Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dang it. Who blogged about 10' corridors?

I'm pretty sure someone this weekend blogged about how in the 1st edition DMG section on minis Gygax makes it clear that 3 figures should be able to fit abreast in a 10' corridor.  I have been considering using one square = 3.33 feet for a new tactical display I've been toying with building but I usually use 2 figures per rank in 10' wide corridors. But if someone really wanted to try for 3 I wouldn't object.  It would just be more cramped and possibly more fumble prone.  (You know what I need?   A chart full of non-combat fumbles.  Torches dropped for no good reason.  Stumbles leading to noses broken on flagstones.  Spilled backpacks.  That sort of thing.)

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that to use the AD&D rules as written to determine the number of people in a rank you also have to look in the Players Handbook.  I'm thinking of the Weapon vs. Armor Type chart here and the column labeled "Space Required".  You can only fit one character wielding a Bec De Corbin, Footman’s Flail or Two-Handed Sword in a 10' wide space or two characters using Bardiches, Halberds, Lucern Hammers or Morning Stars.

Sure, you could squeeze a couple of spearmen next to that maniac with the two handed sword, but you're going to feel like a chump if he accidentally whacks you with that big clumsy blade.

I should point out how this situation is just one of many rules where half the info you need is in the DMG and the other half is in the PHB, like how both books have spell sections or to roll to-hit you need the DMG but to roll damage you need the PHB.  Or how the crappy psionics rules in the back of the Players Handbook requires the crappy psionics rules in the DMG to function crappily.

Also worth noting here are the marching order rules in Empire of the Petal Throne: three characters abreast is standard just like in the DMG; four may squeeze in if none of them are fighters; only two may fight side-by-side if one wields a two-handed weapon, except for a two-handed sword.  If you wield a two-handed sword you take up the whole dang rank by yourself.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Caves of Myrddin con session #3

Man, I don't remember all the details to yesterday's end-of-the-con run and I can't find my notes at the moment, so I'm just going to hit some bullet points.
  • The head of the Spaniard now sits atop a stake outside Castle Bottreaux.  He was found monkeying with the infernal machine inside one of the cliffside caves.  He tried to parley with the party in Spanish, but they bumrushed the dude and murdered him for the reward money.
  • Father Daffyd, a Welsh priest, fell in the pit trap in front of the shrine of the anti-Madonna.  This stone statue of the vampiric virgin beheading the Christchild was carried up to the surface (no mean feat, given the Shrine is well below the bottom of the Vast Spiral Stairs below the Smoking Tower) and carried to the Abbey.  The Abbot ritually desecrated the statue, then it was busted to shards by two burley brothers wielding mattocks.  The pieces were then buried.
  • Speaking of the spiral stairs, most of the party fought a Naga on the steps.  She charmed two party members but their threat was countered by good spell deployment.  I fumbled a constriction attack by the Naga and it knotted itself up for three rounds, during which time it was hacked to pieces.  Brother Cadfael's nephew/hopeless loser Courtney the Hideous spent the whole fight dangling from a rope, calling out nervously "Hello? Is anybody up there?"
  • The next trip into the dungeons the party decides to descend via the hatch in the North Tower.  Harold the Adequate pops open the hatch and invited poor Courtney to go first.  Courtney sighs and complies, as usual.  Neither Harold nor Courtney noticed there were no stairs here and the poor kid fell twenty feet to his death.  Several sessions back this same Harold was the one who "saved" Courtney from green slime by horribly burning his face, giving the hireling his appellation "the Hideous".  Courtney was given a proper burial, unlike several PCs this weekend.
  • Also fun: Harold and Cadfael's previous adventure had been online.  This was there first face-to-face game together.
  • The party explored the level accessible only via the tube previously covered by the metal grate.  You know, the one with the two demon statues.  The visited the Fairy Land Annex, fought spider-crabs, and nearly succumbed to some sort of ammonia base gas several times.  They also almost encountered the mad gnomes, who the fairies warned "will give you wedgies or steal your cheese".
  • My hat off to Liddia the Elf, the only newly made character to survive all three sessions and make it to second level in the process.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Vithujin reports

Caves of Myrddin con session #2 report here.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Caves of Myrddin con session 1

Man, going to night class, then running an online game at 4:30 am, then working a full day and then running a 7pm to 11pm con game was a stupid, stupid plan.  Maybe if I was ten years younger I wouldn't feel it so hard, but right now I'm still pretty wrecked even after 7 hours of sleep.

But anyhoo, on with the session report.  I had six players last night.  Nick, one of my Wednesday night crew, signed up, so he played Vithujin, a.k.a. the infamous Elfy Don't.  I'm feel honored and gratified that a guy who plays my game for free every Wednesday would be willing to pay for an opportunity to play some more, but for some reason I also find it hilarious.  Either way Nick's a good guy and welcome in my game anytime.  Nick was extremely cool about not rubbing his extra levels and knowledge of the game in the other players' faces.

Next up is Shannon.  She and a couple friends (one of them her husband maybe? I forget) are regulars at my Winter War games.  It was good to see her again.  She played Linnea the Magic-User until an Arduinian morghoul (Like a ghoul, but even more so.  Grodd bless Dave Hargrave) floated across a pit and ripped her in half.  The party was totally patting themselves on the back about putting that pit between the monster and them.  When it just floated across the looks on their faces were priceless.  Later Shannon played Sophina the Dwarf and kicked some serious ass with a battle axe.  I forgot to ask her if her dwarf had a beard.

Matthew is a reader on the Gameblog and I got the impression that he boned up on the campaign matter.  He played Dandy Wasdewy, a Welshman and thief with one hit point.  Later he became known as Deadly Dandy Wasdewy, because of his affinity for scoring lethal criticals on monsters.  He killed the morghoul with a wicked crossbow shot and literally plucked out the black heart of a frog-demon with a spear.  The heart is still on his spear, beating malevolently.

Jim is an older guy with a beard and noted that he had an OD&D boxed set on a shelf somewhere.  He played an elf whose name I forget and was probably the most careful mapper I've seen.  Due to his precise mapping he located a 20' x 10' secret room with a silver idol of a dude with a goathead holding lightning bolts.  This was sold to a "collector of curiosities", which is Wasdewy-speak for "we sell it to the local coven of Satan and make up a cover story for the cleric."

Moira played Liddia the Elf.  She was the party sleep spell machine.  She also was very helpful in keeping Ian, her little brother, under control.  Ian played Ian the Cleric.  He was the youngest person in the group and combined the player personality type of Crazy Try Anything Guy and Doesn't Understand That Actions Have Consequences Kid.  Just the sort of dude I want in a con game.  He kept trying to find the rumored magic pig that grants a wish if you eat it.  He nearly found himself in William of Crevan's dungeon for braining one of his lord's peasant's prize porker.

Probably the highlight of the evening was when the party discovered the lair of Joe Mama's Mama, a big ugly troll in a pink floral muumuu.  They figured out out it was his mommy because they found a framed photo of him in a place of honor on her bookshelf.

Friday, January 27, 2012

today's experiment

I want to talk a little about today's game outside of the usual "here's what the drunken henchman tells you" context.  As you may have heard one of the claims being made about the new edition of D&D is that it will accomodate characters from previous editions.  My impression from the early presentation was that you'd be playing a 1st edition assassin and your buddy next to you would have a 4e warlock and it would somehow all hold together without the DM going insane or you lusting after the warlock's feats and powers.  I think the folks at Wizards have backed off this claim slightly in the past couple of days.  The real deal seems to me that the default PC will look a lot like a 1st or 2nd edition character, but lots of 3e and 4e fiddly bits will be available as options.  I dunno.  I have no direct info.

Either way, I got to shooting my mouth off about wanting to try running characters from divergent editions side by side, as sort of a control group.  Can an ordinary DM make this work without benefit of a 5e rulebook telling him how to get it done?  Zak made me put up or shut up, so here's the roster from todays game:

Niles Calder ran Louie le Mouche, a 3rd level rogue made under 2nd edition Advanced D&D
Arthur Fisher ran Clark Clarkson, a (2nd level?) half-orc cleric of Hieronymus Bosch, a 3e character
Zak Smith ran Vortullak the Untamed, a 1st level Warlord made with 4e
Mike Fernandez ran Tufi, a 1st level Gungan Jedi made with Star Wars Saga

Mike was a last minute sub.  Originally Peter Robbins was going to play a character from the World of Azamar, a fantasy rpg I know nothing about, but he had to cancel.

The real trick to making this hodgepodge group was deciding which mechanics were owned by the PCs and which were owned by the DM.  For example, when the dragon breathed fire everyone used my save chart.  What their Reflex save was didn't matter one bit.  But when they cast spells they used the rules for their own edition as best as we could.  The only place this felt strained was when Zak used one of his Warlord powers to swap places with a giant golden spider that was trying to kill them.  That felt really dissociated and like it had nothing to do with my game.  I explained it away as some sort of secret anime powered weeaboo magic, but it still felt a little grating.  Zak's potential damage output was also hella higher than the 2e and 3e guys.  The jedi just sliced through all kinds of shit, as would be expected.  He came real close to beheading the dragon.

So anyway, I'm now convinced that something like WotC's plan is feasible, assuming the 4e stuff is toned down a bit to bring the numbers more in line with previous editions.

Caves of Myrddin update

So the Dragon of Dundagel seems to be in a bit of a mood today.  He's been seen flying around the countryside, plucking up peasants and dropping them from great heights, panicing herds and flocks, and he even set fire to the village of Endelstow, home of everyone's least favorite cleric:

Vicar Sithney finally has evidence to support his claim that the adventurers at St. Emmet's are making things worse, not better.

In totally unrelated news, a slightly charred Vortullak the Untamed returned from the dungeons today.  His companions Louie le Mouche, Clark the Half-Orc and Tufi the Rabittduck are nowhere to be seen.  By some strange coincidence Vortullak is offering for sale a map he claims leads straight to the dragon's lair.  Opening bid is 200gp.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

he paid, he can call it whatever he wants

Vithujin the Elf, occasional survivor of the dangers under Dundagel, has returned once more to the guesthouse at the Abbey of St. Emmet. Once there, he immediately begins making arrangements for a celebration he calls the "Woed Ruckus", a week long marathon of feasting and wenching. Reaching into the pouches at his belt, he pulls forth gold, and even platinum coins* to pay the locals for their various services.

As a joke, Vithujin has payed for some fliers to be made up. He intended to send some invitations over to the scoundrels at Le Lepin Bleu (Hugo le Bâtard's manor), but due to heavy drinking and gross overpayment the fliers end up in every settlement surrounding the Abbey.

Let the Woed Ruckus begin!

Our generous host Vithujin the Elf, the Pantless Pilgrim, the Demon Freezer, and only person to have successfully prodded the Dragon of Dundagel and been remortaled to talk about it; is throwing a party.

Already in attendance are those persons possessing a gentle spirit, quick wit, or firm backside.
Now the rest of you need to show up.

The plan is to fill the Abbey with songs, stories, and seductions for a full week.
St. Emmet's antennae will be flailing wildly.

*DM's note: this is the first appearance of platinum pieces in the Wessex campaign.  They are stamped ARTHUR REX.

I love toys like this.

Here's a nifty toy for making viking type fantasy ladies, shared with me by someone in my Google+ feed. The site that hosts this game has a bunch of other fantasy character makers, including a few for male characters.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

medieval Flemish names

One of the more common types of mercenary for hire in Wessex are Flemish crossbowmen.  King Stephen's chief lieutenant, William of Ypres, is Pretender of Flanders and imports boatloads of these guys.  A few of them are bound to make their way into private contracts with adventurers.  They are considered more trustworthy than Welsh bowmen.


d% Flemish male names
1 Ada, Adam, Addi
2 Adolf
3 Aio
4 Albern, Albert
5 Alem, Alda, Alfer
6 Alting, Alto, Alwin
7 Andree, Anno
8 Arnold
9 Ato, Avo
10 Baderic
11 Baldo, Baldric
12 Bartholomei, Bartold
13 Benjamin, Benno
14 Bern, Berner, Bernhard
15 Bero, Betto
16 Boldewin, Baldwin
17 Bono, Buddo
18 Brio
19 Cono, Conrad, Constantin
20 Dago, Dagmar
21 Dietmar, Ditmar
22 Diggo, Dodo
23 Ebbi, Ebberich
24 Ecco, Edo, Eno
25 Egmund, Ekbert
26 Eio, Elli, Ello
27 Emeric, Eric
28 Eoban
29 Etto, Evo
30 Falko
31 Fastrad
32 Finn, Fot
33 Folmar, Fulmar
34 Franco, Franko
35 Gaiko, Gebbo
36 Gerald, Geri, Gherard
37 Getti, Goto
38 Gorgii, Gregorio
39 Gunther, Guthar
40 Henryk
41 Herard, Herman
42 Hiddo
43 Hige
44 Hoo, Hubert
45 Iger, Igmar, Igo
46 Immo
47 Io, Ionis
48 Isa, Isaac
49 Ivi, Ivo, Iwain
50 Jalo
51 Jo, Johannes, Jonathas
52 Knut
53 Kraft
54 Laurentius
55 Lela
56 Liddo, Liopold
57 Limmo
58 Ludbert, Ludolf
59 Manno
60 Martino
61 Mauricius
62 Meiner
63 Menfrid
64 Meniko, Menko, Meno
65 Nandino, Nanno
66 Norbert
67 Odric, Oger
68 Oleman, Onolf
69 Osi, Otto, Ovo
70 Pappo
71 Paio
72 Paulus, Petrus, Phillipo
73 Rainer, Reinold
74 Rette, Rin
75 Richard, Ritger
76 Robbert, Robert
77 Rodolf, Rupert
78 Rutger
79 Salomon
80 Saxan, Saxbert, Saxo
81 Selo
82 Sibert, Sibold
83 Sicco, Sikko, Siger
84 Simon, Sosso
85 Stefan, Stephan, Steppo
86 Tammo
87 Tete, Tette
88 Theodi, Tedi
89 Tibbe
90 Tiego, Tio
91 Ubbo, Udo, Uno
92 Wago, Waldo
93 Walfrid, Walther
94 Wana
95 Waszo
96 Wenzo, Wigo
97 Wilbrand, Wilfrid
98 Willem, Willibrord
99 Windelmar
100 Wio, Wolber

d% female Flemish name
01-02 Adela
03-04 Agatha, Agnes
05-06 Aia
07-08 Alda
09-10 Aldwi
11-12 Ama, Ata, Ava
13-14 Benedicta
15-16 Betta
17-18 Berta
19-20 Dida
21-22 Enna
23-24 Erlinda
25-26 Ermina
27-28 Evergerd
29-30 Fida
31-32 Fokka
33-34 Gela
35-36 Gertrude
37-38 Ghisela, Gisla
39-40 Gutha
41-42 Heiga
43-44 Helena
45-46 Hema
47-48 Hera
49-50 Ide
51-52 Ige
53-54 Imma
55-56 Iudith
57-58 Laurentia
59-60 Ligef
61-62 Luua, Luva
63-64 Machtild
65-66 Maga, Magin
67-68 Megina
69-70 Menika
71-72 Murina
73-74 Notha
75-76 Oda
77-78 Ogiva
79-80 Olge
81-82 Oza
83-84 Sita
85-86 Sophia
87-88 Suvi
89-90 Susanne
91-92 Tetta
93-94 Tiada
95-96 Uda
97-98 Wela
99-00 Yolande

I haven't done any research into Flemish surnames.  Since we're talking about a small region across the sea appending "of Flanders" would obviously work.  Here's a quickie d6 chart if you really need one:

1. of Kassel
2. of Gent
3. of Bruges
4. of Dunkirk
5. of Antwerp
6. of Limburg

I think all those places are in Flanders.

now with labels!

Does this map make sense to anyone?

I wanted an easy way to explain the umpteen ways into my dungeon.  So I made this.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

and now for something completely different...

So Erin over at Lurking Rhythmically has whipped up a My Little Pony rpg based on the mechanics of Unknown Armies.  No foolin'.  And it's pretty great.  Her "Failure is Awesome" skill improvement mechanic makes more sense to me than pretty much any other approach I've seen and the method for tracking and expending virtues is very nicely done.  And the whole thing is only six pages long, so even if you have no interest whatsoever in magical ponies it won't take long to skim for mechanical goodies.

Go here to check it out.

All I did here was put "my little pony vader" into google
 image search, confident that I would get some sort of result.

random medieval Welsh names

01-02 Adaf, Ada, Adam
03-04 Blethin, Blethint
05-06 Cadugan
07-08 Candalo, Candalou
09-10 David, Deykin
11-12 Dehewint
13-14 Edenevet
15-16 Edenowen, Edenewen, Edeneweyn
17-18 Ener
19-20 Eynon
21-22 Gogan
23-24 Griffid, Gryffid, Gryffyd
25-26 Griffri, Griffry, Gryffri, Gryffry
27-28 Gronou, Groneu
29-30 Gurgenu, Gurgeneu
31-32 Heylin, Heilin, Heylyn
33-34 Hova, Howel
35-36 Iarward, Iarword, Ioreword
37-38 Idnerth, Idenerth
39-40 Ieuaf, Ieuan
41-42 Iockin, Iockyn
43-44 Iohannes
45-46 Ithel
47-48 Ivor
49-50 Kedivor
51-52 Kenuric, Kenneric
53-54 Kevenard
55-56 Leget
57-58 Lewelin, Lewelyn
59-60 Lowarch
61-62 Madin, Madyn
63-64 Madoc, Madok
65-66 Meiler, Meyler
67-68 Mereduth
69-70 Meuric, Meurik, Meuryk
71-72 Moridic, Morydic
73-74 Morvran
75-76 Phelip
77-78 Reys, Reis, Res
79-80 Ririd, Ryryd, Rerid, Ryrid
81-82 Robert
83-84 Seysild
85-86 Tegwaret, Thomas
87-88 Trahaern
89-90 Tuder
91-92 Wasdewy
93-94 Wilim, Gwilim
95-96 Win, Wyn, Gwin, Gwyn
97-98 Wion, Wyon, Gwion, Gwyon
99-00 Yagov, Yago, Iago, Iagov

1 Alicia
2 Angharat
3 Dudgech, Dugech, Tudgech
4 Eduduwel, Erdiduwol
5 Elena
6 Enith, Enid
7 Eva
8 Ewerich
9 Generys, Generis
10 Genithles
11 Gwen, Wen
12 Gwerith
13 Hunith
14 Lewke, Leweke, Leuke
15 Mabilia
16 Maderun
17 Margareta, Marured
18 Mary
19 Mevanou
20 Milisandia
21 Morud, Morwid, Morwith
22 Morvel
23 Nest
24 Perweur
25 Tangwistel
26 Wentlian, Wentlyan, Wentliana, Wentlyana
27 Wervel, Wervill, Wervela, Wervilla
28 Wir
29 Wladus, Wladusa
30 Wledyr, Wledir, Wladur

Obviously some results are of the 'roll then pick' variety.

Surnames can be constructed in the usual medieval ways.  The "son of" term is either ap or ab, with the Latin filius also sometimes employed. So Mereduth, son of Phelip would be Mereduth ap Phelip, Mereduth ab Phelip or Mereduth filius Phelip.  "Daughter of" is verch or filia. "Wife of" is also used, either wreic or uxor, but I'd be surprised as heck to see a PC named after her husband.  Sometimes the possessive suffix -i is appended to the second name, such as Mereduth ap Phelipi.  Place-based surnames either use de or no marker.  E.g. Eva from Cardiff is either Eva de Cardiff or Eva Cardiff.

Please do not ask me how to pronounce any of these names.

My friends! The bargains I have for you!

Merwik the Merchant, chief supplier of miscellaneous equipment in and around the Abbey of St. Emmet, now offers pre-selected dungeoneering packages.

Monday, January 23, 2012

custom screen inserts

As I've mentioned before, I use one of those customizable GM screens that came out a few years back.  Its got six landscape-oriented pockets, three facing the players and three for my super secret charts.  My new outside sheets are sort of a hodgepodge pictorial history of the campaign thus far.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

4 things cool FLAILSNAILS PCs should have

Strange Titles and Alternate Names
I try to do this in my Wessex reports. Òengus isn't just some magic-user, now he's Òengus the Somnomancer.  Philip of Luxembourg is also Philip the Black also Philip the Bloody.  Father Jack is The Drunkest Priest in Cornwall (no mean feat).  But it also can occur naturally, such as when Redwall the Thief became Boner the Pig.

Weird Friends
"You used to adventure with a psycho clown who played an accordian?  Me, too!  We looted a mummy's tomb together in the next universe over."  [proceed to get stinking drunk together]

Knickknacks from Other Dimensions
Even something as prosaic as a bucket of lard can be special when it comes when a distant world.

Something to Swear By
More players should pepper their in-character speech with their own custom battle-cries or bloody oaths. "By Crom!" "Demon dogs!" etc, etc.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Wanted: Dead or... well, just dead actually.

The wizard known only as the Spaniard has disappeared from the dungeon of Bottreaux Castle while awaiting trial for black magic, arson and frightening sheep. William of Crevan, castellan of the castle, offers 1,000gp for the Spaniard's head.  He warns not to try to take the Spaniard alive.

Friday, January 20, 2012

For sale: unknown spellbook

Skeree the Bonewoman, Father Jack, Òengus the Somnomancer and Finn the Thief managed to wrest a large tome of spells from the clutches of an evil sorcerer.  Òengus would love to use these spells, but the book is in Latin and he cannot read a word of it.  So they have decided to offer it for sale or trade.

Note that the local witch advises that the book contains enchantments up to the fourth circle of power.

Send all offer to me, jrients/gmail/etc., with the header "spellbook".  With my local con next weekend (three sessions of Caves of Myrddin, bring your FLAILSNAILS pc or roll one up) this sale probably won't conclude until the week after next.

(No, you don't get to know the spells ahead of time.)

Caves of Myrddin: meet Skeree the Bonewoman!

In her own words:

Me and Angus and Girl and Jackfather and Robert Butler and Dane-he-give-me-20-gold go out in cold country. Sky is wet and foggy and ground wet. Many black flyers. We look for beast (500-gold-worth! Seems many) but find Sorcerer! Sorcerer have smokenet and big chunk of meat (is good. I eat) and candlehand and bone hut (is not men bones. I check) and smokefish and pointy drawing. And Sorcerer has pool and Leg find men bones in pool! No good. Maybe Sorcerer is try to trap beast. Maybe Sorcerer beast. I face Sorcerer two times and I hit Sorcerer good two times and I live! But that is end of story and still beginning story now. Blackflyers are Sorcerer-friends! They tell him we hiding. Sorcerer him try to Sorcerer us two times. Once with purple ball. But I put Sorcerer down. And Jackfather or maybe Angus take candlehand and is makes smoke and we all run away and no look back. And I put Sorcerer down with axe and Leg and me and Robert Butler carry Sorcerer to Jackfatherfather Haddock. AND HE NOT KILL SORCERER! AND MAYBE HE FIX SORCERER AND SORCERER GO OUT AGAIN! I no understand. And Haddock say we bad and go back in caves and no find Sorcerers on cold country. If I know this I no take Sorcerer Jackfatherfather Haddock but I talk Sorcerer in cold country and I kill Sorcerer. But I put Sorcerer down and I take Sorcerer skullthing. Is good. Nobody die!

Father Jack's version of events can be found here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


In case you haven't heard Wizards of the Coast is doing a short reprint of the original three 1st edition core rulebooks.  They're due in U.S. and Canadian hobby stores (and nowhere else) in April.  New cover art but same interiors.  The slim ones will set you back 35 bucks, the DMG is $45.  Proceeds go towards the Gygax Memorial Fund (the independant entity already working towards getting Gary a statue in Lake Geneva).  Here are my thoughts, in no particular order.

  • The pricing is totally fair, assuming the print, paper and binding quality is high.  When the MM first came out in 1977 it retailed at $9.95.  That's $35.38 in 2010 dollars, according to this inflation calculator.  "I can get the originals cheaper on eBay!" someone will say.  DO SO!  If you don't already own the first edition DMG you are missing out on one of the greatest texts in the hobby.
  • A new boxed set with an old cover didn't work, so they try old hardbounds with new cover art?  These guys are a little weird sometimes.  I hope the cover art positively screams "No, this is really the old stuff!  We aren't pulling your leg this time!"
  • Any players from back in the day or newbies without a clue in your family: here is their next birthday or Christmas gift from you.
  • If these sell well enough more reprints are likely to follow.
  • This isn't exactly what I want, but I know an olive branch when I see one.  With a gesture like this on the table it would be obnoxious not to give the 5e playtest process a try.
  • That being said, there's no reason to stop holding WotC's feet to the fire.  Will the binding be the same as the originals?  How much of each sale goes to the Gygax fund?  These and other questions should be asked and answers should be forthcoming.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blackmoor is everywhere.

I knew I had these images somewhere, but today I finally dug them up to share.

Blackmoor has its own world, which got a hardbound late in the 3.x era.  It also appears on the Greyhawk map.  And if you go back in time in Mystara, you'll find Blackmoor there as well.  It's also to the northeast of the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.  Dig it:

Note that Rob Conley's Map 19 just north of the Wilderlands (found in Fight On! #3) would be due west of Blackmoor.  I wonder if they line up?  I should dig out my copy of FO! 3 and check.

This placement of Blackmoor ruins my earlier proposal but I think that you *might* be able to work it out so that Greyhawk and the Wilderlands stand side-by-side with Blackmoor in the center-north.  Either way, the two campaign worlds are connected by this strange northern realm AND both lurk in Mystara pre-history.  How cool is that?

Of course, they're not all really the exact same Blackmoor.  But a boy can dream.

I vaguely remember Arneson once noting that the Outdoor Survival map was connected to his First Fantasy Map as well, but so far I haven't tracked down the reference.

Wizardly Wednesday

More wizards should be like Dr. Strange.

23 answers for Zak

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?
My carousing house rules.

2. When was the last time you GMed?
Last Friday.

3. When was the last time you played?
About a week ago.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.
The future itself has been kidnapped by the guy the Vampire Lord of Crows answers to.

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?
Look at the map and imagine where a wandering monster should be placed.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?
During game store sessions I will sometimes buy a Payday bar from the counter.  The large amount of peanuts allows me to pretend it's not as bad for me as the other candy bars.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?
Yes.  If I'm not tired after a session it means I've phoned it in.  I end my Friday morning sessions early enough to get a 20 minute rest period in before I go to work and I usually need it.

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?  
In that Outland session I played in I really enjoyed fighting a giant but otherwise normal snake in front of an evil idol.  That's some real Conan shit going down.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?
Bouncing back and forth between deadly earnest and slapstick humor is the way I like it.  Which is good, I guess, since most players seem hellbent on playing that way.  Maybe all these years of DMing has left me with Stockholm Syndrome.

10. What do you do with goblins?
Some days I use them as stand-ins for 20th century middle class values.  They're there to comment on the game and the PCs' miscreant behavior.  Other days they're just these little dudes with spears trying to stab you.

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?
A photo of Salvador Dali.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?
Vithujin the Elf mistaking the Dragon for one of those winged cobras and getting incinerated for picking a fight with it.  Though I was the only one at the table who thought that was funny.  The way table crosstalk resulted in Serpentor becoming a saint in Wessex was also pretty hilarious.

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?
Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed.  I have an idea of using it for a game set in Iceless-Antarctica-as-Atlantis.  So far I can't make up my mind whether I want to hack it to a BX version of the overall concept or try to run it straight.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?
The creeping weirdness of Erol Otus, the explosive imagination of Jack Kirby and the heroic figures of Frank Frazetta all rolled into one super-artist.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?
Only once in a great while, I think.  But you'd have to ask them to know for sure.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)
I love running modules, even crappy ones.  I know some DMs aren't cool with running anything that isn't your own material, but I love the challenge of "how can I make this piece of crap work?"  Probably the best time I've had running a module would be the last time ran Rat on a Stick, when the players built a killer parade float.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?
A round table on a deck overlooking a big lake on a sunny, cool, windless day.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?
Nobilis and Andy Hopp's Low Life, maybe?  Though I'm not sure if I'd try playing Nobilis again.

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?
Old Brit Lit on one side (Hardy, Keats, medieval chronicles) and Kirby comics on the other.

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?
The kind who is happy to get into trouble.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?
I've used my experiences as a Freemason to inform my presentation of evil cultists.  :)

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?
I'm still hoping that some computer-savvy person will take all the available retroclones and such and put them together like this.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?
I sometimes bounce stuff off my wife or she'll ask what happened when I get back from the game store.  She thinks rpgs are very silly but she's also very supportive of me and my silly hobby.

[Zak asked these questions here.]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


[FYI: This post is not official FLAILSNAILS doctrine. Beyond the simple agreement to be cool to each other, which I consider to be the spirit of the original conventions, there is no official FLAILSNAILS doctrine. Nor is there a central committee capable of handing down an official doctrine. FLAILSNAILS is a non-centralized, non-localized network of autonomous GMs and players, bound together by mutual respect and love for the game. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something and should not be trusted.]

You know what's one of the neat effects about running your FLAILSNAILS character through multiple campaign worlds?  It becomes crystal clear (from your point of view) who the protagonist of this saga is.  It can't be anybody but your PC because the rest of the cast keeps changing.  In most rpg campaigns I get a nagging little feeling that the real star is the party (whoever is in it this week) or the setting (if you're playing in that kind of game). 

You can go through umpteen PCs and the party somehow remains intact.  How many times have you seen a total party kill followed by a totally new group of PCs picking up the adventure right where it left off?  Makes my dude-of-the-moment seem a little less grandiose every time that happens, like any old cookie cutter dungeon jerks can finish this all-important quest.  And while I like a well-crafted campaign as much as the next guy, a crummy setting pretty much forces the heroes to the forefront.

Speaking of crummy settings: Hyboria.  Don't get me wrong here.  Those old Conan tales are on the very short list of fantasy fiction I will read.  (I honestly don't know how so many of you slog through so much drek in search of the occasional good fantasy novel. Howard. Tolkien. Lovecraft. Vance. Smith. Dunsany.  That's the pretty much all of Appendix N that I can stand.) But seriously, Hyboria is a jumbled-up mess of patchwork sections of any nation that ol' Two-Gun Bob wanted to use for the latest Conan romp.  Nothing more.  And that's why it's effin' brilliant for gaming.  Not that we should be running Hyboria.  No, no, no.  But I think we could do good work emulating it's seat-of-the-pants rip-off-whatever-you-can methodology.

And whaddya know, that's pretty much how FLAILSNAILS operates.  I run a little piece of the setting right here.  Evan runs another section, totally unrelated to mine, over there.  Jeremy runs a third chunk of the multiverse on over there.  If you look too closely they don't fit that well together, the way the medieval Aquilonia and sorta-Renaissance Zingara don't really compute in the same setting. But as a backdrop for the adventures of your mighty hero?  Works just fine.  In fact, you could string together individual sessions in faraway settings the way L. Sprague de Camp introduces each story in the old Ace editions of Conan, with a brief intro paragraph of connective tissue:
Fed up with civilization and its magic, Conan rides back to his native Cimmeria.  After a month or two of wenching and drinking, however, he grows restless enough to join his old friends, the Aesir, in a raid into Vanaheim.
Or you can keep a log of each adventure, like this crude one I have for my FLAILSNAILS guy Young MacDonnal.
8-10-11 Donnal was 1 of 4 crappy 0-level PCs (3 of 8 total) to survive the canonical DCC intro adventure “The Portal Under the Stars”. DM: Shawn Sanford (arcadayn). Fellow players: Zak S.  Looted the weapons and armor of the War-Wizard.

11-19-11 Donnal adventured briefly with Zaunn the Mighty (Niles Calder), Redwall the Thief (now Boner the Pig, Jeremy Deram), Agnes the Amazon (?). Visited Nightwick Abbey (Evan van Elkins) for about 10 minutes before DMs internet went out. Donnal refuses to discuss what happened that fateful day.

1-10-12 - Stan [Donnal's henchman] begins adventuring with Donnal. Sold mithral from 1st adventure to a sage in Jeremy Deram’s Outland. Adventured with Blixa the Thief & Abe (Zak S), Steve Albertson’s Tengu thief Scarecrow Hooker & his henchman the dwarf Barkbeard Woodsack, Kyrinn Eis of Urutsk's 0-level troupe (Doc Sampson, alchemist; Ozzy Sweetleaf, goblin glassblower/astrologer; John Plisskin, carpenter; Hell Tanner, tanner). Ransacked the Mysterious Cave Epsilon. Gained pet psionic lizard guy.
There's nothing particularly special about this little twerp of a fighter 2.  Seriously, his only bonus in life is a Charisma of fifteen.  There are better PCs out there.  And guys with a lot more kickass adventures under their belt.  We're basically all treading jeweled thrones under our feet.  So do yourself a solid and savor this stuff.  It's not about the party.  It's not about some quest.  It sure as hell ain't about the setting.  FLAILSNAILS is all about [your PC's name here].

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Caves of Myrddin and Environs

Here's a quickie close-up of the hex on my Wessex map where all the current action is taking place.

The Abbey of St. Emmet - The guesthouse of this religious institution serves as the headquarters for most of the adventurers in the region.  Peasants for miles around come to the abbey church for their religious needs.  The Abbot is able to provide clerical spellcasting up to fourth level and the house of Ewella the Alewife stands just a stone's-throw from the Abbey.  She even delivers.

The Ruins of Dundagel - This is where the Caves of Myrddin and other dungeons can be found.  The last dragon in England lairs somewhere below the ruins, reputedly sleeping on a hoard that includes Celtic, Roman and Arthurian treasures.

The Village of Camelton - The nearest town of any size.  Unfortunately some out of control carousing a few weeks ago resulted in much of the town burning to the ground.  Efforts to rebuild are well under way.  Fortunately the home of the local arcane caster-for-hire, Dremelza the Witch, was not destroyed in the fire.  She's grouchy enough as it is.

Porthemmet - A small fishing village on a lovely beach.  Notable only because most of the equipment purchased locally pass through here, imported by the merchant Merwik the Merry.

Village of Endelstow - Adventurers are not particularly welcome in Endelstow.  The Vicar of the local church is kind of a douchebag.

Le Lepin Bleu - Successful adventurer Hugo le Bâtard bought a little fixer-upper manor a while back and a few others have gone in together to turn it into the Blue Rabbit, Cornwall's premier wretched hive of scum and villainy.  More details on this to follow as they develop.

Castle Bottreaux - Local seat of Norman authority.  Recently the Castellan has been making inquiries regarding the villain responsible for setting Camelton ablaze, but the numbers are against him.  He just doesn't have the manpower to risk a full on conflict with the dozens of adventurers hanging about the Abbey.  The wizard James of Dillington and his entourage are currently guests of the Castellan.

Bodmin Moor - This moor extends into adjacent hexes.  The Beast of Bodmin, some sort of shadowy hell-cat, wanders here at night.  Recently the mysterious sorcerer known only as the Spaniard has been seen on Bodmin Moor as well.

PS: This map took no more than 10 minutes to make with Hexographer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Blessed Saint Serpentor preserve me!

These local Cornish saints
 are weird, man.
So yesterday Philip the Bloody, Gilgamesh the Macho, Sufflebrot the Elf, Brother Cafael (and the brother's unfortunate nephew) visited the dungeons of Dundagel.  They bumped into Blixa the Thief and Abe Lincoln Vampire Hunter (who apprently woke up hung over inside the dungeon) just as a brief firefight broke out between the adventurers and the Purple Raiders.  A well-placed sleep spell dispatched most of the raiders, leaving only their phaser-wielding leader.  Abe killed her, but not before everyone in the party saw Philip summon the Vampire Lord of Crows to do his bidding!  Well, it was a phantasmal force of that guy, anyway.

Later the party fought a giant tick that tore Gilgamesh a new poop chute where his throat should be.  The wound was a fatal Arduin Grimoire critical hit, but somehow he survived and somehow the intervention of Saint Serpentor was involved. I was there.  I was the DM.  And I still don't understand exactly what happened.

Sometimes what happens in the dungeon stays in the dungeon, I guess.  Either way Philip the Bloody now owns a phaser, Gilgamesh sports a terrible scar on his neck, and my campaign has a new saint.

Here's a little game for the comments section. Suggest an apocryphal miracle of St. Serpentor.  I'll go first.

Saint Serpentor drove the snakes into Ireland.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

brief Caves of Myrddin update: dragon at large

Yesterday the lazy bastards lounging around the Abbey guesthouse received a report that the dragon had been spotted ten miles north of the dungeon.  Grabbing their gear as quickly as possible, they high-tailed it to the south tower of the dungeon, in hopes of finding the great beast's hoard while it was far, far away.  They never found the dragon's lair, but these guy crawled and rappled up and down and all over my crazy vertical map.  They eventually found some treasure: a few hundred gold pieces, an ancient jeweled cup (now for sale, only 850gp!) and the magic Sword of the Frozen North, now wielded by the elf Vithujin.  Foes they faced included a pack of giant rats, some winged demon beast they luckily killed before it utterly wrecked them and... Gleichman the Vampiric Warpoodle!  The famous doggie was wandering the dungeons, thirsting for blood, utterly confused by undeath, and despondent without his master.  They put the poor beast out of its misery.  They also deactivated some sort nefarious trap and carried back the forty 4' or 5' long steel spike involved.  Most of these are now for sale from Merwik the Merry Merchant for 20gp a piece.  They're very nicely made, balanced for throwing and pointy enough to go straight through a mofo.

awe, wonder, and G+ hangouts

Above is the new background image for my work desktop.  My boss has pictures of her grandkids, I go more for images of sci-fi majesty.  This is either promo art or the concept piece for the final scene of the 1985 non-classic The Quiet Earth

I've only seen this flick a couple of times over the years.  My distinct impression is that most of the movie is only okay, not particularly awesome, but the final scene is 100% kick-you-in-the-brain great.  I'm going to spoil it here, since we're talking about an old movie nobody watches: the hero dies, then mysteriously wakes up on an unknown beach, and this Saturn-looking world rises over the weirdly-clouded horizon.  No explanation, roll the damn credits.

Somehow in just a few seconds of poorly-animated matte painting cheesiness, this scene captures nearly all the enigmatic majesty and power that 2001: A Space Odyssey tries to reach in its approximately 400+ minute final act.

I don't use visual aids much when gaming around the tabletop.  Passing around a picture to gawk at seems to really break the enchantment for me.  But posting a link in the chat window of a Google+ Hangouts game seems to work a lot better.  In Jeremy's recent Outland session he shared a picture of a monster to great effect. 

Just to be clear, I'm not advocating that we flash pictures on the screen for every little thing in a G+ game.  The point of using hangouts isn't to act as a subsitute for our imaginations.  But I like the idea of once in a while being able to wow the players with a really kickass picture, like an alien sunrise or a particularly messed-up demon or something.  In fact, that might be the missing puzzle piece for a good sci-fi exploration game.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

latest Caves of Myrddin cast member

Spotted wandering the nearby moors...
Reputedly a sorcerer in league with the Devil...
No one knows his name...
They simply call him the Spaniard.

poll results

(I still disagree with 111 of you.)

video time

I know this is meant to be humorous, but I basically agree with this dude's advice.

Thanks to E Foley, a.k.a. GeeksDreamGirl, for sharing this on Google+.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

a grab-bag post

The PDF version of The Miscellaneum of Cinder, my 2009 compendium of random tables, will no longer be listed for sale at lulu.com.  Instead, a free version is now listed at the OSR Conservation Process.  If you want the print version, that is still available at lulu via this link. Note that the OSR-CP version lacks the much-maligned purple cover.

You know what's missing from standard D&D character sheets? A spot for an animal companion.  Even if you don't have a familiar or a magical talking dog or psionic chameleon, there ought to be a place for your donkey or warhorse.

Do class abilities migrate in FLAILSNAILS games? For example, I let a Lamentations of the Flame Princess-derived magic-user fire a bow and wear leather in my Wessex campaign, since Raggi's rules allow that. Should I have enforced the BX rules on that guy?  And if not, does that mean my PC gets the funky bonus die from his one level as a DCC warrior and the cleave ability standard to fighters in Outland?  I kinda like the idea of adventurers collecting weird abilities based upon where they were when they leveled up, but I don't want things to get out of control either.

I've re-read a bit of Monte Cook's Arcana Unearthed the past couple of days.  I don't really have any more to add to that.  I just think that it was a pretty cool idea. It seemed daunting at the time to replace all the standard 3e classes and races with new ones.  Would it be easier for me to pull off today?  I dunno.

Young MacDonnal visits Outland

After some godsawful dungeon delve you pull into your usual watering hole.  There's a couple of new guys at the bar.  One, a stock third-rate greybeard wizard in a shabby robe, is already draped over the bar half asleep.  The other is a towheaded, Shaggy-bearded kid of a fighter.  They look like any two dungeon losers you'd find guzzling cheap ale in a thousand places like this across the multiverse, except for the lizard.  Floating in the air above the kid's right shoulder is a weird chameleon-looking critter, maybe about 2 feet long from nose to tail.

"Oh, that?" says the kid, "That's Elford.  He's some sort of puh-sigh-on-ic lizard guy.  I met him in Outland.  My name's Donnal, pull up a stool and I'll tell you all about it."

This kid seems friendly enough and he offers to buy the first round, so you join him.

"There's some weird caves in Outland just a couple miles west of the last imperial outpost, just past the southern woods.  If head down the old road and end up at Blackmire Village you've gone to far. 

Well, he looked like a pirate, anyway.
"Anyway, my buddy Stan here," he gestures towards the nearly unconscious mage, "and I joined up with this group of adventurers.  It was one of those classic full-blown fellowships really.  We had the infamous Blixa and his talking dog Abe, a goblin named Ozzy Sweetleaf, the green-haird alchemist Sampson, a pirate named Plissken, a tanner from Hell, a weird birdguy named Scarecrow who has jedi powers and a dwarf.  Stan, what was the dwarf's name?"

He pokes the wizard a bit.

"What? Huh? Uhh, Blackbeard Nutsack, I think."

"Thanks.  Like I said, a big party.  We just needed a magic ring and some hobbits and we'd have a blockbuster.  So we decide to visit this cave high up on a ledge.  What was the name of the cave, Stan?"

Stan ruffles through a few sheets of stained and torn paper and does his best to focus his besotted eyes on the scribblings written thereon.

"The Mysterious Cave of Epsilon!" he proudly declares.

"So that's where we find this guy, just past the chamber with the upside down pointy snails. Watch out for those if you ever visit the place. The northern passage out of that cavern leads to where we found Elford.  We never explored past that point, so there might be treasure down that way.  I don't know. I think we cleared the rest of the Epsilon cave.

"Elford can communicate telepathetically, but only speaks to me for some reason.  He directed us to some treasure.  I think rather than eating bugs and stuff like a normal lizard, he puh-sigh-chick-uh-lee feeds on the cheap thrills of following adventurers around.  He led us to a chest made out of some magical zappy metal-"

"Electro-titanium!" Stan interjects.

"-in a room full of orange-glowing fireflies.  Watch out for those.  They tend to explode.  Our bird buddy thought he'd snack on one of them and nearly blew his face clean off! Elford also showed us the way to a room with an altar built to some sort of devil lady.  There we fought a bigass snake and defeated a poison gas trap. The snake wrapped around me at one point and squeezed so hard I thought my eyes would pop out of my skull.

"So when I first met Elford he offered me a deal that if he could follow me on adventures for a full week, he would give me the ruby that grows in his head.  But at one point Scarecrow used his jedi powers to pull it out and ruined the gem.  I don't really hold it against the guy.  It must be tough going through life as a bird man.  Being hunted by Darth Vader can't help either.  And Elford here does seem to be of the party of the Devil, so stealing from him isn't really a sin, I reckon. So now Elford is stuck with me until his ruby regrows and he can pay me as agreed.  A deal's a deal.

"I may have to go back to those weird caves some day.  On the way to Epsilon we spotted a witch or an amazon or something cavorting topless near the pond.  Girls don't dress that way where I'm from.

"Anyway, your turn to buy a round."

Monday, January 09, 2012

an open letter to WotC

Dear Wizards of the Coast,

Today it was announced that you are planning a new edition of Dungeons & Dragons and that you want fan input.

This is a good thing. D&D is the flagship role-playing game, virtually synonymous with our great hobby. A new edition that takes full advantage of the growing interconnectedness of the world sounds to me like a vision full of promise.

It would please me greatly for your new edition of D&D to succeed. I want it to be a fun game. I want lots of people to play it. And I hope you make a nice profit selling it.

I would very much like to participate in the process of shaping this forthcoming edition. I'd love to involve my home game group, my online campaign with 30+ players, the players and DMs of the growing FLAILSNAILS network, and the readers of my blog.

But I don't want to be involved if you are going to insist that my friends and I participate with one arm tied behind our backs. A new edition of D&D shouldn't be just about building upon the successes and minimizing the failures of the previous edition, it should about re-evaluating all the prior work in the field.

Therefore, I am asking that as part of this process you re-release the PDFs of the prior editions. If you truly want the feedback of the fans, then surely it makes sense that you would want feedback from well-informed fans? Additionally, making the PDFs available again would be a gesture of goodwill to the players of prior editions and would go a long way to showing us that you are serious in your desire to reunite the D&D community behind a fan-powered edition.


Jeff Rients
Jeff's Gameblog

Type V

"Dungeons & Dragons’ designers are also planning to undertake an exceedingly rare effort for the gaming industry over the next few months: asking hundreds of thousands of fans to tell them how exactly they should reboot the franchise."


Sunday, January 08, 2012

a blast from the past

For some reason I was thinking about Mazes & Monsters again today.

Lot item from the GaryCon II silent auction: one (1) VHS copy of the Tom Hanks classic Mazes & Monsters and one (1) claw hammer.

Jason Cook, creator of the video, writes "So, I won the Mazes & Monsters + hammer silent auction at Gary Con II, but the results were announced too late to have an audience big enough to smash the video in front of, so we decided to do something creative. It was all shot in only about an hour, but was a lot of fun. Make sure to watch the entire 2:30 for the full effect."

I would be remiss if I posted this stuff and didn't link to Blog of Holding's efforts to reconstruct the original M&M rules. It's pretty awesome.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

more Warfare from the Age of Awesome

...It was agreed upon that the figures had to come from a sword using culture written about by a famous fantasy (not science fiction) author. This brought us back to the number of figures we should use and in the interest of getting the game started less than three hours late, we decided on an arbitrary fifteen figures plus one special being related to that culture. Almost everyone started reaching for their storm giants and dragons, but Monty with a wicked smile on his face pulled out fifteen Viking type men and women and an old dude in a chair. He had done an unusually fine painting job on them, but they were very colorful for Vikings. I figured the guy in the chair must have been someone mighty special with an artifact or something and we all started making guesses on the weapons the puny Vikings were going to use. It just wasn’t Monty’s style to bring out a batch of humans that could get blown away by something small like Ernie’s squad of iron golems or Jake’s flight wing of red dragons. Then Monty hit us with the bombshell. Since he was limited to sword using cultures written about by fantasy authors he had decided to use the fifteen toughest Norse Gods with Odin leading them. We all started shouting unfair at once, while we were putting away our dragons, golems, and undead and bringing out tougher things. 

After long debate, in which our first move was to make Monty put away his Gods, we decided on a new definition. We would use figures taken from sword using cultures. It had to be written about by a noted fantasy author. The fifteen figures had to be normal everyday beings of that culture with normal weapons and armor for that culture. The special being could have one weapon not above plus three, special armor not above plus three, or one spell, and they couldn’t be so strong that a direct hit from a panzerfaust couldn’t kill them with one shot. That last point was brought up by the Tractics boys, but it still sounded good to the rest of us. 

Mounts and movement factors were discussed when Tom brought out sixteen knights on sixteen platinum dragons. We thought that knight types generally were found on chargers (not the cars, he had those too) and this was how they were to be mounted. Dave pulled out some really strange Petal Throne things that nobody could make head nor tails of. I think he called them hooggies or something like that, but we made him put them away stating that they were never written about in a fantasy book. After all was said and done we had a pleasant mix of knights, dwarfs, elves, ogres, winged men from Mongo, nomadic horse archers, elephant riding Greeks, giants, Swiss pikemen, and Romans. 

Monty and I had wisely held back when everyone was digging into their bushel baskets of miniatures and bringing out things. In fact, while everyone else was grabbing figures Monty and I were deciding terrain and who would be on whose side. I said a desert area with a few big sand dunes and little other terrain would be fun and everyone but Pete with the wood elves agreed (he was shouted down). Monty decided a free for all with no one siding with another would be good. The point was brought up that natural enemies like giants and dwarfs shouldn’t ever fight together no matter what (which really hurt the two Diplomacy buffs that had the dwarfs and giants). Finally Monty felt he couldn’t hold back anymore and brought out sixteen of the prettiest tyrannosourous Rex you ever saw. He also brought out two comic books and a novel none of us had ever read to support his use of them. Over a loud and long protest by the single F.I.T.S. [Fight in the Skies, precursor to Dawn Patrol - Jeff] lover in our group who wanted to argue logically for the fact that such a group would never realistically come together. All the rest of us surveyed the playing area; with its assemblage of monsters, magic, men, and his flying men of Mongo, and laughed him into silence. It was my turn to place my figures on the board and while I took out by black enamel coffer from its fishing tackle resting place I started to talk about Edgar Rice Burroughs. I mentioned the fact that no one could doubt that Burroughs was one of the greatest of fantasy writers. I saw the beads of perspiration start to form on eleven foreheads. I also mentioned as I opened the black coffer shielding its contents from all the others that his Mars series was certainly a culture using swords. I saw the Tractics and Diplomacy boys turn pale and Monty tried to pull back his dinosaurs, but I held his hand. 

With a gleam of triumph in my eyes, I pulled out sixteen of the nicest, best painted set of green martians the world has ever seen. Each one had a radiation rifle, a radiation pistol, and two swords at hand. I could see the looks of fear in eleven eyes and the grim determination of eleven jaws. The battle was brief and when it was over the heaped bodies were laid around the martians inches deep.

--"Monty Haul and his Friends at Play", James M. Ward, The Dragon #14, May 1978.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Rafm's Custom Characters line

For a couple years back in the eighties Canadian-based minis manufacturer Rafm sold the Custom Character.  Each CC pack came with a body (early on you got two!), three different heads, various weapons, shields and items and often some cool extra bits.  Here's all the images I've found scouring the internet for these guys.

Neat lantern.

This goblinoid champion wears a loincloth but no pants.
The pet rat is cool.

The guy with the boomerang has a flaming torch in his other hand.

At $2.50 a pop these guys were about twice as costly as other figures for your PC.

Back in the day my buddy Dave had at least two packs he mixed and match to make unique characters.

I think the Evil Warlord in the middle has a pet demon perched on his arm.

I love the hat and moustache on the guy with the lantern.
Baldy MacBeardo with the scroll on his pack is looking wicked as well.

Dave had this guy.  I remember the bandana around the neck and buckskin pants.
That outfit plus the Native American and Old Timey Prospector go a long way  to support my pet theory that some of these sculpts are left over from earlier historical figure lines.

Snake in basket and sundial!
Who doesn't need accessories like this?

Is that middle Female Thief holding an anarchist bomb, like from the cartoons?

Skinniest. Barrel. EVER. 
Those guys are so pissed at the wine supply being shorted they're attacking the poor thing!

That's not a shuriken, that's the frickin' Glaive from Krull!

I think there's a campfire in that last pack.  Sweet!

Those last three are from someone selling three sets for seventeen bucks apiece on eBay right now.

You can see the dwarf set over at Stunties.

Okay, now that you've seen my exhaustive presentation on this old figure line, here are my questions for the audience: Is anyone doing this sort of thing today?  If not, why not?  With better material and production methods, this concept could be implemented with five times as much coolness.  Hell, imagine using 3D printing so you can select individual parts.

Caves of Myrddin: reptile hulks & saucy statues

So today's party was supposed to be Brother Cadfael, his pack handler, his horribly disfigured nephew, Sir Hugo le Bâtard, Blixa the Thief, his talking dog Abe and newcomer Darf of the Donkey Ears (a dwarf).  But Sir Hugo, Blixa and Abe were so drunk the night before they couldn't make it.  They all have afternoon hangovers to look forward to when they finally wake up.  You ever heard the sounds a talking dog makes when he's hung over?  That can't be pretty.

The ones they fought had been
properly primed and painted.
So Brother Cadfael led his NPCs, Darf and new recruit Thull under the East Tower (a.k.a. the Gatehouse).  They took the stair down from the Chamber of the Roots and passed the Archway of the Two-Bodied Dragon.  There they slew a pile of trash, fought a trio of Reptile Hulks and located the remains of a slain sandworm.  Darf was nearly slain in the fight against the Reptile Hulks; one of them scored an Arduin Grimoire critical against the little weirdo, ripping his throat wide open.  Brother Cadfael's timely cure spell is the only thing that prevented his death.

The main loot of the adventure was a pair of statues, each 3' tall or so, depicting the White Queen of Dundagel.  You know those silly cheesecake statues you see in comic shops?  Kinda like one of those depicting Emma Frost, but made of grey stone and wearing a crown.  They tried to sell them to their bleary-eyed friend Sir Hugo, who is known to be into that sort of thing, for 1,000gp but he was short on cash.  So they settled with selling them to a merchant for 750gp.  Now if Hugo wants them later he'll have to pay 1,500gp.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Everyone has Level Limits exactly backwards except Timrod and me

In yesterday's lively discussion about the sucky AD&D subsystems poll, Timrod of Unfrozen Caveman Dice-Chucker writes:
I might be the only person ever to say this but I actually liked demihuman level limits, and I played demihumans all the time. It was kind of satisfying to know that you'd taken your character to the pinnacle of his ability. Also, my old gang usually retired our characters by the time they reached 7th or 8th level, so unlimited levels were wasted on us.
Preach it, brother Timrod!  I'm right there with you!

Let me walk the rest of you through my thinking on this one.

One of the great lies (or at least horrible misunderstandings) we repeat over and over again is that there are no victory conditions in RPGs.  I've seen some variant of "there are no winners in RPGs" written in lots of "What the crap is a role-playing game?" chapters.  What all these passages should really say is that there are no fixed victory conditions in RPGs.  This is one of at least two ways that RPGs trump the bejeesus out of other game forms, the other being that you can attempt all sorts of plays not anticipated by the rules.  That second one we all know and understand.  It becomes especially clear the first time you play a computer "rpg" and you think of 14 reasonable things you'd like to do that the stupid machine won't let you even try.  "Why can't I attempt to climb that dang wall, you stupid game!?" etc., etc.

So one of the ultimately cool things about RPGs is that each player can invent their own victory conditions.  Usually there's simple survival and a bland default one based on genre ("Get a million gold pieces", "Stop the bad guys from wrecking Gotham", "Don't let the Rooskies win the Cold War" etc.) but those are pale imitations of the real deal where a motivated player takes the reins and says "Screw those guys at Hogwart's! I'm starting my own magic school!" or "I'm gonna get those vampires that killed my dog!" or any of an infinitude of other options. 

(Incidentally, this is one of the easy ways I can tell whether an indie game sucks donkey balls isn't my cup of tea: If the victory conditions are inflexible I probably don't want to play it.)

So here's a self-established victory condition: I'm going to play a half-orc.  I'm going to make him a cleric.  And I'm going to be the best damn half-orc cleric possible.  It's a humble goal, and a little metagamey, but also objectively achievable, unlike becoming the greatest wizard ever, which depends on a lot of campaign-specific mumbo-jumbo. 

So I say, take some of those "crappy" class and race combos dictated by Crazy Uncle Gary's level limit rules.  Play that halfling up to max level.  Spend some of your hard-earned gold on a retirement party and use the rest to buy a well-appointed hole somewhere nice.  Then go for a gnome fighter or a half-elf ranger or something equally nerfed.  Eventually the landscape will be dotted with your smugly non-dead ex-PCs.  What do those guys with unlimited advancement have to show for all their toils?