Saturday, September 29, 2012

Got OSR game files you want to share?

Well, maybe some of you never even noticed, what with the infrequent posting around here, but when Mediafire started dicking around with my files and not being helpful at all, I nuked my account there.  Luckily, most of my downloadable files (over there --> at the top of the sidebar!) are back up thanks in no small part to Brad of Skull Crushing For Great Justice

Did you know he's got a website devoted to hosting files for us in the OSR?  Heard of it?

No, I hadn't either, until he chimed in on the comments to the post I made complaining about the douchebags who tagged Flying Swordsmen as being in potential violation of copyright.*

Anyway, Brad is running and that's where all my documents are now being hosted.  If you've got some game modules or your own retro-simulo-heart-breakero-Mine type game to distribute or whatever, I suggest you contact Brad and put them up on his site.  It's free and it was pretty easy.  And even though he's got an acidic wit on his blog (one of the reasons I like to read it), he was very patient with my annoying questions along the way.

What can I say, I've got no experience with web-site coding, or running servers, or anything.  I'm lazy and like to just use services like Blogger that do it all for me.  But Brad set me up with some server space to host my files, and helped with the FTP process, and all kinds of good stuff.

Now I just need to find where on my various hard drives the last couple files are (one went missing thanks to a missing USB flash memory stick, but I've got a hard copy I could use to recreate it) and get the last few files back up for people to download.

Thanks, Brad!

*Man, IP law is getting really fucked up.  There's no "innocent until proven guilty" when Hollywood and publishing houses and the music industry have deep pockets and aren't afraid to buy a politician or two.  I sent a rather abusive email to MediaFire during the dust-up.  Granted, they were being unhelpful, but when a nice lady replied to my rant politely and explained that they're legally required to treat claims of copyright infringement as guilty until proven innocent, I felt kinda bad for her.  They're just doing their jobs and following an unjust law because their bosses are too chicken-shit to fight it.

I need to be a) badgering my elected officials, and b) looking for the French douchebag company and trying to see if they have any materials on the web that I could then accuse of being in violation of my copyright and let them have to deal with what they dish out.  But since I've got grad school presentations and readings to take care of, I probably won't get around to either.

Beast of the Week: Jack-o-lantern

I mentioned earlier in the week that my son is sorta playing Dragon Strike (or at least playing with the pieces).  When he runs around as the Wizard, he often says that he's changing into a "pumpkin head wizard."  The his wizard punches the monsters.  Also, while it's Chuseok (one of the big annual Korean holidays, sort of Thanksgiving and the Confucian version of Halloween rolled into one) and I thought I'd try to post another Korean monster, most of them are things already covered by monsters in D&D (OA) or else in Flying Swordsmen.  So I'll start my annual Halloween monster postings tonight with a jack-o-lantern monster.

AC: 6 (14)
HD: 4*
Move: 120 (40)
Attacks: 1 bite/1 gaze
Damage: 2d6/blindness
No. Appearing: 1d6 (1d6)
Save As: F4
Morale: 7
Treasure Type: C
Alignment: Chaotic

Jack-o-lanterns are evil spirits animating a scarecrow with a carved pumpkin head for a face.  The eyes, nose and mouth of the pumpkin glow with an eldritch light.  Despite their jerky movements, they are capable combatants, with iron-hard jaws.  In addition to their bite attack, jack-o-lanterns can use a gaze attack each round.  A target who meets the gaze (see standard penalties for avoiding the gaze under the Medusa) must Save vs. Paralyzation or stand still, unable to move for 1d6 Rounds.

I personally plan to describe each jack-o-lantern's gaze differently.  One will be beams of light shooting out of the face like Lo Pan, another might be swirling, mesmerizing hell flames like Ghost Rider, another might release strands of ectoplasm which wrap up the victim.  Just to keep players on their toes and give them something cool to talk about.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Board Game Review: Dragon Strike

A few weeks ago, my son discovered my old Dragon Strike game.  TSR released it back in 1993, and my best friend Killingmachine got it.  We did play it a few times, but spent more time watching the cheesy "hyper-reality" VHS cassette that came with it.  We were already so into D&D that Dragon Strike just didn't scratch the itch.

My son wanted to play it.  He's 4, and can just barely read and write a few words (he's been able to read and mostly write the alphabet since he was 2, but we haven't pushed him to move up to real reading yet for a variety of reasons that only fellow students of educational theories or psychology might find interesting).  I knew he couldn't really play the game, but I set up the board and dealt out the cards, and dug out some minis to use (they've been in storage since we moved two months ago).  We called in my wife to play along.  My son chose the Wizard.  My wife chose the Elf.  After sorting out their spells, I picked a scenario from the book.

Imagine this.  My son is ready to play.  My wife is humoring us but really would rather be taking a nap on a warm Sunday afternoon while her son is occupied with me.  And I just forced them to wait for about 10 minutes while I read the scenario and set up things on my side of the board.

Granted, if I'd been prepared to play, like if it was a regular D&D game, I could have cut down this step.  If my son could read and therefor pick his own spell cards and magic cards, he could have done that while I did my setup.  But still, this game takes a long time to set up.

Anyway, we finally got to play for a while until my son got bored.  The game's mechanics seem to work fine.  They are just a bit too involved for my son (and my wife, too).  It wasn't very fun, either.  Kinda fun, but not very fun.  My son enjoys our free-form "Dungeons and Dragons" games much better, where he can let his imagination run wild.  I still prefer real D&D, where for the same amount of prep time, I can run a full game.

Since that time, we've scrapped the rules, and my son uses the boards like a play set, running figures around and just doing what he pleases, which suits him better.
My son is using the Dragon Strike hero figures, my Papo/Safari dragons, some knight toys I got at the local "dollar" store, and some paper minis for monsters.

Dragon Strike is a decent bit of amusement, but it's not a great game.  I suppose for kids who don't yet have D&D, it's a fine gateway to the hobby.  But for anyone who's already playing RPGs, it just doesn't cut it.  If you want a light board game diversion for a night when you can't play D&D, I find the old Dungeon! board game much more satisfying (but don't have a copy, unfortunately).  The boards and minis that come with the game are handy if you enjoy those sorts of things in your games, though.

And for those of you who have never witnessed the awesomeness that is the Dragon Strike video, I present to you:

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Beast of the Week: Liger

Bred for its skills in magic.
This week, I'm taking my cue from Napoleon Dynamite.  Why not?  Have a liger!

AC: 2 (18)
HD: 7*
Move: 150 (50)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite
Damage: 2d4/2d4/1d12
No. Appearing: 1d4 (1d8)
Save As: F7
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: U
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 850

Ligers are a crossbreed of lions and tigers.  They grow larger than tigers, although not to the size of saber-tooth cats.  They are semi-intelligent, and can cast spells as a 4th level caster.  Males have spells as Magic-Users (2 first level and 2 second level spells), while females have Cleric spells (2 first level and 1 second level).  Both sexes cast spells as Clerics, not requiring a spellbook to operate and being able to memorize any spells on their respective lists.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

To crush your PCs, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their players

Last night (Saturday pm Korea time), we played another session of the Vaults of Ur campaign on G+, run as always by Justin.

Alexei is off in Turkey doing archaeology stuff (and with the trouble in Syria - he said he's going near the border, it may be more Indy Jones-like than normal, who knows?).  We didn't get any word from Matt the new guy.  But Brian was able to return as Caradoc the Mumbler (cleric serving Gorma the Crone), along with Jeremy as Ripper, Dean as Elder Karl and myself as Thidrek.  [Sorry to again be lazy, but if you want links to their various blogs and other online presences, find an earlier Ur post by clicking on my Constant Con or actual play tags.]

We're still on a mission from God...or at least Karl's Great Bear church, to wipe out the carnivorous apes.  We purchased war-beasts/animal companions/pokemon in Fort Low (crowd-sourced mostly by Jez Gordon and Scrap Princess on G+).  Thidrek shucked out the gold he earned in Castle Zagyg to buy the group a giant crab, miniature velociraptor, pygmie axe-beak, and of course a giant beetle from the Hive (using guard dog stats for the most part).  We retained the services of Pliny the Younger, and hired another archer with the unfortunate name of Thodrick, who was quickly nicknamed "Rick" to avoid confusion with my character.

Prepared to hunt us some apes, we headed into the ruins.  We came to a narrow spot in the road where some rubble had fallen.  There was a humanoid body behind the rubble.  Thidrek detected an extremely foul stench in the area.  Skirting the rubble and body, we got to the far side with no trouble and Ripper decided to investigate the body, falling into a covered trench with punji sticks at the bottom.  We dug him out, uncovered the pit, and found the body to be a vulture-man wearing normal clothes instead of the loincloth and rags of the other vulture-dudes.

That's when the harpies attacked.  Four of them.  Golden Girls jokes were made, but in the first round of combat, everyone but Caradoc fell victim to the siren song of the hideous avian hags.  Luckily, on that initiative, Thidrek scored a hit with his crossbow and Karl knocked one off its perch and the axebeak was sent into the rubble to finish it off.

As Thidrek, Ripper, Karl and the henchmen sat down to watch, Caradoc rallied the beasts and made a most heroic stand for a 1st level Cleric.  They managed to take down one of the harpies (the axebeak finished off the one Karl started in on) and wounded both of the others before all the animals were dead and rains of heavy spikes forced Caradoc to retreat and allow us to be led off.  He came back out and made another stand, slinging with all his might, but the spike showers took him down to 0 hit points.

The party minus Caradoc was led into the thorn maze to the cheering of hundreds (maybe thousands?) of vulture-men.  Caradoc was drug underground by some beastmen, who informed him that they keep the apes alive to keep the vulture-men in check [we may need to renegotiate with the Temple of the Great Bear if we make it back to Fort Low] and who were also very interested in his magical armor. 

So, a cliff-hanger ending.  Will we survive and escape the vulture-men and their harpy mistresses?  Will we at least sell our lives dearly in the attempt?  Or will we simply be locked away as breeding stock for more vulture-men/vulture-sleestaks?  Only time will tell.

Beast of the Week: Ungol

Turning to Tolkien this week, we get one of the iconic creatures of both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, the intelligent giant spider.  The giant spiders of Mirkwood are the offspring of Shelob, who is the offspring of Ungoliant.  Ungol was the Sindarin word for 'spider' hence Cirith Ungol, the Pass of the Spider where Shelob laired.

AC: 2 (18)
HD: 7+2***
Move: 180 (60)
Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 3d6 + poison
No. Appearing: 1d3 (3d6)
Save As: F5
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: A
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 1650

Ungols, also known as Shadow Weavers, are giant intelligent spiders.  They are web spinners, and also possess a venomous bite.  Being intelligent, they can control the amount of poison they inject.  They typically only inject enough venom to paralyze a victim for 2-8 Turns (save vs. poison to resist).  They then wrap their victims in webs and take them back to the lair to feed upon later, typically within one week.  Against foes that prove their mettle, such as those wielding magical weapons that can harm them, they will inject enough poison to be deadly (save vs. poison or die instantly).  In addition to their poison, they may use their webs to create traps equal in strength to a web spell, and can use darkness three times per day and confusion once per day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Unhappy Blogversary

Well, I was planning to do a post highlighting some of my better blog posts, as this is the 3rd anniversary of What a  Horrible Night to Have a Curse...

But checking Mediafire, some French douchebag is claiming Flying Swordsmen is one of his company's copyrighted properties and the file downloads have been suspended.

I filed a counterclaim.  If it doesn't work, I'll be looking for a new place to host it (and it's still available from the OSR Conservation Process).

Anyway, in the six months Flying Swordsmen has been out, over 1200 people have downloaded it.  Thanks!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

How Gygax almost killed my PC... from beyond the grave...

Tell me if you've heard this one before: A sleestak walks into a time doorway...and ends up in Castle Zagyg

Yesterday, my morning private English student cancelled.  My wife took our son to his art class.  I was home alone.  What to do?  Why, find a FLAILSNAILS game on G+, of course!  Joe the Lawyer has been running players through Troll Lord Games' Castle Zagyg, which was Gary's last published version of Castle Greyhawk before he died.  And it was a blast, even if I had to leave a bit early.

A short play report:

Thidrek the Sleestak, having reached the rank of Hero, is summoned to the underwarrens below Fort Low.  He must prove himself worthy to join the Library of the Skulls when he passes by entering a Time Doorway and finding success beyond.  The doorway opens up on the world of Krynn, where Castle Zagyg has appeared and is under siege from a dragon highlord's army.

Thidrek teams up with a motley crew of adventurers.  [I should have written down everyone's characters' names, but I didn't.  Sorry.]  There were a Barbarian, an Illusionist, several Halfling Thieves, a Dwarf Fighter, a Magic-User (Elf or Human? Don't remember).  It was a big group, and a bit chaotic IRL with the DM and 9 players.

Anyway, the Illusionist and Dwarf have explored quite a bit of the ruins before, but the remains of the main keep have not been entered.  We head down into the dungeons to bypass the moat and other defenses.  We find a very large room with magical circles for summoning demons and a pair of stone golems guarding it, but as we don't mess with anything they leave us alone.  The next large room was the charred remains of a library, with stairs leading up.  Suspecting a trap on the stairs, we were very careful before proceeding.

At the top, we find the main hall.  Ghosts feast and revel within.  Invisible servants wearing white gloves gesture for us to sit at the high table and enjoy the food there.  After a bit of attempted interaction with the ghosts (no response), we eventually gave in to our curiosity about the food.  And as should be expected in a Gygax module, it was the feast version of the deck of many things.  Thidrek ended up quaffing a goblet of wine, which the roll I made for it revealed it to be poison.  Luckily I've got those awesome Labyrinth Lord Halfling saving throws.  I just barely made my roll.  If I'd still been 3rd level I wouldn't have made it.  Other effects included turning green, getting Haste applied, and being polymorphed into a bumble bee (the barbarian).  Luckily Thidrek was carrying some Hive bug powder and was then able to communicate with the bee (who, by sampling more food, ended up with a voice as loud as a lion's roar).  Another player (one of the halflings, I think) got stuck with a fishy smell that wouldn't go away.

Anyway, after that, our bee scouted the next room and found two bandits and two guard dogs.  We surprised them, took out one dog and one bandit, and the others surrendered.  We tied up the dude and took him along as our Gimp door opener.
Next we found a large chamber with several smaller chambers nested within.  Some empty storage lockers, a hallway with valuable tapestries, and a couple of bunk rooms, each with a lone bandit (one was a sergeant).  We took them down and looted their rooms, finding a bit of treasure.

About this time several players had to go.  I stayed another 30 minutes after that, and Jason Kielbasa joined us with another Magic-User and his bugbear henchmen, but as I said, I had to go.  Thidrek was called back through the Time Doorway (his share of the loot delivered by Dimensional Express the next day), ending his hero-quest.

I'm not sure when I'll have another chance to play in some FLAILSNAILS games, but I'd like to.  I also wonder if any DMs would be willing to let me play a Flying Swordsmen PC in their D&D/AD&D/retro-clone game...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Beast of the Week: Huntsmen of Annuvin

My son wanted to rewatch the old Disney "The Black Cauldron" movie the other day, which is inspired (got the characters close, but the story is pretty different) by one of my early fantasy influences, the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander. 

Then, today, while going through an old folder looking for some old character sheets to play in a FLAILSNAILS game (more on that later), I found a page with three creatures from the Prydain Chronicles, the Huntsmen of Annuvin, the Cauldron Born, and the Gwythaints.  I already did gwythaints back in May.  The version from this sheet, which must date back to my high school days, are a bit more powerful.  I may use them as a "greater gwythaint" in the future.  I'll save the Cauldron Born for next month, as they're undead and make a good Halloween monster.  So anyway, here is the monster you do get, the Huntsmen of Annuvin:

Huntsmen of Annuvin
AC: 5 (15)
HD: 3**
Move: 180 (60)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: by weapon
No. Appearing: 1d4+2 (3d6+2)
Save As: F6
Morale: 10
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 65

The Huntsmen of Annuvin were formerly human warriors, but due to a dark magical pact, have left their human natures behind.  They still appear as humans, often garbed in barbaric fashion.  Each group has a living Chaotic holy symbol etched into their forehead, which bonds the group together.  They share an empathic bond with their group.  When one dies, all group members within 120' gain 1d8 temporary hit points and a +1 bonus to hit and damage for the next 24 hours.  Huntsmen are enchanted creatures, and are affected by spells such as Protection from Evil, although they have no special invulnerability to normal weapons.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The geek shall inherit the Earth

Just thinking about how times have changed. In the 80s nerds were social pariahs with interests in fringe things like fantasy/sci-fi, comic books, video games.

Take a look at my (fellow foreign) coworkers:
Adam (Australian) likes fishing, WoW, UFC, sci-fi movies and reads Lovecraft and anything post-apocalyptic.

Ryan (New Zealand) likes hard sci-fi and cyberpunk, plus lots of obscure literature, plays drums in a band and brews his own beer.

Matt (USA) loves rock climbing, fantasy lit, is quite the artist and watches anything sci-fi/fantasy on TV or at the movies.

Myself (USA) I like RPGs, comic books, fantasy and sci-fi books, TV and film, video games and the like.

Matthieu (Canada) likes hockey, South Park, and hanging out drinking.

Yes, no surprise I am the "nerdiest" of the bunch. At least as far as hobbies and interests go.  But except for Matthieu, everyone else has a fairly high interest in nerdy things.  Whenever we talk about A Song of Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones TV show, and mention King's Landing, Matthieu always without fail thinks we are talking about a Canadian amusement park.

So what has all this blather about coworkers got to do with anything? Well it's just the observation of that other part of "nerdiness," social awkwardness.  Matthieu is by far the most socially awkward of us all.  He's a real nice guy and all, but he doesn't quite click in social situations. In the year I've known him he hasn't had a girlfriend.  Matt has one, the rest of us are married.

Now, I'm not trying to steroetype anyone. I'm commenting on the breaking of steroetypes. 

All five of us are "nerds" in one sense or another. But most nerdy things thesedays have become pretty darned mainstream. And the most socially awkward guy in a group can be the jock who just likes to play sports and go out drinking.

Interesting times we live in.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Pace of Advancement.

The other day, Justin asked how many sessions we had played of his Vaults of Ur campaign. He thought it was around nine.  I checked my write-ups of the adventures. There have been seventeen sessions (I missed the very first one). 
In that time, Thidrek has advanced to 4th level. He had his first outing as a Sleestak Hero last game.  Very Elder Karl is also 4th level.  Ripper the Orc is 3rd and approaching 4th (Jeremy lost some hard earned XP through unfortunate PC deaths). 
The game is rather treasure poor, but Justin allows us up to 300 bonus XP per session for pictures and play reports. Without the bonus XP, Thidrek would only just be hitting 3rd level. The pace seems good to me, though. Having played in some faster advancing games (3E or Pathfinder), I can honestly say I like this slower speed. It gives us more time to develop our PCs.  Leveling up also feels like an achievement, rather than an entitlement.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Angry Birds of Ur

Last Saturday, Justin ran yet another session of his Vaults of Ur campaign.  This time, our lineup consisted of Alexei as Maya Culpar the Elf from beyond the Veil, Dean as Very Elder Karl the Cleric (returned from his stint in Zhongyang Dalu as a wuxia Animist), Jeremy as Ripper the Orc, myself as Thidrek the Sleestak - now a Hero!, and new Busan Gamer Matt who joined us late and took over one of our hireling archers to become Strider the Fighter.  [I'll edit in the links to everyone's blogs later if I don't forget - not enough time tonight.  Sorry, guys.]

We were still on a Mission from God - or at least a Mission from Elder Karl's god, the Great Bear - to wipe out the giant carnivorous apes south-west of the Broken Obelisk.  Before setting out, we hired a quartet of archers to accompany us.  We retraced our steps, followed some new roads from the statue of the vulture-headed death goddess, and then made our way to the mostly intact warehouse we'd discovered before when we heard the sounds of apes on our trail.

My rendition of the statue

When we got to the warehouse, we found some corpses lying around.  They were of the Vulture Men we'd heard rumors of.  We quickly debated what to do - charge into the warehouse and possibly face Vulture Men or Spiked Circle baddies, but have a narrow easily defensible door to battle the apes from (but possibly become trapped between two hostile forces), or stand our ground.

We decided to put our archers on the roof.  Ripper and Elder Karl decided to come up at the last minute, but the apes attacked before we could.  With the two of them on the ground and the rest of the party firing from the roof, we battled the apes, who threw stones instead of closing to melee.  Elder Karl used his stone fist to good advantage at my suggestion, lifting up one ape as high as he could then dropping it.  It made a satisfactory splattering when it hit the pavement.  We managed to drop one other ape with missiles for sure, possibly one more as they fled from the screams of the Vulture Men.

Before we could do anything, the Vulture Men were upon us.  A large party, around 24 or so, attacked from all sides (luckily they don't fly!).  While Ripper and Karl battled them on the ground, Maya used her Sleep spell to good effect and the rest of us battled a squad that climbed to the roof.  Thidrek took a solid hit in the guts (a critical), but luckily with his new Heroic status, survived the wound that would have finished him before.  Strider the Archer got knocked unconscious (0 hp, Matt took over the last surviving archer, Pliny the Younger for the rest of the combat.  Strabo and Pliny the Elder didn't survive the onslaught.)  Once the Vulture Men on the roof were dispatched, we rained down missiles on those waiting to close with Karl and Ripper, who fought back to back against the wall of the warehouse to keep too many from closing at once.

With a Frazetta style mound of corpses that Conan or John Carter would find respectable around their feet, Ripper and Karl managed to hold off the horde.  And we finally all learned a valuable lesson about firing into melee.  Thidrek, all pumped up on his success (I don't think I'd rolled a single miss all night) decided to shoot at the last guy on Elder Karl.  Of course I rolled a 1.  Sorry, Elder Karl!  Thidrek had to wait until we got back to Fort Low to get healed for that one. 

After the battle, we roped up the sleeping Vulture Men (I suggested we only take one back, but was talked out of it by Karl) and headed back to Fort Low with our prisoners.  Justin informed us by Facebook post that the Vulture Men tried to escape, killed some guards, and one made it out of Fort Low alive and back to wherever they nest.  I knew we should have only taken one prisoner.  No one could speak their language anyway.  Well, that's another lesson learned for the party.