Thursday, May 31, 2007

WoAdWriMo is here!

In case you haven't heard, June is Worldwide Adventure Writing Month, a blatant rip-off of National Novel Writing Month but with a twist: the goal is to not just add a bunch of pages to your own personal Great American Novel. Instead everyone participating is challenged to write a complete, playable 32+ page adventure to be made available for download. That way even people not participating in the project can benefit from it's fruits.

This is sort of a big deal for me, as the whole think is pretty much my pet project. I don't normally ask my readership for much of anything, other than to occasionally answer a question if you feel inclined. But today I'm going to make an exception. I want this WoAdWriMo thing to work and I need help. So if you feel so inclined, here's a list of things you might consider doing to help me make this project work:
  • Take the challenge yourself. Join us in the actual module-writing.
  • Blog about the project.
  • Mention WoAdWriMo on an message board.
  • Send a talented friend an e-mail, letting them know you think they can do it.
  • Participate in on the official forum.

The central HQ for the project is the WoAdWriMo blog. Link away, please! Or send folks to the the WoAdWriMo forum.

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide. Stay awesome, everyone.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Odinsday Update #5

In the week since your return from the Canyon of Chaos everyone has spent at least 100gp on miscellaneous expenses.
Reports are coming in of more evil spirits roaming the lands.  Some are manifestations of ill weather, like the one you fought atop the Sunken Ziggurat.  Others spread pestilence, as seen at work among the farms near Beppo's Keep.  A third kind can drive men to madness.  These spirits of madness have worked the primitive duergar living in the forest into a blood-frenzy.  They now roam the land in war parties, attacking travellers and burning farms.  A large party of these creatures attack Bartertown and set much of it ablaze.  Into this mess marched the punitive expedition from Osvar.  When the force stopped for a few days at the Keep their leader, Torfi Blood-letter, attempted to recruit you.  Zoyd Sampson was the only one among you moved by Torfi's words and so he signed on to hunt the duergar in their own shadowy forest.  The very night following Zoyd's departure, the rest of you are all but thrown out of the keep by Sigurd Half-Jotun and his guards, who informs you in no uncertain term that you are not welcome back to the keep until you have fufilled your oath to destroy the evil of the Sunken Ziggurat.  Sigurd is no fool and waits until you were all deep in your cups before ejecting you.
If you plan to avenge this rough treatment, please let me know so I can have stats ready for Sigurd and the guards.

Responses to Reader Comments

Today I'm going to respond to a couple of reader comments, one that I've been meaning to get to for weeks and another that's quite recent.

Last month Jeff Hebert (the mind behind HeroMachine, one of the cool people behind Broadsword, and maintainer of a pretty cool blog) asked me my opinion of online RPG play. In general I applaud any technology that makes gaming easier and more fun. Online venues allowing hobbyists in remote areas a chance to play has got to be a godsend to many isolated fans. And I use the internet all the time to enhance my RPG experience. Sometimes that means grabbing stuff to use at the table from places like the Hypertext SRD or YourGamesNow and sometimes it means gettting awesome insights from my fellow hobbyists on RPG forums (theRPGsite, EN World, and Citizens of the Imperium being my current favorites) or RPGer blogs (Dr. Rotwang is my number one guy in this area right now). And then there's the shopping! With the internets it's a zillion times easier to get obscure gaming stuff.

But for me personally, online play does not fire up the same brain-circuit that burns white hot during my tabletop games. I've tried various forms of the online experience over the years. In college I did some MUDding. I've given play-by-post a shot on two occasions. For about a year I got pretty deep into E-Fedding, the strange world of internet wrestling roleplaying. None of these satisfied me in a way the least bit comparable to even a lame tabletop session. I find online play about as viscerally satisfying as trying to split a pizza with your friends via e-mail. It just doesn't work for me. I find it lacking in the social dimension, the body language, the shared smiles, the food passed around, picking dice off the floor, pushing around toy goblins, etc., etc.

There's just a whole lot that happens at the game table that trips my trigger in ways that online play doesn't. Again, this is not an attempt to denigrate the fun of others. It's just not my scene, man. On occasion I've turned down some totally sweet offers from ultimately cool people regarding online games. I do this out of respect for the integrity of their game, because I know I won't take the commitment for an online game half as seriously as I do tabletop gaming. I don't want to drag anyone down because my heart is only half in the game.

In my most recent campaign report johnthegm left some very kind remarks. I won't repeat them all here because I'm not that big of an egomaniac. (Though I'm a big enough egomaniac that I'll surely go back an re-read the comments at some future date.) I will quote one comment of his that stuck out at me:

"I'm jealous that you aren't posting a full campaign guide."

I hate to disappoint you, john, but I don't have a box full of three ring binders giving the excruciating details of my campaign setting. It's not that I'm holding back on you, man! If you click the Beyond Vinland tag at the end of this article you will have access to as much information as my players are working from. And I don't have much more than that. I've got a single page of notes with things like Randolf the Red's class and levels, a couple of customized monsters, a full charsheet for Druzella the Witch, and a partially completed Canyon of Chaos.

My D&D campaign is not one of those rich backgrounds destined for nuanced exploration of setting. I'm way too interested in what is happening in the moment to worry too much about a larger context. What's going on at the table right now takes supremacy over the history of basket-weaving in the kingdom of Udrogoth and like concerns. We've got goblins to kill, riches to win, lovers to woo, and a land to conquer! As Ron Edwards rightly points out in his supercool Sorcerer & Sword, Robert E. Howard built Conan's world only as needed, one story at a time. Pictland only came into existence when a land of wild stone age savages was needed for a story about wild stone age savages. Stygia was created when spooky pyramids and mummified sorcerers were required. That's how I'm running Beyond Vinland.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A bat'leth under the aviator jacket is the new katana in the trenchcoat.

I still don't know the secret, so don't ask.See the guy in the background of that cover, the one with the aviator gear, the double-barreled pistol, and the weird blade? I played that dude on Sunday. It was Stuart's turn to GM at our local Run Club, and he chose as his game The Secret of Zir'An. Kathleen was a mysterious Runecaster and gambler, complete with derringer up the sleeve. Dave played an ogre in a tuxedo wielding the world's largest meat cleaver. And Doug's PC was a stripper ninja who, contrary to all sanity, was not a lesbian. We fought shadowy menaces threatening a gigantic magical airplane/cruise ship. The Hounds of Tindalos made a guest appearance. It was a pretty rockin' time.

There's a lot of good things to be said about Zir'An. The setting is a magical neo-pulp sort of affair, kinda like Eberron with all the D&D-isms removed. The combat system was a crunchy yet fairly intuitive exercise in tactical resource management, but done in a way totally different from most such games I've encountered. Iron Gauntlets has a similar approach, but Zir'An's method is much more polished. I'd love it if publisher Paragon Games took the combat section of their so-called Finesse System and used it to power a setting with a shallower learning curve, something straightforward like action spies or dracula punchers.

Because one of the downer things to Zir'An is what I sometimes call the Double Whammy. In order to get your money's worth out of this game you need to understand a fairly heavy (albeit cool-looking) Setting as well as learning a new, idiosyncratic, medium-to-heavy System. I just don't have much time for that sort of thing anymore. Also counting against Zir'An is an unecessarily convoluted chargen section and an overly long skill list. Doug commented "This is the kind of game that probably deserves a second edition, but nowadays it probably won't get it." I tend to agree. A lot of the game could use some streamlining and the setting information (noting that I haven't read it all, just flipped through) looks like it could use the services of an editor who isn't already enamored of the world of Zir'An.

Still, nothing in the game text prevented us from having a good time. We laughed. We rolled some dice. We blew some shit up. That's my idea of a good Sunday afternoon.

Every summer I join the Fedaykin anew

I had the Pasty Mesa Gordirrito at Taco Bell the other day.  It needed more guacamole.You remember that scene from the David Lynch version of Dune where Paul Muadhib intiates the Fedaykin, the Fremen death commandos, by painting their shoulders red? My shoulders are at least that red today as a result of too much time in the sun yesterday.

Friday, May 25, 2007

a Traveller item

Khlava: A pumpkin colored beverage from the Vland Sector served hot or cold and made from the roasted seeds of a barley like grain plant. The grain is sadly not edible. Most people describe the taste as bittersweet. Solomani (Humans from the Sol System) often add a sweetner and some form of cream. As you've probably guessed Khlava is the Vilani version of coffee. Humans from Vland and Humans from Earth can get into very heated arguements about which is better. Khlava is not nearly as high in caffiene which some think is a benefit, though many Earth starship captains disagree.

(Found, suprisingly enough, on a recent EN World thread.)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Beyond Vinland, session 5

A few days ago I found out that two of my four players would be unable to make this week's game. Rescheduling proved problematic and the other two players were eager for adventure, so we played anyway. Since I was already having doubts about the party's ability to handle the Sunken Ziggurat, I offered that they could spend the even slaying some goblins. Doug suggested that he could bring in his planned cohort a level early to add a third member to the anti-goblin expeditionary force. I consented to this plan since Doug agreed the new sidekick would earn no XP until Doug's PC legitimately had the Leadership feat.

The adventure started with Erik the Conqueror and Thorne the Dwarf hanging out at the meadhall at Beppo's Keep. Erik is chatting with his new friend Marty the Elf (who in my mind I kept picturing as pro-wrestler Marty Janetty with pointed ears) while Thorne is carving two new runes into his rune-axe. He had convinced Arnfinn Shape-changer, a druid friend of Jason's PC Zoyd Sampson, to share a couple spells with him. Thorne is an Archivist, a class that allows him to record any divine spell in the haft of his axe, which serves as his spellbook.

I googled forever looking for a pic of the witch from the first Conan flick.  I eventually settled on this illo.  Settling for a Frazetta drawing is hardly settling, though.The doors of the saloon swing open and in staggers Druzella the Witch, first encountered in session 3. She looks pretty roughed up and is bleeding from a couple of hastily-bandaged wounds. Druzella explains that the goblins of the Canyon of Chaos attacked her in the night and made off with her entire stock of potions. She wants her potions recovered and more importantly, she wants the goblins to be punished. Erik signs on because punishing evil is his idea of a good time. (Remember, all the PCs are ardent followers of the Norse pantheon, but the Punisher is the party's patron saint.) Thorne takes the job when Druzella promises to share a "rune unknown to his cleric friends". Marty goes along because he's an NPC.

The goblins live in one of the lower caves of the Canyon of Chaos, just a bit up the slope and to the east of Druzella's abode. Previously, Druzella and the goblins had lived in peace. But you can't trust those little bastards, can you? At the entrance to their cave the goblins had erected aThe runestone really said 'Broken Skull Tribe' runestone topped with a shattered dwarf skull. Thorne doesn't know Goblish, but he glances at the runes and the skull and tells Erik "It reads 'Please come kill us.'" So they enter the goblin-cave, with the new guy leading the way. Normally, I would object to forcing the NPC to take the lead, but Marty was built as a trap-finding Rogue. And Doug did a good job of playing Marty with his own personality and quirks. For example, Marty examines a dungeon door for traps. He doesn't find any but I tell Doug that the elf notice scratches on the door handle, as if something with rather sharp claws recently used the door. "Yeah, this door's trapped and I can't disarm it." They move on.

The PC are cruising through a filthy, trash-strewn dungeon when they stumble upon a group of 10 goblins arguing vehemently over the proposition that cannibalism should be kept strictly in the family. Seeing an opportunity to gain a quick upper hand, they move in to attack before the goblins are on their guard. This signals the start of a long running battle through a series of three rooms, as the goblins fight persistently but fall back as the PCs begin to chew through them. They fight through the first rubble-strewn room, then into a chamber lined with shelves fullof skulls and decapitated heads, and then into the adjacent gobbo mess hall. With neither full-on fighter-types or blasty wizards in the group, it's a long tough battle. Especially when the 5 goblins in the mess hall join the fray.

I'm just a gigolo.Finally Erik pins the last goblin to a door with a well-placed javelin throw and the party begins looking for loot in the three rooms they fought through. Thorne finds a magic ring under the tongue of a hobgoblin head sitting on one of the gruesome display shelves. Then the party does one of those things that could only happen in a free-wheeling D&D session: they unwittingly walk right past a bunch of dungeon doors and straight into the lair of the boss monster. Imagine a classic movie mad scientist lab, with the burbling beakers and the sizzling jacob's ladders and whatnot. In the middle of this apparatus is an Evil Brain in a Jar.


The sound you just heard was Thorne dropping a sound burst spell on the Evil Brain and its lieutenant, one of those psionic blue goblins from the Expanded Psionics Handbook. All that's left of the telepathic blue dude is a reddish smear on the wall. The Brain continues to throb and pulse malevolently, but the glass is cracked and leaking fluid. It fires a psionic blast at Thorne, whose Will is unstoppable. A hobgoblish ghoul, the Brain's muscle, leaps at Thorne, only to be blasted into oblivion by Erik's faith in the awesomeness of Thor. Marty fires his bow at the Brain, shattering the glass case and and impaling it with his arrow.

At this point a couple of feeble goblin assistants try to make their escape, but when I describe them as goblins wearing surgical masks and rubber the gloves, the players kinda freak out. A telepathic brain in a jar didn't upset them, but the idea of a goblin dressed as if he was ready for surgery struck a chord. One of the little weirdos got away clean, but Erik warhammered the other one so hard he flopped around like an accordion, just like in an old timey cartoon.

The Evil Brain liked to keep its treasure piled up around the base of its jar, since it lacked the hands necessary to operate the lid of a chest. Unfortunately, Druzella's potions were victims of the sound burst, but the party was able to recover some gold, a sparkly gem, an arcane scroll, and a wand of detect secret doors.

No soup for you!Our heroes then decided to track down where the other goblin lab assistant might have escaped to. By a roundabout route through a corridor filled with goblin graffiti, the party wound up in the kitchens adjacent to the goblin messhall. They found the three goblin cooks cheerfully working on a cauldron full of Dear God What Is That stew. When offered a bowl from the unnervingly polite goblins the PCs refused. Erik couldn't take much of these kind-hearted goblins and they were quickly slaughtered for the heinous crime of being too nice. That's my players for you. They rummaged through the kitchen and found a jar containing 6 toad skins on the spice rack. Thanks to a successful Spellcraft roll Thorne was able to identify them as metamagic components and worth maybe 75 gold on the open market.

The last room the party explored was the laboratory/surgery bay adjacent to the Brain's lair. In it they found two more creepy goblin lab flunkies working on a bugbear corpse laying on a stone slab. The bugbear's head was cut open and the brains neatly scooped out. Erik moved in and attempted to grapple one of the goblins, setting off my custom-made Lab Disasters Dice Chart. He Gentlemen!  This evil science lab is not properly licensed for goblin-wrestling!knocked over a bunsen burner and some beakers, starting a vicious lab fire. Thorne decided he would help and cast flaming sphere. Who he thought he was helping, I don't know. After everyone in the room took 10 points of fire damage (killing the goblins) they hightailed it out of the room. A round later poison gas started seeping out of the lab. That's when the players decided the adventure must be over. Which is good, as soon after the lab exploded, bringing down a fair chunk of the dungeon.

Back at the Keep, Druzella was grateful at the news that the goblins would bother her no more. She taught Thorne the rune for lightning bolt as a reward for his part in the the proceedings. She's built as an Adept, which gets her access to some spells that aren't normally available to divine casters. She also knows the feat Craft Wondrous Item, which gets the party a source for a wide variety of items not available otherwise. As long as they remain in Druzella's good graces, that is. What did Erik receive for his reward? Let's just say that the reward came in a more private setting, if you get my drift. Just don't let Erik find out that Marty got rewarded too, okay?

I still don't know why Doug named his elf Marty.

new from Paizo

Now that I'm a Paizo customer I get email updates from them.
You Say You Want a Revolution?
Stonehenge, the world's first Anthology Board Game, is about to arrive.

If I had one word to describe Stonehenge, the brand-new board game from Paizo's Titanic Games line, it would be "revolutionary."

I mean, sure, everybody likes to say that their products are the next big thing, and they'll set the bar for everything that follows, and they deserve to be worshiped from coast-to-coast by small but gregarious animals, so when you hear a company call their own product "revolutionary," you have to take it with a grain of salt.

Not in the case of Stonehenge. Stonehenge genuinely isn't like any other board game. If anything, it's more like a deck of cards: When you buy that pack, you don't just get one game—you get many, many games. You get a host of games that you know, and the promise of new games that you don't know. And so it is with Stonehenge.

When you buy Stonehenge, you get a big box of cool-looking parts. You get a board, and a deck of cards, and more than a hundred plastic pieces in lots of different colors and shapes. But with Stonehenge, you don't just get one game to play with those parts. Instead, we start you off with five great games from five of the industry's top board game designers. And these games aren't just variations on a theme—they're totally different games.
While Stonehenge looks pretty good and I could totally see myself giving it a try, I feel it must be pointed out that the "not a game, but game equipment" concept isn't new. Looney Labs' IceHouse is the exact same sort of product and has been around for years. The IceHouse Games wiki lists 174 different games you can play with an IceHouse set. So while I would be pleased as punch if StoneHenge set off a new boardgame revolution, I feel props have to be given to IceHouse for being their first.

Goodman Games, my favorite 3rd party publisher, has released another Judges Guild classic refurbished for 3.5 play. I've never seen the inside of the original Citadel of Fire, but I'm a huge fan of the old JG modules and Goodman Games' Dungeon Crawl Classics line. These two publishers go together like peanut butter and jelly. And the cover design is wicked awesome!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

Courtesy of comic blogger Dorian comes the cover art for the upcoming Doctor Thirteen trade:

As Dorian puts it "How can you not want to rush out and buy that book?"

Holy crap! ZZ Top was on VH1 this morning!

I haven't seen them broadcast a video from these guys since "Pincushion" was released. Since these guys are being featured on the upcoming edition of "Rock Honors" they're actually showing some old videos. Coolness!

I listened to a huge amount of ZZ Top in college. My buddy Pete had the first Top fansite on the web. For a brief period his site was the official ZZ Top webpage, endorsed by the band's management and everything.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

morning video

Here's the Shop Boyz with "Party Like a Rock Star". I've been a sucker for rapping over metal guitar licks since Sir Mix A Lot's "Iron Man".

5 Links, No Waiting

A Selection of Artworks by Patricia Waller

The Ultimate Guide to Rifts - 'Which books you need, and which books you don't.'

A review of some Retief comics - based upon the Keith Laumer sci-fi novels

Pirates of the Carribean 40th anniversary merchandise - the 40th year of the original ride, not the movies

The Temple of Elemental Evil in 3-D! - scroll down for wonderful maps of the Moathouse from T1 The Village of Hommlet

The Rifts link is courtesy someone on theRPGsite and Settembrini provided the Temple in 3-D. I occasionally check his blog for cool stuff even though I don't speak German and this time it paid off.

new PDFs of note

'No Elves, no Dwarves, no kindly Wizards in pointy hats, just brawny guys in loincloths and gals in chainmail bikinis fighting demons, sub-human ape-men, and evil sorcerers.' -author
I've been meaning to try out the 1PG system for some time now. With the various 1PG games selling for $3.95 a pop, you can hardly go wrong. Especially when you consider that their selection hits all the right genre notes. Broadsword is the latest addition to the 1PG family. It's pure Howard-style swords & sorcery (no Tolkien added) brought to you by Jeff Mejia, Jeff Hebert, and James Stubbs. Jeff Mejia is perhaps better known as the Evil DM. He's a huge fan of Conan and barbarian fiction in general and totally the kind of guy I want writing a game like this. I need another game about axe-swinging barbarians like I need another hole in the head, but I trust Jeff to do it up right. Jeff Hebert is the guy behind HeroMachine, which is one of the bestest things ever created in the entire history of the universe. He also has a nifty blog. I pretty sure I don't know James Stubbs from Adam, but if the two Jeffs vouch for him then he's okay in my book.

So anyway, if you dig mighty-thewed maniacs chopping down demons and sorcerers, then you might want to check out Broadsword.

I haven't really followed Wolfgang Baur's Open Design project. I'm not even entirely sure I know what the hell it is. But in these dark days of the impending end of Dragon and Dungeon, Baur's announcement of a new D&D zine is welcome news, even if the zine is to be in PDF format. Kobold Quarterly is being offered at $12 for 4 issues. Here are the highlights of issue 1:
  • The first installment of the Princes of Hell series

  • A Dungeon Design column about the Underdark

  • Monster tables for the Empire of the Ghouls

  • An interview with Paizo Publisher Erik Mona

  • A monster ecology chosen by Open Design patrons

  • Overview of the Free City of Zobeck

Name that nerd

I need some help from the distributed metamind of geekdom. Here are a couple of panels of Action Comics Weekly #615 from August 1988. ACW was an anthology series with 48 pages split among 6 different stories. I bought issue 615 on a lark because it had Wild Dog on the cover. That guy is both ridiculous and violent, which is exactly how I like my comical funnybook vigilantes. Anyway, there's this sequence in the Nightwing storyline where he and Speedy are in London. Near the end of the installment Nightwing consults the gang in Titan Tower via phone. Can someone please identify the goofy-looking redhead with the glasses?

He only appears in these two panels and a wide-angle group shot. I'm left with the distinct impression from the way he's treated in the story that this kid is a member of the Titans.

I'm curious about this guy mainly because back in '88 that's exactly how I would have dressed, had I spent my money on clothes instead of games and comics.

Well, maybe I would have picked a different color for the tie.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Dungeons & Ninjas are go!

In a two part post I previously outlined the why's and how's of my Dungeons & Ninjas project, which is little more than a hack of Basic D&D tuned to the specific interests of my nephew and my daughter. I haven't found the time to write the Top Secret Dungeons & Ninjas Player's Manual yet, but Cameron upheld his end of the deal, so I ran D&N on Mother's Day. We celebrated Mother's Day at my folk's place this year, so I packed my dice bag, a box of minis, a Flip-Mat, a module, and Moldvay's Basic Rules. We played almost two hours. I think the kid is hooked. Previously, only his GameCube or my X-Box could hold my nephew's attention for that long. Elizabeth wandered off at the 45 minute mark to play Barbies with Grandma, but she also commented later that she would like to play again.

The adventure I ran was an old classic, "The Ruins of the Moathouse" from the back of T1 The Village of Hommlet. I pitched the adventure as the Wizard of Hommlet had summoned the ninjas from their Golden Volcano (that was Cameron's idea for their home base) to investigate the new Evil Power lurking in the ruined castle. That was all the intro that Shadow Ninja Golden (Cameron), Warrior Ninja Pink (Cameron's mom Jenn), and Shadow Ninja Purple (Elizabeth) needed to kick off a hair-raising adventure on the upper level of the Moathouse.

One of the things that I really like about the Moathouse is the fact that the monster mix between the two levels is radically different. The ruined castle level is mostly scary animal types, like giant lizards, killer frogs, and big spiders. The spider dropped down on Cameron's ninja, which really freaked him out. The little guy doesn't like spiders. I even laid his ninja mini prone on the mat and put the giant spider on top of it. But he fought the baddie off and somehow survived the harrowing encounter.

Had I been playing with grown-ups Shadow Ninja Golden would have earned some alignment violation thwacking of some sort. Cameron did his level best to grab all the treasure and at the end of the session he abandoned Warrior Ninja Pink to the mercies of some brigands. That's right, the dude ran as the bad guys captured his own mom! Next time we get together the Wizard is going to give him a stern talking-to and order him to rescue the captured ninja. Still, I don't want to harsh the little guy's buzz too much and I like ending the session with one of the PCs in danger.

This last weekend Cameron came over for a visit. He, Elizabeth and I sat down with a piece of poster board and created our own Ninja World map. I've got to figure out a good way to scan something that large so I can share this thing with you all. My favorite places on the map have to be Cameron's "Samurai Showdown Wrestling Arena" and Elizabeth's "Land of the Pink Lions", but there are plenty of other awesome adventure areas waiting to be explored.

They're watching me!

Remember last week when I called YourGamesNow a bunch of dirty hippies? I was just kidding, as I hope everyone understood. Since RPGNow got in bed with the bunch at DriveThruRPG I had been looking for a new source of PDF goodness and YourGamesNow fits the bill quite nicely. I only bring this topic back up because SiteMeter is showing that last week's post is being linked from YourGameNow's forums. I wanted to see what was being said, so I registered and tried to trackback to the thread. Here's the message I got back:

Sorry, but only users granted special access can read topics in this forum.
That's no fair! I want to see what all y'all are saying about little ol' me! This is extra disappointing after I played nice last time people were talking smack about me. Not that I know people are talking smack. But I did call them hippies and communists, so I wouldn't be surprised if someone got pissed off.

Anyway, if you folks from YourGamesNow are still here, please assure anyone back at your place that I wasn't trying to pick on anyone!

Fans of Awesome Take Note

Doc Rotwang has a podcast:

Friday, May 18, 2007

more on Reaper plastics

"The next 2 sets of Legendary Encounters Releases will include Goblins, Zombies, A Gnoll[s], An Ettin, A Demoness, Kobolds, A Bathalian, Ghosts, A Succubus, and A Giant Worm."

Anybody know what the heck a Bathalian is supposed to be?

Here's another shot of the first set, click for a larger view.


Also, here's a neat link to a technique of painting minatures called Dipping.

Quote of the Day

As long as there are ill-defined campaign worlds, quirky challenges, and bizarre dungeons, there will be Real Men willing to jump in, Kill the Monsters and Take their Treasure.

-from Hong's Real Men Don't Play GURPS

Picture time!

Let's see what random stuff is clogging Jeff's 'My Pictures' folder!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

first look at Reaper plastics

I can't confirm it, but I'm told this pic (swiped from here) was taken earlier today at ReaperCon and features the new plastic non-collectible Reaper brand fantasy figures.

Those orcs look to me like they're worth $6.99 for a threepack. The big guys in the back row are priced from 4 to 6 bucks each. Like I said before, that's a low enough price that I could see myself buying these things on an impulse basis. If I'm already at the game store and getting a book, why not throw in a monster or two with my purchase?

Essential Bronze

The Essential line of reprints from Marvel are a great boon to anyone who enjoys old school Marvel action. Each phonebook-sized black & white reprint contains 25 or more issues worth of material. I only own two Essentials right now, Essential Avengers volume 4 and Essential Defenders volume 1. Because they were both so fabulous, I decided to research what other volumes in the line contained 70's and early 80's material. That's the period of most interest to me, the so-called Bronze Age of Comics. Here's the list I came up:

Spider-Man 4-7
Avengers 4 & 5
Conan 1
Daredevil 3
Defenders 1 & 2
Doctor Strange 2
Godzilla 1
Ghost Rider 1
Howard the Duck 1
Hulk 3 & 4
Iron Fist 1
Killraven 1
Luke Cage 1 & 2
Marvel Team-Up 1 & 2
Marvel Two-In-One 1
Monster of Frankenstein 1
Nova 1
Official Handbook 1
Peter Parker 1 & 2
Punisher 1
Savage She-Hulk 1
Spider-Woman 1
Super-Villain Team-Up 1
Tales of the Zombie 1
Tomb of Dracula 1-4
Werewolf by Night 1
X-Men 1-7


*A good argument could be made that the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe was one of the books whose publication signalled the end of the Bronze Age.

**Volumes 3 and 4 reprint some of the black & white Dracula mags. They have been edited for nudity, so if you insist on nipples in your vampire books you will need to track down the originals.

***Only volumes 1 and 2 of the X-Men include any 70's material. The later volumes transition from the Bronze Age to the Modern Age of Comics. At what point that happens I don't know.

another cheap Wal-Mart DVD

I still haven't watched the Big Trouble in Litte China DVD I took home from my last visit to Wally World. But how could I pass up this classic?

While Dragonslayer wasn't as great as Excalibur or Conan the Barbarian, I still count it as one of the great fantasy flicks of my boyhood. And like Krull or Hawk the Slayer or The Sword & The Sorcerer, I haven't seen it since the eighties.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Make Your Voice Heard

About this time last year I blogged about a survey being conducted by folks at Ohio State on behalf of GAMA and The Wargamer. Although I question both the general usefulness of GAMA and some of the wording of the initial round of survey, I thought you'd all like to know that they're starting a second round. Below the line is the notice I received.

You helped us out a lot last year getting the word out about
We're open for round II now!

Ohio State University's School of Communication, in partnership with GAMA and The Wargamer, are undertaking a follwo-up to last year's large and comprehensive study of hobby game players. The researchers are investigating patterns of motivation and usage by tabletop (card, role-playing, minis, and board game players), digital (computer, console, MMORPG), and other gamers (such as LARP). The survey takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete.

Building on lessons learned from last year, as well as some ongoing analyses of the existing data, the project is seeking continue expanding the knowledge of the games world.

We invite you to participate at

The study will be focusing on these key areas of motivation.

• What do game players like in a game? What do they dislike? And why?
• What motivates continued game play and preferences for types of games?
• Where are games bought and what influences those purchase decisions in light of preferences and motivations?
• What interactions do gamers have with others?
• With whom (and where) do gamers play, and how frequently, and how do these decisions influence preferences and motivations?

Official Q&A forum can be found at


Odinsday Update #4

[I had lunch with Stuart today. He reminded me that today was Wednesday and thus time for another campaign update email. Here's what I came up with on the walk back from lunch.]

Your first night back from the ancient pyramid is spent at one of the local farms hardest hit by the vaporous spirits you fought. Madness and disease afflict members of both the hardy family of homesteaders and their herds. Crops are blighted and several outbuildings have been crushed to splinters. Speaking to the head of the household you are told that several neighboring farms are similarly in ruin.

Upon your return to Beppo's Keep the castellan questions you at length regarding the your adventure. He's obviously spooked by your tales of unkind spirits lurking so near to the keep and urges you to resume your mission at the earliest opportunity. He rather brusquely reminds you of your oath and the gift of magic weapons he made to you on his lord's behalf.

Zoyd Sampson has not remained idle during your absence. A few days after reaching the keep he shows back up having returned from a journey of his own. And he brought a friend. Arnfinn Shape-changer is an old friend of his father Samp and a somewhat famous druid. The next day Arnfinn sets out to minister to the people and animals affected by the evil spirits. He's in no hurry to join you on your quest, but if a druid spell of some sort will aid you on your quest, he might be able to cast it for you.

While at the keep you find out more about the strange corpses you found. The creatures were duergar reduced to a primitive state after the fall of their mighty empire millenia ago. Now they eke out a stone age tribal existence in the forests near the Five Seas. They still possess some vestige of the psionic powers wielded by their more advanced ancestors and live specimens should be considered a serious threat. Rumor has it that the Mayor of Osvar is organizing some sort of mercenary force for a punitive expedition against the local duergar tribe.

YourGamesNow is pretty effin' sweet

I've been surfing through YourGamesNow, the new PDF store that's operated as some sort of filthy communist collective. The participants may all be smelly hippies, but I really like the joint. Here's some stuff that caught my eye.

Diamond Gulch - a D&D adventure set in the Old West, but with dinosaurs.

In Harm's Way: Aces In Spades - A World War I flying aces rpg? Sounds like a blast! And if I GM'ed it then I would get to play the Red Baron! The product is written by theRPGsite regular Clash Bowley, who is a cuper-cool dude.

ComStar Media - an entire line of groovy-looking 3rd party Traveller stuff.

Nifleheim, the Land of Fire and Ice - I might get this baby for a side trip to the underworld in my Beyond Vinland campaign.

The Pleasure Prison of the B'thuvian Demon Whore - Could this be the best/worst module title ever?

Aces of Dawn - More Snoopy in his Sopwith Camel.

Dojos and Dragons - Bills itself as The Very Definition of "Crazy-Go-Nuts"!

0one Games - These folks sell some awesome maps. The Canyon of Chaos in my current campaign is based upon their nifty Caverns of Chaos map, which itself is an homage to the original Caves of Chaos.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Paladin Problem, part 1

Over at theRPGsite the subject of Paladins in D&D came up. Settembrini, the coolest Prussian I know, suggested that Gary Gygax was quite clear on the proper adjudication of this oft-controversial class, implying that any lack of clarity was the result of the reader's own muddle-headedness. I've never been particularly found of the Paladin class, having played but a single member of that class that I can recall. (Mochimoto Tojo was his name. He was a particularly devout samurai loose in the World of Greyhawk.) Unlike some, my main problem with the class has never been the Lawful Good alignment. Indeed, one of my alltime favorite PCs was a LG ranger. But rather I felt burdened by a vast body of expectation regarding the behavior of members of the class. At Settembrini's suggestion, I went back and reread the Old Books, to see how much canonical support existed for that expectation.

Even though my own experience with Paladins only goes back to 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, I decided to go back to the original Little Beige Books as a starting point. For two important pieces of this puzzle, let's talk about alignment in OD&D. First off, OD&D (as well as later Basic/Expert versions of the game) used a three-fold alignment system of Law/Neutrality/Chaos, as opposed to the current two-axis, nine-field system. So all good guys, whether they valued a strict hierarchy or personal freedoms, fell into the Lawful camp. And all bad guys, whether they are diabolical bureaucrats or anarchic demons, fell into the Chaotic camp. This system gives the designation "lawful" a much different flavor than it means nowadays. There is no implication that a lawful character necessarily has a bug up his butt.

The second thing you need to keep in mind is that originally, the alignment system didn't have any metaphysical implications. The nine alignment oriented planes came much later and there wasn't much in the way of alignment-based spells or other mechanical effects. Instead, alignment referred to simply what team you played for. Elves and unicorns and such are "us" while red dragons and orcs are "them". It was as simple as that. In fact, the spell detect evil existed from the beginning of the game and had no connection to the alignment system whatsoever. Think about that for a moment. Whatever alignment was about, it didn't really have anything to do with metaphysical evil.

Enter Supplement I: Greyhawk and with it, the Paladin. I think it is worth mentioning that the Paladin was the original Prestige Class. You got into the class by meeting the following qualifications: your PC must be a Fighter, have a Lawful alignment, and at least a 17 Charisma. This is the first time in a D&D book that a stat requirement is set on a class, and boy is it a doozy. These were the days when 3d6 in order was the default method of stat generation for new PCs, so a 17 or 18 Charisma was nothing to scoff at. That's someone with rock star level personality.

For treading the path of the OD&D Paladin, the character would gain most of the powers we would later associate with the AD&D version class. The "lay on hands" hit point healing and disease curing is there, as is the +2 saving throws. Paladins are immune to disease. At 8th level they can dispel evil. The ability to call a magical steed is there at the beginning. And while holding a 'Holy Sword' the Paladin is "virtually immune" to magical attack. That's a pretty sweet set of special abilities, especially when you consider that the Paladin continues to use the same experience point chart as the regular fighter. That's right, the Paladin abilities are essentially free bonuses with no XP cost.

The only thing a Paladin has to watch out for is 'chaotic acts'. Should a paladin commit a chaotic act, they lose their special abilities immediately and forever. No take backs. Like many things in OD&D, 'chaotic act' remains an undefined phrase. One DM could read this rule as broadly as "if you continue to ally with lawfuls and oppose chaotic monsters, you're aces" while another one might say "a grossly evil act will cost you your paladin status. Then there's this paragraph:
Paladins will never be allowed to possess more than four magical items, excluding the armor, shield and up to four weapons they normally use. They will give away all treasure they win, save for that which is necessary to maintain themselves, their men, and a modest castle. Gifts must be to the poor or to charitable religious institutions, i.e. not to some other character played in the game. A paladin's stronghold cannot be above 200,000 gold pieces in total cost, and no more than 200 men can be retained to guard it. Paladins normall prefer to dwell with lawful princes or patriarchs, but circumstances may prevent this. They associate only with lawful characters.
That last line about only adventuring with fellow lawfuls looks to me like the hardest part of the Paladin gig, but with only 3 alignments (and no Chaotic Good or Neutral Good PCs) that's probably a lot easier to cope with in practice than it looks like on paper. Especially when you consider that the Gygaxian model of the D&D campaign differs significantly than the modern tight-knit group I'm used to. Gygax and Arneson and Dave Hargrove and many other early DMs ran a much larger and looser sort of game than most folks today. That's probably another post for another day, but it suffices for now to say that the model of the same 4 to 6 players sitting down with the same characers to adventure together for the 20th session in a row is a relatively new development that postdates OD&D's development.

So looking over the OD&D Paladin I come to this conclusion: if you can qualfiy there is little reason in the book itself to dissuade me from playing an OD&D Paladin. The mechanical perks are pretty sweet, especially in those days where 1st level magic-users could cast exactly one spell and magic items that gave a bunch of powers were in short supply.

In the second part of this article I'll examine the development of the paladin in 1st edition AD&D.

Stardate: 198x

I own two copies, one of the original version and one from after the legal kerfuffle over the Robotech artwork.Back in the mid to late 80's one of the holy texts of my game group was the BattleTech Technical Readout 3025. It was an 'equipment porn' book full of giant robots and we took that sort of thing very seriously. For several years BattleTech actually replaced Dungeons & Dragons as my group's most-played game. The Clans and their munchkintech killed a lot of enthusiasm I had for BattleTech, but I still have quite a passle of old BTech stuff.

Another of my favorite bits of old BattleTech crap I own is a half-dozen or so issues of StarDate magazine. During our BattleTech craze this magazine was considered by my peers and I to be just as critical as Dragon. StarDate only lasted a dozen issues or so. It started as a FASA house organ devoted to supporting their licensed Star Trek rpg. My group didn't care much for that game, but the attached ship-to-ship rules, the (deep breath) Star Trek Starship Tactical Combat Simulator, was a fun little SFB-lite sort of affair. FASA back then was the new king of sci-fi. GDW had begun its slow slide into irrelevance and FASA (which had started as a nifty Traveller 3rd party publisher) decide to pursue other sci-fi roleplaying interests, notably licensed properties Star Trek and Doctor Who as well as their own hits BattleTech and later Shadowrun. (FASA was also one of the bidders on the original Star Wars rpg license. When West End won that license FASA filed the serial numbers off their preliminary work and re-tooled it as the Renegade Legion/Leviathan/Centurion line of games.)

After the first 6 issues or so FASA sold off the magazine to another publisher, who re-tooled the format to focus on sci-fi gaming in general. BattleTech remained a favorite, as did the Star Trek rpg. But you could also count on some Traveller material as well. Every issue featured at least one new BattleMech or Star Trek ship, sometimes both. And it also featured some solid generic sci-fi articles like a random encounter chart for spaceport bars or an article on building believable techno-babble for fleshing out your sci-fi setting. One issue included an interview with sci-fi illustrator David Deitrick, which I have blogged about before in my article on Deitrick's work.

Because of the sci-fi slant Dungeons & Dragons was never mentioned. It was almost as if StarDate was published in a parallel universe where sci-fi rpgs were at the top of the food chain. The last issue of StarDate, which I *think* was the twelfth or thirteenth put out, was actually labeled StarDrive, volume 1, issue 1. I always figured the publisher ran into trouble from Paramount, but it may be possible that the astronomy magazine of the same name sent them a cease & desist. Either way I cherish the 7 or so issues I own and wouldn't hesitate to buy the rest for cheap.

Here's an illo from that last issue of StarDate/StarDrive. BattleTech fans may recognize the basic Catapult lines. This is the House Kurita variant of the Catapult, which replaces the missile packs with Particle Projection Cannons.

I've always been fond of the chickenwalkers.Most 'Mech variants don't change the silhouette of the machine much. The Thunderbolt-S, for instance, takes off the arm-mounted Large Laser and replaces it with a PPC. That's swapping one tube-shaped zap gun for another. The Catapult-K was one of those variants that I always wanted to see an illo for. That the folks publishing StarDate/StarDrive casually obliged on the table of contents page of their last issue really says something about how in touch they were with the fans.

morning video

LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum


Doc Rotwang's most recent blog post is must-read TV.

Monday, May 14, 2007

links on the fivefold path to enlightenment

Planet Karen present Octobriana - well worth googling for more info

Dick Cheney's Money Man Says We Are Doomed - I suspect that Lex Luthor's portfolio is probably handled by a guy who knows what the heck he's talking about.

Paleo-Future - "A Look Into The Future That Never Was"

The Mo Movie Measure - How many of your favorite movies pass this test? Not a lot of mine, to be honest.

The Independent Interstellar Scout Service - a brief write-up for the Scouts of Traveller without the 3rd Imperium setting

ironclad feminists

found on the internet.

Beyond Vinland, session 4

I've been putting off reporting on last week's session of Beyond Vinland for a couple of reasons. For one thing, we played through part of an in-print adventure module (Dungeon Crawl Classics #23 The Sunken Zigguart published by Goodman Games) and I am very hesitant to offer any spoilers. The module has a lot of neat flavor and some interesting new monsters, but I don't feel right letting the whole cat out of the bag. I hope you all can appreciate this position.

The other reason why I've delayed on posting a session report was that it was a rough go for the PCs, with a higher meatgrinder/carnival ratio than I normally like. Doug's dice were cold for a second session in a row. The party was also down a man, as Jason was visiting his ill grandmother. The Sunken Ziggurat calls for at least 28 levels of PC and I only had 15 levels show up. I considered a second appearance of The Mystery Elf, but I don't really like playing NPC party members. Instead, I tried to follow the guidelines given in the book for scaling down the opposition. And I gave the PCs an extra mechanical goodie.

Anybody else familiar with the Dork20 deck? It's pretty cute, featuring Dork Tower art by John Kovalic. Each card has some mechanical widget like "make a saving throw automatically" or "+10 to a Jump check" or somesuch. According to the instruction sheet that comes with the rules, you give each player 4 cards at the start of the session. Whether the DM gets cards of his own is entirely optional, and previous play suggests that if the DM's hand is empty then the PCs about a level's worth of additional power out of their four cards. At least for a short session like we normally play.

There's one big problem I've seen with supplementary widgets like my own d30 house rule and the Dork20 cards. Even highly competent dungeoneers sometimes forget they have these additional meta-resources. I think the key issue is that neither the cards nor the d30 rule appear anywhere on the character sheet. As a player I know I like to have all my mechanical tools laid out in front of me for easy reference, on the char sheet. (Incidentally, this is one of the reasons I shy away from playing spellcasters. Past the first level or two it becomes hard for me to manage my spells.) It's relatively easy to forget that the big purple die in the middle of my pile of polyhedrals is actually something they can use. We need to work on that. Maybe I should get more d30s and hand each player their own die, that I take back when they expend it? There's no point in having such an explosive house rule if it doesn't regularly blow stuff up.

Most of the bad guys the Warriors Three faced were monster types that are immune to critical hits, so we only got to see one use of the GameMastery Critical Hit Deck I talked about last week. But so far I like it and unless the players rebel I plan on using it next session as well.

I will share two small items from last Wednesday's game. First of all, check out Stuart's new Wall of Gravy spell over at his blog. I can't explain how, but that spell evolved out of the chitchat at the table. Lots of game groups come up with utterly ridiculous in-joke spells like that, but most of them never make it past the simple "har-har" stage. This is the first time I've witnessed someone actually carry out the threat of turning a joke spell into a fully functioning mechanical artifact.

And to finish it off, here's the one bit of spoilage I will share with you. Using the Eye of Susserak, the amulet they stole from the ghost they fought at the end of last session, Pat's dwarf was able to determine that a monster they were fighting had a special vulnerability to water. Unfortunately, none of the spellcasters had any water-based spells at the ready. And no one even had a wineskin on their charsheet, thanks to the rings of sustenance everyone relies upon for nourishment. So in the middle of melee Pat's dwarf whips out his willie and urinates on the monster. That's a dungeoneer devoted to getting the job done no matter what the cost.

It should be noted that the other players briefly debated whether penis-deployment should draw an Attack of Opportunity. I thought giving the DM ideas like that was a pretty cruel thing to do to a teammate. Funny, but cruel.

the very definition of mainstream

Every workday morning I cross the lobby of the bank I work at. I don't really need to do this to get upstairs to my third floor cubicle, but it allows me to walk by my boss's office to see if she is in. She travels to other branches quite frequently and I find knowing she is or is not at her desk to be useful information.

Anyway, as I was walking across the lobby this morning two of my fellow employees were engaged in some light chitchat before the bank opened. One of them is a highly competent power secretary. She's one of those behind-the-scenes types who some days seem to hold the bank together by sheer force of will. The other has been in lending for almost as long as I've been alive and now oversees maybe a couple hundred million dollars in loans.

The subject of their conversation this morning? The plot of Spider-Man 3.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A whole new world

Over the weekend I purchased the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon boxed set. I had been holding off, since it seemed like a pricey bit of nostalgia. But then my daughter saw it at the store and asked me to buy it. How could I refuse her?

I think the series holds up rather well. For a brand-extending toyetic 80's kids show, the writing has a lot of humanity and imagination. And I like the extra goodies in the box, like 3.5 stats for the kids and their equipment. And then there's this fabulous piece of box art (click for a bigger version):

Hook horrors!  Kelek!  Snake Pass!
I'd totally adventure on that map.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

New stuff!

Could this be the thing that finally replaces my Arduin crit charts?And in the nick of time, too! Over a week ago I placed my first ever order with Paizo. I was in a big hurry to get the GameMastery Critical Hit Deck before my next Beyond Vinland session. I can't wait to try these cards out tonight! I'm a sucker for trying new card-based antics in my D&D games. My only concern about this product is that, as written, these cards replace the 2x/3x/4x damage result of a normal critical, rather than supplementing the normal multiplier. I know some players will be nervous about using this unknown system in place of the tried and true double damage rules. Of course we all agree that those players are big whimps. Just kidding. I totally understand the concern.

I also ordered a copy of Dungeon Crawl Classics #4, Bloody Jack's Gold. I've been wanting this one for a while, simply because Pirate Treasure plus Otus Cover equals Distilled Awesome. It'll probably take a *little* tweaking to make a Caribbean pirates adventure work in my pre-Columbian Viking/Conan game set near the Great Lakes. We'll start by casting theOtus is the man. Ancient Atlanteans as Spaniards, I think. And maybe swap out muskets for laser beams, if blackpowder weapons appear in the module. 'Cause nothing says 'viking' like sci-fi energy weapons. I really need to get the other Otus-covered DCC modules. And pretty much the whole dang line. I haven't found one yet that doesn't suit me.

The nice people at Paizo also included two nifty freebies in the box. One was a great color catalog of their products. How long has it been since I've seen a color catalog devoted to RPG stuff? Was it the last BattleTech boxed set I bought from FASA in the late eighties? The other item they threw in was a booster for their GameMastery Item Cards line. This product line flew under my radar somehow, and it looks like it just might be right up my alley. The booster contains 11 cards. The front of each card looks something like this:

Other items in the little pack I received include a staff, a scroll, a couple weapons, some bracers, etc. The flip side of the card is like this:

A sharp DM could put some alphanumeric designation in the small "Item Code" field, which references some hidden chart describing the true nature of the item. The players could then use the Notes section to keep track of what they know about the item.

The crazy thing is that in my current campaign I'm already handing out magic items in card form. One of the big challenges I set myself for Beyond Vinland was to make magic items less dull. So I bought a pad of index cards that I've been slowly filling with unique magic items. When the players find the item I hand them the card. I've even been putting little illustrations on each card. But the art on these Paizo-made cards might be worth spending a few bucks on boosters. And I find that handing the player something tangible and saying "Here's your treasure" really enhances the play experience, because now the player is getting a goody as well as the PC. And I get to feel like Santa Claus.

The Source of the Pestilence

That swirling cloud above the pyramid is all noxious and greenish.Here's the location of tonight's scheduled dungeoncrawlery, Dungeon Crawl Classic #23, The Sunken Ziggurat. (Note to my players: Only follow that link if you want to be spoiler-ified.)

Remember last week when I was freaking out over a lack of player response to my last campaign e-mail? Turn's out Pat's been sick, Jason's grandmother is also ill, and Doug has been in Vegas whooping it up with his wife. Jason won't be able to join us tonight because he'll be visiting his grandma, but hopefully Pat will be feeling well enough to play. Here's wishing a speedy recovery to both of them. I find it very weird that the week I plan a quest to stop a eerie pestilence is the same week that illness threatens to halve the number of players at the table.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wake up! Time to die!

Anybody remember my Brythunian Age journal project? I got about 30 pages written in the journal before I lost steam. That's about 25 more pages of prep than I have ever done for a campaign prior to running it. Much of the information in the journal is in the form of charts and random dice tables. I've already shared my naughty goblin dice chart with you, but here's another one that I worked up. The idea behind this chart was to introduce some dramatic near-death experiences into the lives of the PCs.

Death's Door
PCs and important NPCs roll a d6 on this chart when their supply of hit points has been completely exhausted. 1st level PCs add one to the roll.

1) Dead as a doornail. Only Raise Dead or Reincarnation can help now.

2) Mostly Dead, just like in The Princess Bride. Character can take no actions until revived by magic. Cure Light Wounds or a healing potion have a 50% chance of reviving the character. Cure Serious Wounds always works. Revived characters are -4 on to-hits, saves, and damage for d12 days.

3) Major Wound . Knocked unconscious for 3d6 turns. Loss of d6 stat points, each point coming from a different random stat. Total debilitation for d6 months, after which time stat loss heals at a rate 1 point per month of complete rest. However, one point of stat loss is permanent. Weekly application of Cure Serious Wounds turns the months of convalescence into weeks, but offers no further assistance.

4) Bleeding Out. Unconscious d6 rounds. Must save vs. Death Ray every round for d6 rounds, then every turn for d6 turns, then every hour for d6 hours. Any failed save results in death. Any cure or a healing potion halts the bleeding. Someone taking one round to make a Wisdom check can slow the bleeding, bumping the time scale for saves to the next category.

5) Knocked Out. Awaken d6 turns later at 1 hit point. All attacks, damage rolls, and saves are at -2 until the character gets d12 days rest.

6-7) Close call. Character still has 1 hit point left. No other effect.

Back in February I used this chart for my crazy ten player Basic D&D con game. I thought it worked very well, and it kept us from having to make a bunch of additional PCs on the spot.

Monday, May 07, 2007

A daughter, a dad, and some comics

I took my daughter Elizabeth to Free Comic Book Day on Saturday. The local store had some people playing Imperial Stromtrooper Dress-Up out on the street promoting the event. To get her in the store I had to convince her that Darth Vader and crew were not a threat. But when Boba Fett gave her a friendly wave she calmed down a bit.

Inside the comic store was the busiest I had ever seen it, though I must note that I avoid the place like the plague on Wednesdays. I'm too cheap to have a pull list and besides, Marvel Two-In-One was canceled a while back. Still, since the joint shares digs with my local gamestore Elizabeth and I get in there often enough to browse the bargains bins. They make it a point of putting the "all ages" books on a single low shelf, which makes it easy for me to identify to Elizabeth which books she can pick from. She usually goes for Scooby-Doo and JLU. The Big Three of the DC Universe are among her favorite superhero characters, probably due to lots of viewings of the Superfriends DVDs with her old man.

When it came time to look over the free comic selections I did my best to stay out of her decision-making process. I really wanted to see what kinds of books she would pick out on her. Of course I monitored to make sure she didn't try to select anything with lots of gore or whatever, but she was mostly drawn to kid-friendly looking super hero books. Here's what she selected:
Superman is her favorite superhero.  Except for possibly the Lone Ranger.
The other day I had to explain the DC/Marvel divide to Elizabeth.  She really wants to see a comic where Spider-Man joins the Justice League.
I flipped through this and could not make any sense of the art at all.  Too much shadow on too many strange robot bodies.She also got the Iron Man/Hulk freebie, but I can't find an image of it just now. She also picked out this gem from the "all-ages" section:This single issue is more action-packed than some decompressed 6-issue trades.I thought it was pretty interesting that she passed up on cartoony stuff like the Mickey Mouse comic being offered and instead she went straight for genre stuff like superheroes and robots and magic cowgirls. Now, she's not all tom boy by any means. Had there been Strawberry Shortcake or Barbie comics available she would have gotten those as well.

By way of comparison, here's what I got:
I don't own many Bongo comics, but the issues I have are all extremely entertaining.I really wanted the free Lynda Barry and Charles Schulz comics being offered, but none were left by the time we showed up.