Saturday, January 29, 2011

Valdemar Miniatures "Masterclass" series

If you're a fan of miniatures and haven't seen them yet, take a look at this great series of creations by Alex, cast in both plastic and metal at 1/72 scale. I really like some of his subject matter and expressions. A small sample follows...

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Lantern Naga

The Lantern Naga is named for the bio-luminescent gland on the tip of its tail, which when seen from a distance bears a remarkable resemblance to a hooded lantern. Though narrower in diameter, these highly intelligent creatures are still among the largest of their kind - mature specimens can measure more than one hundred feet long. They inhabit underground places and lure their prey closer with their tail, slowly retracting it towards the rest of their coiled body and human-like head with an uncanny ability to sense the vibrations of curious followers. They attack primarily by constriction and suffocation, but have long fangs with which they can also inflict deadly (nonpoisonous) bites. All Lantern Nagas know a few low level magic user spells.

Lantern Naga: HD 7; AC 4 [15]; Atk 1-2 (Bite d1-3 + Special); Move 12; Save 8; CL/XP 9/1300; Special: Constriction Attack - The creature will attempt to coil around and constrict its victim under cover of darkness. Suffocation and death occurs after CON/2 (rounded up) rounds, saving throw allowed. Magic user spells: Darkness, an additional first level spell, and one second level spell.

Notes on its tail - The naga can “turn off” the light. When illuminated, it provides 30’ of directed light which is always kept facing away from the rest of its body. The tail detects motion, even missile attacks, and should be treated as having an AC of 0 [19] if targeted directly. If severed from the main body, it will always light up, and the illumination it provides will counteract a Darkness spell; it will continue to glow for one full week.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

S&W Sessions Journal: Introductions and Employment

This past session a player didn’t show up again and there’s been no explanation… that’s three times in a row. Maybe I’m a bit dense and he’s just not that into it. Which is fine, but I’ve been left wondering what to do with his character. I’m thinking again about my post about just who owns a PC - now I’m feeling pretty justified in letting him be played by someone else or used as an NPC. Either way he could easily die. Meh.

There were some major plot developments this session and for the first time in a long time the party seems to have a sense of direction and purpose. They were nearly broke. Kitoth the magic user offered to sell shares of his horse to the other party members (which they respectfully declined), and then he considered casting sleep on everyone in the inn’s common room and robbing them all. In the end, Wagstaff loaned him a few gold pieces, and they decided they should follow up on the lead that the mayor’s clerk had given them, especially considering that they'd paid for it.

They traveled west to the Turnapeak, an inn near Castelnaud. There they met a man named Stebbins. He hired them to investigate a small castle which his master had inherited - one that had fallen into ruin during the plague years some forty years ago. I should mention that some more regional history and background information was given this session - At present, the Dordogne valley was at peace but this was the exception rather than the norm. There was a deadly plague that nearly wiped out the human population a couple of generations back, and it’s only more recently that the population has begun to prosper from its (popkin) spices and grow again with the aid of outsiders. During the dark period, the forests in the area encroached upon the towns and are now host to numerous ruins of fairly recent origin. This was how I justified there being so few people in the area considering the size and number of castles. It also allows for a great deal of exploring opportunities relatively close to safe havens - an ideal place for low level adventurers.

Stebbins works for Tirel, who works for Claude. I’m hoping that this castle clearing business will turn into regular work for the party, eventually involving regular procurement of the free range monster meats that the semi-deranged Claude craves.

They made their way to the castle, did a short recon, and entered. They quickly ran into a trio of goblins (yep, just goblins!) and two of their number nearly died, one being brought back from the edge of death by Agnal the cleric. It’d been raining, and they were without blankets, bedrolls, or shelter of any kind. They elected to sleep outside, without fire and in silence, for fear of arousing the interest of any other denizens. Physically they’re a miserable bunch, but they’ve already recovered thirty five pounds of silver and gold - a small fortune in their experience.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Post-Punk Musical Intermission. "We just do our stuff."

My next DM-beer-conversion music. If you enjoyed that and haven't yet seen the videos below, high hilarity coming your way...

Friday, January 21, 2011

Salt Lake City Punk and D&D

I was watching SLC Punk tonight on Netflix and towards the end (right after the church service for their dead friend who overdosed) there’s a flashback to a scene from the narrator’s childhood where he has minor epiphany and puts away his childish things. Namely, D&D, in favor of punk and partying. I know, it’s a tragedy - why this or that when one could have them all? Anyhow, the movie was pretty bad (we gave it 2 of 5 stars) and my wife promptly gave the TV the finger when it was over and said something like “F#%* everything about that movie” right after my own “Poser!” comment. I grabbed the scene for you (below) if you haven’t seen it. Not much of a point here really, I just thought I’d document the cultural reference for the hell of it...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Disagreements and Dungeoneer Democracy

In our last OSRIC session (where I’m a player), a ranger had bailed on the rest of the party while we discussed various tactics for taking out a magic user we’d cornered in a deeper part of the dungeon. His (later) explanation for this was that we were dithering and that some aspects of our plan were immoral. Regardless, we were able to overcome the magic user without him and our plan worked wonderfully. As we were binding and gagging the magic user, the ranger reappeared, shouting to us from across a chasm for instructions on how to regroup.

When it came time to divide the loot, my character announced that he didn’t believe the ranger deserved a take - which of course the ranger resented. It might have grown ugly, but I then suggested that we put it to a vote - a secret vote. I took a sack, turned it inside out in front of everyone, and then suggested everyone secretly ready one copper and one gold piece in their hands. If they believed he deserved a full share, they should place a gold coin into the sack, and if no share, then a copper. Again, the ranger objected - I acquiesced and suggested that a half share could be represented by a silver piece.

Now maybe this is done all the time in your games, but it’s the first time I can remember doing it myself… I really like the idea of hardened dungeoneers deciding matters like this - it brings to mind the pirates’ code. I can see using it often to resolve disputes and incorporating it into my own campaign as a well known and respected tradition among dungeoneers. Actually acting it out in a group would be easy, maybe using poker chips or just spare change to represent the different coins in the game.

In the end, the party overwhelmingly voted to give him a half share. Since my character is a thief, I’m already plotting how I might be able to slit a thin hole in the sack and steal future elections through sleight of hand. :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Frozen Treasure Recovered

Work and study are cutting into blogging time, but I can't resist posting a couple of links here - the first from an article a couple days old: a true treasure was recovered from an icy expedition launched about a hundred years ago… "New Zealand Antarctic Heritage Trust plans to use special cutting tools to remove the crates from the ice."

Yesterday, it was reportedly returned to its place of birth. Warms the cockles, doesn't it?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Cook: A Gonzo Class by John Anon

A couple summers back I purchased a large D&D collection I’d found via Craigslist. I spent a few hundred bucks on it but it turned out to be quite a score - probably the best items were the Tradervale, and a Tegel Manor. Some of the collection I sold on eBay and elsewhere to recover the initial cost.

The previous owner had also included many of his own campaign materials and though I quickly looked through them, they weren't that interesting to me at the time. So they went into a corner of my office where they've been gathering dust. Last week I took them out again, and found a copy of The Living Greyhawk Journal with a very nice pull out map of the city of Greyhawk.

Then, between some character sheets, I found a stapled version of a class he’d typed up and entitled “The Cook”, complete with level progression, weapon and armor restrictions, and a host of magic spells he refers to as “recipes”. There’s reference to mana on the bottom of the first page which I don’t fully grok - is this a class for GURPS? I’ve never played it - the only game I’ve played with mana is Galloway’s HLFW.

It’s pretty silly stuff - check out that spell list! I’d credit him here but no longer remember his full name (it was John something - a veterinarian who lived on the Oregon coast). So for your edification and amusement, I present John Anon’s “The Cook Class”...
The Cook Class

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

S&W Sessions Journal: Prospecting in Domme

It’d been a month since our last session, and this one was shorter than usual since I've felt a bit run down lately... The party followed up on a hunch that they’d find employment in Domme and trekked there from the opposite end of the valley. It can be convenient having a setting loosely based on a real location - I was able to share a picture of Domme and its entrance which was helpful in describing its size and the height of its walls. Since it might be a base of operations, I provided an un-keyed map to make in-town directions and relative locations easier to handle. I also gave a much fuller description of the valley, including its dialects, appearance of the people, their gods, and a brief history of the wars between the groups that live on either side of the river. I hand waved all this as having been gleaned through small talk with locals at the tavern during their overnight stay in Beynac.

Entering Domme, they wandered along the interior walls to the north until they came upon a cemetery. They saw a priest consoling a man, both of whom appeared very ill once they'd come closer. They asked these two for directions to any kind of public announcements board and then if everything was alright. The priest gave them directions and told them that there was an illness that seemed to stubbornly return (despite their prayers); it afflicted the northeastern part of town (mostly slums) and if they could, they should stop off at the church of Frayse to thank him for their own health. At this the priest's companion began coughing heavily and the party quickly took their leave.

After successfully bribing a clerk at the mayor’s office and discovering that one of the jobs listed on the announcements board was really for a position as poison checker, Wagstaff offered him more money for information about more lucrative employment prospects. The clerk told them that they could head to the Turnapeak tavern near Castelnaud and ask for a man named Stebbins who could put them in touch with someone else who knew Claude de Sarlat - a wealthy man who hires monster hunters. They also learned that there was another group of adventurers in town that was looking for porters. They headed to a nearby inn hoping to find them and discover their plans.

At the Inn of the Pouting Popkin, they met Tim the legless halfling who did his best to annoy them with limericks and song. Tim dangled hints that he might know where the adventurers they were looking for had departed to, and also about some ruins, but they weren’t tipping him anywhere close to what he seemed to think appropriate. He was disappointed that the party didn’t find his music or rhymes amusing, and that they weren’t interested in the fact that he was once an adventurer too...

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Few More Thoughts on Philip K. Dick-Marlowe

The good news is that my wife seemed intrigued by the idea of role playing a detective. With Swords and Wizardry in the past, she had some problems knowing exactly what to do - with this idea we both quickly saw how an investigation implies logical courses of action. Her exact words were "I needed more direction" and I think she'd get it with this by explicitly having a mystery to solve. It flies in the face of the gaming style I prefer, but I can see how a somewhat railroady game might suit her better as a beginner. Hell, maybe I’ll even redo Murder on the Orient Express as a high speed underground rail-line between San Francisco and Tokyo. She'll be on-board security (with a backup body or two in storage). Instead of a snow storm, I'll have a power failure (sabotage?) occur somewhere under the Pacific Ocean.

Adrian's comment in the last post has me thinking of ways in which I could raise the subjects of free will, insanity, and ethics in the game. Maybe robots are only allowed to graduate to full citizenship by providing valuable services - they’re capable of full independence and free will, but this capability is only slowly turned on (or awakened) by the robot proving that they can handle difficult ethical decisions. Of course not all robots necessarily have to be detectives to go through this process, just our protagonist player. Some robots resent the requirements and seek to hack their own programming restrictions (usually after having been subjected to a virus by another robot or by a member of the anarchistic AI-rights activists). Full citizenship might involve the loss of access to cloud data (no more replacement bodies with memories intact) as well as the eventual addition of organic body parts as rewards and incentive.

The downside is that I can see a lot more preparation being necessary to do all of this right - something I have a hard time doing with my current S&W game.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Robot Detectives

Here’s an idea I had the other day: a one on one game where the player is a robot detective in a gritty true crime but futuristic setting. The advantage of playing the part of a robot is that if in the course of investigations the solo player dies, their memories can be downloaded from “the cloud” into any needed replacement. I think I’d run it using BRP, maybe drawing heavily from Call of Cthulu or else use Gumshoe. Yeah, I’ll probably never get around to this, but when your regular game’s been on hold for awhile the mind begins to wander.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Andromeda Conquest by Avalon Hill 1982

I bought Avalon Hill's "Andromeda Conquest" in a game store in New York when I was about twelve years old. Even back then, it kind of sucked. I mean, in '83 EA came out with M.U.L.E., and I remember playing a similar game called Space Warp on a Tandy Model III a few years before. Come to think of it, that might be one of my first memories of working on a computer - it was in the principal's office. I remember he had set me up with Space Warp since he had to leave the room for something (my permanent record?)... I was getting sent to his office so much that the staff would sneak me in through the nurse's office in order to save my mom the embarrassment of seeing me there again (she was a secretary at the school). But I digress... Here's a proper review of Andromeda Conquest. It wasn't a lot of fun, but it has its place in history.

You can still download and play this game if you like - I used DosBox on a Mac but you can do the same thing in Linux (in which case you may have to install a Basic interpreter).

Skip to 5:00 for the exciting part.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Dungeon Master Moss

Just finishing up recovering from the holidays and from officially growing older. Tonight I noticed season 4 of the IT Crowd is available on Netflix via streaming. Fans might find of interest that in the first episode of this season, Moss plays host to several of their boss's rowdy friends, showing them a good time through a game of Dungeons and Dragons.