Monday, November 23, 2015

RPG Retro Reviews: Call of Cthulhu

Another RPG Retro Review is up, this time, I'm taking a look back at the Call of Cthulhu game from Chaosium, as well as a brief look at Lovecraft and the Cthulhu Mythos itself, so please, check it out!!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Congratulations Ennie Winners

I'm certain there were quite a few surprised people when A Red and Pleasant Land received four Ennie awards. Two Gold (Best Writing, Best Setting) and two Silver (Product of the Year, Best Adventure).

Zak, those awards are well deserved. Cheers.

Monte Cook Games also received four awards, high quality work as always. One Gold for the Ninth World Guidebook (Best Cartography), and three Silver for The Strange (Best Interior Art, Best Game, Best Setting).

To everyone else, well done.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Coming up for air

I am not the best at keeping up this blog, longtime readers are well aware of that information.

I hope to find some motivation and at least briefly update gaming goings on.

Way behind on writing up sessions of both my campaign and CatCorajus' campaign.

Let's see, in the Cap's campaign:

party convinced 4 frost giants to turn on their white dragon overlord and they and the party escaped from the Hollow World (dragon still lives, holding eggs hostage can work sometimes)

party had to solve a haunting in a mansion in a slice of Ravenloft

got back to outer Mystara to find the political situation completely screwed up, we arrived through a portal inside a vault only to exit the door to find ourselves in the castle dungeon, freed prisoners, made dramatic escape, joined resistance forces loyal to Karameikos, been escaping from enemies by skin of teeth ever since, completely out-matched, outnumbered, out of our minds to think we can fix anything, trying anyway.

My campaign:

if I get around to finishing the post in my drafts folder it will catch things up, have not run any more of it in months


Recently discovered a West Marches style campaign on YouTube (Rollplay West Marches) and have watched a bunch of episodes. Will hopefully talk more about it in later posts.

I leave you with this picture for no reason what-so-ever:

Monday, May 11, 2015

RPG Retro Reviews

Many of you might not know it, but I do a video blog, and review Old School D&D modules, and rules sets on YouTube. Please, take a minute to check out my channel, RPG Retro Reviews!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Just Wanted to Say HI!

OSRBaron has graciously allowed me some space on his awesome gaming blog, so I will most certainly be adding a few witticisms of my own... though, I dare say it will be difficult to match the humor and amusing look at gaming, and our own campagins that OSRBaron does. I will do my best.

Shameless Plug

If you haven't checked it out, please, click the link below, and check out my YouTube channel: RPG Retro Reviews. A look back at old D&D Edition, modules and reviews. Also, a 'how to' series on the newest (5th) edition of the game! Check it out!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Upcoming stuff

As an easily distracted person I find myself away from the blog a bit too often.

However . . .

I am working on a couple of posts to be out up soon. Both are game play journals, one for my game and one for CaptCorajus' recent game. We'll be playing another installment of his game tomorrow, so I am a bit behind.

Meanwhile here is the title for the Capt's last session: Fe Fi Fo F#$k! Don't look up!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Prop Dusting - Combat Tier by Tinkered Tactics

The issue of elevation in game play has been a conundrum from the start of miniature war gaming on through to current times in role playing. Every method from stacking dice, using string to hang figures from lamps, to stacking smaller tables on top of the game table, and writing elevation on small pieces of paper have been tried.

Plenty of companies have produced gadgets to help deal with the problem in more elegant ways than notes, string, furniture, and dice stacking.

Among the more interesting are Dr. Wizard's Patented Elevation Indicator, an acrylic cylinder marked with numbers and multipliers. Bands are placed around it at the numbers indicating how high the figure on top of the cylinder is at present. Reviews seem to indicate that the Indicator only comes with a single band to mark the elevation and additional bands can be purchased. Reviews also mention that the bands slide around too easily on the cylinder. Another obvious drawback is, what do you do if another figure has to be directly under it?

Another option is from Litko, they produce a number of game enhancement items including invisible character and monster stands, torch stands, and their flight stands. I have all of these, yet have not used them for one primary reason. I have not put in the effort to locate a glue that will dry clear and stay clear, and I'm picky about yellowed glue on clear plastic. My secondary reason is working out safe storage to keep them from breaking once assembled. I plan to eventually use the flight stands in combination with the Combat Tier by Tinkered Tactics.

I own two of the Combat Tier Family Packs, because during my move I initially misplaced the first set.

These are sturdy acrylic stands that can be adjusted to provide various elevations. They are clear allowing players to see through to what is around the figure. They also fairly strong, but I won't be putting anything breakable on them that could fall or topple the tier. No finely painted metal minis or resin figurines, plastic minis only. I might try putting some dwarvenite terrain higher up to represent flying dungeon locations.

Take a look at the pictures below. These will give you some idea of how useful they can be, and should provoke the imagination for other ways to play with the combat tier. The pictures below show just one set.

 No, cat, you cannot play with my Combat Tier set.
 As you can see, it is possible to get some serious height using all of the extension pieces.

Warning to my players - these can also work well for underwater depth indication.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Winter Wolves and Surprise Elves

The most recent episode of CaptCprajus' D&D campaign saw the party traveling further north through desolate and game depleted territory. A large wolf pack was stalking them at a distance until hunger, and the urgings of their Winter Wolf leaders drove them to attack the party just miles from the elven city they sought.
The pack leader, a large snow white creature, moved into our path and stood snarling, daring us to come closer. His pack mates then began to close in from the sides and rear, revealing two other winter wolves and a dozen or so common wolves, all of them leaner than normal. 
Torul advised the party stay close together and move toward the pack leader so the other wolves could be drawn into a tighter formation to make the party capabilities, especially those of the wizard, more effective.
The fight began and Sophia shut off the right rear flank with a web spell trapping two enemies and redirecting the rest to the left side of the party.
Hungrier members of the starving pack rushed to the attack and were swiftly cut down by a combination of Roysen's Spirit Guardians prayer, lethal crossbow fire from Mulva, and Torul's sword.
When most of the pack were in a very tight formation Sophia unleashed her newest toy, a fireball spell, killing most of the pack and seriously damaging the remainder. Those in the web suffered even more damage due to the web igniting.
A few of the wolf pack ran off to lick their wounds and find less dangerous prey.

And that is when the Surprise Elves showed up, crossing between realities to partially surround the party. In the ensuing conversation they admitted to having observed our fight, but decided not to help us because we seemed to be doing fine on our own. Surprise! (Translated from elven - expend your powerful resources before we show up so we're less likely to get killed if we decide you aren't welcome on our snowy turf - foreigner.)

Would they have been more inclined to help if we were fighting a dragon? Somehow that seems unlikely.

Sophia revealed the artifact she carried and the surprise elves suddenly became much more welcoming. (Oh crap, they brought back our happy fun ball!) Surprise right back at you!

The party was led into the heart of the elven city and presented to their queen, to whom Sophia presented the magic Snow Flake of That's Right, We Recovered What You Lost.

The elves became sincerely friendlier now that they understood that the party were trustworthy despite being a foursome of murder hobos. In fact they became so much friendlier that they presented deli counter numbers 4 and 5 together.

You want us to what?

Ok, so we were very close to a portal that would get us back to the surface world and out of the Hollow World. But . . . there's always a catch.

It turns out that about 100 years ago, the elven garrison near the portal was attacked and driven off by a dragon which is believed to lair in the attached cave complex. Sometimes you just cannot choose your neighbors.

We were asked to investigate the ruins of the keep and see if it could be returned to elven control.
 Long story short (too late!), the party and a small detachment of elite surprise elves, went to the icy rift that the portal was hidden within to determine the situation. Mulva, invisible and very stealthy, crept close enough to Hailstorm Tower to witness and overhear some frost giants that now inhabit the ruins.

She saw a male and female embrace, obviously in love, and then saw another male come around a corner and start a discussion. Could there be an exploitable love triangle among some of the giant tribe? Would they be friendly enough to allow the party safe passage through the portal? Would a toll be charged? Had the giants killed, cowed, or allied with the dragon whose lair entrance was only 100 yards away?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Getting Hammered part 8

At the time I was planning out my new table, one of the items I wanted to get along with it were a pair of custom dice trays. These were to be gifts to two of my players, good friends that I have known for a very long time. Dan Fisher of Hammered Game Tables began work on these after the table and primary accouterments were done.

Here they are:
That's right, the artwork is a reproduction of a Magic: The Gathering Black Lotus. The player getting this tray used to be big into collecting MTG cards and had some originals of the card.
The second tray goes to my longest friend, CaptCorajus, who happens to be an excellent KJ and DJ. That is his company logo in the dice tray bottom. He teared up when he saw the tray for the first time.

Eventually I plan to have more trays produced for another couple of long time friends and gamers, but those will have to wait for now.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Prop Dusting - Large Bull Elephant Miniature (aka Supermarket Toy)

Walking through the grocery store mid-week, I happened upon a bin of children's toys. Among the pile of animals and dinosaurs was a figure of a large bull elephant. It appeared to be about the right scale for use with D&D and Pathfinder Miniatures so into the shopping cart it went.

Getting it home I immediately placed next to a mini and lo and behold it indeed does look well matched to be the kind of large bull elephant that might be encountered by adventurers.

Here in all its glory I present Deathbo, Dumbo's bigger meaner cousin.

One good fireball and the whole village is having pachyderm steak for days.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Isle of the Abbey part two

When last we saw our adventuring band, the players and I gathered around my new Hammered Game Table. (see the posts about Getting Hammered).

The party were up against mad cultists and encountering an odd assortment of rather strange characters.

They discovered the elf Bayleaf, a mercenary instructor of arms, chained to a desk writing a letter home requesting he be ransomed. After cutting the leg off of the table to allow the elf to walk with them, they then went looking for the mysterious pale skinned individual who had ducked down some stairs.

Merenk was waiting further down the hallway standing behind the animated corpse of the captain of the cult guards. They parlayed with the necromancer and despite the paladin's distrust and dislike, the party agreed to put aside hostilities and see if Merenk could assist or advise in exchange for safe passage to the mainland.

Merenk, it turns out, was also hired by the cult to shore up defenses by leaving undead "traps" about the island to drive off the pirates and anyone else that might bother them.

With Bayleaf, Merenk, and the zombie in tow, the party decided to take on some more cultists they had been told might be in the ceremonial chamber.

The party wizard did the honors of opening the door to the ceremonial chamber using a fire bolt spell to do what the paladin had failed to achieve, and that is when Merenk's information about a third mercenary came into stark reality.

Merenk mentioned that the cult had hired Silas, an elementalist wizard well versed in fire magic, to train the membership in how to cast powerful fire spells. The success of that training was about to prove very dangerous.

Leznar and his remaining adherents were poised and ready for battle, or so they thought. The party was fast on the attack with only one cultist able to blast a vicious fire spell taking down the wizard.

To the relief of the adventurers the rest of the fight went their way. The wizard was pulled out of harms way and later healed. The party managed to do serious damage to Leznar before he could unleash his spells, hoping to stifle and unholy power he might have in his arsenal. (my very first roll as DM on my new table was a concentration save for the evil high priest - natural 20)

The paladin stormed into the room to engage some of the cultists, while the ranger, and halfling barbarian/sorcerer unleashed ranged attacks at their enemies.

Leznar proved far more resilient than expected as he called forth a roiling mass of smokey black tentacles centered in the hallway and blocking the rest of the party from attacking. Meanwhile the remaining cultists acted to repel the troublesome paladin. (he had slain one cultist, been hit with a fire bolt, and was now dodging - and a cultist, terrible with melee weapons - had to roll with disadvantage when attacking - two rolls, one a natural 20, the disadvantage die was a 19 and a hit.)

 Leznar never got off another spell. The ranger managed to fire a perfect arrow through a haze of writhing tentacles, through the doorway, over the raised dais wall, past a shielding cultist, and through Leznar's eye, slaying him outright. (natural 20 plus sharpshooter feat)

Mop-up was easy and resulted in a talkative prisoner, the last member of the cult.

Now the party became very suspicious of the strange company they were with. After rounds of questioning they bound the hands of both Merenk and the cultist. While this was going on, Bayleaf discovered a hidden storage chamber beneath the dais and recovered his personal effects, also showing the party some other valuables.

In the chamber were an arcane scroll, a chest with two old books, the captain's logbook the ranger was seeking, a history tome, and a very expensive looking small bottle containing a dark liquid.

Other loot from the dead cult leader and minions included a necklace of skulls that the paladin confirmed was evil, a single bracer later understood to have something to do with earth magic, either control or resistance (need the pair for definitive identification), and very valuable jewelry.

Moving on, the party opted not to risk going into the tower, understood to be where Silas likely was, and instead to continue with one of their main objectives, finding the holy book Interregnum of the Spirit, the sea priest asked them to recover from the crypts below the abbey.

Merenk confessed that the hallway he had hidden in lead to a false passage and not to the crypts, however there was a second way into the tower at the other end. The last cultist confirmed the fact that it was a false passage, but knew nothing of the secret door.

At sword point, Merenk led the party to the real passage, and to the first crypt. The party had learned from the captured cultist, of a trap of some type they would have to brave if they were to pass from the first crypt to the second.

While in the first crypt a brief search turned up little of any obvious value beyond a tarnished silver goblet.

With a plan in mind, the party opened the door that separated them from the trapped passages that the cultist feared. Endzique the halfling cautiously went forward to scout. He noticed an odd difference to the air - while the crypt was dry and musty, these passages were dry and smelled of earth.

It wasn't long before the trap was discovered. Hidden in beyond a somewhat narrow archway in a chamber between the passages was an animated armored guardian whose attention was now fixed on the diminutive scout. The guardian followed the retreating halfling, but refused to pursue Endzique into the crypt, instead continuing away down the right side passage.

Following the armored trap, the halfling watched as it went deeper into a seeming maze of halls. To try and lure it back, Endzique slung a stone striking the automaton. This only got it to turn it's head completely around to face him as it continued away.

Monday, March 23, 2015

A little more time off.

As you may have figured by now, I am taking some additional time away from the blog.

When I return there may also be a new writer joining the blog - CaptCorajus. I have offered him the opportunity to write occasionally. We often have different enough views on things or varied ideas, and that should lead to some good back and forth discussions.

Game on!

Monday, March 16, 2015

This Blogger is Temporarily Out of Order

I am taking a day or two off from the blog and expect to return before the weekend. Meanwhile please enjoy this picture from one of the earliest fantasy adventure movies.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

My Model Railroad Level Dwarven Forge Obsession

I admit it, I am addicted to most things Dwarven Forge. I have been this way since first encountering it while working at a distributor of collectibles in the late nineties and early two-thousands. Back then, and for some time afterward, I could not afford more than an occasional purchase and often had to chip in with other buyers to get portions of sets. The recent three Kickstarter campaigns have not helped ease this affliction and affection for adventure terrain.

My collection is much smaller than most of the regulars on the Dwarven Forge forums, many of whom buy 3 or more sets of every resin offering released by Stefan and crew. It also lacks some of the resin sets, Woodland and Lava, come immediately to mind. Still, over time my collection has grown.

Even with a fairly large collection available for use, I still enjoy mixing mediums. I routinely employ a battle mat along with the DF pieces, and have used many other props and non-DF terrain in combination.

I am considering purchasing some city terrain from Fat Dragon Games to flesh out scenes, limiting the DF City Builder items to the foreground immediate use area, while the card stock terrain sets the background imagery. Just like model railroad layouts, the viewer can be convinced of the depth of setting with less expensive materials in the distance while their vision is focused on where the action is happening.

My reasons for thinking of not getting very deep into the Dwarven Forge City Builder sets includes space and cost, and my three existing resin sets of DF MBS accompanied by accessories. Here are a couple of photos taken by a friend, of a past setup of mine.

 You can see the rest of the adventure layout pictures at this link.

Meanwhile, I'll be watching the current Dwarven Forge Kickstarter with interest, and will definitely be thinking about drooling over the new DF sewers.

Is there a 12 step program for Dwarven Forge terrain addicts?

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Prop Dusting - Toobs Horses

Finding horse miniatures to compliment the fantasy miniatures can be somewhat difficult at times. One solution is to look in children's toy stores for the Toob collections. They have tubes of animals, dinosaurs, etc. I was fortunate enough to find one just of various breeds of horses that work well with the 25mm miniatures.

Figures shown to illustrate how well these horses match the 25mm scale. Undead included because it is International Be Kind To The Un-Living Week (somewhere, maybe).

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dwarven Forge City Builder Kickstarter

Here we are, a handful of days into their third Kickstarter and Dwarven Forge is closing in on the one million dollar mark. If my guess is right, the funding should surpass that number on the coming weekend.

At the time I write this on Wednesday evening, there are 1725 backers and over $885,000 in the pool.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Follow-up on XP in Escrow

Here's the thing, as a DM, I wouldn't give full experience for the Lich and Death Knights in the latest example. They would have an xp value as challenges when the situation is overcome unless actually engaged, and creative solutions (or funny ones) would earn a bonus. Regardless, the 5E advancement is off-the-charts too rapid.

I seem to recall Mike Mearls or one of his team at Wizards of the Coast, mentioning alternate charts that would be in the DMG. They have since stated that quite a bit had to be cut from the book before release, and I can only surmise the alternate charts were cut.

I imagine working out an experience advancement table wouldn't be that hard to do, it's the getting the pacing right that is the tougher part. And if I really wanted to as DM, I could just tell the players when to level. I much prefer tables, probably for the sense of reward I get from it as player and DM.

When I return to running Ptolus, I expect to have put together an advancement table more to my liking, that gives everyone time to explore the setting before being too powerful for almost everything.

Keeping the change simple is important. Considerations include changing just the advancement table; reducing the experience awarded for combat; figuring out a way to convert to xp for treasure with drastic reductions in creature xp value, etc. I'm currently leaning toward just the first option. This is something the players will be consulted with for input and ideas.

More time is still needed DMing the game before I feel ready to offer up additional house rules.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

XP in Escrow

One of the things I am finding annoying in 5E is the level advancement table. It is just too fast for my tastes. I'm a believer that players should have time to experience and develop their characters at each level, and as a DM I like being able to make use of the great number of things available for characters to encounter appropriate to each level to build an early sense of wonder.

I have some other beefs that are waiting their turn to be discussed as well, however, this time it is the rapid rocket level advancement.

To give you an example from play in CaptCorajus' game, here is what the party has either defeated directly or avoided intelligently (both should provide experience points), in  recent play:
Lich (CR21) = 33,000 experience
Death Knight x2 (CR17) = 18,000 xp each = 36,000 experience
Iron Golem (CR16) = 15,000 experience
Minotaur Skeleton (CR2) = 450 experience
Skeleton Archers x12 (CR1?) = 200 xp each = 2,400 experience
Flaming Skeletons x2 (CR3?) = 700 xp each = 1400 experience

So, guesstimates totaled = approximately 88,250 xp divided by 4 characters is 22,063 experience each.

The party had been blowing through levels fast, but now we would nearly double our xp total and that would have landed at 48,563 (49,563 for the dwarf), which would blast us over 8th level and into 9th level. The Capt only allotted us 6,000 each which puts us below 8th level. 

The experience awards seem higher than they should be, and when combined with the level advancement requirements (300 points to get to second level?!).

I'm sure there are better ways to to handle xp and advancement that can be whipped up for home games.

Meanwhile, that leaves us with the question: Are we collecting interest on the xp sitting in escrow?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lich In A Box

CaptCorajus' game turned into a life or death puzzle this session.

As you may have read in the last session report, the party fought off an iron golem and then rested before trying to open the next puzzle door. It then turned into a laugh riot for Chuckles the Bone Boy while we worked out the puzzle and unlocked the door.

Beyond the door was another set of stairs downward. Which the party was cautious about descending, all while Chuckles taunted from his undisclosed location.

Dividing the grand hall of a crypt was a wall flanked by two sets of portcullis. Behind them were a dozen skeleton archers, which once we figured out how to attack them and suffer minimal damage (poor wizard got hit with arrows from skeletons with held actions), the party destroyed a few and learned that their owner is dedicated to recycling. The skels were reconstituted and returned to the firing line.

We decided to explore the side crypts before dealing with the recycling issue. In those crypts we discovered areas that still remained consecrated, and uncorrupted by CtBB's evil. If we needed a rest (and we soon did) we could find relative safety there. 

In one we discovered an animated heroes sword and in the other a well of holy water. (Again, where is a stone bucket when you need one?). Eventually the sword would be used as a key to get us past the portcullis's and Roysen turned most of the skeleton archers. Torul moved near the reconstitution circle the try and keep things tied down so the rest of the party could come on through.

Having gotten into the back half of the grand crypt, Sophia discovered the lever that could shut off the factory that kept pooping out undead assailants. Thankfully it worked well because it was getting nastier with the crap it was sending the party's way. The last new undead was a minotaur skeleton with a huge axe. The switch not only stopped production, it caused existing ones to vanish. Sophia found this amusing and for a moment or two played with the switch. (Skels on/Skels off).

This did not amuse Chuckles the Bone Boy so he sent two flaming skeletons to give the party a warmer welcome. Fortunately Sophia had an Ice Storm to drop on them and that was that. The party broke the power system before more of those anorexic arsonists could be ported into the room.

It was off to the deeps of the crypts and soon to a face to face with Bone Boy himself.

Descending the stairs led into a long hallway lit by flickering glyphs moving from the stairs to a distant door and starting over, and over. Note: the d6 represents the Guardian of Faith Roysen had cast when we rested by the holy water well.

The door was carved to appear like an angel of the good faiths, though over time had become worn. Roysen figured around a thousand years. Mulva, the ever reluctant, was finally cajoled into examining the door for a mechanism to open it. She located a button hidden in the detailed carving, and refused to be near the door when eventually Torul and Roysen did the job.

Hello Chuckles!

Valendros the Wicked rose from his throne and stepped to the edge of the dais. "Come in" he laughed. His ancient, wrinkled, undead form was resplendent in robes as new looking as the day they were made. (Ah Ha! He does buy new on occasion! Faux hipster biatch!)

Roysen sent his Guardian of Faith forward and it ceased to be as it crossed the threshold. That gave the group more than enough reason to hang back in the hallway. (CR 21 Lich, damned right we were hanging back! CtBB has Legendary AND Lair actions with which he could swat the group to death in a single round.)

Conversation and repartee confirmed for us that this former Set worshipper had changed allegiance over to Orcus in exchange for becoming a lich, and after a millennium of running rampant in Traladar (our original neck of the woods) the immortal he betrayed put him in this cage and conveniently provided the tools to finish the bugger off for those canny enough to learn the means.

During the talk, the party was given a "gentle" coaxing to enter the room with the captive and not too happy lich, by the appearance of two Death Knights blocking our exit and advancing slowly. (Two CR17 heavy hitters either one of which could vaporize the party by launching a necro-fireball.) 

That is when the session MVP, Roysen, locked the group in with the lich and away from the death knights by casting a spell of shaping stone to put a 5' thick wall between us and them. There seemed to be a possible flaw in the plan, as in, only exit, however, maybe destroying Chuckles would get us a safe way out.

Torul broke open a canopic jar on a hunch and located a beating heart and after killing it, he found three arrow heads of obvious power. Roysen bashed open a treasure chest to spill thousands of platinum to the floor. (What the fark were you thinking! We could have carried that loot out!)

Eventually our recalcitrant halfling was cajoled into using the arrowheads and shooting the phylactery, destroying it. Good thing she hit on the first shot since Torul and Roysen had just released the lich thinking that was required for the arrow to reach the phylactery. Close call.

You'd think that being the Chosen One of Set she would have happily done in Valendros the Betrayer, but we had to bully her into taking this crusty cadaver of evil down for good. Torul hates having to bully the halfling because he absolutely despises bullies. He ends up angry and down on himself each time. Eventually Mulva may drive Torul to commit acts of great evil, which being the Chosen One of Set, may be her true purpose all along.

The Phylactery and throne exploded, destroying Valendros and sending reverberations throughout the dungeon. Quakes shook the tombs, and all undead in the region ceased to be and the party was able to break free of the stone wall. It was now a race to escape the crumbling ruins, back to the surface and help from the beastmen.

In their escape Torul managed to scoop up about 300 platinum coins out of the thousands scattered on the floor. Thousands of platinum coins, spilled, by the dwarf.