Monday, December 26, 2011


Sitting in Narita airport, stocking rooms in my Megadungeon.  It's as good a way as any to spend layover time.

Friday, December 23, 2011

My Unexpected Christmas Bonus

Today was the Christmas party for the kids at my kindergarten.  And as usual, after the explanation of Christmas, Quiz Game, cello performance, giving of gifts by "the Santa Brothers" (us five foreign teachers), crafts, games, face painting, and all that sort of stuff -- we had the "Christmas Market."

We'd been awarding fake dollars to the kids all month, and this was their chance to use them.  Amongst the pens, pencils, cheap toys, and Angry Birds and Rilakkuma goods, were these fine educational toys:
Not sure why Blogger put this in portrait when it's landscape on my hard drive
Scooped up six packs.  One's a stocking stuffer for my son, the rest are mine!  Mine!  MINE!!!

And yes, I've got plenty of dollar store d6s to finish out the sets.

There are also more packs at the school, but I didn't want to seem greedy.  I may grab a few more when I return to work in January after the vacation.

And that reminds me - I'm heading back to the States from the 26th to the 30th, so likely won't post anything here.  I will post about the reason for the trip though when I get back (or depending on internet access and time, while I'm there).

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Woke up to find two emails, one from Daxiong, another from Lee, both about Flying Swordsmen.

Daxiong hadn't been on Deviant Art for a long time, so didn't see my message.  He finally checked it, and emailed me the picture with no watermark.  Which is good, because I'd already wasted a day trying to remove the watermark manually, and was not doing such a good job.

Lee has sent me a couple versions of cover designs he's created.  We're still working on them, but he's got some good ideas and the cover is going to look sharp.

What do you think, folks?

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Wretched Hive of Scum and Villainy

or, Of Owlbears, Laughing Ghosts and Necromancers

We had our second Pathfinder session yesterday, and it went fairly well.  We had two new players.  Marc found out about the game through this blog, and Jesse is a friend of Greg's who was at the bookstore the last time we played, teaching another guy how to play Axis and Allies.  Marc had a Dwarf Cleric, and Jesse had an Elf Alchemist (a cool but strange class from a PF splatbook, I take it).

Our motley group returned to the mining town that is full of evil lowlifes and of course got into trouble.  Our Sorcerer Toki went to find out if our dead torchbearer (he fell down a pit trap) was really the sheriff's nephew.  He was, and the sheriff decided to shake down Toki for it.  He threatened to arrest the sorcerer if he didn't fork over 100gp.

Plato, our half-elf Thief, wanted to fence his strange black glassy rocks, and lost one to a greedy dwarf miner who he asked to appraise it.  He tried to swipe it back when the dwarf refused to return it, and earned the ire of that mining company. 

Oxide, the warforged Fighter, went to get repaired.

My Paladin, Elwood, went to see Allistan our employer, gave him copies of our maps, details of what we'd explored, handed in some historical artifacts (which he paid us for), and got our magic items identified.  That's where Allistan introduced our new cohorts, Ragnar the Dwarf and... can't remember the Elf's name, something -lad.

My Paladin took his earnings and bought some gear, and a little present for the prostitute who had shared the information he needed the night before.  She accepted the gift, and asked what I wanted.  I told her it was just a gift.  She said she had some spare time.  I took her up on her offer.  Good thing, too, otherwise I might have risked losing my abilities.

While I was carousing, everyone else decided to lay an ambush for the sheriff (who must have tons of gold if he's shaking down Toki for 100!).  They didn't want to confront him on the street, so they staked out the sheriff's office, waited until he left, and then planned to wait inside to trap or kill him, and rob him.

They couldn't get the lock open.  So they had to settle for Toki lighting the papers on his desk on fire, then running away.

We finally headed back to the Cairn, and used the colored lanterns to open the way to the real tomb.  But the next room was a trap where both my Paladin and Greg's Rogue went down to damage from the trap and a monster, and a laughing ghost told us the way was barred and only he could open the lock.  And he'd only do it if we took his bones and buried him with his family.

Of course, that wasn't simple.  We found his family's farmstead.  His family had died of a plague 30 odd years before, but their graves were freshly disturbed and empty.  And something was lurking in the farmhouse.  After another fight, we ended up with a pet owlbear cub (or is it chick?).  Oxide and Elwood want to raise it, everyone else wants to sell it.  We also found a clue as to who the grave robbers were, a local gang led by an albino half-orc named Cullen (sparkly jokes ensued).

We leveled up at this point.

Cullen and his gang were beat up from their owlbear encounter, but they outnumbered us counting their dogs, and I had a feeling they weren't a 'level appropriate' challenge, so we got the information that we needed and after a heated discussion of whether or not we should try to kill them anyway by locking them in their basement and setting it on fire (again, at risk to my Paladin status), we let them be for the time being and set off to find the necromancer they were grudgingly assisting, who had stolen the ghost's family's remains.

We ended the night by capturing the necromancer, but not without cost.  We lost our poor Alchemist whose name was too long for me to remember (I'd just been thinking of him as 'Lad until I got a chance to get used to his name).  Zombies tore his poor elven head off after he was paralyzed by a spell.

Jeremy was again surprised that my Paladin took the evil necromancer prisoner instead of slaying him.  Well, it was tactically sound.  Oxide had ran off from a fear spell, the Alchemist was dead, the Sorcerer was nauseated, the Rogue was toe-to-toe with two zombies, the Cleric with two more, and I had been hit by a wand of enervation sapping my strength.  Also, we can try to get some information from him, and if I feel his crimes merit it, we can execute him later.  Or someone else can slit his throat while I'm not there to stop them.  I'm not trying to play my Paladin in a way that will hinder everyone else, but at the same time I'm not gonna play him as some bloodthirsty unthinking ass who slays everyone he pings as evil simply because they're evil.

Besides, I think keeping him alive for now will be more fun.

The place was closing by that time, so we'll interrogate our prisoner and then bury the bones, maybe deal with the gang or maybe not, and then see if we can get more than just one more room of the dungeon explored.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brave Sir Robin Ran Away

So, a little while back, Zak S. posted four little words that spawned as of this writing 66 comments.  He later added a Venn Diagram that spawned a few more.  He doesn't like the Bard class.

And he makes a good point, but also shows off his own blinders in his latter comments and the second post.  He seems to limit is conception of the Bard to the picture from the 2E PHB.  While any other class can be given a unique personality, he seems to think bards only conform to this image:
And Zak's right that this image is laughable.
The reason Bards suck, though, is less to do with the above image and more to do with the wide variety of ways they've been implemented, and the contrast between the mythic, legendary, and modern fictional sources.

Bards suffer from trying to cram too much stuff into one class.  In 1E, they were (as most of you know) a nearly impossible class to achieve, needing to gain several levels in Fighter, then Thief, then Druid (and needing the ability scores for all that dual classing, which were higher than the Bard's requirements IIRC).  And what did you get for all that effort?  Some Lore abilities, and Magical Music.

2E turned it into the Jack of All Trades, with a bit of Fighter, a bit of Thief, and a bit of Magic-User right from the beginning.  But as the JOAT, he is of course master of none.  Oh, and then there's the Lore and Magical Music.

3E continued in the 2E vein.  4E, I don't know, don't care.  Someone else can comment if they want.

My own houseruled Bard started out as a variant of the Classic D&D Elf class (a Fighter/Magic-User) for Human PCs, but then somehow morphed into the Cleric/Thief role.  And I'm not 100% satisfied with it, and no one has yet tried to play one at my table.

But what were bards historically?  What mythic/legendary/fictional sources do we have to build the archetype around for this class?

Historical bards were court poets and lore-keepers.  Not much record of them being warriors, rascals, or spellcasters.  There were some Victorian scholars who posited that bards were a sub-sect of the druid, serving as a sort of priest-judge in Celtic societies, but that's been discredited, I think (and I gave away the books I read that in, so I can't source it - take it with a grain of salt).  There were also historical scops (Anglo-Saxon), scalds (Norse), troubadours (French), minstrels (English), etc.  They were poets and singers of various sorts, usually telling heroic tales of the current lord or king's ancestors.  Again, basically lore-masters.  In pre-literate societies, these guys were living Kindles.

Based on this, the D&D Bard would best be a type of Specialist NPC.  Someone you hire to sing your praises and those of your illustrious ancestors (real or imagined) to increase your renown. 

In myth and legend, though, we do have lots of instances of magical music.  Amergin sings the seas calm so the Milesians can invade Ireland.  Orpheus was able to charm people and beasts with his songs and stories, and also provides the idea of the "bardic countersong" by helping the Argonauts pass the Sirens.  Taliesin was supposed to have the gift of prophecy and transformation.  Towards the end of the Volsung Saga, Gunnar plays a harp with his toes to keep poisonous snakes away.

These mythic sources could just as easily be covered by the Cleric and Magic-User classes in D&D, with just flavor from the player that the spells are created with magic-infused music instead of the traditional D&D hand-waving and flinging of bat poop.

We also have less magical legends and fictional characters of musicians who adventure.  Alan-a-Dale in the Robin Hood cycle, Sir Dagonet the Fool in the Matter of Britain, and the image of the wandering minstrel or troubadour.  These guys don't use magic, they aren't lore-masters, but they wander around and sing songs and get into trouble.

In D&D terms, again, these guys should likely just be Fighters or Thieves with a talent for singing.

Finally, we get some instances in fantasy fiction of actual bard characters, or magic accomplished through song.  Fflewddur Fflam of The Prydain Chronicles is a would-be-bard, who wanders around with his magical harp getting into trouble.  This was my first introduction to the concept of a bard, and it is one of the reasons why I like the idea of having a Bard class in the game.  Another source for music-as-magic is Tolkien, where Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, as well as the Elves, make 'magic' through song, and in the Silmarillion we learn that Middle-Earth was created by song, so music is the stuff of creation.

So, various versions of D&D throughout the years have tried to meld these distinct images together into one class.  And some people like it, some hate it.

My thoughts?  At the moment, I'm thinking my idea to make the lore-master/poet into an NPC specialist (who may follow you around and sing your praises, and provide snacks in hardship as with Brave Sir Robin's minstrels) is a good one.

Otherwise, as Zak suggested, just add some musical talent to your PC (of whatever class) and be a bard that way.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Paladin, yes, that's a Paladin

We'll be playing our next session of Brian's Pathfinder game next Sunday.  At the end of the last session, there were a few questions by the other players about how I was playing my Paladin. 

Specifically, when we were given our offer of employment by the sage, in a brothel, the sage mentioned that he had paid for the room for the night, and any of us that wished could stay.  My PC was the only one who did.  Of course, while he was enjoying himself, he also used the opportunity to gather information from the lovely ladies there.

What can I say, I'm modeling his personality on Elwood Blues and Johnny Cash, and he's a Paladin of Myrlund, who is a fantasy Cowboy.  It seemed to be an action perfectly in character, and Brian agreed with my logic. 

Now, this is not a post to get into the inherent morality or ethicality of prostitution.  What it is a post about is to show that one can be a Paladin without being a stick-in-the-mud, or an overzealous moron.  The last thing I want to do in a game is play Lawful Stupid and ruin everyone else's fun by forcing them to play along to some overly restrictive moral code.

Anyway, here's a good post I found today about how Paladins should really be played, found via the Hitting Dirtside blog.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Luddites from Beyond the Grave!

Halloween's over, but my blog has apparently just been visited by a Luddite from Beyond the Grave.  That should be good inspiration for someone's game somewhere.

In other news, tomorrow is my 38th birthday, and also the 27th anniversary of me getting the Mentzer Basic Set.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Stupid Random Shower Thought

Yesterday morning, as I was in the shower, this hit me:

In fantastically awesome (yeah, some of you are saying fantastically cheesy, that's OK, there's no accounting for taste) 80's fantasy movie Krull...

...could we possibly have an unofficial prequel to...

...Star Wars?

Well, hear me out!  Don't click that back button yet.

Think about it.  In Krull, we have this prophecy:
From the sky will come the Black Fortress. From the Fortress will come the Slayers to devour the planet of Krull. Then shall a girl of ancient name become queen...she shall choose a king...and together they shall rule the planet. And their son shall rule the galaxy.
We have Clarke's Law magic (alien technology being used on a medieval tech level world).
Yet we have an actual 'magical' power that allows the hero to move things telepathically (the glaive), resist damage (sticking his hand into lava), and control energy (the wedding flame).  More or less what the Force can do in Star Wars.

Could Palpatine be Colwyn and Lyssa's child?  Taken from them (or they fled Krull) to Naboo (not than anyone knew about Naboo, even George Lucas, back in 1983), and he eventually becomes a Dark Lord of the Sith and rules the galaxy.

Daddy could shoot fire from his hands, son could shoot lightning.

Why are you looking at the screen that way?  I told you in the title this was a stupid thought. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cover Mockup Pt. 2

Here's a version taking into account some of the suggestions my first attempt landed.  Looking at it now, I'm thinking the Chinese should actually be above the English in the title.  And I'm not sure if the crimson-ish font works or not.  Suggestions, please!

Lee B, if you're interested in making a logo and need some more input - like stroke order for writing the characters or whatnot - email me. the_boy_from_illinois [at] yahoo [dot] com

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Some art and calligraphy

Here's an inked composite image of the two kung fu dudes I presented earlier on the blog.  Toying around with coloring it in GIMP, but not too happy with the results.  I'll likely just keep it black and white.

And Lee B, here are the Chinese characters for Flying Swordsmen written big, in both thick marker and fine-tip marker.

I'm kinda excited to see what Lee might come up with for a logo. Of course, I'm going to have a professional looking cover and a very amateurish interior, but hey, you'll be getting more than what you pay for with Flying Swordsmen. Cause you'll be paying nothing and getting some pretty cool rules for making D&D into a wuxia-style game.