Monday, December 31, 2007

The Slam! Nears Completion...

After a hectic holiday season, I've gotten some time to work on Dungeon Slam!. With that time, I've managed to complete nearly all of the game components:

* Character Cards--Characters done, stat values added in, starting skills completed. Completed--Awaiting Printing!

* Skill Cards--Skills revised and tuned, cards reformatted for printing. Completed--Awaiting Printing!

* Loot Cards--Loot awaiting revision and formatting for printing. Completed--Awaiting Printing

* Monster Encounters--monsters created and formatted for printing. Currently undergoing final showing markup!

* Non-Monster Encounters--awaiting formatting and revision. Currently undergoing final showing markup!

* Room Tiles--awaiting formatting for printing. Completed--Awaiting Printing!

* Board--already created, and awaiting the other game components.

* Minis--selected and awaiting online purchase. Arrived--awaiting assembly!

I honestly can't believe that this game has actually taken shape in the way it has. I'm so excited to be actually approaching a finished prototype--one that's ready to be playtested and demo-ed--I really don't know what to think!

Here's for hoping that you can swing by WittCon and see what I've been up to!

[Edited 1-8-08, for your pleasure...]

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Dungeon Slam Preview!---The Alchemist Class

More on the Slam! or On Design and Development

So, unable to sleep yet again this early morning, I broke out some of my work on Dungeon Slam!

One thing that the game is particularly lacking is a series of straight-forward damaging spells. Bolt of Lightning provides one such spell, as does Shadow Storm, but aside from those two, there are no major damaging spells. Virulent Toxin and Spirit Poison both fulfill that role, as well, but...well, we're talking about 4 spells in the entire deck so far.

I'm not sure how I feel about that. I like the idea of damaging spells, but I also tend to feel that the spells are meant to be strategic elements, rather than simply "the beat-stick". The weapons and their concurrent enchantments (which stack really nicely, by the way!) are meant to put the beat down. Spells, in my eyes, are more meant to be the means by which you wear down your foes--take out their resources, milk their Arcana, break their equipment--before you move in for the kill.

Beyond this, it's looking like I need to tone down the Intellect tests necessary to cast the spells. Right now, with a lot of spells (even moderate level ones) requiring an Intellect test of 18 or higher, it becomes impossible for almost any class outside of the spellcasting classes to achieve with any regularity. While it's obvious that the Sorcerer and the Warlock should get the best shot at pulling off a spell, even the Berserker should be able to whip out a spell once in a while with his miserable Intellect score.

The gear, so far, looks good. I'm liking where the weapons and armor are, but I the costs have some issues involved with them. I think that's something that I can get ironed out in playtesting, though. I would like to put together some additional miscellaneous items that would add to various Skills or Stats, but that's easily done.

One of the things that's hung me up on this game for so long was the ability for me to get a stat array down for the characters--a range for each of the characters for their basic six stats. I decided to go back to one of my major inspirations--Arkham Horror--for some help here.

AH uses a basic Stamina + Sanity = 10 formula. While I like this idea, as it levels the playing field for all of the characters, I don't like the fact that there seems to be a definitive favoritism. The best characters, almost always, are either 6/4 characters or 4/6 characters. 5/5 Characters lack focus, while 7/3 and 3/7 characters remain so weak that they fall short of accomplishing their intended focus.

As such, I decided to use a similar formula, but with an odd number. Health + Arcana = 13. Right now, there's only one (out of 12) character that has a 9. The skew that weakens the AH characters, hopefully, will be absent, while still retaining the nice focus that is retained with characters like my personal favorite in Arkham, Bobby Jenkins. :D

As I've planned in the past, the stats will work on an opposed slider system (again, taking a page from AH), but with an expanded array for additional heroics. Having a max of 6 just isn't going to cut it. This'll all make more sense once I post one of the first character cards, I'm sure.

So, priorities for the holiday break?
1) Encounter cards. Right now, I only have 6 White Encounters. I need a ton more, in all 5 types.

2) Refine the spells. Gotta adjust the Arcana costs, as well as incorporate at least two more direct damage spells.

3) Add more miscellaneous items. Items designed specifically for each class, perhaps, may be in order, but that could get messy. Center perhaps on skills and class abilities, perhaps?

4) Put it all together. Get the pieces together, bring the board with it, and all will hopefully be well.

5) Run the first playtest! If I can get all this done by WittCon V, I'll be a happy man!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Baal's Just Not So Graceful...

So, after a ton of preparation, we came to the big day. Friday. The Guild's grand one-shot....excitement, no?

No. No, not really.

Y'see, we had a few problems.

1) Announcements Usually, large guild events are supposed to be announced well in advanced, so that the gamers can clear their schedules for a raucous night of gaming. Such was not the case this time. A desperate e-mail went out on Tuesday, calling for an end-of-semester guild meeting, as well as one-shot info. RSVPS only trickled in...which led to...

2) Lack of gamers I did my best to recruit for this game. Lionel, Ebbs, Nick, and Jules all gleefully joined in, and we picked up three more throughout the week. I was expecting two more, but they flaked out on us, which led to greater problems, as you'll see later on. Without a definite gaming group, we were at a definite loss.

3) Design flaws I really tried to do my best to try to make this game as fun as possible. The backgrounds I wrote up were interesting, and made for some nice inter-party conflict, but we never got so far as to experience any of them. Because of the lessened number of gamers (7, compared to my expected 10), we didn't even get through the first battle. Three of the PC were killed at the headwaters of the River Styx, which left the quest as kind of a moot point.

I felt bad, mainly because I forgot one of the key rules of both teaching and GMing--Monitor and Adjust. I should have adjusted the encounter on the fly, to make it more accessible to the party that I had, but we rolled on with the monsters, and Dr. Gearbox, Z, and Theodore all bit the dust because of it.

4) Poor party design/tactics I realize that everyone wants to play "their fun character", but at some point, something has to give. The party descending into the Abyss was made up of the following: a Reaping Mauler (grappling specialist), a Warlock (basically an Arcane sniper), a Rogue/Bard (diplomat/skill monkey), a Dragon Shaman (a commander-type), a Tinker (good for blasting), a Paladin (light healing and tanking), and a Jade Phoenix Mage (fighter/mage hybrid).

The party lacked the following: any type of Area of Effect support (wizard, sorcerer, etc), a full-time Healer/buffer (cleric, druid), a heavy damage dealer (rogue, barbarian, etc). Even tanking was limited to Jules' ordained champion...which doesn't say much.

Honestly, I didn't use tactics that were all that unnerving. The giant they fought took point and smashed things, while the two demons in the back cast their spells. Pretty standard. While being well aware that the monsters were above standard difficulty--perhaps even too much so--is it too much to ask that someone in the party can cast Fireball? Or Heal? I mean, the rules are built around the standard party of Fighter/Wizard/Cleric/Rogue--one would figure that, at least some point on the line, we'd get some of those. Not so much in this game.

5) Timing I had expressed my frustration about this one, upon leaving the apartment before the game. In the e-mail sent out, I had included everything that someone would need to build their PC--stat array, gold available, sources they could use...the works. I had also asked for an rsvp describing their character, so that I knew what the group would look like.

Nick, Lionel, and Dan arrived with their characters ready. Jules needed to pick spells, while Ebbs had to build his constructs. The others had nothing. We didn't start the game (which was scheduled to begin at 6), until 8:45. There's nothing more frustrating to me than knowing that you could be gaming, in a time when there's nothing to do but wait.

6) Blackfall I really tried to make this game like the Blackfall games of old--lots of skullduggery, and lots of character backstabbing. Only one problem--Blackfall is a city, while the Underworld is a giant dungeon. Dungeons mean combat, and lots of it. Yes, I know--D&D is a combat filled game. However, it's a social game, too, and that's what drove Blackfall at its core. Too much combat, planned even from the very start, meant too much dice-rolling and not enough fundamental, person-on-person fun.

In a city, you can get away with not killing anyone--there are guards, there are other adventurers, and there are mercenaries, all waiting to take a piece out of some interloper who thinks he has a right to swing a sword around. Take that social stigma out of the equation, and it's all about the combat now.

I'm being very negative here, I suppose, for no good reason. Everyone at the game had fun, and enjoyed the long night in the Science building, which is what matters. What makes me most frustrated, though, is the fact that this is the second game in six months, DMed by me, to have failed. Am I losing my touch? Am I not as good as I once thought I was?

Blackfall, originally, was a masterpiece. Parts I through IV each had their own individual, if sanity-blasting charm. My players loved running the gauntlet of a Blackfall game, seeing who would survive this time (Adam, by the way, has the record! He was the only one to survive Blackfall II!).

Saltmarsh was just as good. I had 'em hooked, even buying into their group's slavery and imprisonment. Hell, I had most of the group turning slowly to Lawful Evil, thanks to all of their dealings in Hell.

But now? Well, it looks like I'm going to be running Pirates of the Underdark, as soon as Jules' Eberron game wraps up. I just hope I can get back in shape over the break, to give the people what they want!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Last Grasp at Baal's Grace

So, the guild asked me to run their end-of-the-semester one-shot this year, and it's coming along in high style. I was asked to do "something" with the idea of the Underworld and came up with the following concept:

Sometime after the beginning of time and after the creation of man, the archangel Baal was cast from the heavens for that most heinous of crimes--deicide. Baal had killed the sun lord Amuantor, condemning him to the Astral Sea. The remaining powers gathered together and removed Baal from their sight, casting him into a massive pit.

That pit has been found, where Baal first landed. As one of the few known gates directly to the Underworld, a great city has sprung up, named after Baal's sword--Grace.

However, rumors of Baal's deity-slaying sword have never settled amongst the demihuman races, and many lust for his powerful blade. In particular, three great noble houses seek the blade: House Amenthetep, House Yu, and House Marduk. While the trio conflict on all fronts--particularly on who should get the blade--they agree to send a party into the Abyss to find the legendary sword. The adventurers, eager to enter the Underworld for their own reasons, take up the quest...

...but when they return, how can they decide who gets the magic blade?

In other news, Dungeon Slam! is on hiatus until Christmas Break. I'll be honest, I can't wait to get back to it, though. While the teaching life has kind of subsumed me right now, I really want to be able to premiere this at WittCon V.

Oh, and it's looking like the next campaign I'm running is going to be Pirates of the Underdark. Life is good, maties! Yarr!!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

If you ever need inspiration for a magic weapon...

...take a page from the PRC:

"The Sword of Goujian (Traditional Chinese:越王勾踐劍 , Simplified Chinese: 越王勾践剑) is an archaeological artifact of the Spring and Autumn Period found in 1965 in Hubei, China. Renowned for its sharpness and resilience to tarnish, it is a first-level protected artifact of the People's Republic of China currently in the possession of Hubei Museum."

"In 1965, while performing archaeological survey along the second main aqueduct of the Zhang River Reservoir in Jingzhou, Hubei, more than 50 ancient tombs of the Chu State were found in Jiangling County. The dig started from the middle of October in 1965, ending in January, 1966. More than 2000 artifacts were recovered from the sites, the most interesting of which was a bronze sword."

"In December, 1965, 7km away from the ruins of Jinan, an ancient capital of Chu, a casket was discovered in Wangshan site #1. Inside, an ornate sword was found on the left of a human skeleton."

"The sword was found sheathed in a wooden black lacquer scabbard. The scabbard had an almost air-tight fit with the sword body. Unsheathing the sword revealed an untarnished blade, despite the tomb being soaked in underground water for over two thousand years. A simple test conducted by the archaeologists showed that the blade could still easily cut a stack of 20 pieces of paper."

"On one side of the blade, two columns of text were visible. In total there are eight characters written in an ancient script. The script was found to be the one called "鸟虫文" (literally "text of birds and worms"), a variant of zhuan that is very difficult to read. Initial analysis of the text deciphered six of the characters, "越王" (King of Yue) and "自作用剑" (made for (his) personal use)."

"The remaining two characters were likely the name of this King of Yue. From its birth in 510 BC, to its demise at the hands of Chu in 334 BC, nine kings ruled Yue, including Goujian, Lu Cheng, Bu Shou, Zhu Gou, etc. The exact identity of this king sparked an active discussion/debate among archeologists and Chinese language scholars. The discussion was carried out mostly in letters, and it involved famous scholars such as Guo Moruo. After more than two months of exchange, the experts started to form a consensus that the original owner of the sword was none other than Goujian, the King of Yue made famous by his perseverance in time of hardship. So the entirety of the text reads "越王勾践 自作用剑", meaning "(Belonging to) King Goujian of Yue, made for (his) personal use)".

"The Sword of Goujian is 55.6 cm (21.9 in) in length, including a 10 cm (3.9 in) hilt. The blade is 5 cm (2 in) wide. In addition to the repeating dark rhombi pattern on both sides of the blade, there are also decorations made of blue crystals and turquoise. The grip of the sword is bound by silk, while the pommel is composed of 11 concentric circles."

(Information from Wikipedia--full site is: )

Nothing like a 2500 year old sword that still has a sharp edge, and hasn't tarnished in over two milennia. Madness!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nothing New Under The Sun...

Well, this is kind of odd, but I guess I'm writing to say that I have nothing really to write about.


Not a thing.

Dungeon Slam! has sat idle for weeks, with not so much as a new Spell or Miscellaneous Item to show for my ideas. I haven't been able to write anything, mainly due to the stress of my job.

There are many, many days that I wished I worked at a "normal" school. Hell, I'm just getting sick of the label "normal."

Oh, but I guess Jules' campaign is going well. My ranger, Garius ir'Dolanian, is now wanted by the Korranberg Watch, after trying to expose an illegal creation forge in Sharn. Never fear, though, we're not on our way to Argonessen, where (I hope) we'll bilk the dragons out some of their "ancient artifacts of the bygone ages" in exchange for the giant Khyber shard we have....which just happens to be a gateway to Hell.

Oh, and I bought a copy of Arkham Horror, now that it's back in print. To go with it, I also bought a nifty little craft box to keep all of the pieces straight. With the sheer number of pieces that AH has, the box comes in uber-handy.

Oh, and speaking of Arkham Horror, a fourth expansion is in the pipeline, according to Fantasy Flight Games. This one, called Kingsport Horror, includes a whole new board. Should be interesting, especially if it lives up to the previews.

That's about it. I think. Maybe there's more...if so, I guess I could update more often.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The PlatinumWarlock's Stat Block?

I Am A: Chaotic Neutral Human Wizard (4th Level)

Ability Scores:

Chaotic Neutral A chaotic neutral character follows his whims. He is an individualist first and last. He values his own liberty but doesn't strive to protect others' freedom. He avoids authority, resents restrictions, and challenges traditions. A chaotic neutral character does not intentionally disrupt organizations as part of a campaign of anarchy. To do so, he would have to be motivated either by good (and a desire to liberate others) or evil (and a desire to make those different from himself suffer). A chaotic neutral character may be unpredictable, but his behavior is not totally random. He is not as likely to jump off a bridge as to cross it. Chaotic neutral is the best alignment you can be because it represents true freedom from both society's restrictions and a do-gooder's zeal. However, chaotic neutral can be a dangerous alignment because it seeks to eliminate all authority, harmony, and order in society.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is her spells, everything else is secondary. She learns new spells as she experiments and grows in experience, and she can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate her spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves her. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out
What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

Friday, September 28, 2007

News in the PlatinumLife

...only one item here: The PlatinumChick and I are officially engaged!

Cheers, all!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

More Fun with the Slam!

So, I decided to get back on the proverbial horse and work some more on Dungeon Slam!. Not feeling quite creative enough to take on the Encounter cards, I settled for working on the Potions/Miscellaneous Items, which I had yet to touch.

Most of the potions are fairly straightforward--they change your damage type, add damage to your strikes, or add to your stats for a short time. However, some of them are real killers.

My personal favorites are the Crystalline Freezer and the Malevolent Teleporter (which was the PlatinumChick's idea!). The Crystalline Freezer not only deals ice damage to a target player, but also forces them to lose a turn, if they fail their Quickness test.

However, the Malevolent Teleporter may well be even more devious. Played after another player's movement, but before they draw an Encounter Card, it teleports them to another part of the dungeon--either directly above them or directly above them.
Now picture this: Joe the Berzerker is low on Health and Arcana, and wants one last, easy encounter before heading back to TownTon to cash in his moolah. He moves into a White Encounter Tile--a position to get back to town next turn, only to have Bob the Alchemist slap a Malevolent Teleporter down.

Joe's only choices? A next-to-definitely-lethal Red Encounter, or a surely-lethal Black Encounter. Ha ha! Sucks to be Joe!

Only problem is that I'm running low on ideas for Spells. I have 23 down right now, but ideas are coming slow and short so far. If you have any, by all means: let me know!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

A Few Observations...Okay, So More than a Few...

It's late, but I feel like geeking it up....hence, blogging.

Now that the school year has started, Dungeon Slam! has been somewhat put on the back burner. This is not to say that work has stopped, but rather that (as usual) real life has to take precedence over the fantasy life. Alas.

That said, I came upon an interesting bit of information, as I've been researching the slider system that Arkham Horror uses to determine character statistics. I entered all of the values into an Excel file, which allowed me to sort them by column. The findings say the least, a little bizarre.

It seems that, statistically speaking, there are definitively better characters than others. Ashcan Pete, for one, has no less than three separate sliders that exceed a value of 5. Sister Mary the Nun, on the other hand, starts with only one--the most useless stat in the game: Luck.
At this point, one might raise the argument that Sister Mary might have some other advantages over Ashcan Pete, but such is not the case. Ashcan starts with better gear and skills, including an ally, and the pair are tied in terms of money. The only advantage that Sister Mary has over him is the fact that she begins the game Blessed...even Ashcan Pete's special ability is better than Mary's.

This is something I'd like to try to avoid in Dungeon Slam! While I want each of the characters to play differently, I want them to maintain some sort of statistical balance, that way there are no "nuns" in my game.

Oh, and by the way? The best characters in Arkham Horror to play, from a statistical vantage-point, are Amanda Sharpe (the Student), Leo Anderson (the Expedition Leader), Dexter Drake (the Magician), and Jenny Barnes (the Dilettante).

In other news, the Witt gaming season kicked off with a board game night, over in Shouvlin. It seems like the WittFolk have some pretty solid plans for this year, which is a major plus, and will be getting a lot of community support. Always pleasant.

The night was capped off with a rousing game of Order of the Stick....which left me feeling somewhat mixed. The more I play Order of the Stick, the less I really enjoy that game. Every time we get about half-way into the game, the repetition of the gameplay just seems to overwhelm everyone, and the massive stacks of monsters overpower the players' ability to aid one another or to defeat the monsters single-handedly. We gave up on the game before even reaching Xykon's lair.

Because of this, I'm really beginning to wonder how much OotS was really playtested before it hit the market. The massive length of the game alone tips me off that games were never played that often in playtest-mode. I could only hope that Dungeon Slam! turns out a little better.

Speaking of Order of the Stick, Rich Burlew has apparently taken a sabbatical from his uber-popular webcomic due to some health issues. I somewhat wonder about this--no doubt that he's been ill. I won't dispute that fact whatsoever. However, details regarding his illness have been sketchy-at-best, and no one exactly seems to know what he has, or what the severity of the illness might be. I really enjoy OotS--I've bought both prequel books, in fact--but I'm beginning to believe that its creator might be making some excuses....

As I mentioned in my prior post, 4th Edition D&D is coming out. The previews I've seen look particularly good, as it seems like they're really trying to take care of some of the rules bloat that 3.5e grew into. The massive amount of books in 3.5e is incredibly overwhelming to anyone joining the game in this day and age, so having a more streamlined system (with fewer messy AOOs!), will make things much easier and happier. I'll be eager to see what happens in the near future with the D&D line. It definitely seems to be heading in the right direction.

The Digital Initiative idea, as well, seems to be pretty interesting. I would like more tangible previews in terms of content, though, before I decide to fork over cash for their functionalities.

I guess that's all....I'll catch up with more later, I suppose.

Oh, and the new Marvel Animated Feature, Dr. Strange? Pure gold. Yays. Makes me want to run a mystic-style game.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Sky is Falling! (and a Dungeon Slam! Update)

It appears that this year's Gen Con is going to be a doozy....

In addition to the release of WEGS (go read up on it, on the Official WEGS Blog!), it seems that the 4th Edition of D&D is nigh.

The countdown is nigh, and the stars are right, it appears.

The licenses for Dragonlance and Ravenloft have reverted back to Wizards. Wizards regains the licenses for Dragon and Dungeon from Paizo, and plans to make them part of the new "Digital Initiative" (now featuring a floating brain-in-a-jar!). And, the 2008 product schedule for 3.5e remains noticably sparse.

I suppose we'll all know the truth, come 6:30 PM tomorrow, when the Gen Con seminar announces whatever it is that's about to hit the fan.

I'll keep you posted, as I learn more.

In other news, Dungeon Slam! has really made some significant progress. I have a prototype board created, and many of the cards are finished. While I still need to work on the Spell deck and the Potion/Miscellany deck, and (most of all!) the Encounter decks, nearly all of the other cards are done. The characters are all but finished--all they need are the slider values for the 6 core stats. The room tiles, the Weapons/Armor deck, and the Skill deck are completed and are only waiting on the rest for playtesting. Even the manual's already written.

Y'know, I didn't think things would come together this fast, all told. Very surprising, but very pleasing. Again, more updates to come!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Goodbye, Losers!

No, I'm not leaving, believe it or not. And I'm not giving up on Dungeon Slam! which, by the way, has a board now....

Rather, I'm saying goodbye to Wexford Hill Hobbies, which is going the way of the dodo.

Y'see, I really used to like Wexford Hill. Their selection was always really good, in terms of game books, and they picked up Keebler, who used to work at Howling Wolf in Springfield before they closed.

Problem was, the honeymoon was short, and none too sweet.

Several times, Lionel, myself and others approached Wexford Hill about working together to build up WittCon. After being given lip-service for nearly a year, they didn't show. We gave them a second chance, the following year--same crap.

Beyond this, Lionel had requested them to special-order certain items on several occasions. Did they ever show up? Not a chance.

So, our preferences quickly changed towards Bookery Fantasy, in Fairborn and, more recently, Bell Book and Comic in Dayton.

Y'know, it's normally a sad thing for me when a game store goes out of business. I was genuinely sad when Readmore left Upper Valley Mall, when Bill and Walt finally gave it up in Greensburg, and when Howling Wolf folded. The owners there knew how to treat their customers--they served them as they themselves would have liked to have been treated. They treated gamers like gamers, because they were gamers themselves.

I'm not sad at all that Wexford Hill is gone. In fact, I somewhat reveled in "looting their corpse"--picking up items I've wanted at half the normal cost, as they tried desperately to unload their stock of gaming supplies.

As we were leaving, I had to chuckle--I'm more than happy going to Bookery and Bell Book. The people that care about their business and care about their customers deserve to stay in business--and that's them, not Wexford.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

A New Endeavor...Dungeon Slam!

Having somewhat stalled out on writing up Blackfall as a campaign setting, I've been working on a new project since Origins--a board game.

Having gotten a good glimpse of several games while there (including Dragon War, which just about told me everything not to do, when writing a game), I found myself somewhat dissatisfied. There wasn't really a niche for the "dungeon crawling, backstabbing, cutthroat-competitive" sort of game that would make for a ton of fun.

I mean, I love Arkham Horror. The mechanics of it are particularly well-balanced (well, aside from the accidental loophole we stumbled on last night, which gave Kev every spell in the deck), and the encounters are unique, varied, and a ton of fun. However, there's no competition in the game, as you're all working together to stop the Mythos monster. Plus, there's a metric-buttload of playing pieces. The card decks alone are massive.

I really enjoyed playing Ebbs' Runebound, as well, but the mechanics are incredibly generic. All the characters feel the same, which makes for a very similar play experience every time. While the exploring is there, I can't stand the movement dice mechanic, and you rarely interact with the other people at the table. While the rules to combat each other are there, they feel shunted to the side, rather than featured.

I liked Order of the Stick quite a bit, but the game takes bloody For-Ev-ER to play, due to the massive stacks of boosted monsters you can end up with. One game, I recall, we had a room that held 18 monsters in it--Absurdity! While solid PvP rules were there, they only slowed down the game-play even more, as it was amazingly hard to actually Kill anyone. Plus, most of the room areas felt really generic, as the most found room was "Just Another Dungeon Corridor." Plus, the character balance is practically non-existent.

So, I decided to change that. And, since I doubt that any of the above games' creators would very much like some random yokel heckling their games, I decided to just go ahead and start putting together my own....the project I'm calling, at least for the time being...

Dungeon Slam! A Decidedly Non-Cooperative Fantasy Board Game for 3-8 Players

The premise of the game is simple. The mad archmage has finally died, so you (and several other adventurers) have decided to pick through his underground dungeon. Find enough wealth, and you'll be living on easy street for life. However, you also have to make it out of the dungeon with your gains....and your fellow players are probably more dangerous than the monsters!

Basically, I'm shooting for something that marries the beautiful mechanics of Arkham Horror (minus half of the playing pieces), the cut-throat nature of Munchkin, the explorer-fantasy feel of Runebound, and the claustrophobic dungeon-feel that Order of the Stick shoots for.

Thusfar, I've already developed all 12 character classes, including their skills, as well as the skeleton-outline for the weapons. Armor, Spells, Potions, and the other items come next...followed by the Room Tiles, then Encounter Cards.

If this sounds like something you might like....let me know! I'm accepting all input!

Edit: Oh, and by the way....I might just have a preview of one of the classes for you readers....all two of you. We'll see if I can pump that out this week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Ultimate Match of Ultimateness!

So, Lionel and Ebbs have been getting into Hero/ a big way. Ebbs picked up The Great Cthulhu and the Galactus minis, in addition to the whole Aliens vs. Predator line that he bought out at Origins.

With both of the big figs on the table, we set aside tonight to have the battle royale: Devourer of Worlds vs. Devourer of Souls.

Now, for those of you that haven't seen these minis yet, let me put this out there: they're Not Mini. They're huge. Massive. Cthulhu is nearly a foot tall, with an equal wingspan. Galactus is even taller, probably closer to 18", all told. They are big. I must say, though, I wasn't really impressed with the level of detail on the Galactus mini. For $60, he doesn't even come close to the level of detail that Great Cthulhu has.

That said, he totally pwns Cthulhu on the battlefield. You see, in a typical 1800 point battle, Galactus starts at his full strength and only grows weaker as the combat goes on and he takes damage. Cthulhu, on the alternate side, starts out in his slumber (i.e. weak) and grows stronger as he approaches death. My side, running Galactus, routed Ebbs' Cthulhu before I was even through my second dial of clix.

That said, the 1800 point warband was a ton of fun. After the short rout of R'yleh, the three of us decided to give Cthulhu another fighting chance against 1800 points worth of cyberpunk zombies, government agents, and Predators. This time, though, the Great Old One put up a much tougher fight. While our warband emerged victorious, driving Cthulhu back to R'yleh, the field of battle showed the casualties....I lost my three most powerful figures, Ebbs lost all but 3 predators, and Lionel's field of Scrubbers were all but scrubbed from the field.

All said, this was a really interesting intro to HeroClix for me. It hasn't been something I've been interested in so far, but that may change, if this trend continues. None too bad at all...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Post-Origins Thoughts....

So, going into Origins, I had been seeking some new inspiration for game. Things haven't been going quite the way I had been hoping with Demonweb Pits, and I've been looking towards the fall (or maybe even this winter) to start a new game, after the PlatinumChick runs some Eberron.

I have it down to three choices:

1) Masques of Extraordinary Gentlemen--Basic premise of this game would be a riff on Alan Moore's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen." The players would play a literary or stylized historical figure and figure their way through the mysteries of 1890s Victorian-Gothic Europe. Character creation and combat would be done using a modified True20 system, coupled with the Call of Cthulhu sanity system. Emphasis would also be put on literature and little-known historical events of the time period, including the emergence of the First World War.

2) Pirates of the Underdark--I had come up with this concept after seeing the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie, but wanted somewhat of a darker twist. Basically, the PCs would be wanna-be pirates on a massive Underdark sea, exploring the ruins of the caverns after Lolth's fall and the ruin of many drow citadels. The D&D alignment system would be somewhat thrown out the window for this one, with the focus being on cinematic combat and tactics, as well as magical ship-battles. Emphasis would also be put heavily on treasure maps and skulduggery, as well as pirate that of The One Living Man, or the Black Redeemer.

3) Depths of the Warehouse--After reading through GURPS Warehouse 23 (and now Pagan Publishing's fantastic Delta Green d20), I find myself itching to run something a little more conspiratorial. In this game, the PCs will have been taken from their homes by the mysterious Men In Black, only to find out that they've been commissioned to work in the most secret storehouse of all--Warehouse 23. The players will have to find out who commissioned them into such a drastic career, why they were chosen, and what their own dark pasts may mean within a grander scope of conspiracy, paranoia, and global fear.

So, basically, I'm just looking for some input. Would you play one of these games? If so, which would you be interested in? What do you like and what don't you like?

Please vote in the poll, and let me know!

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Warlock's Origins 2007 Report--Observations and Musings

If you've managed to read both of the prior blog entries already...well, congratulations. You've managed to be more voracious than I could imagine. I'm sorry if the earlier entries seemed to be a bit "listy", but I wanted to try to get all of the details in that I could remember, before they started disappearing to history. This last little bit, though, is just a bunch of my impressions on things and how the con went overall.

When we arrived on Wednesday, I was expecting utter chaos. However, things were surprisingly organized. We made it through badge-pick up incredibly quickly and started checking out some of the events going on around that night. The Miniatures room, taking up nearly all of Exhibit Hall D, had some absolutely fantastic displays. My favorite may have been the massive, volcanic pirate-isle, complete with immense rickety suspension bridges leading to the island proper. The Mos Eisley spaceport, on the other end of the hall, was also particularly good.

The dealer hall, when I first entered it on Thursday, made my eyes buggy. Quite literally, I didn't even think about buying anything. The Reaper Minis room--courtesy of Miniatures-Giant--made my head spin, but in one of those good ways. Thousands upon thousands of green-labeled minis, over all four surrounding walls. I was a happy gamer.

When Lionel and Ebbs registered, they picked up a ton of generic tokens with it. Pre-registration comes with a deal for 10 generics for $10. Aside from giving some to Adam, so he could register for events for free....these were almost entirely worthless. However, they were hickory and, at least according to Ebbs, taste like good barbeque. Go figure.

The Columbus Convention Center is a giant line. This makes walking painful. I think I may have gotten more exercise at Origins than I have all summer. Yes, I realize the irony of this statement.

By the way, the next things out for SJ Games in the Munchkin line will be 1) Munchkin Cthulhu 2, Munchkin Quest (a board game!), Muchkin Cthulhu 3, and Munchkin Booty (Pirates!).

Things learned for next year:

1. Don't register for so many events at 8 or 9 am. This makes for a long day, and no drinking at the bar afterwards.
2. Be more discerning about D&D games. The two games I played were both sanctioned games, which meant a lot of paperwork, which distracted from the games themselves. Plus, they were all low level games, which limits options.
3. Play a higher level game! Use all those cool books I have!
4. Play more Rogue Cthulhu games. The group is absolutely 8 ways of cool, with quality GMs and great storylines. I have nothing but good to say about those people. Quality people and quality games.
5. Don't buy any generics. Event registration lines are relatively short, and generic players generally get booted.
6. Play with your friends. Whether you meet old friends or new ones, just have a good time. It's all just a game, anyway!
7. Use a point buy system for pre-gens. That way, people won't throw fits when you bring your own to the table.

The Warlock's Origins 2007 Report--The Swag!

Part of any good convention is the swag you get, and Origins was no exception. Here, I'll detail some of the great stuff that the Springfield Mafia (including myself) picked up, and some of the neat stuff that was around the dealer room.

Ah, yes. Speaking of the dealer room, I must say that I was impressed. I've heard some complaints already that the dealer room was "more of a flea market than an exhibition of the industry." With that, I can wholeheartedly agree. However, if I want to hear from "industry professionals," I'll go to one of their seminars and talk to them. When I want swag, I want the flea market. As such, the dealer room was fine by me!

And now for the Swag!

  • GURPS Warehouse 23. Now, I'm not a GURPS fan by any stretch--I'd rather run d20, just for the fact that I'll have more interested, involved players. However, when this was on the "3 for $10" table at SJ Games' booth, I couldn't pass it up. Conspiratorial goodness, and a detailed rundown of how the Warehouse would work in several different genres, as well as lots of neat items to put in there. Along with this, I picked up a box of skeleton minis (everybody loves skellies!) and Silicon Valley Tarot for Jules.
  • The Critonomicon. A softcover book from Technomancer Press, this book doesn't look like much. I can't believe I missed it, though, with its Day-Glo Orange cover and its hundreds of tables. This book is chock-full of unique critical hits, critical misses, wild magic effects, and rules for other crazy happenings. With the way my players and I roll, I'm going to get a ton of milage out of this...
  • Faiths of Eberron. The PlatinumChick picked this up in anticipation of her upcoming Eberron game. Flipping through it earlier, it looks to be pretty quality, with tons of information about the various religions and cults that pop up all across Eberron. There didn't seem to be much crunch to the book--only a handful of feats and divine spells, and a few magic items--however the fluff more than makes up for it. Very nice job, all in all.
  • A Shoggoth on the Roof (Libretto). Finally, the H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society has released the libretto to the Musical That Cannot Be Produce. I already own the Cast Recording, but having the full script/libretto makes this all the sweeter. If you're a Cthulhu fan in any sense of the word, check this out.
  • Dungeons and Dragons Icons: Gargantuan Blue Dragon. For a mere $28, the PlatinumChick couldn't pass this one up. Personally, I like the Gargantuan Black better, myself, but the mini is still a very sweet example of how well Wizards of the Coast produces their project. Love and care were involved in making this, and it shows. High quality, indeeed.
  • Nightmares of Lovecraft: Cthulhu and Dagon. Lionel picked these up on the cheap, and man....they did not disappoint. While they're a little on the small side, they're still amazing sculpts, which are...well, disturbing to look at. Just what they need to be, for the subject material. Lovecraft would be proud.
  • Aliens vs. Predator HorrorClix. Ebbs picked up these on the cheap, as well, getting most of the line. While we haven't played yet, the sculpts were nice. Only problem was mainly the fact that many of the clix were slightly broken, particularly around their feet. The Alien queen looked particularly impressive.
  • Cults Across America. Again, a Lionel purchase. We haven't played yet, but this one looks to be good! I'll review it, as we get into the box.
  • Unspeakable Words. We played this during some downtime before going to bed. Wow, was it a blast. Incredibly simple game play, the idea is to make words from your 7 card hand. You get points based on how many angles are in each letter, but must make a Sanity check against your word's score to avoid going nuts. Lose 4 Sanity, and you are insane--if you're nuts, you can use ANYTHING as a word. Lose 5, and you're out of the game. First to 100 points (or the last one sane!) wins. This game is simple, yet amazingly fun. Highest recommendation I can give.
  • Kellen, Nobleman Adventurer. I've been looking for a mini to use during Jules' imminent Eberron game, and this one fit the bill. Unfortunately, I couldn't find one with twin axes, so I settled on one with a sword and a long fighting-dagger. A sweet little mini, it looks just as well as I can ask. If nothing else, Reaper's Dark Heaven Legends Line are of a truly high quality across the board.

Links for the Swag--If you're looking to buy any of the above, follow the Little Blue Links!

GURPS Warehouse 23:

Skeleton Minis:

Silicon Valley Tarot:

The Critonomicon:

Faiths of Eberron:

A Shoggoth on the Roof (Libretto):

Gargantuan Blue Dragon:

Nightmares of Lovecraft: Dagon and Cthulhu:

Alien vs. Predator HorrorClix:

Cults Across America:

Unspeakable Words:

Kellen, Nobleman Adventurer:

The Warlock's Origins 2007 Report--The Events!

Well, now that I've recovered a bit after the Origins Experience, I can give you the run-down on what all happened in the Springfield Mafia's Origins Tour.


Our happy quartet (Lionel, Ebbs, Jules and myself) finally arrived at the Hyatt around 3pm on Wednesday. We only had slight difficulties in finding the hotel, so I can't complain about that too much. Only thing that might have helped more is....well, road signs that lined up with our Mapquest directions. That's life, though. After a quick and efficient sign-in, we unpacked our room and got some grub...just in time for:

Stargate--By the Pricking of My Thumbs

Put bluntly, this was not the way I wanted to start off my Origins experience. I love Stargate (the show and the rpg), so I had high hopes. Ebbs joined me for this one, chipping his way in on generics. The only problem with this was the fact that he wasn't the only one. The game was completely overbooked, with no less than three characters being played by 2 people. I was lucky enough to play a fairly interesting character...who just happened to be an NID operative.

The game started off somewhat unimpressively, with the GM amused with his ability to run 7 adventures concurrently in the same SG the same game-time period. Shrugging it off, we continued on with a scenario in which we may-or-may-not be clones. In order to find out, we sought out some Goa'uld mind-scan devices.

This is where the metagaming stepped in. When the mind-scan device was used on me, the Tok'ra PC who used it critically fumbled. I was shown to be completely clean, unique, and with no signs of mind-alteration. When 2 others went under, though, they used someone with a higher Intimidate score...and were shown to be altered. Suffice to say, arguments ensued, and my character (refusing to take orders from a commanding officer whose mind was shown to be altered), ended up K-Oed, and then executed by the Tok'ra.

End Opinion? A solid D. The DM was too wrapped up in his self-wanking fandom to deal with the elements in-game that were going on. I had negative fun, if that's possible.


With the PlatinumChick already at work, I woke up early for a delve into...

Undermountain Adventures: The Crypt of Yeldoon

I love D&D. Not like this, though. When we joined, there were no pre-gens ready, despite the fact that this was an RPGA-sanctioned event. When I suggested my pre-gen, I was shot down. Instead, myself and several others decided to pick up characters from the D&D Dungeon Delve and take them down a level.

The DM who ran for us looked openly exhausted, and had run the adventure twice during the previous night....and was set to run it 7 more times throughout the con. It showed. Very little description, and very little interest in what was going on. This was made even more frustrating by Mr. Hyperactive. Mr. Hyperactive was a "supreme power-gamer", bringing to the table a Mountain Orc Fighter/Barbarian/Rogue with a 22 Strength. Mind you, we were running on 28 point buy. He and one of his fans ran roughshod over the entirety of the adventure, while I and three others sat back wondering if we could get our credits back.

End Opinion? C-. It wasn't the DM's fault that the RPGA can't give their DMs a variety. If it weren't for Mr. Hyperactive, I might have actually had fun with this...mainly because I would have been useful in any sense of the word.

After Undermountain, I scoped out the dealer room, with my eyes going just about buggy. More on that in the "Swag" chapter. But, after a nap with Jules, we reassembled the Mafia and headed off for...

WEGS--Pigskab's Skewl 4 Wizzards

By this point, I was getting just a touch frustrated with the selections I'd made. If it's one thing that I could depend on, though, it's a great game from the WEGSHogz. El Willy and his crew sure know how to throw down.

Basic premise? As students at Pigskab's, we came up on clean-up duty for the marsh. Survive for one night in the marsh and clean out some of the pests, and the free tutition continues. I ran a Humz Trickster, who was surprisingly good at his Ruggedness tests, despite having only a 22% in it.

With our whole WEGS lovin' crew in the mix, the game was a ton of fun. Unfortuneatly, the PlatinumChick's perennial dice-pox affected her again, and we all got a chuckle at her lack of successes. In the end, the group defeated ToeGash, the chef, and made it back to the Skewl.

End opinion? A. I love playing with El Willy and his crew, and this was exactly what I needed after two really disappointing games earlier in the con. The only reason that this wasn't an A+ was the fact that the WEGS 101 book got delayed for release. If this book had been for sale there, I would have bought one on the spot.

Later, that night, though...we had enough time to catch a movie:

The Call of Cthulhu--Silent Film Screening

I hadn't prepared myself for a real silent film in this. It was a unique (and pretty accurate) way for Lovecraft's story to be presented. The film was of particular quality, and set the mood very well. It was a worthwhile trip, though the midnight showing (while atmospheric!) left me incredibly tired.

End opinion? B+. Great film. See it, if you can!


Again, waking up early, I headed down to the Rogue Cthulhu room for a healthy dose of...

Call of Cthulhu--No Blood for Oil

I was somewhat disappointed on Thursday because I had actually tried to get in on an earlier CoC game run by the Rogue Cthulhu dudes, called Ex Silentio. Lionel and Ebbs had gotten in on it earlier, but I was shunted out as the last person with a ticket arrived just as the Keeper was handing out characters.

This game made up for it. As an Army Rangers Echo group in 2003 Iraq, we were set to take out an Iraqi oil rig that had supposedly been harboring WMDs. We ventured through an oil-creature infested rig, only to find our Alpha group had already been compromised. Though suffering several casualties, my comm officer managed to use a radio transmission to keep the oil-creatures at bay long enough for us to call in the napalm. Tons of fun, no questions about it.

End Opinion? A-. Some of the guys were a little hesitant, but the group worked really fantastically. Unfortunately, the tactical maps got lost, but we didn't need them too much. Th game was evocative and a lot of fun to play in, especially with the Cthulhu room's decorations. Apparently, the guys liked the way I played, because I picked up some Rogue Cthulhu chips, garnering some free swag from them later in the con--a set of dice, and a set of glass counters.

Strangely enough, the group that I was in had two other Daytonians--one over from Wright State, the other from Wright-Patterson. As we left, we exchanged some info and set off for...

The Paizo Dungeon Delve--Crown of the Kobold King

A fun little game of killing kobolds and saving children, we picked up an unlikely 4th to join us--Adam, back from Cincy! I hadn't expected Adam to join the Springfield Mafia's expedition to Origins, but here he was...ready for Friday and Saturday gaming. I helped him get registered quickly, just in time for us to kill some kobolds.

Since the episode was only 15 minutes long, I'll keep this short.

End opinion? B. The adventure looks good, and is somewhat lethal, apparently. The DM added a lot of description, which left our time being somewhat eaten, but we each got a key to the Paizo chest for playing. In fact, the Wright-State dude ended up opening the chest, winning a free copy of Stonehenge, a new board-game anthology.

Because of Adam's arrival, he still needed to be added to some events and gotten to the room. As such, I ended up missing The Novelists' Workout--Basic Plotting. Eh. I wasn't too concerned. It was free, and I had gaming to take care of!

After a great dinner at a nearby Japanese steakhouse, we arrived just in time to catch our showing of:

The Gamers: Dorkness Rising

The Dead Gentlemens' sequel to their prior indie-hit, this movie was ball-bustingly funny. Apparently, we were only the second audience to see a screening of the finished film, which made us fairly privledged.

As great as the first one was, this movie shows the development of DG's producers, writers, and direction. It feels like an actual "film", yet keeps all of the in-jokes and funny situations that bring us gamers back. Their enhanced budget, as well, shows, as the special effects here are better than anything you'd see on Sci-Fi Channel. I'll save the plot for you to see for yourself, but suffice to say that it involves an ancient artifact, god-killing power, and....cross-dressing characters.

I can't wait for this to hit DVD, to be perfectly honest. With luck, the Dead Gentlemen will have their distributor by the time they hit Gen Con, and it'll be out just in time for Christmas.

End Opinion? A+ Fantastic film. The house was packed, and it was totally worth it. See it, if at all possible.

At this point, we decided to relax and play some Runebound back in the room, just so we could rest up for our last two days...and the most hectic to come!


Arising early for the third day in a row, Adam, Ebbs, and myself headed down to the board-games HQ for a demo of:

Dragon War

As one of only 4 people at this game, the game itself moved rather quickly. Choosing a character, we started out on a board of 40 cards, each with 3 spaces. The concept is simple--it's a race game. Beat your fellow characters to the end of the board, and roll a 13 on 3d6 to win the game. The game itself can run with a fair amount of cut-throat behavior, as the game encourages beating the Life out of your compatriots using Fate cards to drive them onto negative spaces.

While the game itself cost only $20 (which led me to consider buying it), each expansion cost another $5, and usually only included optional board cards or a single new character. Kind of a rip-off, to say the least.

What's worse, though...the rules seemed somewhat incomplete. When an event occured in-game that led to a slight dispute, the fellow running the demo had no idea what to even suggest. The small rules packet (a two page leaflet) added nothing, and we had to work by general consensus. Disappointing to say the least. The art, as well, was unimpressive, despite being drawn by a "professional graphic artist".

End opinion? C. Not a bad little game, but the expansion price is entirely too high, the rules need to be refined, and the art....not something I want to look at. I'll stick with Munchkin, thank you!

After lunch, Adam, Jules and I set out to join:

D&D--The Blackmoor Wives' Club

A fun little scenario designed as an intro, we all played at 1st level, taking care of the household chores of some famous adventurers. The game itself was a lot of fun, with a laid-back, enjoyable DM and a good, well-balanced party.

That is, except for That Kid. Oi. A 14 year old, That Kid must have been an ADHD/Aspy, as he ran over everyone at the table, the DM included, frustrating us to no end. He was seated next to a young girl who had barely played before, and had never made her own character. He talked incessantly, even to the point where the DM was becoming openly frustrated.

Very rarely do I raise my voice. With him, I had to restrain from yelling at him several times.
Luckily, Adam's half-orc monk knocked him out...accidentally. ;)

End opinion? B+ Aside from That Kid, the game was a lot of fun, and the scenario was really funny. Well worth the time.

From there, we rejoined Lionel and Ebbs, then attempted to hit up BD's Mongolian BBQ. However, it was packed, and we settled for the food court before hitting up:

Paranoia--Lightning Rod

Lionel had played with the GM we had this with earlier in the week and, when he described the GM's orange asylum jumpsuit, I knew we were into a great game. With all 5 of us involved, as well as a couple from Dublin, we had a blast.

Here, I played the Communications officer, Chuck-R-FAR, as well as his talking hand-puppet Socko. Our job? Deliver devices to a security tower on the outskirts of Alpha Complex. After being sucked into a Vulture Squadron Flyer engine, I knew we were in for some fun. While the game ran down somewhat at the end, it was still an absolute blast. I could have wished for some more inter-party fighting and a little less conspiracy, but that's hardly a problem.

End opinion? B [You are not cleared for this information, citizen!]

We retired back to the room and wished Adam goodbye, then winded down by playing one of Lionel's new games--Unspeakable Words, which I'll describe in the Swag entry--and got ready for our last day's event.


We ended our Origins experience with a familiar classic for our group, but with a new twist:

Arkham Horror--The King in Yellow

We play Arkham Horror quite a bit out here, but with the new KiY expansion, we were all excited. We arrived just on time after checking out and dropping our things at the car. This was much to the chagrin of several players who were trying to get in on generic tokens. Having 4 of us plop down at the table didn't make them too happy....

This game, though? Wow. I've never seen an Arkham Horror game run so positively. Normally Arkham Horror fits its name, as you lose Sanity and Stamina hand over fist, picking up Insanities and Injuries like drinking wine. This time, no. Not so much. Instead, it was more along the lines of "Oh, here...have 15 unique items each. How about some skills? Mythos phase--what's mythos phase?"

Seriously. When the cooridinator told us where the first gate would open and I (playing the scientist) told him that "No, that won't be opening there," the look on his face said it all. I had never been in a game where we were actively waiting for Nyaralothotep to appear, just so we could beat the ever-loving-crap out of him. Very cathartic, but even more unusual.

End opinion? B-. It was fun to beat the crap of the game in the way we did, but I wish it would have been slightly more challenging! The game felt like a walk in the park, compared to what we've played in the past!

This is only 1 portion of our Origins experience. Be prepared for at least two more entries--The Warlock's Swag, and The Con Itself.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

We're Baaaack....

The PlatinumChick, myself, and the rest of the Springfield Mafia just rolled back in from Origins, with all kinds of swag in tow. After 5 solid days of gaming, feasting and no sleep....I'm ready for a nap.

I'll have a full run-down of all of the stuff gotten, games played, and other fun events that ran down with our happy little crew.

On that note, I'll leave you with one word.... "Niw!"

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Prepping for Origins and a Slight Lament

Well, the time is nearly here. In 3 days, the Warlock, his Mistress, and two fellow flunkies will be on our way to sunny Columbus for the 5 day geek-orgy that is Origins 2007.

I've gotta say: I'm stoked. Thusfar, the only cons I've ever been to have been WittCon (which I, y'know, helped found) and TopaCon, down at Bookery Fantasy. Both of these events didn't even hit 150 people. Origins will have 100 times that amount in attendence. That many gamers, events, and has to be a great time.

I spent most of yesterday and this morning writing up characters for D&D. I wanted to be prepped for any spur-of-the-moment games that I might drop into, as well as if I run a pick-up game. Having HeroForge helped this process--man, D&D can get really numbers-heavy at high levels--but it still took quite a bit of time.

I suppose the reason that I've been looking forward to Origins so much is the opportunity to play, as opposed to running game. Don't get me wrong; I love to GM/DM/ST/whatever just as much as the next geek. The problem is, I feel like I've been doing it forever. After running Fall of Saltmarsh for 6 months, as well as running games at TopaCon, WittCon, and randomly on weekends when the guys want to play....I feel like I've burnt out.

I mean, I didn't even really get to play at WittCon, even. I ran two sessions of game, then hung out and watched Paranoia. Don't get me wrong--it was all fun--but I'm still not playing the games I love so much.

This is leaving me a touch conflicted, in some ways. I have a fine gaming group right now, running through Demonweb Pits. Everyone has a novel character concept, and they sometimes seem to be having fun. However, just as often, I feel like everyone's falling asleep. I do my best to keep everyone involved, but...only about half the group seems "into it". In this case, Raymond Chandler's advice of "Have two men with guns burst through the door," hasn't worked in the least. And, what's worse, it has me questioning how much fun I'm having with this game. The answer, I'm finding more and more, is "not much." I love Planescape. I love D&D. This game is lacking both of their flavors, and becoming quite bland.

So, I raised this concept to my group. Two seem really receptive to the idea of changing campaigns (one of which is the PlatinumChick, who knows me like a well-read PH). One thinks that I just don't like running game, but is willing to change. Two others, though? No response. None. Not even head nodding.

I asked them whether they were having fun. I got nothing back.
I asked them whether they would want to try a different campaign, as the PlatinumChick has been itching to run Eberron. One sat there playing WoW. The other shrugged and started rolling up a Samurai, which I'm still trying to figure out how it fits into Eberron.

It could be worse, I guess. I think I'm just a little burned-out and seeing things that aren't there, but it's still frustrating to have to deal with on Friday nights, especially when the idea of the game is to have fun.

That said, I'm going to live it up at Origins, and hopefully I'll come home refreshed. True enough, maybe all this Warlock needs is a healthy dose of D&D, Paranoia, WEGS, Call of Cthulhu, all washed down with some Munchkin and a side of Arkham Horror.

Happy gaming, weasels!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The PlatinumChick and I

It's just us, Jules and Andy.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Yay for D&D!

Y'know, one of the biggest complaints against D&D is the amount of tables, charts, numbers, and other assorted digitation. People often get so caught up in figuring out exactly how much can be lifted, carried, destroyed, or eaten, that they forget that it's a game. Yes...a game.

Which means that, if something is probably should occur.

I'll be honest--I was kind of worried about this game. After two sessions of character creation, and a lackadaisical first session which ended in an argument/character unconsciousness, I was wondering exactly how much I wanted to run this game. This is the first time I've run a game straight out of a book since my freshman year of college 7 years ago.

This past session--wow. I have never in over 20 years of gaming, had a game in which a PC ordered his beefed-out construct to use the corpse of a dire-wolverine as a flail to crush a tree-borne Verdant Lord, while the Warforged monk pummeled a summoned tree.

Great, cinematic game. No minis, very few tables...just gaming at its best.


Monday, June 04, 2007

I Want a New Game...

And so it begins...a new chapter in the chronicles of the Warlock and his happy comrades.

This time, they venture to the planar metropolis of Sigil, up the world tree of Yggdrasil, and then deep into the heart of Lolth's Demonweb Pits.

Such an epic quest obviously requires massive amounts of power and, as such, our heroes have been Gestalted! Unique combinations have ensued, including the following:

A warforged Monk/Warlock
A rogue modron Rogue/Soulknife
A goblin Tinker/Artificer with a Walking Eye construct
A half-orc Paladin/Psychic Warrior
A human Barbarian/Cleric of Pelor
A human Fighter/Dread Necromancer

Who knows what perils will await them in the maw of the Spider-Queen? Stay tuned, friends and neighbors!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Warlock's Update and the Fate of Saltmarsh

Greetings once again, supplicants and knowledge-seekers. Your friendly neighborhood Warlock is back, and once again deciding to record his exploits.

Unfortunately, events in the so-called real-life have taken their toll and, due to some stress on my part, I have not been able to record all of the information from the Saltmarsh Tribulations. However, come this fast-arriving summer, my time will be more than free for gaming, and prospects are already drawn up. I'll keep you posted on what will be occuring, as time grows nearer.

As for now, though, let's take a brief look at what happened in Saltmarsh with our heroes:

After aiding Jasker and several other prominent citizens, the heroes were recommended by Mylor Orvid to the head watchman to investigate the mysterious murder of "Crazy Nettie," who was less mad and more a guardian of a major artifact. In the group's investigations, they managed to ostracize (through blackmail) the local druids of Oak Island and were forced to look elsewhere for clues--particularly, the nearby Silverhame Mountain.

However, while gone, a gnomish follower of Obox-Ob, demon lord of vermin, managed to steal the artifact guarded by Nettie and release it into the city's park. The characters arrived just in time to stave off the creature killing off much of the town.

Their failed investigations, though, did little to endear the adventurers to the city's nobility, though their actions in saving the park made them somewhat of cult heroes. This earned them a special feast at the Dancing Dryad and an audience with the headmistress of the tavern. However, Ayadi (the headmistress) was more than she seemed--the Dancing Dryad was little more than a front for the local theives' guild...which wanted the adventurers to pursue a massive treasure. Unfortunately for them, the treasure stood beneathe one of the standing stones of none other than Oak Island.

The adventurers reluctantly agreed to the job, but their attempts at stealth failed, as the Hierophant druid of Oak Island caught them red-handed. Their slaying of her proved to be most dire as time would tell.

Luckily, the adventurers had been gaining allies. Concerned about the devilish and demonic incursions into Saltmarsh, the players sought out aid from the Temple of Pelor. This was granted in the person of Ashlyn, a Lightbringer Paladin. Ashlyn and Daishar began a romance early on which lasted the duration of their partnership.

Ashlyn accompanied the players on another delve, using a map found within the treasures of Oak Island. This map--displaying a dwarven catacomb--held much treasure, but was guarded by several warring factions including illithid-created abominations, Glasyan devils, and mysterious suits of dwarven armor. It was here that the adventurers ran afoul of the powerful harvester devil Acanthus, but came upon a powerful magic--the Cerulean Sign. The Sign was a massive runestone capable of permanently sealing planar rifts, disallowing all planar travel around it.

Keeping the entrance amulet to the runestone's chamber, the players returned to Saltmarsh to spend their newfound wealth. However, their victory was a short-lived one. Saltmarsh was in flames--it had been invaded by illithid seeking sustanance. The players, along with over half of Saltmarsh, were captured and enthralled.

Trapped within the walls of an illithid slave pen, the adventurers were starved, beaten, and forced into servitude by Xil'ti'Carn, the illithid who enthralled them. Xil'ti'Carn also sent the group twice to the surface, forcing them to kill off a Scarlet Brotherhood monestary (including a former friend of Daishar's) as well as a Paladin/Topaz Guardian who had uncovered the illithid city. Ashlyn and Jathalain suffered direly during their abscences, as the illithid subjected them to psychic tortures beyond imagination.

It was on this second event that Daishar came upon Acanthus once again. The devil, noting the fact that the monk had resisted the illithid enthrallment, offered a deal--an even trade. The devil would provide the Annullus--an artifact capable of destroying psionic creatures en masse--if Daishar would steal the amulet of the Cerulean Sign from Brighid, thereby allowing Acanthus access to the runestone. Daishar, after much soul-searching agreed.

As Daishar activated the Annullus, destroying the illithid compound, Acanthus led his devilish expedition back into the dwarven catacombs and pulled forth the runestone, teleporting it back to Maelbolge.

In a harrowing journey back through the ruins of Saltmarsh and the Hool Marshes, the adventurers led the remaining refugees of the city past the Silverhame mountain and to the gates of Cauldron, a city ruled by the Hextorian Guard of Slade Starblade. Starblade reluctantly agreed to allow the refugees to become citizens of Cauldron, but only after Harvinion used much of his newfound wealth to purchase enough land within the city limits to force Starblade's hand. Harvinion became a noble of Cauldron in an ostentatious ceremony, and swore fealty to Starblade's cause, much to the party's chagrin.

However, a contact within Starblade's cabinet tipped the party off as to their next destination--the city of Sigil. Tracking down Acanthus was their highest priority, and anything or anyone could be found within the City of Doors. The party moved quickly through Sigil, enountering several harrowing groups, including the morose Dustmen and the entropy-obsessed Doomguard, including the cambion Factol Ely Cromlich. However, they also began to learn a horrible truth--not only was there a planar gate on Oak Island, as they had suspected, but a gate between Obox-Ob's layer of the Abyss and Maelbolge was about to destabilize the Blood War.

Hiring a Styxian charter, the players made their way into the Nine Hells, but were ambushed in Maelbolge by two Styx-swimmers. The creatures slew Azumi, Harvinion, and Amadis in an epic battle, and Jathalain, Ashlyn, Brighid, and Daishar were forced to retreat back to Greyhawk with a Plane Shift spell. The trio was resurrected, but not without several side effects...and an oath to return the runestone to the Cathedral of Pelor.

Using another Plane Shift, the party arrived in the midst of a massive Blood War battle, just in time to see Acanthus begin the incantation to seal the breach in Maelbolge. The party stopped him, but not without cost--Ashlyn fell beneath the hellspear of a powerful orthon. Devastated, Daishar demanded that they pursue her spirit, which was being held within the Bastille of Souls, several layers above them.

Traveling in harrowing methods, as their unity began to split, the party crawled through the Worm of Minauros and up the chains of Jangling Hiter, arriving within the silent City of Dis and to the doorstep of the Bastille of Souls. There, they reclaimed Ashlyn's spirit and returned to Cauldron. There, they found out some dire news--several members of the council of Cauldron were pushing Starblade towards war. The target: Greyhawk.

However, one major task remained. Under divinations, it was revealed that Xil'ti'Carn had in fact survived the blast of the Annullus, mainly because he had already prepared his body for lichdom before being slain. Now, he was attempting to return to Oak Island to precipitate the final breach between Oerth and the Far Realm.

The adventurers joined together one last time to defeat their old slaver. Traveling through the creature's living phylactery--a dungeon pulsing with unholy, aberrant power--they arrived just in time to confront Xil'ti'Carn, who raised two Neolithid worms to defend him. In the end, the circle of Zerthimon was too strong to be broken, and Daishar's mighty fists crushed the illithid threat once and for all.

Casualties, however, abounded. Baron Harvinion had died, as did Azumi. Ostracized in Greyhawk for the death of the Topaz Guardian and wanted in Cauldron for helping Ashlyn and Jathalain to escape inprisonment earlier on, the group had nowhere to go. As such, they disbanded, their fates scattered to the four winds. Without the influence of Harvinion on Starblade's council, Cauldron declared war on Greyhawk, destroying it with a weapon forged by Ely Cromlich of the Doomguard--one of the massive Ships of Chaos.

It is said that Amadis went mad from his travels, releasing an Abyssal Nightmare onto the world, stolen from the gem-prisons of the Bastille of Spirits. He fought valiantly, but died in the end, his soul consigned back to the Nine Hells to fight forever in the Blood War.

It is believed that Daishar returned to Sigil, in an attempt to find the original Circles of Zerthimon amongst the races of Gith there. His success is unknown. Reports are also conflicted as to his status with the paladin, Ashlyn. Some say that his time in the Hells corrupted him, driving her away, while others claim that, in enduring, he grew stronger...and she, with him.

Jathalain and Brighid are believed to still remain on Oerth, though their whereabouts are unknown. Rumors abound of two rebels who fight against the ever-expanding Empire of Cauldron, though these are quickly quieted by the Hextorian Guard. It is unknown whether these rumors are related to the pair, or if they still live.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tales of Saltmarsh Towne: Chapter 2--A Mysterious Threat and The Missing Mithril

Standing over the destroyed goblin corpses and mysterious enchanted cauldron of the Io-Rach tribe, the group begins to decide upon their next plans. While Brighid and Amadis are quick to push for flooding the entire cavern complex, the rest of the group shoots this idea down, as they think that it would taint the surrounding water. They decide instead to block off the cavern entrance with the wagons, light them afire, then collapse the cavern entrance.

As the group proceeds to leave, they come upon something they had no found before—three small statuettes, each of which depict a nude, demonic female in a seductive pose. Despite the group’s knowledge and skills, they do not seem to know who the figure is. The statuettes are packed up with their other newly-gained gear, and the group sets out from the cavern. Using a block and tackle that Amadis carried on his mule, the group moves the wagons into position, then light them afire.

With the cavern collapsed behind them, the quintet begins walking down the road to Saltmarsh. It is a swift journey back to the Hool Watch Tower, and the group quickly arrives in Commander Iborian’s office again. While not eating this time, the ranger’s breakfast appears to be newly finished, as it is scattered over his desk, most messily. Brighid quickly sums up the events from the caverns, making particular note of the distorted goblins, the wolf-creature, and the mystic cauldron. Iborian seems to have no knowledge of the creature, but tells the party that he will send a runner to investigate their story. Should their tale be true, they can expect payment from the bursar on the morrow.

While the majority of the group seems to be excited over their newfound wealth, all that Artorius can mutter is his desire for a warm bed, a hot bath, and a good meal. The party drops off Artorius at the Blue Frog, then heads to the Temple of Boccob, a massive pyramid-like structure rumored to deal in ensorcelled weaponry. Brighid, however, heads off to the Merchant’s Guildhall, seeking a new bow. Harvinion, Azumi, and Amadis make their way into the Boccobian Temple, and ask an apprentice to see the temple-master. Shortly thereafter, High Acolyte Mylor Orvid steps forward and inquires as to the party’s business.

Harvinion quickly shows the priest the three statuettes and inquires as to what they might symbolize. Orvid states that he can research the statuettes, but doing so might take some time, as well as a cash donation to the temple. Harvinion forks over the 50 gp.

From there, Azumi draws the dwarven waraxe, asking as to what it might be. Wittily, and with self-satisfaction, Orvid proudly proclaims that it is “An axe. In fact, a dwarven-made one, at that.” Frustrated, Azumi asks what might make it sharper. “A Whetstone, perhaps? Or a grinding wheel with some oil…perhaps you may want to ask your question a bit more…well, bluntly.” From there, Orvid tells her that a spell of magic detection and analysis would cost 75 gp. Azumi pays for this service for the waraxe, and Amadis does the same for the javelin.

Orvid points them to a mediation hall so they can wait out the research time. In the meanwhile, though, Amadis asks if they have anything to sell. It turns out the temple does craft items on site, and also deal in arcane goods for the locals. Azumi asks what they might have in stock. With a wave of his hand, Orvid opens a mystically locked cabinet to reveal the following:
- A ring that bolsters affinity and communication (Ring of Charisma +2)
- A wand that channels necromantic energy (Wand of Ghoul’s Touch)
- A wand that conjures a sticky web (Wand of Web)
- Several weapons that were salvaged from the Ironroot Mountains, including:
- A dwarven urgrosh
- A drow hand crossbow
- A longsword
- A whip.

Harvinion asks, as this last bit, how one might actually ensorcell a whip, to which Orvid replies “With magics of the most dire import…”

Amadis inquires as to the possibility of commissioning a bastard sword, but the cost and time constraint seem to be out of his league, at least for the time being. As they speak, up runs apprentice Bob, calling out, “Master Mylar, we finished with the axe and javelin!” Both weapons seem to only hold minor enchantments (+1), but are worth a fair amount to the right buyer.

The party conferences quickly, to decide what to do with the items. Amadis offers the suggestion that the weapons could be traded for a commissioned bastard sword, but the offer is quickly shot down by a calm, quieting voice from the far side of the meditation chamber. “If you split the wealth amongst your group, you may all be able to benefit, rather than simply one.”

A lithe man rises from where he was, rather irritatedly, attempting to meditate. He further suggests that such a discussion might be better placed over a meal at a nearby tavern. Mylor smiles at the monk, and tells the party, “"It is rare that I do such a thing, but if you were to sell both items as a set, I could give you a slightly greater amount for the items sold. Perhaps…3,000 sovereigns?”

The party accepts the offer and sells the items. Harvinion hands the monk, named Daishar, a gp for his helpful idea. Daishar quickly drops the piece in the Boccobian offertory box, and Mylor speaks to him quickly thereafter: “Daishar, it is of my belief that you may be able to offer some great wisdom to this group. Accompanying them may aid the final steps of your training. Why don’t you go with them?”

Daishar agrees, and Amadis immediately begins telling the young monk about the great battles the group will soon embark upon. While describing the group's recent exploits, Amadis describes the cauldron used by the goblins to morph one another into abominations. At this, Mylor perks up, asking if the cauldron included the symbol of a copper scourge. The group affirms this, and he scurries off to begin his research. It appears that there may be some connection.

The group then splits up, with Brighid heading towards the Merchants' Guildhall, while Amadis, Harvinion, Daishar and Amadis head towards Saltmarsh's renowned School of Blades, a two story brick building with a substantial courtyard out front.

Within the courtyard, two pairs of warriors square off--a human facing a half-elf, each with a rapier, and a rapier-wielding human facing a gnome wielding a gnomish quickblade. Watching the pairs and snapping commands at the fencers is a lanky man wearing a well-tooled sword-belt and an impressive doublet. The instructor turns to the party and introduces himself as Daryn Larsken, master of the School of Blades.

Amadis chats with the man for a moment, but Daryn seems skeptical of Amadis' adventures, particularly due to the state of Amadis' sword. Daryn even goes so far as to dismiss Amadis' skill as a swordsman, which does little to endear him to the knight-errant.

Daryn dismisses two of the students, but tells the other two to keep working. He then invites the party in to browse his collection. Amadis continues to brag, however, and Daryn begins to question aloud whether he should truly sell this man a sharpened blade. Regardless, Amadis admires a well-oiled blade handed to him by Daryn, but then swiftly draws the sword and leaps out of the nearby window, shrieking "Danger is afoot!"

Stunned, Larsken and the rest of the party run swiftly down the stairs and after Amadis, who seems to be chasing down a local farmer, who is attempting to buy fruit. Daryn screams after Amadis, "By all the Nine Hells, man, what are you doing? That sword is mine!" Amadis claims that the man, Jerimiah by name, is in danger, though Jerimiah seems to be more confused by Amadis' actions than anything else. He walks swiftly away, and fades into the crowd.

Exasperated, Daryn asks for payment for the blade, but Amadis seeks to bargain down the 400 gold crown price, by throwing in his old blade. Daryn tosses down the blade in disgust, saying that it is "not much more than a can opener." Sputtering, Amadis retorts that the blade has "at least opened the cans of half a dozen goblins" and that the master has "dishonored my sword."

Daryn looks the man straight in the eye and says, "Do you know to whom you speak? I am the fencing champion of the Free City of Greyhawk twice over!" Amadis attempts to retort, but Harvinion cuts him off by offering to pay for the master's broken window. Amadis cools down, pays Daryn the requested fee, and the group leaves.

In the meanwhile, Brighid scours the area for a bowyer. She finds a stall near the Merchant's Guildhouse with a fine sign drawn up in Elvish, labeled Jathalain's Bowyery. Inside, a long-eared, soft-spoken elf asks the young warrior if he can offer some help. Brighid shows Jathalian her bow, which he promptly examines, telling her that she needs a new bowstring--hers has frayed. He quickly reaches to his leather bracers, plucks off a newer string, then re-strings her bow.

Jathalain then pulls down a fine recurve bow, made of red maplewood with a fine bronze inlay. He then aids Brighid in demonstrating the pull. Brighid makes mention of the fact that she is not a seasoned archer yet, though Jathalian seems more than willing to give some lessons.

In the end, things come down to the price, which is none for the faint of heart: 350 gold pieces. Brighid also asks about the possibility of purchasing exotic arrows, including those made with Mithril or Cold Iron arrowheads. Jathalian educates the young warrior on the qualities of these metals and offers to throw in a "sample quiver" of each, should she choose to buy the bow. Brighid accepts, and leaves shortly thereafter.

At this point, Azumi and Harvinion pass by and continue on, into a nearly barren area filled with smoke. Towards the end of the space, a smithery churned smoke into the air. A gnome and a human pumped a massive bellows while a filthy dwarf hammered away on a piece of metal on the anvil. Azumi interrupts their work, and the dwarf waddles over. The warrior-woman asks the dwarf for something "bigger" than her halberd, to which he wittily replies, "Well, there's a big rock out back you could use! Wham!"

Frustrated, she then asks for something a bit sharper than a rock. Again, the dwarf smiles and shows her a piece of jagged iron, used for scrap. Frustrated, she falls silent to think. Harvinion, however, perks up, asking about the dwarf's ability to work with mithril. The dwarf, finally introducing himself as Jasker, tells the pair that he actually has a shipment of mithril on order, which is almost a week late. If the pair could find it for him, he might be able to offer a deal on mithril armor or weaponry. He further suggests to start with Saltmarsh Sendings, the company that he used to have the metal delivered.

After hearing all this, Azumi finally realizes how to ask her question. She asks Jasker if she could potentially requisition a new halberd. Jasker agrees, stating that he has received some Zhenish steel that he could use for the blade. She puts in the order, which will be ready in two days for 350 gp.

With a busy day behind them, the party heads back to the Lizard's Boat. Kailee, the ranger-turned-inkeep, stands ready at the bar when Amadis speaks to the patrons in a booming voice, "We have fought valiantly and conquered, so a round for everyone!" Kailee is skeptical at first, but is quick to shovel Amadis' 5 gold pieces into her skirt, when he plinks the coin onto the bar.

The next day, the party heads first to HoolWatch tower. Harvinion, eager to get after the mithril, arrives nearly half an hour ahead of the group. At the tower, Iborian confirms the PCs' statements. A pyre was created for the dead, and the bursar held their payment. The players collect it, and make a few short stops before heading out. Brighid stops at the Alchemist's Guild, picking up a few potions. Harvinion, Daishar, and Amadis head to a curio shop, where the first pair buy an armoire, and the latter merely enjoys a lemon scone.

From there, the group heads to the western gate, where two noble guards stand vigilant. The warriors ask one, with a large moustache, of banditry on the road, particularly of the Saltmarsh Sendings messengers. He claims to know nothing of the sort, and that, given their information, they may wish to start their search at the Saltmarsh Sendings office. Further, they learn that this guard, named Bob, is brother to the apprentice Bob from the Temple of Boccob. Furthermore, he is also brother to two other 'Bobs,' one of whom works as an alchemist, the other which may be in league with Ned Shakeshaft, the leader of the infamous Saltmarsh Assassin's Guild.

With a complaining Harvinion in tow, the group makes its way back across town to Saltmarsh Sendings, where Brighid inquires as to Jasker's ore. The clerk tells them that a halfling, Joshua Longstrider, was in charge of the shipment between Cauldron and Saltmarsh. Apparently Longstrider had not checked in, but the clerk marks Longstrider's potential route on the group's map and sends them on their way.

Heading out of the western gate, the group says their goodbyes to Bob, and moves on their way.

About 4 hours down the western road, Harvinion catches sight of some movement. He pulls out the lizardfolk's letter of safe passage. Amadis draws his sword and shouts out for any foes to show themselves. While Azumi hears the noise of some creatures moving, Daishar is the first to spot 4 man-sized, degenerate, scaled creatures clawing their way up the left side of the road.

The creatures strike first, as one spits a viscous glob of bile at Amadis, sizzling his flesh beneath his armor. The battle is swiftly joined, and things look dire for the warriors. Harvinion is harmed direly, and is forced to retreat and use his crossbow, rather than his typical longsword. Azumi, too, is direly injured and her grip on her halberd begins to loosen somewhat.

The fists of Daishar, though, prove to be as strong as any steel. Caught one-on-one with one of the creatures, the monster quickly fell beneath the discipline-wrought blows of Daishar's martial power. He then joined the battle against the other creatures, aiding his new fellows with powerful strikes.

As the party's injuries seem to mount Brighid shifts her roles from warrior-woman to healer, bringing powerful healing energies to bear upon her comrades. At this moment, though, Azumi slams her halberd shaft into her foe's face, forcing it backwards into a tree and breaking its snout. As it reels, she wheels about, slicing the halberd blade into both of its legs, severing both and felling the beast.

With blows like these, the party swiftly prevails over their foes and begin to investigate the environs. A short search by Harvinion reveals the creatures' nest, within which lies the corpse of a halfling traveler and the missing mithril. Furthermore, the party finds some special rewards for their efforts:

-400 gps
-an unidentifible ring
-a divine scroll of Flaming Sphere
-a wand
-a finely made composite longbow, which is taken by Brighid
-a heavy steel shield, taken by Amadis.

With their quest completed, the party sets out back towards Saltmarsh with the mithril in hand, ready to give to Jasker.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tales of Saltmarsh Towne--Prologue

Cast of Characters:

Azumi Matsukata--Jules--Warblade. A refugee from a far-off land, Azumi flees from a force that works from the shadows. Azumi is a new citizen of Saltmarsh and has only recently come upon the others.

Amadis de la Chamna--Adam--Knight. His head full of stories and tales of classical knights and powerful warriors, Amadis seeks a return of such old ways. However, many think Amadis mad, as he believes that evil sorcerers follow him, changing reality at their whims.

Brighid--Sarah--Favored Soul. A refugee of the Flanaess, from Vecna's ascension to godhood, Brighid holds great vengeance against the Ebon Triad, a cult that seeks the unification of Vecna with two other vile deities.

Harvinion--Lionel--Scout. One of the defenders of the woodlands surrounding Saltmarsh, Harvinion has done much to aid the incoming refugees to the town. However, his greated challenges lie ahead of him...

Artorius--Nick--Dread Necromancer--The most recent arrival to Saltmarsh, Artorius claims not to know his past. However, certain events seem to line up between his memory, and several tales from nearly 1,000 years in the past. The repercussions of this may echo through the rest of his life...

Daishar--Chris--Monk--An acolyte of Boccob, lord of knowledge and Sovereign of the Unseeing Eye, Daishar stumbled across the party as they were speaking to High Acolyte Mylor within Saltmarsh's temple. However, Daishar's allies may feel great resentment towards some of the members of his new friends, and he may soon be faced with a difficult choice.

Tales of Saltmarsh Towne: Chapter 1--The Goblin Pits of Io-Rach

I found these journals while going through the last remains of a scout, supposedly from the wooded regions surrounding the burgeoning city of Saltmarsh. Considering that there are no woods around the greater Saltmarsh area....these tales are difficult, at best, to verify.

The party begins with a meeting with Ranger Iborion of the Hool Watch at 3pm, but decide to hang around The Lizard's Boat inn and tavern to eat some lunch and to get some information on the local peoples.

Amadis asks for the best calamari but instead opts for the cheaper third best. The rest order a simple dish of cheese and bread.

After finishing lunch, the group heads to the lizardfolk embassy, with the intent to find out more information about the Hool Marshes, home to several lizardfolk triebes..
Brighid, Artiorius, Azumi and Amadis decide to stop next to the embassy to purchase some swamp boots, but Harvinion mocks them for their weakness in traversing such a swamp.

At the Embassy they are directed to the Stenographer by the lizard embassy guards to get a pass of safe passage through the Hool marches.

Lizard Stenographer Silark - "This will give you safe passage through the Hool marshes. Be sure not to bring harm to my brothers and sisters in the swamp."
Amadis - "On my honor, my blade will not harm your brothern."
Silark - "Ha, Manlings have not much honor."
Amadis - Turns and walks out the door.

The party gets to the Hool Watch tower and ask about the need for a Tower for the Hool Marshes, only to find out that there is enmity between the people of Salt Marsh and the Hool
Marshes. It seems that some parties within Saltmarsh desire to see the lizardfolk eradicated...

The party is led to the 3rd floor where they are given a plate of sweetswith no chart of what is
what. Brighid bites into a coconut sweet and tosses it onto the floor, and then hides it in the corner.

10 minutes later, Ranger Iborian comes in with his cold lunch, and proceeds to chow
down on it sloppily, then lights up a big pipe. After smoking for a moment, he proceeds to explain that the High Councilmen need help with a problem of refugees being jumped by bandits of some sort. The bandits are goblins with a bleeding eye symbol on the bottom of their shields. The party is to investigate and eliminate the problem.
Amadis knows of the goblins somewhat--the goblins are those of the Io-Rach tribe, which roughly means "Bloody eye lying smashed on the ground" in Goblin.

Iborian tells us that the goblins are not typical gobbos. He then gives the party a map showing
where the raids are happening, which happens to be along a familiar road to Brighid, Artorius and Azumi. In fact, this was the very road upon which they arrived in Saltmarsh.

In return for completion of the task, Iborian says that the group would get to keep any salvage found and gives each member a pouch with 25 gps, as a down payment, with another 250 gps for after the task is accomplished.

Amadis's eyes immediately light up with thoughts of more sturdy armor, and Brighids's thoughts go to a composite bow.

After a short exchange about the cannibalistic tendencies of the native lizardfolk, during which Iborian mentions that the lizard folk like elf meat, the party heads out the door and onto the road.

The party heads down the road, led by Harvinion then Azumi, Brighid, Antonius and Amadis leading his "steed," a pack mule.

Along the way Harvinion spots something moving in the trees, has Amadis give him
the letter of safe passeage, and holds it out bravely. The rest of the party sheathes their

A lizard barbarian swings out in front of the Harvinion and, after looking over the letter of safe
passage, tells the party about a slaughter up ahead in the road. He then walks back into the marsh and the party continues on the road to the spot of the slaughter.

During the march Antonius is chatted up by Brigid about his past. Harvinion, meanwhile, spots a tree that looks like a naughty bit, but the others do not want to stop and take a look.

A few short miles later, the party comes across the scene of the slaughter which is made up of over 3 overturned wagons and lots of blood all over. The place has obvious signs of being scavenged but surprisingly enough there are only 3 bodies. Not even the bodies of the horses can be found.
Brighid notices that the bodies have been gnawed on, but only after being stabbed to death. She also notices that one of the bodies is plague ridden. A quick check reveals that the other
two bodies are plague ridden, as well, but with a disease that can't be recognized.

Harvinion looks for where the bodies have been dragged and but instead finds an arrow ridden double-sized bloated gobbo looking corpse lying in the swamp. The corpse has large tumorous growths and is holding a blood stained cleaver.

However, a sudden cry interrupts the investigation. "Rititah Cratch!" is suddenly heard by Amadis, who becomes aware of 5 gobbos rummaging about in one of the wagons.
The rest of the party is alerted to the gobbos when Amadis charges at them. The gobbos toss a few javelins at Amadis but miss him. Amadis then shouts a knights challenege to one of the
gobbos, then deftly slices into it, causing it to stagger back and then collapse.

Two goblins chuck spears at Artorius and Amadis but miss them.
Artorius chants the words to an arcane ritual, and his hand glows in crimson.

Brighid, Harvinion and Azumi join the fray, and make short work of the goblins. However, one of the creatures wounds Harvinion sorely and he requires a healing spell from Brighid.

Luckily, one of the goblins was only knocked into unconsciousness, and Brighid immediately takes to interrogating the creatures. It awakens and then spits on Brighid, who kicks it in the head knocking it out again. Brighid heals it to awaken and then spits on it, and then speaks to it
Abyssal asking it where its warren is.

The goblin is, at first, uncooperative, but soon succumbs first to Brighid's interrogation, then to sweet oblivion. The party has their goal--a small cave nearby in the depths of the swamp.

While the group discusses their next move, they search the goblins and the caravan wagons. Artorius finds a well-made dagger in amongst the the wagons, while Brighid examines the goblins for disease, finding nothing.

Harvinion slogs over to the cave enterance and sees nothing of worry, waving the party over. The others slog over as Harv enters inside a bit, as Brighid touches Amadis's belt causing it
to glow.

The rest follow Amadis in, but he promptly screams "I shall fight you in honorable combat!" As he heads in, he continues to rant challenges, and suddenly trips over a hidden trip wire that sounds a bell.
At a fork in the path, the group waits for goblins to appear in the light of a guttering
torch in a wall sconch.
At the end of the right fork, Harvinion and Artorius spot things moving around but not
coming closer.

B translates Amadis's rants and challenges into Abyssal, and Harvinion wings a rock down the right fork but nothing happens.

At least, that is until a small ball rolls into the area which lets off a loud crack, and
Harvinion, Azumi and Artorius become deafened. Amadis rants about "underhanded tricks instead of honorable combat" and heads down the right fork after the goblins.

However, that is when the goblins' ruse truly struck. From the left-hand passage, three normal sized goblins emerged, but behind them were two of the massive, bloated brutes, dripping pus and filth from their corpulent frames with each step.

The goblins open with a salvo of javelins, and one of the larger creatures steps in to focus on Azumi. Catching the warblade off-balance, the creature nearly cleaves Azumi in twain. The second attempts the same with Brighid, but its blow deflects off of her heavy armor.

The battle looks poor for the heroes immediately, with the mighty Azumi already felled and the group surrounded, but the tide swiftly begins to turn. Summoning eldritch sorceries, Artorious injures one of the goblins assailing him, and Amadis quickly steps to defend the unconscious Azumi.

Harvinion flitted from foe to foe, stabbing frantically with his dagger, but was injured direly by a thrown javelin. Brighid stepped in immediately to fell his foe, then to heal the scout.

Between the efforts of Amadis's swordplay, Brighid's archery, and Artorius's magics, the party slew all but one of the goblins, the last of which retreated down the left passage, wounded direly in the thigh.

Injured severely and, in the case of Azumi, near death, the party discusses where they will hole up for the evening, while Harv just keeps his eye down the right passage. The party heads out and arranges the 3 battered wagons into a "quasi" fort to protect themselves for the

Azumi takes first watch, Amadis takes second, while Harvinion takes third with the others sleeping through the night.

On Amadis's watch he hears some 'voices' in the trees that are a bit almost chanting noise. He awakens Azumi to tell her of the chanting, but she doesn't hear a thing.

Amadis quickly claims "Wait here I'll go and investigate!" then he sloshes off into the
marsh. He does not hear the chanting over the sloshing noise he is making, and he heads back to the"quasi-fort."

Amadis then wakes up Harvinion, who also does not hear the chant, and the young scout hands Amadis the safe passage letter to put it onto the fort. The rest of the night passes without event.

As the next day dawned, the party prepared themselves for another venture into the goblin warrens. Brighid cast a light spell on Amadis's sword giving him a "glowing sword of righteousness!!!"

The party then heads forth back into the cave with Amadis leading the way, ranting again, and this time cutting the trip wire with his glowing blade.
Amadis and Harvinion choose the right passageway this time, followed by Brighid, Artorius and Azumi, in that order.

The passage forks again, and the party takes the left passageway which heads down instead of the right way which is level which ends in a room that tapers into a steep downward passage. The party decides to go back and take the right passage instead of trying to go down the steep way.
The right passage ends in a cold and smelly room, with refugee bodies hanging from the ceiling, with the sound of rushing water in the room.
Artorius and Amadis cut down the bodies which Brighid then examines for diseases but
doesn't find anything of note. She still cautions them from touching the bodies.

Harvinion finds a mallet and the party grabs it and some of the rope and cobbles together them in an attempt to booby-trap the deep slope. The attempt fails miserably and is quickly abandoned.

The group then heads back to take the first left passage way, which splits again, and they go right. This ends in a large living cavern with goblins beds and the like.

After finding nothing they go back to the other passage. There they find a cooking room with empty pots. Harvinion makes "Knudgeon Dowledge" check to find a small cabinet that doesn't look right. Harvinion opens it up and finds a passage in the west wall after about 20 minutes of fiddling with it. Air rushes into the kitchen that is dank and gross.

Within the passage, a slope leads down. Amadis heads first down the slope until the water at the bottom reaches up to the top of his hipwaders. After raising his sword high up he spots dry land on the other side of the water.

Artorius starts to swim half way across to the other side and comes back when he can't see much more.
Brighid lights up Artorius's backpack and he swims across to the dry land. There, Artorius finds a trove which seems to have been kept by the chief goblin.

The hidy hole contains:
- 480 Gold in a small coffer
- dwarven war-axe (which glows with faint transmutation magic)
- 3 small statues of a nude succubus in various poses
- An ever burning torch

The party quickly splits the gold up amongst each other and then head back to the downward slope they passed earlier. They quickly puts some ropes together and head down the slick slope.

As the group makes their way down the slope, a few in the party notice that towards the bottom, the walls are undulating a bit. Amadis chips away at the wall with his dagger, and a
green puss leaks out of the small hole.

As the group reaches the very bottom, they encounter a stiff wooden door. With no one available to pick the lock on the door, Azumi steps forward, asking for the dwarven waraxe. With a mighty swing, she crushes the door beneath her might.

Inside, four goblins lay prostrate, praying to some sight outside a rough-hewn window. The party quickly leaps into action, slaying them without hesitation.

Outside the window, though, in a larger cavern connected by a curving stairwell, lay a hideous sight. Down within the cavern's depths, the party watches a goblin being lowered into cauldron of "liquid" flesh by two bloated goblins, while a half-wolf/goblin monster watches. The goblin
is dropped into the cauldron, and when the cauldron is tipped over, the goblin emerges, transforming into a bloated goblin.

Brighid and Harvinion sneak down the stairs in order to fire an few arrows at the wolf monster
while the rest of the party readies their attacks against the abominations. With the first shots fired, the fray is joined.

With the battle joined, moments were tense for the party. The wolf-like creature immediately chanted some obscure words, and appeared in the prayer room in the midst of the party's rear guard.

The party faces difficulties at first, as the wolf-creature proves resistant to the party's blows. However, the dwarven war-axe, found within the chamber earlier seems to penetrate the creature's thick hide with ease, and Azumi's blows strike true. However, the bloated creatures' blows prove just as strong, felling Artorius and gravely wounding Amadis. Harvinion landed several solid blows, but was taken out of the fight partway through, as a fell incantation crushed his will to fight.

It seemed, though, that the savagery of the goblins' bloated kin was their undoing. One of the bloated creatures, consumed by rage and trapped behind his compatriots, destroyed two of his injured comrades in his blind haste to enter combat. With these combatants removed, the party prevailed.

Following their victory, the party chose to investigate the lower chamber further. It seemed that the cauldron, made of black wrought iron and writhing with filth and waste, was inlaid carefully with a stylized copper scourge several times around its brim. With this in mind, the group searched the bodies, and exited the foul area, ready to research this strange symbol.

In addition to the party's earlier loot, the goblins provided:

- 600 gold pieces
- 180 Platinum
- A nice looking steel Javelin
- Half-Plate for Amadis
- Masterwork longsword taken by Harvinion

Using one of the ruined wagons as a barricade and pyre, the party barred the entrance to the Io-Rach cavern, and collapsed the way in, sealing it forever.