Friday, January 29, 2010
Well, it looks like it was a landslide in favor of inking. There was an idea to use a blue sharpie on the crystal dice that I liked, I'm hoping that'll "agree" with the crystal better than basic black. For my black set of dice, I'm going to try traditional white crayon and see how that goes.
I'll post some pics when I'm done!
Thursday, January 28, 2010
While waiting for the last votes to come in on the "ink or no ink" dilemma, why not enjoy some vintage arcade games online?
Its funny: while I can appreciate the graphics and options of modern gaming platforms like PS3, Xbox, etc, I have little patience for them. Unlike something like Galaga, for instance, that can eat up several hours (and several pints, have you tried Magic Hat's Vinyl Lager yet, btw?) of a boring night...
While I heartily recommend the little battery operated joysticks you can plug into your tv, here's some links to some vintage arcade goodness you can play in your internet browser:
Wednesday, January 27, 2010
As I mentioned some days ago, I've got two fresh new sets of Zocchi's precision-cut Gamescience dice itching to get some roll-time in at my table.
My dilemma is this: To ink, or not to ink?
There is something raw and pure about them* in their present, un-inked state that tugs gently on my nostalgia strings. But they're a bit hard to read, too. Of course, there's always the crayon option...
What do you guys think? (Yes, I'll be counting votes)
*How big of a gaming geek do I have to be to describe dice as "raw and pure"!?;)
Tuesday, January 26, 2010
PC Events: Fighting Man(d12)
1. A famous warrior has come into town, and is talking trash about you. He awaits your response at the local pub.
2. You've noticed your armor is in deplorable condition. Suffer a penalty of 2 to your AC until you find a competent armorer to effect repairs.
3. A local farmer's son has begun to follow you around everywhere, begging you to train him. The lad is eager, but ridiculously clumsy!
4. The widow of one of your past retainers has appeared in town, small children in tow, and is demanding exorbitant reparations.
5. You receive an urgent letter from your family. Your father/mother is on his/her deathbed and demanding to see you, perhaps to impart a great family secret...
6. The dominant temple in town is requesting you be anointed as their deity's Mortal Champion.
7. You hear rumors that a tavern wench you bedded some months ago is in town, looking very very pregnant! She is asking questions about you...
8. Your country is at war! Press gangs and recruiters are bound to seek you out very soon, determined to put an end to your freebooting ways for the good of patriotism.
9. A magic weapon you possess has begun to whisper to you as you sleep. The messages are very dark, should you confide in anyone?
10. The local manor has retained a new weapon's master, the veteran of many famous campaigns. Maybe he can teach you a few new tricks...
11. Drink, sweet sweet drink. More and more you find solace, and forgetfulness of your bloody life, in the sweet embrace of the grape. Maybe you have a problem?
12. Your, erm, plumbing, hasn't been the same since that wench last week. Will you risk the embarrassment of seeking out a healer for treatment, or suffer in silence?
Next up: The Illusionist
Last time: The Druid
Sunday, January 24, 2010
"The Ice King is throwing frozen lightning bolts at the Rainicorn!"
Old news for some, but Pendleton Ward's "Adventure Time with Finn and Jake" has been picked up by Cartoon Network and begins airing in April. It follows the adventures of a 12-year-old (Finn) and his size-changing dog (Jake) through a fantasy world of evil wizards, iceclops, and elementals. With one foot in Middle Earth and the other in a really good Mushroom trip, the show's test pilot was a popular viral video a while back. You can still see it here.
Boy - "Why are you always stealing ladies?"
Ice King - "I'm going to make one of them marry me!"
Boy - "That's... stupid!"
Ice King -"...your hat is stupid!"
Boy - "My hat is awesome!"
That the show captures a seemingly perfect moment in time for many of us gamers is unquestionable - 12 years of age has got to be the most perfect age ever invented! What's at question is whether the Cartoon Network will allow the show to keep its trippy edge ("your mind has been trasported back in time! And to Mars!"). Judging from some of the shows my kids watch on the network (Flapjack and Chowder) that's probably not going to be a problem.
Official site here.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
If you frequent Dragonsfoot, then I don't have to tell you L4 was a bit of a long-running gag. Its been "coming out soon" since 2005 or so! Yet here it is, in all its glory, at last, and with some companion material to boot. Be forwarned, this is a 38mb download!
So if you want to see what's been going on over at the Lendore Isles since Bone Hill, the Assassin's Knot, and Dwarven Delve, be sure to check it out.
Some Quick details:
For character levels 3-5.
Oriented toward 1E AD&D.
Our friend Andy "Atom" Taylor contributes a lot of interior artwork.
Starts out in the same Lake Farmin/Restenford area as previous "L" adventures.
Appears to be quite a tour-de-force of Lendore Locations.
22 pages of full-color maps.
Friday, January 22, 2010
Sometimes, in the search for new players, you have to go to extreme lengths to fill seats at your table. And by extreme lengths, I mean hang up an ad at the local game store.
"Big deal", you say, "DMs and players have been connecting with each other via tattered, poorly spelled ads hanging on a pin board in the dusty back corner of my game shop of choice for decades!"
But what you have forgotten, my friend, is that that ad is visible to anyone who goes into the store. Have you seen the people that go in there sometimes? Don't get me wrong, I've met more extremely nice people in game stores than I can possibly convey to you accurately. But then again, there are those days when you walk in, innocently, for set of dice or a mini for your new gnome thief, and all of a sudden you're in frickin' Innsmouth! All you can really do is grab the dice and run before they tie your hands behind your back and drag you up to the attic where grandma has been getting hungry ever since the full moon...
Anyways, I get an email responding to my ad one day, and the guy seems really amped to play an old-school game. He says he hasn't played since 2E because he just never could wrap his head around 3E. He says he's forty-something, employed, no smoking, no drinking. Now, no drinking should have set off alarms, but we really want to get more than four people at the table, so I invite the guy.
Fast forward to game night. New Guy seems nice enough, if a little socially awkward, but our hobby does socially awkward often enough that its no big deal. New Guy chit chats a little before the game starts, about his job working night security. At a chemical waste facility.
He's brought a fresh new 1st level character with him, and hands it to me for review. Its a female elf named Shadow-something-or-other. Now, if you're a 3-or-4E player, dudes running chick characters isn't a big deal or even unusual, an attitude that no doubt stems from playing console games like Tomb Raider. But here in old-school land, dudes running chick PCs is still... weird.
So we get down to gaming and New Guy really gets into running Shadow-whatever. Really gets into running her. And not in the immersive way that makes you say "I'm running a great game, this guy's really getting into it!", but rather, "I'm running away as soon as possible, because this guy probably has explosives taped to his chest." I mean, he's describing how he (she) is smearing orc blood across his (her) naked elven breasts... He (she) licks various things, talks to himself in different accents, crumples up his character sheet in silent rage each time a to-hit roll goes awry, and slowly tears a soft drink cup into little. tiny. pieces.
So I spend the rest of the session wondering how I'm going to explain to the guy he's not invited back next time. But the other players have had enough by mid-session or so, and start in on the guy mercilessly. Needless to say, he never came back.
Thursday, January 21, 2010
PC Events: Druid(d12)
1. The water from the spring in your sacred grove has turned blood red. What can this mean?
2. A local farmer is complaining that his home and crops are being covered in some sort of gray, pernicious fungi. He pleads for help.
3. A gravely wounded centaur has stumbled into your grove, but dies before he can tell what has happened.
4. A young, local baronet has begun hunting deep in the forbidden woods, ignoring the pacts his forefathers made with the druids.
5. Mistletoe crumbles into ash at your touch. Have you displeased Nature in some way, or is something more diabolical at play?
6. You realize that up until now, most of your actions have been to further the cause of Good. You ponder what actions you should take to be sure all things are in proper Balance.
7. Just days before a great contest for the seat of Archdruid, the incumbent comes to you and hints that any secret aid you can give him will result in high favor.
8. A nearby band of pixies has taken offense at the local tanner, and torment him nightly. Can you mediate a resolution to the dispute before things get out of hand?
9. A strange blight has begun afflicting the hardwoods around your sacred grove. It seems to be resistant to magic. How will you stop the disease before everything is ravaged by it?
10. A nearby village has been sacked by orcs. The village's hetman comes to you seeking shelter for twelve unruly orphans.
11. Strange relics have begun to surface in nearby fields and wells, depicting a dark elder god long forgotten by all, but mentioned in the oldest druidic records.
12. The residents of a nearby village have been exhibiting strange, fishlike mutations. Some whisper that a cruel new cult is behind the disfigurements.
Next Up: The Fighting Man
Previously: The Cleric
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
PC Events: Cleric(d12)
1. A rival temple has opened nearby, and refuses to negotiate peacefully. The head of your order has decided that you are the lucky fellow to come up with a solution.
2. For the last eleven days strait, a great black eagle has flown out of the Northwest and perched on the highest spire of your temple. What is the meaning of this omen?
3. Two acolytes have gone missing in the last month. There is no sign of violence in their chambers, but each was seen recently in the library researching the forbidden tome "Light from the Abyss".
4. The priest in charge of the temple treasury has been discovered to have imbezzled huge sums of coinage. Turns out he is a gambling addict and is still in heavy debt to some pretty scary loan sharks, who now consider the temple to owe them, plus interest.
5. A virulent disease is spreading in the slums of your home town, and the city officials have come to your temple for assistance.
6. You find clues that one of your brethren is actually worshipping a deity of great evil, and only using your temple as a front for his nefarious deeds. Who is this rogue priest?
7. The nearby temple of a fertility goddess has invited the clergy of your temple to participate in an upcoming "Rite of Fertility". Will joining in the ritual compromise your order's beliefs, and is there more to the invitation than meets the eye?
8. A foreign priest of your order has arrived in your home town, but refuses to set foot in your temple. Instead, he lives on the streets in squalor, and loudly preaches Armageddon to any who'll listen. You have a reputation to uphold!
9. Everytime you cast a healing spell, it is excrutiatingly painful (take 1hp damage each time). Have you done something to displease your patron, or if some other problem afoot?
10. You wake up one morning and your holy symbol is missing. The town constable notifies you in a few days that it has been found on the body of a murdered prostitute. You are now suspect number one.
11. Last midnight, the main statue of your deity was discovered to be weeping blood. I have a bad feeling about this...
12. A new recruit to your order can cast spells far more powerful than her age and experience warrants, and has been given visions and omens which have all proven true. Could this be the "Chosen One"?
Next up: The Druid
Previously: The Assassin
Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Maxolt's Magical Menagerie for Swords and Wizardry:
"Maxolt (actually an ancient gold dragon who takes human form to better disseminate his wisdom) rummages through his hoard of magical paraphernalia and presents the most interesting items which many have thought long lost to the ages."
Only a buck, check it out!
Over the years I've found that adding little "real life" elements to a character's career can add quite a bit of depth to the players' experience, and keep them more personally invested in the game. By "real life" I mean the character's interactions with the campaign world outside the dungeon or wilderness adventures that compose most of the campaign.
The following charts are intended to be rolled on once per month, or at least once per period of "extended down time", however that works out in your campaign. As you use a line item, replace it with another so you always have a nice variety, and some events may influence or provide the catalyst for new ones. The player should usually have a choice of whether to involve the other players or not.
PC Events: Assassin(d12)
1. An upstart Assassin's guild is forming in your hometown. Will you choose sides and participate in the battle for dominance, or wait things out (and hope the victor isn't too angry at you)?
2. Your Assassins Guildmaster has decided his organization has grown too large for him to safely control. He demand's your assistance in culling out the more threatening elements.
3. You receive a contract to eliminate a corrupt city official: No Witnesses. Yet when you move in for the kill, the official's innocent child bride is present. This wasn't part of the deal!
4. Your favored "vendor" of poison has been killed by a rival vendor. Will you shop at the competition, seek revenge, or is there more to the killing than has yet been revealed?
5. You begin to get "moral quandries" about your profession. Is there a higher power behind this sudden indecision?
6. An up-and-coming new addition to the Assassin's Guild has decided you're the biggest roadblock to his/her advencement.
7. Local thugs have started to "shake down" one of your friends or family. Despite their stupidity and ineptitude, they are unfortunately well-connected. This could get out of hand!
8. A popular local fortune teller has suddenly begun to tell her customers to "watch out" for you, threatening the anonymity of your profession. What's behind all this!?
9. Your secret stash of gold, gems, and other precious items you keep hidden during adventures has been stolen, and in its place was left a red crysanthemum. "The one that got away" loved red crysanthemums...
10. Your guild has acquired a new "Guild Mage" you could swear you recognize from a dungeon adventure some time ago. Suspicious, no?
11. The local Thieves Guild has decided the Assassins Guild is too much competition. Will there be a war, or is there another way to solve the problem?
12. A rare magic item you have long coveted (perhaps a Dagger of Venom or Ring of Invisibility) has suddenly become available on the underground market, but it is way out of your price range. Do you take on extra contracts you normally wouldn't, or find some other way to "acquire" the piece?
Up next: The Cleric
Saturday, January 16, 2010
M is for Mailman, who was kind enough to bring me my copy of Michael Curtis's "The Dungeon Alphabet"!
A quick flip-through revealed some awesome old-school art from Otus, Mullen, and many others, and more random tables than you can shake a stick at. To make my order even more old-school, it arrived with two fresh new sets of Zocchi's Gamescience razor-edged dice.
I love Saturdays. :)
Friday, January 15, 2010
One of my favorite blog series right now is Thundarr Thursday over at the Savage Afterworld. If you haven't been following these already, you're missing out, especially if you love weird science fantasy. Each entry fully stats out one of the bizaare creatures of Thundarr's post-apocalytic world.
Maybe if we cry, beg, and whine enough, Sniderman will start doing "Herculoid Friday" too!
Thursday, January 14, 2010
The Roper is one of my favorite classic beasties, right up there with the Carrion Crawler and Flail Snail. Frankly, I've never understood why 90% of D&D book covers don't consist of a Roper and a scantily clad female (I hear Raggi needs a good cover for his upcoming RC, what do you think?)! Speaking of which, can you guess which of these illustrations was done by Zak of Playing D&D with Porn Stars?
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
As I was having some coffee with my Greyhawk Map the other day, I kind of got to wondering - what would it be like to take a look at Greyhawk through the eyes of someone like Leiber or Howard?
There's a popular image of Greyhawk (and its world "Oerth) as a sort of alternate version of Earth in the Middle Ages, with magic and elves thrown in for good measure. Shiny-armored Knights thunder across the plains of the Great Kingdom, Feather-capped archers plumb the depths of the Gnarley Forest, Dervishes ravage the borders of Bissel, etc. But we all know Gygax's love for pulp fantasy was just as important as his love for Medieval miniatures warfare, so somewhere in there are the seeds for a campaign of Dark Savagery.
I can't really call it "Reimagining Greyhawk", because the pulp stuff is in there, it just kind of got brushed aside as Greyhawk passed through the hands of more and more editors, marketers, and editions. So I prefer to think of it as "Refocusing". Finding those parts of Greyhawk where you just know there's a howling barbarian with a bloody greatsword trying his best to get out!
Imagine Greyhawk City a little closer to Lankhmar. Its Thieves' Guild a little darker and more cultish as opposed to the one portrayed in the Gord novels.
Imagine a Scarlet Brotherhood more akin to the Dreaming Isle of Melnibone, its Suloise monks and wizards the modern descendents of the twisted demon-sworn conquerers of a dead age.
Imagine the Wild Coast and Pomarj as a savage Hyborian wasteland, where a man's life is only worth the steel he carries.
Imagine the Nyr Dyv as a pirate-infested sea like the Vilayet, dotted with black isles haunted by the nightmares of lost races and empires.
Imagine Dyvers as a city of dark pleasures, depraved wizards, and crowded brothels like Shadizar the Wicked.
Instead of This:
Well, you get the idea.
Sounds like fun, doesn't it?
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
If you speak French and want some good gaming fun, you'll be pleased to know that Microlite20 is now available in Francais, in a very friendly format right here, via Arasmo and Hunka. This is a version of the Microlite20 Purest Essence, which includes the basic game, my very own expert rules, and lots of extra goodies as well!
Roll up your Guerrier, Voleur, Druide, and Demi-Orque Rodeur and go fight some Gobelours!
Monday, January 11, 2010
Have I ever mentioned I love maps?
From the maps of Judges' Guild's Wilderlands to those of Middle Earth or Harn, few things get me in that 'ol gaming mood like some awesome old-school cartography. One of the best, obviously, is the map of Gary Gygax's Greyhawk campaign setting lovingly hand-crafted by Darlene. I mean, just take a look at that for a minute. Go ahead, I'll wait.
Pretty cool, huh? I mean, most of us have looked at this map, pored over it to put it more accurately, and yet it's still fascinating! Trace a line from hex to hex from Lake Quag along the mighty Velverdyva River to the free city of Dyvers. You can almost picture the scenery as you pass along the edge of the Clatspur Mountains, through the sylvan vales of Highfolk, across the wide plains of fanatic Veluna, past the sagging wharves of Verbobonc, beneath the shady boughs of the Gnarley Forest, and at last to Dyvers, where the river empties into the Nyr Dyv and its unfathomable depths. Who needs adventure modules? A map like this and some good random charts and you've got months of gaming in one full color, living-room-floor-sized work of beautiful fantasy art.
To me, the sign of a great map is its ability to convey adventure without cracking open a single guidebook or gazeteer, and this map has that ability in spades.
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
The Obelisk of Time
Forty years ago, a black obelisk was excavated from a ruined section of Modron. Practitioners of the Dark Arts present at the excavation were immediately drawn to the dark stone, and one of them moved forward to place his hands upon it, immediately entering into a trance. After a moment, he began crying out prophesies (known after as the Prophesies of Rekysis) and promptly collapsed to the ground, his eyes open, staring, and completely empty of intelligence. The fate of Rekysis is unknown, but his prophesies all proved to be true, and the Obelisk was transported to the City State.
Today, it is rumored the Obelisk is kept in chamber beneath the Overlord's palace, where it's secrets are plumbed by Llewllyn the Blue and his coterie. He is rumored to have uncovered records indicating that the Obelisk was originally recovered from the ruins of Sotur, and may have been ancient even in the time of that fabled, fallen empire. Whether the obelisk is related to the Overlord's recent military successes is anyone's guess.
In appearance, the obelisk is eleven feet tall, dull black stone, and carved with as yet indecipherable runes and pictograms.
A Magic-User or Cleric of 2nd level or higher may enter a trance and ask questions or gain visions from the spirits of the past (as per Speak with Dead) or the spirits of the future (as per Commune). Each question answered causes 1d6 points of mental damage to the medium using the obelisk, and anyone damaged past 0hp is permanently comatose, their mind ruined, and will waste away and die without constant care and forced feeding. Anyone of 1st level attempting to use the obelisk will suffer immediate mind obliteration.
Monday, January 4, 2010
With all the recent posting on Tolkien recently (his birthday was yesterday), I'm reminded of a turning point in life - that point at which many of us realized our interests were somewhat... different than those of most kids. In the age of the "Successful Nerd", such as Bill Gates, Vin Diesel, Stephen Colbert, etc, its easy to forget that not so long ago it wasn't quite so fashionable to embrace one's differences, especially in the schoolyard of the late seventies!
For me, that realization came after the Christmas break of my '78-79 school year. After some significant nagging at my parents, I finally got taken to see Bakshi's Lord of the Rings movie. I was enthralled by the movie, it being the first time I can recall seeing a book I loved be represented on the motion picture screen. This, of course, was long before I felt the need to nitpick how true a film stayed to its source material; it was a simple joy to see Aragorn, Legolas, and company hacking their way through the orcs of Moria.
So I went back to school after the break, elated, and asked everyone I knew if they had seen it too.
That, and the occasional contemptuous "isn't that a cartoon?"
Not only did no one else see the movie, I was actually made fun of for liking it!
Now, this wasn't the stereotypical "jock vs. nerd" stuff you see on TV, there were no swirlies, wedgies, being shoved in lockers, etc. In fact, my usual crew and I were the jocks, huge Steelers fans (this being whilst our fledgling hometeam, the Bucs, were still the "least winningest team in NFL history"), and had a reputation as brawlers. But the difference hung over my head, nonetheless, and was expressed by the other kids in more subtle ways (which probably bothered me more than a wedgie), even the other kids in the "gifted class" . So I learned to keep my newfound love of fantasy to myself.
Fast-forward to that spring, when it was time for the county Gifted Program Art's & Crafts Fair. This is where all the "gifted" students work on individual art projects, and get together at a mall so our stuff can be judged. Still enamored with Tolkien, I bought some little lead figurines I had spotted at the local hardware store (a pointy-hat wizard, a ranger, four halflings, etc), and painted them and made a little diorama to glue them to and presto - I had the Fellowship of the Ring all set to go and win some ribbons (I did in fact get a red 2nd place ribbon in some category or other)! This being the seventies, you could still drop off a few hundred 8-12 year-olds at the mall unsupervised and let them wander around.
During my wanderings, I spied a group of slightly older boys clustered together in a quiet corner, many of them with flat, blue-sponge-filled boxes full of the same sort of minis I had just painted. Going in for a closer look, I realized they were playing some sort of game with them. It wasn't long before they noticed me loitering nearby and began to eye me skeptically.
Inside, I battled with myself. If I let myself natter on about my geekly love of fantasy and curiousity about what in the world they were doing would I be welcomed, or scorned? What's a nine-year-old to do!?
Taking a deep breath (I think), I threw caution to the wind, and said hi. And what I made for my art project, and what I liked to read, and could they tell me what impossibly cool-looking game they were playing with those impossibly cool-looking painted minis, and... And they were pretty cool about it. I spent the rest of the Art Fair hanging out, and while I wasn't completely aware at the time that I had found a new hobby, I was very much aware how nice it was to find out that I wasn't alone.
Oh, and they thought the Lord of the Rings flick was cool, too.