Wednesday, May 26, 2010

In Which The Warlock Gives His Props...

So, I know that I promised a review of Icons in my last entry. I'm holding off on running a session of it for a week, as Ebbs is heading to North Carolina for the long holiday weekend.
And, for that matter, I have a whole series of observations on AnCon that I need to toss in, once I get the pictures off of my new camera. However, this entry is about neither of them.

The WittKids and I have been attending Origins for the last 4 years. Each year has a been a blast, and we're excited to be finally running events at the Big O for the first time. However, Origins isn't without its foibles.

The most trying, most frustrating of these difficulties tends to come from event registration. Origins has had a hell of a time getting it sorted out over the last few years and, in comparison to its bigger cousin GenCon, it seems disorganized, slow, and inefficient.

Many, many gamers get frustrated at Origins for this aspect. GenCon has its events list up earlier, they cry. GenCon has online registration earlier, they wail. Some even put up the infantile argument of "This is stupid--I'm never going to Origins again!"

To them, I say "Good. More games for me, then. We didn't want you anyway."

People seem to forget that Origins is run by GAMA, a non-profit organization of game manufacturers, while GenCon is run by GenCon LLC--a corporation. GenCon has more funds and more ability at its disposal than GAMA does in putting on a con. For that matter, most of Origins' staff are volunteers--usually unpaid volunteers, who are reimbursed through other manners (free badges, free hotel rooms, free travel, etc.). The actual staff of GAMA works diligently with an ever-changing crew of people to provide one of the premier game shows in the country.

To them, I say "Thank you!" Thanks for putting up with all of the bull pucky that people throw down in their ignorance. Thanks for putting in long hours, fixing server crashes, addressing customer service e-mails, and aiding all of us in setting up a really great time.

So, thank you, GAMA. I'll see you in Columbus!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

In Which The Warlock Refuses to Stop Running...

Sorry on the late blog entry this week, my lovelies. It's been hectic out here, between the close of the semester, the upcoming con season, and the final proofing for "Dice Rule!".

This weekend, we're heading to AnCon up in Hudson (Akron), Ohio. The WittWeggers are pulling out all the stops, running three games a piece. If you're in the neighborhood, come and join us for a session of WEGS, Call of Cthulhu, CthulhuTech, or d20 Zombies!

Also, stay tuned next week for my review of Icons, Steve Kenson's new brainchild from Adamant Entertainment!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Which The Warlock Makes a Literally Allusion...

With Kat's summer Ravenloft game about to pick up, I figured that now would be a good time to debut my newest alter-ego: Ishmael Mallouk ben Hassib, a star-crossed mariner...

Name: Ishmael Mellouk ben Hassib

Age: 29

Race: Half-Orc

Location: Docks District, Marrakesh

Profession: Mariner.

Parents: Mahjoub (father) and Nahjet (mother)

Siblings: None

Faith: Will pray to Talos, Lord of Storms, on occasion while on a
voyage. Not particularly religious.

Fav. Food: Ferakh Maamer—spring chicken stuffed with couscous, raisins, orange-flower water, and almonds, simmered in a honey-garlic sauce. Served with white table wine.

Pastimes: Dart-throwing, throwing dice, sailing his one-man catamaran.

Party Role: High-damage skirmish fighter; explorer and mariner.

Strengths: Movement-based abilities, high damage attacks, large amount of skills, ability to fight at range and in melee with equal ability.

Weaknesses: Middling defense and HP, lack of social skills (cha-based), stigma from being half-orc.


Ishmael Mellouk ben Hassib’s childhood was not one of great happiness. Ishmael’s father, Mahjoub, was a minor merchant who often led expeditions into the southern deserts to take the native tribesmen as slaves. Ishmael’s mother, Nahjet, was one such slave, which Mahjoub found attractive and took as a concubine. Ishmael’s birth was an entire accident, as few believed that a Marrakeshi man could even have a child with a Samburu tribeswoman.

Ishmael was raised primarily by his mother, who rarely was able to leave the ben Hassib homestead. Nahjet was kept essentially as a slave, used by Mahjoub for sexual purposes and to keep the house. Ishmael had little in the way of dealings with his father, and was kept “out of sight and out of mind.”

When Ishmael was 14, Nahjet died of malaria. Mahjoub, not wanting anything to do with his pseudo-son, cast Ishmael out of the house. By this point, Ishmael was spending most of his time on the Marrakesh docks anyway, and he brushed off his father’s banishment. Illiterate and without education, Ishmael volunteered for work where he could get it, eventually finding himself on The Fleur de Tempete, a Narbonne trade ship owned by the Marquis de Saint-Michele. Mahjoub, however, went bankrupt not two years later, then committed suicide out of shame. With no one left to object, Ishmael took back his full name.

On board the ship, Ishmael made the acquaintance of a seasoned Narbonne mariner—Yves d’Alban—who began to teach him basic necessities for ship-faring: knot-tying, weather-sense, fishing, and whaling. Yves was something of the father figure that Ishmael never had, so the young Ishmael was eager to learn all he could. To this day, Ishmael says that he learned to read and do basic mathematics from Yves’ shipping manifests.

The Marquis de Saint-Michele, however, was not interested in Marrakeshi spices alone. Rather, he was equally interested in enslaving the Samburu tribes and putting them to work. For many years, Ishmael kept his half-Samburu heritage a secret, ferrying slaves and spice through Marrakesh, bound for plantations and other ports.
Eventually, he was called on his odd, exotic appearance and he exposed his past, though most of his sailors—scum, themselves—only used the fact for good-natured ribbing and curses.

Aboard the Fleur de Tempete, Ishmael saw many sights that would blast the sanity from any less-hardened man. In addition to the cruelty perpetrated upon the Samburu, the trade routes used by the Marquis’ ships took them in ways that were plagued by horrors of the deep. On just such an expedition, Ishmael found himself thrown overboard, as the Fleur de Tempete was ripped downward by a hideous horror of the deep. Ishmael watched the ship go down, with 45 crewmen and 200 slaves aboard. Clinging to a piece of broken mast, Ishmael drifted along for hours before passing out.

By some strange twist of fate, Ishmael found himself washed ashore approximately fifty miles south of Marrakesh. Taking courtesy from some Vistani nomads, Ishmael managed to find his way back to port, only to find that the Fleur de Tempete had made dock there! Beyond flabbergasted, as he had literally watched the ship be pulled under by a tentacle horror, Ishmael sought to investigate. However, continual circumstances—along with both Narbonne guards and Marrakeshi assassins—have kept him from looking into it further.

Ishmael desperately wants to find out the truth behind the Fleur de Tempete, as it seems like there is more than meets the eye going on. He hopes to find Yves, but wonders if he could trust the old man even if he did manage to find him. Ishmael also feels a deep conflict, in how the Narbonne have treated the Samburu people, to say nothing of the Marrakeshi natives. While he has taken their money and worked for them for years, the continued cruelty and effeminate pomp of the Narbonne has worn on him. After staring death in the face on the high seas, morality has begun to set in.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

In Which The Warlock Sets His Watch...

So, when Kat sent me John Wick's Play Dirty, I knew that I had a gem on my hands. Little did I know how useful it would really come into play until this last session of our weekly "The Tear of Ioun" 4e game.

This session was special for me, because it marked the PC's trial. As I'd mentioned a few entries ago, my lovely players ended up killing a few of the Harrowfolk on their way to the Forlorn Tower, then being arrested on both murder charges and for crimes against the state. Killing the Harrowfolk meant breaking a 30 year old peace treaty between Wellspring and the surrounding Harrowfolk tribes, leading directly to war.

So, as the PCs were arraigned and met with their "Silent Advocate", Alderman Cylus, I went into lengthy detail as to how the trial was to proceed. The Tribunal of Five--Wellspring's judicial body--would hear three series of arguments from both the prosecution and the defense: The Trials of Character, Deeds, and Motive. Witnesses were called alternately, with cross-examination optional.

With no hesitation, the party dropped into full role-play. Witnesses were called, arguments were made...

...and I placed twenty black poker chips in the center of the table.

Eyes got wide. "What are you doing, Andy?" they asked. I didn't reply.

You see, in Play Dirty, Wick describes something that he calls The Armageddon Clock. Premise is that the party is on a timer, only they don't know how long they have. All they know is that when those chips run out, the GM smiles...and bad things happen.

The trial continued for nearly an hour-and-a-half in real-time. Every so often, I'd simply reach over my GM screen and pick up a chip or two. When I pulled three off of the stack in one go, Will (our runepriest) looked at me in abject terror. I just smiled.

At last, the last chip was pulled. The party fell silent. I grinned...and slammed the stack of chips down onto the table with all the force of a spiked football. Chips flew everywhere, as I narrated:

"A massive crash echoes through the courtroom as a giant catapult stone, easily the size of a man, smashes through the roof! It splinters beam and tile, crashing to the stone floor where you sit. The people in the gallery panic, screaming out and fleeing for the doors! It appears that the siege has begun...

With the courtroom in chaos, the party was able to flee into the city even as it descended into chaos. However, they did not do so alone! Rather, they escaped with the help of a mysterious stranger--the enigmatic eladrin known as Elladan RedHand. After a brief meeting with Elladan in his possibly-extradimensional hideout, they decided to join up with the eladrin in finding Saint Estelred's ancient laboratory and, with it, the artifact of their desires: The Tear of Ioun.

As such, next time, we start off with a midnight romp through the besieged Wellspring, in the hopes to get to Estelred's ancient laboratory...and an encounter with its current, mind-flaying occupant!