Monday, February 22, 2016

Pumpkin and Spice and Things Not So Nice

Saturday night, Dean ran another session of his 5E Eberron game. One of the regulars, Brad, couldn't make it last week, so Dean scheduled this session for Brad and anyone else who could come. Michael and I were free, so we all joined in.

Rather than move the main story line forward, we all played alternate characters. Brad (normally playing Rhea the Witch) played is Human Fighter/Battle Master, Jackal. Michael played an Eladrin Rogue/Arcane Trickster, Cyara. I had my previous character, the Githzerai Fighter/Eldritch Knight Ryuden.

Cookie Gnomes (I missed the sessions where they were introduced, but that sort of thing is par for the course in Dean's world) sent us on a mission to the surface of the mountain (the main group is deep below) to investigate who or what had been waylaying travelers at night. We set out with a hammerheaded albatross and a giant smiley-face praying mantis as flying mounts, and started searching the mountains.

After a brief (thankfully!) encounter with mountain goat satyrs in a hot spring who gave us a bit of information but not a lot of help, we decided to set a trap for whoever. We made a false camp, with a pair of dummies by a fire, using mage hand occasionally to move them slightly. After a while, some snow-cats (as in mountain lions made of snow) attacked the camp, but we slew the first easily (a critical hit fire bolt spell from yours truly) and wounded the second enough that it fled for its life.

Still not sure that that was it, we set up a vantage point high up on a mountain top to see what we might see, as we suspected the thing was flying after investigating a decimated camp of halflings. And sure enough, we saw something flying out of the mountains that night. Hopping on our flying mounts, we sped after it, only to discover it was a pumpkin dragon.
Dean used this picture. Nice, isn't it? Art by Stanley Morrison
Cyara sent it a message, asking if it was friend or foe, and it replied something along the lines of "I'll make you serve my master." And that's how the fight started.

It wasn't easy. The pumpkin dragon's breath weapon was a steaming pile of goo that did damage and caused sleep (not sure if this was supposed to be Halloween, or Thanksgiving!). Yet somehow, we managed to come out on top and bested the creature.

It was a bit of a short session, but since we'd had a full (over time!) session the week before, that wasn't such a bad thing. And now we've got an extra layer of mystery to add to the current story line. Who is the pumpkin dragon's master?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool

OK, let's just get this out of the way first, since the blog title tends to get hits for people asking this question - is there "cursing" in Deadpool? A f*ck-load of it. Like, we're talking The Big Lebowski levels of f-bombs going off all over the place. Not to mention some graphic violence and sex scenes. Parents, DO NOT TAKE YOUR LITTLE KIDS TO SEE THIS!!! I left my 7yo at home and saw it by myself. It's Rated R for a reason.

Now that that's out of the way, did I like it? Quite a bit. Ryan Reynolds perfectly captured the quirky charm of Deadpool, his annoying wit, and his penchant for graphic violence very well. It's not a perfect movie, it's not high art, but then it never pretends to be that. And it is funny, and full of enough 4th wall breaks, silly fan service, and Easter eggs to keep Marvel geeks excited and talking about it for quite a while.

Now, there isn't a whole lot of plot (and there were one or two holes in it). We get a LOT of flashbacks to explain Deadpool's origin, but the actual "present" storyline only covers about two days' worth of action, and only for the most part the "action" parts of those two days. The flashbacks cover a lot of ground, and seemed to me to take up the lion's share of the run time.

As for the characters, as I mentioned Reynolds knocked this one out of the ballpark. He's forgiven for his part in that crap Wolverine movie (and Green Lantern). Of course, this film mocks both of those performances, and mocks them well! Colossus was a bit of a school-marm, which was a bit different from how I remember him from the comics (although it's been a while), he's a bit more naive like Colossus in the old FOX X-Men cartoon, but more annoying. Negasonic Teenage Warehead was the perfect moody teen foil to Deadpool's shenanigans. Francis could have been a bit better developed as a bad guy, though. He was pretty one-dimensional.

Overall, it was a fun, raunchy popcorn movie. One I'll be sure to rewatch in the future (and to not let my boys see it until they're much older!).

Oh, and like most Marvel movies these days, stay through the credits for a helping of shawarma.

[I'm pretty behind on movie reviews, but it may be too late to post about The Martian or The Force Awakens. Well, we'll see. I may do it anyway.]

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Stop ghouling around!

Being the continuation of the adventures of the illustrious Green Knight, Jack Summerisle (and companions various and sundry) in the mysterious Kyber Underground of the world of Eberron.

After setting sail upon the subterranean river once more, piloted by the stout Dwarven Storm-Cleric Thorvald Oakenspar, the companions found themselves out of the cavern of giant, undead mushroom-trees and into another large cavern with shuffling humanoid figures closing in on our craft. As I could detect the taint of undeath upon them, we landed our craft upon one shore and commenced to destroy them. I, along with the Outlander Orc Mahl-goth, led a charge while Oakenspar cast a spell to summon protective spirits and the indefatigable Elf Ranger Jade opened fire with his bow. I also took one down with a well-aimed shot from my crossbow before they closed to melee, and Mahl-goth, whose axe is larger than mine own, also found easy pickings among them. However, as they closed in on us, they began a fearsome moaning keen, which somehow ensorcelled myself and Mahl-goth, leaving us unable to act. Fortunately for us, Oakenspar's magic was more than a match for them, and after many died as a result of his holy weather magic, the remainder fled.

We took stock of our situation, and after a brief respite set out once again to try and find the cavern-kingdom of the ghouls, our sworn enemies. We did not find the ghouls, but a trio of undead rock elementals found us. As they attacked, our small craft was destroyed, yet through a combination of luck, skill, strength of arms and magic, we won the day. All of us being somewhat worse for wear after the encounter, it was decided that we would camp upon the shore.

In the morning, if morning it truly was in that timeless underground expanse, a strange sight came into view. It was a dwarf, apparently a merchant of sorts, riding a peculiar beast with the body of a hippo and the shell of a turtle. The fellow stopped and had tea with us, and we discussed what he had seen farther down the river. He warned us off of that direction, claiming to have lost all of his companions to the dangers ahead. We discussed what to do, and he suggested we might visit an enclave of strange gnomes nearby, or perhaps return to the rock elementals and tell them of the desecration of their kin. We thought to do both, visiting and trying to secure an alliance with the gnomes before heading back upstream to the rock-men.

On the way, we thought to do a good deed. A giant, mutated frog was attempting to eat some wee folk. After chasing it away, however, the wee folk, who we learned to be unseelee brownies, taunted us and cast harmless but annoying spells upon us. We left them be, and found the ancient crystal-studded city of the gnomes. These gnomes were a strange lot, having survived the horrors of life near the ghoul kingdom, and were suspicious at first. After telling of our tale, our plan to form an underworld alliance, and how we had faced ghouls, duergar, and other foes, they grudgingly accepted our offer of an alliance, providing we could bring other races down to aid their defense of their hold.

Now, we await our chance to return to the caverns above, to once again entreat the rock elementals to join our cause.


Yep, another session of Dean's Twisted Fairy Tale Eberron campaign, now in 5E!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Middle Earth Mood

I recently came across this idea about the true nature of Tolkien's enigmatic Tom Bombadil on G+ the other day. Apologies for whoever posted it there, I couldn't find it again in a (lazy and quick) search of my G+ feed. Go read the link, it's not long. Then come back.

Did you read it? No? Need a tl/dr? The author claims Bombadil must be some sort of evil spirit who controls the Old Forest and Barrow Mounds, and only appeared as a cheerful jolly fellow to keep the hobbits from just running away.

When I shared the link with my D&D buddies, Dean posted this much better thought out and possibly correct theory of Bombadil. This one's a LONG read, in fact I'm still not 100% through it yet. If you've got time, though, and are interested in this sort of thing, I recommend it.  tl/dr? Bombadil is an incarnation of the Song of the Ainur (and Ungoliant is the incarnation of Melkor's Discord).

Regardless, the first link got me to pondering running a game of D&D in Middle Earth. Not MERP (don't have it, have never played it) but good old D&D. I remember years ago James Mishler had a blog about his BX game set in Middle Earth. This would be (if I ever get around to it, maybe after the Chanbara play testing if this idea is still on my mind) a more-or-less standard D&D game, just using the maps and NPCs and trappings of Tolkien's work.

So an alternate universe Middle Earth, in other words. I think my guiding concept would be that either Morgoth was cast out but never imprisoned/chained, or else escapes. Or maybe the war against him ends in a draw, and he's still deep in his fortress, breeding monsters and plotting? Due to his influence, many other evil spirits enter Middle Earth, creating all kinds of monsters (as you'd expect in D&D) and the Valar send more than just five Wizards to combat them. In the past, I'd thought of using the Second Age (the Silmarillion stuff) as a more "legendary, heroic" sort of Middle Earth for D&D. Now, I'm thinking the good old War of the Ring time frame might be fine. It's more familiar to me and any potential players, although they'd have to be warned that this is not just a railroad Dragonlance style "play out what happened in the book" thing. Maybe I'd start the campaign in the time-frame of The Hobbit? Still considering that.

Anyway, with more powerful fallen Maiar than just Sauron in the world, there would be plenty of stuff for players to do besides try to destroy the One Ring (although I suppose they could take up that quest if they want!).

Would I run it with BX/BECMI slightly modified? That's tempting, and most likely the simplest way to do it. But I'd also consider using 5E. The ability to modify the subraces and backgrounds to fit Middle Earth, and with certain races and classes excluded or limited, it could work. It would be a lot more work for me to prepare that, though.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I love a good map

Hand drawn by me.
This is the map I drew for both my current G+ Hangouts Chanbara game, and my play-by-post Chanbara game. I think one problem I had when trying to run Flying Swordsmen was that I created a huge China-sized China equivalent empire for the game to take place in. And each area/province had only a short paragraph describing it. X1 Isle of Dread was my model in this. While in general I prefer that as it gives the GM plenty of space to make the world their own, it also didn't have a "default home town/area" like Threshold and the Grand Duchy of Karameikos as detailed in the Expert Set book.

So for Chanbara, I'll be both giving a broad overview of the setting, the Jade Islands, as well as providing a bit more detail on Enzan Province and the immediate surroundings. While this will make the book longer (I've given up my plans to try and fit everything into 64 pages, but I'm pretty sure it will come in at 96 pages or less), it will hopefully also give GMs and players a bit more utility.

I haven't detailed most of the adventure worthy locations on it yet, but I have two or three already done or in the works. I also tried to include more fantastic locations than I normally do, but I know it could still use a few more. Of course, the white space on the map contains many small villages, shrines, and other unmarked locations, so there's plenty of room to fit more in as I think them up -- for my own game. For GMs who want to run Chanbara and use my default setting, that space is up to them to fill!

Now I need to get back to work on the wilderness random encounter tables.

Lack of Promotion

One problem with me lacking much time for blogging (although I seem to be picking up again at the moment) has been that I've not been promoting my line of reasonably priced printable paper miniatures for RPG and other tabletop games.

I haven't made any sales - not even the free sample - since October. So time to dust off my inner P.T. Barnum and get to promoting!

Why would you want to download these ebooks? Well, if you like to use minis in your gaming, but often find that you don't have the right monsters (or enough monsters!) in metal or plastic, you can print off some of these to fill out your collection.

Player's character dies? Print up his new figure!* The PC one works well for NPC parties, too!

All the cool kids purchased them before October. You don't want to be left out, do you?

Got kids like mine who like to just play around with little monster figures? This is great for them, too. Keeps their grubby little mitts off of your expensive Warhammer minis.** And when they eventually break them, you can just print a few more!

The cost of one set, which contains over 30 figures that you can print until your printer is dry, is less than or equal to the cost of a single metal mini.

/Made in Korea. Batteries not included. Action figures sold separately. Ages 6 and up. May cause a strong desire to game, annoyance from your significant other, and/or the necessity to change your printer cartridge. Consult your DM before rolling up a new character. Jokes in the fine print? No one reads that anyway./

*Works best if you have a color printer in the location where you game.

**My older boy actually DOES like to play with paper minis on my old Dragonstrike game boards.