Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The post you haven't been waiting for

So, it's finally time for me to talk a bit about the 5E/Next playtest documents.  I've got them.  I've read through them.  I've found a few interesting things, a few things I don't like, but in general, nothing really horrible enough to make me NOT play the game and nothing cool enough to make me WANT to play the game.  Of course, this is just an early playtest, and things will change. 

I still think it's important for myself and other old schoolers to take part.  If nothing else, we can show that we're not just haters to WotC, and maybe get some more perks like the AD&D reprints thrown our way in the future.  And maybe some of the old school vibe will remain in the new edition, which will make it that much easier to recruit the kids who start on 5E into our OSR games.  My biggest problem (OK, time is the biggest, but if I weren't working full time/in grad school/teaching private lessons/raising a trilingual son/etc. it would be the biggest problem) with me getting an OSR game going here is that most of the player base in Busan want to play 3E/Pathfinder or, to a lesser extent, 4E.  Or some other game than D&D.  If 5E comes with more of an OS philosophy behind adventure creation, GMing advice, and all that, I think it would be much easier for me to get people to try Labyrinth Lord.  And this is in no way intended to be a slight to Justin, who's running an awesome game via G+ Hangouts, but there's just something better about a face-to-face game.

Anyway, enough blather about my gaming woes.  What did I think of the first public unveiling of D&D Next? 

The basic "universal" mechanic is that of the d20 system (3E).  There are a lot of places where the text has just been cut-and-paste from their 4E documents.  Hopefully they'll clear some of this up.  For a game that patently DOESN'T rely on a grid/battlemat, to say that moving in any sort of non-standard fashion "costs an additional 5 feet of movement" makes my brain do funny things.  I noticed a few of the 4E powers have become either "feats" or spells.  Laser Clerics, Fighters who do damage when they miss, Wizards who shoot mini-fireballs all day long like the one in Gauntlet -  all still there from 4th.

Advantage/Disadvantage is interesting.  Having run into "disadvantage" in the short-lived 4E game I played last year with one of the Paizo adventures, it can be a real pain in the butt.  Advantage is basically just the standard "luck" bonus that's been around for several editions. 

Hit points?  Mook monsters are alright.  Any sort of "boss" monster or "tough" monster, though, looks WAY too high.  We'll see how it goes in play, though, as damage dealing capacity looks fairly high (although the playtest Fighter does have one of the highest damage weapons in the game - switch out that great axe for a longsword and we may have a different story).  Now, this may have an unintended benefit.  Those who like 2 hour tactical combats can really enjoy finding the correct puzzle to whittle down each big beastie.  Those who like combat-as-war will want to find ways to circumvent having to grind those big monsters down.  But still, an ogre or troll shouldn't have 100+ hit points.  How many will dragons and giants have? 

And healing?  Don't like it as written.  I've always been of the "high hit points mean you're just that hard to kill" school (too many Schwarzenegger movies as a kid, perhaps?), rather than "it's all luck and reflexes and getting tired out" school. 

Backgrounds and Themes - Backgrounds seem OK.  Basically 2E kits that give you a few set 3E skills and maybe a feat or two.  Themes are basically just the 4E roles (from the five they've listed) given a makeover.  I don't hate either, and could see maybe using Backgrounds but not Themes if I were to run a game of 5E beyond the playtest phase (which I'm admittedly not likely to do at this stage of the rules).

General tone of the rules - I like it.  Give a solid set of mathematics to run the game, but give plenty of advice and use a tone that makes those numbers not so set in stone.

Making all sorts of checks keyed to ability scores is good (and Old School).  Making the saving throws tied to ability scores means that lots of people are still gonna want to run "super-charged" characters where an 8 (-1) represents "a significant flaw" and DMs will be hounded if they don't allow point buy or some ridiculous rolling scheme to insure high ability scores across the board. 

Finally, monsters.  Lots of them seem to have some sort of "tactical" special ability for no other reason than to have a "tactical" special ability (in other words, 4E leftovers).  And several of them are what Justin Alexander terms dissociated mechanics. 

We've got a couple people interested in giving it a try.  I've been nominated to DM.  After I finish my grad school stuff, I'll be happy to do so.  Then we'll see how it plays when the rubber hits the road (or the shit hits the fan, depending on how old school I take it).  I'll go ahead and just run it the way it is, to get the most accurate depiction of how it plays.  If I had my druthers, though, I'd scrap the healing mechanic (or at least heavily modify and tone it down), scrap the monster tactical abilities (the whole point of the move to ability score based actions was to be able to do improvisational stuff like in Flying Swordsmen, right?), and keep Backgrounds but drop Themes for the characters.  Probably a few other changes here and there.

So nothing to hate in 5E for me, but nothing to love either.  Some interesting ideas, some things I don't think are good for the game. 

Score so far: C+

Monday, May 28, 2012

Ya load 16 tons, whadda ya get?

Had a rare Sunday game of Justin's Vaults of Ur campaign last night.  This week, our lineup consisted of Ripper the Orc (Jeremy/Oxide), Elder Karl the Cleric (Dean/Tallifer), Mork the Magic-User (Josh/Anonymous) and of course Thidrek the Sleestak Crossbowmaster (yeah, 3rd level baby!  I'll likely be dead soon.)  The stone fist we found last session was tried on by Elder Karl, who found that it gave him excessive strength in his arms (but not the rest of his body), and he couldn't take it off.  The statue's large mace seemed to enhance the power, though.  We're still not exactly sure what it does.

Thidrek bought a cart and of course instead of mules, Ur has six-legged triceratopsian beasts to pull them.  A pair of teamsters also were included in the package.  Blasko, our NPC Beastman crossbowman, came with us as well.  Our mission was three-fold.  First, get the iron statue we defeated last time up and out, and sold.  Second, get the alchemist's tower fixed up to be our new base.  Third, try and get the Hive lined up on our side to fight the Spiked Circle bandits/cult.

We got to the Hive without incident, and found a new faction apparently in control.  Mork's ESP came in handy as Thidrek snorted bug powder to talk to them.  The political strife is rampant, and "outsiders" are interfering.  We're obviously one interfering group, but apparently there's another.  Thidrek suspects Oogliata's Amazonian Legion (orcs). 
Anyway, we headed down and found no signs of new monsters, and our statue where we left it.  There's still more to explore down there, but we may save it for later.  We hauled the statue up, and it took most of the day.  We camped just outside the Hive, and Ripper saw a strange light show up in their tower during his watch.  Early the next morning, Zizik (the leader of the friendly faction) showed up with some of his men and a dried "brain beetle" husk that he said would help with communication between the Hive and Fort Low.  We're to present it to the authorities, he says.  Again, Mork's ESP showed us that Zizik had no malicious intent.  So we headed out with four Hive Tribesmen as honor guards to the beetle husk.

We got to a square and as we crossed it, two buildings on the opposite side collapsed, blocking our path.  And just then, three ape-like monsters with tentacles for arms attacked.  A Sleep spell, a set spear against a charge, a few crossbow bolts and flail swings, and another Sleep spell ended the encounter with no damage to us.  Mork was out of memorized spells, but had a scroll of magic missile and some flasks of acid.

Obviously, the Spiked Circle wanted us to head south (north was the Zoo, Thidrek's in no hurry to return there), and it would take maybe the entire day to clear rubble.  Thidrek suggested scouting a path through alleys and ruined buildings, and while he did so, he found a path with minimal obstruction and a two story building with movement in the windows.  It was decided that Thidrek and Ripper should sneak to the building and ambush the ambushers while the rest of the group went through the alleys.

There were two beastmen archers waiting, and they had spread oil out along the street to the south.  We managed to take them, but not before one blew a warning on his horn.  No reinforcements arrived, luckily.  Thidrek found two wicker baskets, and opening one, let loose some flying leeches with bat-like wings.  Luckily, his sword went snicker-snack before they could snack upon Sleestak.  He then called for Ripper to light a torch and burn the oil, and tossed the baskets into the blaze.

By this time, Father Karl, Mork and the wagon team had cleared the alleys (Father Karl using his new magical stone guantlet to bash through a wall Luke Cage style).  Father Karl expected us to meet them at the far side, and not seeing us, went south to find what happened.  Mork decided to get the wagon moving rather than wait.  He ran into another ambush, this time led by several Spiked Circle spellcasters.  Blasko went down to arrow fire, and the Hive warriors and triceratops were put down by sleep spells.  Mork took some damage while waking up the Hive warriors, and the teamsters also were killed before the rest of us could arrive.  Luckily, the Hive warriors were fanatical about defending their Brain Beetle, and we were able to put down all of the attackers but one archer, who fled.  There were two demon-faced magic-users, and two helmeted guys, one a human (Cleric we think) and another an Orc Magi (Justin's palette swapped Elf class).

With no other encounters (and it pushing 1am), we made it back to Fort Low without further incident.

So we didn't even get close to objectives two and three, but we had a ton of fun with objective one, and next session I think we're up for a bit of political wrangling within the Hive. 

Justin also let us know that the night's events had been inspired by him seeing the trailer for The Road Warrior during the week.  And it did make for a fun night, I have to say.

In other news, some of the Busan Gamers may be trying out the 5E Playtest soon.  I'll keep you all posted.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Beast of the Week: Shrieking Eel

"You hear that, Princess?  Those are the shrieking eels.  They always get louder just before they feed on human flesh!"

Yes, turning to The Princess Bride for this week's Beast.  Enjoy!

Shrieking Eel
AC: 8 (12)
HD: 5+1*
Move: swim 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 2d6
No. Appearing: 1-8 (1-8)
Save As: F3
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 400 
Shrieking Eels are 30' long serpentine fish.  They produce a keening wail as they close in on their prey.  Those that hear the shriek must Save vs. Spells or become paralyzed with fear.  Panicked creatures stop swimming but continue to tread water, and may not attack or cast spells.  There are both marine and fresh water varieties of Shrieking Eels, and they have been found in water-logged sections of dungeons as well.

Friday, May 25, 2012


OK, I've been trying to download the 5E Playtest documents. 

Keep getting errors and redirects and messages telling me I'm sending scripts over unsecure lines.

And this is AFTER making sure I still had a account, signing the little agreement, having to wait another hour to get the email with the download link...   If they really want people to playtest their stuff, why do they make so many hoops to jump through to do it?

Anyway, I'll try it again after work.  If it doesn't work, screw it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

I hear that train a comin'

It's rolling round the bend.
And I ain't seen the sunshine
Since I don't know when.
I'm stuck in Folsom Prison
And time keeps dragging on.
But that train keeps a rollin'
On down to San Antone.

So, for those of you who have been living under a rock or on a desert island with no internet access, WotC is releasing their public playtest of "D&D Next"* tomorrow.  Well, for me it will likely be the day after tomorrow, due to the funny time warp known as the International Date Line. 

And I'm likely going to download it.  When they announced it, I was curious.  I was hoping they would reverse their current direction and bring the game home.  At first, their stated goals were hopeful.  Overly optimistic, certainly, but they gave me hope that the new game might at least be a good compromise game for those that like Old School, New School, and whatever school it is that 4th belongs to.

More recently, it's been pretty obvious that the game is not headed that way.  But I figure I at least need to take a look at what they've got and give my feedback to them, even if my voice is not heard.  If I don't, then I'll be just another grumbling guy when the game is released.  Like someone who doesn't vote, then spends the next 4 years complaining about the president.

Yeah, that's right.  It's our civic duty to go to the polls and vote for more Old School in our D&D.  We aren't likely to win the election, but if we don't make our voices heard then we've got no right to complain about the results after the dust settles.

*They're still calling it this?  Come on!  5E is of course just as bad.  You think they'd have had someone with a bit of marketing sense come up with something better.  I just keep thinking of Pepsi Next when I read that.  And Pepsi Clear, Pepsi Blue, whatever.  Yeah, I'm a Coke drinker when it comes to colas. Currently drinking a Mt. Dew, though.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The God in the Bowl

Getting behind in my Conan story reviews.  Sorry about that, folks.  I'm still reading, just haven't had much time to sit down, consider the stories, and write.  At this pace, I'm gonna have to re-read them again before writing.  Or just post a bit more often.  We'll see which happens.

Anyway, on with the review.  The God in the Bowl is the third Conan story that Howard wrote, and like The Frost Giant's Daughter, it didn't sell.  We have another young Conan story here, with him a thief in Nemedia.  The entire story takes place within a rich merchant's store-house, and is a murder mystery story with a supernatural element, rather than an action story.  Until the end, Conan is less the main character than just a participant in the action, being accused of murdering the merchant and questioned by Demetrio the Inquisitor and his police backup.

The story really puts Howard's theme of corrupt civilization vs. noble barbarism in focus.  Demetrio (who is really the main character until the last couple pages) is a decent enough fellow, but the rest of the police, especially the leader, are simply brutish thugs who abuse and terrorize the citizens.  The young, effeminate noble that hired Conan to break into the store house is pretty much Conan's exact opposite, being a weak, deceptive and soulless bastard.  Minor spoiler if you haven't read the story (but probably not unexpected), Conan decapitates him.

The real murderer is of course the supernatural element, and Conan in the end is the only one who faces it.  The "bowl" in the title is a large sealed urn from a Stygian tomb, and the contents of the "bowl" leave even Conan awash with horror.

Overall its a pretty good story.  It's well done, but it might have been the wrong sort of story for the weird fiction magazines Howard was trying to publish his work in.  The hero is sidelined for most of the story, there are no women (in distress or otherwise), and the one fight scene is cut short by the second murder caused by the mysterious creature.  This is all just speculation on my part, of course.

I'll likely be using "The God in the Bowl" in a future Beast of the Week post.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Beast of the Week: Gelfling

The Dark Crystal is a movie I haven't seen in years.  Need to rectify that.  Anyway, this week, have a Gelfling.

AC: 8 (12)
HD: 1-1
Move: 120 (40) [Glide 120 (40)]
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: by weapon -1
No. Appearing: 1-8 (3-18)
Save As: H1
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: Lawful
XP: 5 

Gelflings are small, slim demi-humans with a mix of features of both Halflings and Elves.  Some say they are the Halfling equivalent of the Half-Elf.  They are a peace-loving folk, with little regard for the future, preferring to live in the moment.   When inspired to a great cause, such as overthrowing tyranny, they can marshal great courage and resilience.  Female Gelflings have retractable wings.  While they cannot truly fly, they can use their wings to glide from high places.  Their souls are said to be especially "delicious" to energy draining creatures, who prey on them mercilessly.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

What the hell?

Over at Tenkar's Tavern, Erik's alter-ego the Grumpy Dwarf has been posting a series of interesting articles where he takes WotC's various postings about 5E and then skewers them with his commentary.  I'm enjoying the series.

The latest is on Mike Mearls' latest post on the ideas for Wizards in 5E. 

Even without the Grumpy Dwarf's reading between the lines, the article is a big WTF?

They don't want the Wizard to overpower the other classes.  They don't want the Wizard casting too many spells per day.  They want the Wizard to always be able to cast a spell.  They want the Wizard to be a versatile toolbox of creative solutions to problems.  They don't want the Wizard to be a "buffer."  They want the Wizard to be good at buffing the rest of the party.

Seriously, what is going on here?

They want to cut down the Wizard's spell list so they don't have so many options.  But they want to give "at will" cantrips (stolen from Pathfinder) which will include at least one attack power (4E).  So the Wizard will always have "something to do."  But the "real spells" will be more limited.  And with the limiting of the spell list and the desire to not have too many buff spells or 'utility' spells that can lead to creative problem solving, doesn't that mean a spell list limited to mostly attack/defense spells?  I've played a 4E Wizard, and that's what they're describing right there.  And trust me, it wasn't fun. 

Yet at the same time, they want to encourage Wizards to get all creative, and DMs to use the dreaded DM Fiat to rule on such creative uses. 

So instead of trying to build an edition that will bring everyone together, it sounds like they're right on course to piss off EVERYONE, with the Wizard at least.

Monday, May 14, 2012

When Artwork Attacks!

Last Saturday we had yet another G+ game of Justin's Vaults of Ur campaign.  I'm wondering if I'm ever going to get any more Flying Swordsmen games in or not, since we've moved the Ur gaming to almost every week now.  Oh well, it's fun, and when Justin sends us the XP awards for this session, I'm confident Thidrek will advance to Level 3, Sleestak Crossbowmaster.

This session, we had Josh (of the old Board Game Group, and last year's Gamma World GM) join us, playing Mork, his magic-user from my old sessions at the Board Game Group.  Jeremy still plays Ripper the Orc, Dean had Elder Karl Cleric of the Great Bear, and Brian played Caradoc the Mumbler Cleric of Gormah the Crone.

Elder Karl would like to take over the old Alchemist's Tower we explored on Thidrek's first foray into Ur (where he ran away from a Shoggoth-like slime beast among other heroic works), and turn it into a home base.  We're all on board with this, but decided to return to the Hive's tunnels to investigate the weird statue we'd noticed previously.  We got another hero's welcome at the Hive.  Also, Mork used his ESP spell to see if he could trust them, and Forager is apparently trying to make some political power play within the Hive, and is hoping we'll support him.  They also seem to have bigger trouble with the Spiked Circle bandits than suspected, so Thidrek's old plan to get the Hive to ally with us to wipe them out may happen in the near future, as well.*

Down in the caves, we examined the statue.  It was solid metal (unknown type), and of a humanoid holding a large mace.  It stood in an alcove carved like a giant hand.  When Elder Karl found a sword hilt in the debris near it, it came to life and attacked.  We had a hard time hitting it (AC was pretty high and our rolls were low), so Thidrek drank the potion of heroism he'd spent half of the last session's haul buying.  Ripper and Mork both pulled out ropes and started trying to entangle the statue.  Eventually we got it entangled, and Ripper delivered the killing blow with the statue's own mace.  During the battle, Caradoc and Mork had noticed a crack in the wall of the hand - a secret door.

Following it down, we found a series of partially worked caverns, with lots of carved pictures in the walls showing some sort of conflict in Ur between normal humans and beastmen on one side (with some sort of Holy Grail), and diseased ghouls on the other.  Found a healing pool, and another with black water (seemed harmless, and was DEEP).  Another secret door discovered led us to yet another crypt.  Thidrek fell in a pit trap, but the temporary hit points from the potion saved his life.  In the crypt, more living statues attacked.  These ones were stone, and not so hard to kill, so we managed to kill six of them. 

In the sarcophagus was a suit of mail (shiny, probably magical), a stone gauntlet of some sort (wouldn't fit on Thidrek's Sleestak hand), and a necklace with a key that matches a symbol on the secret door an on the iron statue.

It was a fun, chaotic session, and it ended with a large discussion about how to drag the iron statue back to Fort Low to sell it.  So next session, I imagine we'll take care of that and then make sure the Alchemist's Tower is safe to send in workers.

*Story emerging through play.  I like this.  Thidrek's original backstory was that he was a Sleestak (one of Ur's Beastmen) who had been born in the breeding pits.  That's it.  Now there are all kinds of plot points to potentially follow up on (assuming he doesn't get squished or eaten next session).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Frost Giant's Daughter

The second tale of Conan Howard penned, the first "original" actually as The Phoenix on the Sword started out as a Kull tale and was reworked, is The Frost Giant's Daughter.  Ironically, this tale didn't sell, so a few years later Howard renamed the character Amra (an alias of Conan) and had it published in a fan magazine.

The story is that of a very young Conan.  It doesn't say how old he is, but I'm guessing he's still a teen, maybe 15 or 16 in the story.  He's battling with a group of Aesir against the Vanir, north of the Cimmerian border.  The story starts with him the last survivor of an ambush, against the last survivor of the ambushers.  Of course Conan wins, and as he sinks into the snow in exhaustion, a nearly naked and extremely beautiful woman appears before him.

She taunts the barbarian, and his lust awakes him and gives him the vigor he needs to chase her across the arctic barrens.  It's a variation on the Atalanta myth, and I can see a few possible reasons why Howard wasn't able to sell the story.

First of all, Conan is basically a slave to his raging hormones.  It could be argued that Atali, the Frost Giant's Daughter has enchanted him, but it seems from Howard's prose that it's more that Conan wants to bang her, and he's stubbornly pursuing her of his own accord for that purpose.  Of course, Atali wants Conan to follow her into a trap of her own, and when Conan quite handily vanquishes her two frost giant brothers with about three or four sword strokes (try doing that in D&D!), and begins catching up to her, she panics and uses supernatural means to escape the lustful "hero."  Conan is presented as just another horny teenage boy, really, although one who's already larger, stronger, and more skilled with a sword than most other men.  It's not the most flattering picture of the hero.

Secondly, the overt sexual nature of the story fits in with a lot of rape myths, but may have been too strong for the publishers of Howard's day.  The Pulps had plenty of sexualized stories, but this one may have been too blatant.

Still, on the positive side it does tell of an interesting supernatural event from Conan's youth, one that helps shape his personality later in life.  Viewed in the context of the collection, it's a worthwhile story.  On its own, it's a bit weak.  There could be a really powerful psychological tale of a femme fatale who tempts the wrong man, who happens to then obsessively pursue her with the intent of rape.  Howard, however, wasn't really that sort of writer, so instead we get a sort of interesting event from Conan's life, but not a really riveting one.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Beast of the Week: Stygian Baboon

Blogger seems to be really buggy lately.  Probably because I'm still holding out and using the old interface until they force me to only use their terrible new one.  But let's try getting this post up, shall we?

This week's Beast is of course inspired by the creature summoned from the Outer Dark by Thoth-Amon to wreck the plans of the Conspirators in The Phoenix on the Sword.

Stygian Baboon*
AC: 6 (14)
HD: 4*
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 2 talons
Damage: 1d8/1d8
No. Appearing: 1-4 (1-10)
Save As: F4
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 125

Stygian baboons are disgusting ape-like creatures summoned to the Material Plane by dark magics.  While generally simian in appearance, they are large, ranging from 7 to 10' tall, and have twisted brutish faces, with a malign intelligence in their human-like eyes.  They attack by grabbing and rending opponents with their powerful arms.  They are only harmed by spells or magical weapons.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Some Flying Swordsmen NPCs

Lee, who did the cover design graphic work and character sheet, has written up a couple of cool NPCs for Flying Swordsmen, based on the movie The New Legend of Shaolin, staring Jet Li.

Check it out! 

There's also some buzz about Flying Swordsmen on The RPG Site and around G+ from time to time.  I think I could really use a review from one of the big OSR blogs, though.  That would be the best exposure for the game, I think.  But I feel wrong about just emailing James M or Jim Raggi or Zak or Jeff R. or whoever to do a review of the game. 

And that's one reason why I doubt I'd do well in marketing.  A shameless self-promoter I am not.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Phoenix on the Sword

I started re-reading my R.E. Howard Conan collection last Sunday.  Why?  Why not!  It's good stuff.

Anyway, it's gotten me thinking about some stuff for the old blog (see my previous post - or rather don't waste your time, it's just me venting on a bad day).  This is the first, some thoughts about the first story, "The Phoenix on the Sword."

The basic plot is that four conspirators are trying to kill King Conan because they can usurp the throne Conan himself usurped.  But there are two things they don't expect.  First is the awesome barbarian prowess of Conan (of course), and second is a betrayal by a slave owned by one of the conspirators.  There's of course a supernatural element, and being the first story Howard wrote about Conan it provides a good basic introduction to the Hyborian Age without being too heavy on the exposition.

The story is well paced, with the conspirators and their slave being introduced in media res, and Conan getting a bit of dedicated character building in the second "chapter."  After that, the plot moves quickly, and the betrayal by the slave being the instrumental event that shapes the story.

This actually is not surprising, since the basic plot was originally written as a Kull of Atlantis story, "By This Axe I Rule."  Howard had written the story already, let it sit, then when the character of Conan came to him, it was rewritten to star his new character.  I've got the 2003 Del Rey collection, The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, and the appendices and introduction make it clear that there were several drafts of the revised Conan version, as well.  I'll have to get my Kull collection to see if it makes any comment about how many drafts the original went through.  Needless to say, Howard put a lot of work into this story, and it shows.

It's definitely a good way to introduce one of the most famous characters in fantasy fiction.  The next two stories aren't so well done, but I'll save them for another post.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Content Posts?

Gaming content posts have been sparse around here lately.  Posts in general are down thanks to grad school and fatherhood and real life stuff, but the biggest reason has just been a lack of much to interest me game-wise.

I'm not really that interested in 5E anymore.  What they've been showing and telling on the WotC site, and general commentary around the blogs, has left me feeling like I'll skip it.  Or maybe just pick up the PHB if people in my gaming group want to play it.  Doubt I'll dive in deep with that one.

I don't have the money to be investing in the multitude of OSR Kickstarters.  So nothing to hype.

Our Saturday night Labyrinth Lord games on G+ are going well, but since I'm a player, aside from the play reports, there's not much to get my juices flowing about the game.  DMing tends to do that to me, but not playing.  As a player I just analyze things less.

And I'm kinda tired of just hyping Flying Swordsmen.  And it's been a scheduling bitch to get people to play it (mostly due to MY schedule).  Hopefully I'll be able to get some more games in over the summer though, and put out a revised edition to work out some of the kinks.

Anyway, I'm sure I'll have stuff to say about gaming styles and game systems and house rules and all that again in the future.  Just don't expect much in the coming weeks.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Making the world safe for Sleestak

We had another session of Justin's Vaults of Ur game on G+ last night, and things went really really well.

The players were myself as Thidrek the Sleestak, Dean as Father Karl, and Jeremy as Ripper the Orc.

First off, Dean got a bit more characterization going, and is now officially a follower of the Great Bear Deity.  Jeremy had Ripper hire us an NPC crossbow wielding beastman to come along and help shoot things.  Blasco was his name.

We spent a little time going over equipment lists.  The disparity between the old Labyrinth Lord version's armor and the AEC (and I assume the new regular LL) caused a few laments.  Jeremy and I had both purchased better armor at the higher price before the previous session.  Oh well, water under the bridge.  We'll be using the updated prices in the future.  I never did like the inflated armor prices anyway.

We also learned that our efforts have been making a difference.  The way between Fort Low and The Hive is now more or less clear of monsters.  The march of progress continues.  Law is pushing back Chaos.  

We headed back into the Hive, but got a colder reaction than normal.  They also had a lot more guards at the end of their tunnels.  They were still friendly enough to share some healing balm with us, but Thidrek was running out of translation powder, and they suggested he go deep into the center of the Hive to get more.  He did, on his own, and saw some things man was not meant to see.  Luckily he's a Sleestak and not a man.

He also found out that the extra guards were there because of "cold worm" attacks.  Promising to look into it (and hoping he'd meet nothing of the sort!) Thidrek got the translation powder and headed back to the others.

We descended into the caves we'd been exploring, and found the place reeking of rotting troglodyte corpses.  And of course what comes down to attack?  Carrion crawlers.  The first wave was three juveniles, each about 4' long.  We got +2 bonuses to save vs. paralysis on them, but it was a tense battle.  Ripper got paralyzed in the first round, then Blasco the NPC, and then Father Karl.  We were down to the last crawler and Thidrek.  Thidrek got initiative, made his hit roll, and slew the beast.  We were really close to a TPK.

Gathering up all the bodies, we burned them at the Rhagodessa bone pit, and waited on the ledge to see what would come.  The momma Carrion Crawler showed up, of course.  We did better this time.  All four of us scored hits with missile weapons on the surprise round.  Ripper got paralyzed again, but Father Karl was waiting with a Cure Light Wounds spell to free him.  Ripper then drove his sword through its mouth into its brain.  We burned it, too.

We got to the next chamber, worked stone, were we also had fought troglodytes.  Burned them, and the carrion crawler maggots there.  And finally we got into the sarcophagus room just beyond, which had tempted us at the end of the last session.

Just beyond that room was a pit, containing a 10' tall metallic hand-shaped symbol on the wall, with a statue of a warrior holding a mace in the air in the center.  Something to investigate next time.  We opened sarcophagi, and found plenty of golden grave goods.  We also got attacked by a trio of ghouls - the same ones that Thidrek had encountered in the Zoo (and that killed Kullpetal and Danyael).  So the caverns we're in now connect to the ones under the Zoo, apparently.  More stuff to check out on a future expedition.

Loaded down with lots of loot (finally!), and with a carrion crawler head to take back to The Hive, we headed back up and after getting a small reward from the Hive, headed back to Fort Low to celebrate our success.  Our NPC hireling looks willing to come along next time, too.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Beast of the Week: Gwythaint

Happy Star Wars Day to those of you still in other time zones.  May the 4th be with you!

Here in Korea, it's already the morning of Children's Day, which means I'll be spending the day taking my son fun places.  And then tonight gaming on G+ after my son has hopefully fallen into a pleasant sleep of exhaustion.

For this week's beast, I'm turning to one of the YA fantasy series that turned me onto the genre, Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain.  Presented for your D&D fun is the Gwythaint:

AC: 3 (17)
HD: 2*
Move: 30 (10) Fly 150 (50)
Attacks: 2 talons/1 bite
Damage: 1d4/1d4/1d6
No. Appearing: 1-4 (6-36)
Save As: F2
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic

Gwythaints are large, jet-black birds of prey, with glowing red eyes.  They are semi-intelligent, and often serve as spies to powerful Chaotic characters or creatures.  They have excellent eyesight and hearing, and can report back to their masters all that they have seen or heard.  While not great threats individually, in flocks they can also be dangerous threats.  They can use Detect Evil, Detect Danger and Detect Magic at will, and once per day may use Detect Invisible.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

Last Sunday, the whole family went out to see The Avengers in the theaters.  As usual, and especially since we had our 4-year-old son along, we saw it in 2D.  I'm sick of the 3D gimmick, and glad the studios seem to finally be moving away from it a bit.  But you're not clicking on this to read me grumbling about that.  You want to know about the movie.

Since it's still a day or two before it opens in North America, I'll keep this spoiler free.

And for those of you arriving here using a Google search about curse words in the movie, there was a bit, but no F-bombs and one or two "shits" uttered under characters' breath.  Plenty of damns and hells, and a few assholes.  If you don't want your kids hearing that, don't let them watch network TV and skip The Avengers.

I had high expectations for this movie.  I've been pleased with all of the lead in movies, and actually impressed with both Iron Man movies and Captain America (I thought the Hulk and Thor were both good, but could have been a bit better).  The Avengers really was the icing on the cake.  The four year wait since Iron Man 1 was released (coinciding with my advent in Korea) was worth it.

We've got a fast moving story that nonetheless seems to have enough time to tell the characters' stories.  The acting was top notch, and despite all the silliness that comes with a comic book superhero universe, the actors were able to make it all convincing.  I think Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner/the Hulk (Lou Ferigno of course providing the Hulk's voice) did a great job.  He had this sorry, knowing, world-weariness that someone who transforms into a raging unstoppable engine of destruction would have.  So props to the actors. 

Huge props to Joss Whedon.  The script held together well, the dialogue was snappy and incredibly funny.  Everyone got in a zinger or two during the course of the movie.  The action scenes were well done, and the dramatic scenes were good, too. 

The action scenes were a bit more intense than in the lead-in movies, though, and in retrospect, I shouldn't have brought my son to it.  He definitely enjoyed it, but it was a bit too much for him.  He was so wound up after that he couldn't stay still, and about an hour and a half after we got home (we saw a 1pm matinee, so we got home around 4), he was asleep and out for the night, pretty much.  He woke up briefly, at a bit of cucumber, we brushed his teeth, then he was back asleep until morning.  Don't worry, though, folks, no permanent scarring.  We won't be taking him to see the new Spider-Man movie, though.

OK, I promised spoiler free, but I'll just say to watch the credits.  Likely you all know that already.  They are planning on making an Avengers 2, and we get a glimpse of that.  Scuttlebutt on the internet also is suggesting that we may actually get the Ant-Man and Wasp movie, and the planned Dr. Strange movie may also tie into Avengers 2, along with Iron Man 3 and Thor 2.  So it looks like we've got a few more years of well-done superhero movies from Marvel coming. 

And as an aside, with Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy coming to a close later this summer, maybe DC will get on the ball and get a series of similar movies leading up to a Justice League movie in the works.  That would be sweet.