Monday, September 30, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 30: Best DM I ever had

Me and Chris at the Escondido Renn Faire
(he's the one with the sexy knees)
I've had a lot of good DM's. And a few crappy ones. It's hard to decide which is the best based on game enjoyment. But I would probably have to put Chris Blanchard up there as the best over all.

I met Chris back in 1996. I was in one of my first college classes at a local community college in San Diego, sitting there reading a Forgotten Realms novel. Some guy who looked like Kramer came up and asked if I played, pointing at my book. Of course, by this time I had been out of the Army for about 10 months, and hadn't played anything for almost a year. So, I enthusiastically answered yes. He invited me along to a friend's house for a game of Vampire: the Masquerade. I had never heard of it, but game was game.

Well, on Friday we arrive at the friend's house and I am introduced to Chris, the, Storyteller, and his fiance, Angel. Well, suffice it to say, I was out of my element with Vampire. I mean, I had played just about every type of RPG out there already, but this World of Darkness was something new, and frankly, weird. I had my doubts.

But Chris managed to make the game fun for a neophyte like me. My first character was basically Frank Castle as a Vampire. It was a fun time. And I gained two big things from that experience, a new found interest in WoD games (Werewolf is still my favorite), and a new best friend.

Chris and I hit it off right away, and throughout all of our individual troubles and tribulations, we have remained friends and often still geek out on Facebook together.

For a long period we had a gaming group that started when we shared an apartment for a little over a year. We called it FUBAR (Fraternal Universal Brotherhood of All-round Role-players). FUBAR met quite regularly, and we played a LOT of different games, and Chris ran a good portion of them. I think my favorite is still the Stargate SG-1 game, where I was the commander of SG-4. That was a cool game!

So, there ya go. 30 days of blogs. And only a couple of BS posts in there. There is evidently a Halloween themed one this month, but I doubt I can do that. Still, this has been a good exercise in writing daily. Now, if I can just transfer this to my fiction...

Saturday, September 28, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 28: A Character I will Never Play Again

I will never play a character of any type without first knowing what kind of campaign it is going to be.  I'm not saying that I will plan and cater my character to a specific campaign.  I just won't play that guy who has no business being in a particular style of game.

My current character started off as a Barbarian.  And a half-orc at that.  But it soon became apparent that the campaign was one involving a lot of role-playing, and "talky bits."  Nothing wrong with that kind of game.  It's actually pretty cool most nights.  But my character was completely useless unless we were in a fight.  Eventually I was able to modify his concept through the addition of other classes.  But even then, he's still kind of a "fish out of water" to an extent where it takes away some of the fun.

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 27: A Character I want to Play

As in a race/class combination I would like to try?  Hmmm...

I'm pretty sure I've tried just about everything.  Though a Half-Orc Bard would be cool.  I remember in the 3E splat book for bards, they talked about a half-orc who would rouse the patrons of a tavern by slamming his now-empty tankard on the table, sounding out a primal beat.  The patrons would join in, and as the drumming reached a fevered pitch, the bard would break into an orcish war song that would fill the listeners with primal urges.

Or some such.  Yeah, a half-orc with drums, who uses maces for his sticks and often creates a rhythm by beating on the enemies' shield and helmets.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 26: Favorite Non-Magic Item

About what I imagined it looking like.
The Sea Wolf.

As I have talked about before, I started really getting into playing Tomos when I was in the midst of discovering the Conan stories by Robert E. Howard (though I was reading the Ace editions, which had a LOT of influence from L. Sprague DeCamp). Some of the better stories took place on ships (Queen of the Black Coast), so I was entranced by the idea of having my character own a ship and sail the seas.

So, with the money he got from his first few adventures, he was able to afford to buy a small ship. In game terms, there wasn't a whole lot done with the ship. During the first adventure we repelled some pirates. But beyond that, the ship was not much more than a glorified horse, getting us from A to B.

But when I started plotting stories about Tomos, the ship became much more. I had long ago decided that Tomos would always have a wolf motif wherever possible (Conan had a lion). So, when it came to naming my ship, I named it the Sea Wolf (someday I am to read the book by Jack London).

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 25: Favorite Magic Item

This one is almost like my favorite monster. I like a lot of them for different reasons, and the best for the job is subjective. However, as a player, my favorite magic item a character ever had was a vorpal bastard sword.

Tomos was born in B/X, but really came into his own in 1E. During his B/X adventures, he got a hold of a vorpal sword. Didn't think much of it until I converted him to 1E, and my friends revealed to me what I had. +3 to hit and damage, never dulls, on a 19 it will sever a limb, and on a 20 it will decapitate. I believe that was how it went.

I haven't played Tomos in many years, and haven't used a vorpal sword since. But in the hands of my half-elf fighter with his 18(90) strength, and being double-specialized (UA)...well, you can do the math.

Funny thing was, when I converted him to 1E, he was 5th level, and that was his only magic item. On the other hand, my two friends were playing 9th level characters who had been through several modules, including Queen of the Demonweb Pits. They each had scads of magic items. But in the end, Tomos and his sword made as much of an impact on battles as either of them (one a ranger, the other a fighter/magic-user).

Tomos and his sword used to inspire many stories, and I had a whole cycle of books planned about him. Good times!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My first milestone!

Ok, in the grand scheme, it might be kind of lame. But, I'm excited to report that I have officially sold 25 copies of Basic Arcana (and 15 copies of Life of Rage).

Now, while that excites me, what makes me uneasy is the lack of reviews. I'm hoping that it's just a matter of people don't like to review stuff. Which is cool. But still...

As a side note, I've decided to leave Life of Rage at $2.99, rather than going back to $4.99. If you paid $4.99 for it, and feel cheated, let me know, and I will come up with some way to compensate you. Cuz, I'm cool like that.

Anyways, I'm still working on Hero's Journey. Making some logistical decisions. Mainly with the amount of content. As a one-man show, I'm not sure I have it in me to write a COMPLETE game. So, I may re-write it a bit as a sort of "Alternate Player's Handbook" and just make sure it's all compatible with other editions.

I'm also making some headway on Stars of Fortune. I really just need to get on paper my ideas for creating missions. I'm also looking at creating a bunch of generic maps to be used for multiple missions. I mean, come on, how many factory layouts can there really be? I also need to write the rules for vehicles. And create some designs.

Ok, so Stars is still a ways from being complete. But, I like it so far.

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 24: Favorite Energy Type


Ok, out of the entire 30 days, this is the dumbest one, IMHO. How do I even answer this? I have never played specifically with "energy type" being a factor. In past days I could say "I don't have a favorite" and still eek out an answer. This one...

I dunno. Wind? Steam? Kinetic? Cosmic? Oh so many nonsensical choices.

By the way, my favorite actor is Sylvester Stallone, I'm a Sagittarius, and I am forced to read Facebook on my iPhone at work, because they block the site on our network.

There. I blogged.

Hasta la vista!

Monday, September 23, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 23: Least Favorite Monster

The Tarrasque.

This thing is an indestructible engine of destruction that can't be reasoned with; it can't be bargained with; and it absolutely will not stop. Ever! Until the world is dead!

Seriously, who thought it was a good idea to put kaiju in D&D? I have, fortunately, never had a DM who was so sadistic as to bring one of these out (although I did have one DM who made us fight a brontosaurus...but that's a whole other story). Just looking at the stats and abilities is enough to make me want to just ignore its existence. I mean, who but a god would even be able to take it down?

I'm sure there are a thousand-thousand stories about how this group or that group succeeded. But....why? Why bother? Any sane person would just sit down and play with their toes until the inevitable happened. Where's the excitement in that?

And for the record, I never cared much for Godzilla either. I outgrew him at about 12 years old. Besides, Ultraman could totally kick Godzilla's ass.

Come to think of it, where is the Ultraman entry for D&D?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 22: Favorite Monster Over All

I know that I don't have a favorite monster.  there are a lot of good ones, and really the best for the job is ALWAYS situational.  I mean, dragons, ogres, zombies, skeletons, giants...they all have their places.

But, if I have to pick one that just piqued my interest from the very start, it is the Shield Guardian from 3E.  The very first time I read about them, I immediately developed an adventure idea involving a tower, a long-dead wizard, and actual, in-game consequences for Alignment choices.  And what's more, I successfully ran it, and it worked exactly how I wanted it to.

From the SRD Wiki:
Created by spellcasters to be bodyguards, shield guardians are constructs that protect their masters with spells and stamina. When it is fashioned, a shield guardian is keyed to a particular magical amulet. Henceforth, it regards the wearer of that amulet to be its master, protecting and following that individual everywhere (unless specifically commanded not to do so).

A shield guardian obeys its master’s verbal commands to the best of its ability, although it is not good for much beyond combat and possibly simple manual labor. It can also be keyed to perform specific tasks at specific times or when certain conditions are met. The wearer of the amulet can call the shield guardian from any distance, and it will come as long as it is on the same plane.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 21: Favorite Dragon

My first experience was with a gold dragon when my friend ran me solo through Slave Pits of the Undercity using the Moldvay Basic rules when I was in 6th grade (I obviously needed the help).  Since then I have always had a soft spot for golds.

However, after reading the Dragonlance Chronicles, I was totally enamored of Skie, the blue dragon mount of Kitiara.  He was an actual character, and a cool one at that.  I had read somewhere that some weird shit happened with him during the Age of Dragons (or whatever that was called), when dragons were eating other dragons.  Meh, I'll take Skie during the War of the Lance any day of the week.

The picture above is my favorite one of him.  I have a variation of this as a tattoo on my left shoulder.

Friday, September 20, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 20: Favorite Humanoid

I drew this!

Ok, anyone who has casually browsed my blog, or knows me in any way, should have seen that one coming.

I love orcs. I've played orcs, I've drawn orcs, I've written stories about orcs. I've even written an RPG about orcs! So, why do I like them so much? Honestly, I'm not sure. Maybe it's because they are inherently honest. Mind you, not in a good way, but they wear their inner selves on the outside. They aren't pretentious, or condescending. If they think you are beneath them they tell you. Sometimes in creative and cruel ways. In short, they are simple and direct. And strong.

That being said, there are some representations of orcs that I don't like. The Warhammer (including 40K) Orks were cool when all I did was play mini war games. But as a race in a story or RPG, they are rather 2-dimensional and boring. WarCraft orcs are a bit better, but they tend to be represented as mental simpletons to an extent.

In my mind, orcs are what humans would be without anxiety and the need to be accepted by the other races. They are unapologeticly brutal and fierce. They have their own brand of honor and they enjoy a good scrap.

Unfortunately, they don't tend to live very long.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 19: Favorite Monster (Elemental/Plant)

Earth Elementals. Though I have never used or encountered one in game (ok, I'm starting to get a complex about my apparent lack of exposure here), the idea has always fascinated me. Elementals are really neat anyways, but there's something about the strength and durability of an earth elemental.

When I briefly played the Warlord CCG a few years back, I had a dwarf deck, and summoning stone elementals was part of my army. The Slate Elemental was just bad ass. I remember loving the art on that card so much, that I made a Mutants & Masterminds character based on it.

I also love Ents, or Treants. But this is probably due to the fact the Ents' siege of Orthanc was one of my favorite parts, of both the movie and the book.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hero's Journey - Ideas

I thought maybe I would post updates on the development of Hero's Journey intermittently.

Races and Classes
For my races, I am replacing all of the standard demi-humans with ones of my own, as I mentioned before. The new races will be humans (called the Furst), Katumon (a cat race), Sha-Lans (a sort of blue-skinned gnome), Horka (ram/goat people), and Villow (flightless bird people). Each race will initially have a basic description of their culture and appearance, leaving enough room for the GM to customize them to fit whatever world they like.

For classes I have boiled it down to four basic choices; warrior, rogue, priest, and sorcerer. Each class has certain abilities, and bonuses that will effect the core character, much like his race does. There will be the option to multi-class, handled in a manner similar to that of 3E.

I am also introducing what I call "Traits" to both races and classes. Racial Traits are fixed. They are basically the racial abilities you find in previous editions, and each race has four. Class Traits are class abilities that the character can choose to take as they gain levels. There are several to choose from, so the player can customize his character how he likes.

Here is an example of an original race:

Tall and broad, the Katumon are a consummate warrior race. Their culture is a feudal one, with a clear cut caste system, ruled by local warlords, who in turn serve the Khan. Katumon are honorable to a fault, and loyal. Their social belief system is complex, and involves blood-oaths, bonds of servitude, and individual deeds over those of a group. They are very feline in appearance, with long tails, and are covered in soft pelts of fur that vary widely in colors and markings between individuals, though those closely related to one-another will appear similar. They do have retractable claws, but rarely use them in combat, as they consider such actions dishonorable. Scratching is either considered an insult, or a way of marking ownership/mastership. Katumon generally eschew clothing, save for silks that cover their bodies in modesty. Warriors will often wear a leather harness with accoutrements that denote their social class.

Katumon have the following Racial Traits:
• Ambidextrous: Automatically gains the Two-Weapon Fighting Trait.
• Rage: Katumon have a 2 in 6 chance of going into a rage when hit in combat (successful WIS check, DC 10 +damage taken, negates). A raging Katumon is +2 to hit and +2 to damage, and ignores the effects of injuries until he comes down (including dropping below 0 HP)
• Disease Resistant: +1 per 2 levels on any Life Drain save against disease
• Darkvision: Katumon can see heat patterns up to 60’ in absolute darkness

As you can guess from some of the items, I am also revamping how such things as saving throws work. More on that, and other changes/additions later.

D&D 30-day Challenge - Day 18: Favorite Outsider

I think my favorite outsider is the Hound Archon. I like the idea of a celestial paladin with the attributes of a loyal and protective dog. I seem to recall at one point one of my friends rolled up one as a PC. I'm pretty sure he played him some, but I don't recall the details. I think it might have been in TWLD again (a lot of stuff happened in there). Anyways, I did a picture of him, and it turned out pretty neat (not the one to the left, obviously).

As a DM, I'd love to get the chance to use one. Probably as a stray dog, or a lone wolf who starts following the party of its own accord, and latches on to one of the PC's. How awesome would that reveal be when they face a demon?

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

D&D 30-Day Challenge - Day 17: Favorite Animal Type

My favorite vermin is the vampire. Ok, so they’re not vermin, really. Just leeches. Never mind.

My favorite animal type has to be cats. Cats come in all shapes and sizes. They make excellent familiars (if a bit cliché), awesome ranger pets (ok, that became cliché too, about ten years ago), and brutal foes. You can keep them as pets, you can ride them, you can even talk to some of them and learn secrets.

If you’re inclined to play in an Egyptian-styled world, you can even worship them. Bast was always my one of my favorite deities. Why? Because she’s a hot cat chick...

Don’t judge.

So, yeah. Cats. He-Man rides a frickin’ green tiger, man! How cool is that?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Hero’s Journey – Reboot

The other day I was thinking about Hero’s Journey, and what I could possibly do to make it stand out from the other retroclones out there. Naturally, I thought about using different races first. Right now I have humans, elves, dwarves, halflings and orcs (yes, full orcs). So, I started thinking about other “archetype” races that might be a bit less Tolkien-esque. I have several ideas, which I will probably go into at a future date.

Then it hit me that I had started world-building for a story I was writing that was technically Sword & Planet, in the Edgar Rice Burroughs vein of John Carter and Carson Napier. In this story there are several races of aliens, and each one would make a pretty cool D&D-style race, with some tweaking and expansion.

So, now I’m in the process of detailing those out. Once I get their write ups for the HJ rules, as written, I will plug them in place of the traditional ones I have (though humans will remain, but will be called something else).

Then I started thinking about the magic aspect. And I came up with an idea for a different magic system that would be compatible with the OSR rules, but work in a completely different way, all the while keeping the original framework that the original rules had.

This is all pretty exciting for me. But I have to wonder if others would find it so. Basically, it would be OSR D&D style play, with some alternate rules and systems, and non-traditional races. It would still be heroic fantasy, with arcane and divine magic, low technology, and all of the tropes and style available in D&D, but with some new flair.

I’ll probably write it all out in rough form, and then offer it up to some people to read it and playtest it. Heck, I might even be able to rope some local people to help me out on that.

D&D 30 Day Challenege - Day 16: Favorite Monster (Aberration)

Just to be sure I knew what I was talking about, I had to look up what qualified as an aberration. From the list I found on D&D Wiki, I think I like the Illithid (mindflayer) the best.

As a DM, I have never had the opportunity to run them. However, as a player, I have encountered them a few different times. I remember at one point we encountered a colony that was under some kind of spell or something that made the elder brain dormant for a period. So, we had to come in and destroy it before it could awaken and destroy us. I remember wondering just how much the DM was cheating by allowing us such access to the illithid colony. It seemed like there were powerful enough to wipe us out.

In our current campaign we encountered them peripherally. As I stated before on the NPC post, we got involved in a war between a dark elf city and an Illithid colony. We never had to face any mindflayers ourselves, but my previous experience as a player made me nervous about it. I'm sure we would have been fine, but still.

Basicically, Illitids are freaking creepy and scary. I should use them in a game sometime.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenege - Day 15: Favorite Monster (Undead)

I don't think I really have a favorite undead that I have used in a game, or that I have fought as a player.  But, the one I always wanted to see used was the Death Knight.

I remember reading about them in the original Fiend Folio and thinking how cool they were.  But, since I never DMed, and I never played to the level that they would be encountered, they just remained cool things to think about.

Then I read the Dragonlance Chronicles, and totally fell in love with the idea of Lord Soth.  This love was cemented when I read Knight of the Black rose, wherein Soth goes to Ravenloft, and meets Strahd Van Zarovich.  I geeked out when they came to blows and it was apparent they were equally matched.  here was an undead that could equal the likes of Dracula!

I think I like the Death Knight the most because it's a thinking undead, and though they are usually inherently evil, they are often honorable.  I kind of see them as a fighter version of a lich.

I even played one in World of Warcraft for a bit.  That was pretty cool.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 14: Favorite NPC

Two weeks in and I am kinda stumped on this one.  I mean, looking back over the games I have played, none stand out as exceptional as a player.  And as a DM they're usually kind of throw away for me.  I use NPCs to fill a need in the plot, and then forget about them once the party has moved on.

I guess my current favorite is Artruus, the dark elf wizard.  In our current game, we were in an "Underdark" area, and we came across four dark elves fleeing a losing battle.  These aren't drow, like in Forgotten Realms.  They have pale features, and dark hair.  Three are warriors, and one is a wizard, and they are all brothers.  So, while the party is deliberating on what to do with them, Ahnuld decides that they should be given a chance to prove themselves.  He declares that all four are under his protection.

Now my character has four minions.  Until one of them gets eaten by a purple worm.  But I still have three.  And when combined with the NPC followers that other players have picked up...well, we kind of have an army.  Eventually, the DM decides to start thinning the herd a bit.  So, rather than see any more of his friends die horrible deaths, Ahnuld recommends that the two warrior brothers stay in the dark elf city and help rebuild after their war with an Illithid colony (all the while spreading the good word of Templarus, God of War).

Artruus (or Arty, as well all call him) stays with me, and ends up being a very useful companion.  I rather like him a lot.  I did the picture above of him.  Even though he's not a drow, it's still pretty close.

Friday, September 13, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 13: Favorite Trap/Puzzle

I almost bagged out of this one, because I really just don't have much experience with traps and puzzles. Not as a player, and certainly not as a DM. I mean, I've taken part in some over the years, but nothing stands out as exceptional, and I can't really think of something I would call my "favorite" as that implies that I like it a lot.

But, I'm gonna do this.

One of the most memorable was when we were playing AEG's The World's Largest Dungeon. At the very beginning, we are shuffled down into the basement of the "temple" and hustled into a room, only to have the door shut, locked, and magically blocked behind us. The only exits from the room are two doors. Opening each, we are confronted by a flat blackness. Not the blackness from the lack of light, but a tangible and featureless black.

As we stood pondering, my dwarf barbarian, Brak, touches the black. It's cool to the touch, and he doesn't feel any resistance. But when he tries to pull his finger back, it won't budge. After several moments of struggling, even with the aid of his party-mates (which threatens to dislocate his joints), he is bound fast, and has even sunk in a bit further.

Brak is getting angry now, when suddenly he hears the sound of a sword clearing a scabbard. He turns to see the fighter leveling his sword for a stroke that will sever Brak's hand. With a shocked oath, he dives through the doorway.

After about a minute, it dawns on the rest of the party that their only choice is to follow. So, one by one, they all step through and into the Dungeon.

Now, I'm not sure if it was written like that, or if the DM made some or all of it up. But I thought it was brilliant, and I even wrote the scene into my aborted attempt to chronicle the adventure as a fictional work.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

30 Day D&D Challenge, Day 12: Favorite Dungeon Type/Location

I am rather partial to ancient ruins set in a thick forest. It may be due to the Conan and other Sword & Sorcery tales I read. Then there is Pax Tharkas from Dragonlance. There's just something cool about exploring ancient ruins, lost to modern civilization. There's always something vaguely familiar, even if only on an instinctive level, and yet so much of the unknown. You can run into just about anything in this kind of setting without having to think too hard about why it's there. And the treasures! Ancient treasures are the best.

I need to write some ancient ruins adventures now.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Basic Arcana 2.1

Based on some commentary, I have added some content to Basic Arcana at RPGNow. If you have already bought it, you should get a notification of an updated version.

If you haven't bought it, why not?

D&D 30 Day Challenge Day 11 – Favorite Adventure I Have Ran

I almost never run adventures myself. I'm always a player. Which is fine by me. However, I have run a few on occasion, to varying degrees of success.

I think my favorite one I ran was for my Dragon*Star campaign. The first job the characters took (remember it was a Firefly-esque campaign) was to deliver a large canister and a scientist to a research facility on a remote planet. However, when they got there, the scientist disappeared into the facility, and the canister opened, revealing dozens of zombies.

It was a fun little adventure, and had a pretty good twist, I thought. It involved a Drow who could not use magic, and some re-animated, computer controlled corpses. The players sure seemed to have a good time with it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Hero’s Journey

I think I might have mentioned this a while back, but I can’t be sure. Either way, I am in the process of writing my own Retroclone. I’ve been looking at others such as 2013 Ennie Award-winning Mazes & Perils, Blueholme, and Swords & Wizardry. And I got to thinking that I could do something like this.

Of course, the first question is, why? Well, mainly because I can. It costs me nothing but time and typing to do it. I know most of these kinds of rules and games backwards and forwards, and I have been tinkering with D&D rules for years upon years. So, why not put my own stamp on the Retroclone movement?

As of right now, it’s titled Hero’s Journey (though I have a feeling that will eventually change…no doubt someone has written some RPG or supplement with that name). As of today, it’s probably about halfway done already, perhaps a bit more, and I have only been working on it for a few weeks. A lot of the initial work just flowed right out. Races, classes, and other character generation issues were cranked out pretty quickly.

Combat and other encounter rules are in-process, and about 2/3 done. The biggest part ahead of me will be the lists. I have copied/pasted lists of equipment and spells from the SRD for now, but I will be whittling those down quite a bit. I’m going for a B/X vibe, and I really just don’t need to have THAT many items on each list. But, they’re holding places on my working document for now.

Then there’s treasure lists, monster lists…a lot of lists. Chances are, everything but the lists will be done in a couple of weeks. And then those will take another month or two. So, I’m looking at somewhere in mid-winter before I have a workable game. And that doesn’t include any setting information, should I choose to include that. I mean, Moldvay and Cook didn’t, so I may forgo that part, and just leave it setting-generic.

In other news, both Life of Rage – OSR and Basic Arcana are doing ok at RPGNow. I’m leaving all of the royalties in place for now, and will cash them out at the end of October. These will be my funds for Gamehole Con.

By the way, if you have bought, or intend to buy, either one, please leave a short review at RPGNow, or anywhere else you like. Not only does it help sales by getting the word out, but it lets me know what people think of my stuff. And be honest. I won’t be (too) hurt if you hate it.

D&D 30 Day Challenge: Day 10 – Craziest Thing That’s Happened That I Saw to a Party/Character/My Players, Etc.

I have to admit, I'm really having a hard time with this one. I don't think I've seen all that much crazy stuff. I mean, there a few instances where a character did something that made the rest of party pause. Like the time our Solamnic Knight of the Crown picked up a goblin's dropped sword and handed it back to him in the middle of a fight.

Or the time we were playing a GURPS Vikings game, and one guy, who was playing an Amazon who had cut off her right breast because she used a bow (he claimed it was historically accurate) pulled out said bow in a bar fight.

In my current game my barbarian/favored sould/fighter fast-talked a banshee into letting us pass into her keep, because there was a vampire queen we could kill for her. Actually I wanted the magic sword that my god had told me was there. I killed the vampire, and the banshee let us leave. Though my new sword wanted to kill her too.

I think the craziest "A-Team" moment happened last year when were doing an all-day marathon session of Against the Giants using 1E rules (it was the DM's birthday party). There was a room full of Frost Giants. So, we loaded up the hardiest characters (including my fighter) with fire protection spells, and had them run in with barrels of alcohol and jump into the fire pit. The ensuing explosion was worthy of a Michael Bay movie, and we killed half the giants in that one move. The rest was mop up.

I'm sure there are plenty more WTF moments in my past. I tend to play with some slightly unbalanced people.

Monday, September 9, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 9: Favorite Character I Haven't Played

In thinking about it, I suppose this could be read in two different ways, depending on where you place the emphasis. So, I will answer both.

My favorite character I haven't PLAYED is a recent roll up. Inspired by a picture of my (then) 2 year old son with a toy horned helmet and sword, I conjured in my mind Connor Boulderhead, Gnome Barbarian. My son has a large, round head, and while he is growing into it finally, when he was younger it seemed unnaturally so. He also has a short temper, like his daddy. So, the character concept just naturally came to be.

High in the stony hills of Gotland there lives a clan of gnomes who eschew the softer trappings favored by their more civilized cousins. Life in these lands is a constant struggle. Especially when the tribes of goblins come down from the mountains beyond to raid and pillage. The gnomes of Clan Boulderhead are always there to meet this threat. And always at their head is the indomitable figure of Connor the Fierce. In his brawny hands he wields his warhammer, known throughout the clan as Greensmasher, with a fury rarely seen among even the stalwart Boulderheads. But now, one of their own has sent word from the coastal cities. Connor's cousin, Daniel, who left the hills in search of fortune and was never seen again, has fallen in battle. But, according to the message that came by courier, it was not a glorious battle, but an act of treachery. Enraged and bent on vengeance, Connor has packed his meager possessions, slung Greensmasher over his shoulder, and stalked out of the hills into a world that may not be ready for the likes of him.

My favorite character that I have not played is very difficult to pick, as I seem to have always been blessed with friends who make cool characters. But, if I have to pick one, it would be, oddly enough, another gnome. We played AEG's The World's Largest Dungeon, and my friend played a gnome sorcerer named Oswald, who had a particular interest in necromancy. As we made our way through the dungeon, he leveled, and eventually prestiged into a necromancer class. He was creepy, arrogant, and reminded us all of Chun from Remo Williams. He often referred to the rest of the party as his "demi-gnome" lackeys. He hated my first character, a dwarf barbarian named Brak. When Brak died, I replaced him with a huge, full orc named Gortek. Oswald and Gortek soon became friends, oddly enough, and much fun was had. John, the player, would later recreate Oswald in World of Warcraft, and would take great delight in immolating squirrels.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge: Day 8 – Favorite Character I Have Played

Borrowed a lot of this from my other blog.  It was a post I did a long time ago.  But, it's relevant.
In the beginning...
Some time around 1985-86, my friend, his sister, and I decided to start a D&D campaign using the Expert Set.  I made a half-elf fighter named Tomos (in looking back through the various rulebooks I have, I can't recall where we got the rules for half-elves).

Though visually Tomos was initially based on the Marvel Comics character Longshot, he was an idealized version of myself. His stats were phenomenal (and honestly rolled), and I have never truly matched him in that area since (though I occasionally come close). By the end of that short campaign, he was 5th level. I'm pretty sure we fudged the XP rules, but whatever. He was the highest-level character I had ever had at the time.

First Upgrade
Jump forward to my Senior year (1987-88). The old friend has graduated and his family has moved away.  That year I reconnected with some friends who I met in 8th grade, but who had left and come back three years later (it should probably be noted we were all Air Force brats living on Kadena AFB, Okinawa). They played AD&D, and had middle-level characters. We decided to start a campaign together, and they wanted to use those characters. So, I dusted Tomos off, since he was the only one even close to their level, converted him from Expert D&D to AD&D, and went gallivanting around Oerth with Panthrus, human ranger, and Styol Ganthral, elven fighter/magic-user.

The very first Conan
book I ever read.
About this time I was deep in the throes of my budding love of Conan and Robert E. Howard. So, when I converted Tomos to AD&D, and his 18 Strength became 18/90 (the strongest a half-elf could be in AD&D), I naturally started thinking of him as Conan with blond hair and pointed ears. But, he also had a 17 Charisma, and since we were using Unearthed Arcana, his Comeliness came out to be 19. So, he was a VERY attractive and pretty Conan. That's when his personality took off in my mind. He soon became an amalgam of Conan and D'Artagnon.

That campaign got him up to 9th level, and I had much fun with his Vorpal bastard sword (treasure from his very first campaign), with which he was Double Specialized ( do the math). I had decided that Tomos had spent much of his amassed fortune on a ship, and was now a seasoned sailor and ship's captain. That worked well, since the adventure took place on an island, and it provided a neat way for the three characters to meet (they hired my ship).

Back from obscurity
I drew this in the early 90's.
Skip forward a few more years. I'm graduated and completely out of touch with all of my old friends from high school. But, I still have Tomos' character sheet. Somewhere around 1990-91, I'm in the Army at Ft. Bliss, TX, and I get the 2nd Edition books. Not having anyone to play with at the time, I proceeded to convert Tomos to 2E just for shits and giggles. Not much effort there, but I made some cool additions (remember fighter followers at 9th level?). I eventually found people to play with. But, sadly, I never played Tomos in that edition until much later, when my friend took me through a few sessions using him.  But he never finished, and eventually disappeared back into my imagination.

Cameo appearance
Jump forward again to the late 90's. I'm out of the Army, living in Salinas, CA. 3rd Edition comes out, and I jump in with both feet. Found a group through the FLGS, and started playing. After a while I get an idea. I convert Tomos to 3E, and run him in a short game that lasted all of one module. I'm not even sure he leveled beyond 9th. And it was the last time I ever saw him as a D&D character.

Tomos has stayed with me through the years, usually as a character I planned to write fiction about (I wrote one complete story on my first PC, but lost it in the course of several moves). I would also imagine him meeting famous characters from Forgotten Realms, like Drizzt Do'Urden, where he had ported to for 3E. Of all of my characters over the years, Tomos Elvenblood (he picked up that none-too-imaginative surname somewhere around 2E) has always been very special to me.

Will I ever play Tomos again?  Who knows?  Maybe...

Saturday, September 7, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 7: Favorite Edition

Let me preface my answer with the statement that I actually like all editions.  Even 4E, though it ranks at the bottom.  Every edition, and every retroclone I have read, has something I like about it.  And in the end, it's all D&D to me.

That being said, I would probably place 3.5 at the top of the heap.  I like the flexibility, the potential for customization, and the overall cinematic feel.  Is it perfect? No.  But none of the editions are.  If any were, there would never be another edition, and "homebrew" and "House rules" wouldn't even be terms associated with D&D.

The only downfall is all of the excess that came with the OGL.  There's a glut of information and options to the point where it turns people off.  I honestly don't understand that, as NONE of it is mandatory.  Personally, I could be happy with just the PHB, and maybe a splat book or two, for any given game.
Special Thanks to Tim Shorts over at Gothridge Manor for his excellent review of Life of Rage.  I am humbled, and very glad you liked it.  :)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Basic Arcana Updated

There was an issue with the cover image not downloading when you purchased Basic Arcana at RPGNow.  But, it's fixed.  So, if you bought a copy, and the cover image didn't download, you can go get an updated copy for free.  Just look at your Account page, and it'll be at the top.

Thanks to everyone who has downloaded it.  Please, leave me a review if you get it.  :)

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 6: Favorite Deity

This is a tough one, as I have never really gotten heavily into deity-worship in game, until just recently. My characters are rarely devout unless they are clerics. And even then, they are devoted to the pantheon. However, on occasion I have a character who finds an opportunity to devote himself to a specific deity.

Tomos was devoted to Tymora, because he was a freebooter and mercenary. In one adventure late in his career, my friend and I were doing a solo game with him using 2E rules. At one point he got his hand cut off by a Drow. But he prayed to Tymora, and we RPed a very cool scene where she restored his hand in appreciation for his devotion. That was pretty awesome.

My current game takes place in a homebrew world. Based on the real world during the middle ages, it also includes fantasy races, monsters, and a whole pantheon of gods. At one point, I decided that my half-orc barbarian was going to become devoted to the god of war, Templarus. He started adding levels of Favored Soul (it is to a cleric what a sorcerer is to a wizard). The gods figure heavily into this campaign, so when I did this, it seemed to start a trend among my fellow players. Now everyone has a favorite deity whom they call on for guidance a lot.

All of that being said, I tend to favor gods of strength and war, since I usually play warrior-types. I recall being pretty excited about Kord when 3E came out. He's like a cross between Hercules and Magni. Two of my favorite mythological figures.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Old Dragons

Ok, not the great wyrms that plague players and villagers. I'm talking about old issues of the original Dragon Magazine. I recently discovered a local gaming store here in downtown Madison, right next to the parking garage I now park at. On a whim I sauntered in the other day while waiting for my daughter to meet me at the car.

The store was small, but open. The floor was covered with tables and chairs, and was obviously geared towards CCG’s. In fact, the girl who worked there was sorting through large boxes of Magic cards, I believe.

Along the walls were shelves of comics, graphic novels, a huge section for 4E, board games, box games, and CCGs. And in the very back was a tall bookshelf of used stuff. This is always my favorite part of any game store, and I find that I am actually disappointed when a store doesn’t have one.

On their shelves were several interesting items. I really wanted that well-preserved copy of SpyCraft 2.0, but I couldn’t afford it. What I could afford, though, were three issues of Dragon Magazine from the early 1980’s. Issues 54 and 55 were from 1981, and issue 80 was from 1983. This was the time period when I first started playing, and the magazines are awesome for the nostalgia alone, let alone the content.

As I thumb through them, I notice a couple of things. First is that I recognize many of the names; Ed Greenwood, Gary Gygax, Roger E. Moore. I even found an article by acclaimed sci-fi and fantasy author, Katherine Kerr (who I recently friended on Facebook after winning a signed copy of one of her books). The other thing I noticed was the plethora of RPG’s that were being produced at the time. Many of these have fallen away, and most I had never even heard of. But the ads looked cool, and I have to giggle at the many “play by mail” RPG’s and strategy games advertised there.

In the early days of my gaming, I lived overseas on an Air Force base, and I don’t recall reading Dragon Magazine, as the base book store didn’t stock it. I believe I found it during the early 90’s when I was in the Army. So these issues are very interesting to me. And looking at them reinforces my opinion that the new Gygax Magazine does a good job of replicating the look and feel of those old Dragons.

While it’s a great time to be a gamer today, history shows me that it always has been, really.

D&D Challenge Day 5: Favorite Dice

I don't have specific favorite dice. I have a modestly large collection of dice, and I usually pick a set from that to carry in my bag. So, I guess you could say that the dice currently in my bag are my "favorite." I know that when I misplace that bag, I do miss it, and game is not the same when I have to gather an alternate set from my jar.

I have seen a lot of cool dice, though.  Mainly from other games.  And I am always on the lookout for a set of Orc-themed dice.  I believe Q-Workshop has some.  I need to look into their site again.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Basic Arcana is available!

Basic Arcana is available at RPGNow!

Add to your OSR game with some or all of these additional features:

•Racial Class variants
•2 New (yet familiar) races
•2 New Classes
•Rules for types of followers
•Rules for simplified Mass Combat
•Plus a lot more…

Basic Arcana is designed to give players and referees some ideas on how to expand their OSR games with some options that may seem familiar, and will be compatible with the older versions of the world’s most popular fantasy adventure game.

D&D 30 Day Challenge: Day 4 – Favorite Game World

I've usually played in generic, homebrew worlds. However, on occasion, someone will bust out with a commercially produced setting. Of these, I think my favorite is Forgotten Realms. The fiction is generally good, the setting is vast and diverse enough to have adventures just about anywhere, and the mythology is dang cool.

For a runner up, I would probably choose Krynn. And I choose this because, unlike 99% of gamers out there it seems, I actually enjoyed some of the Dragonlance novels. Chronicles and Legends for sure, and quite a few of the one-off and other trilogies. Krynn's only downfall? No Orcs.

So, Forgotten Realms wins.

That being said, the setting is never all that important to me, unless I have a plan for my character that involves something that is setting-specific. Like the time I had the idea that Tomos would become the King of Sembia.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

D&D 30 Day Challenge: Day 3 – Favorite Playable Class


As I stated in the last post, I have always been drawn to the warrior-types; fighters, paladins, rangers.  Probably the result of my Conan obsession.  The last 2E game I played in I played a fighter based on Conan.  But, since there was no workable "barbarian" class (though I'm sure there was a kit somewhere), I just played him like one.

When 3E came out, I was happy to see the Barbarian class.  And when I finally got a chance to play one, I was hooked.  I love the rage ability, the d12 HD, the extra running...all of it.  To me, it's almost unbalanced, because the only real downside that I have encountered is the Illiteracy (well, and the lower REF and WIL saves).  In high-RP games, that can be a hindrance unless you compensate.

All of that being said, I will often multi-class the character with levels in something else.  I'm not sure I have ever played a straight up barbarian for a character's whole career.  So, even though I will place the class as my favorite, I think it works best when combined with other classes.

Monday, September 2, 2013

D&D 30day Challenge: Day 2 - Favorite Playable Race

Chak the barbarian/sorcerer
Half Orcs.

When I first started playing D&D I had no real inspiration.  I hadn't discovered Conan yet, hadn't read a lot of books beyond EB White, and really, my only model for a warrior was Bard the Guardsman in the Rankin/Bass The Hobbit, which I had watched on TV several times.  In fact, I really can't even remember what I played in those early games.  I never took part in a campaign that lasted more than a single session, so I had never gotten attached to any single character.

Later, I had my first long-term character, a half-elf fighter named Tomos (because I was oh-so creative with the names).  I described him as a cross between D'Artagnan and Conan (he had 18/90 Strength, and a 19 Comeliness).  For a long time after, half-elves were my thing.

But somewhere along the way I tried out a half-orc character.  And I totally dug it.  It was in 3E, and he was a barbarian/sorcerer named Chak.  I only got to play him in a single session of a campaign that continued without me when I had to leave.  But there was just something about being such an outcast character that I really got into.  Not to mention the fact that he was excessively strong.

I have always played fighter-types, generally.  And since Chak, they have mostly been half-orcs.  I still go for other races on occasion, but half-orcs are my thing.  And full orcs are even better, if I can convince the DM to allow them.  My current character in our 3.5 game is Ahnuld the half-orc barbarian/favored soul/fighter.  He is the tank, for obvious reasons, but he's also one of the most complex and developed characters in the group.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

September Sale!

I've decided that I am going to put Life of Rage OSR Edition on sale for $2.99 for the rest of September.  To that end, if anyone would like a complimentary copy to review on their blog, I'll email you the PDF.

Just hit me up!

D&D 30 Day Challenge - Day 1 How you got started

(Ok, I'm cheating a little here, since the first part of this is copied/pasted from the intro to Basic Arcana 2.0...but why re-invent the wheel, right?)

I began my life-long journey in Role-Playing Games in 1981.  I was in the sixth grade, and had just moved back to my hometown in northern California to stay with my grandparents while my mom went into the Air Force.  One day a new friend of mine held up a strange red book with a picture of a sorceress, a warrior, and a dragon on the cover, and asked me “Do you play this?"

To which I responded “What’s that?”

The rest is history.

The first adventure I completed was a solo-run through of A1-Slave Pits of the Undercity.  It was my birthday that year and my grandparents had bought me the Moldvay Basic Set.  Knowing I was getting that, my friend Jeff asked his mom to get me a module.  Not knowing the difference between Basic and AD&D, she bought me A1.  We just shrugged and went with it.

I remember it being very fun, but I remember very few actual details.  I do remember that Jeff added in a Gold Dragon to help me out, as I was going solo.  All in all, it was a fantastic adventure.