Thursday, December 31, 2009

In Which The Warlock Looks Back, Then Forward...

Man. Who knew?

After all this time, I actually managed to hit 150 posts since starting this blog. Even posting once a week, it seems like a massive number--something that's taken me, in real life, over 3 years. Hard to believe!

I still don't exactly have a lot in the way of readership--about 10 people, in all--but it at least lets me get out my thoughts on gaming and the like. Plus, it keeps me writing, which is something that tends to get lost in amongst the chaos and mess that takes up 'normal life'.

What's harder to believe is that all this started with a simple character blog. My old dwarven sorcerer from Eberron, Harrigan Grimgem, provided the bulk of the first few entries, with things expanding from there. Being able to show off the pictures at our various Origins trips, as well as the other cons we've made it to, really provided a great change of pace.

It's kind of funny. As the new year dawns, I've been absolutely aching for a "normal year". Between the wedding, a new job, a new car, a new house, and all of the other madness from 2009, 2010 looks like a wonderful change of pace.

That said, I know better. As it stands now, 2010 is going to be even more packed with gaming opportunities, with the Witt-Wegger crew hitting even more cons than last year: FOPCon II, AnCon, WittCon VII, C2E2, and even GenCon! It's going to be one heck of a year, no doubt.

All of this on top of my work on SunnyVale Acres (which is a board and some playing pawns away from being playtestable!) and Dungeon Slam!, oh man. No rest for the weary gamer.

Mind you, in the midst of all of this comes our normal campaign, which is restarting after the New Year. This time, though, I actually get to play! Now, what type of character I'm idea yet! We'll see how that goes.

I guess, all in all, I just want to thank you, readers. O noble few that you are, you keep me doing this and ready to chuck the dice once more, if for no other reason than to report on the carnage.

Enjoy your New Years' festivities, and have a good holiday all! There's more to come in the new year!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In Which The Warlock Celebrates a Multitude of Things...

Sorry, to those of you that were hoping for a full-bore update yesterday. Since it's the holiday break, I'm relaxing and taking the Yuletide off.

However, I had failed to realize that, with my last entry, I hit 150 entries!! Next week, expect an extra special "blog-in-review" for both the year's end, and for hitting the 150 post milestone.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Cathedral of Erudition and the Influence of Bane

(This is a part of my continuing series on the Cathedral of Erudition--a multi-faith temple found in the infamous city of Blackfall. For more on Blackfall and the Cathedral, search for "Cathedral of Erudition" or "Blackfall" on the Google search-bar to your right! Enjoy!)

As mentioned previously, the Cathedral of Erudition is one of the few places in civilized society where Bane is openly (if grudgingly) worshipped. The Cathedral maintains a small shrine, specific to Bane, in its open-worship chamber, which has created no small amount of controversy within the Blackfall community at large. Within the Cathedral, Bane is typically viewed in his aspect as “The Steadfast General,” as opposed to ‘The Lord of Tyranny” or “The Slave-taker”.

As any historian may note, the city of Blackfall could not have been founded without Bane’s influence. In centuries gone by, Blackfall was once a massive orc encampment known as Mahalek Manshalan (the Magma Lord’s Salvation) which had stood for years, after escaping from an elvish war-tribe. This encampment was destroyed by a human-led army, under the command of Dorian “Helmcrack” Dalathon, who was well-known to be a worshipper of Bane and counted numerous priests of the Lord of Chains in his war-band.

When the orc-camp was decimated, Dorian built the first stone keep along the Moonraked River, which later became the foundation for Castle Blackfall. A city sprung up surrounding the fortified keep, and the rest, as they say, is history. Bane, whether the populace likes it or not, is a part of their history.

Bane is included in iconography within the Cathedral of Erudition, but usually in a lesser role than in a Cathedral of his faiths’ own creation. One notable example is of a mural found in the Cathedral’s antechamber, depicting Bane and Moradin in full battle-garb, as the two fight back-to-back against a series of savage humanoids.

The community at-large is not pleased with having any worship of Bane ‘tainting’ their Cathedral or their community, and often rails against Bane’s inclusion in Cathedral worship. The two newer heads-of-faith—Delia and Garius—feel this pressure the most, though both believe that Bane has his place within the walls of Blackfall, given the foundations of the city.

True followers of Bane occasionally make pilgrimages to the Cathedral of Erudition, from points unknown. Only one such follower actually makes his home in Blackfall, Wesley Baracus (human paladin/warlord 16), who maintains the shrine to Bane and occasionally runs some of the daily worship services.

Baracus, contrary to popular opinion, is not a slaver, nor is he a vicious butcher of men. Rather, he is a devoted soldier who continually advocates for the proper defense of Blackfall, and for the well-being of its defenders. Few know that Baracus actually runs and funds a clinic, specializing in traumatic injuries and wounds suffered in the line of duty. While not a gregarious man, he stoically continues to make Blackfall a better place to live, and cares little about what people think about him.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

In Which The Warlock Reaches The End of Things...

They say that all good things must come to an end. If that's the case, I've had it way too good for far too long. It seems that, with the end of December, both of my weekly D&D games will be ending.

In our "Pirates of the Underdark" game, we have two sessions left to wrap up the conveluted plot points, the circuitous undercurrents, and a massive trip to the heart of the Abyss left to go. I can't bear to spoil the plot here, at least not until the last few sessions play out, but rest assured that you'll get all of the details here.

I will, however, spoil the remainder of the plot for my "Echoes of the Last War" game, which I was running at Wittenberg. When we last left off, the players had been trekking through the Xen'drik jungle, in search of a House Cannith archaeological dig, which they had found evidence of in a shady lab in the Cogs of Sharn.

At the dig site, our players would have found a mysterious series of runes which, when translated, would have dealt with the missing Mark of Death, and particularly the combinations thereof with other dragonmarks. Notes left behind by the previous dig manager would have led the heroes back onto Khorvaire, to the Citadel of Twelve, in Karnnath.

Using some diplomacy and guile, the players would have infiltrated the Citadel, only to find little to no evidence (or help) from the dragonmarked heirs there. However, some further investigation of both House Cannith and House Thuranni would have given the indication that the group's old buddy, Thondred ir'Dayne, was still alive! Shocked, they would be confronted with an impossible task: infiltrating the prison of Dreadhold and breaking out their friend.

After another bit of sneaking, the party would find Thondred deep in the "Stone Ward" of Dreadhold. There, he'd enlighten them on the real plot: Cannith and Thuranni were in cahoots all along. The Mourning? Yeah, it was their fault, as they attempted to formulate an arcane/alchemical replacement for the missing Mark of Death. And, using the information from the dig sites in Xen'drik, House Cannith now has a prototype for a "Dragonmark Bomb"...a miniaturized Mourning that they intend to sell off to the highest bidder at the city of Thronehold.

Amazed, the PCs would have had to sneak back off of Dreadhold's island and into the Lhaazar Principalities, seeking passage with a pirate captain. Said pirate captain was, of course, deep in House Lyrandar's pockets, and set the PCs ashore in the midst of the Mournland!

After several challenges in traversing the Mournland, the PCs would have met one of the most dangerous individuals in the realm: the Lord of Blades. Obviously, the option to flee would be there, but should they negotiate, they'd find a kindred spirit! The Lord of Blades has no interest in seeing the world annihilated (even if it does mean the fall of the 5 nations), and so sends the PCs on their way to Thronehold with an escort of Warforged infiltrators.

The game would have ended with the PCs racing against time to stop the auction, and stopping the heads of the two dragonmarked houses--Thuranni and Cannith--from selling off their weapon.

Ironically, this game would have ended with the PCs becoming, essentially, fugitives and 'terrorists', sending them on the run for good. A definite strange ending, but one I hadn't explored yet.

As for what comes next? We'll see. I have some ideas rattling around my brain right now, but my focus has been on SunnyVale Acres for the last few weeks. Here's hoping I'll have my prototype out by New Year's!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Cathedral of Erudition--101 Cathedral Adventure Hooks

(This is a portion from my continuing series on the Cathedral of Erudition, a multi-faith temple in the infamous city of Blackfall. Enjoy!)

101 Adventure Hooks for the Cathedral of Erudition

1) The local thieves’ guild breaks into the Deep Crypts, hoping to steal artifacts.
2) The party is recruited by Aida Ballard to scout the Vanalthian Wastes.
3) Church services begin taking odd turns as citizens begin speaking in tongues.
4) The shrine to Bane is defiled—the PCs must find out who was behind the vandalism.
5) Plague spreads across Blackfall, and the Cathedral is overrun with victims.
6) In the middle of weekly services, The Triune Idol shatters.
7) A street hawker named Marius preaches heresy outside the Cathedral steps.
8) The Necronomicon has disappeared! The only clue is a broken fingerbone.
9) Gareth Dolanian, a recently landed noble, has learned Yvain’s secret and plans blackmail.
10) Citing religious reasons, the nobles plan a coup, and seek the Cathedral’s support.
11) One of the paladins of Ioun begins stealing small artifacts from the Deep Crypts.
12) The city faces siege, and the Cathedral is called to the front lines.
13) Strange lights float through the monastery halls. Is the Cathedral haunted?
14) A frightened man corners the PCs at a tavern: he claims that illithids have infiltrated the Cathedral!
15) Illuminated Scriptor Delia vanishes for two weeks, and her predecessor, Jaris, seems to retake control.
16) The Cathedral is chosen for a massive summit of Erathian clergy.
17) A hobgoblin high priest of Bane makes a pilgrimage to Blackfall.
18) The Cathedral bells have fallen utterly silent. No attempt to fix them has worked.
19) Every image of Ioun in the Cathedral begins to weep ink.
20) The library is ransacked during the night; the guards are baffled by it…
21) Adjudicator Juris Aida asks the PCs to investigate the lost colony at Renning’s Run.
22) Pages are missing from the Triplicate Folio.
23) A text is discovered, implying a romantic link between Erathis and a now-dead deity.
24) A Vecna cult begins spreading throughout the sewers, with designs on the church of Ioun.
25) A dao djinn feels slighted after the Cathedral refuses to sell holy tomes to him.
26) The king reverses an old precedent, now choosing to tax the Cathedral.
27) Acolytes begin claiming that a chain-bearing horror now roams the cemetery.
28) The colors in a grand mosaic of Moradin’s battle against Mual-Tar begin shifting.
29) The halls near the shrine of Bane begin to radiate magical energy.
30) A crusade is declared, to find the lost sword of Prelate Guillaume.
31) The hammer, Whelm, is discovered! But who among the faithful should wield it?
32) Three bloody arrowheads are left on the Cathedral steps on the morning of each ten-day.
33) The PCs must transport an evil artifact to a remote outpost so that it can be destroyed.
34) A thief has taken the weekly tithe box!
35) The color in the stained-glass windows begins to blacken and fade mysteriously.
36) A paladin of Erathis faces tribunal on trumped-up charges and seeks aid.
37) A paladin of Erathis seeks assistance at his tribunal…for crimes he committed!
38) A set of prayer beads is found around the Triune Idol’s feet. The owner has long been dead.
39) A planar conjunction occurs, cutting off divine characters from their powers.
40) The runes engraved on the altar actually hold a powerful ritual of binding.
41) The monastery catches fire!
42) A mysterious yellow sigil is painted on the Cathedral doors each night.
43) A devilish assassin seeks to make a name for himself by slaying Yvain.
44) An inevitable negotiator requests the Cathedral’s involvement in creating a demi-plane.
45) A kenku trader arrives and begins selling holy symbols in the marketplace.
46) A disastrous harvest overtaxes the Cathedral’s soup kitchen.
47) Frost giants attack the city during a raging blizzard.
48) The Cathedral is asked to assist with a dwarven clan reunion.
49) An eladrin prince claims that the Iounian priests have stolen one of his items.
50) A PC is asked to second for a Dragonborn avenger during a duel.
51) A celibate Erathian monk finds love, and is torn between duty and romance.
52) A notorious merchant-house begins attending services.
53) Church property is being auctioned off from a gold-barge.
54) A zealous invoker of Bahamut begins a campaign of conversion.
55) Each night on St. Altair’s eve, a portal in the vestibule opens, leading to the Shadowfell.
56) A recent sermon has drawn the ire of many nobles, including the king.
57) A beam splits during services—can the PCs save the endangered innocents?
58) A powerful diviner contacts the PCs—his scrying ball can see inside the Deep Crypts.
59) A long dormant egg in the Deep Crypts hatches; the Cathedral is swiftly overrun!
60) An entire section of the Cathedral is sucked through a planar gateway.
61) A rival faith petitions the king for land to build a temple.
62) Inquisitors of Tiamat are transporting an evil artifact via gold-barge.
63) The annual Warriors’ Games are held.
64) An astral diamond is left in the offertory bin.
65) A homeless man is found, mutilated, in one of the rear pews.
66) A shipment of holy oils and balms needs guarding as it heads south.
67) A schism occurs between the faiths of Erathis and Ioun.
68) A series of gigantic golems is unearthed beneath the graveyard.
69) A magewright forge of Moradin goes haywire, loosing fire elementals into the streets.
70) Tieflings picket the Cathedral following a controversial sermon.
71) A ‘mock church’ arises to challenge the Cathedral: Gruumsh, Vecna, and Tharzidun.
72) One of the Trio is blackmailing another, in order to influence a key vote.
73) The Preceptor of Bane seeks an audience with the king.
74) A candlelit shrine to Pelor is left on the Cathedral steps.
75) One of the High Prelates collapses during mid-ceremony.
76) Street preachers, preaching apocalypse, begin hawking in the streets.
77) Biblical plagues infest the cathedral: especially insects and other vermin.
78) A nearby druidic cult declares a war of the faithful.
79) The Holy Beads of Saint Marguerite—an ancient relic—go missing.
80) Sixteen rusted shards of iron replace the gem-eyes in an inspirational mosaic.
81) The Raven Knights come to take the head of Yvain.
82) A local vineyard grows grapes emblazoned with the Anvil of Moradin.
83) A besieged barbarian encampment cries for ‘sanctuary’.
84) A lack of funds makes basic healing rituals almost impossible.
85) Disease runs rampant through Blackfall…but only amongst the faithful.
86) A beggar child foundling is believed to be a prophetess of Ioun.
87) Roads in Blackfall follow ley lines; if a major project is completed, a sigil is formed.
88) The smithies of Moradin accidentally tap into the Elemental Chaos.
89) A new branch of monks seek to move into the Cathedral, amid much opposition.
90) An ancient sage believes that something evil is buried beneath the Cathedral’s foundation.
91) A ribald troupe of bards composes a play implying risqué relations at the Cathedral’s highest orders.
92) A lowly cleaner stumbles upon a powerful relic…and keeps it for himself.
93) The Cathedral’s corridors begin transporting members through time, teleporting monastics to all points of the Cathedral’s existence.
94) The Sentinel Marshal returns from crusade…and begins suffering continual flashbacks.
95) An ‘enlightened’ university springs up in Blackfall, challenging much Cathedral doctrine.
96) The exarch of Moradin is expected to arrive, bearing an important message.
97) Several Cathedral members are seen wearing ornate signets, which they refuse to discuss.
98) The Arbiter’s Scales suddenly tip, and cannot be righted.
99) An apology must be sent to a neighboring kingdom, following an inflammatory sermon.
100) During an eclipse, the entire clergy is driven mad!
101) A serial killer begins slaying low-ranking monks…but what’s their connection?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In Which The Warlock is "Mal Carne"...

As I've mentioned several times throughout this blog, I'm a self-proclaimed foodie. Our TV is nearly always turned to the Food Network or Travel Channel, and I'm a fiend for the original run of Iron Chef. As such, it's really no surprise that one of my favorites is the culinary outrider Anthony Bourdain: author of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly and host of Travel Channel's No Reservations. I've read all but one of his books--can't find the last one!--countless times, and I rarely miss an episode.

About 2/3 of the way through Kitchen Confidential, Tony gives us a culinary glossary: all the lingo that you might hear if you wandered into one of his kitchens. Among them are standards that you'd expect--"burnt" for a steak well-done, "a deuce" for a two-person table--as well as assorted Spanish and Portugese profanity, usually used as a term of endearment.

However, only one term fits where I'm at right now: I'm in the weeds.

To paraphrase Bourdain, a chef that's "in the weeds" is the guy getting slammed with orders left and right, his tickets backing up and stacking up, and his mise en place (his prep station) running out of everything. A chef in the weeds is one that's in over his head and sinking quickly, with literally too much on the burner.

I've always said that I often feel like a juggler at certain times of year, tossing up knives, chainsaws, balls, and priceless Ming vases. In terms of my gaming schedule, it's just best that I don't look up, and just keep on slinging.

--My Pirates of the Underdark is headed towards its climactic finale...a little earlier than anticipated. With one of our players bowing out, and a second about to move to northern Ohio, I have exactly three sessions to wrap up our convoluted plot, tie in all of the various sub-plots, and reach a plane-shattering end with the demon lords Dagon and Lascer.

--Simultaneously, I need to wrap up my Tuesday Eberron game before the Wittenberg semester is out. My players just managed to find their way deep into the Xen'drik jungle, in search of a House Cannith archaeological dig. The game's been going well so far, and it's a shame to pull it to an end, but it's been pretty rough on me as I've been running it mid-week in Springfield...and waking up for work at 6:30 the next morning. Much fun, but rough on the sleep schedule.

--After hitting a new set of playtests with Draft 4 of Dungeon Slam!, it's appearing more and more like I need to do a full board revision for the next go-round. Draft 5 will hopefully be tighter and faster, especially considering the time the last playtest took; I thought I had the time-issues under control...apparently not.

--In addition, I'm currently in development of another board game! Yes, you heard it here...I'm already starting my second game, even before DS starts getting submitted.
SunnyVale Acres, my second game, centers on the geekiest, most brutal gated community in the Nine Worlds, with cowboys, pirates, ninjas and more vying for the coveted position of Community Chairperson. I'm hoping to have a draft out in time for either the New Year or for WittCon VII.

--Speaking of our con schedule, we've all got to get locked and loaded for this year. We're averaging about one con per month, starting in March with WittCon VII! Afterwards, we'll hit FopCon II, C2E2 in Chicago, Origins, and possibly even GenCon (as it's a week earlier, and will come before I start up back at school!). Plus, with the WittKids looking to run events at Origins this year, we'll be up to our eyeballs in planning.

That's just a sampling of the balls in the air right now. I'm still waiting on one last chapter of WEGS 101--Dice Rules!, which will rock the WEGS community's socks off, once it's finally out...

Let's just hope I don't drop the ball, here!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

In Which The Warlock is Mystified by "Good"...

I've been running, in addition to my Friday "Pirates of the Underdark" game, a newbie-level session of D&D, set in Eberron, for the WittKids. At the beginning, it had been kind of rough, but things have been moving apace, and the players seem to be really enjoying the game, now that we're picking up steam.

However, with our session last week, something unique came up which really echoes one of the biggest issues with D&D since its inception.

Arriving in Stormreach--a piratical town if there ever was one--the players began looking for a guide to take them to a House Cannith archaelogical dig deep in the Xen'drik jungle. To do so, they entered a bar (the eponymous "Styx Oarsman", which features in entirely too many of my games) only to be confronted by a conundrum: a group of orcish hooligan regulars sat there, growing angry from the noise coming from a group of dwarves who had "taken over their bar".

Needless to say, I was pushing for a bar-fight, as a GM, and nearly the whole group saw this inevitable resolution coming. One, however, tried negotiating.

Wait, negotiating? Negotiating! This is D&D! Kill them and take their stuff, right?!

Immediately, the other players asked him, "What's your alignment?"
His response? "Lawful good, of course. I always play Lawful Good."

I was flabbergasted. The first D&D character I ever rolled up was a 2e Paladin (complete with heavy flail), though I never actually played him. To be honest, I've only once ever played a LG character--the hybrid paladin/fighter Maxwell Craedon, in Callon's epic level "Dark Tower" saga. Even then, I found it immensely difficult. Put in a situation where a great evil lurked (a fetus lich, if you can imagine that) and I was unable to act, I literally had to call a "timeout" in the game, telling my fellow players that they had better "hold me back, because Maxwell's going to go down swinging".

That situation, by itself, was agonizing enough, trying to play a character that wants nothing more than to "save the world", while being exposed to hideous evil. This is to say nothing of the "lawful stupid" attitude, or the archtype of the 'bland, selfless knight' that seems to pollute fantasy (Dragonlance, I'm looking at you!). Lawful Good is...boring, right?

Meanwhile, I've always been a fan of moral ambiguity. "Pirates of the Underdark" notwithstanding, My characters have always had some strange balance between good and evil, law and chaos. Garius ir'Dolanian--my human ranger in Jules' last Eberron game--coldcocked his own mother with a tequila bottle, because he thought he could save her from the cultists that had brainwashed her. Hell, Jaegren Lern--the One Living Man--was utterly amoral, raised by necromancers and trained to be an undead master.

I guess the thing that shocks me most is not that my player is actually trying to play LG, but rather that he always plays LG. It's been a struggle for me even to play the alignment well once, but he seems to know nothing but it.

Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but some understanding would be helpful. What are your experiences with the Lawful Good Syndrome?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Cathedral of Erudition (Part IV--Ioun)

(This is the fourth section of my continuing series, detailing the Cathedral of Erudtion--a Blackfall-based cathedral dedicated to three major deities. Enjoy!)

Ioun: The Scribe of the Obsidian Hall

Ioun, the Recorder of History and Mistress of Twisting Fate, is viewed most primarily in her aspect as the Scribe, constantly etching the annals of knowledge into her massive tome, while simultaneously weaving and interpreting the tangles of fate. When found in iconography, Ioun is often seen as a young maiden, clad only in unfurled scrolls, her hands stained with the ink of a common scribe. The primary duties of the faith of Ioun within the Cathedral are as follows:
• Provide schooling to all those who seek it.
• Maintain two libraries of tomes: one for public use, and one specific to the clergy.
• Procure information for the Cathedral, including reconnaissance on foes.
• Illuminate manuscripts for use in Cathedral services.
• Uncover ancient archaeological sites, in the hopes to procure lost lore.
The current Illuminated Scriptor is Delia Sen-Maleth (tiefling Invoker 21) who has held the post for 8 years. She is a feisty, quick-witted tiefling, quick with a wry response and a wicked sense of gallows humor. Her predecessor, Jalen Aspenbreeze, is a grim elf (Avenger 24) is still within the church, and utterly disproves of his replacement’s leadership. This has led to something of a power rift within the faith—while all follow Delia’s lead, a significant population yearns for Jalen’s regime, which focused more on copying texts and teaching than active adventuring and excavation of ruins.

The Iounian church holds simultaneously the most and the least amount of power amongst the three churches at the Cathedral of Erudition. While they hold the least amount of membership, the faith of Ioun specializes in information-gathering and lore-keeping. As such, the two other faiths rely on them exclusively for information on cults in the area, on major figures within the populace, and for other “less-accessible” information.

Further, the Iounians often serve as scouts and messengers to other lands and other political factions. This includes less-reputable establishments within the community, including certain thieves’ guilds and black markets. While they certainly are not proponents of such illegal entities, it’s said that “if the Scriptors don’t know about it, it didn’t happen yet.”

The Unstoppered Inkwells of the Recorder of History

Currently, only about 15% of the initiates at the Cathedral of Erudition have display their devotion to Ioun exclusively. While this number is relatively limiting, Illuminated Scriptor Delia has been more than adept at keeping her Inkwells active in pursuing knowledge and storing it in the vast Cathedral library.
Racially, humans, elves, and eladrin take up the majority of the Inkwells, with tieflings and dwarves also making up sizable minorities. Much of the teaching done by the Inkwells is done by elves and eladrin, while Inkwell dwarves typically work towards copying and illuminating manuscripts for the library.
Classwise, the Inkwells hold the most amount of arcane ability. Wizards, sorcerers, and warlocks are not uncommon, in addition to bards and swordmages. Avengers are also particularly common, as are rogues, as both serve as expert ‘reconnaissance agents’. Many Inkwells choose to multi-class significantly (at the paragon level), and often choose training in various social and knowledge skills.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

In Which the Warlock is Disappointed with the Day of Dagon...

So, this weekend held the much-anticipated “Day of Dagon (and Friends)” one-shot, which Ebbs and I had been preparing for several weeks. While the basic premise was a pretty simple one, and it seemed like everyone had fun (at least on some level), I can’t help but feel like the whole experience has left a bad taste in my mouth.

The format was a simple one: the rise of 4e brought with it the concept of the “delve” style dungeon—a 3 encounter dungeon, culminating in a “boss fight” during the 3rd encounter. We followed this format near-exactly, with a Blood War skirmish to start, followed by a raid on an Abyssal fortress, then a confrontation with our BBEG du jour, Grazz’t.

The first encounter was a massive series of minions, each with an aura that deals additional damage to adjacent foes. While the vast majority of the characters were melee characters, their natural resistances and their sheer number of hit points made the auras negligible. Rather than weakening the characters, it strengthened them, giving them quicker access to a milestone (and the action point/item use combo that comes with it).

My own responsibility, the second encounter, was meant to be a highlight of 4e encounter design. The Abyssal fortress featured Doomlight crystals (crystals which exploded with force damage when hit by area-effect powers), several traps (a soul-stealing mosaic and “kissing maiden” push traps), and a rickety bridges flowing over a river of psychic fire, which in turn powered a demonic generator.

Unfortunately, this was not to be the case. The encounter ran for almost 15 full rounds, with each round taking what felt like forever. The PCs were pinned on one side of the river of fire, never encountering most of the traps. When one of the characters—Will’s assassin—stepped onto the mosaic and his soul was consequently attacked, he grew frustrated with his alternatives and many attacks were wasted trying to destroy the 300 hit point trap.

While this encounter weakened the party, it took over 3 hours to complete. On paper, it was a balanced encounter—several of the monsters were minions, and none of them exceeded Level 28 (including the traps)—but in reality, poor tactics and design (on both sides of the table) slowed down play.

The final encounter with Grazz’t was almost a joke, once we got there. Grazz’t won initiative, immediately dominating two of the party members—including the paladin/invoker who had been buffing everyone’s defenses heavily. On her turn, Grazz’t forced her to blow her major defense buff and began forcing the party into attacking one another. In between blasts of Unholy Blight and Waves of Sorrow, Grazz’t continued to dominate the group, including the artificer, from whom he sucked off a Healing Infusion.

When at last we called it a night, at 11pm, Grazz’t was still in quadruple-digit hit points, while the party were down to naught but at-wills. Game was called with a pretty convincing battle-of-attrition win for the demon lord. While I was reveling before the game in table smack-talk, the actual event resulted in no deaths, no maiming, and no climax.

Thinking back, I’m pegging a few reasons for this:

1) Fear of dailies.
Hands down, the second encounter would have been over much, much, much quicker had anyone actually used some of the abilities that they get on a daily basis. The entire party seemed to have a preternatural fear of “wasting a daily” on Encounter 2, which only shrank their damage output to smaller levels. Had they actually used their dailies earlier on, they might have escaped with less overall resources spent in Encounter 2.

2) Poor Party Design
Ugh—this was a killer. All but 2 of the characters in the one-shot were melee-based characters, with minimal (if any) ranged abilities whatsoever. This created bottlenecks at several points on the battlefield (which allowed my artillery/controller monsters to blast away with impunity), and created several conflicts over marking/paladin-challenge. Further, the party had absolutely no ability to control the battlefield, and few characters had any multi-target effects, much less status effects to level against the enemies. Needless to say, in terms of battlefield rights, they got pushed around.

3) Lack of Player Knowledge
This one’s hard to get around, especially considering that most of the group were playing these characters for the first time. However, with a month of notice with which to build a character and a test-run during the previous week from Ebbs, it’s almost not an excuse. However, at countless times, we had to double-check rules and basic, fundamental abilities were forgotten. As an example: When Jules and I built her character—Jesus de la Morte—two things drove her character: the ardent vow ability (which adds damage to her next attack) and dark reaping (which, again, adds damage to an attack, and heals her). Neither ability was used once through all 3 encounters. This isn’t meant to rag on her—the above is just a good example. Similarly, the warden never once marked a target, despite having absolutely stellar marking abilities and the artificer barely touched his encounter powers or dailies, instead opting for Magic Weapon or Thundering Armor. Further, aside from the aforementioned defensive buffs, I can’t remember anyone using a single utility power. Surely there should have been something? However, that lack of knowledge/execution was murderous.

I guess I make it sound like it’s all the players’ fault. It wasn’t. A lot of this came down to our end as GMs. Some examples:

1) Too much at once.
This fault lies solely with me. I had endeavored, at the beginning of the planning, to create a “complete” encounter…at least as it’s defined in DMG II. In that, I succeeded, but perhaps a little too well. I included interactive terrain, unique (and difficult!) monsters, traps, and a skill challenge (which was summarily ignored). All in all, it was way too much to keep track of, for both the players and myself. With nearly 15 separate initiatives on the table, the encounter quickly became a bogged-down mess. Looking back, I almost can’t imagine doing the same thing again, as it’s simply too much mess on the table.

2) Inconsistency in the speed.
One of the things we were pressing for, as GMs of this event, was to keep everyone moving quickly, so that things would stay fresh. Unfortunately we had forgotten to bring the “Karl-o-meter” (a 2-minute egg timer) to keep everyone on their toes. As such, players (and us, too—we were at fault just as much) began taking longer and longer on their turns. This really reached a head about halfway through Encounter 2, when I actually snapped at a player who wasn’t ready, and who was being exceptionally unclear about weighing his options. Driving home, I felt really horrible about that…while I smack-talk quite a bit around the table (and don’t exactly shy away from profanity while I’m at it), I’ve never really spoken with spite like that…and it’s not something I like. I guess I chalk it up to being irritable over the inconsistencies, but those are things that could have been prevented in the first place.

3) Impossible situations.
When designing the encounters and prepping the monsters, both Ebbs and I desired to go “no holds barred”. This was 30th level play, after all! If the players can whip out divine apocalypses at a moment’s notice, why shouldn’t we? The problem with this comes with the various discrepancies held between characters. The aforementioned paladin/invoker and her cleric companion both utterly refused to cross the bridges in Encounter 2, as doing so required an Acrobatics check (neither of which they were trained in, nor did they have an alternate method of movement).
Similarly, the bullywug ranger, in Encounter 3, would simply be dominated for the entirety of the rest of combat had we continued—his Will defense was so low that Grazz’t would be able to dominate him on any roll but a 1. (Ironically enough, he was nearly unable to hit the paladin/invoker, who abused the hybrid-multiclassing rules to pick up a massive daily defense buff as an encounter power, sending her defenses soaring above 50.)
In essence, we ended up putting characters in situations that made it impossible for them to succeed. “But Warlock,” you say, “they’re fighting in Hell! It’s supposed to be impossible.” Well, yeah…I agree, there’s always supposed to be a chance of success. Here, it became an exercise in futility. And that’s not fun for anyone.

I hate to say it, but I feel like much of this whole experience has only further soured me on really-high level D&D. The disparities between overly-specialized characters, coupled with the continual one-upmanship of the GM/Player relationship, makes for a Gygaxian nightmare of attack-parry-counter that loses the fundamental appeal of gaming.

Ironically enough, I did feel positive about one major thing. As we were packing up, the player of the paladin/invoker mentioned that she wished we had played this in 3.5e, saying “It’d be like Laser Tag with rockets!” I disagreed. If anything, that’d be worse—with no drama, no tension—just a simple matter of who failed a saving throw first. Despite its problems, I’d rather spend 6 hours in 4e, and end in a stalemate, than spend 15 minutes in 3.5e, and utterly fail to deliver any excitement.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

In Which The Warlock Sums Up the Chaos...

Man, since the beginning of this month, it's been nothing but non-stop madness out here. On the plus side, though, we've been getting in some sweet gaming action.

Our Friday night game has been rocking and rolling, as our heroes--the crew of the Red Mourning--found themselves up against the enigmatic and powerful One Living Man in game of SpellBones...with their souls on the line!

Coupled with all that, I've decided to start a wiki for the Pirates of the Undedark Campaign on Obsidian Portal. You can follow all of the (slow-developing) details here: PotU Campaign Wiki

Further, the mighty Ebbs and I have been in deep preparation for the "Day of the Dagon (and Friends)" epic level one-shot. You see, for the longest time, we've been aching to whip out some of the high-level 4e stuff. No, no...I mean the really high level baddies. Dagon, Demogorgon, Vecna, Tiamat...all of the classic ones.

As such, Ebbs and I have designed a delve-style one-off to, um...I mean, to reward our beloved WittKids. They're taking up the mantle of level 30 characters, in the hopes to survive a lethal encounter with one of these massively powerful baddies. While I can't divulge the details on my own encounter-building strategies yet, I must say: I'm really impressed with Jules' character--Jesus de la Morte!

Jesus is, in fact, a Revenant Paladin (formerly a warforged)/Gray Guard/Exalted Angel. Nothing like throwing down a zombie robot angel paladin!

I'll be sure to keep you posted on how the "Day of Dagon" throws down, as well as provide my latest installment of the "Cathedral of Erudition", as well as some encounter design ideas from both "Day of Dagon" and "Pirates of the Underdark"! Stay tuned!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

In Which the Warlock Gets His Laptop Back!

With a newly fixed laptop in hand, I can finally show off the pics of our glorious wedding cake! Enjoy!

Pirates vs. Ninjas Cake!

Some of the minis on our cake.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

In Which The Warlock's Computer is Broken

Sorry gang--my laptop's power connector (the little prong that you connect the AC adapter to) died off finally.

Due to the lack of a regular computer, the cake pics and the continuation of the Cathedral of Erudition will have to wait until next week.


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Cathedral of Erudition (Part III--Erathis)

(Again, since I've been up to my eyeballs--this is part of my continuing series, detailing the Cathedral of Erudition, found within the infamous city of Blackfall. Since I missed a post last week--I was getting married!--expect another post tomorrow evening with some of the pics of our epic "Pirates vs. Ninjas" cake!)

Erathis: The Arbiter of Moonraker Spire

Erathis, Mistress of Civilization and Major Domo of Progress, is viewed most primarily in the aspect of the Arbiter, and is often associated with Moonraker Spire—the extinct volcano that towers over the city of Blackfall. When found in iconography, she typically displayed as a dispassionate, robed human female, holding a gear in one hand with her other hand beckoning the viewer to stand still. The primary duties of the faith of Erathis at the Cathedral include the following:
• Establish and maintain the hierarchy of the Cathedral.
• Record doctrine and church law for the greater diocese.
• Serve as judicial arbiters and mentors for the public at large.
• Provide guidance to major community members and the like.
• Provide regular services and community events.
The current Adjudicator Juris is Aida Ballard (Human Cleric 21), who has held the post for 16 years. Aida is in her mid-50s, and has enjoyed her post as Juris, if for no other reason than it gives her a deserved reprieve from the continual crusade against the forces of chaos. Aida had been an adventuring cleric for quite a while, and has the battle scars to prove it, despite her seemingly matronly appearance.

The clergy of Erathis, hands down, holds the most political power within the city of Blackfall. Between their numerous social welfare programs and their religious services (which function as open forums to discuss social problems), the Erathian clergy hold massive weight within the city’s walls. Aida often works behind the scenes, however, letting her lieutenants and the like take the lead in running day-to-day operations.

Aida has drawn much fire from those within the Cathedral for relative complacency. Many believe that she is treating her position as one of ‘retirement’ and not giving it the serious focus that Blackfall requires. However, Aida has her own agenda. As of late, she has dispatched numerous teams of Erathians into the wilderness to the northwest of Blackfall, setting them to explore the Wastes of Vanalthia. These teams report only to Aida, and have become the source of much rumor within the Cathedral’s halls.

The Vigilant Cogs of the Arbiter’s Scale

Currently, approximately 40% of the initiates at the Cathedral of Erudition display their devotion to Erathis specifically. This provides Aida with a massive power base, upon which she can execute nearly every plan. This size is of particular use, as the Erathian faith is solely responsible for the faith’s infrastructure and social works.
Racially, the Erathian faith is dominated by humans and half-elves, though members of all races find themselves in the Erathian faith. Of particular note are the self-proclaimed Squeaky Wheels, a contingent of warforged believers, who consistently plead with King Maelbrek and his nobles to institute more progressive societal changes and legal freedoms.
Class-wise, clerics are most common within the Vigilant Cogs, though avengers often serve as the militant arm of Erathis’ court. However, Aida has begun a significant recruitment effort, focusing on humanoids able to weather the hazards of Vanalthia. As such, many wardens, wandering bards, and rangers have been brought into the fold.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Cathedral of Erudition (Part II--Moradin)

(This post is a continuation of a project that I began a few posts ago, dealing with a multi-partite church within the city of Blackfall. As I'm up to my eyeballs in wedding planning currently, enjoy these vignettes! I'll get back to my normal updates after a few...)

Moradin: The Watchful Sentinel of Blackfall

Moradin, Lord of the Forge and Wielder of Guldarak, is viewed most primarily in the aspect of the Watchful Sentinel. When found in iconography, he is typically shown to be in plate armor, wielding his mythic hammer against the foes of civilization. The primary duties of the faith of Moradin at the Cathedral include the following:
• Manning the Cathedral’s defenses.
• Serving in King Maelbrek IV’s honor guard.
• Training initiates at the Cathedral in basic weapons training.
• Forging and upkeep of weapons/armor for the Cathedral.
• Securing or disposing of evil artifacts in the vaults, below the Cathedral.
The current Sentinel Marshal of the Cathedral is Garius Larano (Half-Elf Paladin 18), who has held the post for only 4 years. His predecessor, Kaelos dral Ghalalesh (Dwarf Fighter 22), stepped down from the post after having served as Sentinel Marshal for nearly 58 years.

Typically, the faithful of Moradin have the least amount of influence within the Cathedral itself, under normal operations. Larano has little interest in the day-to-day politics and administration of the Cathedral, and is content to leave it to those within Erathis’ faith that are more interested in such things.

Rather, Larano has a much deeper interest in keeping the safety and sanctity of Blackfall intact. He, as well as many of his lieutenants and advisors, believe that one method of doing so centers around the acquisition and cleansing of evil artifacts, thereby keeping them from the hands of those that would use them in their intended manner. Thusfar, Larano has established a series of secret crypts, deep beneath the Cathedral proper, wherein numerous vile relics are housed, in the hopes that they can be destroyed. The heads of the other two orders—Ioun and Erathis—are aware of these crypts, as entrance to them requires at least two of the three heads to be present.

The Faithful Soldiers of the Watchful Sentinel

Currently, approximately 35% of the initiates at the Cathedral of Erudition have displayed their devotion to Moradin specifically. This provides Garius Larano with a significant advantage in numbers, in his quest to quell the forces of evil surrounding Blackfall.
Racially, there is a tendency for dwarven initates to tend towards Moradin (due primarily to their racial beliefs), though this population also includes numerous humans, goliaths, and shifters. Of particular note is Valandor CXIV—a deva cleric, who counts herself amongst Moradin’s faithful.
Classwise, the Faithful Soldiers tend to favor a staunch defense. Paladins are particularly common, nearly outnumbering true clerics. Invokers provide magical support from afar, raining down brimstone and hellfire upon their foes. Warlocks are a surprisingly large contingent within the Faithful Soldiers, particularly of the Vestige pact. Similarly, Artificers and Warlords compromise significant populations, bringing arcane constructs and expert tactical leadership to their ranks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In Which The Warlock Burns the Candle at Both Ends...

Wow. As the month rips on, there's so much gaming chaos out here that I can barely stand it, to say nothing of all the other chaos going on.

Last weekend, we WittWeggers hit up the Springfield "Champion City ComicCon", to throw down some WEGS demos. Within the 8 hours, we pulled off four packed games of the con-classic "Dwarf Walks into a Bar" and our own creation "Return to Castle Von Yumminstein," complete with candy minions!

I'll spare you the majority of the details and just go ahead and link you to my Facebook album, where you can see all of the carnage (and the lovely cosplayers) firsthand! Springfield "Champion City ComicCon" Facebook Photo Album

After the exhaustion of the con, I was surprised to still have it in me to begin my new, Tuesday night D&D game: an Eberron campaign I'm calling 'Echoes of the Last War'. Just this past Tuesday, our group generated characters, getting geared up to...well, attend a funeral. Our intrepid heroes are all acquaintances of the late Thondred ir'Dayne, a renowned dwarf adventurer, and have been invited to his wake/will-reading.

On top of this, I'm still running my lovely players through "Pirates of the Underdark". While Captain Zane Degali has left the group (in search of sand gnomes, presumably), two new characters have joined the crew as they search for a way to steal the black diamond staff held by the One Living Man--a pirate-necromancer, leading a crew of the dead!

And, all of this is to say nothing of the writing I've been doing! During my 4th period prep, I've been holding mini-"jam sessions" where I've been writing up WEGS and WEGS SuperZ scenarios. Already in the books are Z1 and Z2, for SuperZ: "The Island of the Terrible Dr. Crab-Clops" and "Rise of the Midnite SonZ", as well as my own WEGS turn: "One Shitty Adventure" and, shortly, a conversion of the immortal D&D adventure "White Plume Mountain".

It just doesn't end out here!

On top of all this, we're getting set up for our geek-wedding, as well. The PlatinumChick has spent quite a bit of time, painting her ninjas to top our "pirates vs. ninjas" wedding cake, and I wrote up a brief table-game for our guests to make use of their favors at the reception: personalized dice!

I tell you: I'll be glad when all this calms down, but it doesn't look like there's an end in sight shortly. Suffice to say, I'll keep you up on the hot gaming action!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

In Which The Warlock Con-s Again!

It's a busy, busy time out here in WittLand!

In addition to the Guild kicking up activities, with the new college semester coming around, we have yet to even slow down on the con circuit.

Just this Saturday, yours truly will be running hour-and-a-half "Dwarf Walks" demos of WEGS at the Champion City ComicCon, out in Springfield. On top of all that, I've been busy pumping out write-ups for both WEGS and WEGS SuperZ adventures! And they say that teachers don't work during their prep periods!

Another plus note: our ninjas finally came in! It seems that we'll be having "pirates vs. ninjas" wedding cake after all!

Man, that's a lot of exclamation points. But, they're all justified--it's been massively productive and exciting out here, and it's been one heck of a trip.

Now the countdown begins for the wedding! Oi, fellow gamers--it's going to be a wild month...

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

In Which The Warlock Runs Down The FOPCon...

Whew--I'm still recovering from the carnage at FOPCon this past weekend. The WittWeggers showed up in force, for what turned out to be a really great time.

The Front Hall at FOPCon 2009

FOPCon was held at the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge in Huber Heights, which was really a fantastic venue for it. While the minis/card events were held out front with the vendors, the rpgs (and my WEGS demos) were in the back, in a comfortable room complete with massive corner couch around a TV showing classic gamer flicks.

While my Dark Heresy game didn't go off as planned, I had just enough players to fill out WEGS tables for demos of Dingbitt's Dunge-o-Doom! In both cases, the Arks managed to weave their way through Dingbitt's cavern, finding ancient and powerful artifacts as they went.

Round 2 of Dingbitt's Begins!

Particularly the second group. Ugh!

Okay, so in Dingbitt's, players have a chance to find "trove" equal to 11% times the level that they're on. Level 1 = 11%, Level 2 = 22%, and so on.

I kid you not--they marched through the first four levels, finding trove on each and every floor they went through! By the time they hit floor 8, I had to beef up the encounters, just to keep up with their power! The final encounter--with two massive Double 88s--speaks for itself!

All smiles after finding some Trove!

The final room--Dingbitt's Sanctum!

One neat thing of note, though. Since I didn't get to run Dark Heresy, I instead jumped in on Jules' version of "Sharn's Eleven". This was kind of a neat experience, as I co-wrote this module and, in fact, re-did all of the characters for 4th edition. However, playing through the module as Stark--the Warforged Fighter--was really a unique experience, as I hadn't forseen his natural conflict with Asa, the Shifter Druid, played by Kat. It definitely made for a unique twist!

Happy players in "Sharn's Eleven"

All of this is just making me look forward to our next convention even more! After a "week off" for Labor Day--during which my parents are coming into town for the PlatinumChick's bridal shower!--I'm back in action, running WEGS demos at Springfield's Champion City ComicCon!

"Dwarf Walks" anyone?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In Which The Warlock NARCs Out!

It's certainly an exciting time to be a WittWegger out here. All of the college kids are back, ready to start new campaigns. Their Student Activities Fair is set to bring in a whole new crop of gamers. And, last but not least, the Ren Faire is on the horizon!

However, that's not what has me so jazzed right now. Instead, I've got FOPCon fever!

FOPCon is a new convention to the Miami Valley, being hosted by the Dayton Fraternal Order of Police. It's an all-day gaming affair, chock full of board games, rpgs, and more, and the WittWeggers are pulling in, in style!

Jules will be running two of her classic modules: "Sharn's Eleven"--a 4e Eberron game, and "Welcome to Zendik Farms"--a Call of Cthulhu scenario. Lionel's pulling out his d20 Modern "Zombies" game, while Ebbs is rolling out some CthulhuTech, and I'm giving another go for my Dark Heresy one-shot "Survival of the Fittest".

But the most exciting part? The WEGS offerings! This year, we're spreading the WEGS love by demoing it in all three sessions: Ebbs is pulling out our Easter classic "Return to Castle Von Yum-enstein: the Revengening!", while I'm taking on two sessions of a WEGS classic: "Dingbitt's Dunge-'o-DOOM".

If you're out there in gamer-land, and are free this Saturday (August 29th), come and join us at the John C. Post Lodge 44 in Huber Heights. See more info at

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

In Which The Warlock Rolls Out the New Skills!

I was excited to actually find myself in the possession of some time, here through the end of my summer vacation. In the midst of wedding plans, moving, prepping for the WittKids' debut at FOPCon in Huber Heights (more on that, next entry!), and getting ready for the new school year....I managed to set aside some time to finalize the 4th Draft of Dungeon Slam!.

As I had mentioned a few entries ago, one of my biggest personal pet peeves was the relatively low impact that the various elemental types (Fire, Ice, Lightning and Shadow) were having on game play. One of my first changes, then, was simple: add in Resist X skills!

On top of that, I had noticed that, in all of my playtests thusfar, not one player took MageBane/WarriorBane/etc. Simply put, they weren't worth taking. However, that's been swiftly remedied, as the skills have been lumped together as one simple item: PlayerBane. Fight any other player, and you get the bonus, regardless of class. Can't beat it with a Midnight Flail!

In addition, I've built in skills that have heretofore been unseen! If you're around, check out "Quick Study", which lets you gain new skills at a faster rate, or Precognition, which lets you get a glimpse of the coming room tiles.

My favorites, though, speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Whenever another Player allows you to Heal them, or if you trade an item with another Player, you gain 25 Gold.
If you already have Benevolence, you may spend an Arcana to allow another Player to re-roll a failed Test.

Whenever you kill another Player (through combat) or force them to re-roll a successful Test, you gain 25 Gold.
If you already have Malevolence, you may spend an Arcana to force any other Player to re-roll a successful test to Run Away when in combat.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In Which The Warlock Takes a Reprieve...

Sorry to get your hopes up, oh faithful few--there's no entry this week.

I'm about to set out for PA, to set up entirely too many wedding plans. Stay tuned for next week's entry--a sneak peek at Dungeon Slam!'s new skills!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

In Which The Warlock Regales Us All With a Sea Chanty...

Though I gave them a shout-out in my previous blog-entry, I've been somewhat neglecting covering the derring-do that my weekly D&D game has been providing. I figured that, as they've just hit level 11 (and with it, their Paragon Paths!), it's time to give them a little face-time.

Our Piratical Crew!

Zane Degali--Minotaur Warlord--a member of the shipping magnate Degali clan, Zane has an intense hatred for sand gnomes.
Zara--Drow Rogue--a sister in one of the fallen drow houses of Menzoberranzen, Zara's brutality may be only second to her sister's.
Mathir--Drow Storm Sorceress--a native of Freeport, Mathir's family owns the elemental galleon which started the whole pirate expedition.
Zendax--Goliath Barbarian--a massive warrior, Zendax is rumored to have ties with several dwarvish clans in the area.
Logan--Razorclaw Shifter Shaman--a messenger of the spirit world, strange prophecy seems to follow Logan everywhere.
Deadkeg--Orc Paladin--a follower of the surface god, Tempus, Deadkeg seeks to find the ancient shipwreck of Aaron Deadfinger.

After taking out the gnomish claim-jumper on at Freeport's dock, the group found themselves in possession of not just a powerful elemental galleon, but also a strange alchemical find: a cannonball, rigged with powerful summoning magicks, which would gate in a tentacled horror upon impact. While the cannonball was not complete, there were plans for creating more, as well as a letter for delivery, set for a fellow named Darius Xan, on the island of Dolath.

However, without a crew, their pirate craft wasn't going anywhere! As such, the group began a massive mustering effort across Freeport. Mathir--the Storm Sorceress--brought along her drow house-slave, who happened to have bardic talents, while Zara found her sister (now rippling with arcane talents) following her in the shadows. Other new crew members included the enigmatic James Robertson, the knife-wielding shardar-kai Nalen the Quicker, mysterious dwarven arcanist Durgrek, and the massive goliath cannonneer Khalar.

With a crew ready to go, Zane Degali took to the helm and the group set out for Dolath. Docking just off-shore, they set upon a mysterious cove, with something of a deserted village. Zara and Logan (their shifter lookout) were set to scout the area, and found only a burned-out village with one strange inhabitant: a top-hatted older gentleman, who spoke cryptically about a "whirlwind in the spirit world" and cast fortune cards for the pair.

Collecting the rest of the crew, they found the village deserted once more, and they headed towards the interior. There, they found massive, semi-sentient fungi, with humanoid corpses tied to them, being drained of vital juices. There, they clashed with strange, stitched-up Imaskari tribesmen, before being chased en-masse back to their ship.

Determined to discover the secrets of the island (and find some plunder for their crew, who were clamoring to be paid!), the group sailed up-river on the south side of Dolath, only to find a massive stone temple, filled with gawking, stitched tribesmen. While the group tried to communicate with them, the tribesmen only silently escorted them to a huge stone arena, where a shaman awaited.

The shaman spoke little, but immediately raised a huge, flaming undead horror and entered combat with the group. The fiery monstrosity seemed to be too much for the group, but once the shaman fell, it dissipated into the dust of the arena, as the crowd fled in horror.

In the rear of the arena, the exhausted and beaten group found themselves confronted by a strange, barred door. Lifting the bars, they entered a natural cavern complex where a strange, stitched human (yes, a human! in the Underdark!) gibbered to himself. While he posed little as a threat, they dispatched him forthwith, only to have his stitches split open and a mass of albino spider-things crawl forth.

Within his alcove, though, the group identified two symbols--one of the ancient demon lord Dagon, but another that was all but indecipherable, which bore a bar of stitching, with gray claws reaching out from between the stitches. However, they also found a huge cache of wealth, ready to be distributed to the greedy crew...

...meanwhile, the group did not notice that Logan had returned to the ship alone, while they investigated the alcove. There, he rounded up some of the sulking crewmembers to help "liberate" the officers, only to be reprimanded by Zane and the others as a deserter.

While Zane, Mathir, and Deadkeg (the Orcish chaplain), sorted through their accumulated wealth, Logan began to foment dissension, seeking a mutiny. His efforts succeeded...for about 2 hours, until Captain Zane came forth with a massive bounty for his crewmembers. Logan fumed, as Mathir and Zara distributed the ill-gotten gains throughout the crew.

However, the mystery of the holy symbols remained. Deciding that a brief return to Freeport was in order, Captain Zane set sail for the City of Rogues in search of some leads. While the ship re-stocked, they found a strange half-elf in the Styx Oarsman--the enigmatic Thulmir Quent--who claimed that he could find a proper informant or sage for them, in exchange for passage to Gracklestugh, a duergar city currently under their yearly siege by the viney plant known as Midnight Romance.

Agreeing, the group immediately began searching for cargo ships that were bound for Gracklestugh, to keep their motley crew happy and in coin. They found one--a duergar barge, carrying giant spider silk, which had left 2 days prior.

Using their elemental galleon, they swiftly caught up to the barge and boarded it, only to have a half-dragon/half-giant spider break loose from the hold during the skirmish. Putting down the duergar and the spider, the crew made a hefty haul, and set course for Skull and Stars--an archipelago city on the way to Gracklestugh.

In Skull and Stars, though, the group encountered difficulties in finding a buyer for their spider silk, as few tailors would seek to cross the enigmatic Weavers' Guild. When the group sought to confront the Weavers' Guild, they found only a single hooded representative at a desk, in a massive warehouse. Close observation showed strange figures hanging from the rafters, and none of the group wanted to stay for a closer look. They did, however, manage to find a most intreguing sale item: a water-elemental bound firecart. Thinking this to be a useful item to sell in Gracklestugh--the city which sets itself aflame to take care of the Midnight Romance infestation--they quickly bought the item and put it in their cargo hold.

However, undercutting the Weavers proved to be most profitable, as they sold of 14 massive spools to the various tailors in the area. Though, this was not without difficulty, as the Weavers hired mercenaries to intercept the crew's shipment. The mercs were swiftly dispatched, and the crew then headed off to Gracklestugh.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

In Which The Warlock Gets Down to Brass Tacks...

It's been a busy, busy week, oh devoted followers. Just as the school year is about to kick up again, here I am, taking on even more projects.

I would have announced this earlier, but now that I'm done with it, I can finally talk about it a little: I just finished up editing the last few chapters of El Willy's next WEGS 101 book, "Dice Rule". The book focuses more on the Kreator/Minion Master aspects of the game, and how to keep the action fast and furious around the WEGS table. I can't wait to see it hit print--great stuff in there!

Also, I've been working on putting things together for our weekly Pirates of the Underdark game. Our devoted crew has just finished their first ship-to-ship combat, stealing some spider silk from some duergar shippers, as they're en-route to Gracklestugh with their mysterious passenger, Thulmir Quent. We'll see if they're ready for all the chaos once they get there, though!

And, on top of all this...I'm heading back to Blackfall! Yes, I decided to start updating my Wittenberg-infamous city to 4e, with an introduction to the Cathedral of Erudition--the high church in Blackfall's Inner Ward. I'm about 1500 words in, and more's coming. As for now, though...Here's a preview:

The Cathedral of Erudition

The coupling of various gods within one church has never been an uncommon occurrence. Rather, wherever the humanoid races have gathered and mingled, so too has the worship of their gods, sharing one roof and one holy sanctum. So, too, this occurred within the infamous city of Blackfall, at the Cathedral of Erudition.

The combination of faiths at the Cathedral was comprised of three primary faiths: that of Moradin, Erathis, and Ioun. While shrines to other deities were kept and maintained, the Cathedral proper dealt specifically with those three primary deities. The precepts of the the worship of each faith, as well as the doctrine of their combined worship, will be listed below.

One feature of note, before our discussion continues, is the seemingly odd occurrence of the worship of certain evil deities within the Cathedral of Erudition. More specifically, one evil deity continues to be actively worshipped within the Cathedral: Bane. Bane’s portfolio deals specifically with organized warfare, with battle tactics, and with duty and, as such, is not entirely anathema to the precepts of the Cathedral. While Bane’s more negative aspects (tyranny, brutality) are well-known to the populace, these aspects are typically overlooked when he is worshipped within the sanctity of the Cathedral. Warrior-priests of Bane are typically welcomed at the door, but kindly asked to stow their weapons in the cloak-room.

The three primary deities of the Cathedral of Erudition—Moradin, Erathis, and Ioun—are worshipped as the triumvirate that makes civilization possible. Without the divine intervention of these three, city life would be buried under by the wild forces of nature and the evil forces that lurk without Blackfall’s walls. They are collectively viewed as guardians, as divine muses, and as patrons of the arts and sciences. In deference to this triumvirate, the Cathedral of Erudition is governed primarily by three individuals: one devoted specifically to each of the primary deities.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

In Which The Warlock Shows Off...

In my last post, I got to brag a little bit about finally having some space for our game...this time around, I can actually show it off!

The Shelves

No game room is complete without shelving, for all of the geek accessories. The left side of our shelves contains all of our comic books/graphic novels, as well as our D&D 4e stuff. WEGS gets a special place of honor here, too! All hail the Copper Pot!

The Shelves--Part 2

The right side of our shelving contains all our other games--Call of Cthulhu, Dark Heresy, Heroes Unlimited, and more--as well as all of our outdated D&D stuff. Jules wanted to keep her Eberron books after 3e, and I'm a sucker for both Ravenloft and Planescape, so they stayed, of course. We also keep the stereo in here, just in case we need some "mood music" for those epic battle scenes!

Our Game Table!

I've been aching for a huge table for entirely too long. We actually stopped having game at our apartment, in favor of Ken's house, as he had a slightly larger table than us. This one, though, is massive! It's over 6' long, and it's heavy as all get out. Plus, it has a neat stone inlay. I couldn't pass this one up. Yay for Craigslist!

Game Room--Full Shot

And here's our room, in all its glory. We still have to get the fireplace fixed up--we have some money set aside from our house-closing for that--but it's absolutely wonderful as is. The cabinets beside the fireplace house our board games, our minis, and all of our other gaming regalia. Breaking in this room is going to be a pleasure!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

In Which The Warlock Takes a Grand New Step...

One of the biggest, most drool-inducing items at this past Origins were put forward by a relatively new company called Geek Chic (Geek Chic's website.)

However, this company doesn't make dice, battle mats, or minis. They make furniture. Geek furniture.

Now, I'm not talking about Captain America-themed bed-frames now. Rather, they make game tables, like the Sultan and the Emissary, and geek-filing system for comics like the Alexandria Codex. Now, they pride themselves on the fact that their products are "heirloom quality" and can withstand the test of time in high style. I'm honestly not sure about that aspect, but the tables were gorgeous, regardless.

No, I'm not getting one of their tables--at least not at this point. But, they did make me realize. For the first time in my life, I have my very own gamer-space. I have an entire room, devoted specifically for playing board-games/rpgs/what-have-you. Yes, I know it's my dining room, but with only Jules and I here...we typically dine in the living room or kitchen. Now, for the first time, I have my own game room.

I started gaming around such a dining table--in 6th grade, my first D&D game was around my old buddy Nathaniel's grandparents' table. I then graduated to my own downstairs basement hideaway, with friends surrounding our ping-pong table on '70s-tastic bar stools.

In college, we ended up finding space wherever we could. Crowded dorm rooms, abandoned study lounges, reserved classrooms after classes had finished...any space could work.

But now? I have it all at my fingertips, and in relative luxury.

Now if I only had a table to finish the ensemble! How much was that Emissary again?

Sunday, July 05, 2009

The Warlock's Origins 2009 Wrap-Up


That about sums it up.

The last week or so, since Origins, has been an absolute whirlwind both around the table and in "real-life".

The PlatinumChick and I finally closed on the house in Englewood that we've been eyeing up for several months now, which means that our gaming sessions finally have some room to spread out! With luck, we'll have a suitable gaming table by the end of the week to go with our fantastic new game room. Pics, undoubtedly, will be forthcoming.

Mind you, this all occurred not two days after getting back from the Big O, which was a blast in and of itself. It's kind of funny--every year, after getting back, all of the Witt-Weggers lament the fact that it's going to be another year, before we hit up the gaming-nirvana of Origins again.

However, we do have a few massive priorities for next year!

Run Some Games! I know I said this after last year's Origins, but this time everyone's on board. I experienced a little hesitance when I mentioned GMing some events at Origins last time, but the interest is definitely there this time around, particularly for some of the more "esoteric" offerings.

Provide Some Variety! Part of the biggest issue with running some games, is the fact that many of our favorites haven't been offered in any major capacity. The number of Call of Cthulhu games dropped significantly since Rogue Cthulhu didn't show up, and only one Dark Heresy game was offered at all. This is to say nothing of some other Guild favorites like WEGS, Heroes Unlimited, and Ork! Being able to share some of our ready-built offerings could be a ton of fun.

Get the Word Out on WittCon! One of the advantages of having Origins so close-by, is the fact that many gamers commute, using the one-day pass option. That means that they might be fairly responsive to driving out to Springfield, for another day of gaming! Here's for hoping, on this front, but the results have yet to be seen.

Continue to Feast Like Gamer-Kings! If nothing else, the food at Origins has been mind blowing. Tons of great places abound in the Short North, and adding more to our repertoire has got to be a priority for next year. Schmidts', India Oven, and so many other places have yet to be tried, and that's not counting our favorites like the Japanese Steak House! Om nom nom, fellow gamers.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Origins 2009--Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Photo Gallery!

Ebbs peruses Monsterpocalypse minis.

Doctor Who Cosplay.

Playing Ravenloft on the big screen with the d20Pros.

Karl peruses his options in Ravenloft.

GM Dan gives Will a lot to think about.

Giant Settlers of Catan.

Lionel tells Jules exactly where she can get some wood.

Happy Happy Settlers players!

Lionel tries Jules' "Pho Ba" at North Market.

Jules, cosplaying as Black Canary at Origins 2009.

Willy the 2 and Don bring the pain on Saturday's Power Play.

A Legendary Encounter--Kim the Elf Warrior meets the WittWeggers!

Black Cat Cosplay

The whole group at the BattleTech Simulator

Karl preps his mech-mashing strategy.

Maranda, Ebbs, and Lionel at Trailer Park Wars.

Karl and the GM at Trailer Park Wars.

Jules enjoys her trailer park's amenities.

Jules meets Chainmail Speedo Guy.

Poison Ivy Cosplay at Origins 2009.

Sunday Power Play at the WEGS Booth.

Origins 2009 (Semi-)Live Blog--Friday, Saturday and Sunday!

Wow. The remainder of our 2009 trip to the Big O went by in a whirl, and I'm only now starting to get caught up on all of my correspondence. But, that won't stop me from chronicling all the chaos for you, oh few-and-faithful readers!

After Thursday's late night, I managed to eke out at least a little sleep on Friday morning, before heading out for a demo session of Chrononauts, a game by Looney Labs. While I had seen Looney Labs (and their HUGE following) at Origins in previous years, I hadn't actually played any of their games. As such, Chrononauts was totally new to me.

I was fairly pleased. The game centered around a static, card-based timeline of historical events, which your time-keeper adjusts, screws-up, and repairs, based on the goals listed in his ID and his mission. Unfortunately, I was so engaged in the game, that I forgot to whip out my camera. No big loss, there, though...almost immediately after, I managed to meet up with Lionel and Ebbs (freshly back from playing a Ghostbusters minis game) and roam around the dealer room before...

Ravenloft. Man, oh, man--this one was a trip. Heading off into the lands of the mists with Karl and Will, we swiftly found out that our game was not, in fact, in the Madison room--rather, we were out in the lobby, on the big screens with the guys from d20Pro.

I had seen d20Pro's product last year at Origins--their dungeon utility software was a novelty, but I really didn't have much interest in it, as I have a gaming group able to play live. However, this was a rare opportunity to play in a setting I love, and I wasn't about to turn it down.

Nor was I disappointed. GM Dan, of the d20Pros, ran us through "The Ghosts of Mistmoor"--an old 2e Ravenloft adventure from Dragon magazine, which he had not only updated to 4e, but also adapted for use on the group's networking software. I took up the mantle of Amelia--a pistol-packing follower of the eponymous Rudolph Van Richten.

This game was intense. Between the natural horror of Ravenloft, and the inter-party conflict (ironically, over attacking/damaging party members), this game was well worth the 8 hour committment. Did I say 8 hour? I meant 10 and a half! After beginning just before 2, we ended at 12:15 on Saturday. After a climactic encounter with the ghosts of the Mistmoor family, and the treacherous Erebus, we triumphed over the curse of the mansion and headed out.

Unfortunately, though, due to a lack of players, we ended up having to cancel the Friday Midnight Madness WEGS session. Disappointing, entirely...I was ready for a new Nordling to take on the 99 Orks! No luck there, though, and we headed back to the Marriott for a few hours of sleep before the weekend started.


Saturday made for a unique day as Jules finally got up the courage to cosplay at Origins for the first time, in her classic Black Canary outfit. Surprisingly, there were a lot more cosplayers this year in previous years--mainly as anime charaacters, superheroes and various ren-faire warriors. The costumes were really quite good, and incredibly varied--you'll be able to see some of the better ones in my upcoming photo gallery!

However, the gaming started, with Lionel, Jules, and myself heading to a game of Settlers of Catan, played on the giant Mayfair games board. I must say, I felt kind of bad for the poor guy who ended up with us three around the board. He probably didn't expect such a brutal game! Our first session ended with a triumph for yours truly, while our poor new companion got roaded into the center of the island. The second game was somewhat more fair, as he and I tied by the end of the game.

After a rousing game of getting wood for sheep, the three of us headed off to North Market for a fantastic meal. I know I've spoken highly of North Market before, but I wasn't in the mood for curry this time (gasp!). This time, I was after deli-style, and I wasn't disappointed. Barry's NY Deli, provided me with a fantastic pastrami on rye, with homemade mustard, and a bowl of fantastic motza ball soup. Couldn't beat it with a stick!

That led directly for us to hit the next WEGS Power Hour, where Willy the 2's infamous crystal-blue dice awaited. Surprisingly, we made it out alive, from this lethal demo, though my previous warrior--Ghormash the Goblin Warrior--was out of Phew points. His enchanted daggers wouldn't be much use to him, without the ability to take a single hit!

From our trip to WEGS, we skipped over to dinner at the Convention Center Food Court before trying out something new to Origins: the BattleTech mech-battles simulator. On Tuesday, we got a glimpse of the event-coordinators setting up, and knew we had to jump in on this. We set a reservation for 8 of us, ready to rumble on Saturday evening.

And the results? Well, unfortunately for yours truly, PwnedAndy's Uziel mech didn't fare so well, falling multiple times beneath the missiles of Lioner1 and others. Ebbs, however, took home the gold, pulling in 14 kills while only dying 5 times. Fantastic results for him!

That was something of the beginning of some more misfortune for me, as my D&D game following--The Dragon Helm of Hador--was cancelled 15 minutes before the event began. Grr, indeed. As such, I met up with Lionel and Ebbs again, and threw down some Chrononauts--Lionel ended up picking up the card decks--in their room, before heading off for...

Trailer Park Wars.. As a group, we were pretty familiar with Gut Bustin' Games' "Redneck Life", but this one was even better. Set to build up your own trailer park empire, you build up amenities in your own park, while inflicting horrible tenents and natural disasters on other players' parks. I think we actually astounded the GM with our viciousness, as we hit the end-game with fervor, keeping one after another from winning with horrible glee.

After a late, late dinner on Saturday, we headed back to the hotel where we awaited the last day of our Origins 2009 Adventure.


Waking up a little later than hoped, we had to rush to get checked out, then to head off to our first game, an Intro to CthulhuTech. Unfortunately for us, this wasn't...well, a game. Rather, it was a paid-seminar on the intro to the game. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed--I had already bought a used copy of the game on a trip to Bookery and was wanting to know more about how to run encounters in the game, or to experience a play session. Not the case, so much.

However, our later game--CutThroat Caverns proved to put this one to rest. Another Smirk and Dagger game, our adventurers tried to one-up one another for kill after kill through tough monster encounters. After a bit of luck, and some good card-playing, my dwarf (Orn--with umlauts, even!) ended out on top.

After one more go-round in the dealer hall and our last Power Play session, it was time to head on home for another year.

Up next? Pictures from Friday through Sunday, and then my final Origins 2009 wrap-up. Stay tuned!