April 30, 2010

Sometimes... Everybody ROCKS

Part of the reason I love 80s hard rock and heavy metal is because those genres embrace all that is good and geeky about D&D:  Magic and swords; heroics and hot chicks.  This music appeals to me in the same way as Frazetta art and airbrushing on customized vans.

So, let me share with you some 80s cheesy metal awesomeness.   I give you Warlock! I find it kind of odd that a female-fronted band is named after a male witch, but hey, they rock. Not surprisingly, they are a European band.  For whatever reason, European rock and metal really seem to dig the fantasy vibe.

I would describe this as R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" video, except awesome.  Be sure to catch the "no, really, we didn't reverse the film on the guitar swing" at 2:51.

Also, I want this van (hey, Father's Day is coming up....):

April 28, 2010

Someone Already Wrote my "Clash of the Titans" Review

A while back I promised to provide a more in-depth review of "Clash of the Titans."

Now there is no need. Troll and Flame already did it for me. Check out his "Dudes, New Clash of the Titans Kicks Ass" post. 

Well said.

April 27, 2010

Showdown in the Temple of Orcus – Update 1

Two sessions have passed since my last campaign update.  This is an update of the first of those two sessions. I can be a bit lazy with campaign posts simply because they are more time-consuming than other posts and, quite frankly, I always wonder if folks really read them.

The grinding continues. After the battle with the hezrou demon and his dretch minions, the party was left without the majority of its NPC fodder. The hezrou’s blasphemy spell had wiped out all but two of them.  I had to ret-con that due to some poor math on my part at the end of that session. I had told the party that those 3rd level NPCs were paralyzed, but when I was calculating XP between sessions, I realized that they were flat-out dead. Since that did not change the outcome of the immediate situation, I thought it fair to enforce the ruling.  I tend to let “ties go to the runner… er… player,” and if I mess up a ruling in favor of the players, I usually let it ride. However, considering the power of the hezrou, I thought it best to play this one by the book.  So, apart from some secondary PCs, the party was now down to two NPC dwarf fighters.

Ok, blah blah blah, here are the highlights in more or less chronological order.
  • The PCs gathered up their dead, eight total (sans Roxxxor, who had been consumed by the lava), and used a gemgate (a magic item from Relics & Rituals that opens a temporary, teleportation portal. Think those magic red portals from the He-Man cartoon) to take the bodies back to a dwarven temple in Bard’s Gate. It was sort of a weird pop-in “Here are some dead guys!” pop-out move.  The players were mainly concerned that the unholy magic of the Orcus temple might cause the dead to rise.  Their initial plan was to throw the bodies into the lava pit, but after seeing the NPC dwarves weeping and performing last rites, it dawned on the players “oh yeah, we might want to at least role-play some respect for the fodder.”
  • Snaggletooth, the party’s resident fairie dragon, cast stone shape to form a wall in front of each door (although, notably, the party forgot about the magic backdoor they themselves used to enter the temple)

  • A spectre (who I described as looking like me) started peeking through the blocked doors and, after a magic arrow to his face, battle was commenced.
  • A Vampire Warrior that appeared badass entered through the magic backdoor (so badass that I broke out my Warduke miniature for him), the spectre came through one of the regular doors, and a loud pounding was heard at the other door.
  • The spectre was dispatched fairly quickly and the “oh, I’m a big, bad Vampire Warrior” was put in his place almost immediately by a turn check (unfortunately for him, he had arrived in a consecrated area and, well, the DM forgot his inherent turn resistance.  As I said, if I botch things, I tend to let them slide).
  • The pounding continued and eventually the door and wall blocking the one entrance gave way to reveal a cadaver collector.

    • The party was rather concerned at this point: the vampire, while not doing squat, was still there.  The cadaver collector was trampling the party again… and again… again. (Yeah, he has other attacks, but was being pretty effective just rolling over the PCs).
    • Then the party said, “hmm, the collector is made out of a lot of metal, right?” and broke out two freakin’ magic items, both of which they had acquired in Rappan Athuk itself:
    • Both of these items work via touch attacks (I had to make this ruling for the shield since it wasn’t detailed in the RA material, but I figured as long as the PC wasn’t trying to actually bash with it, the rules for the gauntlet should apply to it as well).
    • Before long, the already ineffective Vampire Warrior was without armor (bye bye +3 chain shirt) and fled.
    • Although the cadaver collector was putting the hurt on the PCs, before long, he was a pile of rust.  Yeah, an AC of 29 is great… but not so great when your touch AC is frickin’ 9.
    • Suffice it to say, the players found the Achilles' heel and worked it like a $2 whore.
    • After combat was over, the wizard successfully cast antipathy versus Chaotic Evil off a caster level 16 scroll and the cleric began his hallow spell.
    • Well-played.  

      April 22, 2010

      Modern Warfare on your Tabletop - Ambush Alley

      Polymythic Steve (not to be confused with this Steve) has clued me into a pretty sweet miniatures game called Ambush Alley.  Basically, the game is an in-your-face, down and dirty modern skirmish rule set (think "Black Hawk Down" with minis).  You can read more about it at their About Us page.  I haven't played it yet, but I am eager to and will when I visit him next month.

      Steve submitted a scenario for Ambush Alley's "To the Last Round" contest.  You can check out his submission ("...Because We Got Intel Saying") and its sweet layout here: link.  You can also see him smack himself in the head with a jump rope here: link.

      He created the scenery and painted the minis himself. Here are some of my favorite shots:

      Some Images to Go with Your "What Polyhedral Die Are You?" Results

      Okay, I should have worked out some kind of kick-back deal with Dicepool.com, because every frickin' gamer blog out there participated in their "What Polyhedral Die Are You?" quiz after I posted it.  

      (I'm sure the fact that Jeff Rients did the quiz had nothing to do with that.  I mean, who reads his blog? Oh yeah, everybody that owns a d20.)

      Dave the Knave noticed some rather appropriate images by Lee Bretschneider on Flickr shortly thereafter (you can also find them at Lee's Adventuring Company site). Be forewarned, a few of his images are artistically NSFW.

      Here I am in business attire:

      April 21, 2010

      A Great Quote for My Fellow Dungeoneering Parents

      A buddy of mine who goes by the name of Eryx on various message boards posted this quote on Facebook.  As a parent, I found it particularly poignant. 

      Fairy tales do not tell children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed. - G. K. Chesterton

      Necromancer Games is Back ... in Frog Form

      PhotobucketIt is official, Necromancer Games is back in the game, but now in Demon Frog God formBill “Tsathogga” Webb has announced that the long delayed Slumber Tsar series will be released! The module will be released under the Pathfinder RPG rule set via a subscription basis.  Of the various Necro modules that were frozen in carbonite after the announcement of D&D 4th Edition, this is the one I've really wanted.  The author, Greg A. Vaughan, based it on the original Rappan Athuk back story.

      What I find very interesting is that the release is being handled by a new entity, Frog God Games, rather than Necromancer Games itself.

      Here is Bill's post on ENWorld:
      OK guys--website will be live in a few days froggodgames.com. Greg and I are a go. A few details to still work out---but here is the plan. I have to make it a non-Necro release for various reasons..but Clark has passed me his infernal blessings, so here we go.

      The Sleeper Awakes!
      At last, after languishing in its crypt for an age, the secrets of the slumbering city of Tsar burst forth in all their macabre glory. Poured forth from the eldritch furnaces and crucibles of the Necromancer and Orcus himself comes Frog God Games bringing you at long last The Slumbering Tsar Saga™.

      Something Stirs in the City of Evil
      Over the distant northern hills, beyond The Camp, and past the Desolation stand the pitted walls of Tsar. A hundred armies have crushed themselves against this bulwark in futile attempts to breach the city. Even the combined might of the Heavens and Earth were unable to break through in the final battle of Tsar. So why was the city suddenly abandoned on the verge of victory, and what waits for those foolish enough to enter the Temple-City of Orcus?

      The Black Gates Await
      Only the bravest and most powerful of heroes dare the depths of the Desolation and live to tell of it. But what happens when they penetrate that blasted landscape and look upon the gates of the very center of evil on the earth. Can even heroes of such renown breach the Walls of Death and live?

      The Slumbering Tsar Saga™ began its journey years ago as a single mega-adventure for the masters of Third Edition rules and First Edition feel, then became a trilogy of adventures, then a trilogy of mega-adventures, and now finally comes to you as a monthly series culminating in a massive book with over a half million words of pure First Edition-style adventure. Updated to the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game to accommodate today’s audience of the classic fantasy roleplaying game, The Slumbering Tsar Saga™ brings you 14 chapters, released monthly in electronic format, each chapter the size of a full adventure in its own right (30-50 pages) . Then when the final chapter has been released, the whole will be available in a classic edition, hardcover adventure book.

      The Slumbering Tsar Saga™ will begin its run with the release of its first chapter, Slumbering Tsar: The Desolation, Part 1 —The Edge of Oblivion. Then each month will follow a new chapter in the saga:
      Slumbering Tsar: The Desolation, Part 2 —The Ghosts of Victory
      Slumbering Tsar: The Desolation, Part 3—The Western Front
      Slumbering Tsar: Temple-City of Orcus, Part 1 —The Tower of Weeping Sores
      Slumbering Tsar: Temple-City of Orcus, Part 2 —The Lower City
      Slumbering Tsar: Temple-City of Orcus, Part 3 —The Harrow Lanes
      Slumbering Tsar: Temple-City of Orcus, Part 4 —The Crooked Tower
      Slumbering Tsar: Temple-City of Orcus, Part 5 —Foundations of Infamy
      Slumbering Tsar: The Hidden Citadel, Part 1 —At the Feet of Orcus
      Slumbering Tsar: The Hidden Citadel, Part 2 —Echoes of Despair
      Slumbering Tsar: The Hidden Citadel, Part 3 —The Throne of the Demon Prince
      Slumbering Tsar: The Hidden Citadel, Part 4 —In the Belly of the Beast
      Slumbering Tsar: The Hidden Citadel, Part 5 —The Mind of Chaos
      Slumbering Tsar: The Hidden Citadel, Part 6 —Caverns of the Barrier

      Coming May 15th to Frog God Games Slumbering Tsar: The Desolation, Part 1 —The Edge of Oblivion in pdf format for the introductory price of $2.00.

      Each month following, the next chapter of The Slumbering Tsar Saga™ will be released for the low price of $9.99. A subscription option is available to ensure that you don’t miss a single installment. Upon the release of the final chapter, the whole will be available as a hardcover print adventure and is included as part of the purchase price for those how purchase all 14 installments of the series or for a one-time purchase price of $120.00 (includes hardcover). Non subscription hardcover books will be available for $150.00 (when we are all done) at Drive Through RPG (DriveThruRPG.com - The Largest RPG Download Store!) . As soon as Slumbering Tsar Saga™ is complete, look for our next release!

      Don’t miss out

      You have waited long enough for The Slumbering Tsar Saga™. Now it is waiting for you.

      April 20, 2010

      This is What Happens When You Piss Off the Gods

      I imagine this is what it looks like when Crom is not pleased with you....

      Compliments of NASA: link

      Beer, Pretzels, and Death - The House Rules of My Rappan Athuk Campaign

      Here are the House Rules I have up at Epic Words for my players' perusal.  Figured I'd share them with the blogosphere.  Feedback is welcomed.

      Allowed Source Material
        Player and DM Sources
      • Player's Handbook
      • Dungeon Master's Guide
      • The Hypertext d20 SRD
      • Player's Handbook II
      • Various "Complete..." books per DM approval
      • Relics & Rituals I & II (with limitations)
      • Spell Compendium
      • Eldritch Sorcery
      • Magic Item Compendium
      • Arms & Equipment Guide
      • Ultimate Equipment Guide
        Campaign Materials
      • Rappan Athuk Reloaded
      • Bard's Gate
      • lots and lots of monster books...
       Character Generation

      Starting Level: 6
      Ability Scores: Point Buy-High-powered Campaign: 32 Points (DMG p.169)
      Starting HP: Maximum HP for level 1; additional HP rolled at the table with DM present
      Starting Wealth: 13,000 gp (standard)
      o No evil alignments [Frost: Not really a moral qualm here, but I've learned allowing evil alignment causes more headaches than it's worth.]
      o No custom magic items
      o The DM reserves the right to refuse any character feature regardless of the materials listed as Source Material.
      o Seek DM approval for using any class, item, race, etc. not listed in the Source Material.

      Ensemble of Characters [Frost: This was inspired by a post at someone's blog.  I believe it was Jeff Rient's blog, but I can't find the particular post.  I've never played Dark Sun, but I think that had something similar, too].
      Each player can have up three PCs at his/her disposal. This three includes any fallen PCs hoped to return to the land of the living. If a PC ever dies, the player has the option of reserving a slot for that PC or may create a new PC for that slot. Players may choose any PC prior to the session as long as we are not starting the session mid-combat. In other words, if we end one session while the party is knee-deep in the undead, the PC that was involved must still be involved in the next session. However, if the session ends with the party making camp or simply out of danger, the player can choose to use a different PC the next session. Please note, whatever items one PC carries are owned by that particular PC. On a case by case basis, I may allow players to have one PC give an item to another character so that character can give the item to another ensemble PC the next time that PC is played.

      Death (from "The High Cost of Dying" by Andy Collins)
      Any time a character is raised from the dead (by any effect that would normally cause a level loss), instead of losing a level, he picks up a special negative level. Unlike a normal negative level, this one can't be eliminated with restoration or any other kind of magic short of a miracle or wish. The character suffers all the normal penalties for a negative level--a -1 penalty on attacks, saves, and ability and skill checks; -5 hp; -1 to effective level for determining the effect of special abilities; and 1 spell or spell slot from the highest level castable.

      This negative level remains until the next time the character gains a level. Each time you gain a level, you remove one of your special negative levels. (It's kind of like going up two levels at the same time.) If you're carrying around more than one of these special negative levels, you only lose one of them this time; you'll have to wait until your next level to lose another one.

      True resurrection (and similar effects that restore life without causing level loss) bring a character back without this special negative level.

      This rule applies to energy drain as well. If the saving throw caused by an energy draining attack fails, the negative level simply becomes "permanent" until the character gains another level. Restoration magics still work to remove the permanent negative level created by energy drain. Players must keep track of the origin of each of their special negative levels (since restoration can fix those from energy drain, but not from resurrection).

      Critical Hits
      Critical hits are resolved via the Critical Hit Deck per the rules of the deck with a couple exceptions. Players can always opt to do standard, critical damage instead of using the deck. Also, when a PC is the victim of a critical hit, the player can decide whether to receive the normal critical damage or to suffer the effects of the deck.

      Critical Fumbles
      Critical fumbles are resolved via the Critical Fumble Deck per the rules of the deck.

      Critical Success/Critical Failure for Skill/Ability Checks
      We are using the Variant rule from the DMG (p.34). If you roll a 20 on a skill roll, roll again. If you succeed again, good things happen. Likewise, if you initially roll a 1, roll again. If you fail again, bad things happen.

      Gems, Baubles, and Goods
      When gems, jewelry, statues, and the like are acquired by the party, the DM will immediately relate the monetary value for these items. This simply makes for easier book-keeping.

      Gods from any pantheon can be worshiped, however, here is a listing of some of the common ones for this setting: Deities of the Bard's Gate Region [I can't link to the list on Epic Words, but my listing is very similar to the one Duke Omote used.  Thanks again for sharing that info, Duke!]

      On Being Turned to Stone (compliments of Jonathan Drain)
      A character turned to stone can attempt to strike a heroic pose in order to make a better looking statue. If sold, his statue fetches 100 gp times the result of a Charisma check.

      Diagonal movement is 5 ft. instead of the normal rule for diagonal movement (i.e., every other diagonal move counts as 10 ft.). Frankly, the normal rule causes nothing but aggravation for some of us (namely, the DM) and slows down game play. Also, to speed up play, players and the DM may feel free to use the Ranger measuring tool or a tape measure to measure movement. [Frost: This is known as the "anti-Tron movement rule" as I had a tendency to move miniatures like light cycles rather than move them on diagonals because it would always throw off my counting.  I know, for some it isn't that hard, but it was nigh-impossible for this DM once a few beers were consumed.]

      Purchasing Magic Items (from the Pathfinder PRD)
      Magic items are valuable, and most major cities have at least one or two purveyors of magic items, from a simple potion merchant to a weapon smith that specializes in magic swords. Of course, not every item is available in every town.

      The number and types of magic items available in a community depend upon its size. Each community has a base value associated with it (see Table: Available Magic Items). Bard's Gate is a metropolis. There is a 75% chance that any item of that value or lower can be found for sale with little effort in that community. In addition, the community has a number of other items for sale. These items are randomly determined and are broken down by category (minor, medium, or major).

      Nonmagical items and gear are generally available in a community of any size unless the item is particularly expensive, such as full plate, or made of an unusual material, such as an adamantine longsword. These items follow the base value guidelines to determine their availability, subject to DM discretion.

      April 19, 2010

      I am a d4

      According to DicePool.com, I'm a d4.  Who knew that d4s are such arseholes?  Not sure if this applies to me as a player, but as a DM... mayhaps.

      You are a d4: You are bright, perceptive, and driven. You would be considered a blessing to mankind, if you didn't insist on using your powers for evil. You are devious, deceitful, doubtful, and downright dangerous. Assassins can learn a lot from you. If your fellow party members knew how rotten you were, they'd go over and join the bad guys. Justified or not, you are meticulous in your ways: A poison for every person, and a dagger for every back. Much of your day is spent scheming or plotting. The rest of your time is spent trying to convince others that you're simply misunderstood.

      April 16, 2010

      Well, there goes what little DM cred I had....

      I have shamed myself.  I once mentioned that a certain yuan-ti really knows how to get down.  To be precise, I said that the yuan-ti abomination knows how to party.  For the record, this is a yuan-ti abomination:

      Clearly, this fellow does not know how to party.  He is all business.  Yes, he likely kicks ass and would be good to have on your side in a bar fight, but he doesn't look like a barrel of laughs.

      However, the yuan-ti anathema knows how to party like a golden god.

      On a side note, for no apparent reason, this party hound has been named "Steve."  Not sure why, but two sessions back, Dave the Knave was taking pictures and said, "pass me Steve."  No one knew who or what the hell he was talking about.  He was referring to the dude to the right.

      April 15, 2010

      A Quick Note Regarding the “Clash of the Titans” Remake

      So, not surprisingly many gamers ran out to see the “Clash of the Titans” remake.  By and large, given by the posts at my Internet hangouts, the movie was not well received by the gaming community.  Actually, the movie seems nigh-universally loathed.  Well, to such critics, here is my response:


      Seriously, did anyone who saw the trailers expect a blow-by-blow recreation of the Perseus myth?  The trailers were one step away from this:


      I really enjoyed “Clash of the Titans” and I’m eager to see it again.  I hope to post a more in-depth review, but pesky work is eating up my time this week.

      April 9, 2010

      The Survival Trophy

      So because I run a freakin’ lethal campaign, I figured some reward - some badge of honor- should be bestowed to the player whose character has lasted the longest.  Once your character bites it, you must hand over the trophy to the next person in line.  When the campaign ends, the last player holding the trophy keeps it for good.

      In my first campaign (this is my second Rappan Athuk campaign), the survival trophy was a Magneto bobble head (or, I’m sorry, it was a Magneto Wacky Wobbler, which is clearly MUCH different).  I’m not really sure why I went with it.  Perhaps because:
      1. It is vaguely trophy-like
      2. It is bizarre
      This time around, I went with something more appropriate (albeit less colorful): a styrofoam skull from Macy’s, of all places (it was Halloween at the time).  The trophy is currently in the hands of “Grim” Jim, who runs the party’s ranger (see below).  To his credit, Jim has held onto it for a few years now (and Dave the Knave has been eying it up for just as long). Jim took it from Sam when Sam’s paladin was dropped like a bad habit by an onslaught of spectres.  Jim fled; poor Sam never got the chance.

      I never really thought of it until now, but, rather morbidly, this trophy doesn’t come into play until after the first near-TPK (obviously, if it’s a full-fledged TPK, no one gets it). Along those lines, both of the trophies were handed out early on in both campaigns….

      The Showdown in the Upper Temple of Orcus continues tonight.  We'll see if Jim retains the trophy.

      April 8, 2010

      Cleaning Your Shower Board Battle Map

      Okay, I think I’ve done the “cheap dry erase gaming surface” thing to death, but here is one last post about it.  Before using my shower board/tile board/Melamine battle map much, I was concerned that the surface wouldn’t clean as well as real whiteboard.  Various sources on the ‘net (such as here) warned of problems of ink not coming off.  I would erase maps between sessions to avoid such problems.  Suffice it to say, this was a bit time consuming.  Well, after forgetting to clean the map once, I discovered there really isn’t a problem. Sure, the longer the ink is on the board, the harder it is to get off, but it has always wiped clean with whiteboard cleaner or water (or at least clean enough; I’m not sure even real whiteboards ever get completely clean after repeated use).  When in doubt, bust out the shower cleaner. It is shower board after all. Hell, with all the beer, chips, and gamer sweat, its a good idea to disinfect that surface after a while anyhow.


      Cloudy with a Chance of Orcus – Whiteboard Uses for RPG Gaming

      In my post about the showdown in the Upper Temple of Orcus, Omote noticed a strange “map/poster” sitting on an easel in one of the pictures:


      That is a piece of extra shower board/tile board/Melamine. Before I started using my massive battle map, I used two pieces of “whiteboard” purchased on the cheap from Craig’s List. The lady selling them didn’t know they weren’t real whiteboards (neither did I). Anyhow, they were cheap and these extra pieces are damn handy. Oh, the easel is my wife’s, but I long ago commandeered it for my own twisted purposes.

      Various uses:

      • Mapping - I stand in front of the whiteboard and draw an overview dungeon map as the party explores. This makes me feel like some strange, Gygaxian weatherman, but it works very well. It makes the mapper’s job easier and gives all the players a sense of where their characters are. It may sound like extra work, but it actually speeds up play because the players don’t need to question me as much about dungeon details.

      whiteboard (5)

      • Initiative Tracking – I often write the initiative order on the board so that everyone in the group has a clear idea of when their turn is coming up.

        whiteboard - Copy

      • Extra Battle Room – I bust out these pieces when the battle spills over the area on the large battle map. It happens more than you’d think in a dungeon the scale of Rappan Athuk [especially if the DM (uhm, me) doesn’t start drawing at a good point on the large map].

      Goblin Encounter

      • Artwork – My girls love to draw on these surfaces.

      whiteboard (4)

      April 5, 2010

      Battlegraph Boards (Tact-Tiles) Return from the Grave

      I mentioned that Longtooth Studios had stopped producing Battlegraph Boards, their version of Tact-Tiles. Well, according to a recent post on ENworld and at their own Web site, Battlegraph Boards are back in production.

      Gaming Deal - Halo Interactive Strategy Game

      Toys R Us has the "Halo Interactive Strategy Game" on sale for $7.69: link. The shipping and handling is an estimated $6.60. I noticed this game in a bricks and mortar store the other day and it was $10.00, which is still a good deal. I haven't played the game myself, but the reviews on Amazon are pretty positive: link (they also have a fairly decent price).

      Even if the game blows, the scenery and minis are likely worth the price for any sci-fi miniatures game or RPG, such as Star Wars, Necromunda, etc.

      I'm not a big sci-fi gamer, but figured I'd share this info anyhow.

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