Thursday, April 29, 2010

In Which The Warlock Gets Dice-Whooped...

Fellow gamers, I am truly a creature of karma, particularly when it comes to dice.

Back at Wittenberg, when we were still clustered around 3e D&D, I played in a game run by a fellow named Silas. In that game, my scrawny level 1 psion was confronted with staggering odds for success....and succeeded...time after time after time. From sucking out the soul of a demigod at level 1, to dominating a massive half-giant and stealing his vampiric regeneration ring....that little bugger survived everything.

In WEGS, my Nordling series has caused El Willy no end of pain, surviving everything he and his crew have thrown at my Humnz Trickster horde. In a realm of odds and gods, Nordling and his decendents have made their way.

In my more recent games, my players and I have been referring to one of my dice as the "Black Die of Doom" for its player-killing power. The players know that "shit's gettin' real" once the BDoD comes out, because crits are just around the corner. (I suppose that it doesn't help their odds that the BDoD has a bubble in it, right around the '2', making that natural 20 come around all that more often!)

But last week? I got my dice handed to me on a platter, as the odds and gods came to take their revenge.

At last week's FOPCon 2010, I kept busy by demoing the WEGSventure that I'll be running this year at Origins: "WEGS Plume Mountain". WPM is a thematic rewrite of TSR's classic D&D dungeon crawl, "White Plume Mountain", with some WEGSified twists. As expected, the Arks were in search of the enigmatic trio of artifact weapons--the eponymous Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor.

The first session went fairly well--with 4 WEGS newbies around the table, they managed to find all three artifacts, but not confront the final, climactic encounter (which I built specially for this adventure!). The second session, though....that's where the the butt-whoopin' started.

With 5 players, including Jules and Ebbs, I had expected much the same session. I was deadly wrong.

The quintet headed after Whelm first, and I knew that the dice were not on my side when Ctenmiir, my Level 6/66 Vampire Warrior Master Minion, took a faceplant in the boiling mud surrounding his home. Two INI rolls of elemental wounds later, he staggered towards the PCs with only 2 chips of wounds to his name. His blood chip? A measly 1 on the d10 roll. Ouch.

Heading after Blackrazor next, the group outmaneuvered the Dun Djinn and his Astral Reavers quite handily. In a mere 6 innings, the group had defeated the group, pulling forth Blackrazor and a much higher Rank Bump than expected.

With the PCs gaining ground on me, I amped up the Wave room, transforming a lowly 6/66 Sage minion into a full fledged Master Minion, and added a few Rangers in for good measure. This, my lovelies, is where my dice turned on me.
The group's Warrior--a WEGS newbie whose dice had been hot all night long--succeeded on his Act Fast test, charging the Beast in the Boiling Bubble with his action. Caught off-guard, BiBBle failed his Invulnerability test (of course!), resulting in a massive hit, as the Warrior rolled a 6 on his Damage Die!

If that weren't bad enough by itself...the Warrior was wielding Blackrazor! It was soul-sucking time, and BiBBle didn't even make it through the first inning!

BiBBle's mistress, the Hag Countess, didn't make it much longer than him, going down to the Warrior's black blade at the top of inning 2. By the end of that inning, all that remained on my side of the battle-mat were my 6/66 Sage and a lowly 4/44 Ranger!

Suffice to say, the final encounter went much the same way, with my overpowered minions going down like punks. What's worse is that I can't even chalk this one up to experience--the newbies were doing the most damage across the board!

While I'm excited to see WPM get put through its paces, it appears that my continual dice-luck may finally be catching up with me. Here's for hoping that it will survive at least through my next D&D session!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Which The Warlock Cries "Excelsior!"

Oi, my fellow gamers, oi! Con season has befallen us and it’s landed with one hell of a thump out here. With WittCon VII in the books at the beginning of this month, we’re already halfway into our slate of conventions for this year.

The Entry Banners at C2E2

Last weekend, Jules, Lionel and I traveled to the Windy City for the first ever C2E2—the Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo. This was my first ever trip to Chi-town, so I was excited to see what it would entail. After the 6 hour drive up, we hit the town on Friday, and then the convention floor on Saturday. Here’s a few thoughts from the road:

• Nom Nom Al’s Beef. Sweet zombie Vecna, Al’s Beef! After heading around the Field Museum for the majority of the day on Friday, my cousin Jason—the very same dice-junkie that got me addicted to RPGs in the first place—picked us up and took us to the original Al’s Beef on the west side of Chicago. Al’s has been all over the Travel Channel, most recently through the hilarious Man vs. Food with Adam Richman. And let me tell you…it’s fan-bloody-freakin’-tastic! If you go, get it “dipped” and, if you like the spicy, the “giardinare”. Just don’t wear your best shirt—you might be as covered in the au jus as the hoagie itself!

• Chicago is NOT a walkin’ town. Now, I’ll readily admit that I’m out of shape. I’m pretty well “gamer-shaped”, but I’m also a teacher—I’m on my feet all day, most days. Chi-town wiped me out. After getting lost outside of Millenium Park, I chalked my aching calves up to dehydration, but when we walked 15 odd blocks through Chinatown to the McCormick Place Convention Center…I was having a hard time standing, and that was before the convention!

• Forget the trains! Okay, so Lionel’s aunt—whom we stayed with—lives in Waukegan, which meant that we rode the Metra train in each day. I was fine with that. But, using the L-trains in Chicago meant reading utterly Byzantine schedules (which included trying to find the now-defunct Black line) and multiple transfers. And the fare? Due to Lionel’s purchase of some standees, we caught a cab back to the Metra station. The cab fare for four of us was $3 less than the tickets for the L-train…and it’s quicker, even with Chicago traffic. Next time, we’re hailin’ a cab!

• The McCormick Place is BIG! Seriously—I mean BIG! I had thought that Columbus had a big convention center, but the McCormick Place dwarfs it. What was crazier was the fact that, in addition to C2E2, the center held an entirely different convention for kitchen/bath designers at the same time! Hell’s bells!

• Superhero Cosplay is gaining ground. It’s no secret, if you’ve been around my blog, that Jules likes to dress up as DC superheroines (Black Canary, Huntress), but I was surprised to see so many people in costume at C2E2. What’s more, the costumes were really quality! When helping Jules find some more components for her “modern” Black Canary costume, I experienced a little bit of frustration from a poster on, claiming that “unless you get it professionally tailored, it’ll look like shit”. I beg to differ and will gladly cite my photos from C2E2 as proof. See for yourself!

A REAL Rogues' Gallery!

Jules with a mini-Canary!

Marvel-DC Crossover, anyone?

Black and Scarlet--they go great together...

• C2E2’s light on the gamer-scene. I was kind of disappointed to find this out, particularly knowing that Wizards of the Coast was heading to C2E2, but not to Origins (as they have not for the last few years). Truth be told, WotC was really the only game company there at all! They ran the typical stuff for them—RPGA games, Dungeon Delves, and a Magic open-tournament—but there were no other games being held whatsoever. Even the various vendors, most of which probably sell material of both geek worlds, didn’t have much in the way of game material. Truth be told, I wasn’t really looking to buy dice or the like, but it was still kind of disappointing.

• The Dealer Hall Dilemma. I realize that, at a comic book convention, you have mainly two/three properties—Marvel, DC, and Dark Horse. I get that, really. But the vast majority of the vendors I went to were all selling the same stuff. I can’t count the times I saw the X-Men: Manifest Destiny TPB from booth -to-booth, all for various prices. It felt tedious to flip through the same stacks over and over, seeing the same selections. I’d have killed to pick up Iron Man: Enter the Mandarin or some of the earlier Avengers works, but you really had to go “box-diving” to find what you were after.

• That said, there are a few gems. I was able to find a rare, early-90s Ghost Rider/Captain America crossover, which I hadn’t read yet, as well as a whole slew of the Brave and the Bold TPBs for Jules, and many others. We also picked up Huntress—Year One, which was a solid read, if a little mediocre in the ending.

• Randy Milholland’s a nicer guy than he wants you to think he is. Jules and I both have loved Something*Positive since its inception, and this was our first real opportunity to meet Randy, as he was sharing a booth with Danielle Corsetto of Girls with Slingshots. He really liked Jules’ Black Canary costume, and chatted with us about Frank Miller (“he really needs to shut the fuck up”) while doing a sketch for Jules. Really, he’s a fantastic dude—misanthropic, yes, but then again…so am I.

Man, that’s a lot. All this, and I still haven’t even mentioned this week’s extravaganza! This week, we’re playing it a little more local, as the WittWeggers head to FOPCon 2010, in Huber Heights. We’ve got a full slate of games on deck, include playtest demos of Will’s “Savage Worlds” game Ebbs’ “Ninja Nuttiness,” Jules’ new Call of Cthulhu adventure—“If Train A Leaves at Midnight,” and the inaugural run of my Origins special: “WEGS Plume Mountain”.

If you’re in the Dayton area this weekend and want to sling some dice, make your way to FOPCon! $5.00 admission gets you a seat at your choice of games all day long, as well as entry into the massive (and spiffy!) FOPCon raffle. See you there!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

In Which The Warlock's MasterPlan is Revealed...

GMing is hard work, cats and kittens.

Depending on the system, each game has its own rigors. D&D involves minis, tactical combat, and a keen eye for strategy, in addition to knowledge of both characters and monsters. Call of Cthulhu and other horror games take deep gravitas and a powerful establishment of mood that, if done right, won't ever let up. Heroes Unlimited requires...well, let's be honest: Hereoes Unlimited requires a straightjacket and men in white coats.

Hell's bells, I've even worked up a sweat when GMing WEGS, if for no other reason than the fast paced frenzy of Spoint-slinging across the table.

Needless to say, when I come across something to make my GMing job easier, I pick it up. This started with finding ways to organize my minis--while I first used small plastic Sterilite bins, I've upgraded to a multi-tiered tackle box, with a bottom section big enough to fit a random assortment of Dungeon Tiles and other game necessities.

Oh, yes. The Dungeon Tiles. I've gotta say, Wizards of the Coast has me under their thumb with these. It's so easy to throw down a few tiles on top of the battlemat to add some 'scenic hazards' for the PCs.

However, all of this pales in comparison to my latest discovery. By Mighty Cthulhu, this latest bit blows them out of the water like a scrapped German U-Boat.

Ladies and gentlemen, for your gaming pleasure: MasterPlan

I can't even take credit for finding this gem--if not for the folks over at, I'd have never heard of it.

MasterPlan is a massive utility, building in an encounter generator, a campaign workbook, mapping software, and just about everything else that a potential GM could want. I've barely scratched the surface on this tool after downloading it last night, and I already have a bajillion ideas on how to use it.

When Wizards of the Coast announced their D&D Insider initiative, they experienced quite a bit of scepticism, due to poor implementation.

Quite simply, MasterPlan is today everything that D&D Adventure Tools hopes to someday be.

Just to get some practice with the system, I generated a few "Random Delves"--the stereotypical, 3-encounter dungeons made famous by WotC. Quite literally, everything is editable, in an easy-to-use, simple format. Generating a 15th level delve for 8 PCs with 2 encounters and multiple traps? Done in about 45 seconds. It's that simple.

And the best part? If you have an Insider account, MasterPlan will access the compendium, adding in everything that's already there. All 12,000 odd classes, monsters, traps, skill challenges, and magic items--they're already loaded! By the Nine Hells, that's convenient!

I definitely need some more time to explore MasterPlan to run it through its course, but it's easily the most comprehensive, most usable, most useful GMing software I've ever seen.

It makes one wonder, though, what happens next with it! With d20Pro getting nominated for an Origins Award this year (despite "incompatibility" with 4th Edition D&D), where will this leave the MasterPlan? And, once WotC hears of can only wonder...

Get it while you can, children! It's astounding!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

In Which The Warlock Finds Better Ways than Killing...

Color me inspired.

After reading the "Play Dirty" article, I've taken some of John Wick's advice to heart for my Friday night game. The ability to kill a player is minimal. The ability to keep them coming back for more pain....that's power!

We're playing through an actual pre-published adventure for once--"The Tear of Ioun" saga, by Robert J. Schwalb. It's pretty standard for my fare: heavy on the Cthulhu, lots of investigation and madness, and lots of forbidden magic. However, we've gotten so far off track that I might as well have been writing my own adventure!

Our intrepid adventurers began, leaving the small town of Wellspring in search of the "Forlorn Tower" a few days travel away, through the Harrowwood. On the way, they encountered a small group of Harrowfolk, which had surrounded the party.

Now, the adventure says pretty clearly that, "the Harrowfolk are not hostile, unless the PCs prove hostile or untrustworthy". Well, just as soon as the Harrowfolk began questioning the group, finding out that they were from Wellspring...Fred's battlemind tried making a break for it. Combat ensued, and the Harrowfolk leader escaped, swearing revenge against both the PCs and Wellspring.

Somewhat concerned, the PCs returned to Wellspring to inform the Lord Mayor of Wellspring. Aghast, he had the PCs arrested on the spot. Why, you ask? Well, it just so happens that Wellspring had signed a peace treaty with the Harrowfolk at the end of the Bael Turathi-Nerathi-Arkhosian war.
The treaty treats all Harrowfolk as Wellspring citizens, provided that the Harrowfolk guard the roads in and out of Wellspring from banditry. Attacking the Harrowfolk broke the peace treaty, and now the tribes are on the warpath!

The PCs were equipped with explosive "Collars of Bane" to keep them from escaping from the city environs, while their trial was scheduled for three weeks hence.

If this weren't bad enough, the PCs have just finished exploring the "Forlorn Tower", which was tainted with Far Realm corruption streaming in through a re-routed waterfall. Unfortunately for said PCs, falling into the waterfall (which occured no less than 3 times!) subjects one to particularly unwholesome energies and creatures. Back in Wellspring, they're about to find out exactly how messed up they truly are...

The one plus side for our heroes is that, for some of them, their actual classes have been released. Fred, Jules, and Will have all been working from the playtest versions of the battlemind, seeker, and runepriest respectively. Now, they finally get to have their full range of class options! Well...for all the good that it will do them.

*insert maniacal laughter here!*

Thursday, April 01, 2010

In Which The Warlock Kicks Off the Con Season Right...

Well, WittCon VII is in the books, and it went down in a blaze of glory.

We pulled in 83 people (the second highest attendance so far!), with tons of games going off. We even had a few complaints about the lack of more games, particularly D&D! That's a good complaint to have, all told. With any luck, we'll be able to break triple digits next year, especially with all of the help we've gotten from the other cons and game stores in the area.

The full album is up on Facebook here: WittCon VII Photo Album

But, here are a few highlights...

Ninja infiltrators in action!

In the weeks leading up to Wittcon, Ebbs spent countless hours laboring over his "Ninja Nuttiness" castle. It truly did not disappoint! I look forward to seeing this at the tables at Origins, as the centerpiece for the WittGuild's first ever sessions at the Big O!

Laying down tricks at the Magic Tourney...

After several unsuccessful times at hosting a Magic: The Gathering tournament, we finally pulled it off. New Witt professor Kyle wrangled the tournament, which held 12 of our participants. With luck, WittCon will continue to ride on this success, and hopefully hit at least 20 at our tournament next year!

Lionel makes his purchases from Diceman Bob

We were privledged enough to have not just one vendor, but two this year! Bob Kindel, of the Light Trading Company, brought out his massive array of dice, as well as newcomer Bryan Bailey. Bryan compiles and composes gaming soundtracks for games of all sorts--everything from pulp or fantasy to horror or cyberpunk. I picked up two of his soundtracks for my upcoming games....and can't wait to break those out! In addition, we also had back Shane, running his yearly Paint-and-Take, which was immensely popular (as usual!).

Costume Contest Winners--Heather, Ebbs, and Jules

As you can see, these are the winners of our yearly costume contest. Jules took the opportunity to debut her Huntress outfit, which she's planning to take to C2E2 in Chicago. Bookery Fantasy donated a huge amount of swag for the contest, which allowed us to raffle it off in addition to giving out prizes!

El Willy and friends playtesting Big Bang Mudang

And, of course, there's our guest of honor! After a full day of running WEGS demos, El Willy opened his evening slot for his newest endeavor, "Big Bang Mudang". BBM is a hugely entertaining, hilarious game of dice-blasting, time-traveling witches. I'm excited to see this one hit print--it's fast around the table and has a great little mechanic behind it. Don't forget your demon dice, children!

Well, with WittCon over, we get a short break. Well...sort of. I'm working through El Willy's final proofs for "WEGS--Dice Rules!" as well as the Redux version of "WEGS 101". Plus, it's only two weeks until we're at the con scene again, driving to Chicago for C2E2. Can't wait for the chaos to roll on!