Friday, October 29, 2010


A number of years ago, Chef Tirel employed an enterprising halfling as live monster bait. Named Tim, this halfling would accompany adventurers that Tirel had hired to retrieve fresh meat for his own employer, the infamous monster eating Claude de Sarlat. Tim was desperate for high paid work, being in debt to some of Sneedsworth’s men in the Dordogne. Long story short, on one expedition the little halfling had his legs torn completely off by an ogre. Through the intervention of a cleric, Tim miraculously survived but would never walk again.

Nowadays, Tim can be found in the bastide of Domme, frequenting pubs where he performs his version of a stand up comedy act. Reciting bad limericks, re-telling stories of his brief stint as monster bait, and accompanying a little guitar, he’s now known as Tiny Tim. He’s become quite the local celebrity. Halflings are extremely rare in the region, and those that do pass through are continually subjected to local inside humor which takes the form of loud exclamations like “It’s a miracle! The little guy’s got his legs back!” Consequently, Tim isn’t hard to find and is often sought out for whatever information or advice he can offer to visiting greenhorn dungeoneers.

Tirel, for his part, was honorable enough to pay off Tim’s debt. Without his skilled little halfling though, Tirel was forced to devise other ways to occasionally draw monsters out of their hiding places. Towards this end, he came up with a number of recipes rumored to have ghastly ingredients that work far better than simple horsemeat or chickens. He’s even begun to determine which work better than others based on which monster one wishes to catch. Occasionally he’ll offer to sell his monster bait (which he confectionately refers to as his “bonbons”) to traveling adventurers in the course of offering them a reward for any monster flesh they can acquire for him.

His usual bait comes in the form of head-sized chunks of rotten spiced meats of indeterminable origin, stitched together and which Tirel and his assistants jokingly refer to as “Paydays”… Another kind they refer to as “corn” - palm-sized, it’s typically put down every ten feet or so to lead a creature to a predetermined ambush site.

Tirel sells his monster bait for up to 100gp depending on the quantity desired and the monster it will attract. Unless extreme precautions are taken the stench of it will cause townsfolk to shun the carrier, refusing service of any kind. It will double the frequency of wandering monster rolls and at least triple the likelihood of the desired creature making an appearance if in the area.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ah the frustrations of gaming online...

Does anyone know of a cross platform, free or cheap video conferencing solution? I've looked into actually setting up my own server but as far as I've found, it all looks tedious and/or involves the use of Windows. I have a couple of servers I use that are running linux remotely, and I can run a Mac or linux server locally if I have to (and have before for other reasons). I'm not really into acquiring a few static IPs again just for this purpose and dynamic dns has been a bit of a pain in the ass in the past so I'd like to avoid that too.

I've been using voip and video for awhile now before running into problems with one user. It's clearly something with that one user's settings, but after spending a couple of hours troubleshooting it remotely, I'm now inclined to look at workarounds instead of necessarily trying to fix it. I thought about Skype, but there isn't a beta (for the video conferencing option) for Mac, and though iChat is great it obviously isn't available for Windows or linux. I've looked at a number of options but either they won't support more than two simultaneous users, won't work with all platforms, or else are pricey. The most promising alternative would seem to be a free solution I found once using an Adobe account and some 3rd party's server that I now forget, but their servers were always overloaded. Anyhow, any thoughts or suggestions on the subject are appreciated.

I've played once before via an online forum and may try it again someday, but I'm not very enthusiastic about the idea. Playing D&D in a forum, text chat, or email seems about as close to D&D to me as playing golf on a Wii does to actually stepping onto a green with a club. Not that I'm a golfer or anything... just saying. I should also say that I'm not totally averse to those kinds of games, just that my order of preference would be a live face to face game, followed by a video conference game, followed by an IRC or other live chat game, followed by a web forum play by post game. I wonder what Mr. Gygax would say about these various game mediums, or did he?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Equipment List (Fillable PDF)

The settlements and castles in the Dordogne setting are very close to one another, straddling a river where those on each side view the other with suspicion. I've been toying with the idea of messing with the local economics in the event of war and other possible game events. So there might be sudden scarcities or oversupplies of certain items. Also, considering the value and portability of the local delicacy known as fairy dust (or flakes if you must), it seems logical that it would become a kind of local currency all its own, much to the chagrin of the druid and his followers. An enterprising party might take advantage of some of the chaos or weaknesses in the local system. Out of this line of thought was born a simple, fillable PDF (it's filled out in the thumbnail example above, click it to download the original). There's a large field at the top for the name of your campaign, store, or whatever. I added a couple of extra item fields at the bottom too, for any special items that might be available.

Our sessions are currently on hold until one of the players gets his computer fixed. As I've said before, most of my gaming these days is done via video conferencing and every so often a glitch comes up. It's probably just as well though, since I might have had to excuse myself for the World Series. Come to think of it, I wonder if Nick's computer is actually fine. He does live in S.F...

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Phailure! (Sorry, Not RPG Related...)

With all due respect to my oldest friend, John in Philly ... bam! Neither one of us saw that one coming! Both of us originally being New Yorkers, I guess this makes it a little easier on us...
I've no illusions about the chances of the S.F. Giants vs. the Texas Rangers but I'm really happy to see this opportunity come up. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, the Philadelphia Phillies lost to the San Francisco Giants tonight, advancing them to the World Series.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Meet Bilbo Baggins

Looks like Martin Freeman, star of the (British) tv show The Office, will play the part of Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit movie by Peter Jackson due out in 2021. I don't know his acting well enough to really comment on it, but who didn't like and sympathize with his character on that show? Maybe this is old news... I don't know, I thought I heard a rumor about it a while back.

The only other actor I recognize in the linked BBC article is Warden Ackerman. I mean Graham McTavish.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The other game I'm following: Thanks Cain

Oof - sad to say some of the reason for my lack of posts (in addition to a pick up in business, thankfully) is the fact that the Giants are in contention for the NLCS. Any baseball cant speakers out there? Cain and Ross more or less saved the Giants' ass tonight...

Meanwhile I should be preparing for our regular S&W session since I ref tonight. Nick's gratefully agreed to DM his OSRIC game should I fail to get it together in time.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fuzzy Widdle RPGs

My wife seems to have little interest in playing in the Swords and Wizardry setting I designed initially with her specifically in mind. I’ve been able to integrate it into my regular game so the time wasn’t wasted, but I still haven’t given up on getting her to play some kind of role-playing game. Ah, a table top RPG that is.

Being a sucker for any kind of boxed rpg, my eyes lit up when I saw David Peterson’s post about the upcoming Mouse Guard boxed set. Hmm I thought, the wife likes cute little furry things. Maybe this would be the way to lure her into the hobby! Then of course my mind scurried in a number of different directions as I tried to think of all the possibilities.

I knew wikipedia might be of assistance, so I searched there and found an entry entitled “List of furry role-playing games”… There’s a few in that list I’m already familiar with, among them Bunnies and Burrows of course.

There’s no way I’m spending money on a gamble like this idea though. Does anyone have any experience with these or others besides B&B?

I headed over to The Free RPG blog’s delicious list to see if I could find something easily but there aren’t any obvious tags to help. Over at RPGNet someone posted a list of furry rpgs and there I rediscovered Tales from the Wood which I remember seeing on (you can still download it there). I started looking it over when my wife came into the room and I asked if she’d be willing to play a role-playing game where should could be a hedgehog in a woods. She said “Sure!” but then seemed to back off a little and said, “I dunno, maybe. I’d try it I guess.” I swear, sometimes I think she’s just leading me on.

I’m not even sure I know how to go about playing such a game but what the hell, I’ll try to give it a shot one of these days. At least I’ve got some paper miniatures in case I need 'em.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Visual Armor Guide for Newbs - S&W Handout (Fillable PDF)

I liked what Telecanter was doing with his idea of a handout for newbs that would help them visualize armor - what it looks like, and how much protection it gives. So not being able to sleep last night I worked up a simple PDF which I hope addresses a couple of the points he made, namely that the armored figures illustrated in the S&W rules aren't in order of AC (with one holding a shield to further complicate things). I reworked the image a bit and added costs so that players can compare prices too.

In addition to the cost fields which are fillable on this PDF, there's a large fillable field below the handout title. I originally meant this to hold the name of your shop, ie. "Ailward's Olde Armour Shoppe" but I suppose it could have the name of your campaign or anything you like.

Formatted for a 4 x 6 index card of course, but it scales fairly well to 8.5 x 11. Clicking the thumbnail image above will take you to the PDF.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wherein I Question the DM’s Authority - OSRIC Session Journal

I’ve been very busy with work lately but we did get some dungeon crawling done earlier this week. The height of the session was when Gladric the Thief scouted ahead and found an opening that led to a cavern with a chasm splitting it in two. Two figures were seen moving on the other side. At the bottom of the chasm was a large pool of yellow jello, which we assumed was the monster we’d been seeking, and the figures we took to be the evil magic user we sought and probably an assistant. Elaborate plans were made for a missile attack and ambush and then combat ensued.

The day after the session I felt a little badly about how I’d criticized the DM during the game for some mechanics handling, although now I have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it's his very first time refereeing - and I’m very glad he’s taken up OSRIC. On the other hand, occasionally I feel like parts of his game could be improved with some constructive criticism. I’ve been DM’ing a S&W game and paying strict attention to certain aspects of it, so it’s possible I was a projecting a little or vocalized more than I should have.

I might have waited until after the session had ended, but because the issues involved combat I raised my concerns as they were happening. After all, if players feel that their characters are killed due to sloppy DM’ing, who’s to say that the same thing won’t happen again, causing them to lose interest? Initiative, order of attack, who has attacked and who hasn’t - among other things most players are paying close attention to these. So after a couple of lapses I grew a little concerned and couldn’t stop myself.

I don’t (and didn’t) want to make too much of it and we all have our off days. There’s a part of me that wants to see him get better and more comfortable with certain parts of the game, but I struggle with how hands off to be. I’m a fairly rusty DM and relatively inexperienced myself (in comparison to many other blogging DMs at least!)… We’ve played one on one in the past and it was less of an issue then. In those games we would stop to discuss certain ways of doing things to establish precedent, without worrying about boring or otherwise putting off another player.

Anyhow, it’s just a game and all that - these things will happen. On the positive side, I sent a note apologizing if I was out of line and he responded that it was all good and that the bottom line was that we’d had fun. I think I have a tendency to over-think these things and it might have hardly been noticed by anyone else.

The lingering question I have is, when should you, and should you ever, object to how your DM is doing something, particulary during the session itself? I know that the circumstances of each game will be unique, but maybe there are certain times when it’s the duty of the players to stand up to or question their DM. Yet not knowing his motives and considering his power makes doing so a risky endeavor. A crafty DM might make it look like he’s screwing up combat just to put the players off for some reason that will become clear to them later in the game (that magic item is cursed and has a minus to hit modifier - hmm, didn’t think of that did you smarty pants! Sit down zB! Etc.) It’s a strange game.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Intermission Music - Iconoclastic Minimalism 1989

I had to go to a pub to catch the Giants game the other night and someone put this little ditty on the jukebox. I know, not everyone's cup of tea, but it brought back a few memories...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Pterodactyls and Planes

While some of us are recently back on Star Wars kicks, as for myself I'm trippin' on dinosaurs again. Below find Leia II, less than three months after Star Wars first came out, moonlighting in The People That Time Forgot (a sequel, actually), which debuted in France...
You can watch the whole thing on Hulu, but what I'm most interested in is at 8:13 and lasts about five minutes. Looks like the start of a great island adventure, no? With apologies for the ad at the beginning...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Endless Caption #6: Revolting Dwarves

Endless Captions returns briefly with today's sixth installment. Good luck, and thanks for playing...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Flavor Enhancing Fairies

Claude de Sarlat is almost universally reviled by the inhabitants of the Dordogne, as is his practice of eating monsters, but no one can deny the culinary expertise of his head chef Tirel. In fact, it was Tirel who first pioneered and perfected the incredibly delicious and now very popular practice of cooking with fairy flakes.

Popkin fairies, at one time common throughout the Dordogne Valley, were discovered by Tirel to have exceptional flavor enhancing qualities when properly prepared. To those who have tasted the dried and shaved remains of these creatures, it’s hardly necessary to convey the extraordinary effect that they have on the palate. Describing the savory essence that popkins add to nearly any recipe is a task best left by this author to the many bards who have seen fit to take it up in poem and song. Suffice to say that once experienced, one will never be able to leave the valley without a strong sense of recurring nostalgia or outright craving for just one more exquisite taste of the little buggers.

Of course the controversy surrounding their use in cooking is well known. In the Dordogne valley itself, such moralizing and hand-wringing is scoffed at and ridiculed, but further away (and particularly amongst the elves), consumption or possession of fairy flakes is viewed with disgust and usually results in the shunning of the individuals involved. Complicating the situation is the fact that some area residents now keep orcs as slaves for use in tracking popkin fairies. The orkish ability to sniff out the presence of popkins is uncanny and has led to the popkins’ increasing rarity and sky rocketing price.

The Great Druid of Marquessac has decreed that anyone determined to be hunting popkin fairies in his gardens will be publicly hanged. Even with this decree, popkin poachers and other ne’er-do-wells have been seen in ever increasing numbers in the central Dordogne. Some say that should the popkin ever disappear entirely, the Druid would wreak vengeance upon the inhabitants of the valley without mercy. In the town of Sarlat, a syndicate known as the Committee for Popkin Preservation (or CPP) was formed with the aim of protecting the popkin, but through infiltration by outside interests and due to infighting, it’s been ineffective and become somewhat of a laughingstock.

Disturbing rumors have begun to circulate that “dead zones” where magic functions oddly or not at all have been detected. These zones are said to correspond to areas where the popkin have been completely wiped out, but where they were known to previously congregate in large numbers. Many claim these rumors are purely the propaganda of the CPP. In any event, the future of the popkin looks grim if history is any guide - one need only recall the sad decline of the hoar fox.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

S&W Sessions Journal: So Much for the Stargazer

I’d thought we’d be spending last night's session really tearing into Raggi's Tower of the Stargazer, but things went in an unexpected direction. One of the players mixed up the session dates and didn’t make it, so I had his character sit down in the front foyer of the tower and drink one of the fine bottles of wine he’d found on our previous session. This was Gulch the Assassin - I didn’t feel comfortable having him tag along without his player. Without him along and after losing one of their hirelings at the door, the party was pretty nervous about the whole business. Wagstaff’s player started fishing for some information about how long it might be before Agnal levels up and gets a spell (clerics don’t get anything until 2nd level in my game), but all I could tell him was that it was soon and that he was closer than Wagstaff himself.

So somewhat reluctantly perhaps, the party started up the stairs with their leader Wagstaff the Thief encouraging the other characters to pay particular attention to their environment. With the quick death of their new hireling just entering the tower, they knew that this was a deadly place. After exploring the second level of the tower, they made their way up a flight of stairs, discovering some blood trickling out of a keyhole. They checked for traps but remained uncertain about what to do next, when Wagstaff commanded Olav to try the door. Olav the Dwarf was afraid after seeing what had happened to the last guy, and declined. The porter, poor fellow, was asked and also declined. Wagstaff suggested they all draw lots, but the porter didn’t want to be included. He finally relented that he would include himself in a drawing for a large bonus sum. This was too much for Wagstaff and they decided to call off the whole business, leaving the tower!

I hadn’t expected that, but I can’t say I blame them either. The party backtracked to the river, narrowly avoiding a troll on the way. They had to pitch camp on the beach and waited another day until a passing ship came by that they could flag down. Booking passage, the dwarf brothers Olav and Aleger decided that they wanted to check out the mining claim they’d inherited which was downstream only another day. Wagstaff wasn’t interested in this, and the party then split, with Agnal and Gulch joining Wagstaff and the dwarfs (NPCs at this time) convincing all of the hired help to go with them. Ouch! Another seriously unexpected development. I honestly didn’t understand this as the dwarfs' interest was on the way downstream to the High Falls which lie at the head of the Dordogne Valley to the east. All I can think is that there might have been some resentment or feeling of being railroaded but that’s fine… roll with it right?

So the three characters continued downstream after bidding farewell to their former companions at their drop off point. I got a little nervous since I was completely improvising so much. Still, I was happy that it appeared the Dordogne setting was going to be used after all since I’d originally begun developing it for my wife who’s since shown little interest in playing (and I’m not going to press it). That said, linking the setting into the larger world hadn’t really been sketched out yet. Though it’s based on a location in France, I wanted a way to isolate it from the larger world - hence the High Falls, a steep drop off and cliff that extends quite a distance north and south, with a valley beginning at the base of the falls with the water continuing to flow east.

There was a small permanent camp at a place just short of the falls and at the top of a steep trail which descended into the valley. The party was considering hiring guides when they were approached and offered employment as additional guards for the goods that had been offloaded. This they accepted, and they were led down the trail to a place where the road diverged a little ways from the river to the south. The caravan was heading to a medium sized keep on a rise slightly to the north, else they could continue onwards to the east, following the river before it entered the valley proper with its numerous tightly packed castles and small towns. Perhaps due to their small number, they decided to stick with the caravan and made their way to the keep where they secured lodging and sought an audience and employment with a certain castellan. This was when I brought out a trusted old friend published by TSR way back in the day. I knew I'd use it for at least one of the castles of the region, and since I wasn't quite prepared, the time seemed ripe.

Funny thing is, I'm rotating that tower back into play at some point. It's going to have the same quality as that fortress in Krull that disappears and randomly appears in other locations every so often. When it does, everyone will talk about it of course because of the lightning. So it'll be there when and if the players are ready again.

Ravenloft - Featured Article at Wikipedia Today

Just sayin'. (Article here in case you've come to this blog post late). It's always nice to see the older stuff get some publicity...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fantasy Islands: The Excellence of X1

Though I didn’t get anything accomplished creatively over the weekend while vacationing, I did bring along my copy of TSR’s X1: The Isle of Dread. I’d been thinking about it lately because of its inclusion of dinosaurs and because of the island setting generally. Way back at Cavecon, I shared that I’d like to see and had been considering writing up an S&W based game or oceanic setting, not quite Ruins & Ronin but something like Polynesia meets Fantasy. Fantesia? Maybe seeing Grégory’s tank and dinosaur hybrids brought it up for me again.

X1 is jam packed with mini-adventures. Among many other things, it gives a nod to Haiti and zombie masters, has a roof-top village that reminds me of the wookie home planet or the moon of Endor, and has a partially flooded dungeon beneath a temple. Its dinosaurs brought to mind the Land of the Lost as a kid, but also King Kong. And of course, it has pirates. The need for the art of diplomacy might suddenly seem obvious to your players in an island setting like this, especially if it’s something they’ve never cultivated before.

As great as the module is in different ways, above all I think both as player and DM it brought to my attention just how compelling islands are as adventure settings. There you have the unknown in every way - do the natives speak our language? Are they friendly and what gods do they worship or magic know? What strange never before seen creatures or dangers may lurk there… Has civilization as we know it even reached it yet?

From a DM’s point of view, each island can be a campaign itself - their self-contained nature lends themselves to this. There’s no naturalistic urge to link one island to another in quite the same way as with mainland cultures, races, or otherwise. Like the potentially unique character of a dungeon, the island stands apart. Here we can find strange variations on the familiar, like giant creatures long since extinct on the mainland, or perhaps we’ll find a portal to another time, or alien technology or aliens themselves. Islands are like planets that way, just floating in space waiting to be explored.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back from the Coast

The tireless Moji.
Just back from the coast and celebrating our 10th anniversary... I’d brought a bunch of stuff with me over the weekend thinking I’d put together some new mini-dungeon or at least draw something, but between dog walks on the beach, champagne, and lots of beer and baseball watching (my wife is very understanding and fortunately a Giants fan) I didn’t have time for anything creative... looking forward now to catching up on my blog reading.