Monday, November 30, 2009

Tavern Graffiti: The Ugly Thief Limerick

There once was an ugly thief
Who'd chewed too much halfling leaf
He was heard to convey
"I could sure use a lay
But wish I still had my teef!"

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Scans for Erol Otus Fans (from Gamma World)

(Gotta love that Dead Kennedys necklace)

Of course, right after scanning these I discover Jeff Rient's fan page, but at least these are a bit larger...

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Turducken? No Turducken.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone... I’d been considering writing up a gimmicky monster a la Turducken of some kind. That is to say, a monster within a monster (literally) but I’m drawing a blank. The movie “Alien” keeps coming to mind. If I could come up with something, I’m sure at least Claude would appreciate it.

We’re not actually cooking a turkey this year. Somehow, it has fallen upon myself to be head chef this time, and with my admittedly weak cooking abilities, I have opted out of the large bird in the oven thing in favor of two small birds in the oven. I’ll be cooking cornish game hens. Not only that though, as my wife is a huge fan of this holiday as well as of various cooking shows (Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, Iron Chef, Good Eats, and more), I feel compelled to cook her my own version of Turducken. She asked me at one point if I actually intended to place a half handful amount of stuffing into these tiny birds, to which I surprised myself by replying “Oh there’ll be stuffing, but you’ll just have to wait and see what it is” quite smartly, or rather stupidly, as I’d no idea what I’d put in there at the time I said that. Now that a day has passed, I’ve taken stock of our provisions and defrosted what will be the meat contents of the game hen stuffing - and it’s breakfast link sausages folks! ...What, no good? Well, she said she liked them the last time I made breakfast for us, and it’s all I have that will fit in these poor little bastards.

Suggestions are welcome. Cook the links first and then cram them in there to be baked with the birds? Chop them up and put them in there (uncooked, although aren’t they pre-cooked already)? Or perhaps I can do something stuffling-like with the (instant) mashed potatoes or broccoli I have on hand?

Anyhow, I have two fall backs - one is the two bottles of champagne already in the fridge that I can bust out at any time, and the other is the dessert, which I didn’t make myself. Pumpkin pie! Purchased from a local gourmet dessert business. Hey, I whipped the cream myself, complete with agave syrup and bourbon vanilla. Um, I probably won’t post how this turns out. Eat on!''

Update: By the gods it worked out pretty well - 400 deg. for 30 min. and 45 min. at 375 degress (F) uncovered, and it was perfect. The only thing I botched was the squash - an arorn squash split half and then seasoned with molasses and sugar cane (instead of brown sugar itself) just didn't cut it. I was out of the stuff, what can I say? Ah well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Scintillating Orchids

A subterranean type of flora, Scintillating Orchids (or more commonly “blind man’s flowers”) are a visually poisonous type of plant which live symbiotically (see also: Carnivorous Grass) with predatory creatures such as the Piercer and Stirge.

The petals of these plants change color with incredible frequency and in intricate patterns, with a slightly hypnotic effect. Their bioluminescence causes flying insects to become attracted to the flowers, which are then fed upon by bats. It is thought that most of the nutritional needs of the plants are filled by the guano of these creatures. However, a more amazing ability of the Scintillating Orchid is what makes it dangerous to man - the plants can react to the nearby presence of larger creatures by emitting a cone of light (see below) which can temporarily blind or stun them. This in turn can lead to attacks of opportunity by other creatures - which themselves add another type of fertilizer to the plants in the course of their own killing and digestion of prey.

No. Appearing: 1-4 HD: N/A
Special: Color Spray attack per 1e Illusionist’s 1st level spell: Range 10’ - A vivid cone of clashing colors, causing creatures to become stunned, perhaps also blinded, and possibly knocking them unconscious. Each creature within the cone is affected according to its Hit Dice:

2 HD or less: The creature is unconscious, blinded, and stunned for 2d4 rounds, then blinded and stunned for 1d4 rounds, and then stunned for 1 round. (Only living creatures are knocked unconscious.)

3 or 4 HD: The creature is blinded and stunned for 1d4 rounds, then stunned for 1 round.

5 or more HD: The creature is stunned for 1 round.

Sightless creatures are not affected by the Color Spray attack.

Once picked, these plants will no longer be capable of their Color Spray attack, but will retain their coruscating colors for 1-4 days. Each provides the illumination equivalent of about one candle. They are highly sought after by wealthy nobles as romantic gift items and can easily fetch as much as 100gp each.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Ill-Tempered Gnome Winter Ale

Not a D&D item, just a shout out and thanks to the good folks at Oakshire Brewing for their tasty seasonal brown ale, the Ill-Tempered Gnome. Between Oakshire and Ninkasi (named after a Sumerian goddess), that 100 mile diet is looking ever more doable for us Eugenians. Long live the local brew!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Scary Potter Mini

I'm finding it hard to resist this 25mm zombie mini from MegaMinis.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Claude de Sarlat, Monster Eater

This post is Open Game License content.

Claude de Sarlat is an eccentric and very wealthy gourmand. He regularly employs groups of adventurers to hunt down, kill (or trap), and retrieve for him various creatures - mostly four footed monsters but also exotic flora and fowl. Claude eats it all. His chef, one “Tirel”, himself an eccentric and worldly character, gladly indulges Claude’s culinary desires. Without Claude knowing it, Tirel has even expanded his repertoire to include bipedal beasts such as owlbears (and others) but has not yet dared to surreptitiously introduce Claude to these more acquired tastes.

Claude owns a keep and has inherited a small fiefdom - while not exactly encouraging monsters to forage for human and demihuman fare of their own, he does seem to tolerate it - or at least does so according to many of his not so loyal nor admiring subjects. Rumors of his more exotic tastes have recently spread throughout the land, and his appetite is already legendary.

He is a large man: short of stature, but it would be unfair to call him “fat” - obscenely obese would be more accurate, or as Claude prefers, “most long of girth”. He wears an unfashionable mustache, which is typically encrusted with the remains of food, and he is almost constantly eating. Short-tempered and demanding, he’s very unpleasant to be around, and were it not for the fact that he pays extremely well (and can afford it), he would no doubt be quite alone. He’s always surrounded by personal servants and bodyguards, one of whom will have a bucket handy should Claude need to quickly vacate his stomach’s contents to make room for another course.

Claude is eager to employ experienced travelers and dungeoneers in his territory to retrieve for him some “free-range” meats from nearby grottos, preferably live or very freshly killed. Some of his servants are busy watching the local taverns for such travelers and will occasionally approach them with offers of employment (not revealing the actual name of their own employer). Acquired “game” should be presented to and will be paid for by Tirel directly.

Several other nobles have heard of Tirel’s exotic meals, and some wish to try them. Others feel the notion of eating monsters is an abomination and that Claude and Tirel are criminals whose actions imply that these creatures’ existence has a purpose and that they should not just be exterminated.

A long time ago, Claude was once a dungeoneer himself. Trapped by a cave-in, he sustained himself by living on the partially-eaten carcasses of battling monsters while awaiting rescue from outside. His survival was aided by his family’s greatest treasure, a Ring of Invisibility. Claude trained for a time as a magic user but his last dungeon experience turned him away from it (it also made him a touch mad).

Claude: Magic User 7: HP 28, AC 9 [11], Atk dagger d4, Str 10, Dex 9, Con 18, Int 14, Wis 8, Cha 7, Ring of Invisibility, Spells: Charm Person, Magic Missile, Read Magic, Sleep, Continual Light, Detect Invisibility, Stinking Cloud, Haste, Lightning Bolt, Charm Monster. He will seldom use the ring unless in extreme danger, and will only do so in conjunction with casting Haste upon himself.

Tirel: Fighter 4: HP 21, AC 5 [14], Atk long sword d8, Str 12, Dex 13, Con 14, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 14.

Bodyguards (d6 at any given time) are 1st level fighters with a 2nd level captain.

(images from Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”, of course!)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

S&W Game Play Journal: Hatching a Plan

Our weekly game was almost canceled due to real world demands, but we've agreed to continue gaming with the expectation that our sessions will be shorter...

Picking up from where we left off, the party had to rest for a good five days in order to heal from the giants rats attacks from the last session. It was decided that it wasn't worth the additional promised 50 gold in order to finish the extermination job, and the party went looking for employment elsewhere.

They visited the docks and paid the harbormaster a visit - Wagstaff tried to gauge interest in "rat pelts", and the pencil pusher really didn't know what to say or make of the suggestion that there might be money in the rat pelt trade! Taking their leave of him, Wagstaff suggested that more underhanded efforts at acquiring gold might be in all of their best interests, such as making a raid on merchants traveling out of town. Olav the dwarf took his leave of the party, saying that he bore them no ill will and would keep his mouth shut, but wanted nothing to do with this plan.

The others (all of whom are chaotic in alignment) were eager to hear more of this idea of Wagstaff's - they went back to the inn themselves to discuss the matter further, where they found Olav deep in the ale... Wagstaff let the barmaid (also the tavern proprieter's wife) know that they were again seeking employment as guards, and she assured them she would let the merchants eating and staying there know about it. A while later she returned with news that there were two looking for accompaniment, but that they only needed a couple of guards - the barmaid had already put in a good word about the dwarf (better known locally as a regular patron at the tavern), and so they were interested in his services as well as those of one more individual.

At this point, Wagstaff suggested that he take employment with Olav to ostensibly protect the merchants, but that they all figure out a good place for the others to raid them and for a fake fight to be put up, whereupon they would all split the loot. Olav wanted to take no part in killing, but Wagstaff said that if the others were well disguised and the fake fight went well, it wouldn't be necessary to kill the merchants - the now drunk dwarf agreed, and the details were worked out in terms of where and when the ambush should take place.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

TSR's Weird Little Minigame: Icebergs

It’s hard to know what was going through the minds of the marketing team at TSR when they decided to go ahead and publish the little minigame called “Icebergs” by Tom Wham. Wham also authored Snit’s Revenge (and others), another TSR minigame which originally appeared in an issue of Dragon magazine, several years earlier. The idea of navigating a supertanker through treacherous icy waters seems something more likely to be exciting in the form of an Atari videogame (big at the time), rather than a hex map, turn and counter based game. I’ll say this though, as a wargaming, rpg playing kid I would buy just about any new game TSR put out if I could afford it, and yes, I actually bought this back in the day (along with Saga, Vampyre, and a number of other mini games by Steve Jackson and Mayfair). From that perspective, they might have made a nice little profit from these.

The idea here is to move your ship from one side of the map to the other, avoiding ice floes and icebergs. That’s really it. You can move ice floes and icebergs to impede other players. You can play solo by rolling d6 to randomly determine the movement of floating ice.

Maybe the intent was to give some kids something cool (cold, that is) to think about on their Summer camping trip or in the motor home on the road or something. Too much wind or movement would quickly destroy a game though, due to the small size of the map and counters. I don’t remember ever actually playing this game, it may well have been the first of many games that I’ve bought where this is the case.

Here are some scans:

Map Detail
Map Detail - Ship Stats

Counters (This scan is of the counters actually printed on the inside of the rear cover, kind of nice in case you lost the heavier card-stock counters. The originals came in eight colors.)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Beagle Rolls a d30

I've been busy replacing the computer, cleaning the office, and other mundane tasks the last few days... today I apparently ignored the dogs a little too much. While I was taking a shower, the beagle jumped up into my chair, grabbed the Crown Royal bag of dice off of the desk, and proceeded to get the thing open and spill the Gamescience and expensive casino dice on the floor. Fortunately none of them were chewed up and damaged, and I thought I'd found and put them all away again in the bag (I wonder if the velvet texture reminded her off one of her toys?), when a few minutes later I saw her playing with what appeared to be a small black walnut. She's always finding acorns and nuts from outside and bringing them in, and then tossing them around for herself to chase like a kitten or something. I'm glad I took a closer look and pulled it out of her mouth, as it was one of the hard to find d30 Gamescience dice and not a walnut at all. Grrr!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

S&W Game Play Journal: Just Your Average Rat Killin'

Picking up where the party left off, Wagstaff's lead on a rat extermination job led them to the mill where he bargained with the miller over the job's pay and requested specific tools that would assist them. The miller balked somewhat at this, finally agreeing to deduct the cost of requested materials from the previously agreed upon pay.

His apprentice was sent off with a list and instructions to procure the materials requested there, and returned with a length of silk rope, oil, more torches, cheese (!), and beer. Cedric the 14 year old apprentice returned hours later, clearly inebriated, carrying the requested materials. In the intervening time, Wagstaff tried to get to know the others, with the only really interesting piece of information coming from Olav the dwarf. Olav relayed how he had left the dwarven lands to the West using the same river they were now beside at the mill, travelling down it to find work and get away from the inter-clan warfare raging in his homeland. It seems there was a powerful dragon demanding tribute from the clans, and some were paying it while others were not.

Eventually entering the cellar of the mill, Wagstaff developed an elaborate plan to create a net that would slow or trap rats exiting from rooms they opened doors to, whereupon they would set upon the entrapped rats with their weapons and be at less danger of being bit. Agnal the chaotic cleric suggested that they use the numerous large bags of flour to build small walls to channel any rats they might encounter when opening doors in combination with the home-made net. This they did - unfortunately some attack roll fumbles resulted in sections of the net being severed allowing some rats to escape and nearly kill two members of the party. Fortunately they were able to block up a door with more bags of flour and prevent any more rats egress. Carrying carcasses back upstairs, they secured half of their promised reward on condition they return to finish the job. Wagstaff bluffed that he would disgrace the mill and publicize the infested conditions, but the miller claimed ownership of the carcasses and otherwise discouraged the blackmail attempt, and Wagstaff backed down once the party was assured that they would be allowed some rest and recuperation and still be paid for their efforts.

What was really gratifying about tonight's game was how we noticed that even such a simple and classic role play as this rat killing excursion was actually a lot of fun. The extra care in tactically planning their attack on the rats served the party well. Wagstaff now has 10gp in his pocket... not much, but more than the few silver he had before this job, and he's gained a slightly greater if grudging respect from the others in the party.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Time Killer: The List of Last Words

Saturday, November 7, 2009

De Profundis PBP Forums Up

Per my earlier post here, the forums are now up and accepting new registrations - at this time, I'm only aiming for 4-5 players initially for manageability. Time commitment is minimal compared to most PBP games, a single entry per week would suffice, although more would be welcome. Forums are here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

There is No Such Thing as Efreet Beer

Efreet Beer has restorative properties the same as a potion of Extra Healing, but also conveys Fire Resistance (immune to normal fire, +2 saving throws against fire attacks, half damage to magic fire attacks that do not permit saving throws), as well as Giant Strength. Stored in kegs, each of which will contain d100 “doses”, but which will be rendered useless if decanted from keg and not drank within 2 days. Non-efreet drinking more than one pint (dose) must save versus poison or take d4 damage each time they do so, with no further magic benefits to be had. Badass dungeoneers love this one for their drinking/gambling games.

Gnomebucha is a fermented gnomish tea made from mushrooms which will Cure Disease or immediately counteract any poison. Ever present in the homes of gnomes, 10% of the time it has been brewed incorrectly and will be poisonous to non-gnomes causing d6 damage.

Tincture of Halfling Pipeweed will double normal hit point restoration due to rest but will stop normal restoration if used for more than three days in a row. It is mildly addicting and beer or wine consumption will nullify its restorative abilities. The small bottle it’s stored in usually holds about ten doses.

Boccob’s Wort is another tincture, generally stored in a small bottle holding ten doses, this herbal concoction will change the alignment of the imbiber to neutral for one day.

Landlubber’s Juice is a foul tasting beverage made from seaweed and herbs given to those unaccustomed to travel by sea. Those who fail their saving throw (against poison, or roll under their Dexterity) every twelve hours of such travel are at a disadvantage (DM's discretion) in combat and spell casting for an equal amount of time without the inner ear balance provided by the Juice. No further rolls necessary per journey once a Saving Throw has been successfully made.

Civilization: Video Installation by Marco Brambilla

This video has been around for awhile and most visitors here will already have seen it, but if you haven't I highly recommend you view it full screen - it's really an amazing work. Though obviously rooted in a western religious perspective, I found it to be really suggestive of Hindu or Buddhist cosmology or art somehow, or of a kind of mandala. I wish I could reproduce something more personalized like this to give to players as a kind of vision or overview of the planes, splicing in monsters and our own deities.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Real Village Maps

I stumbled on this page a while back and bookmarked it as a future source of free village maps or inspiration for creating my own. These are all maps of real villages in the U.K., made for the purpose of being of possible help to "emergency services, delivery men, or indeed anyone trying to find a house by name." Maybe they'll be of use to your game too.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

De Profundis: A GM-free RPG

Michael Oracz’s De Profundis initially caught my eye on Chaosium’s catalog because of its Cthulu theme (though it's not related to Chaosium’s own Call of Cthulu game) and because it described itself as “GM-free”. To me, this marks it as an even more direct relative of the Exquisite Corpse than other role playing games.

It’s a softcover book of about 30 pages, and in many ways is really just a primer of psychodrama, although as the author points out, one intended for fun, rather than as therapy. Indeed, the back of the book carries the warning “This game is intended for mentally stable adults” which itself evokes the Necronomicon’s sanity stealing power. The game is meant to be played via postal correspondence, and though I can see some subtler aspects of play being lost by not following that format, I think it would work very well in a web forum play by post format or even just by email. An example of solo game play is described in the book. Here though, I believe the notion of De Profundis as a game is probably stretched to the breaking point, and perhaps better described as method acting or rather, method writing.

Oracz best summarizes psychodrama as game in an article which previously appeared in the (Polish?) gaming publication Portal (#3), which he includes here in the appendix. There, one can find examples of play, descriptions of typical features of psychodrama, and examples of useful devices. This appendix is probably the most lucid part of the book - the rest of it is itself an example of game play and a bit surreal, moving from description of the game and its elements to personal accounts of creeping madness and Lovecraftian horror and then back again.

I plan on setting up a forum for purposes of playing this game if anyone’s interested. The setting will initially be an island with several isolated research stations, though of course you may enter play and locate yourself in the world wherever you choose and in whatever capacity you like.