Wednesday, December 31, 2014

May 2015 Bring All of Us Bountiful Roleplaying!

Portrait of the Blogger as a Young Man
I thought I'd write a quick note here on the old roleplaying blog, just to wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2015. Thanks to all of you who have entertained, challenged, inspired, and sometimes aggravated me in 2014 and prior years. You're an opinionated, cantankerous, and creative bunch, and I appreciate your words more than you know.
I predict that, for me, 2015 will be a year of limited roleplaying and RPG blogging, as I continue to use my spare time for the development of an ongoing business aspiration. I know I've discussed my endeavors here and there on this blog, but I intend to give more details as time goes on.
However, I do want to try to roleplay at least once a month, if just to scratch that eternal itch that has been with me since I was a teen. Those few sessions a month might come in the form of getting my game on at my favorite FLGS, or it might entail getting together with friends in my basement, or it might even be me running adventures for my kids again. But I know I need to feed that particular beast in my life, because I don't do well mentally and emotionally when I deny the roleplayer within.
I included the picture of me as a kid because I want to remind myself to not deny the youngster that still dwells inside me somewhere, the one who still has a sense of wonder about what his imagination can do, and marvels at the miracle of being alive in our multifaceted, bustling, and beautiful world. Sometimes it isn't pretty, but those challenges are meant for us to overcome, not to crush us. It all depends on how we choose to view the events around us.
So, remember, to choose your own adventure in life, as you do in the roleplaying world. The monsters are there to be slain, and the treasures you reap for conquering them are more precious than gold.
Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Nightmare That Came For Christmas

As you can see from the pic above, I got my copy of the hardcover Lamentations of the Flame Princess rules and magic book. It arrived on Christmas eve, appropriately (or maybe inappropriately) enough. Rereading the rules again has been an enjoyable experience, but it's strange to have to remember to not let the kids get their hands on the book! 

Hope you're all having a happy holiday season! 

Monday, December 22, 2014

The Flame Princess Cometh Again!

Way back in August 2010 I obtained a copy of the Deluxe Edition box set of Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I loved that little box, the first version of the game to hit the streets, and all its contents.
But, it was a tumultuous time for me that year, with some significant financial hits thanks to the suffering economy. So, later that year I had to offer up the LotFP box set, among other RPG books, for sale. I wound up holding onto the box until early 2012, around which time I traded it in to Noble Knight Games and used the credit to get material for other game systems.
I look back with some regret when it comes to giving away the LotFP box set. However, I realized there is a solution to soothe that regret, in the form of the LotFP Rules & Magic hardcover! I just ordered that puppy and it is on its way to my hot little hands! Can't wait to see how the LotFP rules now stand. I know they haven't changed significantly since I had the Deluxe set, but I'm curious to see how the layout and artwork has been improved.
In all, I'm looking forward to a glorious reunion with the Flame Princess!
Now, Mr. Raggi, when will that Referee book come out in hardcover?!

Friday, December 19, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (12/19/14)

Larry and the Troll

Friday, November 28, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (11/28/14)

Hope everyone in the U.S. is having a great Thanksgiving holiday! I'm sure you're all enjoying "picking" at the turkey for leftovers!

Friday, November 7, 2014

End-of-Week Chalk (11/7/14)

A couple days ago, I posted about a Kickstarter for a Lone Wolf board game. Since then, I've been obsessing (how strange for me to do so ;-) about all things related to British fantasy gaming. So I thought I'd post a bit of art from Gary Chalk, who of course looms large beside Russ Nicholson in the pantheon of art gods from "across the pond."
Enjoy the illo above, and have a "hacking" good weekend!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lone Wolf - The Board Game Kickstarter

I'm really excited about this Kickstarter! I didn't experience the Lone Wolf game books in their original heyday (I did get some Fighting Fantasy books, though), but I've gotten into them in recent years. I love Gary Chalk's artwork, and the world of Magnamund has that "British fantasy feel" to it that I really like.
If you like Lone Wolf, get in on this opportunity!

Friday, October 31, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore: Halloween Edition (10/31/14)

Happy Halloween, wonderful people! I hope you're having an exquisitely creepy day. It's always bittersweet on Halloween for me, because while I love the day it is also the herald of my favorite month's end. Ah well, endings make things all the sweeter, no? I took off from work this year, and I'm drinking Halloween down to the dregs, savoring it until the last drop.
My one wish would be to have the chance to do some gaming this weekend. I recall the days of my gaming youth when we would have our Halloween-themed sessions. They were always hilariously campy affairs, with liberal use of vampires and werewolves.
So, are you roleplaying this weekend? Let me know, I'm always ready to live vicariously through you good folks!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Looked at the 5th Edition D&D Books, and I Liked It

So I was in Barnes & Noble today, and I picked up the 5E Player's Handbook. And as I flipped through it, I really liked what I saw. Really, the full-page illustrations took me back to the D&D 2nd Edition books, man. Seriously. And I liked the style of the art as well.
Is any of this heretical? I dunno, and don't care really. My current divorce from the gaming world, both online and in the flesh, has really done something unexpected to my gamer's heart: it's opened it even more than it ever was before. It's been great to get away from the navel-gazing and echo chambers and edition-shaming. I'm not pointing fingers at the community, mind you. Just those that perpetuate the true nerdery of this or ANY hobby.
To me, being a nerd about something (gaming, comics, soap operas, fantasy sports, watching sports, cars, etc.) is about being a snob about something. To ridicule others who don't see your hobby the way you see it. Those that don't participate with your level of micro-management and elitism. Nerdery is really about taking the fun out of something.
Anyway, sheesh, I didn't want to get on the soap box on my first time back to the blog in some time. I just want to say that I'm celebrating the latest incarnation of D&D. I'm thinking it will be a good idea for me to buy the books. Damn, I almost forgot I bought the Starter Set all the way back in early July! Might need to crack that bad boy open again, take a gander again.
Then again, reading RPG stuff these days is tantamount to torture! I need to get some gaming on, even if I'm just a player. I would love to see the new D&D in actual action!
Hope you're all well out there, and gaming happily!

Friday, September 26, 2014

End-of-Week Gary Gianni (9/26/14)

No Elmore this week, because I'm finally getting around to finishing the Solomon Kane stories I've been putting off. Thus, the illo above. Rock on, Puritan adventurer! Gary Gianni has rendered you in glorious form!

Friday, September 19, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (9/19/14)

Back by popular demand!

Thanks to those of you who reached out after my post yesterday, it really meant a lot to hear from you, to tell me that you missed me blogging.

However, don't expect a return to any big posts for the foreseeable future. But for now, I think I can at least get back to the Elmore art posts, for a start.

In more, probably depressing (at least to me) RPG news, I haven't yet picked up any of the 5E books. I do have the Starter Box with the downloaded Basic Rules tucked safely inside, though. I just know that I won't have time to read and digest the new books in a satisfying way, not at the moment.

Oh well. Someday...

Anyway, kids, have a great weekend and I'll see you out on the blogosphere!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wherefore Art Thou, Oh RPG Blogger?

Well, I've finally gone and done it. I became one of those RPG bloggers who drops off the face of the earth one day, and just stops posting with no explanation.
I apologize to one and all...or at least, to those who may actually care!
I could make a joke about how everyone's been SO devastated about my absence. But perhaps some of you miss me?
Hey, someone emailed me to ask if I can add a print function to my blog! To that emailer I say "please be patient, I'm working on it"!
Anyway, without boring you, here's the short story: I've finally reached a critical mass of insanity in life that, as scary as it sounds, I lost complete track of the blogosphere and in particular my own blog. For once, I was totally unable to think about the blog for a few weeks.
As I said, scary. It's scary because I don't like the implications. In other words, my life circumstances finally pushed thoughts of roleplaying (which are usually on my mind at some point during the day) to totally subconscious levels.
I just don't like that idea.
But I've made my life this busy, and I really have no regrets. I'm happy with what I've been doing in life other than roleplaying. But there's still something that pains me about the whole thing.
Okay, enough self pity. What's my point, eh? Well, here it is: I'm officially stating that I'm going on an indefinite hiatus. It really sucks to write that, but there you have it.
Alright, I've got to run, but for the time being know that I may not be writing here for the time being, but I'm indeed reading what all you wonderful folks are writing.
Until we cross paths again, happy gaming to all!

Friday, August 8, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (8/8/14)

Ahoy, mates! Been sailing the seas of life of late, which (broken record time) has left me with little time (more like NO time) for anything gaming-related. Again, that's a fate of my own design, and I'm not whining about it. Well, maybe a little. Damn my dreams and aspirations for stealing my RPG time!
Ahem. Anyway. The family and I will soon be heading off to a nearby mountainous region, where there is also a body of water to sail upon. So the illo above is therefore very pertinent. And pert. Those elven pirate wenches, am I right?
Here's to you, fellow gamers! I hope you're sailing on your own high tide of happiness! Until I see the cut of your jib again, may the winds always be in your favor!

Friday, August 1, 2014

End-of-Week...Elmore? (8/1/14)

Welcome to August, fellow gamers! Ah, the Internet. It holds such potential, and such treasures! And yet, our fickle virtual collective consciousness often spits up some deception, does it not?
Case in point: on my weekly search for End-of-Week Elmore fodder, I was given the image above as part of my seeking. Hmmm, we see Flint, Tasselhoff, and Tika of Dragonlance fame. Of that there's no doubt. And being Dragonlance, one would think that Elmore, the veritable master of Dragonlance art, would be the creator here.
But do not be fooled, folks! Anyone trained in the art of Elmore will see this is not his work! Methinks it be the work of a certain Fred Fields! I have to be honest, Fred is probably my least favorite of the "2nd Edition AD&D era" of artists. Back in those days, I greatly preferred the work of Elmore (obviously), Keith Parkinson, Clyde Caldwell, and Jeff Easley.

Fred Field's spot in last place seems to be a sentiment shared by others, actually.

Not that Mr. Field's work is bad. Indeed, his techniques and talent seem equal to those of the other "Fantastic Five" mentioned above. His work, to me,  just lacked...something...and that something is what the other major artists of that era seemed to have in higher doses...if that makes any sense.

What do you think about the major artists of the 2E AD&D era? Who is your favorite? Whose work is less inspiring to you?

Friday, July 25, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (7/25/14)

"Ha HA! My green dragon will defeat the heck is THAT?! Is that a beak? And check out those feet! I've heard of a bird dog, but this is ridiculous!"

Friday, July 18, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (7/18/14)

White dragons have always been interesting to me. They're just, know..not the typical fire breathing dragons, right? I know that seems like an obvious statement. But seriously, they're very counter-intuitive when it comes to the whole dragon least to the lay person not steeped in the lore of D&D monster manuals!

Okay, enough musings on that subject. I've just gotten a bevy of rules with D&D DNA, including 13th Age, Dungeon World, and Dungeonteller. And I have to say, Dungeonteller is, so far, my favorite of the three! I'm working on a review of that game, which I hope to publish soon.

Anyway, have a great weekend, folks!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

D&D's 40th Birthday: What are we REALLY celebrating?

Okay, maybe this post is just all self-referential musing. But I wonder how many of you out there feel the same way. There's something I want to put out there for your consideration. This might not be a ground-breaking post in terms of its sentiment or subject matter, but bear with me.

I don't care what edition of the game you play. Hell, I don't care if the Medieval fantasy RPG you're playing is even called D&D or not. We're all still playing D&D, folks.

So, I posit this: what we're really celebrating this year is not the 40th anniversary of the brand name of D&D. We're celebrating the spirit of the game, and all of its uncountable varieties and offspring!

Thanks, Azeem!
Morgan Freeman said it best, I think, in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: "Allah loves wondrous variety!"

Just a note: this sentiment also includes 4th Edition. Speaking of which: congrats on the cancellation of your edition, 4E fans, because you are now a part of the "my favored edition is out of print" clan! Welcome, hail, and well met!

I'm bringing all this up because, well, I bought the new D&D starter set, and downloaded the free Basic rules. And while I think all that 5E stuff is nifty, I have to say that I'm so much more excited about games that don't carry the D&D name, but rather carry the D&D DNA.

Here's the versions of the game that I'm currently drooling over:
I already own Dungeonteller and the Warriors of the Red Planet beta. My copies of Dungeon World and 13th Age are on their way from the great Noble Knight Games.

Of course, I also already own Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG, Adventurer Conquerer King, Beyond the Wall, Dragon Age RPG, Crypts & Things, Five Ancient Kingdoms, and other permutations of the "world's oldest RPG" of which you no doubt have heard! And all these "clones" sit cheek-by-jowl on my bookshelves with D&D books from all eras of the game. And it's like looking at a glorious family reunion, with many generations gathered into one place.

I'm so happy that D&D has gone forth and multiplied, incubated in the fertile minds of so many fellow enthusiasts!

So, talk back to me, fellow roleplayers! Tell me how you are celebrating D&D's 40th this year, what version(s) of the game you're celebrating with, and any other reflections you care to share!

Long live Dungeons & Dragons, no matter what skin it wears! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Time to get my a$$ to Mars (with Warriors of the Red Planet)!

I love the OGL, man. It continually gives us an ever-growing smorgasbord of D&D variants, such as Warriors of the Red Planet! This is, of course, a sword & planet variant of the rules! Awesome, another bit of useful house rules that I won't have to create myself ;-)
This is the softcover beta of the rules you can get from Lulu right now on the cheap. The game's creator - Thomas Denmark of the WotRP, Original Edition Fantasy, and Studio Denmark blogs (and creator of the Dungeoneer game) - has been working on this for a while, and to be honest I had all but given up on this game seeing the light of day (not because of any failing on Mr. Denmark's part, but just because the development was taking so long).
But I'm glad I was wrong! I have had some time to read through, and it's pretty cool so far. I hope to have a full review someday, as soon as I can get to it.
This thing has me so excited about planetary romance that I had to break out my copy of the gorgeous John Carter of Mars collection illustrated by Thomas Yeates. Hmm, might be time for a re-read!
Anyway, I would love to find some time soon to help playtest these beta rules. Yeah, seriously, this has me so excited (as does the Dungeonteller game, which also just hit the streets) that I might need to come out of my current roleplaying hiatus! Stay tuned...

Friday, July 11, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (7/11/14)

The Search for Free Slurpees goes on...
Happy 7/11, folks! Apparently you can get free Slurpees today. Not sure if that appeals to you or not, but there you go. Consider that a public service announcement. Whether your consider it an invitation or a warning is up to you!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Have you heard of Dungeonteller yet?

Well, you have now!
A gentleman named Doug Anderson, author of the Blue Boxer Rebellion blog (love that name!), has been quietly working on this "kid-friendly" version of everybody's favorite fantasy RPG.
He recently put the free "Dungeonteller Hero Pack" on DriveThru RPG. The offering is a preview of the rules, and includes some sample characters.
Dungeonteller has a simple and unified mechanic that I really enjoy! It's all based on just the d6. I've professed my love for d6-based games in the past, and that feeling hasn't changed. There's just something primal about using the d6, you know? Maybe stemming from my board game days (I played a ton of Risk back in the day, among other games). Does anyone else out there love the d6?
I have to say something right now: I think I'm more excited about Dungeonteller than I am for D&D 5E. I'm friggin' serious about that. More and more, as time goes by, I'm looking for a rule set that doesn't tax my particular brain. I need simple rules, but with a simplicity that carries within it the flexibility to have a lot of nuance. Yeah, that's a good term for what I like: nuanced simplicity.
At this stage in my life, I can't be the kid who had time to sit around and ponder all manner of arcane rules for a game. It was cool to be able to do so when I was a teen, don't get me wrong. I don't fault those who have the time and brain power to do that sort of thing. But that sort of rules erudition is not in the cards for me right now.
I want rules that get out of the way of the game, you know? I know that other people can keep more complex rules straight in their heads, and more power to them! But as for me, I only have so much capacity in the old noggin.
Anyway, DUNGEONTELLER! The full game is slated for release by the end of the month. I CANNOT WAIT! Seriously, the game is also stated as being for "new gamers." So, by that logic, it's not just for kids! I have to tell you, I would run this for adults any day! Seriously.
At the very least, it's much more likely I would run games using Dungeonteller than D&D 5E at this point in my life! How's that for an endorsement?
Keep your eyes peeled for this one, folks!

Monday, July 7, 2014

D&D 5E Starter Set: First Impressions & Thoughts

Please don't take the following post as a full review. Just want to put that caveat out there. I'm just giving my opinions here, and trying to clear up my confusion here and there.
I'm only going to be talking in this post about the Starter Set contents. I haven't yet read through the Basic Rules PDF that is free online, mainly because I wanted to have an unadulterated read-through of the box contents. I've read through most of the starter rulebook at this point, and wanted to start writing out what I'm experiencing, thinking, etc.
Here's just some impressions and thoughts:
To me, this "basic" game is a bit more "advanced" than what I'm used to, when it comes to a basic version of the game. But right there, that's a rub, isn't it? As a long-time gamer, try as I might I can't really escape my D&D history (personal and otherwise) or the context/influence of said history.
So, when I'm thinking Basic D&D, my old gamer brain shoots back in time to Moldvay and Mentzer, you know? I'm sure some of you experienced that as well. BUT, there was nothing that WotC said to indicate that this box would be as basic as Basic, if you know what I mean. 
And, am I even off base, because is the Starter Set supposed to be a basic version of the game, and used in tandem with the online free Basic PDF? I'm trying to get clarity on this, and perhaps it's not WotC's fault for my lack of clarity. That very well could be true. This whole thing could be clear as day to some folks, but with my limited time and brain capacity these days, I could be missing the message here, and the interrelation of the products.
So, the question is: is the Starter Set supposed to be a beginning point for entry into use of the Basic Rules PDF AS WELL AS the upcoming PHB, DMG, and MM?
I mean, the game has proficiencies included, but not feats. Proficiencies in Basic D&D? Perish the thought, at least when it comes to the old sets from the 80's. But this Set is not supposed to be THAT basic, I suppose. It ain't your daddy's Basic D&D, and I guess that's alright.
So, overall the game seems to be stripped down version of 3.5, with some new innovations to the rules, such as getting rid of reflex/will/fortitude saves (the saves are now attached to the attributes, similar to how Castles & Crusades does it). Also, there's the advantage/disadvantage thing that everyone's been talking about, and it seems rather neat, although the thought of more dice rolling is usually not appealing to me on a visceral level. I prefer less dice rolling when possible.
I have nearly zero familiarity with D&D 4E, so I'm not sure what may be in the Starter Set that came from 4E. I know that 4E had at-will, encounter, and daily powers, and I'm honestly looking forward to seeing if those things are offered as optional rules for, say, spellcasters in the PHB. Any way to lighten up the "limitations" of Vancian magic is good in my book. I notice that the cantrips in the Starter Set are at-will casting, so there's that.
The fact that they mention that adventurer's ability scores can reach 20 was disturbing to my old-school sensibilities, but I'm not sure how that works when they're using the 4d6-drop-the-lowest method. Maybe they mean through the use of magical items...oh wait, I think I remembered that in the advancement rules in the Starter Set, your character increases in a class primary ability score at a certain level...okay so I guess the max attribute level is now 20? Sounds kinda icky.
Also a bit icky to me is the bonus inflation for the attributes. Example: an 18 gives you +4 now. Ouch. That's something of a gut-reaction turn-off as well.
The set encourages players to see replay value in the included module...and I suppose that's what one would have to do while waiting for monsters in the Basic PDF and/or the eventual Monster Manual?
I know that JB is currently discussing the actual "completeness" of the Basic PDF at the moment, and getting flak for it, unfortunately. I know that JB can come off as being confrontational about RPGs, but I think he's just passionate. He can sometimes be inflammatory, but I don't think that comes from a desire to simply start arguments. He just wants to get people energized and fired up about the subject.
Some people have stepped forward to remind JB that the current version of the Basic PDF is not the final version, which will be out in August I believe, to coincide with the PHB release. I guess they're trying to keep some of the PHB stuff under wraps until the release of the book, because honestly the Basic PDF just seems to be pages ripped out of the PHB.
I can understand a company not wanting to give away the cow for free, you know. So they want to be cautious with what's given away for free. Again, is the free stuff for use with the Starter Set, but if you want to have a fuller experience, you leave behind the Starter Set and Basic PDF and move on to the PHB/DMG/MM? Maybe the RPGPundit can clear things up for me!
Anyway, this has been an interesting experience. I'm not sure that this version of D&D is for me, because of the "complexity" of it, despite the thing being called basic...but then again the Starter Set doesn't say it's Basic, as far as I know.
BUT THIS DESIRE FOR "SIMPLE," BASIC RULES COMES FROM MY OWN PREJUDICE AT THE MOMENT, and not from any fault in the 5E Starter Set itself. Because personally, due to my own specific life circumstances, I'm looking for simpler rules these days, even simpler than old 80's Basic and even my beloved Castles & Crusades. To that end, there's a certain little game coming out soon that might scratch my simplicity itch...more on that in another post!
In the meantime, please give me your thoughts, impressions, etc. on 5E so far!

Friday, July 4, 2014

D&D Starter Set: I Gots Mines!

So, the best little FLGS in South Jersey, All Things Fun, was open today...and they're one of the stores that got the D&D Starter Set early...AND I told them a few weeks ago to set one aside for me...AND I was able to head on over there today to grab mines!
I want to state this right now: today, I am declaring full independence from skepticism, doubt, and edition wars as I begin to pour through the books in the box! I will approach this new edition with an open mind, as I read through the contents.
But first, let me take you through a brief look at said contents! I have to tell you, I felt like a kid as I sat on my living room floor, tearing open the box and digging into it!Whether that warm and fuzzy feeling will persist remains to be seen.
Here's some pics from the unboxing:
The dice. Nothing spectacular, but functional of course. I rolled the 20 and it came up a 19! Not bad for a first roll.
The rulebook! I flipped through. It has less pages than the adventure in the box, which felt...weird to me. Hmm, or it could be a good thing.
There's the rules and the adventure books. And the pregen characters.
Here's what I thought was just an advert...but the other side is a blank character sheet that you can use, of course, for photocopying.
And here's a bit of filler cardboard...hmm...not sure how I feel about that. I guess it keeps the contents from flopping around too much. But still...the box DID feel light to me when I picked it up. But that doesn't mean anything I suppose. And anyway, I can print out the Basic Rules and put that puppy in the box! Maybe throw some minis and pencils and more dice in there for good measure, and take the neat little bundle to game night! The room in the box calls out to be filled!
And here's a couple decent illos from the books! I like the bewildered look on the half-orc's face!
Anyway, just wanted to give you a taste. I'm going to do some reading tonight, for sure! Can't wait! I'll report in with more detail as soon as I can.
Happy 4th of July, one and all!

Friday, June 27, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (6/27/14)

"Come on in, the water's fine!"

It's summertime again, dear readers! It's hot and muggy where I am these days, and the illo above reflects my urge to take a dip in some refreshing water! I just hope Larry's cheesecake is waterproof, and won't melt in the hot summer sun!
I hope that summer will find me with some more time to at least get a few game sessions in during the hot months. What about you? Does the advent of summer signal a time of increased or decreased gaming for you?

Monday, June 23, 2014

My Official Free RPG Day 2014 Report

Steve Chenault a.k.a. The Troll Lord behind the screen and in action!
How was MY Free RPG Day 2014?
Why? Because this wasn't your average day of just picking up free stuff and playing in a couple one-shot games.
THE Troll Lord of Troll Lord Games was in the house at All Things Fun in West Berlin, New Jersey this weekend! Steve Chenault ran a session of the company's flagship game Castles & Crusades on Saturday night!
I'm considering Saturday night a convention, folks, and I don't care what you think! The last time I had the great pleasure of gaming with the Troll Lord was back in March 2011, for the TrollCon East event. Any time I'm gaming with the Trolls, it's a convention!
At the table Saturday was a collection of the ATF regulars (some who I've gamed with for a long time on Wednesday nights) and some folks who were new to C&C (and who, I think, aren't regular roleplayers at the store). There were about a dozen players in all.
Steve let me use my half-elf paladin Drance, and I found myself a part of a fairly well-rounded party that consisted of a druid, an elven ranger, a halfling rogue, a dwarven cleric, a gnome illusionist (I'll give that one a pass, but *blech*), and another paladin besides myself, just to name a few of the participants.
Steve was in his usual gregarious form. He's always entertaining and challenging, and his love for the art and hobby of roleplaying is palpable. You can always tell that he loves the game and is having as much fun as his players.
Note the requisite stash of Dr. Pepper on the table! A Troll RPG staple!

The session culminated in the party facing a strange dragon-type creature that could turn you to stone with its breath weapon, and could spread its wings to reveal a scintillating pattern of light. If you looked at the light, you were immediately caught in a charm that made you feel all warm and fuzzy about the dragon!

We fought valiantly against the beast, and several of us were devoured by the thing, and Steve described their demise with his usual flair for description and gory details! Drance the half-elf paladin fought well that night, especially when the helmeted head of one of his fallen comrades was momentarily stuck in the throat of the dragon-thing!

However, ultimately, we were getting our butts handed to us, and we decided to flee. The dragon-thing managed to escape, but we dealt it a blow it would never forget!
As for the swag, what free stuff did I grab? The DCC RPG/Xcrawl offering, and Mr. Raggi's The Doom Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children (which is apparently a big "eff you" to people who protested his Free RPG Day 2013 offering, Better Than Any Man). I was surprised I was able to get my hands on anything, as I didn't make it to the store until about 7:30 PM. Those two were the last two freebies sitting on the table, so I snatched them up.
I'm a bit bummed that I couldn't get ahold of a copy of The Godsfall quick start rules, though I figured that would be hard to get since there was only one copy per box given to retailers. I'm really intrigued about the Godsfall RPG, and can't wait for a better look at the system and the world. 
But, all that aside, it was a great time! Thanks to Steve and fellow Troll Tim Burns for coming out to the East Coast once again, and bringing along some good gaming memories!

Friday, June 20, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (6/20/14)

Well whaddaya know?! I was crusing the 'Net and saw that old Larry had done a treatment of Wolverine! No shite! Very nice! Sometimes, the Web has a cool surprise for you!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review: Talus and the Frozen King

I'm about to break a cardinal rule when it comes to books, and I'm going to do a bit of cover-judging. BUT, not in the way you think. I'm going to reverse it, and judge the cover in relation to the book. The cover depicts a man in very Medieval-looking armor, with equally Medieval-looking sword and shield.
Why, you ask, is this a problem? Well, I'm not sure if the following is a spoiler, but here is your warning that the following may be a small spoiler in the minds of some readers:
The story is set in the Neolithic Age. That's right, we're dealing with characters who are not much beyond the cave man stage of human evolution. So, in the book, we see a lot of people wearing furs, wielding tools and weapons made of bone and stone, etc.
So, why the cover with the guy in the Medieval garb and with Medieval weaponry?! I'm going to guess that some marketing person decided that depicting Stone Age folks on the cover wouldn't grab the attention of readers. Well, I disagree. Actually, I believe the reverse would be true: I think many fantasy readers are tired of seeing another Medieval scene depicted on fantasy novel covers. If you threw some cave men on that cover, you might get MORE readers! Just a thought. Maybe if there's another printing, the cover can be changed to a truer reflection of the content of the book.
So, beyond what I thought was a poor choice of cover art, how was the book itself?
Well, I liked Edwards' concept of basically transplanting Sherlock Holmes into the Stone Age, right along with a Watson-esque partner. I also liked Edwards' turns of phrase; the man is very capable of creating vivid imagery.
In all, he definitely has the chops to write a good novel. I'm just not sure Talus and the Frozen Kind (hereafter referred to as TatFK) is that good novel. It seemed to be a fairly bog-standard mystery yarn. There's a king that is murdered, and that king has a lot of sons who might have motivation to kill him. Okay, not the most original idea I suppose.
There were a lot of characters, and Edwards made an effort to distinguish the sons of the king from one another. Talus himself is an inquisitive and talented bard who has the traits one might associate with someone who has preternatural powers of observation and deduction: Talus is "strange" and socially awkward. Love is a mystery to him, as are the passions that might make someone commit murder. Yes, by now we've all encountered the character of this sort, an outsider and observer of human experience who is quirky, perhaps even somewhere on the autistic spectrum (like Will Graham from the "Hannibal" TV show). So, his character isn't entirely original, but I still appreciated how Edwards depicted Talus.
What I did find interesting is the overarching quest that Talus and his partner Bran are pursuing. They come upon the mystery of the king's murder on their journey to a specific destination, and their motivation for finding said destination is intriguing. I found myself wishing the story had been focused more on their quest, rather than this stop-over in some obscure village to solve a king's murder. However, I can see how I, as the reader, needed to see Talus in action while simultaneously learning about the overarching quest.
Ultimately, I think Edwards is a good writer, but he's still in search of a plot that will be more engaging, and a world that is more fully fleshed out. I felt at times he might have depended too much on a "gee whiz" factor when it comes to his setting in the Neolithic. But that gee whiz will only get you so far. I'm not saying that the world of Talus doesn't have potential. It just needs more flesh on the bones, and perhaps Edwards can add said flesh in subsequent writings.
So, perhaps Edwards had a clever idea and just didn't execute it all that well. That's my overall opinion about the book: good concept, lackluster execution. But then again, I'm not the biggest fan of mystery novels, so I could also be biased against the plot of TatFK.
Speaking of genre, this book is in the sci-fi/fantasy category on the Barnes & Noble bookshelves. However, there wasn't anything overtly magical or fantastical in the novel. There are hints of the supernatural, but that could just be the perception and beliefs of the characters. 
Bottom line: TatFK was a good quick read, a lighter bit of fiction that started out slow but picked up the pace as the story progressed. The plot was somewhat predictable and clunky in execution, but the author has an obvious talent for storytelling and vivid description. I would definitely try another novel by Graham Edwards, to see how his style evolves over time.

Oh, and he needs to insist on more accurate cover art! The mismatch between the cover and the content was jarring. Cover art may not be the reason one should buy a book, but good cover art that reflects the story well can enhance the experience of reading a novel. It also seemed like a blatant marketing ploy to lure fantasy fans into buying the book.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Belated End-of-Week Elmore (6/13/14)

"Ouchy! That looks real painful! And gross! I threw up in my mouth a little..."

Ugh, folks. Just ugh. I feel like the "snake arm" guy in the illo above: under the weather with a serious ailment. But instead of, er, snake arm syndrome, I've got a fever for success. It's taking up a good amount of time, but it's all worth it. I know I've been singing this same old song for some time now, but the price I'm paying for my current strivings has a sting that won't go away: I've had to all but eliminated my roleplaying time.

Anyway, just feeling a bit "lamenty" after a long and busy work week last week. I was so wrapped up in a deadline that I missed my Friday Elmore post last week. So, to rectify, here is my Elmore post for last Friday, the 13th no less!

Have a great week, one and all!

Friday, June 6, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (6/6/14)

Well, Charles Akins has updated his Great Blog Roll Call for 2014! Last year, he described my blog as being mostly postings about art, with some posts here and there that went beyond just interesting RPG illustrations. Well, I guess he was mostly right!
I've struggled since the beginning of the blog (almost four years ago) to find time for substantive posts. I got back into the RPG hobby, for the most part, because of the blogosphere, but I really returned to the hobby in order to use my limited free time to PLAY, not to write about the game I want to play. Thus, my energies have never been truly focused on blogging.
Charles has updated his description of my blog, and given me some compliments, of which I wonder if I am deserving. Again, I'm not sure that many of my posts could be considered more than just musings on my return to the hobby, rather than things such as product reviews, new monsters and other creations, etc. (not that there's anything wrong with musing about one's life!)
But, I want to change that. I want to make more substantive posts. I hope to do so next week, with a post I've been working on regarding a different way to view D&D magic user classes, in the context of a campaign world.
Ultimately, I want to earn the kind words that you'll find written about my blog over at Dyvers!
Stay tuned!

Friday, May 30, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (5/30/14)

What's this, now? An elf consorting with some sort of...thingy? Seriously, what is that? A demon? A mortal sorcerer that's been...changed (twisted? corrupted?) by the magical forces he's encountered over the years? Or is that just what his species looks like normally?
I'm open to hearing your theories, dear readers! Have a great weekend!

Friday, May 23, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (5/23/14)

A warrior confronting a red dragon? Does it ever get old? Not for me, and not for Larry, apparently. And that's fine with me!
However, this time the warrior is not alone. Did you notice that he has back-up?
I hope you all have a relaxing and restorative Memorial Day holiday, dear readers. Here's to all those who have served and sacrificed for our freedoms.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

D&D 5E Revelations & Coverage Beyond the Covers

Okay, by now everybody knows about the revelations WotC released regarding the D&D 5E books, right? So, no need to rehash it here. Instead, I want to get all "meta" about the discussion burning across the roleplaying blogosphere. I want to weigh in on what D&D still means to the roleplaying world, if I can, and what the new edition might mean for both the veterans and new gamers alike.

Alright, the current buzz is primarily focused on the cover art, right?

Some people - specifically older gamers who were young when the earlier editions of the game were in print - are complaining that the new D&D covers "don't do it for them." In other words, they personally are not inspired by them, like they were inspired by the covers from their OOP edition of choice.

Oh well. Too bad for you.

Do I, personally, like the new covers all that much? Nah, not really. Why? Because, like the other uninspired veterans, they won't replace within me the feelings I get when I see the covers and other illustrations from 1st Edition and especially 2nd Edition. Those were the editions I played the most as a kid.

The art of 2E from the likes of Elmore, Parkinson, and Caldwell are what I experienced as a youth. The work of those artists became the lens through which I viewed the game, and since I encountered their work at an early and impressionable age, they were burned into my mind and heart and soul. Their association within me is nigh irrevocable. In short, those 2E images MEAN D&D TO ME.

But does that mean the art used to illustrate subsequent editions is pure junk? No. Could the 5E covers be a bit more subtle and evocative? Sure they could. But that doesn't mean they have no artistic or inspirational value at all.

The new covers are not D&D to me, but nor are they terrible abominations. I think this sentiment is most pervasive amongst the bloggers I've read. But for those who are veritably dry-heaving over the art...get over it.

Why should they get over it? To paraphrase JFK (probably in poor taste on my part): "Ask not what the covers do for you. Ask what the covers do for the next generation."

Clearly, WotC has had a tall order for themselves with this latest edition. They're trying to include disparate demographics in their bid for "one edition to rule them all." They're trying to appeal to the youth of today, who have been exposed to a much different graphic aesthetic (thus the style chosen for the cover art) and conception of what it means to play a game. At the same time, WotC is also trying to appeal to older gamers and their love for the earlier versions of the game.

I'm not sure how successful WotC will be in their ambitions, but I give them props for making the attempt. And I wish them good luck, because I for one like seeing a game called D&D in print.

The young gamers today have experienced the legacy of D&D mostly through video games. They don't know that the terms hit points and armor class and such came from D&D.

So let's teach them about that legacy, and so much more.

To once again paraphrase JFK: "Ask not what the covers can do for the hobby. Ask what YOU can do for the hobby!"

This comes back, once again, to my impatience for the doomsayers who cyclically come out of the rotted woodwork to declare that the end is nigh for D&D, if not roleplaying in general. Funnily enough, it is the rare doomsayer who actually states the following sentiment: "It seems that roleplaying as a hobby is dying. Therefore, I'm going to go out and do something about it!"

That's my biggest frustration with my fellow veteran gamers: they'll sit around and bemoan the fate of the hobby, BUT THEY WON'T GET OFF THEIR ASSES AND BE PART OF THE SOLUTION. Even if roleplaying is fated for extinction, didn't you guys learn anything from all the heroic fantasy you've read? Didn't all that reading teach you that HEROES FIGHT NO MATTER THE FACT THAT DOOM IS CERTAIN. One must still fight, even in the face of "assured defeat."

Because you know what? Quite often, what we thought was assured defeat is not really the case at all.

Rather than sit back and see whether or not freaking roleplaying book cover illustrations can  entice a new generation to play, perhaps we as veteran gamers should go out and actively help young, potential gamers discover the game. Let's be more active and not passive. Let's help the kids discover what makes these books really cool: the contents, and the history behind the contents. Let's teach them there's more to these books than cool covers. Let's teach them the value of stepping away from the console and to the table-top.

And once the young players of today are at the table, we have the chance to say, "yeah, this new D&D edition is pretty cool, but let me tell you about this other version..."

To wrap this rant up, here's a final thought: the release of 5th Edition is a chance to open up the dialogue about the hobby to a more mainstream audience. In conjunction with the 40th birthday of D&D, we have an opportunity to maybe, just maybe, do something to keep the hobby alive once us old-heads are gone.

I'm doing my part to spread the good word of the previous versions of D&D, with my own children as well as with kids at the FLGS when I can.

What are YOU doing?

Friday, May 16, 2014

End-of-Week Elmore (5/16/14)

Eww, that weird lizard-headed serpent thingy in the illo above is kinda gross, with the tentacle-flagella things all along the neck and hanging from the jaw and all that. Gross, gross, gross.
Well, it's a rainy Friday, and I'm looking forward to a more relaxing weekend than the last few I've had recently. There have been weddings and baptisms and other "rites of Spring" taking up the weekends, but this one coming up is pretty clear.
So, I hope to maybe do some RPG reading here and there, and maybe get some more Dungeon! gaming going with the family. A man can hope! Then there's all that pesky stuff I could be doing towards my goal of a career shift...doh. Well, I can say that life isn't boring, at least!
In the coming weeks I hope to post about ideas for a campaign that won't leave me alone, no matter how much I try to shift my attention to my aspirations of a career change. I need some small outlet for those RPG urges, or they may just drive me MAD!
Have a great weekend, folks, and happy gaming!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Awesome Aquisition: Fighting Fantasy gamebooks

The branch of the county library near my house has a perpetual book sale. There's shelves and shelves of donated books for sale in one corner of the library (they also sell books that have been removed from circulation because they haven't been checked out for a few years).  
Every time I'm in the library, I take a tour through the books for sale. And once in a while, there's something really good waiting for me. This time around, it was a goodly number of Fighting Fantasy gamebooks! Freakin' SWEET score, right?!
Now, the only FF gamebook I've ever played was Forest of Doom, when I was a teen. For some reason, it seemed like it was hard for me to get a hold of the books back then, and anyway I was focused on playing D&D. But I remember having a lot of fun with Forest of Doom when I was alone, and the art was like nothing I'd ever seen...very different from what was in my D&D books, that's for sure.
I don't have a full list of the specific books I grabbed, but as you can see from the shot I took, I got Citadel of Chaos...and there's a copy of Forest of Doom, Starship Traveller, and City of Thieves, among others. No Warlock of Firetop Mountain, unfortunately. 
Oh, and there's a couple SORCERY! books in the bunch as well.
Anyway, I'll post the full list of books sometime soon, when I have a chance to go through them. Can't wait!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Blog Spotlight: A Return to the Keep

I haven't prominently featured someone else's blog here for a while. It was back in October 2012 when I featured the Dicechucker blog. I did it, partially, as part of a "bandwagon jumping" effort: Tim at The Other Side was posting a series about "The Best Blog You Are Not Reading" (TBBYANR) at the time, and I thought it was a great idea. However, I didn't keep up with that endeavor (come to think of it, I'm not sure if Tim did either).
Anyway, that was the past. I'd like to tell you about a new blog called A Return to the Keep (not to be confused with Back to the Keep) that I think shows a lot of promise. Blogger Blackwarden has a lot of enthusiasm that I've been missing in the blogosphere. Of particular note is a re-reading of Moldvay Basic.

I know some of you might groan at that prospect of yet another someone posting about a rule set read-through; I for one really like getting an in-depth view of what another gamer thinks about the rules. It gives me a new perspective, and the potential for new insight.

So check out A Return to the Keep! I think you won't be disappointed!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Castles & Crusades 10th Anniversary Kickstarter!

"Why can't it ever be bunnies that come out of these pits?!"

Anybody who's come to know me on the blogosphere knows I'm a huge fan of Castles & Crusades. Well, the great folks at Troll Lord Games have a Kickstarter going right now in honor of the 10th anniversary of that awesome RPG! The centerpiece of the Kickstarter is a 6th printing of the Player's Handbook in full color.
There's still about 20 days to go with the Kickstarter as I write this, and they've already smashed through the funding goal and a goodly number of stretch goals. And the Trolls have had a slew of very successful Kickstarters in the past, including the recent one for Codex Nordica. The bottom line is: unlike many RPG Kickstarters that have gone belly-up over the last few years, you can't go wrong with the Trolls! They won't let you down!
Please consider supporting this incredible game, which has carried on the legacy of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons with the blessing of Gary Gygax. The Troll Lords are incredible people who I had the pleasure of meeting in person a few years back. Be sure to get in on the action as C&C moves into its next incarnation!

Friday, May 9, 2014

End-of-Week Parkinson (5/9/14)

It's been a while since I featured the art of one of my other top favorite fantasy artists: Keith Parkinson! He's right up there with Elmore, in my estimation. I really like the action-based illo shown above. Makes me want to break out my dice and get into some combat!