Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Countdown to Infinity War: Black Panther

Yes, this isn't in the correct order for my countdown, but on Friday I went to see Black Panther, and WOW...



Yes, there has been lots of hype, and maybe that's turned you off. Maybe you've seen the FAKE reports of white people being attacked? Maybe you've read some racist reviews of the movie.

Ignore the noise, and go see it.

Go now.

It was fantastic.

First off, let's talk visuals, because that's the first thing that's going to grab you. The colors, the prints, the textures, the textiles are all vibrant and eye catching. They're different from anything I've ever seen, and make me want to find all of the concept art and just let it soak into my brain. If this doesn't win major awards for costume design all year long, it's gonna be a crime. And yes, I'm saying that even against the visually spectacular Wrinkle in Time that's coming out soon.

Next up, the story. Wakanda, the hidden technologically advanced kingdom that the world thinks of as a poor 3rd world nation has a new king who has challenges both within and without. To remain a hidden nation, or to open up and help guide the world to be better? It's a timely take, seeing how they weave together the tale of a fictional African nation with the challenges faced by black people everywhere, from the abduction and enslavement of boys and girls on the African continent, to the challenges faced by African-Americans here in the USA... it isn't necessarily a comfortable movie from that perspective.

Killmonger, the main antagonist, is one of the most nuanced and sympathetic villains who (without being too much of a spoiler) causes some serious questioning about who's actually in the right, about what the right thing to do is.

And can I tell you about the women? You know the bechdel test? Forget it. We now have the Wakanda test. Seriously, if the women in future films don't match how awesome, independent, powerful, and beautiful as the women in Black Panther are, it's failed. There is now no longer any excuse filmmakers! Step up! 

Look back up at the poster. See how the women take up a solid 3rd+ of the poster? Each of those women steal the scene from T'Challa and Killmonger every time.

Why are you still reading this? Go see it! I can't wait till I can see it again...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Countdown to Infinity War: Avengers

When last we saw Loki, he was falling from Asgard into space. Now we see him receiving a glowing scepter, and ready to wage war upon mankind... And he's going to use the Tesseract to do it!

Nick Fury realizes it's time to bring the team together!



In bringing the team together, you get a whole lot of big personalities onto a screen that might not be big enough to hold all of them. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America have all headlined their own movies. (So has the Hulk, but with a different actor) They're used to doing things their way and on their own. And so you get the inevitable learning to work together/heroes fighting each other scene. Which was actually about as awesome as it was predictable, and made even better with Loki just kind of watching from the sidelines with that bemused smile.

Grumbling, squabbling, and fighting continue until Loki escapes and in the process kills the beloved Agent Phil Coulson. That gets the team to work together... with a little help from Fury showing off some of his Captain America trading cards, conveniently bloodied...

Then there's the big fight as Loki's portal is opened, and the chittari army arrives in midtown Manhattan, which the Avengers manage to defeat, mostly because the shadowy world council decides to nuke NYC, and Iron Man tosses that up into the portal. It's fun, and spectacular, and interesting seeing how these wildly different heroes all use their skills and powers to face the enemy. One thing that stands out is how much focus is spent not just on defeating the bad guys, but on saving as many lives as possible. You don't see that a whole lot in other movies like that.

The Avengers does a really good job making sure that everyone gets not only their fair share of screen time, and opportunities to look cool, but more importantly, the chance to interact with everyone else, often one on one. It really gives the characters the space to show their personalities. This is doubly so as everyone interacts with Loki! In such a busy movie with so many characters it's fantastic that they took the time to do it, and that's what helps makes the MCU so unlike everything that's come before.

Next Up: Tony Stark's PTSD! (aka Iron Man 3)

Side note: The Avengers Assemble album might be one of my favorite mixes of great songs to get stuff done to. Crank it up, and you'll want to get moving!

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Stories from the Shelf of Shame: Scoundrel (and Hero)

Every once and a while I'm tempted to snag something I've painted before to touch it up. Usually I overcome this compulsion by looking at all the minis I own that don't have any paint on them at all yet. The space between those 2 is the shelf of shame, miniatures started and never completed. For whatever reason they were abandoned. Looking through my figure case recently I found a few such minis, forgotten for years.

While I was waiting for the werewolf, rats, and hyena that I'd based to dry, I decided to make a quick pass at cleaning up one of them, and just getting it done.

This time I picked the Scoundrel mini from Wizards of the Coast's line of Star Wars metal minis. Now, back in the early 2000's my painting style wasn't... refined. I'd blocked in the basic colors, and touched a few details... and then stopped. Blue shirt, black pants, brown belt, orange skin (dwarven flesh maybe? It was very Trumpian in tone), and red-brown cloak brown hair.





Sadly I forgot to snag a picture before I started working on the skin tones. Here I've given the skin a coat of Warrior Flesh and started on the eyes.









Also, since I was kind of speed painting my way along with him, there aren't really any other WiP pictures, but here's what I did:
Highlighted the cloak, and added in some decorative edging along the yoke.
Shadowed and highlighted the shirt using a combination of Imperial Purple and Oceanic Blue.
Added depth to the hair with Auburn Shadow wash, and Fire Orange highlights
Auburn Shadow eyebrows
Glazed the pants with Sepia Wash



I also replaced the base, and used my Happy Seppuku Temple Courtyard base stamp. I also decided to finished the Jake Ryan reaper mini that I painted a couple of years ago, and give him a base too.



Need to clean up the edge of the base a bit, and the boots that got some grey on it, but otherwise DONE!

Total Minis Painted This Month: 1 (not counting Jake)
Total Minis Painted This Year: 7

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Frostgrave Werewolf, Rats, & Hyena (part 1)

I decided for my next project I wanted another simple, quick, no fuss couple of minis that I could fairly mindlessly paint up. Digging through my box of goodies, I came across my bag of frostgrave minis... A werewolf, hyena, and a couple of rats. That's nice and easy...



So I cleaned up their flashing and moldlines, and glued them to bases...


That's... Not good. Looks like he's on some sort of surfboard... But he doesn't really look good on a 2" base either.

Well, if I trim off the edges maybe... no... Okay, maybe if I build up the base, put him at an angle, no... maybe if I trim him completely off the surfboard? Okay, and bend the leg...



Okay, now I need to pin him...

And add some weight to the base, cause he's tipping over...



Suddenly my simple project ended up having a fairly complicated base.



But it does look like 100% better!



The rats and hyena weren't nearly as much effort.



Primed with some Stynylrez airbrush primer that I got in my swag bag from ReaperCon.



I then washed the werewolf with sepia wash, ans painted the rats with Ruddy flesh. And that's where I stopped for the night.

More to come...

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Stonehell: Dorm Antics

Session 56 was played on 12/27

Eiric, wizard 6 (Kat)
- men at arms (Koltic, Pargax)
- linkmen (Lomax)
- dog (Neon)
A-A-Ron, Thief 6 (Henchman)
Daryll, Cleric 6 (Henchman)
Orpheus, Human Fighter 5 (Henchman)
Karl, Dwarf 6 (Julia)
- dog (Hobart)
- men at arms (Bollox, GoMat)
Lex the Cheeseman, Fighter 3
Brie, wizard 2 (Apprentice to Eiric)

Lex miraculously makes it from the witch’s cabin back to the orphanage while only 1’ tall and naked. After hiding out for a couple of days, he returns to his normal height… more or less.

Gearing up, the party heads to the dungeon, stopping once again in Kobold Korners. The excavation is taking longer than Trustee Sniv expected, so the party makes their way back to the Monster Dorm. Picking a new hallway, they trigger a dart trap, much to A-A-Ron’s shame. A-A-Ron and Koltic both avoid the large darts that shoot out, but Bollux and Karl are both hit. Bollux drops, and Darryl quickly uses his magic to save him.

Further down the hall, large white ape-like creatures attack the party, knocking out Paragax before they’re cut down. Darryl heals him too.

Investigating a small room with a cistern, they’re set upon by giant spiders. Karl is bit in the short battle, but doesn’t suffer from any poison effects. Paragax, trying to shoot the spiders, hits Karl. After the battle, Karl makes him drink the “male enhancement potion” that Paragax has had from the start. Turns out it was Love Potion #9, and Paragax fell insatiably, in lust with Karl. In disgust, Karl pushes him into the cistern. Nothing eats him.

The party is drawn back out into the hallway by the sound of large, heavy, and metallic being dragged across a stone floor. Gnolls trying to loot an iron maiden freeze at the sight of the party. Everyone takes a moment, and Eiric talks to them. Conversation is limited, but they warn the party about going down *that* hallway because that was where they lived.

Moving on, they avoid the trap the gnolls didn’t warn them about, and investigate the room they were dragging the iron maiden out of. The old torture chamber was dusty and rusty, but they did find a secret compartment the gnolls missed, and took the treasure within.

Continuing along the hall, they pass a large boulder blocking a doorway, and hear some talking from the next door. They decide to knock. The talking stops, and an 8’ tall shaggy beast pokes his nose out the door. “Wat you want?”

Karl holds up his wineskin. “Trade?”

The beast grunts, shuts the door, moves something heavy and then reopens the door. A hobgoblin yells “It’s them! Kill them!” as he raises his blade. The 7 bugbears forcibly restrain the 3 hobgoblins. “We trade.” the bugbear chief directs. The conversation touches on the fact that the hobgoblin warcaster is working with Ful’kith, who commands the bugbears. In exchange for the dwarven ale, they get a gallon of kobold ale, and “the good stuff” brewed down below.

Backtracking again, they take a side passage, where the sounds of both running water and a strong wind can be heard. They continue on into one of the dorms, checking out the rooms, one by one.

They encounter:
Spiders! - Power Thirst & Torch and close the door.
Red centipedes, that poison Hobart! Karl is panicked, and demands that the party return to the Korners, in hope that there’s some antidote there. The closest there is is a concoction brewed by the soothsayer. Hobart survives both the poison and the cure. The party buys some snakes on a stick, then returns to the dorm.
Pit viper!
More centipedes!
More spiders!

After cleaning out this section of dorm rooms, the party returns to Kobold Korners, and meets again with Trustee Sniv, who expresses a great interest in acquiring the dwarven beer Karl has.

Back to the dorm, they go to the weird fountain at the back and check it out. Spotting several glittery things, Karl strips down, slips on the ring of swimming, and takes the flaming dagger, and gets into the hip deep water. He gets the first sparkly thing out, when the water itself seems to attack him. He mostly ignores it, and keeps going for the treasure. 5 things are tossed out before the water drags him under. Orpheus and Lex rush forward, grabbing Karl by the beard and yanking him out and dragging him away from the frothing water.

Karl gets dressed, and the party heads back to Kobold Korners for a well deserved rest and drink before heading back to town to split the loot.

Gains: 150gp, gems, magic sword, 4 pieces of jewelry
Kills: Snow Apes, Spiders, Centipedes
Losses:

Monday, February 12, 2018

Countdown to Infinity War: Captain America The First Avenger

Closing in on the end of Phase 1 of the MCU, we round out the big names of the Avengers with the 2011 film Captain America, the First Avenger...

But it's not just Cap that's introduced, but the first of the Infinity Stones! An artifact left behind by the Asgardians? Hidden away in an old church in Norway decorated in viking iconography, and stolen by Heir Schmidt...



I don't know if it's accurate to say they were saving the best for last, but this is a really solid war movie. Oh, and a comic book movie too! With this installment of the MCU the series begins to edge toward not just making good comic movies, but making good movies in a variety of genres that then overlap with comics. Going forward we're going to see spycraft/thrillers, heist movies, team movies, redemptive stories, and out there gonzo inception level weirdness. Here, though, here we have World War II, and a beanpole kid from Brooklyn desperate to serve because he doesn't like bullies.

Like the original Iron Man, I've seen this movie a whole bunch of times, and while it's fun like Iron Man, it does it in an entirely different way. While Tony Stark is the wisecracking playboy, Steve Rogers is the straight man. He's almost painfully earnest. And going in, I did not have a high opinion of Captain America.  He's a boy scout...he's just... well, kinda boring, at least in the comics I'd read. But scrawny Steve getting beat up in the alley? This was a kid I could root for. Scrappy, willing to get dirty, bloody, whatever in order to stand up for what's right. Especially when he stands back up after getting knocked down again and again, and says "I could do this all day." Because you know he would. Thankfully his friend Sgt. Bucky shows up to help him out.

But he finally gets in, as part of a special science experiment unit... and shows his true self when he jumps on the grenade tossed into the middle of the group of enlistees by Colonel Phillips.


Once Steve gets injected with the super serum, and Howard Stark (nice tie in with both the Hulk and Iron Man 2 films here) zaps him with half the power in Brooklyn, we're quickly introduced to Hydra, who will come back to bother our heroes again and again from this point on. From here the plot picks up quickly, and Captain America takes the stage... literally! That is until his buddy's unit is captured in battle with Hydra forces, and Cap heads out to bring them home. Helping him get at least part of the way there are Agent Peggy Carter and Howard Stark!



Side note: I'm finding myself writing more about the plot of this movie than the previous ones, because so much of what I want to talk about seems to revolve more around the events of the film?



Captain America rescues his buddy, and most of the unit while at the same time seeing the weapons Dr. Zola is creating for Heir Schmidt, who is revealed as the Red Skull, an earlier recipient of the super serum that had some unfortunate side effects. Captain America then spends the next bit of the movie destroying the Hydra weapons factories, capturing Dr. Zola, and in the process losing his friend Bucky. All that isn't enough to stop the Red Skull from setting his final plan into motion - the destruction of every capital & major city in Europe and the USA. Cap manages to get on the big plane, fight Red Skull, who gets zapped... who knows where? leaving Cap to crash the big plane in the ice of the arctic ocean before it reaches NYC. The Tesseract is recovered by Stark, but the plane (and Cap) are lost...

Until Cap awakes in a hospital room in NYC, with a ball game playing on the radio. Cap realizes it's a deception, runs out into SHIELD HQ, and finds himself in modern day NYC, with Director Fury there to collect him.

For a movie that takes place DECADES before everything else, this is the one that really sets up everything that's going to happen in the Avengers, though I'm not sure how many people watching in the theaters picked up on that fact. Especially those who left before the end credit scene... I still don't get those people...

One of the coolest things in this movie was making a buff Chris Evans look like a 90lb nothing. That was an amazing bit of cinematic magic that was a million times more convincing than when Wesley Crusher in Star Trek TNG got "aged" 10 years by Q-Riker into a completely different actor who looked and sounded NOTHING LIKE Wil Wheaton!

Sorry, pet-peeve.

Back to the review - There's something immensely satisfying watching the soldiers punch, shoot, blow up, and generally destroy Nazis/Hydra troops. And while I could probably spend a happy 2 hours just watching that, the writers were very smart in the way the structured the film. We got to see cool snipits of the battles that Captain Rodgers and his band fought in, but we aren't bogged down in gratuitous stuff that doesn't actually move the story forward.

There were also a lot of moments that I'd literally cheer or laugh out loud at, from Agent Carter shooting at Steve as he holds his new shield for the first time, or the flag scene? Saving his friend Bucky! Hell, Punching Hitler over and over!

To wrap this up, The First Avenger is a stand up guy, and a necessary component of the team, and I'm really looking forward to bringing them all together in the Avengers!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Roller Girl



This is Reaper's Roller Girl (DYOM) painted up in the colors of the Charm City Roller Girls. Now it isn't an exact match for their uniforms since the mini doesn't exactly match what they where, but it's a case of close enough for government work.

Why did I paint up a roller derby girl mini? It certainly isn't what I usually work on... not anywhere close, really. But a friend of mine is a roller derby ref, and so I painted this up for her. I mailed it out Monday, so she should have it by now.



I started off by washing in warm soapy water, attaching her to a 30mm base, and then cleaning up the mold lines. Like most Reaper minis, this was a relatively clean mini as far as mold lines goes. The worst one is the one running on the base between her feet.



I primed her with Reaper's brush on primer, and then started adding the colors. I didn't want her in a tiny bikini, so I painted her up as if wearing something more like a superhero costume. I also did something a little different for me, which was to start dark, and build up layers of highlights.





She came together fairly quickly, and I'm happy with how she came out.

Total Minis Painted this month: 6 (painted in January)
Total Minis Painted this year: 6

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Countdown to Infinity War: Thor

2011 brought one of Marvel's craziest bits of story to life! Up till now, the MCU had been fairly grounded. Everything we'd seen on screen was grounded in science (even if that science was nuts. Gamma radiation kills you, it doesn't turn you into a monster).  This was Marvel's first step into the wider weirder world that includes the rainbow bridge, frost giants, and immensely powerful and long lived beings that are like gods.

Including the God of Thunder himself...



One of the things I really enjoyed about the movie was how they managed to get you up to speed on some basic Norse Mythology, and also brought the science and magic together in a totally hand-wavy sort of way that we'll just go with because while it looks a little silly, it also looks a little cool... so... yeah.

Also, Kenneth Branagh was the director, which gave the thee's and thou's a little more weight and made it less goofy. It's something that gets backed away from in Thor 3, but I'm getting ahead of myself. The Shakespearean nature of the story, feuding brothers vying to become the chosen successor to the throne, with a prideful fall, treachery, stalwart companions, and a deep secret that the king and queen hold... works well for Branagh, but doesn't necessarily make the best popcorn superhero flick.

You know what did work? Seeing a very hunky Chris Helmsworth topless. Let's all give it up for some prime fan service right there. It's no wonder Loki is jealous. As slick and fashionable as he is... it's hard to compete with those abs. It wasn't all high drama and abs though... There were also scenes like in the bar with Dr. Selvig and Thor drinking those massive beers, Thor smashing the coffee mug, and Thor getting hit by Jane's car... twice, that brought levity to what could have otherwise been a drag.

It is a very pretty movie, and is absolutely necessary to bring in all of the threads that are going to make up the next... well... all of the upcoming movies that are leading up to Infinity War. Though it wasn't stated explicitly, we got to see the first of the Infinity Stones this movie, but only if you stayed to the very end of the credits.

Next Up: Captain America:The First Avenger

Monday, February 5, 2018

Stonehell: Honey Badger Don't Care

Session 55 was played on 12/19

Eiric, wizard 6 (Kat)
- men at arms (Koltic, Pargax)
- linkmen (Lomax)
- Neon (dog)
A-A-Ron, Thief 6 (Henchman)
Daryll, Cleric 6 (Henchman)
Orpheus, Human Fighter 5 (Henchman)
Karl, Dwarf 5 (Julia)
- Hobart (dog)
- men at arms (Bollox, GoMat)
Borumar, ½ Orc Thief 4
Lex the Cheeseman, Fighter 2
Brie, wizard 1 (Apprentice to Eiric)

Borumar joins back up with the party, after having been off doing things with the local thieves guild. The party heads back into Stonehell, swinging by Kobold Korners to do their usual beer run, then back around and down to the Monster Dorm on the 3rd level. Taking the secret stairs down from the asylum, they head east, exploring a section of dungeon clearly built by dwarves.

Finding first a mess hall, with dwarven drinking song lyrics carved into the walls, Karl can’t help but burst into song. The songs of his people ring out for the first time in an age, and miracle of miracles, the empty wineskin he holds fills with the finest dwarven ale. He happily drinks it all down, and then sings all the songs again. Once again, the skin fills with ale.

Eiric calls an end to Karl’s fun, and they move on to a dwarven shrine. The statue of a hooded dwarven priest dominates one end, while the other side has a large altar carved in the shape of a badger. Under the altar, they find a secret passage that drops 100’ down. Karl, seeing as it’s in a dwarven shrine, volunteers to go himself. A bit later, he finally makes it to the bottom. Wheezing ever so slightly, he looks around at the vestry, the old robes dry, stiff, and mostly rotted away. The next room over is a dusty old hidden sanctum, A jeweled golden badger sits prominently in a beautifully carved apsidal chapel at the back of the room. As Karl steps into the room, the ghostly figure of a dwarf manifests.

“Who dares enter the sanctum sanctorum?!?”

“Karl, cousin of Wilhelm, cousin of Matthias”

“A true dwarf?”

“Yes…”

“If so, you know the liturgy of the Great Digger!” The apparition moves nose to nose with Karl. “Sing it… or die…”

Karl clears his throat and sings:
“Badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger
Mushroom, mushroom, a
Badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger
Mushroom, mushroom, a
Badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger
Mush-mushroom, a
Badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger
African! Snake, a snake
Snake! A snake, ooh it's a snake
It's a badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger, badger
Mushroom, mushroom, a”

“Stop! And what are the sacred words of the Digger and those who follow her?

“Honey Badger don’t care. Honey Badger don’t give a shit. It just takes what it wants.”

“You have proven yourself a true follower. Take what you want! And care not!” and the spirit fades away.

Minutes later, Karl is hauling, slowly, a chest of goods, including the icon, and the Hammer of the Honey Badger back up into the shrine. Seeing the riches Karl came back with, and having added a bit to the map, the party calls it a successful delve, and returns to the surface.

Splitting the goods, Borumar, Lex, and Karl all throw big parties. Borumar’s party is lavish, but restrained. Lex ends up drinking something from a witch’s cauldron, and shrinks to 1’ tall, with no clothing. Karl wakes up in the back room of an art gallery, listening to a pair of people discussing some abstract work in the other room. Karl’s butt has dried paint on it.

Meanwhile Eiric and Brie research the spell Summon Corgi.

Gains: Hammer of the Honey Badger (+1, can’t die from poison), 4880gp worth of assorted gems, jewelry, and coins
Losses: None
Kills: None

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Countdown to Infinity War: Iron Man 2

It was 2 years from Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk in 2008 to get the third installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don't actually remember that wait... we hadn't reached the point of getting good Marvel movies 2-3 times a year.

I'd remembered not being as fond of Iron Man 2, but not really why. Just that it wasn't as fun... and it wasn't. And yet, it was still a solid movie, and an important story in the life of Tony Stark. It ties in his father, Howard Stark, with SHIELD. It shows his relationship with Pepper, giving her a bit of a story arc, it brings in Warmachine (not to mention a new actor for Col. Rhodes), and it shows Tony's most significant fault; his pride.



And boy, does Tony's pride take him down a few notches.



He gets into a fight with his best friend, who takes one of his suits. He trashes his own house, and ends up eating donuts inside a donut nursing his hangover. He promotes Pepper to CEO, and then she kicks him out of his old office. He also gets fooled by Black Widow... oh, and his dad schools him on science. All in all, not his best showing. Knowing what I know now, I also know this isn't as bad as it gets.

For all that this isn't as fun as the first, it's still a worthy inclusion into the MCU. And after 2 years waiting for something more? I think everyone was pretty thrilled to get it. I do remember wondering if they were planning on just making the whole MCU revolve around Iron Man at this point...

Next Up: Thor

Friday, February 2, 2018

Demi-Plane-in-a-Hat wrap up

What follows are the after session emails I sent to my Wednesday night group as our campaign came to a close.

***
From 1/3

When we left off, you'd just defeated a pair of bony infernal monsters who'd been harassing the hanging nest-village of the bird people. What songs will they reveal now that you've saved them? Will you manage to escape your exile from the real world? Are you actually in a hat? And what's with the psychedelic cave inside the moon?

***
From 1/10

Last week you traveled from the hanging village of Paridae to the sub-cave of the One Who Wiggles. There, at the base of a coral-like growth of a tower, you fought both Norkers and eye-snakes.

***
From 1/17

Last week you faced the One Who Wiggles, the mask wearing collection of tentacles, and his weird lobster things. Some of the tentacle things squirmed away into the depths of its tower. The staff, robe, and mask remain... The eye worm still wiggles from the top of the staff, and the red gem still glows on the mask.

***
From 1/24

The party took a few seconds to heal up, and then chased after the scattered tentacles. Taking the down ramp deeper into the growth, the hallway expands around them, opening into a cyst-like cavity. At the far end is a man sized thing covered in a sheet. Before they can examine it, more of the lobster things emerge from the walls and attack, slowing the party's progress. It was a brutal fight, with the party penned in, attacked from the front, rear, and even above.

Uroth the rogue suffered the worst for it, as one of the lobster things back handed him with one claw, smashing him against the wall, before grabbing him around the torso with the other.. and squeezing. It pulled him close, wrapping it's mouth tentacles around his head. The second claw grabbed just below the first, and together they squeezed and pulled. His screams as he was literally torn apart were mercifully muffled by the tentacles.

Dinkle, dodging and weaving managed to only just avoid the same fate, while single handedly defeating the lobster he faced.

Roland's arcane skills preserved his pretty face as he raised shield after shield, while also using his lightning magic to stab, grab, and throw the lober on the ceiling away from the fight.

McGregor's skills with his bent blade, and heavy armor allowed him to pound out damage round after round (especially after he switched dice).

Marcie, small and surprised, supported her companions, attacking when she could reach, and in turn inspiring, taunting, and mocking those around her.

After the last of the lobsters was killed, the party used magic to pull the sheet from the mirror, and, amazingly, all managed to avoid looking directly in it. The sheet was replaced, and the party took a much needed short rest.

Then the one who wiggles returned...

***
From 1/31

"Give it back" the masked tentacle wizard demanded.

"No!" The party said pretty firmly.

Dinkle, the gnome monk wedged the evil wizard's staff under his arm, and sliced the tip of the sock covered wriggling tentacle sticking out of the top of it. It screamed, and Mr. Wiggles hissed.

Marcie, as charismatic AF, cast charm person on Mr. Wiggles. And, in what was only the first of a series of improbable failed saving throws, became charmed. Channeling the immortal Janice Joplin, she got on Mr. Wiggles' wavelength, and got him to share that he needs the stuff to help things from coming apart, and that their arrival seriously messed up his efforts to attack Hell. He then invited them down to his lab, and blinked out.

Taking a deep breath, they followed the passage down...

The next chamber that opened up was dimmer than any they'd been in since arriving in the psychedelic moon-caves. In one corner, a pile of slimy fish eggs was piled up, in another, a strange alchemical contraption, and in the middle of the room, a massive summoning circle. On the walls near the circle were chained up 5 figures: an elf, dwarf, bird-person, and 2 near-humans. All naked with bloody runes carved into their flesh. Mr. Wiggles stood at the far side of the circle.

"Please chain yourselves to the wall so that I can save us all" It asked. The party declined. Marcie scooped up one of the giant fish eggs. Within squirmed a demon larva. Marcy tossed it into the circle. Mr. Wiggles got out a "Noo!" The egg popped, and the thing that hit the floor unfolded into a massively wrinkly demon dog that Would

Not

Stop

Barking!

(and let's not talk about the terrible doggy breath)

Roland the arcane warrior stepped a little closer when it became clear that the doggie couldn't get out of the circle. Marcie noticed that the elf and dwarf were still alive. She set about freeing and healing the dwarf.

Dingle checked on the elf on the other side, while Black Dragon the human monk started to edge around toward Mr. Wiggles.

Once free, the dwarf, asked for a blade. Marcie gave him a dagger. He snatched it, and charged Mr. Wiggles. "Well, I guess it's on!" Everyone piled in. The first attack sliced through air, as Mr. Wiggles seemed to actually be about 5' over from where they thought it was. The dwarf wasn't bothered, and just plowed into him, and through him, holding a single tentacle, which he merrily stabbed. The image of Mr. Wiggles blinked out, and 3 other tentacles squirmed in its place. Dinkle went about using the wizard's own staff to kill them.

As the dwarf crossed over the edge of the circle, the demon doggie was suddenly free, and attacked Roland, but ineffectively. The elf, still chained up, magic missiled it. Roland finished it off easily.

Then something began to appear in the circle.

"Break the circle!!" But the circle, which was once carved into the fungus/coral like material of the cave seemed now to be inscribed in leather... and the wall looked more like silk than rock...

"Cut the circle!" Owen went at it with his sword, and Dinkle with the wizards bone bladed staff. A long tear dangled into the void below the circle... darkness... nothing... below...

The thing in the circle became more and more solid, a cloud of darkness flickering with black flame... Black Dragon charged into the circle, but was disoriented and stumbled back. The thing became as solid as it was going to get, and then lept out of the circle, and toward the alchemical apparatus, swatting down the dwarf, and hurting Dinkle. Then it released a cone of nightfire! Black Dragon rolled dramatically away, but Roland and Dinkle dropped from the necrotic rot that tore at their souls.

The elf shot it with magic missiles. Black Dragon tried slicing it with his sword, but it passed through as if there was nothing there. His fists had no problem connecting, and the beast slammed back (Improbably failed saving throw 2) into the alchemical equipment, smashing it. Marcie revived Roland first, then Dingle, while the monster batted with Black Dragon, and took another hit from the elf's spells.

Meanwhile, the now silken wall of the cave has caught fire from the beast's black flames. And Marcie hears, of all things, Birdsnot the Goblin... Yelling about fire!

"The magic of the hat is failing! And it's on fire! Birdsnot! Put it out! Baking Soda! Baking Soda!!" Marcie yells into the void showing where the silk has burned away.

"Guys, I'm gonna try something!" the elf yells and casts Polymorph. Improbably failed save #3... and he's a racoon. A very upset racoon of fire and darkness. But still, just a racoon... that launches itself angrily at Black Dragon.

"Guys! I'm gonna try something too!" Roland yells, grabbing the racoon by its tail. He then runs and throws it toward the hole.

"Lookout Birdsnot!" Marcie yells.

Dingle, not wanting to attack the racoon in Roland's arms, looks around, as does Black Dragon. Dingle notices a gold ring in the pulped remains of the tentacles. Black Dragon does not notice the gems that had spilled out of the alchemical device (critical failure!)

Amazingly, the racoon of fire and shadow manages to snag the edge of the leather flap dangling in the void.

Roland summons his arcane javelin, and skewers the small animal, which dies, releases its grip on the leather, falls, and transforms into a very angry beasts of shadow and flame. It falls, briefly, before swooping around. "Oh come on!" Roland cries, before blasting it with a mighty gust of wind. (Yet another failed save as it tries to push through)

Dingle comes close to the edge, sees what's up. Dingle focuses his Ki and adds his wind to Roland's. Together, they push the dragon deep into the darkness.

The wall is now barely holding together as the silk burns, revealing more and more void...

"We've got to get out of here, the hat's failing!"

The elf, meanwhile, was examining the ring, and the runes inscribed on the inside reform and say "Be careful what you wish for..." with 2 hash marks next to it.

The party runs, as they escape the tower, and emerge into the greater cave system, they can see the psychedelic colors drained, and signs of the failing magic everywhere. In addition, the air is full of smoke, and spots here and there are beginning to smolder and burn. As they ride their beasts toward the far end of the cave and escape, they discuss what to do with the ring, deciding to word it as simply as possible.

The elf slips the ring on and says "I wish that the demi-plane in which we are in is stabilized and does not suffer further damage!"

The flames blink out. The party takes a relieved breath, but continue on their way out of the hat. Flying out of the moon, they continue down to the demiplane, passing by a belt of dead eye monsters on the way. Flying over the Silent City, they continue deep into the desert, and then to their small camp. Above, the vortex showing the way is still open, and they get sucked up into it.

Emerging into a small room in an inn where Birdsnot has been staying. Unfortunately the room was never designed to hold 6 people, 2 wyverns, and 3 or 4 hippogryphs. Needless to say, the structural integrity of the inn was seriously compromised, but the party succeeded, and the hat retains it's magic!

***

Thus ends this chapter of our game. I want to thank you all for coming together week after week and playing in my weird sandbox. It has been a lot of fun, and I'm grateful for every opportunity to inflict my twisted world upon you.

Next week we'll be starting a new chapter, with new characters. My plan it to take full advantage of the cosmology of D&D, so if you want to get a little weird with your characters, go for it!

And finally I want to wish Lauren the best of success as she steps behind the DM's screen and begins her Storm King's Thunder campaign. While I'm sad to lose the best bard I've ever had at my table, I know she's going to do an amazing job.

See you all next week!