Monday, December 31, 2012

Board Game Review: Shadows Over Camelot

Sunday last week, as well as yesterday, I went out to the local English used bookstore/cafe to play board games.  I haven't made it out to a board game meet-up in a long time, and the Busan Board Game club has now climbed up to 50 members on the Facebook page.  It's become a thing.

Anyway, Josh is back in town and he brought a few games, and Bill took advantage of sales on an internet vendor's site and bought a bunch of new games as well.  So I had the chance to play five new (to me at least) games.

The first game we played was Shadows Over Camelot, by Days of Wonder.  This is a cooperative game with an (obviously) Arthurian theme.  The object is for the various knights of the Round Table to go on quests.  Success results in earning white swords to put on the table.  Failure gains black swords.  If the table is full and there are more black swords (or twelve catapults are placed in front of Camelot by the besiegers), the players lose.  Earn 7 or more white swords before there are 12 catapults and the players win.

The wrinkle in the game comes from the Traitor mechanic, which we actually didn't use last week because it was a first run sort of game to learn the rules.  We had planned to play the full game yesterday, but unfortunately Josh couldn't make it.  Anyway, in the full game, one player could possibly be a traitor, trying to sabotage the various quests.

Sidenote: Josh, if you're reading this, and you've got time to play this week, I'm on vacation.  Let's make it happen.

The physical components are really high quality, including some nice plastic figures for the Knights, Saxons and Picts, and the catapults.  DoW even produces and sells the knight figures separately and I may pick up that set just to use for gaming.  They're larger than normal gaming minis, but then my collection is fairly haphazard anyway.  The boards (main board and various side quest boards) all look nice, and the cards are nicely sized as well (unlike, say, Arkham Horror, which has so many cards that they needed to make them all tiny).

I'd been waiting for a chance to play this game for several years.  I had even talked about it on my radio show - way back when I had a radio show.  I wasn't disappointed.  Even playing it knowing there wasn't a traitor, it was fun and challenging.  We managed to win, but it wasn't a given.  If you're in to cooperative board games, it's definitely worth trying out.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Beast of the Week: Father Time

Here it is folks, the final one!  52 weeks, and 52 new monsters for D&D.  I'll try to get the .pdf compilation ready over my vacation (this coming week).

Anyway, for the end of the year, here's Father Time.

Father Time*
AC: -2 (22)
HD: 15+2***
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 weapon or 1 touch
Damage: by weapon+3/aging
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: F15
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: H
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 4200

Father Times are grizzled old men with long flowing beards, typically wearing somber hooded robes and carrying a scythe.*  They are only harmed by magical weapons and spells, and are immune to spells of 3rd level or less.  In combat, they may attack with their scythe or may touch a target, causing either 10-40 years of aging (as a Ghost), or 10 years of reversed aging (as a potion of longevity).  They may also use the following spells as a 15th level caster:  Haste/Slow, Dispel Magic at will, Timestop 1/Turn, Disintegrate, Teleport 3/day.  Any creature slain by aging cannot be raised by any means short of a Wish spell.  Any creature slain by reverse aging transforms into a Baby New Year, a cherub-like sprite with 1HD but similar resistances and spell powers as a Father Time.  If the Father Time is slain but the Babies New Year are not, on the next New Year's Day, one Baby transforms into a new Father Time. 

*treat as a battle axe for systems that don't have it listed and use variable weapon damage, two handed, 1d8 damage

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Stak is Back!

Yes, Thidrek the Sleestak is back in action in Justin's Vaults of Ur campaign.  Last Saturday we had another session, and since Fantasmo the Luchador went to the square circle in the sky, Thidrek returned from his short hiatus.

And with Justin's combination of typical Ur wackiness, Stars Without Number as a base rule-set, and feats for Warriors from Spears of the Dawn, Thidrek now is back in classic naked sleestak form, having ditched the banded mail for his newly improved sleestak reflexes. 

This session, despite inviting numerous other players, the only players were myself, Dean - playing the Venerable Carolus of course, and Jeremy - still chugging away with Borg the Orc Pitfighter.  Ralex the NPC Fighter and Robert's mage Yargrob Elderbob (also being NPCed since Robert couldn't make it) and Yargrob's attack beetle were there as well.

Well, the party was on the shore of the underground river when we left off the last session, trying to remove goo from arms and armor.  Thidrek conveniently washed up on shore.  Since everyone but Thidrek was in bad shape, they decided to rest up.  During Thidrek's watch, he heard lots of noises - yelling, hooting, hollering - and when he went to investigate, he saw lots of strange movement to the west (toward the severed but still living head pillar and giant renegade beetle's lair).  He woke up Ralex and Burg, but after brief consultation decided not to press things. 

During Ralex's watch, undercity dwellers attacked.  One of them was flinging paralytic slime from a sling and Elderbob was hit.  We managed to kill the slinger and the others retreated.  We went on the offensive, with Elder Karl casting striking on Thidrek's crossbow, and the Sleestak using his stealth to try to scout out the underdwellers' tunnels while the rest of the party took care of the screaming heads on the pillar.  Also, the giant renegade beetle's body was there, hacked to pieces and its head atop the pillar.  Must have been what happened on Thidrek's watch.

Anyway, Thidrek got too far ahead of the party and a worm-centaur thing attacked.  One max damage crossbow bolt with striking and one nasty gash from the worm-thing's mantis-like arms sent both parties into a fighting withdrawal.  As the rest of the party caught up, we got to the top (we think) of the tunnels, but found too many branching corridors to feel safe with a blitzkrieg style attack.  We retreated all the way to behind the door we could only open with the magical key. 

After a bit of scouting to see if things were more or less safe, we rested again.  Exploring these tunnels after the rest, we encountered more of the pillar-slime things that killed Fantasmo.  Yargrob was able to communicate with them by name-dropping some of Ur's famous past residents that the party had learned of.  They seemed to be responding.  Little did we know that they were actually trying to herd us into a trap (which they did).

Anyway, we finally came to a room with a large pool of clear liquid.  Unsure, Thidrek decided to test it on his Level 3 chicken (a long story).  The pool was acidic and the chicken lost its head.  The last one, poor thing.  Thidrek and crew will not let its death go for naught.  Thidrek knows the 11 secret herbs and spices, after all...

Anyway, the pool was of course a monster and it attacked, along with the pillar things from all but one of the passages out of the chamber.  With Karl and Yargrob paralyzed, we managed to sever the pseudopods trying to drag them into the water and ran up the unguarded passage... to a dead end.

There was another room with a black water pool.  No other exits.  Looking around, we noticed the eight-pointed star symbol of our magical key on a floor tile.  Popping it in, the pool changed color, showing us a room in another location, as if seen from inside the floor.  After tossing in an iron spike, Borg took the plunge.  We could see him through the portal.  We all came through.  Our last minute plan to pull the key out with us using a length of chain didn't work, however.  We'll need to try to locate another key.

But for now, we're on a small island to the north of the Golden Pyramid (AKA much farther than we've ever been from Fort Low and with lots of hostile territory between us and home) but we're out of the damn tunnels.  To be continued...

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beast of the Week: Chaob

On this day that the Mayans did not predict would be the end of the world, but many people falsely believe that they did (and I'm still here typing this at 20 minutes to midnight local time), how about a Beast inspired by Mayan mythology?  There's not much out there, but a quick Google search netted me the idea.  The Chaob, the four gods of the winds, were said to be able to one day destroy the world.  Sounds appropriate.  Now to turn them into a monster for D&D!

AC: 0 (20)
HD: 5**
Move: 120 (40) fly 480 (160)
Attacks: 2 blows
Damage: 1d10/1d10
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d4)
Save As: F5
Morale: 9 or more
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 425

Chaob are transparent, blue humanoid figures from the Elemental Plane of Air.  They are slightly larger than humans, averaging 7' tall.  They can fly naturally at great speed.  In combat, they attack with buffets of wind from their fists.  Each can also use the following magical powers:  Slow 3/day, Ice Storm/Wall 3/day, Hold Monster 1/day, Earthquake 1/week.  When encountered in groups, Chaob tend to be more aggressive.  Reduce reaction rolls by 1 and increase morale by 1 for each chaob in a group beyond the first.  If they do not attack immediately, chaobs can be bargained with to perform services for parties, but only if they can be paid in magic items or art objects of at least 1,000 gp value for each hour of service rendered.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Simple answers

I was reading this article on Time's website about D&D and why it's not more popular than it is.

Of course, they mention the problem of the uninitiated person asking, "So, how do you win?"

In the past, every time I've been asked that question, I went into some paraphrase of Frank Mentzer's Basic Set about how there's no win conditions, you keep playing the same character, blah blah blah. 

Probably lost more players than I gained that way.

From now on, I'm going to give a simple answer whenever I hear that question.

Q: So how do you win?

A: By playing.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Movie Review - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

My wife and I dropped off our son at his grandparents' house this morning and went to an early showing of The Hobbit.  We saw it in 48fps (no choice, a buddy in Japan told me it's only available in standard 24fps there) 2D.  We considered IMAX, but it was IMAX 3D and we are not (as you'd probably guess if you read most of my movie reviews) not fans of 3D, especially for a three hour movie. 

Standard Warning:  Due to the title of this blog, I get lots of web search hits from people wanting to know if there are "curse words" in movies I've reviewed.  Rest assured, parental unit types, this is from Tolkien so there are no curse words in the movie.  That said, this is also from Peter Jackson so there are plenty of lopped off body parts (the reason our 4-year-old stayed behind).

Now on to the review.  I doubt this will be spoiler free, because I assume most of my readership has read the book.  But we'll see.  If I get to the end and didn't spoil anything, I'll delete these sentences.

Did you like Jackson's Lord of the Rings movies?  I sure did.  Yes, they don't follow the books as closely as they could even considering the liberties that need to be taken to transfer a book to film.  If you liked LotR, you'll get more of the same from The Hobbit (at least from this first part). 

Technical stuff first.  The 48fps took a bit of adjusting to.  At first, there were lots of fast camera sweeps and the high frame rate made them very blurry, but my eyes seemed to adjust after a little while.  The images were - how to best describe it? - crisper than a normal 24fps movie.  I wonder if this will indeed become the new standard or not.  It might require higher CGI budgets for romantic comedies to hide all the little blemishes on the actors and actresses! 

The cinematography was gorgeous.  Again, very similar to LotR.  A few locations "in the wild" even seemed like some of the locations from LotR (of course The Shire, Rivendell, and the road between did cover the same path).  The amazing New Zealand landscapes alone make it worth the price of admission IMO.  The fact that we're getting Professor Tolkien's works put up on the big screen in a loving manner is just icing on the cake (OK, hyperbole there, the landscapes are the icing on the Tolkien cake).

Some people have complained that there are too many dwarves and that they aren't all distinguishable.  Well, I say read the book.  Ask me to tell you about the dwarves in The Hobbit (the book) and I can tell you off the top of my head on any given day:
Thorin is the pompous ass
Balin is the resourceful and sensible one
Filli and Killi are the young brash ones who seem to do all the work
Bombur is the fat one
Gloin is... um, Gimli's dad
The rest are there...
Now, as for the fact that many of the dwarves don't look like typical dwarves, this is a good thing!  These dwarves seemed more real by not all having long ZZ Top style beards.  Just like the actors playing hobbits were more or less as varied as typical humans (counting all the extras in Hobbiton in LotR), we see that dwarves are "people" even if they aren't human. 

Now, on to the story.  It's good.  It more or less sticks to the book, and I can see why certain changes were made for the screen.  The pacing was good for an action movie, but this is one of the movie's failings, I think.  The Hobbit is not an action story, it's an adventure story.  PJ added in lots of extra fighting to make it "more exciting" but that's not the sort of story Tokien told.  The Hobbit (the book) really shows JRRT's fondness for Haggard's Alan Quatermain stories.  The basic pacing is travel-explore-action.  By splitting the story into three parts, they felt the need to ramp up the action.  Likely they would have ramped up the action anyway, but if they'd kept it to one or two movies, they could have condensed to just the action scenes if that's the way they wanted it played out.  Oh well, the movie's not perfect, but it was still pretty good.

One good thing about stretching the movie out was that they were able to include some unnecessary but cool scenes, like for instance the Stone Giants.  Of course, PJ kinda overdid it, but it was fun to watch.  Reminiscent of the Moria staircase. 

Another thing they could have done away with was the frame story, with old Bilbo telling Frodo about how Smaug came to Erebor, which is of course shown with Bilbo's narration over it.  Cool, and they kept Smaug mostly off camera - gotta build up excitement for the next installment! - but since we learn all of that stuff in the story as Bilbo learns it, it was kinda unnecessary. 

Some of the other additions, like making Azog the Orc actively hunting down Thorin and Co. and the scenes involving Radagast the Brown and his jack rabbit sled adds more of a sense of continuity for those unfamiliar with the book, I suppose.  It also allows for more fight scenes.  I'm sure that when we get to The Battle of Five Armies and the White Council's battle with the Necromancer, these now apparently extraneous set-ups will pay off.

Despite the flaws, the movie was exciting, beautiful, funny, and moving.  And it's not even a complete story!  While it ended at a fairly good place to end action-wise, with the party just past the Misty Mountains on the borders of Wilderland, as far as the emotional development/character arcs go, it was sort of a lukewarm ending. 

I really enjoyed this first chapter of The Hobbit.  And as I said above, if you enjoyed PJ's take on Middle-Earth in the Lord of the Rings movies, you should enjoy this.  If you didn't like PJ's LotR, you likely won't enjoy this one either.  As for me, Dec. 2013 and "The Desolation of Smaug" can't come soon enough!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Beast of the Week: Tupilaq

Inuit legends give us our Beast for this week.  I had been looking around for a Tolkien-inspired creature because I'm going to see The Hobbit tomorrow, but decided to stick with the winter/cold themed creatures for another week.  The Tupilaq was a magical construct created by Inuit shamans and sent after their enemies.  Sorta like the Invisible Stalker already in D&D, except crafted rather than summoned from another plane.

AC: 3 (17)
HD: 8*
Move: 120 (40) swim 90 (30)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 2d8
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: F8
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 1200

A tupilaq is a magical construct created by the shamanistic Clerics of tribes inhabiting the polar regions.  They have humanoid bodies with pointed heads, bulging eyes, and wide shark-like mouths, and smell of rotting flesh.  The rituals for creating one are known only to these tribesmen, and are not shared with outsiders.  The tupilaq is created from a variety of body parts, hair, skin and bones taken from sea and land animals native to the region, as well as the heart of a human or demi-human child.  A tupilac, once created, will serve its creator by hunting down one victim or group of related victims and killing them.  Tupilaqs can be defeated with spells and magic weapons.  A tupilaq can be turned against its creator by a dispel evil spell.  If the tupilaq fails a Save vs. Spells, its creator becomes its new target.

A Boy and His Beetle

Fantasmo, a 5 minute sketch done before the game started.
Last weekend (yeah, getting behind on these posts, but hey, my grad school stuff is finished now, so for the next two months or so posts may be up!), Justin ran another session of Vaults of Ur.

This time, wanted to try out the Stars Without Number combat rules more, so I made Fantasmo Argento, a masked luchador.  He ended up in the ruins, the rest of his party killed or captured by lizard men, and teamed up with Venerable Carolus (Dean), Borg the Orc (Jeremy), Yargrob Elderbob the Mage (Robert) and Ralex the Warrior (NPC) to continue exploring the tunnels for a way out (the previous session, which I'd missed, left them stranded on the shore of an underground river).

We headed west, thinking that would bring us back to the Hive, and encountered the lair of a Volkswagon Beetle-sized Giant Beetle.  After communicating to it through Hive bug powder and the party's war beetle (Karl doing most of the talking), we sent it on its way to devour the remains of the party's battle in the previous session rather than trying to eat us.  But we had no real useful info from it.

The next cave took us to a room full of bones, with a large pillar with severed heads attached.  Fantasmo stealthily approached, and discovered that the heads were still alive, and watching and listening to the rest of the party back at the entrance.  We were all fairly wary of this, and retreated down the tunnel.

We battled a slime monster of unknown type, burning it to death.  We discovered some fungus that when its spores were inhaled, made the fighting men types' testosterone surge and we all became belligerent.  Burg, under the influence, got into a tussle with Ralex, but the discovery of a large door guarded by two giant iron statues across a bridge quickly ended that.  The statues almost killed Burg, but he escaped across the bridge and we tried other paths.

We found a tomb complex, and luckily (random roll determined that Karl had the key we'd found, not Thidrek - who was back in Fort Low studying languages*) Karl was able to open it.  Inside, there was a room with four stone masks and an altar.  Fantasmo, being a luchador, was immediately drawn to the masks, and having witnessed the power of Karl's stone fist tried one on.  It burned itself against his face, and could not be easily removed.

In the next room, however, we found three strange creatures.  They looked like stone pillars moving across the floor toward us, and atop each was another stone mask.  Well, we sprang into battle, only to find out that two were illusions and the last one was actually made of acidic slime.  Fantasmo had tried to use his fancy lucha on the real one, but found out too late that it was able to burn his arms off.  Adios, Fantasmo!**

Karl's stone fist splattered the creature.  And the party retreated back to the shore, with designs on possibly killing the large beetle to use its shell as a canoe.

To be continued tonight!

Note of Interest: Justin made this dungeon up using the 1E DMG's random dungeon generator.

*Thidrek studying languages was the official story, but I think he was more likely wallowing in Sleestak existential dread, and sniffing fumes from the potion-making being done by Necronal the Cut-Rate Sage to get high.

**First time I've had a character die in I don't know how long.  DM too much, and when I've played in recent years it's often been in systems where it's hard to die.  It felt kinda good to see Fantasmo go down to an interesting death. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

28 years gaming

It's my birthday today.  Number 39.  I've been playing D&D for 28 years now.

My parents sent me an gift card.  Time to think about what to spend it on.  Probably a physical copy of one of the retro-clones (I saw at least the Labyrinth Lord core book through an Amazon vendor). 

The Hobbit also opens here in Korea in two days.  I'm gonna have to wait until Sunday to see it thanks to my busy schedule, but we've got plans laid.  But that's also part of my birthday celebration.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Beast of the Week: Snow Queen

Hans Christian Andersen (and C.S. Lewis who appears to have borrowed from Andersen) provides us with another nice winter-themed monster as we enter the final stretch here on my Beast of the Week feature.  Only 3 more to go after this one, and only last week's one was late by a day. 

Let me tell you, it hasn't been easy trying to come up with a monster that's both new to D&D and provides something other than just a collection of hit points and XP for players to harvest.  I haven't always been able to craft something novel, but I've given it my best shot.  When I've failed to find a way to make the creature an interesting challenge in game, I've hopefully at least given it something cool so that some gamer somewhere will encounter it and enjoy the experience.  But enough blather.  Here's Andersen's Snow Queen for D&D:

Snow Queen
AC: 1 (19)
HD: 9***
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 kiss
Damage: special
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: M9
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: G
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 3000

Snow Queens are tall, beautiful humanoid females, usually with extremely pale skin, white or pale blonde hair, and sky blue or grey eyes.  They can be found in arctic climes, high mountains, or deep in frozen dungeons.  Their manner is haughty and they are easily offended, but if treated with deference they may help adventurers.  Snow Queens refrain from physical combat when they can, preferring to let their minions protect them.  However, they have a magical kiss that they can bestow.  The first kiss causes the target to be affected as the Clerical spell Resist Cold.  A second kiss requires a Save vs. Spells or the target suffers from amnesia and is open to mental domination by the Snow Queen, with a successful Save still resulting in a Charm Person effect.  The third and further kisses require a Save vs. Death Ray or the target dies.  In addition to their magical kiss, Snow Queens can cast spells as a 9th level Magic-User, and may prepare spells from any class's spell lists.

Snow Queens are often served and protected by Chaotic dwarves, wolves and dire wolves, savage humanoids or various cold-based monsters.  They are fond of riding in sleighs pulled by reindeer or polar bears, and their castles are often made of solid ice.

Friday, December 7, 2012

How many baboons...

Thanks to S.P. at How to Succeed in RPGs or Die Trying for linking to this fun little quiz on The Oatmeal.

How many baboons could you take in a fight? (armed only with a giant dildo)
Created by Oatmeal

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A hit and a miss in Ur

Last weekend, the Vaults of Ur game was on a Friday.  Unfortunately for yours truly, I had a dinner engagement with my grad school program's faculty, staff and students.  Actually, not so unfortunate since there was decent if not excellent food, free (cheap Korean) beer, and I got to sit next to and talk to some good looking classmates (just talking, no need to tell my wife on me).

Still, it looks like the session was a lot of fun.  Here's Dean's recap of events:

Two weeks ago our noble heroes stumbled out of the underdark of Ur with their lives and some strange treasure. The erudition of Yargrob Elderbob the young wizard was essential for the puzzling out of the mysterious crystal pyramids, each the size of a baby’s head. Each one could store a spell provided the user could attune himself to it. Happily the scholarly youth did so. Carolus contented himself with a new suit of plate mail who passed on his banded armour to an overjoyed Burg. Thomas the Visionary stayed behind in Fort Low, determined to master one of the crystals.
The Venerable Carolus and his newfound companions feared to reenter the passageways beneath the stockade because of the ominous daytime darkness which now perpetually shrouded it, and because the ghostly mist which they had found seemed too strong. Therefore Carolus took his friends and introduced them to the Hive. There the spider-like Great Minds informed them that the darkness was probably the result of someone tampering with a protective shrine of Law beneath the ruins of Ur. (Many embarrassed noises at that.) The erudition of Yargrob Elderbob the young wizard was essential for much of the puzzling out of the
It was further revealed that Ur had undergone ten cataclysms. The first had torn it from this plane and sent it careening through the multiverse. The last (and eighth) had returned it back to this world. During the eighth cataclysm, eight heroes arose led by magician named Lowfrick. Among them was a priest named Ider who had possessed a stone hand (and so we now know whose coffin we looted many months ago).
Our close friend in the Hive, Forager, informed us that explorers from the Hive have found a building on the underground river but were attacked by swarms of “hell men.” We undertook to exterminate this danger to the Hive and to learn more of the Vaults beneath Ur.
We took a beetle-shell canoe down the river a short way and came to a stone mausoleum with two obelisks depicting the cult of the same god of death whose image we had found many months ago in other nearby passageways. Burg the Orc and Ralex the veteran fighter muscled open the stone doors. Inside we found two three stone chambers two of which were full of burial niches. The hell creatures had torn apart all of the swathed corpses to eat them, but being chaos mutated brutes they had left numerous small treasures.
Suddenly a splash reminded the party that the canoe was unguarded. Rushing back, we were attacked by several ravening mutants and two large worms with mutated human heads. Retreating into a small room, we managed to slay all the smaller creatures despite suffering many grievous wounds. At the stone jetty once more, the party realized that the canoe had drifted downstream. The full armour of most of the party prevented swimming back to the Hive, but the cleverness and nimble clambering of Yargrob’s beetle friend passed a rope across to a nearby cave mouth which was hoped to lead back. We shall find out the next time…
So cool stuff happened, monsters were fought, loot was gained, and puzzles were solved.  I'll try hard not to miss the next session.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Beast of the Week (overdue): Jack Frost

A day late, but I'll post another beastie later this week and all will be square.

Winter is coming!  And while I'm not going to be giving you stats for George R.R. Martin's White Walkers, I will give you a nice wintery monster to hopefully add some interest to your games in the next couple of months.

Jack Frost
AC: 6 (14)
HD: 3*
Move: 120 (40) Fly 150 (50)
Attacks: 1 breath
Damage: 1d8+paralysis
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d10)
Save As: E3
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: B
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 50

Jack Frosts are small fey creatures, related to pixies and sprites and similar to them in appearance.  They are typically only encountered in the wintertime, in arctic climates, or in high snow-capped mountains.   They are mischievous, and like to torment anyone that strays out in the cold.  In combat, they breathe frosty air on opponents (needing a normal hit roll).  Those hit by their breath must Save vs. Paralysis or be held motionless by a coating of ice for 1d6 Rounds.  Jack Frosts are immune to cold-based attacks, and are so chilly that they naturally resist fire (as the ring).  Once per day, three Jack Frosts working together can cast an ice storm (as the spell, caster level 7).

Ur Overdue

Serendipity strikes.  We played double sessions of Ur on Nov. 16th and 17th.  I wrote up the first session already.  But I still haven't written the second.  Well, I was thinking I should as I walked home tonight.  The reason I haven't yet is mostly due to grad school stuff, and a bit to family stuff.  Anyway, Dean sent me a message on Facebook asking if I intended to do it.  I also got an email from a professor telling me that she didn't need me to move up my final presentation to this Wednesday, I can go ahead and do it next week as scheduled.

And now that I've gotten all of that boring stuff that you don't care about out of the way, I can try to piece my fragmented memories of the session together and come up with a boring session report that you don't care about either!*  Huzzah for self-deprecation!

Anyway, our experiment was using Stars Without Number for classes and skills, but playing it in a fantasy setting (Ur, of course).  In the second session, we had Justin of course as the DM, Dean playing Venerable Karl the Cleric, Jeremy playing Burg the Orc pitfighter, myself playing Thomas the Visionary (a Mage using the Dungeons Without Number variant rules from Sine Nomine's blog) from the first session.  We were also joined by two fairly recent members of the Busan Gamers, Derek playing an Expert (thief) Bobdole, and Robert playing Yargrob Elderbob, another Mage (who happens to have the exact same spells as Thomas - Read Languages and Shield, and a similar skill set as well!).  Alexei returned at long last as Maya Culpar the Elf from Beyond the Veil (no Elves in Ur, they're Orc Magi) along with two spearmen and two torchbearers, and a shifty Halfling (also not native to Ur).   Someone had bought another War Beetle as well.  So we had a big group.  [Comments about 20+ member expeditions in Gygax and Arneson's game tables back in the '70s did happen.]

We went back to the bandit fort we'd explored in the previous evening's session.  We went down in the tunnels after a bit of fruitless exploration.  Almost immediately, we had vague impressions of being watched - seeing movement just in the corner of the eye, that sort of thing.  We also got attacked by a pair of zombie-octoapes (one the poor lost chap Karl had spent so much time talking to the previous session) but managed to subdue them.  I believe we lost a red shirt to the apes (maybe two?). 

There was a secret door in the room, and following it we found a room with an altar to the "so uber-Lawful it hurts" deity Starros in it.  Through the next door was a corridor with another door directly facing this one. 

Noticing the shadowy presence again, we raced north only to find nothing, and then sensed it to the south.  We went south next, and after getting trapped behind a portcullis and flinging spears trap (I think it was the Halfling that lost it here, maybe the other red shirt as well?) we found a room  with large glowing crystals on a table and some zombies.  Karl managed to Turn the zombies and keep them at bay long enough for us to loot the crystals and find a side-room with nothing useful inside.

Next, the door in the corridor led us to a room with an ornate suit of armor and a large sarcophagus.  Messing around in the room caused a misty ghost to materialize.  It attacked Karl, who didn't have one of the glowing stones, aging him by five years.  It also possessed our thief Bobdole briefly and tried to get him to don the armor.  Holy water cured him of that.  Not being able to do much, we retreated. 

The crystals apparently are some sort of spell-storage devices.  I missed the session this past weekend, but apparently everyone went back to The Hive.  Dean posted a report of that game.  I'll copy it here later.

Right now, I'm a Beast of the Week late (first one I've missed all year, but hey, grad school takes priority).

*I'm actually continually surprised at the amount of people still reading this blog the past two years, and hope I can at least keep treading water as I transition from being a full-time employee and Masters student with better stuff to do than blog into a full-time employee and Ph.D. student with no time for anything at all.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Missing Dwimmermount

Today (mid-day Sunday here in Korea, Sat. evening in Canada), James Mal was planning on running a session of Dwimmermount on G+.  Dean, who plays the Venerable Karl in our Vaults of Ur game, had played a few sessions of it already and when I mentioned that I'd love to get in on that game, he asked and I was invited.

Then, due to technical difficulties, James wasn't able to run the game. 

Dean suggested I pull out my megadungeon and we run through that instead.  So Dean, playing a level 1 version of Elder Karl (hey, time travel happens in the FLAILSNAILS multiverse), and two gamers I was unacquainted with until today, Nathan Easton - who quickly rolled up an Elf, and Roger Brasslett who had a spare Druid lying around, ventured out from the town of Silverwood into Yeffal's Great Dungeon.

Here's Dean's recap:
In his youth Elder Karl had a memorable spirit quest into a strange world of elves (very like his companion from the other world, Maya Culpa) and short bearded dwarves. There he met a Druid of the wilds named Elethea and a shifty-eyed shadowy elf who called himself the Black Lotus. In the town of Silverwood these adventurers hired two stout spearmen named Geissler and Kessel, and then all five of them ventured into the huge ruins of the castle of the Mad Wizard Yefal.

The outer courtyard contained a two-storyed building which showed both the signs of recent occupation and of recent intrusion. A room with a suspicious grate yielded only parchments with the scribbled false starts of a frustrated epic poet and an attack by razor-sharp blades from the grate.

The party started to head downstairs but was discouraged by the sight of mysterious magical runes. Going upstairs instead they found the after-effects and skeletal remains of a mighty battle. Investigating the smaller rooms revealed a thieves’ map of Silverwood, a book of prayers and rituals to the Chaos God Loki as well as a dangerous and cursed statuette of the same in a shrine.
The shrine itself was guarded by a ward which made the viewers either flee in terror or think to see their heart's desire. Finally! A hobbit wrapped in a mithril shirt and left to soften for later ingestion. Elder Karl desecrated the shrine with prayers to the Bear and improvised blessed water. There were also two beautiful suits of nobleman’s clothes which we gave to our two retainers to wear. Elder Karl also insisted on laying to rest the corpses of three victims of the bandits who had recently met their just desert.

In the midst of our plunder, three elves stumbled upon us and asked us if we had seen any hobgoblins. The heroes decided that a joint expedition against the hobgoblins would be good, and they also hoped that the elves could get them past the runes on the stairs going down. One of the elves had memorized Read Magic and was in fact delighted to find that the runes were a record of Tenser’s Floating Disc, which he hastened to inscribe into his book.

The now larger party descended en masse into another room filled with the after-effects of battle: this time, three hobgoblins. A search revealed a burlap pouch containing an electrum necklace. Thus without a single fight, the heroes had successfully explored part of the castle and won much treasure, and so all returned to town before any disaster should reverse the day’s good fortune.
 So the lucky buggers got off with only springing a couple of non-lethal traps and only encountering friendly wandering monsters.  They did this by following in the footsteps of an earlier adventuring party, unbeknownst to them (read about it here and here).

It was a fun, impromptu session, and it wasn't even until we were almost done that I realized that I'd only brought my dungeon maps/key/supplementals to the desk.  I didn't have a rule book at all.  Guess my DMing skills haven't atrophied after all!

Anyway, it was fun to be back in the DM's chair, but I'm still looking forward to playing in Dwimmermount with James M.  Hopefully in two weeks.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Beast of the Week: Horned Serpent

Yesterday being Thanksgiving (I'm American if you didn't know), I was thinking of doing another monster from my traveling pocket notebook, based on the "turducken" (a duck stuffed in a chicken stuffed in a turkey and baked), sort of a "kill this monster, then a smaller one pops out of it, and when it's dead a third monster pops out" but that was just too involved. 

Instead, how about going back to Native American mythology and writing up another NA monster? 

Horned Serpent*
AC: 0 (20)
HD: 6**
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 horn, 1 bite or breath
Damage: 1d10/2d6+poison
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Save As: F6
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: D
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 725

Horned serpents are 50' long giant snakes with iridescent scales and one or two crystalline antlers protruding from their heads.  They live in lakes and rivers and may attack those that stray too close to their underwater lairs.  A horned serpent's bite is poisonous; those bitten must Save vs. Poison or die in 1d6 Turns.  Instead of biting, the serpent may spray poison in a 15' diameter cloud around it.  All within the cloud must Save vs. Poison or become sickened, suffering a -4 penalty to attacks and saves, for 1d4 hours.  The horned serpent can also use its horns to lure creatures near it.  Three times per day, the serpent can send out a signal.  Creatures within 120' must Save vs. Spells or approach the serpent and stand enraptured by the call for 1d4 Rounds.  The antlers of horned serpents are prized by Magic-Users and alchemists, and each horn can fetch 2d4 x100gp.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

That urge to tinker

What's going on inside my brain?  Not exactly sure.  With three more weeks to go to finish up my Masters of TESOL (read, final projects/papers to prepare/write), I'm in the middle of the Busan Gamers' storm of character creation for potential games (Dean's looking to run 4E or maybe his own take on Jeremy's "Super Simple d20" game - and with Dean at the helm, I know it won't be 4E as just a series of tactical battles one after another, it'll be about story and consequences with the battles serving a purpose other than having them because someone wrote them), Jeremy had a zombie-hunting 40k inspired session of another system he calls Para Bellum that he'd like to continue, Justin just had us redo our Ur characters as Stars Without Numbers characters, and um, well, there is a Pathfinder game that I don't have time for as well but would like to get in on if I did have the time.

Add to that the fact that I've got work to do on Presidents of the Apocalypse.  I've also got the title for the first adventure I'll run with it (although other details of the adventure are rolling around in the back of my mind and haven't coalesced yet).  The title shall be either "Assault on Castle Hasselhoff" or "Escape from Castle Hasselhoff."  Maybe I'll do both as a series?

Oh, and Flying Swordsmen could use another editing pass if I ever want to release it in physical form.  A module or two for it wouldn't hurt either.  And there's the RPOL game I created and have recruited players for, but haven't done much beyond that yet thanks to the above mentioned grad school.

Yet what was it that I decided I should do last night, and am tempted to start working on tonight? 

Go through the AD&D 1E and 2E PHBs and start making some notes about how I'd do separate race and class in my "D&D Mine" rules.  I'm not planning on using them any time soon (want to get that RPOL Flying Swordsmen game running smoothly and also playtest PotA).  Yet the urge is there.  Dwarven Fighter/Thieves.  Human Paladins.  Half-Elf Rangers.  Gnome Illusionists.  Yeah, I could just use LL's AEC, but where's the fun in that, when I could do it myself instead?

I think there's something in the back of my mind that really wants to get back in the DM chair of a good old fashioned D&D game, instead of being a player (although as a player, I could really go for some space opera or supers gaming).

And I'm writing this blog post instead of writing the other Ur session report.  Oh well...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ur: A new beginning

On Saturday, we played Justin's Vaults of Ur campaign, but with a new twist.  Justin had been wanting to try out the Stars Without Number rules, so we adapted them, using Sine Nomine's "Dungeons Without Number" variant spellcaster rules to do so.  Jeremy and I created alternate characters, while Dean just converted the now Venerable Karl (5th level thanks to some trips to Dwimmermount in James M.'s G+ games) to the new system.
Jeremy created Burg the Orc, a former pit-fighter, while I actually did a conversion of my backup PC that I'd never gotten to play, Thomas the Visionary, a non-battle oriented Magic-User.  I used the Mage option from the DWN rules linked above.

We were based in the old Alchemist's Tower, which we had cleared out and then sold to the authorities in Fort Low, now a walled settlement named Crossroads.  Bandits had attacked and stolen a McGuffin...I mean amulet called the Pendant of True Heart.  We were charged with its recovery.

We set out and found the bandits' stronghold.  walls had been built incorporating two relatively intact buildings, with wooden watch towers also put up at the front of the square compound.  We were approaching from the rear, and spent some time scouting (Burg taking the duties since he's lightly armored and had some skill there thanks to the SWN skill system).  There were two pack-lizards milling around in the ruins.  We suspected a trap, but they were just as they seemed.
After clearing a way through the pole-spiked moat, Burg climbed the wall and busted his way in through a window.  We all climbed in and found a bunk-room.  Thomas picked up a book of pornographic woodblock prints and some dice, and we scooped up a few coins.  There were weird moaning and whimpering sounds coming from below.  Karl investigated the roof, and we found lots of dead bandit bodies and a lone, living octo-ape making the noise.  Below was a food storage room.

Using speak with animals, we found out that a "great dark" had attacked, causing burns but also making the bandits fight each other.  The octo-ape wanted to go home to the "jungle" (we assume he meant the zoo), but was anxious to find his "friend" who had been drug below by the Great Dark. 

We investigated the ruins a bit more, finding a tunnel into the sewers, but also a strange branching path that appeared different.  Thomas had heard rumors of an ancient base in this area, and we thought that whatever the Great Dark was, it must have come from there.  It was getting late, though, and afraid that the Great Dark would emerge come nightfall, we quickly headed back to Crossroad.

The session ended there, but we picked it up again Sunday, with a few more players.  To be continued...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Beast of the Week: Trogdor

Trogdor was a man. Then, he was a dragon-man.  Maybe he was just a dragon?  But he was still Trogdor!!!

Yes, everyone's favorite Strong Bad email from Homestar Runner serves as this week's beast.  Can't wait to unleash some trogdors in my megadungeon!

AC: 2 (18)
HD: 8**
Move: 120 (40) fly 60 (20)
Attacks: 1 weapon, 1 bite
Damage: by weapon+3/2d6
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d4)
Save As: F8
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: H
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 1750

Trogdors are dragon-kin with long, serpentine bodies, stubby wings that allow for slow flight, and a single muscular humanoid arm.  Trogdors attack with a weapon (doing +3 damage due to their great strength) and a bite.  They can also use a fiery breath weapon at will.  The breath is a cone 60' long and 20' wide at the far end.  All in the cone take 4d6 damage, but may Save vs. Dragon Breath for half damage.  Trogdors love nothing more than burninating every peasant and village they come across.  There are rumors that some trogdors can shape-shift into human and half-dragon humanoid forms, but this has never been confirmed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Progress on Presidents of the Apocalypse

With the election just over and Thanksgiving around the corner, I'm plugging away at the latest revision of Presidents of the Apocalypse.  We've always measured the special abilities and powers of the game with "stars" (up to five).  But some powers needed more than one level of ranking, so in this version, I've added "stripes" (also up to five) in addition to the stars. 

Of course, now I've got a bit of a problem that a few non-combat powers don't really need two ranking scales.

Anyway, the change in focus from trying to design a silly post-apoc game to trying to design a silly super-hero game with a post-apoc setting is working well for me.  I've got a better idea now of what the game is supposed to be about.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Beast of the Week: Golgothan

I've got a little pocket notebook that I carry around with me (usually in my backpack, rather than my pocket, but sometimes it makes its way there as well).  I use it to jot down mostly gaming ideas I have while I'm commuting or at work, but it's also handy for keeping information about my various private lessons sorted out.  Way back in the spring, I think, I made a list in this notebook of creatures I thought I would write up for this Beast of the Week series (nearing completion!).  After using a few of them, I mostly would find other inspirations to use during my week, so it became sort of the fall-back option.  If I had no other ideas, I'd write up one of the creatures from that notebook page.

Anyway, this week the inspiration was tied to one of the creatures on that page - the Golgothan excremental, or shit demon, from Kevin Smith's movie Dogma.  After last week's Vaults of Ur game involving a strong fear of a poop monster, I think it's time to unleash this critter on the fifty or so people actually still reading this blog.

AC: 7 (13)
HD: 9**
Move: 90 (30)
Attacks: 2
Damage: 1d8/1d8+special
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d2)
Save As: F9
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 2300

Golgothans, or excrementals, are demons created out of human feces culled from places of execution or slaughter.  They stand roughly as high as a man, and have a humanoid form, but their body is a slimy mass of dripping dung.  Those within 30' of an excremental must Save vs. Poison or be unable to act for 1d4+1 Rounds due to the strong stench emanating from the demon.  Even those that save suffer a -2 to hit while within the noxious cloud.  In combat, golgothans can make two slam attacks, or fire off a blob of their own substance up to 60' away as a ranged attack.  Anyone struck by a golgothan or one of its fecal blasts becomes coated with crap, and must Save vs. Paralysis or be slowed (as the spell) until the dreck is washed away or dries (in about one hour).  Once per day, golgothans may use any toilet, latrine, chamber pot or dung heap as a dimension door, appearing out of a similar location within 1 mile.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Disney, hmm?

Just cogitating on some things in the news besides Obama's victory (qualified yea!) [That's about as political as I'm gonna get here, don't worry.]

Disney bought up Marvel a while back, but pretty much have left Marvel to do their own thing. 

Disney repurchased Pixar, but pretty much leave them to do their own thing.

Disney has just purchased ILM, including Star Wars.  After thinking about this, I say good!  At worst, anything they turn out won't be any worse than something Lucas might have done were he inclined to do so.  And thinking about the general quality of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (first and fourth were good, middle two were decent enough) and the John Carter movie (movie was fine, Disney just stuffed it up on marketing and accounting), they'll likely do a good job with any future Star Wars movies.

And getting things away from the Skywalker story would be a good thing, IMO.  We don't need movies about Leia and Han's kids or old Jedi Master Luke, there are novels that already cover those if you care to read them.  Give us some awesome new stories in awesome new parts of the Star Wars Galaxy, please!

Arnold Schwarzenegger is returning as Conan!  King Conan of Aquilonia!  Awesome!  Looking forward to this, even if they don't use one of Howard's original tales (although the Scarlet Citadel or Hour of the Dragon would both make good movies, IMO).  I'm cool with letting original Conan be Original Conan, the comics Conan and the movie Conan being alternate universe things, like how the comic book, old Fox cartoon, and movie X-Men are similar but not the same.

And now Disney is thinking of picking up Hasbro, and WotC.  Well, at least I guess we know who will be making any future Star Wars CCGs and RPGs if this goes through.  Again, if Disney takes a fairly lax hand with WotC the way they have with Marvel and Pixar, this could be good.  If the Mouse House tries to micromanage the gaming business, well, at least we've got the OSR.

Plus, a Bargle movie, or something in the Star Frontiers or Gamma World universes would be cool.  You know Disney will be in charge of future D&D movies, maybe we'll get one that doesn't suck!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Beast of the Week: Witch

What the heck, Halloween is past, but it was still this week.  One more Halloween monster.  Plus, with the U.S. election nearing, and Thanksgiving, and myself working sporadically on Presidents of the Apocalypse, my mind is on things Early American, including the Salem Witch Trials.

So this week, I present a Witch for old school D&D, one a bit different than just a Magic-User or Cleric, or any of the various Hag monsters found throughout D&D.

AC: 9 (11)
HD: 1* to 5*
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: by weapon
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d10)
Save As: C1 to C5
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: E (U)
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 13, 25, 50, 125, 300

Witches are Normal Men who have made a pact with a powerful unholy creature in exchange for supernatural powers.  Witches have access to a number of spells, which they use to sew chaos and distrust in their communities, and harvest souls for their diabolical patrons.  Witches have access to the following powers (each as the spell of the same name): Cause Fear, Charm Person, Detect Magic, Blight, ESP, Hold Person, Locate Object, Speak with Animals, Cause Disease, Clairvoyance, Curse, Fly, Speak with the Dead.  At 1HD, a witch knows one of these powers that is usable once per day, and also gains three castings per week, which may be any of the spells on the list.  At 2HD, the witch has two spells usable daily, plus four castings per week.  At 3HD, the witch has one spell usable three times per day, three usable once per day each, and four weekly castings from the general list.  At 4HD, the witch has two spells usable three times per day, four usable once per day, and five weekly castings.  At 5HD, a witch has one spell usable at will, two usable three times per day, five usable once per day, and five weekly castings from the full list.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Poop Loot!

Oh, so many potential titles for this post, on our most recent Vaults of Ur game last (Friday Korea time) night. 

"Crabs are a man's best friend"
"I thought you were dead"
"You lose it here, you're in a world of poop"
"Getting the monkeys off our backs"

Anyway, as always, Vaults of Ur games are run by Justin, and we were down to the minimum core crew of Dean as Very Elder Karl, Jeremy as Ripper the Werebear Orc, and myself as Thidrek the Sleestak.  With only three PCs, we decided to hire some extra help.  Karl hired a falconer (animal trainer) and two bowmen (and I forgot all their names).  Thidrek bought four more attack beasts - a war beetle, mini-tyrannosaurus, battle crab and war flamingo) and a potion of speed.  Ripper bought two more mini-T-Rexes and a potion of giant strength.  Mongoose Lissken, the NPC we rescued, bought himself some better armor and weapons.  Elder Karl also commissioned the creation of a stone bow, a crossbow that fires sling stones, so he could have a d6 ranged weapon instead of a d4 one.
I should add these to Flying Swordsmen

Jeremy was a bit late because of his work, so Dean and I roleplayed a short trip back to The Hive.  We went down to the tunnels beneath, checked in with Zizzik and Forager, and then gathered some of the healing waters from the hidden spring we had discovered there.  We gathered two waterskins each (including two for Mongoose). 

When Jeremy finally joined us, our quest to finally slay the apes at the behest of the Great Bear cult finally resumed.  If you have been reading these play reports all along, you may remember that Ripper was killed, and we went on a dream quest to escort his soul back to his body.  We didn't have enough cash for the Raise Dead spell, so we were given a quest by the High Yogi of the Great Bear to kill these carnivorous apes that a heretical Bear Cultist had created.  We got side-tracked and ended up captured by the harpies and their vulture-men, so the past many adventures have revolved around us trying to deal with the ape/vulture situation.  Last time we finished off (so we think) the harpies and their chicken-men, so the vulture men are leaderless.  Now it was time to finish off the apes.

We headed south through the ruins, and used the falcon and Karl's speak with animals spell to get a bit of reconnaissance done.  There was a high hill, forested, with the ruins of a manor house on it.  In a dream sending, the Great Bear had shown Karl that silver apes were the leaders that needed to be destroyed, and they were somewhere in that manor.  At the base of the hill, a shrewdness* of apes attacked.  We sent our attack beasts charging in, and we sat back and fired missiles at the apes (Thidrek drinking his potion immediately to be able to get more shots off each round).  Our beasts did a fair amount of damage, but only the beetle survived the melee.  None of the apes survived, though.

We headed up the hill, and found the manor house ruins, and outbuildings, and a very large tree atop the hill.  We saw some apes, and in an attempt to lure them out, Thidrek got pelted with stones, but they didn't come out.  We headed towards one of the buildings, and then both the white apes and silver-back apes attacked.  There were six silver-backs and seven white apes.  Ripper took his potion then.  We made a tactical retreat into one of the buildings, but our beetle and one of the archers were slain before we made it into cover.  With Karl's bless spell, cures and magic stone fist, Thidrek attacking twice per round and Ripper doing double damage on his hits, we were able to just barely hold our own.

Our first position was inside a two-story building.  Our falconer and archer went upstairs and the archer fired down on the white apes while Ripper and Karl held the doorway, with Thidrek and Mongoose firing past the two for a round, then having to deal with the silver-backs, who flanked around to another door.  I'm glad Thidrek now has a magic sword!  This was a very tense battle.  Ripper was battered but resisted the urge to go were-bear.  Thidrek lost one shield due to a fumble roll, and another due to silver-back.  Elder Karl dropped to negative hit points but Mongoose used Hive healing water to get him back on his feet.  He also loaned Thidrek his spare shield.  Everyone ended up in single digits by the time the white apes and the silver-back in the other door were destroyed.

Group Initiative rolls were tense, just the way Zak describes them.  Hit rolls were tense.  Monster hit rolls were even more tense!  Man, this was a touch and go battle.  And it still wasn't over. 

Given a breather by the remaining silver-backs, we retreated up the stairs to where our retainers were.  Ripper healed up a bit, Thidrek tried to repair his shield, and we waited for the apes.  We heard them banging around on the walls below, so Ripper used his giant strength to bash some of the wall blocks down on them.  A few missiles fired from the hole he made managed to slay one more silver ape. 

Then the remaining two dropped in from the ceiling, knocking out both the archer and Mongoose with rubble.  We began to fight, and then the floor fell through due to the load and the additional structural damage we'd inflicted on the building.  Poor Mongoose and red shirt archer, they didn't survive the fall.  The rest of us did, and took down the apes.  And as the last ape fell, Ripper felt the spirit of the Great Bear leaving him.  Elder Karl had the feeling that his church-imposed quest was at an end.
Mongoose Lissken, R.I.P.

But the adventure wasn't over.  We still weren't sure if there were any more apes or not.  We were also curious if there was any loot to be gained in the manor.  So we did what murder-hobos are wont to do, and went further exploring.  In the manor house, the main entrance hall had caved in, and the apes had used the pit as a dung-heap.  Discussion of what to do followed.  Karl insisted there must be a poop-monster in the dung-heap.  Ripper, still at reduced agility due to a vulture-man inflicted crit, was leery of balancing acts to get around the pit, but also didn't want to get his armor dirty.  Thidrek decided to do what he always does, and used his grappling hook to scale to the roof and look around. 

Despite Thidrek finding that we could go across the roof and down to avoid the shit pit, Karl decided to wade through it.  Ripper decided to tip-toe around the broken edge of the room (and despite his lowered Dex, managed it well).  And just as Karl feared, there was an outyugh in the ape shit.  Just as Ripper opened a door and a crossbow bolt flew past him, the outyugh attacked.  Karl went down (again), and Ripper, after taking a crossbow bolt in the back and finding a Fort Low guardsman with broken legs was firing at us, jumped into the pit to save Karl.  Thidrek, still high on speed, kept firing with his crossbow.  Ripper made short work of the outyugh due to giant strength, and he hauled Karl out of the pit.  Thidrek helped the guardsman out. 

Ripper, already covered in shit, went back to search the pit while Thidrek washed out and tended Karl's wounds.  Ripper found some jewelry and a magic scroll, and a few loose coins (we didn't bother to count to see if there were exactly 2000 coppers in the ape shit, but to be honest it wouldn't have bothered me if that was the number).

Lacking all of our hirelings and pets, and with our cleric down but our quest completed and some loot in hand, we headed back to Fort Low.  Along the way, we found out more about Thidrek - his chemical dependencies like bug powder and potions are a way to deal with the existential dread of sleestak existence; about Fort Low society - orcs may be genetically engineered super-soldiers, but they're still discriminated against by the humans; and about life as an old school adventurer - it's short and hopefully sweet, but mostly full of blood and shit.

*apparently the group name for apes can be this or troop, but a shrewdness of apes sounds cooler to me.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Beast of the Week: Grasping Hand

This is a bit of a weird one, as it straddles the line between monster and trap.  But then green slime, rot grubs, piercers, trappers, cloakers, lurkers above, and plenty of other "monsters" also straddle the line, so here it is.  Finishing up this month's Beasts with one from both Castlevania AND Ghostbusters.

Grasping Hand
AC: 8 (12)
HD: 1/2* to 3*
Move: 0 (0)
Attacks: 1 claw
Damage: 1d6
No. Appearing: 1d10 (1d10)
Save As: NM to F3
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 6, 13, 25, 50

Grasping hands appear as skeletal, rotting, or demonic arms that suddenly spring out of solid objects or the ground and attack.  They surprise on a roll of 1-4 on d6.  Any hand that hits grabs onto the victim and will not let go until slain (the victim may Save vs. Paralysis to escape).  Anyone grabbed may attack the grasping hand, but at -4 to hit.  Others may make normal attacks, but there is a 50% chance any hit will deal half damage to the victim and half damage to the hand.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Luck stats?

Some people house rule in a seventh "Luck" ability score to the classic six in D&D.  Some games include Luck as one of the options.

But D&D, as published, has always had luck scores for PCs. 

They're called Saving Throws.

That's all.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Slide down my psionic rainbow!

No, I'm not playtesting the hot new RPG "Perverts and Penthouses," just continuing our series of bad puns and cheesy innuendo in Vaults of Ur.

This week's cast: Justin on DM, Dean playing Very Elder Karl, Jeremy going crazy playing Ripper, Adam finally getting in on the Ur action as Fjharrag the Folded Mind (a Magic-User), and of course myself pounding away with Thidrek the Sleestak.  And let me tell you, this concert rocked hard!

Actually, things started a bit slow.  We spent most of the first hour getting Adam up to speed on the setting, and figuring out just exactly what we wanted to do and how to do it.  The sandbox was really wide open this time.  In our last game, we'd escaped the harpies and vulture men, and found refuge with the rather neutral Beastmen who live under the sewers.  They gave us lots of info and assistance, especially when we decided to finally take the fight to the harpies.

The harpies and vulture men, by the way, had left the bramble maze, and were camped out around an old temple performing some blasphemous rites.  Our plan was to scout out the situation, find a safe house, and then try to lure the carnivorous apes into fighting with the vulture men to whittle down both of their numbers.  And for once, the plan more or less worked!

After setting up our safe house, Thidrek did a bit of scouting of the temple area.  There were around twenty camp fires, with up to ten vulture men at each fire.  Way outnumbered!  We camped out for the night so that Karl could prepare Speak with Animals to hopefully send the apes into battle.*  In the middle of the night, a patrol of vulture men and one larger humanoid passed our safe house, and Ripper woke up Fjharrag and Fjharrag put the whole group to sleep.  They woke up Thidrek, who happily slit the throats of the vulture men, wisely leaving Elder Karl asleep through the whole mess. 

The larger fella turned out to be an adventurer named Mongoose Liskin, who happily joined us since the rest of his crew had been slaughtered by vulture men.  Thidrek disposed of the bodies, trying to make it look like apes had savaged them.  Still covered in blood and gore, Thidrek then woke up Karl to take his watch.  In the morning, Karl cast his spell, and began yelling for apes in their language.  And they came!  A group of six came and soon got in a fight with vulture men.  When it all ended, only three apes left with bits of vulture men to gnaw on, and nearly two dozen of the little buzzard-buggers were dead.  Of course, that still left way too many for us. 

We waited until nightfall, then Karl used his stone fist to telekinetically throw bundles of kindling into their fires, burning more vulture men (it was at this point when the quote I'm using as the title of the post occurred, as Karl contemplated airlifting us to the temple with the hand).  Alerted to our presence, harpies and vulture men attacked (although luckily not all of them).  Ripper and Thidrek managed to resist the charm this time (demi-human saves!), and after making sure that our allies would not walk out into the harpies' trap, waited for the assault.  Two harpies came in through the roof, but due to lucky initiative rolling, both Thidrek and Ripper hit two times in a row, downing both of them.  Vulture men, of course, smashed in the door and were fighting Liskin.  Ripper and Karl ran to his aid, while Thidrek climbed to the roof to watch for more harpies and snipe the vulture men waiting to come through the door.  Fjharrag kinda hung back until the end (smart), but did manage to take down one vulture man with his dagger.

Well, no more harpies attacked, but Ripper suffered two or three nasty critical hits in a row, one of them giving him a permanent wound (Justin decided a vulture man claw was stuck inside his arm), halving his Dex until we can find Fort Low's master surgeon and get it fixed.  And of course, the damage caused Ripper to go werebear!  This time, it was pretty glorious.  While Thidrek and Fjharrag hung back to loot bodies, Ripper-bear just charged into the temple.  There were four harpies, one giant chicken-man (who somehow got labelled as a Dire Cock even though previously that was the name for the actual giant chickens, not the chicken-men).  Plus a metric shitload of vulture men.  Well, the V-Ms couldn't hurt Ripper because they don't have silver claws.  The harpies likewise, but they did tangle him with their whips (Elder Karl's Silence 15' Radius kept them from charming).  So Ripper had a field day taking down the bad guys.  The chicken-man did have a magic sword, but only managed to hit Ripper once before getting his head crushed in Ripper-bear's mouth.

Normal vulture men ran away as the chicken-man and harpies were destroyed.  And we looted the temple, finding over 4000 gp worth of gold and gems, plus some magic arrows (and the magic sword of the chicken-man).  And we made it back to Fort Low without any fatalities (although Ripper's not in the best of shape right now). 

One of the funnest sessions we've had so far.  Thanks, Justin!

*I love it when seldom used spells like this one come in very very handy!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Magicians 마법사들

A couple days ago, we had a new member in our Facebook Busan Gamers group.  A guy in Seoul named Kyle Simons.  And he's producing a game that is intended to be both a fun RPG and a language learning tool, Magicians (the Korean in the title of the post is the name of the game in Korean).  As an English as a Foreign Language teacher and as a gamer, I gotta say I'm intrigued.

Kyle is running a Kickstarter for Magicians (who isn't running a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, these days?), but he's already more than tripled his goal, with 28 days left.  So you can rest assured this project is moving forward.  And you've still got plenty of time to get in on this if you like it.

What's cool about it?  Well, it takes the Harry Potter premise of a secret magical world hidden parallel to the mundane world, but it's set in Seoul, South Korea instead of jolly old England.  It also is chock full of Asian folk tales and legends.  And the really cool thing is that the magic system is designed to help you learn Korean.  In order to cast spells, you need to say the correct words, phrases, or sentences in Korean (and he's got a link to a free Android app that will check your pronunciation for you if you don't have any Korean speakers handy while you play).

Also cool is that he's got plans for other language versions.  I've volunteered to help with a Japanese version he's planning.  Kyle also speaks French, so he wants to do a French version as well.  So if you are interested in things Korean, in gaming with an Asian twist, or with learning languages (or using RPGs in your language lessons if you're a teacher), check this one out.

Tenkar also was promoting this one the other day.  Many of you may have already seen it over there, but it never hurts to have a reminder.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Beast of the Week: Demon Dog

Last week, Tim of Hero Press asked, following my posting Slimer from Ghostbusters, if I was gonna do the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man next.  Well, there's still one more week before Halloween, I just might.  But for this week, I present the Ghostbusters demon dog for D&D, clones, simulacrums, propane and propane accessories.

Demon Dog*
AC: 5 (15)
HD: 5+2**
Move: 150 (50)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite
Damage: 1d6/1d6/1d8
No. Appearing: 1d4+1 (1d4+1)
Save As: F5
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: L+N (V)
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 575

Demon dogs are large creatures from the Lower Planes with bodies shaped like a cross between a frog and a hairless dog.  They have horns on their heads and glowing red eyes.  Demon dogs are usually encountered in small packs, each with a cryptic name related to its role in the ritual (see below).  Each demon dog in a pack chooses a victim that it hunts and attempts to possess using its magic jar ability (once per day).  While hunting, it can become invisible to all but the target.  While in possession of a mortal, the demon dog gains the following powers: polymorph between demon dog form and the victim's true form, levitate, and cause fear, each three times per day.   Once each dog in the pack has possessed its target, the dogs come together and perform a ritual that opens a Gate, allowing a powerful extra-dimensional being or demon to enter the Prime Plane.  The demon dogs then serve as the demon's guardians and servants.  When killed, a demon dog turns to stone, and if in possession of a victim at the time of death, the statue crumbles within one Turn, releasing the victim.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Presidents Arise! (700th post!)

In between preparing two presentations for my grad school classes for this week (one down this evening, the next tomorrow evening), what else did my brain turn to?  It brushed off the mothballs and began reworking my and Paul's super-simple, super-silly Presidents of the Apocalypse RPG.

Anyone out there remember me talking about this before?  The premise is that players run super-powered versions of Founding Fathers or other personages of (U.S.) historical significance battling a mish-mash of typical postapoc baddies (Mad Max biker punk types, mutant scum, killer robots), plus the dregs of both history and modern pop culture, all with a very silly sci-fi twist.

When I was in Japan, it was our typical "going away" game when someone left the group, and Paul and I are always tinkering with the rules, trying to get it right.  We've got the flavor in spades, we just need a rule set that supports it better.

Anyway, I've got a few ideas that just might make it work.  When I get them ironed out, I'll try to get my G+ Vaults of Ur crew to try them out.

The primary inspiration for the game were Brad Neely's George Washington and History Lesson No. 1 (JFK).  Look em up on YouTube if you don't know them.  Pretty funny stuff.  Here are some pictures that also show what the game is all about:

This one pic encapsulates it all perfectly.

A typical villain

Neely's JFK, Hyper-charismatic telepathical knight

He's coming, he's coming, he's coming.

Another villain

A PotA Mastermind level Villain

Monday, October 15, 2012

Of Vampires and Energy Draining

I've been watching some vampire-themed movies lately (The Lost Boys and Salem's Lot in particular).  So I've got vamps on the brain.  Which of course leads me to think of energy draining.

I've heard folks complain about the D&D vampire for doing a double energy drain in combat.  Some folks complain that vampires in legends, folklore and modern literature and cinema are blood-suckers.  Shouldn't they have a blood draining attack?  Others just complain about the energy drain mechanic in general, and the fact that vampires (and specters) have a double energy drain.

Well, I was thinking about the vampire's attack.  In the literature, vampires tend to suck blood from sleeping or charmed and therefor "willing" victims.  When Van Helsing and Harker come after Drac, he doesn't try to "suck your blood" [please read that in a cheesy Bela Lugosi accent].  Nothing in the D&D write-up of the vampire prevents them from feeding on blood.  But when adventurers attack, no vampire is gonna try and sink their teeth through steel gorgets, and even if they managed that, they wouldn't be able to suck enough blood to cause much damage before they get pummeled with magical weapons and such. 

No, vampires save blood sucking for feeding.  When they're in danger, they use a much more insidious attack, the energy drain.

And of course, we're always tinkering with energy drain, aren't we?  I had been thinking to modify it so that instead of losing levels, a PC just lost the XP.  They would still function as whatever level they were before the attack, they'd just need to earn a lot more XP to get up to the next level.  So, for example, a 5th level Fighter hit by a wight or wraith's energy drain attack would drop down to 12,000 XP (halfway between 4th and 5th), and if hit by a specter or vampire's double energy drain would drop to 6,000 XP (halfway between 3rd and 4th), but in either case would still function as a 5th level Fighter until earning 32,000 XP and making 6th level.

This would save lots of book-keeping.  No need to refigure hit points, attack values, saving throws, spells, Thief skills or undead Turning. 

Another idea I just had this morning would be the opposite.  The PC effectively drops down to whatever level the energy drain attack would drop them to, but the PC keeps their current XP total.  As soon as they make enough XP to gain whatever the next level would be, they get all lost levels back and gain the new level as well.  So, our 5th level Fighter above would function as a 4th level Fighter after a wight/wraith drain, or as a 3rd level Fighter after a specter/vampire drain, as normal.  But would keep his, let's say, 20,850 XP.  When the Fighter earns 32,000 XP, he would become a 6th level Fighter.

I'm not sure which I like better.  Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Beast of the Week: Slimer

Somethin' strange in your neighborhood?  Who ya gonna call?  Ghostbusters!

Yep, this week's beast is everyone's favorite green binging ghost, Slimer.

AC: 3 (17)
HD: 3*
Move: Fly 150 (50)
Attacks: 1 pass
Damage: special
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d4)
Save As: F3
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 50

Slimers are bulbous green lesser ghosts made mostly of ectoplasm.  They can pass through solid objects easily, but leave a slimy coating of ectoplasm behind when they do so.  While mostly immaterial and only damaged by spells or magic weapons, they can manipulate physical objects to a limited extent (Str 3).  They are constantly hungry, as eating replenishes their ectoplasmic mass.  In combat, they do no damage when they hit, but they coat the target with ectoplasm, imposing a -2 penalty to hit rolls, damage, and saving throws.  Anyone hit by a slimer must Save vs. Death Ray or all consumables and paper products (including rations, potions, scrolls, maps and spellbooks) are ruined by the slime.  The slime can be washed off normally, but requires large amounts of water.  Slimers have all the normal undead immunities, and are Turned as wights.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Knowledge is half the battle

It's been two years since I've blogged about rumors.  Time to do so again!

I've been stocking my megadungeon using a "keystone treasures" idea.  There are certain extremely valuable items of treasure in the dungeon, and some known magic items as well.  Rumors about these treasures are easy to come by.  The idea is that by giving rumors of these sorts of treasures, it gives players some goals to shoot for when exploring.

I've also now got lists for the first two levels plus the outer works that provide rumors about monsters, traps, tricks, and red herrings and a few outright lies (but hopefully lies that still lead to interesting locations in the dungeon). 

Now I've thought up a new wrinkle: Class Specific Rumor Tables.

Or if using AD&D, Basic Fantasy, or LL AEC, Class Specific and Race Specific Rumor Tables.

I'm thinking of sorting out all the rumors into areas of knowledge.  Magic-Users are more likely to learn about what sorts of magic items there are down there (and what sorts of spells could be learned, or spellcasting monsters abound).

Clerics learn about relics and shrines, undead, and holy magic items.

Fighters mostly learn about monsters and magical arms.

Thieves learn about tricks and traps and what monsters are likely to have treasures.

Dwarves and Halflings get a mix of Fighter and Thief rumors.  Elves get a mix of Fighter and Magic-User rumors.  There would likely be some demi-human specific rumors on their tables as well.

Also, I can then break down rumors about keystone treasures into groups.  The Adventurer's Guild and the Thieves' Guild can tell you about most monetary keystone treasures.  The old hedge wizard or the alchemist can tell you about wands/staves/rods and miscellaneous magics.  The old arms-master can tell about most magic weapons and armors.  The priests at the temple (or the druids in the grove) can tell about holy relic treasures.  Things like that.

This would give players a bit more of a reason to play a variety of classes (get more rumors), as well as give everyone a reason to be adventuring.

Also, one more idea - every henchman or man at arms hired knows one random rumor.  Another reason to hire help!