Monday, April 30, 2007

A Exclusive

I don't really read Dungeon, but how can you not like Warduke?
Buy it here.

morning video

Here's Saliva with their track "Ladies and Gentlemen". I really dig the song, though I could do without the bikini girls beating each other bloody.

Lords of Awesome

Yesterday was the third meeting of the C-U Run Club '07, a group based upon this post over at ars luddi. The basic deal is that everyone in the club has to run at least once, but they get absolute freedom in selecting their game. So far we've played Iron Gauntlets, d2o-ified Star Frontiers, and now Tom Moldvay's genre-smashing Lords of Creation. It was my turn to GM and I was sick and tired of referring to LoC as my favorite RPG I've never played.

I ran a hacked-up and streamlined version of the official LoC module Omegakron, which takes place in the post-apocalyptic ruins of Akron, OH. (Uh... Spoiler Alert?) Basically, I used the innards of the module with my own intro and conclusion bolted on. The introduction was that each of the PCs had been summoned by Vroona, the Guardian of Progress. From her Glass Castle beyond time and space she monitors the Sea of Possibilities, where new universes are born. A parallel timeline where Earth suffered a fullscale nuclear war in the mid-21st century was solidifying out of the possibilities, threatening to replace the prime timeline where that war was only a brief exchange of battlefield-level tactical nukes.

Vroona regularly deals with these sorts of threats as Guardian of Progress, but some force from within the faux reality was resisting all her efforts. So she enlisted some agents to enter the post-apoc baby universe and stop it from becoming real. Enter the PCs. In case of just such emergencies Vroona has cultivated a number of uniquely capable individuals. From ancient Greece comes King Agamemnon (more specifically, the version played by Sean Connery in Time Bandits). From the late 19th century we get young Aleister Crowley, occult rake. Hailing from the swinging sixties is that superbad cat Counte Dante. And from the far future of Imperial Terra is Victory Jones, Space Ranger!

Arriving in the virtual universe of Omegakron thanks to Vroona's sufficiently advanced technologies, our heroes rough up some local kung fu gangers trying to scavenge the corpse of a long-dead cop in riot gear. Kathleen discovers just how deadly her 27th century energy weapons can be when she reduces one of the gang members to smoldering boots. The leader of the punks gives the heroes some useful leads, but then the gangs split when the shrieks of mutants can be heard in the distance. It is noted that 21st century riot gear is mechanically superior to a bronze breastplace, so King Agamemnon declares the stuff "Armor of the Gods" and totally calls dibs. This will be a recurring theme throughout the adventure. A practical fighting man like Aggy will not hesitate to take your weird future war implements.

The players head in the generally direction of downtown, where they see things like domed arcologies, dirigibles, and skyscrapers with laser cannons on top. They're searching for what the gangers refer to as the University, hoping to get some answers. On the way they stumble across some jet-cycle riding Hell's Angels trying to hijack a gigantic tracked vehicle. It's about the size of the thing they transport the space shuttles on, only bristly with construction and demolition tools like giant buzzsaws and wrecking balls and such. A couple dozen cyborgs are firing automatic weapons at the Hell's Angels, who are shooting lasers.

Our heroes decide that they can't really tell who are the good guys in this fight, so they opt not to help out. Instead, they decide to jack a couple of sky-cycles. That went about as well as can be expected from a group where only the cop from the future has the ability to pilot air vehicles. Count Dante was making a bold effort though, and only crashed his cycle a little. Aleister Crowley got a neat trick in at one point. He used his magical command of the elements to cause the jet cycle exhaust to wrap around the vehicles, obscuring the vision of the pilots and causing three cycles to crash. And when one biker survived a rough landing, the dude stood up next to Agamemnon and pulled out a light sabre. That guy was totally unprepared for Agamemnon's bronze sword to punch right through the forcefield projected from his beltpack. Magic swords do that.

So after all these hijinx the party ends up with their own personal forefield belts, some laser rifles, and a light sabre that goes to Aleister Crowley. At this point I handed out some XPs, which people used to boost their stats and buy some skills. Suddenly Crowley knew how to wield a light sabre and King Agamemnon was an expert sky cycle pilot. And, thanks to the oddities of the Lords of Creation skill system, Count Dante became a trapeze artist. In LoC each skill has both breadth and depth. When you increase a skill your percentile chances go up, but you also gain new uses for the skill. Count Dante wanted to be a better Acrobat, which also gave him the ability to swing through the air with the greatest of ease. I find the skill system to be one of the more interesting aspects of the game, but the results can be a little... weird.

Victory Jones pulls an all-nighter fixing the sky cycle that Count Dante had tried to pilot. Meanwhile the rest of the party make a supper of some scavenged Spaghetti-O's and sips from Crowley's flask of absinthe. Don't feel too bad for Space Ranger Jones. She has cybernetics that make things like sleeping and eating unnecessary. She also has a built in laser with the emitter in a fingertip. Being from the future has its advantages.

The party then flies a reconnaisance of the city. That's when they discover a strange field of inky purple blackness several blocks in size. Victory's geiger counter goes wild, and something inside the blackness sets off Agamemnon's Electrosense. (For reasons unknown all the Greek heroes in the rules have Electrosensing and various psychic abilities, so I gave Aggy similar powers.) When they land nearby they see members of another gang flinging the corpse of one of their members into the blackness. Count Dante finds some locals without gang affiliation. They explain that, for as long as can be remembered, the traditional method of burial in Omegakron is to toss the body into "the Bone Hole", this swirling vortex of strange energies. Aleister uses his occult abilities to determine that the Bone Hole is coursing with necromantic power.

The party decides that they will enter the Vortex, because they believe it may contain the source of whatever power is drawing Omegakron into the prime timeline. Count Dante strolls into the blackness, spots some zombies, and strolls back out to get the rest of the party. The whole group passes through the strange blackness and finds themselves in a gloomy realm where the dead attempt to continue their lives as before. A skeletal man is walking a skeletal dog. A zombie woman is hanging filthy rags on the clothelines. But the dead crave life and soon the group is under attack George Romero style. After fighting a dozen or so walking dead, the party is able to survey their surroundings further. At the center of the Bone Hole is a gothic castle, upon which is contructed a weird Kirby-tech device that is coruscating with purple energy. Thanks to their powers of Dimensional Sight (which all LoC pcs possess) they can tell for certain that this castle and it's strange machine are the force trying to replace the real world with the post-apocalyptic horrors of Omegakron.

So the group goes back and gets their bikes. They fly over the armies of the dead, heading straight for that castle. As they approach they come under heavy laser fire from robot cowboys manning the parapets. Why? Because I wanted to include some robot cowboys, that's why. The sky cycles are abandoned just before they crash into two of the four castle towers, taking out half the generators powering the eldritch transdimensional device. King Agamemnon pulls out his ace in the whole, a one-use Head of Medusa, which petrifies half the android cowpokes. Victory Jones is handing out her Quick Heal packs while trying to zap the foes at the same time. Crowley uses elemental shaping to bring a third tower crashing down, while Count Dante plants some dynamite at the base of the machine. (He had the dynamite because he was about to blow up a rival dojo in Chicago. No, seriously.) That's when Dracula shows up.

Dracula was my boss monster of the whole adventure, but it didn't go down anything like I had planned. I didn't get to use my little dice chart labeled "stupid Dracula tricks", nor did I get in my villainous monologue where Drac explains that civilization is nice and all, but the Herd was getting out of control and needed to be culled. Instead Aggy and Dante use their psychic powers to stop Dracula dead in his tracks, the machine is exploded, and the inky blackness begins to recede, exposing Dracula to direct sunlight. He melted like a Nazi gazing into the Ark. The reality warping machine destroyed, a silver portal opened and the PCs returned to the Glass Castle just in time to see the Omegakron reality fade out of pseudo-existance.

Everybody had such a good time that after the run we talked briefly about playing a sequel.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Today, I am King Dork.

At work today I found an orange d10 in my shirt pocket.

I have no idea how it got into the front pocket of one of my work shirts. Finding a die in a jean pocket or T-shirt, I can understand. But it's not like a I play D&D over lunch. I did some wargaming during my lunch hours a few years back. That stopped once the bossman realized my lunch 'hour' had grown to 90 minutes. I tried to explain that keeping the Nazis out of Berlin took longer than an hour, but he wasn't sympathetic to my plight.

Wizards on Dragon and Dungeon

Yesterday over EN World they posted an interview with three Wizards' representatives regarding the future online replacement of Dragon and Dungeon. I found this section less-than-impressive:

Scott [Rouse, Senior Brand Manager for D&D]: We are looking at various types of payment methods, subscription periods, and pricing options. Our overall goal is to offer a good value to consumers in terms of what they will get for the price paid. The magazines were a great value when you compare price vs content and I don’t foresee this changing as we move online. We have some experience with payment options for consumers without credit cards and we are evaluating several options. Accounts will be user based and can move with you from machine to machine.

Chris [Perkins ,D&D Design Manager]: We don’t foresee any lack of “previewability.” There will be ways to preview content and we will be testing a couple preview different options. It would be great to hear how customers would like to preview content. We have not come up with a solution for “portability” of content after your subscription has ended but we are discussing ideas with in our development team. We do not have a DRM solution yet but have a range of options available to us.

Bill [Slavicsek, Director of R&D for D&D]: The content will be updated very frequently, but we can’t get into specifics on this yet. Expect constant small bursts of content that later get collected for ease of reference. As with the magazines, the online content represents only one part of our D&D efforts, and those without Internet access will have other options. We have a great stable of D&D staff and freelancers that we be generating the content.
Looking at those three paragraphs I'm having trouble nailing down exactly what has been decided over at Wizards, because a hell of a lot of stuff still seems to be up in the air. Back at the end of January when the Wizards' announced their new Digital Initiative, did they have anything planned beyond "Ummm, it will be on the internets?"

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Beyond Vinland, session 3, part 2

After fighting the killer crayfish and having lunch with Druzella the Witch, the party sets it sites on what the player map of the Canyon of Chaos lists as 'Cave B'. Druzella has warned them to expect some sort of ghostie, and Erik offers that perhaps they could make a quick venture to Cave C in hopes of levelling up before they tackle the dead and their eerie powers. Not that anyone in the party has any idea what evils lurk in Cave C. It's just that they assume that undead are worse than pretty much any other option, the poor deluded fools.

Hotter heads prevail though, and it is agreed to explore the cave full o' undead. The party climbs up the side of the canyon to get a better look at the cave mouth. They see rubble indicative of the entrance being previously bricked-over, but some unknown force has broken in... or out. Strange runes have been carved around the lip of the cave, but Grandfather Thorne, the only educated member of the party, is unable to complete a translation. Something about wizards and happiness, perhaps?

I couldn't find a good pic of a water grue.  So here, have a shoggoth.They enter the cave in their usual formation, Zoyd the Battle Sorcerer and Hjorek the Warblade in the lead, with Erik the Conqueror and Thorne the Dwarf behind them. The first room they entered contains a murky, unhealthy-looking pool of fetid water surrounded by piles of shattered bones. Almost immediately unwholesome things erupt from the water. The two creatures that Thorne dubs Poolwraiths are amorphous collections of grungy water encased in a mucky membrane. Many blighted eyes float across the surface of the beasts and whiplike tentacles sprout from a dozen places.

Initially, our heroes want to play a distance game with these loathsome freaks. But when they fire gouts of filthy water, knocking the cleric on his ass and doing some hefty damage, they reconsider. The PCs move in to the edge of the pool and in a fierce exchange of weapon and tentacle strokes they burst the outer membranes of the two creatures, spilling their watery essences all over the floor. Also, Zoyd got spattered by Poolwraith guts. From inside the creatures spill large pearlish spheres covered in runes and Thorne wades into the mucky water to retrieve some gold pieces.

Exploring the rest of caverns leads the party to a dead-end cave with two large piles of trash. Thorne, never one to let a piece of treasure get away, shifts through the garbage and retrieves a magic ring. Too bad that while he was searching a great skeletal monster was silently approaching the room. The monster was a basic troll skeleton and quickly dispatched, but I wanted to show you this ultracool drawing done by a fellow on theRPGsite forums. I wish I had recorded his name, because I really dig that monster. Can anybody help me out here?

Exploring the last branch of the cave system, the party comes to a chamber with a big rusted iron door on the opposite side. The chamber appears to be empty but when they enter Hjorek and Zoyd are slimed! Green slime on the ceiling, ladies and gentlemen. It's a classic. Green slime does Con damage these days so the party heads back to the keep. They returned healed up and carrying fire. They do a very thorough job of burning all the slime off the ceiling so that hopefully it won't grow back.

Since the party is conspicuously lacking in the Rogue department, Hjorek goes to work on the iron door with his mace. He uses some wild warblade-fu to ignore the hardness rating of the iron and in a few rounds the lock on the door is destroyed. Beyond the door is a large chamber with a stone sarcophagus on a platform and a side passage leading out. Now the players are caught in a standard dungeoneering dilemna. Do they screw with the stoney coffin, knowing there's ghosts about? At one point it is suggested that they explore the side passage first, but the party eventually agrees that they don't want Count Dracula lurking behind them.

As they step up onto the platform a secret door silenty opens and a dozen almost human skeletons lope out from a hidden chamber, brandishing bronze greataxes. And it's on like Diddy Cong. Grandpa Thorn throws a sonic burst into the pack and Erik turns most of the skeletons into so much dust. Hjorek and Zoyd egage the others with sword play. Then the boss monster Boo!shows up. Materializing over the coffin is a shimmering blue figure, his head sorrounded by glowing rune of hate. It immediately lets loose with a cone of cold that blasts the whole party. Zoyd starts lobbing magic missiles at the thing while Hjorek discovers that his sword passes harmlessly through the ghost's body. To make matters worse, the angry spectre turns the clerics, turning off all their divine powers. Yowch. Things are looking grim when the party pulls back and Hjorek lobs a fireball (from a necklace of missiles) at the creep, but that's still not enough. The hateful spirit is hurt, though. It starts playing dirty, hiding inside the walls incoporeally and reaching out only with a spectral claw to strike the adventurers. But Zoyd catches him with his last pair of magic missiles and the ectoplasmic horror shimmers to nothingness.

At this point we're only ten minutes away from our appointed end time so I try to end the session. But Doug will have nothing of it. He wants to open that sarcophagus and get at the treasure presumedly inside! I relent and the four heroes work together to move the massive stone lid. Inside is a pile of treasure, but also a pile of rot grub in the shape of a man! Rot grubs shoot out of the coffin. Two of the PCs deftly avoid the shower of death worms, while a third cuts a burrowing grub out from under his skin. Poor Hjorek is in trouble though. Erik offers to help. He sees a squirming lump under Hjorek's skin and tries to smash it with his mace. Erik misses, bludgeoning Hjorek in the process. Erik offers to try again, but Hjorek declines and cuts his own rot grub out. Comedy gold. Beside the heart-eating maggots, the coffin contains some two thousand square-shaped gold pieces, a pearl, and a magic amulet decorated with a serpent's eye.

Dungeons & Ninjas, part 2

In part one of this article I outlined why I was working on this new game project. Now let me tell you a little bit about the game itself. Dungeons & Ninjas is a ninja-themed hack of D&D designed for an experienced DM and young players (ages 5 and up). At first I toyed with the idea of modding Microlite20, an excellent super-light game that boils the SRD down to its essential salts. After some initial work, that fell flat. So I've changed over to working with the game nearest and dearest to my heart, the '81 version of Basic/Expert D&D.

I don't have anything resembling a working draft yet, but I see the Top Secret Dungeons & Ninjas Player's Manual (the Top Secret part is really in the title) as breaking down into 3 major parts. Part 1, "Congratulation! A Ninja is YOU!" is a reworking of Basic D&D character generation. The biggest change will be in the classes. There will be four: Ninja Warrior, Ninja Wizard, Shadow Ninja, and Mystic Ninja. These classes will correspond closely to the traditional Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, and Cleric, except that they all wear pajamas and masks. Armor will be renamed Heavy, Medium, and Light armor, since basic D&D only uses three types and I don't care what the armor is made of or looks like. The weapons chart will probably see an addition or two. Shurikens and nunchucks at least. The equipment section will also contain a note that sometimes higher-level ninjas will be assigned additional equipment such as laser pistols, motorcycles, or giant robots.

Part 2 , "A Ninja Without Honor Is Not A Ninja", effectively replaces the D&D alignment system. Instead PCs will track two scores, Honor and Dishonor. When a PC completes a mission, saves lives, or otherwise acts heroically, they will gain a point of Honor. Ninjas who lie, cheat, steal, or otherwise act like delinquents gain Dishonor. A Ninja whose Dishonor is greater than their Honor is Shamed. Shamed Ninjas will get some sort of mechanical penalties and risk being drummed out of the Ninja League (or whatever, I'm still working on terminology). Being expelled from the ranks of the good ninjas has the same effect as losing all your San in Call of Cthulhu: the player can no longer play that NPC. This scheme may sound heavy-handed, but experience both running games for younger players and interacting with my nephew tells me I need to go this route.

Part 3 is called "Your Ninja World" but is not just another stupid rpg setting chapter. Instead it is a primer on making your own ninja-tastic adventure setting. The idea is for the whole group to work together but you can make your own ninja worlds, too. Here's how it works: Take the biggest piece of paper you can find and draw the biggest circle you can on it. Now cut it out. This is the map of your group's ninja world. Put a dot in the center of the map. That's Ninja Headquarters. Someone in the group names that dot. Maybe they call it Ninja City or the Last Dojo or Uncle Sam's Hamburger Palace. Whatever is selected, that is the party's home base.

Based upon the name of your Ninja HQ, the DM develops the Ninja Mentor. This is the wise old sensei that teaches the ninjas or the Gandalf figure or one of the similar characters from the various Power Ranger shows. The Ninja Mentor is there for the DM to give exposition, warn PCs against behaving Dishonorably, and assign missions to the Ninjas. After these preliminaries are done you go around the table. Each person at the table (DM included) adds something to the map. Maybe they draw a little tree and label it "Spooky Forest". Or maybe they just put down a dot and a name. It doesn't matter. The DM will flesh out the details as needed. After two or three goes around the table your map should be chock full of possible adventure locations to serve as grist for the DM's adventure mill.

And that's about everything I have right now.

Beyond Vinland, session 3, part 1

We started the third session of Beyond Vinland in media res, which is Latin for "OMG! Dire crayfish!" Our heroes were fording the stream that cuts through the Canyon of Chaos when two claw shrimp pop out of the water and move in to attack with cruel claws a-snapping. The dire crayfish had been drawn to that end of the canyon because they had been feasting daily on the cave full of kobold corpses created last session.

the claws that catch!Well, that was the in-game justification of the dire crayfish attack. The secret origin of this encounter was me scoping out the two awesome chuul figures in my box of Large and Huge monsters. I really wanted to use those figures, but at Challenge Rating 7 our heroes weren't ready for a surpise throwdown with two of those critters. I shopped around my meager collection of monster books for a formidable crustacean of large size, but I struck out. So I made my own by starting with the large version of the monstrous scorpion, removing the poisonous stinger, replacing the movement rate with that of a chuul, and swapping in the Swim skill for where the scorpion has climb. Since I was removing the poison and one of the scopion's attacks, I tuned down the CR to 2 instead of 3. Voilá, instant killer crawdad. Or as close to instant as I can get with 3.5.

You ever have one of those nights where the dice are not your friend? Last night was like that for the other folks at the table. Damage rolls were exceedingly low when they could score a hit and many saving throws were blown. Jason once again used my special d30 house rule to overpower a magic missile, but he rolled a 1. The fates were just not with the PCs. That's harsh, but it also means the players really earned all of their victories.

Speaking of Jason, I was able to catch his guy in a dire crayfish claw. That was cool. I even pried open the claw on the mini and wedged in his little plastic dude. I love visual effects like that. Still, my crusty creeps were no matched for the PCs and the crayfish were eventually dispatched. At least once during the fight a PC charged across the ford, splashing through the shallow water. In my mind they were reenacting the "No!" shootout from Tombstone. Only with swords and attack lobsters instead of shotguns and bandits.

After the fight Zoyd (Jason's battle sorcerer) was in pretty sad shape. Being nearly snipped in half by a giant claw will do that to you. The team healers did their best to patch him up. Then Doug and I had an exchange that went a little something like this:

"Hey, Jeff. About what time is it?"

"Well, you started out to the canyon in the morning, and we established previously the distance from the keep to the canyon is about seven and a half miles."

"Close enough that we can call it lunch time. Let's have ourselves a giant shrimp boil!"

So they did. While the crayfish were cooking the beaded curtain obscuring one of the cave entrances parted and out came the witch from Conan the Barbarian. She was carrying a jug and some wooden cups. "If you share your food, I will share my drink," she offered. The PCs accepted, though Erik the Viking refused to drink, saying it would violate the Punisher Code. The PCs are all believers in the Norse pantheon, but the party's patron saint is the Punisher. Don't ask.

The witch identified herself as Druzella, a name I totally came up with on the spot because I totally forgot to name this NPC. She offered to heal Zoyd's claw-wounds for 100gp and explained that she sold potions to the other inhabitants of the canyon. Especially the hobgoblin mercenaries, who seem to be stocking up. She also told the party that the next cave they intended to explore was haunted by restless spirits who sometimes came out at night. Despite Erik's precautions, Druzella's hooch was not poisoned and she left in peace.

Stay tuned for Part 2: the Haunted Tomb

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dungeons & Ninjas, part 1

Does everyone remember my nephew the ninja? If not, please go back and read the post I just linked to. Don't worry, it's short.

So my sister Jenn, Cameron's mother, contacted me a few weeks back about a serious problem with her little ninja. He was talking to strangers. A lot. And doing things like asking if he could have a drink of their soda or wandering away from mom to chat with interesting-looking but unknown persons. This was freaking Jenn out. Everytime she called him on it, he would say something badass like "Strangers can't hurt me because I'm a ninja."

Jenn asked me to intervene in the situation because she needed someone who could approach the broach the subject of ninjas with sincerity and speak on the topic authoritatively. Cameron just could not take mom seriously when it came to ninjas. But he knows his uncle Jeff as the guy who buys him comics and plays Star Wars and Transformers and Power Rangers with him. I can talk to him about stuff like ninjas.

My first line of attack on this problem was to appeal to his ninja virtues. "A wise ninja must avoid unnecessary danger," I tell him. But he doesn't really seem to buy it. So I go for the carrot approach. Ever since he discovered my plastic minis collection he's been dying to try Dungeons & Dragons. I've held off. One of my concerns is that I needed to be sure he and his cousin (my daughter) were sufficiently literate and numerate to play. Elizabeth can count to 20 now so the last big educational barrier has recently been removed.

"Alright, here's the deal then. If you can go four weeks in a row without talking to strangers, your mom and I will schedule a game of Dungeons & Dragons. But it won't just be ordinary Dungeons & Dragons. It will be Dungeons & Ninjas. But listen up, dude. You know I check in with you and your mom every week, right? You have to get good reports four weeks in a row."

Cameron and I shook on that deal. So far it has been two weeks and he hasn't talked to strangers once. In fact, his mom reports that Cameron is very cognizant of avoiding "stranger danger". So it looks like I'm going to be running Dungeons & Ninjas soon.

So that's the background to this project. I'll tell you all about the game itself in part 2.

Tom Moldvay Bibliography

Over at Dragonsfoot we've been working on a bibliography of all of Tom Moldvay's works. Here's what we've got so far.

Tom (Thomas Edward) Moldvay
b. 1949, Cleveland Ohio
d. 9th April 2007, Akron Ohio

1980 - 1982

X1 - Isle of Dread (with David Cook), 1980
X2 - Castle Amber, 1981
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Rules, 1981
B3 - Palace of the Silver Princess (with Jean Wells), 1981
B4 - The Lost City, 1982
M3 - Twilight calling, 1986
B1-9: In Search of Adventure, (contributor), 1987

Listed as a sub-editor for “The Keep on the Borderlands”, 1981
Sub-editor for 1981 edition of Expert D&D (Cook/Marsh)

A2 - Secret of the Slavers Stockade (with Harold Johnson), 1981
A1-4: Scourge of the Slave Lords (contributor), 1986
Fiend Folio, Listed as a contributor (Moldvay provided 3 monsters – the Astral Searcher, Protein Ploymorph and Retriever), 1981
Mark of Amber, original design (X2 Castle Amber), 1995

Tournament Modules
"Treasure of the Dragon Queen"

Star Frontiers
SF0 - Crash on Volturnus (with Douglas Niles, Mark Acres), 1982
SF1 - Volturnus, Planet of Mystery (with Mark Acres), 1982
SF2 - Starspawn of Volturnus (with Mark Acres), 1982
Star Frontiers Referee's Screen and Mini-Module (with Mark Acres), 1983

Revolt on Antares Minigame, 1980

Gangbusters RPG (with Mark Acres and Rick Krebs), 1982
GB1 Trouble Brewing, 1982

Boot Hill
BH1 Mad Mesa (with David Epperson), 1981
BH2 Lost Conquistador Mine (with David Cook), 1982
Boot Hill Referee's Screen & Mini-Module (Shootout in Northfield), 1981

Dragon Magazine Credits

#26, Jun 1979
Giants in the Earth (Cugel the Clever, Kane, Tros of Samothrace), with Lawrence Schick
Dragon's Bestiary: The Barghest

#27, Giants in the Earth, with Lawrence Schick (Durathor, Fafhrd, the Gray Mouser, John Carter), Jul 1979

Short Fiction "Black Lotus Moon" in DragonTales (from Dragon Publishing), Aug 1979

#28, Giants in the Earth, with Lawrence Schick (Eric John Stark, Welleran), Aug 1979

#29, Giants in the Earth, with Lawrence Schick (Shadowjack, Iucounu), Sep 1979

#30, Giants in the Earth, with Lawrence Schick (Sol of All Weapons, Zorayas, Maal Dweb), Oct 1979

#35, Giants in the Earth, with Lawrence Schick (Muirtagh the Bowman, Umslopogaas, Edward Bond, Ganelon), Mar 1980

#37, Giants in the Earth, with Lawrence Schick (designer notes for the series), May 1980

#38, The Seven Magical Planets, Jun 1980

#39, Giants in the Earth (Bodvar Bjarki, Egil Skallagrimson), Jul 1980

#41, Sep 1980
Dragon's Blood: And Another Dragon
Giants in the Earth (Jirel of Joiry, Ayesha, Valeria, Sigurd Fafnirsbane, Starkad),
Dragon's Bestiary: The Silkie

#42, Oct 1980
Giants in the Earth (Tauno Kraken's-bane, Sir Geros Lahvohettos, James Eckert/Gorbash, Orvar-Odd, Heidrek)
Demons, Devils and Spirits

#43, Nov 1980
Brewing up a new NPC: The Witch, by Bill Muhlhausen, revised and edited by Moldvay and Kim Mohan
The 'real' witch: A mixture of fact and fantasy

#44, Giants in the Earth (Reepicheep only), Dec 1980

#46, Feb 1981
Response to Dwarven Paladin question in "Out on a Limb"
Giants in the Earth (submission guidlines)

#48, Giants in the Earth (Tiana Highrider only), Apr 1981

#52, Basic D&D Points of View... From the Editors Old and New (two companion articles, one by J. Eric Holmes, one by Moldvay), Aug 1981

#60, Dragon's Bestiary, Apr 1982

#126, Hearts of Darkness, Oct 1987

#138, The Ungrateful Dead, Oct 1988

#162, Out of the Shadows...., Oct 1990

#166, DINO WARS!, Feb 1991

#198, Beyond the Grave, Oct 1993

#210, Too Evil to Die, Oct 1994

#247, The Taltos, May 1998

Avalon Hill
1982 - 1985

Lords of Creation RPG, 1983

Modules for LoC RPG
Horn of Roland, 1984
Omegakron, 1984 (set in a post-nuclear apocalypse Akron)
The Yeti Sanction, 1985
(Two unpublished adventures - Mines of Voria and The Towers of Illium)

Heroes magazine writing credits
Survival Run of the Starnomads VI.1 pg 15-33
Pirates, Buccaneers & Highwaymen VI.4 pg 9-13
Swordsmen Real and Reeled VI.5 pg 36-39
Alienating Yourself, Part 1 VI.2 pg 7-8+
Alienating Yourself, Part 2 VI.3 pg 8-10
Dueling Rules for LoC VI.3 pg 19-30

Challenges International Inc.

The Challenges Game System by Challenges International Inc, 1986
CH2 Seren Ironhand by Challenges International Inc, 1986
(Two more modules in the Seren Ironhand series proposed but not published - CH1 The Morandir Company, CH3 The Mountain King)


"Tasariq: The Crystal Planet" in Star Wars Adventure Journal #15 , Nov 1997

The Future King, 1985, Self publish/published by Spellbinders?; 1st ed. had 1000 numbered copies, 1 reprint edition

Unpublished fictional novel "Tom of Bedlam"

2 page article, mostly about Lords of Creation, in Lawrence Schick's Heroic Worlds.

In Case You Haven't Heard Yet

A planet of about five times Earth mass, one whose radius is only 1.5 times that of our own world. Moreover, a planet that’s smack in the middle of its star’s habitable zone, with a mean temperature estimated at between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius. The models in question say that this is a rocky world, and its temperatures tell us that oceans could exist there. The first detection of a planet where carbon-based life could conceivably exist makes this one a find for the history books.
Rest of the story here. If confirmed, this will be one of the greatest discoveries in the history of astronomy, right up there with Galileo first spotting moons around Jupiter.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

You know who continues to be awesome?

Goodman Games with their Dungeon Crawl Classics line, that's who. Dig these upcoming releases.

"Covering a wide range of levels, each of the adventures revolves around a treasure map of some kind, and the book includes beautiful handouts to bring the maps to life in the hands of your gamers."

That's the kind of product a lazy-ass DM like me can really get some use out of!

Dungeon Crawl Classics presents

Blackdirge's Dungeon Denizens

"With more than 50 modules available, the Dungeon Crawl Classics are the most popular adventures available today. It was inevitable that the authors would come up with a couple new monsters along the way! This creature compilation features more than 100 of the best monsters to appear in the DCC series and other Goodman Games products, selected and updated by monster artiste Aeryn “Blackdirge” Rudel."

You know what? If Goodman offered a DCC subscription plan I'd seriously consider sending them a bunch of money. Best of luck to Paizo and all with their new Pathfinder gig, but the DCC line is much more in line with my tastes.

Wizards: Please shut up now

Has anyone else seen the article "Reflections on the D&D Magazines"? It's like a punch in the gut to me. Now, I am not an expert on the social niceties, but it is my understanding that one does not normally eulogize one's own murder victims. It is considered impolite. And this?

Yesterday was sad, but it was exciting, too. It’s exciting because I know something that you don’t know as yet. --Bill Slavicsek
Listen, Bill, I know you're trying to spin this thing. I know you're probably stuck carrying water for some corporate guy who made this call. But, as the kids say, STFU KTHX! You're sounding like a world class prick here. You might as well have said "Hey, stupid kids! I know we just killed a beloved childhood institution of yours, but fabulous prizes are just around the corner!" Please stop insulting my intelligence, Bill. I don't have a lot of it, but I place some value on what I've got.

You know what I'm feeling right now? That same glorious sensation that resulted in me giving up on TSR back in the early 90's. Wizards and their shiny new 3rd edition got me out of that funk. It's a damn shame things have turned around so soon.

Worldbuilding by Q&A

In last week's email to my Beyond Vinland players I left it open for them to ask Osala the Sagess some questions. Stuart took up the challenge and posed some inqueries to Osala. The results are new material that can be added to the overall setting. So far I really like this approach, as it forces me to think in directions maybe I wouldn't explore myself and it let's me know what interests my players. Well, it tells me about one of my players at least. Here's the exchange so far.

Q: Any sign of the mystery-elf [who helped us in session 2]?

A: You hear that an elf adventurer took passage out of Osvar with Brunna the Bold. Brunna's longship is one of the few viking vessels that regularly sails the waters beyond the easternmost of the Five Seas.

Q: Does Osala know anything about this ape-demon or the kobold's relationship to it?

A: Osala says the statue depicts Kuvartma, Gorilla God of the Moon. He's one of the more active of the local inhuman gods and has been known to send his messengers to aid his worshippers. The demon was undoubtedly a member of Kuvartma's Winged Ape Legions.

Q: Kuvartma's Winged Ape Legions? How common are encounters with them? Are they a thing of legend or have there been regularly documented sightings or what?

A: According to the rhymes of Mogar the Skald, a generation ago noted explorer Harald Six-Toes and his party fled from winged apes found guarding ruins in the swamp on the shore of one of the westernmost seas. Harald and most of his companions are all dead or missing, with the exception of Randolf the Red. Mogar was once an adventurer himself, but is retired now. His son, Brand Crimson-Helm, is said to be a dragonslayer.

But the last time the Legions appeared in force was during the Atlantean Apocalypse. It is said that their numbers were so great as to blot out the stars when they flew at night.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I may need to run a campaign of this stuff...

For the past two days I've been trying to put together four cool pre-gen PCs to use for my Lords of Creation one shot coming up on Sunday. So far I've got the character concepts down, but statting them up to my satisfaction has been elusive. I think part of the problem is that LoC is so clearly designed for ongoing campaign play. PCs aren't meant to be constructed at higher than 1st level, the intent is for them to organically grow towards those lofty heights. Mechanically it is certainly possible to put together a 5th level PC, as I have been trying to do. But the results are a lot less awesome than if those PCs had gone through 4 levels of adventures.

You see a similar problem with starting a D&D 3.x outing at a high level. You end up with a lot of builds that make no sense from a historical perspective. A pre-fab 20th PC might have a +7 ECL race even though no sane player would play such a character at level 1. Thinking back to my last PC, I never would have planned for Osric the Slayer to be a barbarian/warblade/rogue, but the character is much cooler for having grown into that set-up.

So, anyway, part of me wants to run Lords of Creation as an ongoing campaign. I've felt that way for a while, but Tom Moldvay's death really brought that yearning to the fore. The whole point of LoC is to be able to run any kind of adventure set in any place or time. It's really hard to play to that breadth of scope in a single afternoon's outing. Not that I need another ongoing campaign right now. Beyond Vinland is still finding its groove, and I intend to try to ride that game out to 20th level. I'd like to run New Bronze City at some point in the future. And then there's Traveller. If T5 isn't a trainwreck I'd really like to run a campaign of that when it is released.

Friday, April 20, 2007

And now for something completely different...

Picture post!

This is the first new team I've cared about since the original run of the Authority.

Times be hard for a disabled vet.
This ad actually appeared in Omni magazine.  I kid you not.
Who will Bill Mantlo freak out next?  It could be you!
Any pic of the Baroness is a good pic, but David Willis's cartoony style is a nifty change of pace.

Frank Mentzer confirms Moldvay's death

Mentzer at Dragonsfoot:
I can now confirm that Tom Moldvay passed away on April 9, 2007 (or thereabouts). Tom had suffered from congestive heart failure and other health problems, but nevertheless maintained his solitary and reclusive habits. He was thus found, by his landlord, after some time had passed. Compounding the misunderstandings here is the fact that Tom was opposed to the industry surrounding funerals and such, and he wished to be simply and quietly cremated.

This was all handled by Coroner's office of the city of Akron, Ohio. The local newspapers have declined to run any obituary notices, possibly respecting Tom's wishes in this regard. Tom had given away most of his game materials to friends, and his few remaining belongings were mostly limited to furnishings, clothing and such. His computer materials are being held by his sister, along with some few other papers.

Please stop any rumors of hoaxes, and forget about eBay or other sales.

I mourn Tom's passing and honor his contributions to the game industry. If someone wants to compile a list of his published works and a biographical obit, I'm sure that those remaining publishers of game periodicals would appreciate the compilation.

The line about eBay sales was due to some discussion as to how Moldvay's papers might be handled.

Let's talk about other stuff

  • I haven't talked about chess variants in a long time. If you like variant chess rules (different boards, different pieces, different rules, historical predecessors to modern chess, etc.) then you need to check out The Chess Variants Pages and their all-new adjunct site, The Chess Variants Wiki.
  • Remember Phil Reed's FASERIP project? There's been some delay in completing the project because Mr. Reed has a new day job working for Steve Jackson. While I can totally understand that taking priority, I'm still a little disappointed that Mr. Reed doesn't seem to be sticking to the schedule he outlined to the folks who ponied up his $1000 ransom. Still, I'm told you can download the lastest version of the renamed Four Color system either here or here. FASERIP fans might also be interested in the Guardian OmegaVerse, a supers setting that will be using 4C in future products.
  • A question for the miniatures fans. How much is an unpainted plastic figure worth? The local store has some old 40K gretchins still on the sprue. The asking price is a buck a goblin. Does that sound right?

Moldvay Update

There's been some speculation that, in absence of an obit from a newspaper, that Mr. Moldvay's death may actually be a hoax. According to Jeremy, my contact, the obit he sent me was submitted to the Akron Beacon Journal. I asked him why no one could find it. Here's Jeremy's response:
I don't know that it has been printed yet. I will try to get more of the story from my boss. He said something about the tom not being found for a couple of weeks, and it being cremated before they found the family, and then some kind of disagreement/problems with the funeral home and them not authorizing the printing of the obit yet.

I honestly dont know much about it. Ive never met tom or his sister. I just know my boss Dave told me this story about his brother in law and gave me his pc to see if we could use it for something in our web dev department. I remembered he mentioned something about him writing books and games for D&D in the 80's...and then when I came across all these files and folders that looked like stories and games he had written I decided to research his name. Being a passionately creative person myself whos lifes work is experimental art and music I thought the right thing to do would be to bring his death to the attention of the community that he obviously cared for....and try to find a destination for what very well may be some of his lasts works. I can say honestly on part that it is not a hoax (read the Dragonsfoot forum posts) and I highly doubt my boss would make up this story and bring me this pc with toms names all over the settings and about 12 gigs of sci-fi fantasy games, stories, and pictures. It could be games he played from other people for all I know not being familiar with the RPG game scene. My boss said they also have boxes of manuscripts...but these I have not seen myself. I will try to get you more info as I can...when I can. And I will not reformat the data. I already backed it all up to DVD-R today. I know my boss said that someone even found a way to call his wife after the posting circulated to wish their condolences. Sorry I don’t have some kind of proof for you but I was just trying to do something good and make his scene aware of his passing.

Can you do me a favor and remove my email from any public postings. I really dont have much time to deal with "confirming" his passing. I just wanted to see the guy remembered in the scene he obviously put his life into. I have the data backed on DVDR. If you would like to speak to the family about collecting his materials and building a memorial page for non-profit I can put you in touch.
So it looks like the obit maybe was submitted just recently and hasn't appeared yet. Also, another Dragonsfoot member called Rebecca Welner (who was immortalized in the annals of D&D as the character Sister Rebecca) and is convinced that she is Tom's sister and that Tom has indeed passed away.

As much as I would like Tom Moldvay to be alive, I just don't see what would be gained by a hoax like this. I'm a big fan, as are many other old schoolers, but the guy wasn't exactly at Elvis level celebrity. And so far, no one has tried to reap any financial reward out of this situation. There's no memorial fund collecting donations, no attempt to sell anyone Tom's papers. I've fallen for more than my share of game hoaxes in recent years, but I just don't see what angle a hoaxer can be working based upon these circumstances.

On the other hand, I have no beef with anyone doubting in the absence of clear confirmation. My one request is that the skeptics remain respectful. If Tom really is dead you wouldn't want to say or do anything that would aggravate his already grieving family. Let's all be cool, okay?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Been a long time gone, Paul Crabaugh

Some of you nice readers may recall my article Jeff salutes: Paul Montgomery Crabaugh, my look at some excellent game articles written by an obscure but talented author. Today I got a new comment on that piece:
Paul passed away in August of 1985. He was one of my housemates in Santa Monica after we all graduated from UCLA in the late 70s. His writing style was breezy and easy to read, and he had a sharp wit. He had one unpublished novel, "The Autostart World", and had written a script for Battlestar Galactica (the original series) that he eagerly tried to sell.

Paul was a good friend, and I miss him a lot. Thanks so much for remembering him!

-- Dave Opstad
Cripes, what a day. It's like my childhood is disintegrating around me.

Moldvay Update

Over at Dragonsfoot, Frank Mentzer was asked if he knew anything about Tom Moldvay's death:
I have not yet received confirmation of Tom's passing, although his phone has been disconnected and he didn't reply to my last letter.

Tom always had respiratory problems. We started at TSR on the exact same day, and he complained about the climate right from the start. When we last chatted he mentioned that the problems had been escalating (he had suffered a heart attack about a year ago, for example).

I'll let you know when I receive confirmation. But like you, I find nothing in the Akron Beacon-Journal archives, nor any other news blurb.

more bad news

But at least no one died this time. From paizo:

Today, Wizards of the Coast and Paizo Publishing announced the conclusion of Paizo's license to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines. The magazines will cease publication following the release of the September issues, which ship to subscribers and newsstands in August. The final issues will be Dragon #359 and Dungeon #150.

Wizards of the Coast will be moving the kind of content currently found in Dragon and Dungeon to an online model. Both companies remain on good terms and continue to discuss future opportunities for publishing partnerships.

Moldvay Obit

Tom Moldvay, 58 passed peacefully into his next adventure on March 8th 2007 . Tom was a game designer and author most notable for his work on early materials for the fantasy role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). As an employee of TSR, Inc., he authored or co-authored many landmark D&D adventure modules. During the early 80’s when home computers were not prevalent, Tom was creating thought provoking games that stirred the imagination and were played by thousands of enthusiasts across the country. The Classic Rulebooks and Player’s Handbooks written by Tom had been in print for several years and played so intensely that many gamers had them practically memorized. Odds were that if you’d played a published adventure, most likely you were a fan of Tom Moldvay. Most of those early modules achieved classic status, some of them being collected and reprinted again and again in the years that followed.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Tom graduated from Mayfield High School and went on to receive his Masters degree in Anthropology from Kent State University.

.. Preceded in death by parents Thomas and Selma Moldvay and sister Jody Brown

Tom is survived by his sister, Rebecca (David) Welner of Akron, nieces and nephews, Lauren Welner, Dave Welner, and Kurt Brown Jr.

Toms wishes were to be cremated without a formal service.

Tom Moldvay: Rest In Peace

It is with a heavy heart that I pass on the report of Tom Moldvay's death.
Tom Moldvay recently passed away. I work for his sisters brother-in-law and he brought me his pc to see if there was anything in it that should be saved. There seems to be a ton of partially developed games on it. He said there were boxes and boxes of manuscripts in his apartment where he was found.I know he was a bit of a recluse and I assume all his best friends were through the internet but no one knows his AOL password. We may try to contact AOL and see if there is anything we can do. If anyone knew Tom or anything about his work please get in touch. Any info would be appreciated.I dont know much about the D&D world myself but is obvious he was a big part of many of the books and games. Its obvious this was this life's work I would hate to see it just formatted over or tossed aside.

If so please contact me at [email addy removed because he's getting clobbered with email, I'm still in contact with him]
That's all I know at this time. For those of you new to the blog, I have maintained for years that Mr. Moldvay was one of the great unsung talents of our hobby. Like many gamers around my age, my first RPG was Moldvay's edit of the D&D basic set. Sometime in the 90's he dropped off the map, like so many of the old guard did during the Vampire era. For years I've hoped he would resurface, and there was occasionally talk at Dragonsfoot that someone like Frank Mentzer might be able to get him to be a little more active in public. But looks like that was not meant to be. My condolences to Mr. Moldvay's family in this time of mourning.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Odinsday Update #2: News travels fast

[The following text was emailed to my D&D group.]

By the time your group returns to the town of Osvar, local skalds have already caught wind of your deeds. The bard's tale of how Erik, Hjorek, and Thorne rescued Inga Pure-Maiden (*cough*) from the Ape-Demons doesn't quite match events as they transpired. But retelling the tale nets you some free meads and swooning maidens. After a couple days enjoying your celebrity a new caravan arrives from the west, and Osvar once again becomes a bustling commercial venture with little time for diversions.

Osala the Sagess is delighted to add the kobold's gorilla-idol to her collection of curiosities, and the jolly old dame fills you with cookies and tea. You receive a finder's fee of 100gp and a promise of more if you can supply her with other such oddities. If you have any questions you'd like to put to her, now would be a good time. Keep in mind that I will have to totally make up many answers, so it may take me a while to get back to you.

[I'll post any particularly good lines of inquiry.]

I'm thinking of a number between 4 and 6

6mm Minis - One of my favorite miniatures blogs. Great photos. Not just 6mm scale.

Uncouth Savage Studios - Home of the Awesome Atomosaurs online comic and the Awesome Setting.

The Always Amusing Euphemism Generator - Hey! Who's been soiling the wife's bulldog?!

Crystal Dragon Jesus - I recognized the phenomenon, now I can name it.

Brainwriting - A technique for getting ideas out of the quieter people at the table.

Evil, but generous

Jeff Mejia, also known as the Evil DM (maybe NSFW due to cheesecake), was kind enough to send me his copy of The Spider's Test. Thanks, o Evil one!

I never played Birthright.  It was one of ten thousand settings TSR put out in the 90's and it sort of got lost in the crowd. It must be admitted that I'm one of those snobs that looks down on game fiction. As a guy who reads comic books and watches pro wrestling it's a tad bit silly to be this picky about my stupid fantasy novels. But the game authors of the 90's conspired to make me this way. All those rulebooks with chapters devoted to telling the me the exciting tale of the author's pet NPCs pretty much soured me on any fiction with a gameline logo on the cover. The last game fiction I read would probably be the first few Gord and Dragonlance books. Those came out while I was in high school or maybe junior high.

Well, I did read the entire Cyborg Commando trilogy a couple years ago, but those don't really count because I already knew they were going to be atrocious. Seriously, the only virtue of those books is that their awefulness directly parallels the RPG. Egads.

But if the Evil DM says I would probably like a book, I take that pretty seriously. Even if it is game fiction. He's one of my online buddies who gets Robert E. Howard. And when the guy goes to the trouble of sending me his extra copy, how can I turn up my nose at that? I haven't read the book yet, since I just got it, but you can read the Evil DM's take over here. (Again, scantily clad girls may make that link NSFW for some.)

Later today I hope to get to the post office, so I can return the favor. I happen to have recently acquired a spare copy of a novel in what has become my favorite sci-fi series.

The copy I'm sending Mr. Mejia is in considerably rougher shape than this one, but it's still readable.I don't want to oversell E.C. Tubb's Dumarest of Terra series, since at its heart what you have here is a fairly formulaic and slightly trashy series of adventures in a kinda generic outer space setting. But let me lay out one fact and one opinion that will point to why I love this series.

FACT: Earl Dumarest was the original Traveller protagonist. He bums around the galaxy getting into scraps. In the setting of the novel people who do this are called 'travelers'. And that's not just a coincidence. Other stuff in these books make it clear that this series was on the mind of Miller and crew when Traveller was originally created. Dumarest's weapon of choice? A Blade. It's called a blade in the book and matches the Trav description of that weapon. Dumarest's normal clothes? Cloth armor. His least favorite way to travel? Low Passage cold sleep, which is notoriously dangerous. The universe he travels? A seemingly random jumble of worlds with highly varied populations, governments, and technologies. For Traveller fans this stuff is a golden glimpse into what the game could be like without the massive 3rd Imperium setting.

OPINION: E.C. Tubb was writing Conan in space. This is not a conclusion I came to lightly, but after much consideration. I wouldn't be the least surprised if Tubb's started the series by saying to himself "Hmmmm, Burroughs made a fortune by setting Western stories on Mars. What if I wrote Conan tales but in outer space?" Maybe Conan wasn't Tubb's conscious goal, but man, he sure delivers. Earl Dumarest is your basic Howard style hero: full of life, deadly in a fight, kind when he can be but ruthless where necessary. Dumarest rolls around outer space doing his best to stay alive and unintentionally screwing with the status quo whenever he stumbles onto a world full of corruption and tyranny. If a pretty girl, little kid, or oldster is being victimized, woe unto their tormentors. He'll put his last two credits in a beggar's bowl, then sign up as a pit fighter to make the money for his next passage. Dumarest kicks ass.

Anyway, thanks again, Evil DM!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Speaking of miniatures...

If Avalon Hill/Wizards/Hasbro/Yo Momma ever sold the figures from Menace Menace America as a separate product, I would so buy a set.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Okay, this is cool.

On the eBay I won this book:

I paid a little more than maybe I should have, but I really wanted to re-read this great old chestnut. When it arrived in the mail today it was bundled with a copy of this:

Also enclosed was a note.

I am enclosing an extra book, it did not sell at auction, but maybe you could use it, or give it to someone who wants it.


No, thank you, Sharon.

New (old) comics

I went to the FLGS today in search of an old module, but the place was inexplicably closed. The comic guy who shares space with the gamestore said John (the gamestore owner) probably overslept. Again. Did I mention it was 1:30pm when I arrived.

But the comic dude was more than happy to take my money. And he was running one of those "Please Buy This Old Crap, We Assure You It Is On Sale" sales. Six bucks got me the treasure trove below.

Ray Palmer is John Carter!I don't know much about the Atom outside his one Superfriends appearance. But a dude with a sword fighting a dinosaur to protect a scantily clad alien chick? That's right up my alley. I've got to take a few points off for wearing a loincloth over a standard spandex supersuit. That's got to be some sort of fashion faux pas.

Dare I ask 'who let the dogs out'?Title Undetermined's Wild Dog Week convinced me to give this book a try. Wild Dog is like the Punisher of the DC universe, only he wears a hockey mask and fights terrorists in the Quad Cities. No, seriously.

Doctor Midnight is awesome.I greatly enjoyed the two JSA trades available at the local library, but what really sold me on this was the fact that the pencils are by Mike Parobeck.

Never mind how you feel... I said KILL HIM!If you can look at this cover and not want to read this issue, then I can only assume you are not a fan of stuff that is awesome.

Don't ask-- Just buy!
This cover is like an old 3 Stooges gag.I remember reading on some comics blog a while back about 'Mazing Man. It was a short-lived comedy series about a good-natured dude who just started wearing a funny costume and helping people. I'm a sucker for that kind of tale. Because, really, don't all superhero fans daydream about doing just that? At least once in a while? Hello? Is this thing on?

Hmmm, this may be the first time I've ever gone to the comic store and came back with only DC stuff. I eyed some issues of the original run of Howard the Duck, but the price was too rich for my blood.

Recurring Villains: Super-Science World-Beater's Club

How can you call me mad when everybody I work with acts this way?
The Super-Science World-Beater's Club purportedly started as a campus joke at New Bronze Tech way back in the Age of Pulp. In this early stage even some heroes were members of the club, notably Mr. Phosphorus, Tricky Sam, and the original Science Gal. But sometime in the 30's what had originated as a goofy excuse for bathtub gin parties ("symposia") mutated into an actual clique of villainous scientists bent on global conquest. Despite continuing to operate under a silly name, the Super-Science World-Beaters represent an ongoing threat to truth, justice, and the American Way, whether they are supplying other villains with hi-tech equipment or imperiling the Earth with their own schemes.

Today the Club operates out of underground bunkers, old warehouses, and similar stock villain venues. The organization has become quite hiearchical in recent years, with a three-tier system. At the bottom are the basic lackeys, who are assigned three digit numerical designations such as Minion 201, Guard 512, and Janitor 818. Above these types are those with useful technical skills. Two digit numbers are used for these types, such as Assistant 22, Technician 14, or Intern 57. The top level of the organization is reserved for the mad scientists themselves, who use alphabetical designations. Those with accredited PhDs use the title Doctor, while all others at this level go by Professor. The ultimate authority in the organization rests with The Supreme X, who is actually a pretty easy-going fellow that prefers to be referred to simply as Doctor X in day-to-day communications. For the leader of a secret cabal of mad scientists he's a suprisingly well-adjusted dude.

The greatest strength of the club is that the heroes will never be sure what sort of powers the bad guys will have on tap. One encounter may involve Professor C testing out his Mutato Ray, but the next time they meet the Club it could be Doctor W with a new version of his Brain Helmet. No standard weapons are even given for the guards below, because that wouldn't be as much fun as keeping the players guessing.

The main weakness of the organization is that these guys are all academics with very little sense of organization or ability to lead the grunts of the club. Hell, any operation involving more the one Professor/Doctor almost inevitably leads to squabbling among the mad scientists. A mixed group of Professors and Doctors is particular vulnerable, as the Professors despise the Doctors for their better credentials while the Doctors often try to pull rank. Past Club members that have resigned or been expelled for this behavior include Professor Satan and Zombie Joe.

Typical Minion
Use standard Thug stats. Typical dress for security goons consists of a dark green jumpsuit set off with brightly gloves, bootes, belt, and army-style helmet. The color selected for the accessories is often hideous. The World-Beaters ain't exactly fashion conscious.

Typical Assistant
Fighting: Typical (6)
Agility: Typical (6)
Strength: Typical (6)
Endurance: Typical (6)
Reasoning: Good (10)
Intuition: Typical (6)
Psyche: Typical (6)

Health: 24
Karma: 22
Talents: varies

A simple technician or other lab rat will usually dress in a bright jumpsuit like those poor schmucks trapped on the Satellite of Love. Up-and-coming mad grad students will be dressed as their betters (see below).

Typical Professor/Doctor
Fighting: Poor (4)
Agility: Typical (6)
Strength: Poor (4)
Endurance: Typical (6)
Reasoning: Excellent (20) or better
Intuition: Typical (6)
Psyche: Good (10)

Health: 20
Karma: 36
Talents: Inventor

Standard apparel for these folks is pretty much what you'd expect: white, double breasted Evil Dentist jacket; greeny, rubbery gloves; and coke-bottle goggles. Death Ray in leather holster is optional.

The organization as a whole has at least Incredible ranked resources.

Previous New Bronze City posts
quickie introduction/naming conventions
Space Geezer
Karate Gorilla!

Position filled


Lydia Spencer, Agent 799

Thanks for all the suggestions for an actress to play my female James Bond 007 pregen. I decided to go with Mary Tamm because her protrayal of Romana on Dr. Who reflected exactly what I was looking for in this character: slightly snobbish but amazingly competent, with a razor sharp dry wit. I'll admit that I toyed with the idea of giving this character a silly Bond Girl name. But she's not a Bond Girl, is she? This character is a full-fledged MI6 agent like the rest of the PCs and saddling her with a name like Chastity Naughtybottom would be completely unfair.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Traveller Warship Minis!

Big ups to David Johansen for mentioning this item over at theRPGsite forums. Some folks running an outfit called Genre Webshop are putting out fleet boxes of Traveller capital ships! Here's the best pics I can find so far:

"This fleet box, built around the awesome firepower of the Plankwell battleship includes three Azhanti High Lightnings, an assortment Gionetti Light Cruisers, and the Fer De Lance and Crysanthemum escort destroyers."

Even in this tiny shot the AHL, Plankwell, and Gionetti are immediately recognizable.
"The Zhodani Consulate are one of the most distinctive factions of the Traveller universe. This fleet box is the first clear visualization of the Zhodani shipbuilding aesthetic and style, and has the Vipechakl battleship, Kevchenzh armored cruisers, Zhdavldlitz light cruisers, and Zhdiak Light Destroyers."

The bulk tanker among the Zhos is a future release. All these pics are CGI, but as I understand it the CGI data is being used to produce the figures. So hopefully they'll actually look a lot like these fake-ups. Isn't CAD/CAM awesome? The disc on the ground is the same diemensions as a U.S. 25 cent piece. (That's roughly 23mm or so for you folks not familiar with the American quarter.) Each fleet box is sixty bucks and pre-orders are being taken here, with the product release expected in late spring or early summer.

What's great about these fleets is that they are very distinctive to the Traveller fan (Did any Trav fellers miss the Azhanti class in those pics? I doubt it.) but they also work just fine as generic sci-fi vessels. I'd feel just fine using these figures in, say, a SpaceMaster campaign, whereas I'd think a table full of Star Trek figures would be too distracting.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Help wanted: British Spy Dame


The idea here is that he had some field experience before transfering to Q branch.Algernon Smith, Agent 1123


McGoohan insists that Number 6 and Danger Man were not the same characters.  But what does he know? John Drake, Agent 706


'Pay no attention to the fact that I turn villain for a later movie.'

Alec Trevelyan, Agent 722

That's three of the four MI6 agents for my James Bond 007 scenario. But I still need a sassy Brit chick who can pull her own weight in the espionage game. Preferably, it would be someone who could play the part in the year 198x without her seeming out of time. My first thought was Diana Rigg (who is timeless), but upon further consideration that struck me as a little creepy since she was "killed" while playing Tracy Bond in On Her Majesty's Secret Service. Anybody got any other suggestions?

Kathleen, this PC is for your use. Do you have any strong preferences?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Beyond Vinland, session 2

The adventure opens with the warriors three (Erik the Conqueror, Hjorek Hafgarson, and Grandfather Thorne) chillaxin' down at the meadhall. Erik is doing his best to impress Inga Vast-tracks, the barmaid, with his tales of how he almost conquered the kobolds last session, while Hjorek is dropping some mad Norse rhymes. Meanwhile Grandpa is eyeing the Mysterious Elf sipping wine in the corner. No one knows for sure where Zoyd Sampson is to be found, but there's a rumour floating around the Keep that the local lord's daughter has taken a shining to him.

Suddenly, an ill wind starts blowing in from the direction of the Canyon of Chaos. On its accursed breeze floats an eerie chanting. Kuvartma! Kuvartma! Tekeli-li! Kuvartma! Ia! Before the full import of this omen may be ascertained, there's a crash like thunder as a huge inhuman thing bursts through the rafters of the hall will a howl from the very pits of Hel itself. It's shape is not completely unlike a great ape, but with the additions of curving horns and batlike wings. The barmaid screams.

The assembled adventurers spring into action, but they are caught unprepared. They have no armor girding their loins and their fiercest weapons are not at hand. Still, they mount what defense they can. The enigmatic elf has a bow at hand and immediately begins firing arrows into the nightspawned abomination, but most of the volley bounces off the creature's preternatural hide. Hrojek and Eric, unprepared though they be, leap into the fray, engaging the hellbeast in close combat. For that they pay dearly. Each of these braves heroes is struck down by claw and fang.

Hoo, boy. This was heading towards a TPK and it was all my fault. Being short a man and not having their armor on really hurt the ability of the PCs to fight Kuvartma's Messenger. At one point Erik was legally dead, but since I had engineered this disaster I felt duty bound to undo that. I'm usually not shy about these things, so I announced "The elf pours a Potion of DM Fiat down your throat and you're not quite dead."

'Gorilla' by Emmanuel Fremiet is a classic in the A-Monkey-Stole-Your-Girlfriend genre.While the two fighting men are down the winged monster reaches out a mighty paw and grabs the girl. Her screams echo throughout the keep. In a moment the thing takes to the air with its captive and wings its way through the moonlit sky towards the caverns. Most of the heroes want to immediately stage a rescue on the monster's home turf, at night. But cooler heads argued that the party is already grievously wounded and such a task would be suicide. Everyone begrudgingly agrees to the wisdom of this strategem, despite the additional danger a delay might pose to Inga.

The three heroes set out for the Canyon at the first light of the next day. The Mysterious Elf is nowhere to be found. The fresh tracks in the mud in front of the kobold-occupied cave are much too large for any small humanoid to have made. Entering the cave, the adveturers are pleasantly surprised to find no guards posted in the first room. In fact, an exploration of a large portion of the cave complex shows several areas to be empty. There are even some signs of rooms being recently cleared of contents. Several mysteries are investigated but not fully understood, such as kobold-barricaded door with nothing but a strange corpse beyond and a single horizontal metal bar across a passageway entrance (which they figure out later was an old curtain-rod).

Finally, our heroes see some action. The come across a large chamber with a sizeable pool in the center and two other ways out. At the pool are four kobold women filling buckets of water. At the double doors across the room are two kobold guards. As the washer-women flee up the stairs one kobold guard charges Hjorek while the other summons help from beyond the guarded door. Grandpa Thorne judiciously chucks a spell grenade (sonic burst, IIRC) up the stairs and into the guardroom where the kobold females had fled. Meanwhile Erik and Hjorek were acAlthough the players assumed he was a sorcerer, the leader was really an Adept who kept a lot of zappy spells prepared.ross the room dealing with enemies appearing from beyond the doors. Eerie chanting could be heard from the other side as kobolds in ceremonial garb rushed out to engage the heroes with their wicked little spears. The robed leader of the kobolds eventually appeared, firing laser beams of pure anti-matter from his hands.

While Thorne the Dwarf's sonic attack had delayed enemy action from the stairway, it did not halt it. Eventually a dozen or so hardy kobold warriors rushed down the stairs and Thorne drew a line in the sand, intent on holding them off so his allies would not find themselves surrounded. At an opportune moment Erik used his magic to enlarge the dwarf, but still the kobolds attempted to outmaneuver him. Several waded into the water, but they were cut down by Thorne's axe, turning the pool into gorey chum.

Hjorek, channeling the might of ancient heroes, pushes through the kobold mob at the doors to engage the sorcerous leader. But this old kobold is canny, and falls back while blasting Hjorek with mystic flames. Eventually our hero can see into the room down the hall. It is an unholy shrine of some sort. Two kobold acolytes chant over a naked Inga, who is chained to a bloodstained altar under a crude wooden statue of a winged gorilla. Later these two altar boys would attempt to sneak through the melee and flee, only for Erik to take time from his busy kobold-fighting schedule to brain the both of them.

After much hullabaloo the spellslinging kobold is slain, along with one of his two elite warrior cronies. The other elite kobold, grievously wounded, offers a truce in crude Common "Spare me. Show treasure." Erik hesitates for a moment and Hjorek walks up behind the poor little bastard and knocks him out with the pommel of his sword. The six or so remaining kobolds are slain, with the exception of a single kobold warrior who dives into the pool of water and is not seen afterwards.

The post-battle party was kinda rough around the edges. In keeping with his personal goal of ridding the continent of all the monsters, Erik dispatched all the non-combatant kobolds he could catch. It was suggested that he had sex with Inga on the altar. While it strikes me as ridiculously unrealistic to think she'd be in the mood under the circumstances, the idea did fit in pretty well with the Conan groove we were operating under. I took 'the monster grabs the girl' right out of the R.E. Howard playbook, so we might as well see the situation all the way through.

The spared kobold really did lead the party to the secret treasure trove. The wee git is killed when the party insists he open the chests. The first three go just fine. They contain copper pieces, silver pieces, and rock candy. Kobolds love rock candy, didn't you know? The fourth chest was full of trap, and the kobold fell over with a face and chest full of dart wounds. The last chest had some gold in it. The kobold leader also had a wand of cure moderate wounds and a magic amulet on a chain that has the properties of giving a +1 natural amor bonus and as well as a refillable necklace of missiles.

The party ended the session by travelling to the town of Osvar, where they sold the kobold's ape-idol to Osala the Sagess. She's got a passing interesting in the religious practices of humanoids.

Other than the near-miss with the Total Party Kill, I had a pretty darned good time. The players seemed to be digging it as well. Now that the kobolds have been eradicated we can turn our attentions to other parts of the Canyon of Chaos. Doug also suggested that an eventual goal for the party should be to found their own settlement. That sounds pretty cool to me, and well within the scope of our Viking colony theme.