to bed.

Next week, though, for sure. Nox Arcana's Transylvania and Midnight Syndicate's Vampyre head to head!

Pleistocene rewilding

I know nobody that reads this blog probably cares about this (ha! I assume someone reads this blog!) but I just became familiar with the concept of "Pleistocene rewilding" and since I was lamenting the Pleistocene megafauna myself just recently, it seemed an appropriate add-on.

Rewilding is the concept of reintroducing species into the wild where they've gone extinct locally. The best example of it is when wolves went extinct in Yellowstone. The local ecosystem was thrown for a loop, wolves were eventually reintroduced, and the local ecosystem eventually returned to a relatively stable scenario. Of course, a Pleistocene rewilding is much more significant than simply reintroducing wolves into the American southwest or whatever. How do you reintroduce sabertooths and mammoths when, of course, they're already extinct?

The answer is: you reintroduce closely related proxies. The Pleistocene rewilding starts with reintroducing and protecting some extant species into areas where they no longer live: some examples would be reintroducing grizzlies, pumas, wolves, bison and pronghorn into more southerly areas. As proxies, they've proposed lions, cheetahs, elephants, onagers or kiangs, Przewalski's horses, zebras and camels into the same region.

Workable? Almost certainly no. Problematic? Yes, on so many levels. But a fun and fascinating idea nonetheless? Absolutely.