June 30, 2010

More Great Art by Brian Thomas

More great art by Brian Thomas of Three-headed Troll Art Wurks.

June 29, 2010

I’m a Lucky Man

Fall 2009 086 I spent part of last week in Chicago visiting family (my wife was throwing her sister a baby shower) and had a bad case of cabin fever. After snooping around a bit on the ‘net, I found the locations of some game stores. Kind of hard to believe, but in a city as large as Chicago, there are only three game stores (none of which are downtown, by the way). The following three stores all have great online reviews:

(I’m not including the local Games Workshop stores, which only sell Games Workshop stuff. I’m not a Warhammer player, so those shops are of no use to me, but I’m rather impressed that GW has its own brand-specific stores).

Games Plus seemed like the best bet for finding older system RPG stuff. Unfortunately, all of
the stores were across town and my wife and I had planned to head out that night, just the two of us. So what did we do for our hot date? We drove 40 miles or so to Games Plus. Yes, my wife, dressed to kill, went with me to the game store for our date night.

I was in gamer heaven and my wife waited patiently as I spent God-knows-how-long browsing the aisles. Actually, she spent a good bit of time looking for games for our girls.

I’m a lucky man.

[By the way, I highly recommend Games Plus. I scored some great stuff: Slavelords of Cydonia by Badaxe Games ($5, used, but damned if I can tell), Raise the Dead and Dead Man’s Chest by Necromancer Games ($7, new, and $5 for a slightly dinged copy), and a starter deck of Dinosaur King cards for Chaos.]

June 25, 2010

Lazy Friday Fantasy Metal Post: Hammerfall - Bloodbound

Love this track.   By the way, I received a ton of suggestions last week.  Please keep them coming!

June 23, 2010

Divide and Conquer – The Board Game

Divide-and-Conquer-Box (1) For those of you attending GenCon this year and looking for some board game action, I suggest checking out Divide and Conquer. My friend Hans is the game designer and it’s a hell of a game.  It takes about 5 minutes to learn the rules, but involves plenty of strategy.  Here is how he explains it:

Divide and Conquer is an abstract strategy board game for 3-4 players. As the Commander of a battalion of troops, you plan out and execute troop movements to secure objective regions around the game board. Your opponent’s competing troops will cause you to tangle and engage in conflict taking on causalities and slowing your pace to victory. You must anticipate the other players’ strategies by moving with precision and seizing the initiative. Sometimes your position is defensive to block an opponent from an objective and other times you are invading occupied regions to weaken the offensive of another player.

gen_con_2008 The game mechanics are based in mathematics and game theory, which provides an additional opponent. If you plan optimally, you will not only defeat the other players, but you will also solve the game with a minimal number of movements.

Give it a shot; you won’t be disappointed.  Tell him, “Frost sent me.”

GenCon Dates and Times:
  • Event ID: BGM1010503 - (8/6 10am - Indiana Convention Center)
  • Event ID: BGM1010597 - (8/7 10am - Indiana Convention Center)

June 22, 2010

The Castles & Crusades Ambassador Program

As I’m a C&C fan without a C&C campaign, I leap at any opportunity I get to run C&C and a gaming convention is such an opportunity.  I’ve run C&C at StruebCon twice and I plan on running it at GASPCon this year.  Troll Lord Games aims to help out any Crusader who wants to spread the word at ‘cons or in-store events and has started up a C&C Ambassador program to do so.harbinger variant

How does one become a C&C Ambassador?   You fill out an application that demonstrates your grasp of C&C, details your gaming street cred, and indicates the events at which you plan to run some C&C action.  I guess I cut the mustard, because Steve Chenault sent me a sweet-ass demo kit called The Harbinger Variant.  Keep in mind, this thing is free if you qualify. Being the nice guy that he is, Steve rushed it to me so I would have it in time for StruebCon IV.  Unfortunately, I wasn't able to use it because the Variant showed up a day before the event. (I already had Dwarven Glory III and pre-generated PCs ready to rock, so I was prepared anyhow.)  Since we didn't get started playing C&C until 1:00 AM, I wouldn't have been able to run the adventures included anyhow as they were too lengthy.  I plan to make good use of it at GASPCon, though.

The package that I received included the following in the depicted boxed set:
  • a softcover Players Handbook 
  • two adventures:
  • Six or so uber character record sheets. These are abbreviated rule booklets with a character record sheet for the cover and are meant to be handed out at the event. Steve said he’d send replacements once the originals were used up.
Additionally, Steve has said he’ll provide the following when he gets a chance:
  • 1 page instruction sheet
  • 1 retailer card to be handed to the retailer for contact information
  • 1 catalog (for the CK to show around)
  • 6 cards to be filled in by gamer and mailed back to TLG
  • 6 order forms
If you’re interested in becoming an ambassador, contact Kim Hartsfield at “kim at trolllord dot com.”  The program is a great idea and TLG is doing its best to spread its Crusade.

June 21, 2010

If You Like Castles & Crusades So Much, Why the Hell are You Playing D&D 3.5?

I’m in an odd situation.  I am a huge fan of Castles & Crusades but I use D&D 3.5 for my ongoing Rappan Athuk campaign. Why? Well, mainly because it’s grandfathered in, so to speak.  I started the campaign before I discovered C&C and it would be a lot of work to convert.  It wouldn’t be that tough on me as a DM.  Converting D&D 3.x materials is rather easy and I could do it on the fly.  For monsters, one basically just eliminates the Skills and Feats, interpreting them as inherent abilities if need be.  However, converting 3.5 characters to C&C characters is another story. 

I have to admit, one of the fun aspects of D&D 3.5 is that it allows players to “get under the hood” and tweak their characters to their hearts’ content (that sounds dirty).  Since C&C doesn’t involve Feats or Skills, converting a character would either require dropping those things outright or negotiating some way to add them as special abilities for the character.  In other words, it sounds like a pain in the ass. 

On top of that, no one is clamoring to change systems.  My players are happy with D&D 3.5.  I read blog and forum posts about players and GMs pissing and moaning about one system or another, complaining that this or that is broken and I think, “Man, I’m lucky.”  My players say “Have dice. Will travel.”  We just sit down and play the game, we don’t bicker about the rule set.

And, really, I myself do like D&D 3.5.  It’s a bit complicated, but my group has the system down and we enjoy the hell out of it.  Hell, we’ve never had trouble with some of the much criticized rules.  (I still don’t understand the beef with the Grapple rules. We use them all the time without a problem.)  My main gripe with D&D 3.5 is that combat is damn slow.  For example, I’m enjoying the Showdown in the Upper Temple of Orcus we have going on now, but we’ve played three sessions of combat and still have at least one more to go (hopefully only one more, that’s my plan anyway). Still, even with that, we’ve had a hell of a campaign, full of blood, grit, and glory.

Anyhow, since I’ve been blabbing about C&C so much, I figured I’d best explain myself. 

(If you haven’t checked out C&C yourself, take a look at the Quick Start Rules.)

June 17, 2010

My First Instance of Keyword Strangeness

Mike over at Swords & Dorkery often posts odd keywords that folks have used to find his blog via search engines (see here and here for examples). Apparently WordPress has a feature that does this. I myself use Google Analytics and Clicky for such reporting.

Most of the keywords reported have been kind of obvious, the lion’s share being about dry erase battle mats. However, Clicky picked up the following keyword string from Yahoo on June 16, 2010:

“what happens when you piss white”

So I did some checking and, sure enough, when you enter that into Google, my blog is the first result (at least as of today). See for yourself: http://search.yahoo.com/search?p=what+happens+when+you+piss+white

Good to know I can be of help to someone out there in need (by the way, this was the blog post associated with that search: link).

June 16, 2010

Late Night Castles & Crusades at StruebCon IV

My C&C session at StruebCon IV started around 1:00 AM. I was very pleased that nearly all StruebSquad members participated, despite the late hour. I think only two attendees (myself included) actively play RPGs (although I think a couple guys played their share of D&D back in the day).

It was Saturday night (err.. Sunday morning) and the last night for gaming. DohJoe was wired from winning the game of Battlestar Galactica in Machiavellian fashion, but the rest of the group was hurtin’. True gamers, they bellied up to the game table anyhow.

Genius that I am, I decided to grab their attention with a PowerPoint presentation. I had C_C_StruebConIVgood intentions. When I ran C&C at StruebSquad III, I was geeked out and more or less just threw the players into the game without really explaining the rules. It went okay, but I wasn’t pleased with my performance. This time I had vowed to myself that the players would get the rules and actually know what the hell they were doing. I had envisioned some big screen to present this on (I’m not sure where I got that idea), but ended up showing it on a laptop which I hassled out of Polymythic Steve. I’m sure at the time he was thinking, “Dude, seriously?” (understandably so), but I was determined. I got about half-way through and realized “Uhm, yeah, this is freaking boring” and just grabbed a character sheet and walked them through the essentials.

Anyhow, you can find the PowerPoint (and the half-ass jokes within) at Google Docs: link. You can preview it at Google Docs, but to get the full effect (i.e., transitions and graphics), you’ll need to download it. I should note that the “subtraction” method I used for SIEGE checks is an alternative to the traditional way of handling them. I haven’t gotten enough C&C games under my belt to determine if its the easiest way to go.

winding stair I ran Dwarven Glory III: The Winding Stair, which is a nice short module. I provided miniatures (mostly pre-painted DDM ones from Wizards of the Coast) and I had pre-drawn the dungeon on large, drafting graph paper (with 1 inch squares). That saved me from having to halt the game to draw rooms when combat kicked in.

In hindsight, I should have done without the miniatures. While they do help with visualization, I think the minis kept the players in “board game” mode. One of the perks of C&C is that, due to lack of Attacks of Opportunities and such, there really is no need for miniatures and a battle grid. The game likely would have gone faster and I think it would have really driven home how an RPG is different from your standard game.TSR92035_lg

Regardless, I had a lot of fun and I think the guys did too. At the end, I had them all vote for the player they thought played the best. DohJoe won the vote, given the zest with which he took to his rogue character, and was awarded a set of “official” D&D dice.

Time to start planning for next year… this time without a PowerPoint presentation.

June 15, 2010

The Care Bear Slaughter

I am having way too much fun with my wife's Flip Camera (which I just happened to get her for her last birthday). The thing is just so damn easy to use. Anyhow, here is another clip of Chaos and Mayhem putting their form swords to good use.

This started off as a duel between the two, but the girls soon turned their collective wrath upon an innocent Care Bear bystander.

June 14, 2010

StruebCon IV

In mid-May, I attended StruebCon IV, a gaming convention hosted by Polymythic Steve. By "gaming convention," I mean a bunch of dudes taking over his house, playing games non-stop, and drinking his beer (also non-stop). The attendees are members of the StruebSquad, most of which are DC area gamers that Steve has assembled over the years. Others, such as myself, are from PA.

So what is with the “Strueb” stuff? It’s derived from Steve’s name. I should point out that Steve himself named neither the event nor the squad, but rather the group named both after him because he brought both the ‘con and the group together.

The guys do a great job with this. Hans worked up convention badges and DohJoe (of LaserPup fame) had commemorative dice made.

It was a lot of fun, although Chaos learned to ride her bike without training wheels while I was gone. It's not easy knowing I missed that. It wasn't intentional (Mrs. Frost didn't make the attempt without me), but was simply a matter of Chaos trying out a neighbor kid's old, smaller bike and taking off on it.

Anyhow, StruebCon is mainly a board game event, with a smattering of miniature gaming and one RPG event (mine). The board game library amassed by the Squad is damn impressive, so it's a nice chance for a RPG guy like myself to play games I've never heard of before.

The big hits of the convention were:

  • Dominion – This is non-collectable card game that is a deck-building game. You have to balance amassing action cards with point cards in order to win in the end. I get the sense it’s the Settlers of Catan of the moment (i.e., it’s the hot game going around).
  • Ricochet Robots – A real brain tester of a game. You can play with as many people as you want, as long as they can see the board. Players must mentally find the shortest way to move a pawn to a randomized board location. The concept is amazingly simple. Finding the short path (or any path at all) is amazingly tough.
  • Werewolf – This is a blast of a party game. Players sit around accusing one another of who are the werewolves while the wolves silently execute the others. It’s funny, I completely forgot I had played this before as Mafia until Hans mentioned this alternate name on the way home.
  • Battlestar Galactica - I didn’t play this myself (I opted for a game of Puerto Rico and Ambush Alley instead). I don’t know much about other than it’s a cooperative game based on the popular TV show remake and involves one or two Cylon (i.e., traitor) players. From the shouts and rants I heard, it looked like a great game. DohJoe played a Cylon and from all reports played it like a damn master. He used the fact that it was everyone’s first time playing (himself included) to his advantage, using his seeming naivety to throw off suspicion.
  • Ambush AlleyI’d been looking forward to playing this game and was happy to finally
    get a chance to do so. As advertised, it was a down-and-dirty miniatures, modern warfare skirmish with a high body count. I played once as the insurgents and once as the US forces. I lost both times, but enjoyed the hell out it. The rules are a bit sketchy at times, but I’ve grown to see that as a plus. We just settled ambiguity with a die roll and move on (e.g., “I’m not sure that is enough cover or not. Hell, evens it is, odds it is not.”)

I myself ran a Castles & Crusades event and I officially became a C & C Ambassador for the event (well, for this and for GASPCon coming up in the fall). I’ll write more about that particular event in a separate post, but in short, it was some good late night fun and God bless the guys for staying up to play.

StruebCon IV was another rousing success. Many thanks to the Polymythic Steve and Mrs. Polymythic Steve for the beer, the brats, the omelets, and the kick-arse gaming.

June 11, 2010

Lazy Friday Fantasy Metal Post: Lee Aaron - Metal Queen

Really, I do have substantive posts coming. In the mean time, let's return to some classic 80s "hot chick-fronted metal band" cheese.

June 2, 2010

Dave the Knave's Art

As I've alluded to before, one of my players, Dave the Knave, is a damn fine artist.  Here is a sampling of his work from his deviantArt page.

This is his rogue/monk character, Plum Blossom.  She is second in line to the Survival Trophy.

Plum Blossom again, but an earlier version.

Here is Archbishop Van  Awesome.  A rather grandiose handle for a 1st level cleric he created for a Castles & Crusades one shot.  Dave had a lot of fun playing him and he sounded a lot like Val Hallen of the Justice Friends.

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