February 26, 2010

Showdown in the Upper Temple of Orcus

[general Rappan Athuk spoiler warning]

Tonight’s session promises to be a great one.

The History:  A long time ago, the party cleared out the Upper Temple of Orcus.  Due to clever preparation and brilliant tactics, the party handled the temple like pros.  However, they got cocky. Shortly after the temple battle, and before the party could sanctify it permanently, a group of specters nearly wiped out the entire party. Only two characters survived.

Now, after a long time of strengthening new characters and amassing loot and supplies, the party aims to clean out that temple once and for all. They plan on freeing a mass of adventurers they found who were turned to stone by basilisks.  What is the price for being freed?  The adventurers “get” to help cleanse the temple. "Army" might be a better term than "party" at this point. 

The Problem: The only way to sanctify the temple for good is to cast hallow on it. Hallow takes a day to cast.  That’s right, the party has to hold the temple for 24 hours.

This is going to be one for the record books.

February 24, 2010

Motivational Posters

A few years back, I had a lot of fun with the Despair Parody Motivation Poster Generator.  I thought I'd dig these out of the archives and post them here.  You'll note a Necromancer Games theme (what can I say, I'm a fanboy).



February 22, 2010

A Warning to the DMs of Rappan Athuk

The Spell Compendium (SC) is seeing more and more use in my Rappan Athuk campaign.  Sam, the wizard player, first introduced it a while back and has had fun with defenestrating sphere, but once the cleric player, Rob, picked up a copy, boy, did it start to shine. He has found plenty of useful anti-undead spells and the anti-incorporeal undead spells haven been particularly handy.  Quite frankly, with the help of those spells, the party worked over the big, bad wizard spectre, Nadroj, like a kobold punk.  Ghost touch armor and ghost touch weapon, with a dash of life's grace, and Mr. I'm Going to Drain Your Levels Dry became Mr. Oh My Lord They Can Smack Me at Will and I Can't Do Shite."

DMs, be warned.

Anyhow, I really don't a real beef with the SC.  It has a great book and I haven't seen any really unbalancing stuff.  RA is plenty hard, so I really don't worry about the players having an advantage.  They were expecting the spectre battle, so Rob had picked his spells appropriately.  He might not have that kind of insight the next time.  Still, methinks it's time for this DM to adjust a few evil clerics spell choices.  The players aren't the only ones with a copy of the book.

On a side note, I always find the addition of new cleric or druid spells odd, role-playing-wise.  A wizard or sorcerer doesn't learn new spells unless they level up or, in the case of a wizard, find a scroll.  It flows sort of normally to see new spells introduced that way.  In the case of a cleric, the player gets a new book and suddenly, since he can choose any class-appropriate spell at rest time, the character knows new spells literally overnight. 

General Rappan Athuk Spoiler Warning

Perhaps I should have made this clear from the onset, but this blog will occasionally reference details about my group's exploits in Rappan Athuk.  If you haven't played through it, you may find the occasional spoiler here.  There aren't likely to be many as I'm too lazy to write up big session reports.  I do write small blurbs now and then, though.  A few of my players read this blog (much to my delight), so I won't be offering up anything their PCs haven't already stumbled upon.

Anyhow, you've been warned.

February 15, 2010

Epic Battle

I thought I'd share some of Chaos's artwork here.  Here is one of the more epic battles she's done.  On the right is the bad dragon.  On the left are the good beasts, from top to bottom: a pegasus, a unicorn, and a Chinese dragon (that last inspired no doubt by "Ni Hao, Kai-Lan").  They are using their "powers" (those are the squiggly lines going from the beasts to the dragon) to slay the evil dragon.

Erol Otus, look out.

February 12, 2010

Child-sized AD&D Books

Mayhem and Chaos learn the Gygaxian ways.
My friend Rob gave me these neat tiny, 1st edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons books for Christmas.  An Italian company called Twenty First Century Games put these out.  According to this site, the mini books were produced to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the game.  I find that kind of odd given that when D&D hit its 25th year mark, it was well into the 2nd Edition.  Why didn't they make miniature versions of the current edition? Also, if this is true, I'm also kind of surprised they didn't use the original 1st edition art, but opted for the Easley art used in the latter days of 1st edition.  Don't get me wrong, I love the Easley covers, but it just seems you'd go for the original art if you were celebrating the anniversary.

Regardless, they are very cool.   Yes, they do have the actual text inside, although you need a magnifying glass to read it, and a strong one at that.

Here is a size comparison:
(notice the old Toys R Us price tag on the large Monster Manual II.  Ah, remember when that store sold D&D?)

As you can see, Chaos approves.

All in all, I received:
- Players Handbook
- Dungeon Masters Guide
- Monster Manual
- Monster Manual II
- Unearthed Arcana

            No Way but the Hard Way - The Rappan Athuk Theme Song

            Okay, so not many of the lyrics apply to Rappan Athuk except for the chorus, but I still think this song sums up the Rappan Athuk experience nicely.

            February 11, 2010

            Excellent post about the Gamer-Friendly Wife

            Over at Beyond the Black Gate, Al (a.k.a. Ravyn) posted this excellent ode to the Gamer-Friendly Wife: link.

            I couldn't have said it better myself.  God Bless the D&D Widows of the world.

            February 9, 2010

            Gaming Setup 101: A Portable, Cheap, Kick-arse, Battle Map or Homemade Tact-Tiles, the Lazy Way

            UPDATE 7/6/10 - Great Victory Widgets seems to be no longer in operation (their Web site is down at least).  Also, Longtooth Studios does seem to be producing its version of Tact-Tiles.

            I wrote up how to make nice, huge white board battle map before. The problem with that thing is that it's not going anywhere (it's 4 ft x 8 ft). This is fine for me since I host the D&D games I play in, but if you are a traveling DM, it's not much help.

            If you're fine with using a vinyl battle mat, then that is the easy way to go. Personally, I've grown to dislike these because they only work with wet erase markers. Wet erase is old-school in the bad way. It's messy and a pain and, if you're clumsy (like I am), you're bound to get water all over your precious gaming books and notes.

            A few years back, a company called BC Products made Tact-Tiles, puzzle-like white board pieces that you could assemble for battle-map goodness. A lot of folks really liked these, but they must not have sold well enough because BC Products stopped making them. That is a shame because they are a great idea. In addition to being a portable, dry erase surface, a lot of DMs like them because they can pre-draw battle fields for upcoming game sessions. When it's go time at the table, the DM just puts together the puzzle and, tada, place your minis and start rolling dice. On top of that, the DM can lay out the map bit by bit (e.g., as the party explores the dungeon) for the ol' "fog of war" effect. Personally, I don't have that kind of prep time, so I have to stick with "ok, everyone go get a beer or use the bathroom, I have to draw the huge temple you're going to die in."

            Great Victory Widgets is now making a product under the Tact-Tiles name, but it doesn't appear they have any direct link to the original makers (given the "Don't get your knickers in a knot" trademark disclaimer on their site). Unlike the original, these new ones are clear and wet erase. Again, wet erase stinks. On top of that, these things will run you $95 for a set of 8 (although FRP Games has the same set for $85.00). $95 or $85 - that is a damn hefty price, especially for wet erase.

            To be fair, some might say that $95.00 is not all that bad when you consider the amount of use you could get out of these. Hell, if you're a video gamer, the price is less than two video games. Ha, double hell, as a table top gamer, you've likely spent more than that on RPG books that see little use. Still, it's hard for me to plop down that kind of cash for something like this. Maybe it's because when I buy RPG books, it's at $20 or so a pop, and not in the $100 ballpark.

            I'm guessing the new Tact-Tiles are made of plexiglas. For some reason, plexiglas doesn't appear to be suitable for dry erase, but only wet erase. The Great Victory Widgets site explicitly says their tiles are wet erase (they toss in a free marker!). The Avenger Ultimate Game Table uses plexiglas and its makers also explicitly state they use wet erase markers. I don't understand this as other folks use dry erase on plexiglas (see this ElephantStaircase DIY Dry Erase Board article). However, I'm assuming there is a reason or else people would be doing so

            On the other hand, plexiglas is transparent. That is why the guys behind The Avenger Ultimate Game Table use it for their surface. They can place whatever map they want underneath (e.g., a D&D grid, a BattleTech hex map, etc.), and then go to town. I just don't see transparency as being a big plus for the new Tact-Tiles. First off, the tiles are already scored with a grid, so you don't need a grid underneath. On top of that, it sort of eliminates the "fog of war" feature. If the DM is placing them over an existing map, he'd have to hide the unseen areas of that map until he put the tile down. I'm sure Great Victory has their reasons for using plexiglas, but I can't figure them out.

            Longtooth Studios started producing Battle Graphs a few years back and they're basically the same thing as the original Tact-Tiles (i.e., dry erase). Unfortunately, now Longtooth Studios has stopped making them: "We are currently unable to continue the manufacture of our Battlegraph Dry Erase Boards. We are continuing our efforts to find financial support to get things up and running...."

            This fellow has posted his own step-by-step guide for making Tact Tiles: How to make your own Tact-Tiles. This seems all well and good, but a bit of a pain in the ass if you're like me (i.e., lazy).

            So, below are a couple ideas of my own:

            DISCLAIMER: I have not done ANY of this stuff myself. I'm happy with my big ol' grid, so I haven't bothered to spend the time or money on these theories.

            Lazy Homemade Tact-Tiles Idea #1
            • Do what I did for my mammoth white board battle map (i.e., buy a big piece of tile board (a.k.a., shower board a.k.a. Melamine) and score a grid on it with an Exacto knife), and then cut it up with a jig saw.
            • $11 or so for the tile board and some sawing and you have Tact-Tiles.
            Lazy Homemade Tact-Tiles Idea #2
            • Go to the LTD Commodities site and buy this Dry Erase Kit. It includes eight 1 ft x 1 ft dry erase tiles that you can assemble as you'd like, up to a 4 ft x 2 ft area. The kit is a whopping $5.95.
            • I have no clue what these things look like out of the box, but I bet you can use them as is. That is, rather than stick them to the wall, keep them on their backings and use them as tiles.
            • Worst case scenario, if you can't use them "as is," stick 'em on some poster board.
            • The only problem here is that they don't interlock. I'm not sure how much of an issue that would be. Then again, if it's $95.00 for interlocking or $6.00 for non-interlocking, I'd rough it.
            • You might be able to score a grid on them, but, if not, a D&D grid works on 1 inch scale. It would be easy just to measure movement with a tape measure and skip the gird entirely. (Actually, if you're okay with that method, you could skip the scoring part of my tile board map design, as well).
            If anyone tries either of these methods, I'd love to hear how they work out.

              February 2, 2010

              R.I.P. Pepper the Guinea Pig

              It was a rough weekend.  Chaos's guinea pig, Pepper, passed away on Saturday.  We discovered him Saturday morning nearly motionless and with a severe case of diarrhea.  A quick Google search revealed that this is a pretty serious condition for a guinea pig.  Once those little guys dehydrate like that, everything inside them starts shutting down.  We found a vet that saw small animals as quickly as we could, but it was a half-hour drive away.  I had a bad feeling that he wasn't going to make it that long and, unfortunately, I was right.

              This would have been tough normally, but it was particularly rough because Mrs. Frost and I just gave our daughters the guinea pigs for Christmas (Mayhem's little guy, Henry, seems to be doing fine). We've had other pets, but this was Chaos's first.  It was her pet and no one else's. She loved that little guy.

              I know that some might think, "Buddy, it's just a guinea pig."  Trust me, when it's your five-year-old daughter's guinea pig, it's not "just a guinea pig."

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