Sunday, May 21, 2017

Sunday Inspirational Image: Demon Queen

Part of me looks at a picture like this and thinks "this is an ancient demon who is, quite frankly, bored with the whole "Queen of Darkness" shtick. Not that she's looking to be an angel or anything, but something different..."

The other part of my brain thinks, "No, she's perfectly content being a demon, powerful, beautiful, and terrifying. The whole redemptive story arc is for losers!"

By Chris Cold

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Tale of Two New Treks

A Tale of Two Treks
Star Trek Discovery’s first real trailer premiered Wednesday, and I watched it, repeatedly, with cautious optimism. There’s a lot going on, some things I don’t like, some things that I do. Keep in mind, this is based on the trailer alone, and I reserve the right to change my mind.

Initial Likes:
Diverse Cast: Just gonna get this out of the way, but the two lead characters are female? And neither of them is white? Plus the rest of the cast appears to be just as diverse? Excellent.
The Feel: While definitely taking ques from the JJ-Verse, this still, mostly, feels like Star Trek. Starfleet, Vulcans, Klingons, etc.
10 Years before Kirk: There’s a lot of potentially interesting storytelling to be done in this era. On the other hand, it also puts it about 15 years (give or take) after the split in the timelines between the Alpha universe and the JJ-Verse.
Klingons: Excellent. Classic villains of the era. And they aren’t the swarthy TOS Klingons either!
Uniforms: As much as I like the PJs in Space look, these look good.

Initial Dislikes:
My people were biologically determined for one purpose alone, to sense the coming of death. I sense I coming now.” There had better be a *really* good backstory for this…
The Ships: Granted, we haven’t gotten a good look at them yet, but my initial feel is unimpressed. Like many, I did not care for the teaser of the Discovery that was shown a while back, and was glad when the studio said that it wasn’t the final version, just a teaser…
Another Half Vulcan? Really? We’ve already had this story with Spock. Twice now.
Uniforms: I am a little sad that the Enterprise’s chevron seems to have been adopted fleet wide at this point.
Klingons: Crap, they’re the JJ-Verse Klingons. Please be more interesting than what we’ve seen, and please don’t dump on everything shown in TNG/DS9/Voy…
Lens Flairs

Classic Aliens: Let’s see some Andorians and Telerites! We got them in Enterprise, let’s see them here!
Stay Away from TOS: It’s a big universe. I don’t need to see young Spock, young Kirk, etc. Wait, Sarek and Harry Mudd are in it? Oh… well… Don’t screw it up?
Universe: Wait, which universe is this set in?

On the flip side of things, there’s Seth MacFarlane’s new show The Orville, which visually feels much closer to classic Trek than Discovery does, but... fails on so many other levels. And it isn’t because there can’t be humor in Star Trek. In fact some of the best moments in Trek are because of the humor! Hell, Galaxy Quest did an amazing job spoofing Star Trek, while at the same time managing to make one of the best Trek films ever made.

Yet this? In the trailer we get bathroom humor, sexist gender stereotyped humor that feels like it’s from the 80’s or 90’s… It just doesn’t come across as funny. Okay, the bit with the blob was cute, but is there going to be enough here to sustain a TV show? To make it a show worth watching? I have my doubts.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sunday Inspirational Image: Sapphire Knight

When I first saw it I thought it might have been another set of 3D printed armor, but this is actually crafted from leather!

By Azmal

Saturday, May 13, 2017


Convention season is upon us!

For those in the greater Baltimore/DC metro area, next weekend (5/20) is Charm City Game Day. There are a whole host of RPGs to choose from, no matter what your preferences are. From D&D (4th & 5th) to Ghostbusters and Gamma World, Lady Blackbird, and Shadowrun, there's something to enjoy. There are still seats available, so get going and sign up for me, since I can't go...

The weekend after is Balticon! And for once, they've got their schedule online early, with an app!! Crazy... I'm not sure what I'll be going to yet, but I'll be there!

And if you've never been to a Con, I'd like to direct you to Speculative Chic: Convention Life: Con Prep, Con Crud, Con Drop. It's a great read about how to prep for a con, how to survive a con with nearly your full health, and how to recover after the adventure.

Recover from a con? I know, sounds crazy, why would you need to recover from a weekend of fun? Well, because it's stressful, even when it's fun.
So go read and then get ready for some fun!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Stonehell: Blindly Wandering

Session 34(b) was played on 4/28

Eiric, wizard 3 (Kat)
Orpheus, Human Fighter 2 (Henchman)
- torch bearers (A A Ron, JJ Swats)
- men at arms (C, D)
- Namish (dog)
Matthias, Dwarf 4 (Julia)
- men at arms (M&M, Nnnn)
- Herrick (dog)
Daryll (NPC Cleric 1, Prisoner)

Stayed in town
Bisimwa, Human Fighter 1 (Jordan)
Sarin the Ugly, Human Fighter 1 (Josh)
Menchi, Human Cleric 1 (Laural)
Kili, Dwarf Cleric (Matt)
Leroy, human fighter 3 (Mike)
Unnamed, Elf 1 (Nicole)
Karlaih, Human Thief 5 (Mollie)
Tink, a pretentious Elf (but I repeat myself) and former barkeep (Hanna)
Shelly, a vegetarian recovering alcoholic halfling Thief 3 (Nadia)
Frank, halfling 1 (Emily)
Yaqen, elf 1 (Shaun)

After nearly a week of rest and recovery the party is ready to head back into Stonehell! Matthias hires two men at arms (M&M and Nnnnn) and buys a wardog Herrick.

Returning to the baboon’s room, they double check it for anything they missed the first time, but find nothing… not even the bodies. Further along the hall they avoid the broken spear trap, though it looks like the kobolds haven’t gotten around to fixing it yet. The next door open into a room covered in patches of grey mold. Being careful not to disturb the mold, the party moves to the door at the far end of the room. Matthias opens the door, and there’s a bright flash of light! With a critical fumble on his saving throw, he’s blind! Beyond the mold room is an old kitchen, and then a wash room. The only thing of value found is an old corpse of a priest.

Back into the hall, they pause at the old pharmacy, then check out the short hallway that has “Secret Room” written in chalk at the end of it. Matthias, still blind, decides to go at the wall with his pickaxe when yet again no door is found. This draws the attention of a hobgoblin scouting party that just watches from the shadows. After a solid 10 minutes the party stops Matthias, and they move on, yet again failing to find the secret room.

Moving on, they pass through some previously explored rooms, fill in some hallway on the maps they’d missed before, find a pile of shoes and boots, all in perfect condition, but only the left of the pair. They head back to fill in more of the map, and catch sight of the hobgoblins lurking behind them. No one seems to want to fight or talk.

Passing by an old store room, the party heads into the Reptile House and turn north. Thre first chamber is hexagonal with a 4 headed snake statue on it. The pedestal the statue rests on has 2 holes on it about an inch in diameter. Carefully avoiding the statute, the party continues along the hall, finding a pair of old bed chambers. The second chamber had the bloated body of a hobgoblin on the bed being eaten by a pair of giant flies.

Matthias charges in blindly swinging with his battle axe, cleaving one in half. The other lands on his back and bites him, but it is smashed moments later. Searching the hobgoblin they find a pair of gems. Deciding they’ve had enough, the party heads back to the stairs and up to the Antechamber, passing some Ghost Beggars and then a troop of kobolds on their way out.

Back in town, Eiric pays 400gp and turns over the holy symbol from the dead priest to cure Matthias’ blindness.

Gains: 3gp, 2 gems (25 & 50gp value)
Kills: 2 giant flies
Losses: 400gp for healing

Per the book, the blindness was only supposed to last 2d6 rounds, but a critical fumble, followed by 2 more failed saving throws, and I decided the spell had been boosted by the Nixthisis.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Stonehell: Monkey Business

Session 34(a) was played on 4/28

Eiric, wizard 3 (Kat)
Orpheus, Human Fighter 2 (Henchman)
- torch bearers (A A Ron, JJ Swats)
- men at arms (A, B, C, D)
- Namish (dog)
Matthias, Dwarf 4 (Julia)
Daryll (NPC Cleric 1, Prisoner)

Stayed in town
Bisimwa, Human Fighter 1 (Jordan)
Sarin the Ugly, Human Fighter 1 (Josh)
Menchi, Human Cleric 1 (Laural)
Kili, Dwarf Cleric (Matt)
Leroy, human fighter 3 (Mike)
Unnamed, Elf 1 (Nicole)
Karlaih, Human Thief 5 (Mollie)
Tink, a pretentious Elf (but I repeat myself) and former barkeep (Hanna)
Shelly, a vegetarian recovering alcoholic halfling Thief 3 (Nadia)
Frank, halfling 1 (Emily)
Yaqen, elf 1 (Shaun)

Eiric gathered up everyone she could, and headed off into Stonehell. The stated goal is to get to the elevator, down to level 4 and get some of the good quartz for Rocky… The Antechamber was quiet, and they made their way down the stairs to the Asylum without incident. They passed the skeleton whose mother never loved it, and headed north to check the room marked “bones”. A opens the door, and quickly “Nope’s!” out of the way. Within was a ritualistically arranged assortment of bones. Circles within circles of bones of all shapes and sizes from a variety of different creatures.

“Wilhelm wrote about this, and said he’d destroyed the arrangement…” Matthias said with a frown. “Like this!” and taking his 10’ pole, he sends the bones clattering around the room.

That taken care of, they continue up the hall. The next door they come to has low animal noises coming from within. When they knock, the noises become much louder and more simian. The door is yanked open from within, and 5 large baboons come leaping out into the hall! The initial attack hurt several members of the party and dropped A completely! Luckily for the party they outnumbered the apes, and were better armed and armored, and the beasts were quickly eliminated.

A survived, but his knee was shattered. While he was bandaged up, the baboon’s room was checked, as was the room beyond. Aside from a few coppers, there was nothing of value. A short discussion on what to do with A left him begging not to be left alone. With a sigh, the party bundled him up as best they could, and hauled him back up the stairs and heading to town.

Back in the Antechamber, near the Contested Corridors, a revengeful band of orcs set upon the burdened party. It doesn’t go well for them, and the few survivors run. As they catch their breath, they notice that B is down on the ground next to A with a shattered arm. They get him up on his feet, and together everyone leaves the dungeon back to town.

A and B are let go from their contracts, and given a small AD&D payout.

Gains: 35cp
Kills: 6 Orcs, 5 Higher Baboons
Losses: A & B retire from adventuring

Friday, May 5, 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 Review

Last night I made it to the earliest showing I could for the newest installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2. Here is your spoiler free review!

I remember when the first one came out just about everyone I knew (including me) were saying how this could be Marvel's first flop. When they first announced it, my reaction was... well... this:

Of all the characters and teams that Marvel has access to, they picked these losers to make a movie with? A talking racoon? A walking tree? And the guy from Parks and Rec as the lead? Really?!?

And yet, they pulled it off, and it was Awesome. It was colorful, and it was fun, and it just took the goofiness of the comics and ran with it. I loved it. (I'd link to my glowing review, but I didn't write one.) So much so that I saw it in the theaters 3 times.

So it was with some trepidation and a lot of hope that I watched the first trailers for volume 2, and then avoided any and all spoilers as best I could, and I'm glad I did. They set a high bar, and I wasn't sure if, lacking the element of surprise the first one had, they could even match it, let alone try to top it. I lowered the bar a little because of this. Sequels are almost never better than the original...

So what do you get with GotGv2? Much of the same as in the first movie. Same cast, including Yondu and the Ravagers, Nebula, and a few delightful cameos from the first movie. You get (sometimes jarring) color, radio classics from the 70s and early 80s (maybe not quite as tight a mix as volume 1), fun ridiculous fights in outlandishly bizarre locations.

You also get a lot of daddy/family issues, and not just from Peter/Star Lord. Gamora and Nebula have their share they need to work out. Rocket's working through some shit. Drax still suffers from the loss of his family. And of course you have the whole team working everything out with their own intertwined relationships. Never easy with a band of misfits used to working alone like these guys.

Added to the mix are a few new characters, including Mantis, played by Pom Klementieff who is a delightful addition to the cast. I really enjoyed watching her and Drax play off each other. I also like that Kraglin Obfonteri, played by the highly entertaining Sean Gunn got a fair bit more screen time this time around. I'm pretty sure he's still just playing Kirk from Gilmore Girls, but... that works for me in the same way Jeff Goldblum always basically plays himself in everything.

Overall I really liked Vol. 2. After one viewing I can say it at least hit the bar I'd hoped for. As to whether it is better than the original... Hard to say. I will say that I'm going to see it again next weekend, if only to catch the lines that I missed because of people laughing and clapping!!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

May the Fourth be with you!


by Drawnblud

Also, do you like the Beetles? And Star Wars? Then do yourself a favor and watch this!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Defenders

Okay, normally I don't just post trailers...

August 18th...

Tire snake

The small caravan rumbled noisily along the old mountain road. Exhaust from the old fuel burners billowed black into the air along side vehicles rigged with both solar panels and wind turbines. Ahead outriders on a mix of zebroids and oink-oxen. They spotted the cast off bits of vulcanized hide littering the way, shredded black strips over the cracked black surface.

"Keep your lookers open" the headman warned. "They'll likely be somewhere sunny or warm..."

Unfortunately that warm spot was behind the outriders, which they realized as the first of the serpents rolled down the side of the mountain and toward the lead vehicle. The driver was a little too slow to react, swerving too late. The serpent slammed hard into the side panel of the truck, cracking the reinforced windows. Shots were fired at the following serpents coming down the mountain, the misses telegraphed by the small puffs of dirt and the mini explosions of rock shards.

Tire Snakes developed their thick hides as a response to the increased radiation following the end of the world. Whether this was with the assistance of some mad scientist or a naturally occurring mutation, no one seems to know, and few care. While they can move like the snakes of old, they've also developed a method of locomotion that helps explain their name, but biting down on their own tail and rolling like a wheel. Of necessity, they're highly aggressive hunters, though not the best at hiding their presence as they constantly shed slivers of their hide.

No. Enc.: (1d8) 1d8
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 3
Attacks: 1 (Bite or slam)
Damage: 1d6 or 2d6
Save: F4
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: IV
XP: 65

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Stonehell: Conflicts in the Contested Corridors

Session 33 was played on 4/14

Eiric, wizard 3 (Kat)
Orpheus, Human Fighter 1 (Henchman)
- torch bearers (Z, JJ)
- men at arms (EE, GG, HH)
Bisimwa, Human Fighter 1 (Jordan)
Sarin the Ugly, Human Fighter 1 (Josh)
Menchi, Human Cleric 1 (Laural)
Kili, Dwarf Cleric (Matt)
Matthias, Dwarf 4 (Julia)
Daryll (NPC Cleric 1, Prisoner)

Stayed in town
Leroy, human fighter 3 (Mike)
Unnamed, Elf 1 (Nicole)
Karlaih, Human Thief 5 (Mollie)
Tink, a pretentious Elf (but I repeat myself) and former barkeep (Hanna)
Shelly, a vegetarian recovering alcoholic halfling Thief 3 (Nadia)
Frank, halfling 1 (Emily)
Yaqen, elf 1 (Shaun)

Eiric gathers the party together, and heads to the dungeon. Just outside of town a cloaked dwarf joins the troop, claiming to be Wilhelm’s cousin. As the grief over his passing was still so raw, Eiric allowed him to join the party, in spite of his snarky comments.

Once in the dungeon, they headed for the contested corridors, checking out the old orc encampment. The rooms had been looted since the party had last been here, and there was little to be found, until they found the orc chief’s chamber. A large rough bed filled most of the chamber, and as the door opened, letting torchlight sign in, half a dozen naked goblins dove off and crawled under the bed.

“Disturb not the she-wizard’s lair!” one squeaky voice called out.

“I’m the she-wizard!” Eiric called out.

“Uh… Disturb not the… the… sheet-wizard!” From the far side of the room, the blanket was pulled off the bed.

“If you’re a wizard, tell us where the magic school is!”

“Did we say wizard? Disturb not the sheet-priest!”

Eiric sighed and questioned the goblins briefly about the area. The goblins told her that with the orcs defeat, they’d taken over the area, but they didn’t seem to know much else. Leaving the goblins to their own devices, the party moved on.

Deciding to fill in some of the map, they took a corridor they hadn’t explored, and came across some caves, and a group of kobold mushroom farmers heading back to the Korners. The parties greeted each other, and passed without incident, though they did warn the party about the magic wall, so of course they headed for it immediately.

Halfway across the cave they felt the tingling, and their suspicions were confirmed when Matthais approached it and felt the magnetic pull. He slid toward it, the pull on his armor making it hard for him to get away. Sarin tossed him a rope, and helped him get away. They then stripped out of their armor and collected several chips and chunks of the wall.

Exploring further into the caves they came to the kobolds’ mushroom garden, and spotted several Ghost Beggars poaching! The 4 of them were killed very quickly, with only one giant mushroom destroyed in the process. After the battle, the large bucket hanging down through a natural chimney showed how they got into the cave. Matthias got into the bucket, and it started to rise. About 20 feet up in the air, the light from above was blocked, and a voice called out. The Ghost Beggars realized that that wasn’t one of their own, and they didn’t take the news well. Whether it was the bodies of their fellows gutted below, or the talk of Matthias’ other cousin ____, they kept the bucket suspended above the farm, and dropped oil down toward it. Matthias spotted it, and jumped free, crushing more mushrooms, but avoiding being soaked in oil. The torch that followed the oil was more concerning, and the party ran.

Back in the regular halls the party came to the octagonal desert room with the broken sphinx statue. They continued deeper into the hall and came next to an octagonal seashore room. They noticed a couple of small holes on one wall and checked it out. Beady eyes glared out of the holes, and Matthias decided to poke them with the 10’ pole. In response, 10 pissed off giant rats swarmed out and attacked. They managed to do some damage, but were all killed rather swiftly.

Past the ocean room, the party encounters a group of Berzerkers! They misidentify Matthias as Wilhelm, and invite the party into their chamber for a drink. The party accepts, and Matthias sings the song of his people… but it’s a different song than Wilhelm used to sing. The mood of the room turned quickly, and the berzerkers not so subtly reached for their weapons…

The fight was vicious and bloody, but the magical ability of the party helped tipped the balance. Eiric’s snake staff kept one berserker immobilized, but not before Orpheus took a broadsword to the side of the head. A touch of magical healing kept him from death. Unfortunately, they had little treasure to be looted.

Returning to their exploration, the party came to a room with a rough statue carved of salt, seemingly guarding the interior door. As expected, the statue animated when they reached for the door. Sarin wildly swung his sword, missing the statue, and impaled EE, who bleed out as soon as the sword was pulled from his gut. The room beyond was an old and dusty study, but at least had a stash of hidden gold.

Further back along the hall the party opened the door onto a massive machine. Pipes, gears, chains, and levers were arranged in a baroque web of steel, brass, and other unidentifiable metals.

“That looks like a deathtrap” Eiric says.

“I’m gonna touch it.” Matthias replies, and enters the room. The first lever pulled causes the machine to shake violently and make a variety of noises as the belts spin and steam leaks out of various cracked pipes. Next he twists some random knobs, which change the noises, adding a clunking sound, followed by a rattle of stones on metal, as several organic crystals fall out of a shoot and into a small bin. Pushing a big button causes the noises to get even louder and more constant, before a chunk of the machine breaks, spraying the room with a mist of oil, and filling the air with greasy steam.

“Are you happy now?” Eiric asks.

Matthias grins and says “Yes!”

Feeling they’d accomplished enough, and not wanting to stick around after all that noise, the party returns to the Kobold Korners for some rest.

Gains: Organic Crystals, 1000gp, 20pp
Kills: 6 Berzerkers, 10 Giant Rats, 4 Ghost Beggars, Rocksalt Golem
Losses: EE