Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year, and Welcome to 2012!

To one and all, hope you have a happy new year, and that you are all safe and merry in whatever place you call home. Thanks for a great year in roleplaying, and here's to another one ahead!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Joyous Winter Holidays to You!

To all my gaming comrades out there, may you and yours have a happy holiday season! Here's to the year of gaming behind us, and to the gaming in the year to come!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Paragons of Waterdeep: Session 12

Player Bill (running his Lathanderite cleric Oisin and Player Pam’s elven ranger Kale) and Player Jamie (running his rogue Milo) were in attendance for this session, in which we saw what happened in the aftermath of the skirmish with the elves of the Autumn Blade clan. After tending to the wounded and checking the dead, attentions turned to an Autumn Blade prisoner that had been trapped in the wizard Keseim’s web spell (by the way, Player Wes wasn’t at the session, so Keseim had conveniently been hit by an arrow coated with sleep-inducing toxins, and thus snoozed through the session).

After a somewhat lengthy debate between Oisin and Milo on how to question the prisoner (the conversation between a cleric of a lawful god and a rogue was, of course, a highlight of the session), they seemed to settle on the old “good cleric, bad rogue” routine. However, this seemed to degenerate in Milo taking over most of the questioning process. Oisin wanted no part in Milo’s increasingly, um, “persuasive” tactics. Said tactics included threatening the elf (who gave his name as Elashar) with climbing gear, namely pitons and hammer. As the questioning progressed (with Milo trying to pry information about the Autumn Blade’s intentions, movement, and numbers from the captive) and Elashar remaining tight-lipped and mocking, Milo drove pitons through the toes of elf’s boots, narrowly missing toes. While all this was going on, Oisin joined Kale and the other Daughters of Mielikki with the group (Rel and Karis) on a walk around the camp’s perimeter, to keep an eye out for another assault by the Autumn Blades.
Meanwhile, Milo’s questioning was whipping the Spring Dawn warriors into a frenzy of blood lust and revenge. The Autumn Blades, after all, had been bitter enemies of the Spring Dawn clan for many years. Milo finally became so frustrated with the prisoner that he suddenly insisted on fighting Elashar one-on-one. The elf was untied, and what followed was a down-and-dirty fist fight in a circle of cheering elven warriors. The combatants exchanged blows, while the crowd shouted and rooted for Milo to beat the Autumn Blade to a pulp.

All of this commotion soon attracted unwanted attention, however. As the fight progressed, Kale and her fellow rangers were the first to hear distant crashings through the trees. Eventually, an ettin, two heads grinning wickedly and wielding a large club, came barreling into the camp. The freakish giant smashed a couple of elven warriors with his massive weapon before the elves began to fight back.
Despite the new threat, Milo and Elashar continued their duel. Not long after the appearance of the first ettin, a second ettin appeared from the trees to cause more havoc. Despite the surprise and ferocity of the ettin attack, Oisin and Kale (along with the other Daughters of Mielikki and the elven warriors) led the group in overcoming the giants.

Around the time the second ettin attacked the group, Elashar began to back away from the contest with Milo, trying for a fighting retreat of sorts. Milo tried to snare him with a grappling hook (one of the rogue’s favorite tricks) but the elf was too nimble. Then Milo hurried to catch up with the Autumn Blade, but just as he did so an arrow suddenly protruded from the elf’s shoulder. As Elashar slumped into Milo’s chest, the rogue looked up to see yet another elf step from the trees. This newcomer, who had shot Elashar with the bow she held in her hand, wore a cloak pinned at the shoulder with a silver brooch worked into the image of a sun rising behind a blade of grass.
To be continued…

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Savage Evening with Solomon Kane

Last night was game night at All Things Fun, and I was ready to run the next session of my Paragons of Waterdeep campaign. However, a couple of my players couldn't make it. The campaign is in a critical spot at the moment, so I felt it would be unfair for half the group to not be in on the action. So, luckily, Player Bill had brought some goodies: some of his Savage Worlds books.

Now, both Bill and Player Jamie are big into Savage Worlds, and have played it a lot. So they were able to school me pretty well. I've been trying to read up on the system, but I feel like this old dog can't learn new game systems very easily just by reading the books. I have to learn by playing, it seems. Anyway, I've been dying to learn how to play Savage Worlds, as the guys have been talking about it a lot since we all started gaming together.

Bill's big into the Solomon Kane setting. I've read some things about the setting, and I checked out the recent Del Rey collection of Robert E. Howard's Solomon Kane stories a while back. The setting has interested me, and I was able to look past the racism eventually (it seemed even more prevalent than in the Conan stories). I've always liked the time period of the late 1600's/early 1700's. Throw in some of the supernatural, and I'm in!

Jamie and I created some characters, and Bill agreed to run us through a quick adventure. It was a bit of an adjustment to get into a skill-based game, versus a class-based game like C&C. And then there's the whole point-buy system versus rolling up stats, etc. But it was pretty cool, with attributes and skill ability being represented by different dice (d4 up through d12). It was pretty interesting to use some of the other dice more often, but a bit strange to not be rolling a d20 at all!

I created a brash and arrogant English swordsman named Benedict Zane. I took what's called a Hindrance with regard to arrogance, as well as a delusion Hindrance. Thus, not only is he a braggart, but Benedict also believes he gets advice and wisdom from the voice of St. George, that only he can hear (he sort of keeps this to himself, however).

Jamie created a magician-type of character by the name of Nicholas Margrave (I think that's the name). He has an Italian man-servant (whose name escapes me at the moment), and they are apparently on the run from a vengeful Italian merchant family. Our characters, of course, bumped into each other in an inn (some things never change), and we proceeded to head out into the night across some desolate English moors! There we encountered some wolves, who we fought off successfully.

It was all-in-all a great night! I was glad to finally get into Savage Worlds to see what all the fuss was about. I was pleasantly surprised with the system, and I am definitely interested in Bill running some more Solomon Kane when we need to take a break (or are forced to take a break) from my campaign.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Paragons of Waterdeep: Sesson 11

Our heroes and their allies battle hostile elves and their lupine pets!

(The Wednesday Night C&C group at All Things Fun hasn't met in about three weeks, due to Thanksgiving as well as some conflicts in my schedule. Therefore, we haven't had a session of my campaign for a few weeks. I'm definitely suffering from RPG withdrawal! I sort of expected this time of year to slow us down, but I've used the time to keep planning all sorts of diabolical stuff for my players to encounter. At any rate, session 11 was pretty intense. Read on below...)

At the end of the last session, the party had reunited with elven ranger Kale's wood elf clan. Her people were still migrating westward through the High Forest, with the goal of getting away from the recent depridations of undead humanoids. Kale, along with Lathanderite cleric Oisin, human wizard Keseim, and Milo the rogue, found the clan was in a haggard state. Everywhere they looked, upon entering the temporary clan encampment, there could be seen worried and/or wounded elves.

They were reunited with Breonna, the leader of the elite rangers called the Daughters of Mielikki (of which Kale is a member) and the current (temporary) leader of the clan since the death of the former leader/voantir, Elaya. Breonna confirmed that the vo'an, being burdened with protecting the clan's non-combatants and the slow progress through the dense forest, was being harried by ambushes and hit-and-run attacks by their enemies, the elves of the Autumn Blade clan.

The party quickly decided to help the vo'an by creating a diversion. They selected volunteers from among the clan's warriors, ten healthy and five injured fighters. The injured fighters were to be a part of a plan to trick the Autumn Blades into attacking what would appear to be a weakened group of stragglers that would lag behind the rest of the vo'an. Also a part of the plan would be two other Daughters of Mielikki, Rel and Karis (good friends of Kale).

The next day the group began to set their plan into motion. Then, as the vo'an began to move again, the party's group began to slowly lag behind the main body of the vo'an, in the hopes of luring at least some of the Autumn Blades away from attacking the vo'an proper.

The party's group came to a halt, and they waited to see if any Autumn Blades would take the bait. Sure enough, it wasn't long before there was movement detected in the trees surrounding the group. Then, a pack of feral wolves leaped upon the party, and battle was joined. The group fought off the wolves for the most part, and the beasts retreated into the wood again. Then there came a volley of many arrows that slammed into the party's group. This was followed by at least a dozen Autumn Blade archers stepping into sight.

What followed was a pretty intense combat, aided by using Player Jamie's wet erase grid and our mix of paper minis (some I recently downloaded from the internet as well as a good number that came with the "Black Box" version of D&D that I've had lying around for was pretty cool to finally break those out for some gaming) as well as glass beads and even counters from Jamie's copy of the D&D 4E Monster Vault! The image at the top of this post was taken during the height of the action!

The battle was great, with our group's usual combination of great tactics, clever usage of spells (props to Keseim's player Wes!), and their skill in acting in concert and maximizing their class abilities (for instance, C&C rangers are pretty deadly, even at low levels).

The party and their allies fought off the Autumn Blades, who retreated into the wood after having a significant number of their people killed or wounded. That's where the session left off, with four of the party's elven warrior's killed.

To be continued...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Inspiration: Elmore's Out of the Darkness

This reminds me of Monday, rearing it's ugly head once more. Blech. I'm working on slaying this most horrible of days once again. The fight is almost over for another week...

P.S. Saw the recent Conan movie this weekend. You know, the one starring Jason Momoa as everyone's favorite barbarian? Holy crap, did it stink (IMHO). And I'm not just saying that because I really like the source material (but indeed, the movie was an affront to Howard's stories). It was really a boring entry in the fantasy film genre. Another missed opportunity...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Checking in from the depths of a long weekend...

Hail, one and all! I hope all my fellow Americans are enjoying a long weekend, such as I am enjoying. I am having a great time with family, and also loving that I have time to do some casual reading.

I'm assuming that most of you know about the Chronicles of Prydain. I for one find it superior to the Chronicles of Narnia, but both have their merits. It's a matter of personal taste, of course. At any rate, I've decided to reread the Prydain Chronicles, and I'm really enjoying The Book of Three. I'm almost done, and can't wait to move on to The Black Cauldron. I can't wait until my kids are old enough to appreciate Prydain, Narnia, and Middle Earth, so I can read these wonderful tales with them.

I am also working my way through The New Death and Others by James Hutchings. I'll be writing a review of Jame's work soon (and perhaps a deeper discussion of Prydain).

Anyway, time to run off and do some more holiday relaxing, etc. Hope one and all are well out there!

P.S. One of the Encore channels on cable is showing all three Lord of the Rings movies all day long. I love the holidays! You can tune in at random times to such marathons and just drift away...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

On Bein' Thankful for Roleplaying!

Nothing profound about this post, everyone (and I think that my posting has been a bit more on the fluff side of late). I just wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. I also wanted to say that I'm definitely counting my blessings and giving thanks for the roleplaying I have going on in my life.

I sometimes have to sit back and remind myself how long I was "away from the table" before this past year or so. I'm very fortunate to have a great group to game with, and a great place to game. In reading other blogs, I see some lamenting their lack of ability to actually roleplay, rather than just blog about it. So I am fortunate indeed!

Thanks for reading, thanks for the community, and (as always) happy gaming!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Idle Musings: Elf Ear Length

I for one can't stand those long, World of Warcraft elf ears. Is WoW to blame for the popularity of extra-large elf ears? Blech.

Gimme slightly pointed elf ears any day.

Of course, if the elf is being portrayed by Felicia Day, that's when I stop caring about the ears.

So, what are your preferred elf ears?

Oh, and for those who are hardcore about their elfish-ness, there's always body mod (of course this would also work for those Trekkers who wish to be more Vulcan).

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Favorite OSR Products

Brace yourself, bandwagon, 'cause I'm jumping on! This is my list for James at Underdark Gazette.

He asked, and I obey!

In no particular order:
  • Stonehell Dungeon
  • Swords & Wizardry Monster Compendium
  • Points of Light
  • Blackmarsh
  • Death Frost Doom
  • Encounter Magazine
  • Knockspell Magazine
  • Expeditious Retreat Press (all old school modules) 
  • Goodman Games (all old school modules)
  • The Majestic Wilderlands

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Ultimate Non-Stick in the Mud is...

Alexis Smolensk. Thanks for this. It was great to see the real person behind the huge volume of words written on that blog. For me, this proves that Alexis is more than just the curmudgeon he makes himself out to be on the blog. It was a bold stroke on his part, if you ask me. He came across as pretty down-to-earth, and that was refreshing. Changed my whole perspective on the guy, I have to say. It was conversational in tone and I think that's what stood out most for me.

Kudos to you, sir. You're definitely a braver soul than I. Major props, and happy gaming!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Just another messed-up Monday...

I've written here at least once (over a year ago) about how much I hate Mondays. And that hasn't changed. In fact, it's gotten worse, that hatred. When last I posted about my disdain for the first workday of the week, I was actually in a comfy and familiar (albeit lower paying) job that I had been at for years. If only my then-self knew how much more Mondays would come to suck.

If you've been following this here blog, you know that I was downsized in February of 2011. In a flurry of job-hunting activity, I found my current position in record time (was only out of work for three weeks or so). Well, I'm about seven months into the new gig, and I'm still struggling to get the hang of the gig. I've never worked for a firm the size of my current employer (thousands of employees versus the less-than three hundred that I used to work with). And the position comes with much more stress, speed, and responsibility than my last job.

I know, cry me a river, right? I try to be thankful that I have a job, when so many don't. I try to get ahead of the game at the new gig but haven't yet been able to get my head above water. Part of it might be a bit of a crisis within. I'm questioning if I want to keep on with the stress of my type of work (proposal writing) and am also asking myself if an entirely new vocation shouldn't be in my plans for the future.

To add insult to Monday injury, this morning I discovered that something horrible has happened to the Axe and Hammer blog that once belonged to fellow blogger Grendelwulf (who, ironically, commented on my "Me versus Monday" post that I linked to above). He was one of the first bloggers I interacted with when I got into the RPG blogging game. GW, I hope you are still out there and fighting to get your blog back, whatever happened to it.

Depressed? You could say so. I'm feeling an eerie sensation that my current real-life pressures are going to have a deep impact on my gaming life. And perhaps sooner rather than later. You know how you can just feel these things?

And this thought is making me really, really angry. I'm getting squeezed from all sides with regard to my work, and I'm just feeling like there's no way out at the moment. But there is a way out. It will just take work. And the time for that work needs to come from somewhere. And unfortunately, the time will most likely be stripped away from my gaming life.

Sorry for being a downer. I figured I'd share with the group and see how much misery loves company, etc. For now, I'm NOT giving up on my Wednesday night gaming goodness. I just might be missing more Wednesdays in the near to mid-future, unfortunately. But then again, who knows? Tomorrow is another day.

If anyone can give me any intel on what happened to Grendelwulf, I'd appreciate it. In the meantime, I'll be searching for some inspiration...

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Blog Word Verification as RPG Inspiration?

Atom Kid, the mind behind blogs such as CROM! and Maximum Rock & Role Playing, recently wrote a post that I find to be nothing short of genius! It was a head-slapping moment for me, because I don't know why someone hasn't thought of it sooner (and if they have, then I don't know about it).

Atom Kid put forth an idea related to those Blogger word verifications that many blogs (mine included) require before a comment can be posted. What's the idea, you ask? Well, he thought it would be cool to use those zany words as the basis for names for characters, creatures, and places! Really cool and creative idea, right?!

Go here to read the post I'm talking about. I hope that Atom Kid continues with this project, and perhaps he wouldn't mind if I picked up the torch as well. If anything deserves to become a blogosphere meme, it's this one!

Monday, November 7, 2011

ALERT: Crypts & Things PDF Released!

Attention, RPG blogosphere! Newt Newport of Sorcerer Under Mountain has released the PDF of his much-anticipated Swords & Wizardry variant called Crypts & Things! If you've read my blog at all in the last few weeks, you've probably read just a wee bit about this sword and sorcery-focused version of Matt Finch's beloved Original D&D retroclone.

Newt, that sly fellow, had scheduled the PDF release for mid-November. So imagine my surprise when I received an email from Mr. Newport with the C&T PDF attached! Talk about a pleasant surprise!

Anyway, I am going to no doubt lose some sleep tonight digging through the game. I've been itching to get my hands on this thing, as I've been dreaming of doing some hardcore sword and sorcery gaming!

Below is a video walkthrough of the book, conducted by Newt himself. I hope that it gets you as excited as me for this game! Do yourself a favor and get your own copy! From what I'm seeing just on an initial skim-through, you won't be disappointed!

Monday Inspiration: David Bowie's Ballad of the Adventurers

[This always makes me think of 1st-level D&D characters still new to their adventuring careers]

Sickened by sun, with rainstorms lashing him rotten

A looted wreath crowning his tangled hair

Every moment of his youth apart from its dream was forgotten

Gone the roof overhead, but the sky was always there

Oh you, who are flung out, alike from heaven and from Hades

You murderers who've been so bitterly repaid

Why did you part from the mothers who nursed you as babies

It was peaceful and you slept and there you stayed

Still he explores and rakes the absinthe green oceans

Though his mother has given him up for lost

Grinning and cursing with a few odd tears of contrition

Always in search of that land where life seems best

Loafing through hells and flocked through paradises

Calm and grinning, with a vanishing face

At times he still dreams of a small field he recognises

With a blue sky overhead and nothing else

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thoughts upon my 100th post for 2011

Hello fellow gamers! This is a pure fluff post, I suppose, because I'm just going to pat myself on the back for what is probably not a very impressive stat: this is my 100th post this year. Yeah, I know. Big deal, right?

But let me take the opportunity to say thanks to all who stop by and read. I try to return the favor when I can. I perhaps spend more time than I should cruising around the blogosphere. But then again, that time is worth it. Because I need the support system. I need to be reminded that there are like-minded souls out there, working hard to have adventures. Keeping the RPG flame alive.

That's why the cynical souls who say that we shouldn't trust each other, that your fellow bloggers are not your friends, blah blah blah, can frankly suck it. They can shut the F up. We may not know each other beyond our little virtual world here, but those who never took a chance never had a chance. So every day we take a chance and share our experiences, thoughts, inspirations, etc. with near-strangers. And that's alright by me.

Why? Because this hobby-that-isn't-just-a-hobby is important to all of us. It brings us together, our diverse group of dreamers. For what are we if not the lords of imagination, purveyors of dreams? We, who mourn the passing of our comrades (farewell, ChicagoWiz, and the rest who have gone before) and laugh in the face of those who proclaim that our dungeons suck. We, who are wary of those who claim to know the "true way" of how to roleplay. We know the truth: that any roleplaying is good roleplaying. Those who say otherwise are lost souls, and rightly so.

The name of my blog derives from the famous speech in Shakespeare's Henry V. I chose it originally because I was returning "once more unto the breach" of roleplaying. But now that title also reminds me that I have indeed found a "band of brothers" in this community of ours.

So, I dedicate this post to you, my fellow roleplayers. Hail, and well met! May your adventures always be plentiful! As always, I wish you happy gaming!

Friday, November 4, 2011


Look out, people! It's another RPG blogosphere meme! I'm actually going to participate in this one, since it's pretty short. This one is the brainchild of noisms at Monsters and Manuals. It's called "Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About" or TRPBTNTWA!

So, here goes:

Book binding: overall I've been pretty lucky with book bindings holding up well. Then again, I am a book snob and treat them like human babies when handling them. Plus, apparently a lot of recent RPGs have some binding problems. I am not encountering that, because for the most part I've been getting PDFs and having them spiral bound. It's so much better to be able to have a book lay flat, being able to fold it this way and that, etc.

"Doing a voice": despite having a lot of acting in my background, I don't really like to do voices. I usually like to describe how an NPCs voice sounds and let the player's imagination take over. I also like to change how I phrase things, alter my syntax and sentence structure, etc. in order to make an NPC's manner of speaking sound unique, rather than rely on some weird voice. However, there are times when I'm inspired and will do a voice. This is especially true if there's some comedic effect I'm going for (these go over much better than me trying to do an intimidating voice, which I am not sure I can make believable). Then there's times I like to do some gruff voices for grizzled warriors or haughty voices for wizards or nobles. But there's not much beyond that.

Breaks: These are usually just spur of the moment. If a player's had too much Dr. Pepper at the table and has to go, they usually just pop up for a quick pee. I've been considering calling breaks half way through a night's session, though. Just to stretch the legs, etc.

Description: This depends on the situation. It's all about context. If you're just entering another tavern, then there's not much need for description. But entering a specific NPC's lair, or some other place that's destined to be an important "set piece," then that calls for me to pull out the stops and slather on the details like only a true B.S. in English can! ;-) Simply put, there are places where you need to evoke a mood, and places that you don't.

Where do you strike the balance between "doing what your character would do" and "acting like a dickhead"?: This is a weird one for me because I play with a really great group of nice people at the moment, so there's not a dickhead to be found! But back in the day, as a kid playing the game, there were one or two guys who were dicks, DM and player alike. Those guys, we just stopped playing with them. Nuff said.

PC-on-PC violence: I think this goes hand-in-hand, more often than not, with the dickhead thing. Only dickheads tried to abuse fellow player's characters. Thus, we stopped playing with those guys. If I ever get into playing at conventions with strangers, I might start running in to more dickheads. But at the moment, I've got my small and close-knit band of like-minded gamers, who are a blessing!

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player?: I try to explain it simply for the most part. I say "It's board gaming without the board." Or I say "It's cooperative storytelling." Or "It's like acting, and our imaginations are the stage." Usually it's a combination of these. That's how I start out, and then try to explain the basics quickly, just a summary. Sometimes I feel like being glib and say "It's the adult version of playing pretend." But I usually try to not say that, because it might help to spread the anti-gaming stigma. I think that people who would never want to play an RPG will never be able to truly compute the concept, because it's something they would never want to do. So they don't try hard to understand. That's (sadly) how many people approach a lot of things in life, I think.

Alcohol at the table?: I wouldn't mind trying it. I think I've done it once, and we didn't have enough alcohol to get truly drunk while gaming.

What's acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session?: When I start a campaign, one of the things I do for the players is outline my ideas for what to do when a player is absent. I usually give them these options: when you're not here, I can A) use your player as an NPC and promise not to kill him/her or B) have your character become somehow indisposed for the session, either by falling unconscious, disappearing mysteriously, etc. This second option usually lends itself to some interesting plot developments and side quests once the player returns to the game in a later session. Either way, though, the character earns no XP for the session. I've tinkered with the idea of offer another option: if a player allows me to use their character as an NPC that could get killed, I will allow them to earn XP. But I'm still on the fence about that. Now, if during a session another player is willing to play another player's character, and the owner of said character is ok with it, that's another way that a character can earn XP (but the stand-in player needs to make good use of the borrowed character during the session).

So that's what I've got to say about that! What about you? Come on, everybody's doing it!

Call me Alice...

...because I just slipped down the rabbit hole again. What rabbit hole, you ask? Why, the gaming blog rabbit hole! Surely you've taken that darkling path yourself! Down and down you go, clicking on link after link. You start out on one blog, then make the error of looking through that blog's list of links to other blogs. And on and on it goes, until, lo and behold, your entire lunch hour is gone! It's enough to drive one quite mad, and cause the afflicted to break into nonsensical rhyme...

Twas bryllyg, and ye slythy toves
Did gyre and gymble in ye wabe:
All mimsy were ye borogoves;
And ye mome raths outgrabe.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Have I mentioned Crypts & Things yet?

"Is the soup ready yet?"

I may have already talked about this before on my blog, but I can't remember. ;-) Anyway there's a pretty cool Swords & Wizardry variant out there called Crypts & Things (the image above is one of the many illustrations in the book). Creator Newt Newport has taken the S&W rules as a foundation and made them more swords and sorcery-friendly.

The project is about to hit the streets, and a lot of people are buzzing about it and have put in their pre-orders (myself included). The PDF is slated for release in the next couple weeks, with the print release before the end of the year. They've almost reached their pre-order goal. So go check it out, and get in on the action!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Paragons of Waterdeep: Sessions 9 & 10

At the end of Session 8, the party had just emerged from the sinister depths of a ruined temple, having defeated the evil being that dwelled there. Before they had a chance to regroup after their flight, a mysterious figure addressed them, saying “Welcome back, friends.”

The cloaked figure introduced himself as Doomguide Abelurd, a cleric of Kelemvor, the current god of death. The group discussed the recent events in the High Forest with Abelurd, who told the party that he was lured to the region due to strong emanations of undeath. Kelemvor abhors undeath, seeing it as an invasion upon his domain. In this Abelurd and the Lathanderite cleric Oisin found common ground, albeit from differing motivations.
From information imparted by the group and the location of the ruined temple, Abelurd surmised the possible identity of the being the group had just defeated. He told them they may have encountered a man named Ungotha, who had been a cleric of Myrkul centuries before, when the temple had still been active. Legends stated that Ungotha had turned to the worship of Velsharune, god of undeath, betraying his vows to Myrkul.
It was then that the elven wizardess Tanara awakened. She told the group that she had attempted to open the cave portal to Waterdeep through which the party had arrived days before, but was unable to do so. After that attempt, she decided to investigate the temple, and was overcome by the malevolent power there. She confirmed that the evil being in the temple had called himself Ungotha. There was no longer any doubt that Ungotha had made some pact with Velsharune to attain some sort of undead state.
It was then that the group noticed that Milo the rogue had disappeared (conveniently, since his player Jamie was not able to attend Session 9 ;-). A quick search of the area by Kale the elven ranger discovered his tracks, heading north.
It was decided that Tanara and Abelurd would head southeast to Evereska, the last major elven city on the continent. Tanara revealed that she is from that city. Now that the mystery of the portal stone and the location of Kurthrad’s tower was clarified, she felt it was time to return home and discuss her findings with her peers. Once she was ready to return to investigate the tower again, she would seek out the party’s assistance.
As for Abelurd, he said that his temple is located in the city of Westgate, far to the east on the Sea of Fallen Stars. He had decided to entreat his god to search for the spirit of Ungotha, and so doing gain confirmation of the vile necromancer-priest’s final demise.
The centaur NPC Narcoth volunteered to take the dwarf warrior Murzod’s body back to Mithral Hall. He then headed off to the northeast to find the rest of the party of dwarves that had gone on ahead.
This left the remaining party—Oisin, Kale, Keseim, and the elven fighter Otiver (NPC) to decide their next move. They chose to seek out Milo while they headed after Kale’s clan, in order to rejoin her people as they moved westward.
Kale lost Milo’s trail at a river, and while searching for it the party was attacked by bugbears. After making short work of the foul folk (C&C rangers are especially deadly against humanoids!), they rested for the night. They set off early the next morning, once Kale finally rediscovered Milo’s trail.
After hours of travel, the trail turned abruptly north into the depths of the High Forest. The party warily entered the trees. Keseim cast detect magic, and spotted emanations about 30 feet up a tree. As they cautiously approached, a huge winged form burst from the canopy above. It was a harpy, and it descended upon them in a fury. As the party fell into battle, a second harpy joined the fray. This second creature began to sing an eerie dirge, which most of the part was able to resist…except for the wizard Keseim! He was overwhelmed with the urge to climb a nearby tree in order to get closer to the harpies.
The rest of the group was able to kill the harpies. Keseim, no longer enchanted, continued to climb the tree to discover Milo tied with vines to a stout limb. The magic Keseim had detected had come from the magical dagger Milo had found in the ruined temple.
Milo was freed and the group enjoyed a short reunion before continuing onward. They rode hard across rough terrain, and by nightfall they reached the last location of Kale’s vo’an. The group made camp and settled in for the night. It was during Kale’s watch that she began to smell the scent of rot nearby. She woke the group to investigate. They finally noticed several sacks tied high up in some trees surrounding the campsite. Cutting down the sacks, they group found they contained the mutilated and dismembered bodies of elves. Kale recognized them as members of her clan.
Kale was familiar with the use of dead bodies to lure creatures in the High Forest. Someone (probably her clan’s sworn enemies, the Autumn Blades clan) had created an ambush. This tactic worked, as the group was suddenly attacked by a wyvern. A protracted and difficult fight ensued, but they were able to drive off the beast.
The next morning, Oisin used a spell to speak with the spirit of one of the slain elves. The spirit confirmed that they were indeed slain by Autumn Blades, and also told Oisin that a large force of Autumn Blades were pursuing Kale’s vo’an. This motivated the party to quickly resume their westward journey, in the hope of reuniting with the vo’an before the elves were overrun by their enemies.
During their rush to gain ground, the party barely avoided riding into an ambush set by a small force of Autumn Blade elves. They group decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and decided to avoid confronting a larger group of foes. Oisin cast a darkness spell over the party, and they rode onward. Since Oisin was the only one in the group able to see out of the darkness, he guided them as best he could verbally. There were a few close calls where PCs almost toppled from their horses, but the party was able to elude their pursuers (though Keseim was struck a grazing blow by one of many arrows that were shot by the Autumn Blades despite the darkness spell).
They group then encounter two of Kale’s fellow rangers, Karis and Aravel, who confirmed that the Spring Dawn clan was indeed being harried by the Autumn Blades. The group moved onward and finally reunited with the vo’an.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Preparing for a Hunt for the Roots

Sorry if I sounded a bit melodramatic in my post yesterday about Gamer ADD, and how I'm "burning out" with regard to the amount of RPG material I've been reading of late. That's really what it was all about: me coming to the realization that I've been obsessively reading RPG rulebooks and accessories, to the point that I've been neglecting my other interests. It's also causing my brain to fry from all the information overload, and causing my mind to wander into all the possible future games I may someday run/play in.

Now, it's okay for me to be reading through my Castles & Crusades stuff on a regular basis. Because I'm running a C&C game that's been providing me and some great players with a fantastic bit of adventure! I'm really proud of our group and how we work really well together, and we're having a great time.

But in between all of that C&C research and game prep, I've been reading Labyrinth Lord, Swords & Wizardry, the Rules Cyclopedia, B/X D&D, Barbarians of Lemuria, Conan the RPG, Talislanta, Dragon Age RPG, The One Ring RPG, OpenQuest, and others that I can't even remember at the moment.

And then add in my desire to read through the blogs that I follow, which I think is totally worth it (but again it takes up time and my limited brain space!). I also want to comment on people's posts and write my own posts. More time and brain space.

Add to that the fact that I've also been reading up on settings for Pathfinder, Blackmarsh, Points of Light, Greyhawk, Lankhmar, Elric!/Stormbringer, Earthdawn, Warhammer, Eberron, and on and on. And reading a bunch of modules, those from TSR, Goodman Games, Troll Lord Games, Paizo, Expeditious Retreat, etc. AND also bugging Newt Newport about Crypts & Things. AND bugging James at Grognardia about his Dwimmermount stuff.

So, can you see why I've been feeling burnt?! I've inundated myself, saturated myself with gaming stuff. To the point that I've completely stalled on my other great love: reading. Reading novels, and non-fiction.

In particular, it's taking me FOREVER to read Martin's A Dance with Dragons. Most people I know have already read it. Heck, one of my best friends is well into his SECOND reading!

And I've also been unable to watch any of my beloved History channel shows that are piling up on the DVR (much to the wife's chagrin)!


Whew. OK. Seriously, I need some detox. I need to put the ton of stuff aside for now, and just take a breather. Take a rest. Focus. I need to really be thankful for what I currently have going on gaming-wise. The rest of the gaming stuff will be there when I'm ready. It will keep.

So, here's the plan (and the reason for the title of my post): I am going to finish A Dance with Dragons. Then, I am going to do something I've been meaning to do for a long time, but have been putting off for too long: I'm going to finally read through the tales of Vance, Howard, Leiber, Moorcock, Burroughs, and all the rest who represent the roots of D&D. Give me Appendix N or give me death!

And in between reading up on those seminal tales, I will be focusing my gamer attentions on my current campaign.

Then comes the blogosphere. Followed by some TV.

But of course, all of the above comes after work and family.

Whew. I feel better now. Onward!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Gamer ADD and Burn-Out

Hey folks! Just wanted to check in and ramble a bit. Been feeling a bit burnt over the last couple of days with regard to gaming. And I know why: Gamer ADD. I've let that hoary beast push my beleaguered brain to the edge of reason once again.

I will confront Gamer ADD and say "Ah yes, my old friend and enemy, I see you lurking over my shoulder. You're the cause of my unrelenting need to dig through my RPG book collection almost every night.

You push me to flip through all those pages and dream about campaigns that may never be. You make me obsess over thoughts of adventures yet to come.

You distract me from working on the campaign I am currently running...a living and breathing campaign with great players that depend on my ability to provide a fun and exciting experience almost every week. They are what's most important right now. Not you. Begone, I say! The power of St. Gygax compels you!"

Seriously, I am feeling like I need to strike back somehow at my old foe. I am feeling that I need to put away all the other books and stay away from them for a good while. I want to just carry around my Castles & Crusades books and the materials I am using for my current campaign. I don't want what I currently have going on to suffer at all due to my penchant for daydreaming about what could be.

I think I can do it. So, for the time being, until I am no longer feeling fried in the brain pan, I will gently put aside (for instance) my copies of Labyrinth Lord and Swords & Wizardry. Just for a while. And with them, I will put my embryonic thoughts of getting down to some Original/Basic/Classic D&D goodness on the shelf. I will set aside thoughts of race-as-class and all the other trappings. Just for a while. So the gray matter can cool down.

Though I am scared of what will happen when the PDF of Crypts & Things comes knocking...but I can't worry about that right now!

I need to do this for my peace of mind, and for the good of my actual gaming. No need to sacrifice the "what is" for the "what might be," right?

If you're out there reading this and you are feeling the Gamer ADD crunch at the moment, gimme an amen! Remind me that I'm not alone! I need the support right now!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Paragons of Waterdeep: Sessions 7 & 8

At the table for these two pivotal sessions were Wes and his Calishite wizard Keseim, Pam and her elven ranger Kale, Bill and his cleric of Lathander named Oisin, and Jamie’s rogue named Milo. We picked up where we left off at the end of Session 6, with the group back in a hidden glade high in the Star Mount range in the High Forest. The group had just returned through a portal from the location of an ancient tower that was once the dwelling of an elven wizard named Kurthrad, who called himself “The Artificer.” They had fought against some of the constructs that dwell in the tower: a bull-like abraxus that expelled deadly green gas and some animated suits of armor.

Their centaur NPC, Quiron, was poisoned by the abraxus’ noxious exhalations. They had dragged him back through the portal, but he lay unconscious, his breathing shallow and his skin a deathly pallor. Narcoth, the other centaur NPC, told the group that a warrior of their tribe should die by a weapon’s touch, not slowly fade into death. That would be dishonorable. So he told them that he would put an end to Quiron’s suffering, whether they agreed or not. Indeed, he would fight the party if they tried to stop him. The party said they would not interfere, so Narcoth went about the task of ending his fellow’s life, and, as befits the traditions of the centaur people, they would leave his body for Nature to reclaim.

Afterward, the group discussed their next move, and decided that they would need to soon return to the ruined temple of Myrkul and attempt to finish off the evil force within. But they knew they would need some help, and decided to attempt to find the group of dwarves from Mithral Hall that they had met in the High Forest.

They came down from the mountains, and as they headed northeast, some of the group (except for Kale) began to hear the faint sound of a woman’s voice. The voice seemed to come from everywhere, and they heard whimpering as well as the words “…temple…pain…” As they stopped in confusion, they spied a small form emerge from the High Forest: it was Murzod the dwarf, one of the dwarves they had decided to seek out. When he approached the group, he said that he had been journeying with his fellows to Mithral Hall when he began to hear a woman’s voice, and his feet turned of their own accord back toward the east. The call had been leading him in the general direction of the ancient temple to Myrkul, a place he had not been before. The group took this as a sign that their fates crossed paths at the site of the evil temple, so they moved in all haste to that dark place.

Once at the ruined temple, they headed inside with some hesitation and preparation. But they encountered nothing but bones of orcs, gnolls, and goblins. They toyed with the idea of opening the door inscribed with the words goblinoid words for “Bad Here,” but ultimately decided to pass it by. When they came to the room where they slew a goodly number of evil humanoids, including the gnoll chieftan Gritznak, they decided to break up the bones they found there in an effort to cripple any animated skeletons that might form from them. As they broke up the bones, that’s when the temple seemed to breathe. Then bones began to swirl around the room in a storm of sharp fragments. The party managed to avoid getting shredded and fled down the nearby staircase to the lower level of the temple.

They were greeted by a dark corridor lined with doors at the bottom of the steps. As they slowly advanced, torches in hand and listening at doors, they began to hear moaning from somewhere ahead…and then the skittering of claws. This was followed by someone suddenly wailing “Gods, they’re coming back! Please, save me, oh gods of mercy!”

The group cautiously rounded a corner to see a flayed man chained to the wall of the passage. The flesh of his torso was peeled back to reveal his organs, and yet he still lived. The sound of claws grew louder, until a ghoul came out of the darkness ahead to feast on the exposed entrails of the man, whose wails became screams (can you tell it’s close to Halloween? ;-). The group sprang into action as several more ghouls rounded the corner and rushed at the party. Some blows were struck against the creatures before Oisin the Lathanderite turned the ghouls, causing them to flee back into the darkness. The group tried to talk to the unfortunate man on the wall, but all he did was rave about once being a part of a traveling group of performers.

They continued down the corridor and discovered three more flayed yet still living people, also former members of a group of troubadours that were captured by the evil humanoids that served the power of the evil temple. They pressed on through the gauntlet of these tortured souls, encountering two giant skeletons that were created from the bones of many different creatures. Once again, Oisin exhorted Lathander to make the undead flee, and the god answered, sending the things running before the party’s advance. The group then made similar short work of another pack of ghouls, using swords, arrows, and flame (the old flaming lamp oil trick!).

Their resources almost spent, the group passed a nervous night in the depths of the temple. They were able to rest and regain some strength before pressing on. They discovered the desiccated corpses of what looked to be a party of adventurers. Among the bodies they found an amulet, a well-crafted wizard’s staff, and a beautifully-made dagger, all of which radiated strong magic.

The party moved on, and came to a massive door of black iron. The front of the door was crafted to resemble a writhing mass of nude male and female bodies. As they approached the door, five twisted dog-like creatures—yeth hounds—with slavering jaws passed through the door as if they were as insubstantial as ghosts. The party engaged in a desperate battle once more. The beasts were not undead, so Oisin could not turn them. Milo the rogue used his newly-acquired dagger to good effect. His attacks on the hounds were devastating, causing the flesh of the beasts to burn. At one point, one of the hounds began to howl, and supernatural fear descended upon the party. The group was able to shake off the effects of the fear, however, and after slaying several of the hounds (which, as extraplanar creatures, faded into nothingness once killed), this caused the remainder to flee. Then the party steeled themselves and pushed open the massive door before them.

They entered a large chamber that was lit by guttering torches in sconces. The vaulted ceiling was lost in darkness. Along the walls were six giant statues of Myrkul. As was the case with all the other statues in the temple, they were carved into the “Grim Reaper” visage of the former god of death. However, the faces of these statues had been smashed off. At the other end of the room was a large stone altar, upon which lay the bound and unconscious form of Tanara, the elven wizard. And beyond her, on a dais, sat a dark-robed figure. Two yeth hounds sat at its feet, gazing balefully at the party with burning red eyes.

The party readied themselves for battle once more, and advanced slowly into the chamber. As they did so, the cloaked being stood slowly and welcomed them to his lair. He told them that he would use their blood and bodies to aid in the finalization of his resurrection and the continued growth of his army of the undead. He gave praise to a god named Velsharune, the god of undeath (who was never a friend to the gods of death, especially the current death god, Kelemvor). Velsharune was the source of the mysterious being’s power. The robed figure declared that the birth of an undead empire on the face of Faerun would begin with the sacrifice of Tanara.

The party decided to attack as the hooded figure began to advance toward Tanara with a large ceremonial dagger. An epic battle ensued, in which the robed being commanded yeth hounds as well as animated shadows to attack the group. Kale the ranger had a shadow drain her of strength at one point. The robed being cast arcane spells, one of which enchanted Murzod, who promptly turned and attacked members of the party. In the chaos of battle, the elven warrior Otiver (an NPC and clansman of Kale) struck Murzod a blow from behind, wounding him.

But the party had the divine power of Lathander on their side in the form of Oisin, who was able to turn many of the shadows summoned by their cloaked antagonist. This enraged the strange being, who pulled back its hood to show a fleshless head that revealed wet musculature and lidless eyes. The being cursed the cleric Oisin and the god Lathander, renewing his magical attacks. He summoned up a poisonous fog to choke the group, and flung bolts of green energy at them. Several of these struck the wizard Keseim at one point, almost killing him (took him down into negative hit points, but the cleric acted quickly to heal the wizard).

Slowly, the group turned the tide of battle, working well in unison until only the fleshless being remained. At that point, their opponent drew out a wicked mace that ended in a spiked metal head shaped like a skull. Then, he shrouded himself in magical darkness, and advanced on the group. A mighty blow from that evil weapon slew Murzod. Milo was also struck a grazing blow, and the touch of the weapon caused him to go blind!

The party attacked from all sides, desperately trying to damage an opponent that they could not see. Finally, Oisin challenged the being directly, causing their enemy to react in anger. The robed being strode from the shadows to deal a blow to the cleric. But it was Oisin who landed a crushing strike (Player Bill rolled a clutch natural 20 at that moment!), and at the same time the centaur Narcoth also struck with his enchanted scimitar. This onslaught brought the battle to an end, slaying their foe.

In the aftermath, the group only had time to heal some of their wounds and gather up the body of Murzod. Then the temple began to shake violently. They rushed through the dark corridors in a frantic race to reach the exit before the temple collapsed in on itself. They were able to make it back to the surface just as the temple withdrew back into the ground. The group had just collapsed to the ground in exhaustion when a nearby voice said, “Welcome back, friends.” The party looked up to see a dark figure standing in the shadow of the nearby woods.

To be continued...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Have you ordered YOUR copy of C&T yet?

What? You haven't?! Well, then, you must go here immediately and do so! Come on, you know you want to. Everyone's doing it. Be one of us. One of us, one of us, ONE OF US, ONE OF US!

Alexis = NON-Stick in the Mud?!

If it can be believed, Alexis has posted one of his rare examples of a (mostly) non-abusive (though he does use the term "idiot") and thoughtful post! I just know he's not really the arrogant, sadistic, grumpy guss he makes himself out to be!

My issue with Alexis is that he has some great insights, and his style of writing is interesting, but his delivery is so (artificially?) volatile that (I feel) he's doing himself a disservice. More people would benefit from his insight if he just laid off the schtick a bit. If you read some of the posts I've written about his blog, you'll see people who comment that they used to read his stuff until the ire got to be too much. It's a shame, because I believe he has so much to offer.

I think he's like the Christian Bale character in the film The Prestige. The character had to live a secret double life in order to maintain the illusion that he was a great magician. He could never let go and just be his true self, lest his true persona/life be revealed (thus spoiling the secret of his greatest illusion).

Alexis, I'm sorry I ever doubted you. This Non-Stick in the Mud Award is for you!

P.S. Alexis actually allowed a comment from me to appear on the post! Progress. But when I tried to reply to his true-to-form riposte, it has sadly not appeared (at this time). I guess he's trying to use selective comment approval to skew the discussion in his favor. Here's what I said back to him:

"I salute you, sir, for maintaining character, as always. I don't think I'm any more abusive or insulting than any of your writings here, if you ask me. But come now, didn't your post state that you think the internet is a "wonderful" place, warts and all? And listen, disagreement doesn't need to equal disrespect. I may be harsh sometimes, but that's because I am human, and therefore faulty. But perhaps I am only returning the ire that you project outward? Food for thought. And don't kid yourself by thinking that I sit around waiting for your posts. I just happen to keep an eye on the blogs I follow, that's all. No need to look for a stalker, now."

P.P.S. And I wasn't being "patronizing" (as Alexis thinks) when I wrote this comment on his post (which he approved):

"This was really a great post, and I'm not being sarcastic. Thanks for this. And no, I don't expect to change you when I post about you. I just feel the need to, as you say, call out the stupid things people say. But in your case, it's not usually stupid. Rather, it seems to be strangely angry and sadistic, and I post because I want to ask you "why?" Why present yourself this way? I try to keep reminding myself that you probably mean well, you want to give the hobby some tough love, and that this is part of a persona you wish to project (i.e. the curmudgeonly wise man?). But I still am so curious and confused as to why you choose to be so damned irascible! Thanks again, this was really good stuff, and a breath of fresh air from the Tao."

Bottom line: I do love the repartee that I share with the gentleman! May the verbal fencing never cease!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The return of the Stick in the Mud Award

Hello everyone. It seems a certain someone doesn't like you again. Or rather, doesn't ever like you. Or rather, has never liked you. Ever. Even if you're a consistent "gentle reader." As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that a certain someone actually hates consistent readers more than those who disagree with this certain someone's perennially sadistic tone. Or at least, that's what I'm getting out of the post to which I've provided the link above.

Congrats to that certain someone, for once again earning the Stick in the Mud Award. Keep on telling us we're all idiots, please (especially your loyal readers, I'm sure they appreciate it). Keep on getting closer to a cardiac event due to ranting over a hobby, which like all hobbies should probably be fun. I once again thank all the gods that ever existed that a certain someone doesn't have any control whatsoever over the rest of the RPG community's ability to enjoy the games we play. Certain Someone, this Mud's for you!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

How is everyone enjoying their October?

 I won't bore you with saying sorry for lack of posts, and move right on to my post! I know I am enjoying my favorite month, but I always feel like I am not doing enough to celebrate it. I've felt this way all my life. I always feel there is more I could be doing during Halloween Month, as I like to consider it.

In addition to that annual feeling, I am also feeling a bit sad about the warm temperatures that seem to have prevailed in recent years during October. I find myself missing the many crisp days of past Octobers. Many trees where I live seem to bypass the changing of colors, their leaves simply turning brown and falling off. There are some trees that still change, though, but this other trend is disturbing.

At any rate, as is my tradition during this time of year, I've picked up beloved tales of horror by Lovecraft and other authors and am rereading them lovingly. And since this is the first October since I've started gaming again in earnest, I've injected some horror into recent sessions.

If you love October, give a shout out to this greatest of months and let us know how you celebrate!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Crypts & Things available for pre-order!

The Swords & Wizardry variant Crypts & Things is now available for pre-order! I've been very excited about the arrival of Newt Newport's brainchild, I have to say! It has me daydreaming of running some savage sword & sorcery-style adventures!

I've placed MY order! Go here to order YOURS!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In Praise of Castles & Crusades

As I've mentioned in some recent posts, I've been dabbling in some Classic/Basic D&D (to use the terms interchangeably) and retroclones, with the idea that I may want to someday run a Classic D&D game. I have been feeling an urge to play Basic D&D, which I never really did back in my formative years. I've been yearning to do it up, with race-as-class and the rest of it.

But I have to say, as I've read through the original rules sets and their clones, I've found myself doing a lot of house ruling in my head. I've been trying to fight that impulse, and taking the advice of Philotomy to "play it for what it is." I've found that a lot of this mental house ruling stems from my good experiences playing Castles & Crusades.

It should be no secret to anyone who reads this blog that I love C&C. It is elegant. It is modular. I've been thinking that if, say, I want the race-as-class experience, I can use C&C for that. I can just restrict the races and classes that players are allowed to play (and not have to worry about pesky level limits to boot, something I'm not quite sure if I like). Ultimately, I have no fear that I can use C&C to emulate any era of D&D play. And frankly, I don't think it's harder to teach someone to play C&C than teaching them to play Classic D&D. In fact (at least for me at this point in time), it might even be easier to teach C&C to new players.

But still, there seems to just be something about the thought of actually using, say, the Moldvay Basic rules. But what is that something, exactly? Is it just the "bad" type of nostalgia that makes me want to play Basic D&D? Is it just the appeal of the "street cred" or gravitas that seems to come from playing the actual, original editions? Or is it something else?

I assume others out there have experienced this pattern of thought, this questioning of systems, this wondering if one is motivated by a dark form of nostalgia. If so, how have you dealt with this affliction? Please, let me know how you have fought with this questioning, this Gamer ADD, the rose-colored glasses.

In the end, I return to my old adage that any gaming is good gaming. I try to remember that I have a good bit of gaming going on almost every week, and I should be thankful for that. Because there are a lot of gamers out there who do not have the current luxury of being able to game even once a week, such as I do.

Again, I'm not anywhere near giving up on C&C and the current campaign I am running using those rules. But there's still something lurking in me that is thinking about running one-shots using Classic D&D rules. What is the impetus of this impulse, I ask you? The questioning continues...

Behold Cardhunter!

Another day, another lazy blog post. Has anyone heard about Card Hunter? If so, is anyone else intrigued? I'm not really a video game player anymore, as I don't have the time to devote to it. And I much prefer table-top gaming, of course. But I might be able to get into this, as long as it supports casual play.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Another reason why Daffy is the best Looney Tune

Come on, admit it. We all know Daffy is the best. He's the perfect foil for Bugs Bunny, and the far more interesting character. If you needed another reason why he dominates, check out the following. Simply awesome.

Thanks Daffy (and the powers-that-be behind this great bit of animation) for the mainstream nod to our little hobby. Yeah, I'm claiming this video for roleplaying. You got a problem with that?

Friday, September 23, 2011

Love the DCC Art, But Still Conflicted

A little while ago, Al over at Beyond the Black Gate posted a link to a Goodman Games forum thread regarding their upcoming modules for the Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG. And I have to say, I think they look awesome just from a pure art perspective. They definitely capture the old-school feel, and they make me excited to play. Check out the following (the first one is my favorite...what is that thing?!):

Now, that being said, pretty pictures aren't changing my mostly skeptical opinions of the game. In fact, pretty much the only thing I completely like about DCC so far is the art. The rest of the game, well...there's some interesting concepts in there. But it's still just another fantasy heartbreaker.

UPDATE: I just found this link that finally gives more details on the modules associated with these covers. I also checked out the Goodman Games forums to read through the DCC topics. I have to say that I do find myself impressed with how Goodman Games seems to be taking the gamer playtest input they are getting quite seriously. It seems that they will actually make some significant changes to the game based on the feedback.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Paragons of Waterdeep: Session 6

Apologies for the long time between session posts. On a good note, this session was more than a full house! We had Player Wes back from a long stint at a summer gig that kept him away from the table. And GM Rich, the founder of the group, was in town and sat in on my game as a player (he took on the role of one of the NPCs). In addition, Jamie Albrecht of For a Fistful of Coppers fame stopped by to get in on the action! As you can read on his blog, he recently moved into the South Jersey area. I invited him to join our gaming goodness and sure enough he jumped right in with gusto!

I don’t have much time to do a huge recap, but I’ll try to hit all the major points. So, when last we left our merry band, they had found the secret location of the tower of an ancient elven wizard named Kurthrad the Artificer. Not long after their discovery, a being with the body of a lion, the wings of an eagle, and the face of a bearded man stepped out onto the tower’s lowest balcony to confront them.

The wizard Vorath (an NPC, but once the character of a player named Glenn, who unfortunately has had to leave the group) had the temerity to start complaining to the creature, accusing it of trying to intimidate the party. The creature promptly caused the mouthy wizard to vanish. As quickly as Vorath vanished, another man appeared not far from where the wizard once stood. This newcomer was Milo, the rogue created by Jamie from For a Fistful of Coppers. Milo had once been a part of a group of adventurers who had found the tower. All he remembers is that he and his former group had climbed down from the sheer cliffs above the tower to reach it. He has no memory of what occurred after that. So he has no idea what happened to his former companions, and he has no idea how long he’s been in “limbo.”

It turned out that the strange being had been responsible for Milo’s predicament. As the group spoke with the being (which Player Wes’ wizard Keseim identified as a lammasu), they learned that the creature had taken up residence in the tower in order to keep what the lammasu called “the horrors” within the tower. Apparently, Kurthrad the Artificer wasn’t so benevolent, and had created all manner of diabolical constructs. So, the lammasu had made a mission of keeping the contents of the tower from escaping. It has also kept intruders from entering.

After some discussion with the being, during which the lammasu repeatedly told the group that they would not be allowed to enter the tower (for their own safety and, more importantly, sanity), the being agreed to protect the group as best it could until they could leave the small chasm in which the tower stood. As it turns out, the stone portal tablet the group had used to enter the chasm could only be used once a day. The lammasu told them that the evil power inside the tower was so great that it would take all of the enigmatic being’s power to keep the malevolent constructs in the tower overnight. With that, the lammasu returned to the depths of the tower.

Not long after, the massive iron door to the tower began to open with a screech. It was apparent that the lammasu had been unsuccessful in keeping the tower’s evil totally at bay! A metallic, bull-like creature emerged from the darkness within the tower, its hide gleaming gold. During the fight that followed, the rogue Milo attempted to entangle the thing’s legs with a grappling hook connected to a length of chain. He only succeeded in getting the hook stuck in one of the thing’s front legs. But Milo made the best of things, driving a spike through the chain and then into the ground. The group then decided to maneuver the bull construct (which Keseim the wizard identified as an abraxus) around the chasm until there was enough slack in the chain to allow them to finally entangle the thing.

During the battle, the abraxus began to emit a noxious green gas. The group did a decent job of resisting the effects, but one of their centaur NPCs, Quiron, succumbed to the gas and fell to the ground choking (the abraxus also gored the centaur pretty badly).

After a protracted combat that found the group struggling to penetrate the creature’s metallic hide, the group finally managed to trip up the abraxus and cause it to fall over. Once that happened, they made short work of it. Smashing open the thing’s skull, they plundered two large rubies and an even larger diamond from the head. The gems were obviously used in the making of the abraxus, and were apparently part of what focused the magical energies that brought it to life.

After that, the party had no choice but to trust in the promise of the lammasu to protect them overnight. The night was indeed uneventful. In the morning, however, it became apparent that the lammasu could no longer protect them, as the door to the tower once again opened, and out came five animated suits of armor.

Keseim the wizard began chanting the runes on the portal stone while the rest of the group, including their welcome new addition Milo, fought off the latest wave of constructs. The portal opened after three rounds of chanting by Keseim, and the group beat a hasty retreat (they had to drag the still-unconscious body of Quiron the centaur through).

The session ended with the party gratefully once again in the hidden crevasse from which they had teleported the day before. All in all, a good session that was sort of combat-intensive, as opposed to the session before it, which had been very heavy with regard to roleplaying. Most importantly, I was running a table full of the best players I’ve had the pleasure to game with in a long time! The next session is this Wednesday! Can’t wait!

To be continued...

EDIT: I forgot to mention that at one point during the session, Milo the rogue and Kale the ranger climbed up to the balcony on which the lammasu had appeared. Once there, they were struck by a wave of supernatural dread against which they had to fight mentally, lest they go mad! They vacated the balcony not long after that experience, suffice to say...

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

"...let me whisper it to you..."

The Management apologizes for the recent lack of posting. In the meantime, we interrupt our normal programming to offer the following for your consideration (which we consider to be quite thrilling and cannot wait to view for ourselves):

The Whisperer in Darkness - Trailers

Friday, September 9, 2011

And the NON-Stick in the Mud of the Week Award goes to...

Chris at Classic RPG Realms. In this post he laments not being able to continue to run a local school gaming club for kids. Now here's a person who's not sitting in some ivory tower, simply spouting tired and mean-spirited rhetoric (do I have to mention names of usual suspects at this point?). Here's a person who has been fighting the good fight, getting out and making an effort to game. And not only actually gaming, but spreading the gaming goodness to a new generation! That's more than commendable in my book. By doing what he's been doing, he is accomplishing so much more than any pontificating loud-mouth could ever hope to achieve when it comes to advancing the hobby.

So all of the above is the reason why I've given Chris the first-ever NON-Stick in the Mud of the Week Award (I know, I haven't actually been doing this award thing every week. Mea culpa). Keep up the good work, Chris, and get some well-deserved rest!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Paragons of Waterdeep: Sessions 4 & 5

(This post contains the events of two sessions. I’ve done this because I have limited time to write this recap, but I don’t want too much more time to go by before getting this recap done.)

The party left the encampment of the high elf wizard Tanara, in order to return to the elven ranger Kale’s clan with news of what the group had discovered in the ruined temple of Myrkul, former God of Death. They were escorted by the White Owl tribe centaurs that had been helping Tanara, some of whom had accompanied the party to the ruined temple.

Once they were out of the mountains, they were met by another contingent of White Owls, led by a rather confrontational centaur named Oriseus. After some heated words with the two centaurs that had insisted on accompanied the party into the depths of the temple (Narcoth and Quiron), Oriseus banished them from the White Owl tribe. At that point, the party negotiated with the centaurs and managed to retain possession of the centaur-provided elk mounts they were using, for as long as it took for the party to return to Kale’s people. Once that was settled, the centaurs left the group to their own devices. Now tribeless, Narcoth and Quiron pledged themselves to the service of the party.

The party pressed on west, skirting the northern edge of the Star Mounts, between the mountains and the southern edge of the High Forest. At one point, they saw smoke from the trees and heard raucous voices. While they debated over whether or not to investigate, they heard screaming and sounds of combat. The ranger investigated and found a camp of dwarves fighting with a giant insect-like creature. Kale, seeing that three of the dwarves had already been killed by the creature, decided to take a chance and fired an arrow at the thing. This only served to make it angry at Kale, and it promptly chased her.

As Kale ran from the creature, she called to her party to warn them. The group prepared for battle. During the fighting that followed, the Cleric of Lathander named Leela (an NPC) was sprayed by a caustic substance spewed by the creature. The rest of the group watched in horror as her armor, clothes, and skin began to be eaten away by the fluid.

Also during the melee, one of the dwarves came out of the forest raving about how he didn’t want the party to “steal his prize,” and used a strange steel rod to fire a projectile (with a loud crashing sound the likes of which the group had never heard) at Quiron the centaur. The dwarf, of course, was using an arquebus, a very rare weapon in the Realms. The projectile took off half of Quiron’s ear, and the dwarf was reloading when his fellow dwarves wrestled him to the ground.

The party managed to kill the insectile creature, which turned out to be an ankheg. The dwarves had come from the dwarven city Mithral Hall to the High Forest to hunt big game, and had managed to capture the ankheg. But it had escaped its bonds when it was in their camp, killing three of the ten dwarves before Kale fired her arrow. The leader of the dwarven hunting party, Kalek, was bound by his fellows for firing upon the centaur. His second in command, Murzod, stated that his leader had gone too far. The dwarves intended to escort Kalek back to Mithral Hall for reprimand.

Leela was stabilized and saved from death by Oisin the cleric, but she was badly scarred by the acidic breath of the ankheg. The party rested overnight with the dwarves, and then moved out the next day with the promise of reuniting with the dwarves again if possible.
The going was not easy with the injured Leela. They stopped for a rest the next day, and she showed signs of a deep sadness born not only of her near-death experience and disfigurement, but also of the loss of her friend Nestor in Myrkul’s temple. During the rest, Kale and Leela heard a melodic piping noise that had a strange influence on them. Kale was able to easily shake off this influence, but Leela rose and began to walk toward the forest in a dream-like state. The party was forced to restrain her, and she fought them weakly as the group hurriedly moved on to the west. The group surmised that the strange music was that of a satyr somewhere in the nearby woods.

Finally, the group reached the vo’an of the Spring Dawn clan. Kale was very happy to be back among her people. She and her compatriots were welcomed warmly, especially by Kale’s fellow Daughters of Mielikki, the elite corps of rangers of which she is a member. The leader of the Daughters, Breonna, asked the party to join her in a private tent in order to discuss their journey. Rel and Karis, two other Daughters, also accompanied them. There, the party relayed all of the events that had befallen them since Kale went to Waterdeep.

Breonna, Rel, and Karis were concerned about the events at the ruined temple, but praised the group for their efforts. There had been more attacks by undead humanoids since Kale left, but they had been repulsed. But, not without a heavy cost. The leader of the clan, the voantir Elaya, had been injured during the attack and was near death. She was being ravaged by the plague that the undead seemed to carry. This lent a somber edge to the reunion.

Breonna feared the ultimate demise of the voantir, revealing that there was some dissension in the clan. There were three individuals in the clan that were making known their dissatisfaction with the voantir’s leadership. It was the voantir’s decision, for instance, to send Kale to Waterdeep to seek aid from human clerics. This did not sit well with many in the clan, as seeking help from outlanders is considered a sign of weakness.
The Daughters of Mielikki are traditionally aloof from political matters of the vo’an. But while Breonna was struggling to retain that detachment, others in the ranger sisterhood (including Rel and Karis) were pushing for unprecedented action: they believe it is a time for the Daughters to intervene and keep the clan from fracturing.

The Daughters suspect foul play was involved in the voantir’s injuries. They noticed elven tracks outside the vo’an that seem to indicate what would normally be considered unthinkable: an elf leading infected humanoids toward the vo’an. Even in the face of this evidence, Breonna was still reluctant to take a direct role in the growing political rifts in the clan.
After this grim discussion, Breonna left the group in order to inform the voantir that the party had arrived. There was limited access to the voantir at the request of her family, and Breonna was going to petition to have the party given permission to see the ailing leader.

It was then that Rel and Karis told the party that the Daughters of Mielikki had captured a human wizard who had wandered into the vo’an two weeks prior. The group was taken to the tent where the prisoner was being held, and they were introduced to Keseim (Player Wesley’s character). Keseim hails from Calimport, decadent capital of the southern nation of Calimshan. After some verbal sparring, in which Keseim seemed to excel, the group convinced the wizard to help them in their efforts (his other alternatives could have included indefinite captivity, or worse…)

Keseim and the wizard Vorath compared spellbooks, and Keseim learned a comprehend languages spell from Vorath. It was then that Kale remembered the rubbing of Tanara’s key stone tablet, which would supposedly open a doorway to the hidden tower of an ancient elven wizard called Kurthrad the Artificer. She showed Keseim the rubbing, and he was almost able to read the two remaining runes that Tanara was unable to decipher. He felt confident that once he had mastered the ability to cast the comprehend languages spell, he would be able to translate the last of the runes.

The group got much needed rest that night, with Leela being handed over to the care of the clan’s druids. The next morning, Breonna told the group that they were to be allowed to see the voantir. But when they arrived at the leader’s tent, they heard the sounds of weeping from within. They went in to discover the voantir had died suddenly. Breonna moved quickly to try and convince the family to keep the voantir’s death a secret for as long as possible, so as to prevent an immediate coup. Breonna told Kale and her group that before she died the voantir expressed gratitude for the party’s efforts, and had wanted to talk to them about the next steps on their quest to rid the High Forest of the undead humanoid plague. Now, the decision was left up to them.
While Breonna worked to decide how best to hold the clan together, the party deliberated their next move. They decided to head back east toward the ruined temple of Myrkul, but first they would have Keseim decode the key stone tablet’s runes and bring the information to Tanara.

Breonna returned to the group to tell them she had reluctantly decided to act as temporary leader of the vo’an, while telling the clan’s people that Voantir Elaya was still alive and giving orders through Breonna. The leader of the rangers had decided to lead the vo’an west, toward the very fringes of the High Forest and further away from danger. It was understood that this would make the safety of the vo’an further away from the party should they survive, but the safety of the clan needed to be preserved.

The party prepared to travel once again. They were able to enlist the aid of an elven wizard named Eanor and elven fighter Otiver (NPCs). So, provisioned and rested (and with elven-bred horses to ride, since the centaur-bred elk were released to return to the White Owls of their own accord), the group headed east once more, after farewells were said.

Oisin the cleric, Kale the elven ranger, the wizards Keseim and Vorath, the centaurs Narcoth and Quiron, and Eanor and Otiver made an uneventful journey back into the heights of the Star Mounts to the hidden crevasse in which Tanara was making her search for the hidden wizard’s tower. The party arrived to find nothing but the cold remains of a camp fire. There was no sign of any of the White Owl centaurs or Tanara. The party began to investigate the crevasse. Keseim cast a detect magic spell and spotted signs of an enchantment in a small stand of trees. Investigation revealed that the key stone tablet was hanging in a sack from a tree limb. As they cut the sack from the tree and retrieved the tablet, a strange rhythmic clicking could be heard approaching. The group prepared themselves for trouble.
They were shocked to see what looked like five halflings come charging from the trees. Except these halflings seemed to be made of some golden metal. The clicking was coming from them, but otherwise they made no sound as they approached.  A fight ensued, and the party was able to destroy the strange constructs with minimal injuries to themselves. The constructs proved to be very nimble but fairly delicate, so blows focused on their flexible joints did well to immobilize them.

During the fight, Keseim (who had finally deciphered the runes) read the key stone tablet and began to chant the runes in a precise pattern that would open the doorway to the hidden tower. Upon completion, a portal opened and the party hurried through. The centaurs, suspicious of magic, had to be convinced to go through, but they eventually did so.

The group found themselves standing before a 100-foot-tall tower in a small depression somewhere in the mountains. They faced a huge iron door, and a balcony 30 feet above them (with four more balconies at 10-foot intervals above that).

They were considering what to do next when a loud roaring filled the depression, echoing around them in an ear-splitting din. The group looked up to see a large creature with the body of a lion, the wings of a bird, and the face of a bearded man step out onto the lowest balcony. The beast said in a loud, booming voice, “Who dares enter my realm?”
To be continued…