Monday, October 20, 2008

In Which The Warlock Loves Steampunk Sword and Sorcery Politics...

Over on, a fellow by the appellation of Old Kentucky Shark has been posting an ongoing serial dealing with the election, but in the style of...well, somewhere between a twisted version of Eberron, the Kull or Conan stories by Robert E. Howard, and an Onion satire article.

It's a fantastic, hilarious read, and worth take a look at regardless of your politics.

So, without futher adieu: Obamadammerung!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

In Which The Warlock Scares the Crap out of the Witt-Kids...

I'd been itching to run a Halloween one-shot for a while, and when some of the players in Ebbs' Tuesday night game showed some interest in Ravenloft, I couldn't pass up the chance.

The thing is, though, we threw down some game on Saturday with a few twists. First off, we used 4e, rather than 3.5e, as Ravenloft was designed for. I was rather surprised to see that the system didn't really matter for us--the horror remained, even in a system that's a lot more player-friendly in that respect.

We also experimented with some new WotC rules--particularly the Artificer and the Barbarian, which are both available on their site as playtest builds. Nick played a warforged barbarian, while Dan took up the mantle of the artificer. The consensus on both was really positive: the artificer kept the party on its feet with temporary hit points, while using artifice and constructs to set up flanks and attacking enemies. The barbarian seemed a touch strong, as it was built around charging, but felt properly Conan-esque, dealing out massive damage with a greataxe.

Our scenario? A classic horror staple--the haunted asylum. So, as a treat to you, I present the true story of Birchcroft Sanitarium for the Mentally Deranged:

The real Birchcroft Sanitarium for the Mentally Deranged was found on the Prime Material, near the city of Port-a-Lucine. Its original director, Marcus Birchcroft IV, was a nobleman, who saw much of his family fall to the perils of mental illness. Hoping to help them, Birchcroft used his family’s considerable wealth to aid them as they fought off what modern psychologists would call Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and other severe psychotic episodes.

Marcus was lucky, in many ways, as he was spared the horrors of the afflictions that so ravaged the rest of his family. His wealth was able to attract some of the greatest psychoanalytic minds from across the world, including two such doctors: Dr. Gregor Illhousen—a 53 year old doctor of Psychiatric Medicine from Nedragaard, and Dr. Roderick Wellsby, a 40 year old doctor of Neurological Surgery.

Serving as Chief Financial Officer and Chairman of the Board, Marcus’s decision-making was incredibly sound, as he let the doctors create their own administration, with his own board overseeing their actions. The doctoral board was elected by the entire medicinal staff, and often chose Dr. Illhousen as their leader, as he was progressive leader, eager to try new “therapeutic” treatments, coupled with low-doses of psychotropics and sedatives. Under his administration, the Sanitarium propered, as he got along particularly well with Marcus.

Wellsby, however, chafed at this sorely. He viewed himself as the equal of Illhousen, as his treatments were just as effective as Illhousens. However, as Wellsby often received the ‘terminal’ cases, upon whom he was able to experiment. Wellsby’s most infamous experiments dealt with a trephination along the top of the brain stem, and the direct injection of heavily psychotropic drugs into the medulla oblongata. The ‘patients’ of Wellsby’s experimentation typically died, screaming.

This continued until Marcus Birchcroft died peaceably, on his 62nd birthday. Speaking with Illhousen and the senior hospital staff, he left the hospital to Illhousen, whom he viewed as a great friend. While placid on the surface, Wellsby raged. In his new position as Chief Physician, he slowly began to subvert the staff into believing that Illhousen was not a fit leader, and that another should replace him. Illhousen and Wellsby argued constantly over methods, as more and more patients received radically invasive surgical treatments.

In the end, it was Wellsby’s surgeries that proved the Sanitarium’s undoing. Hiring some thugs, he captured Illhousen on his way home, and brought him back to the sanitarium…as a patient. Keeping him awake and screaming the whole while, Wellsby induced treatment after treatment, surgery after surgery…until, at last, Illhousen broke the restraints and ran gibbering throughout the asylum. As he ran, releasing the inmates as he went, he knocked over an oil lamp into a fireplace, catching the entire facility on fire.

Everyone inside died that night, some screaming and bound, in straightjackets and manacles.
Birchcroft Sanitarium is situated on an Island of Terror, floating throughout the mists. It occasionally appears to lure others in, and re-create its mass of terror.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

In Which The Warlock Posts Some Character Info...

Well, now that I'm in not one, but two 4e D&D games, I suppose that you might want to hear about them!

I guess I'll start with the Tuesday night game, over at Wittenberg. I'm not hosting the logs here--they'll be hosted at the Wittenberg Role-Playing Game website, here:

The Logs of Gerald Nimbus

As for now, though, here's the background for Gerald Nimbus!

Name: Gerald Nimbus (real last name: Harmattan)
Age: 48
Race: Human
Location: Rawinsonde, a small human hamlet on the eastern continent.
Parents: Garius and Alanna (long since deceased)
Siblings: Cordran (older brother), Maya (younger sister)
Faith: Believer in the ancient spirits (primordials), whom were defeated by the gods. Reveres Ras Shamra (the Great Eye in the Storm), but fears Ithaqua (the Walker of the Frozen Wastes).
Fav. Food: Caraway and Fennel-crusted loin of lamb, served over risotto. Red wine is a must.
Pastimes: Meteorology, rain-making, storm-chasing, oil painting.
Party Role: Crowd control, multi-target damage, ritual usage.
Strengths: High Intelligence, knowledge skills, ability to inflict status effects.
Weaknesses: Middling Defenses, relatively low HP, lack of social skills (cha-based)

Gerald Harmattan was born in the small town of Rawinsonde, an isolated village that continued to worship the Primordials—beings of great power and might—well after they were defeated by the current pantheon of gods. While several attempts were made by the current churches—most notably the faiths of Corellon and Pelor—the natives drove them out, in favor of their own rites.
Gerald’s arcane abilities came into shape at the hands of Frau Hedda, an ancient crone and hedge witch, who followed the chaotic primordial Ras Shamra, better known as the Great Eye in the Storm. Hedda instilled in Gerald a firm belief that the future could be controlled and manipulated through the pure energy of a natural thunderstorm. As such, she began instructing him in storm magic—how to bring peaceful rain to those who were allied with you, while raining ice, lightning, and blasts of thunder upon those who dared slight you.
After Frau Hedda died, Gerald left Rawinsonde for points unknown. He had attempted to join a mercenary company—the Black Freighter—as a warmage, but his habits of storm-watching and the like earned him the company’s ire, and he left after his first 6 month campaign.
Instead, Gerald teamed up with an adventuring troupe known as the Emerald Eyes of Ekron. They traveled together for nearly 8 years, defeating several menaces, including a hobgoblin horde which Gerald very nearly decimated singlehandedly. However, as the group spent their night and spoils in a roadside inn, a storm brewed up. Gerald immediately went out into it to read the skies. Coming back in minutes later, he announced his retirement from the group, and left without further word. As it turned out, less than 3 days later, the Emerald Eyes were slain to the last man. Gerald then joined up with another group, the Phantom Riders. They too, were slain mysteriously after Gerald left. Again, their deaths came scant days after Gerald retired from the group, following a severe storm.
Gerald has only recently come across this adventuring group, and has been troubled deeply by his joining. Under the advice of one of the Phantom Riders—an elven scout named Caylen, who may be one of the few females Gerald could be said to have loved—he has taken up oil painting. However, the pictures have taken on a disturbing turn—one of great tempests and swirling bodies in the void…as a blizzard-bound behemoth with coal-red eyes looks on. The figure could only be Ithaqua…the long-dead spirit of frost that forever challenges Ras Shamra for the right to the stormy chariot.

Typically, Gerald gets along best with those adventurers who use their brain. Rogues and the like tend to get along with him well, as they use their wits to survive, as do more intelligent fighters and warlords. While not a traditionally “tactical” mind, Gerald’s time in the Black Freighter mercenary company has given him a rudimentary knowledge of squad-level strategy. Concurrently, Gerald typically butts heads with divinely powered warriors—clerics and paladins—believing them to follow false powers into acts of ignorance and zealotry, such as the conversion attempts on Rawinsonde.
As with his prior groups, Gerald has a tendency to freak out his companions with his bizarre behaviors during storms and the like. However, his storm-reveries often lead him towards great insights and prophecies as he “looks into the eye of Ras Shamra for wisdom”. This, coupled with his more-and-more disturbing oil paintings leads many casual observers to believe he’s insane. However, those who actually get to know Gerald—perhaps by sitting down and having a glass of wine with him—will soon learn otherwise.
Gerald often wonders about his former comrades, particularly Caylen. While he knows what the storm-reveries have shown him, he cannot help but hold out hope that she may somewhere be alive.