Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Inspirational Image - Old Tree

This is the sort of tree that things happen around in the woods.

More regular posting will resume this week!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Space Strigoi

S.S. Trelane - Ships log

1946 hours: System survey continues on schedule. We are currently leaving the inner system to map the ringed gas giant’s moon system.

0356 hours: Sensors have detected a large metallic mass on the surface of one of the larger moons. Adjusting course to conduct a more through scan.

0557 hours:
The moon is Mars-like with a thin atmosphere, but it’s bathed in radiation from the gas giant. We’ll make orbit in about 10 minutes.

0723 hours: We’ve adjusted to a geostationary orbit over the metallic mass. It’s big enough to be an bulk transport ship. We’re securing the ship to land nearby and begin possible salvage operations.

1001 hours: We’ve touched down about a kilometer from the object. The first team out in 20 minutes.

1047 hours:
First report back indicates that it is an old transport ship. It appears to have crashlanded a fairly long time ago.

1058 hours: The team reported back a registry number. 2266-M133... Checking... Ark Class Colony Transport from about 400 years ago, registered as the Wah Chang. 1701 colonists en-route to the Penthe system. Well they were seriously off course! On the other hand, there’s going to be lots of valuables in the cargo hold!

1222 hours: A hatch has been found and secured. The captain is sending in a scout team.

1250 hours: The scout team is through the airlock and into the ship.

1253 hours: Between the moon’s radiation and the ships radiation shielding, communications with the scout team is getting worse and worse. They’re going to try a relay system.

1328 hours: The relay wasn’t effective, so they’ll do hourly check-ins.

1430 hours:
First check-in, the team reports the colonists were mostly killed on impact, though there are some indications that a few may have survived for a little while, and things were pretty rough. They’ve even found some corridors that were barricaded.

1530 hours: They think they found the body of an alien! The captain ordered them to bring it back to the ship!

1616 hours: They brought the body... the alien body back to the ship.

1657 hours: It’s still alive!

Space Strigoi
aka Salt Vampire
No. Enc.: 1d8/3d8
Alignment: Chaotic
Move: 180’ (60’)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 1
Damage: Special
Save: L5
Morale: 9/7
Hoard Class: XVII

Salt Vampires are a form of giant mutated leech. In their natural form they appear as grey skinned humanoids with elongated rubbery limbs. Their skin is loose on their frame, and slick to the touch. They lack a discernible neck, and their round mouths are ringed with sharp teeth. Their hands and feet are sucker covered with 3 digits. Salt Vampires use a form of Mental Phantasm which allows them to appear as a non-offensive individual to whoever is viewing them. However, as this power is projected on the individual viewers, the Salt Vampires will all appear at least slightly different to each of the viewers.

In combat Salt Vampires will attempt to touch their target, and if successful will drain 1d3+1 points of constitution by sucking the salts from their victim. This damage can be restored at a rate of 1 point for every 2 weeks rest.

Salt Vampires dislike bright light, and suffer a penalty of 2 to their morale. Strangely the very thing that sustains them can kill them, and a pound of salt used as a weapon will cause 1d8 points of damage for 1d3 rounds and cause an automatic morale check.Due to their ancestry, it is very difficult to permanently kill a Salt Vampire, as they will regenerate 1 hp/day, even when killed, unless the body is either burned or sewn with salt.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Tim Curry Tuesdays - Cardinal Richelieu

Welcome to Tim Curry Tuesday! By popular demand you have chosen Cardinal Richelieu for this weeks post! Now, as you know, (or might imagine if you didn’t) Disney took some liberties with Dumas’ story by having Richelieu plot to overthrow the king. Clearly, there were other liberties as well, but for this post we’re going to focus on the character from the Disney movie.

Now, I know this is probably not what you’re expecting, but I think that Richelieu would work really well as a 4e Controller. This is probably in part because I just played a session of 4e, and I’ve got it on the brain. Don’t despair, I’ll be doing a Rules Cyclopedia version too.

Now, I see the movie as the story of how d'Artagnan became a Musketeer, and fitting in with 4e, how he got to about level 5. Setting Richelieu as a level 8 controller makes him a good opponent for a party to wrap up level 4 and push into level 5.

Now he isn’t much of a combatant himself, so he’s going to have only average HP, and cause only average damage with his basic attacks. However we’re going to give him several interesting powers that fit in with what happened in the movie.

He will clearly need some backup to take full advantage of his powers. I'd recommend lots of soldier minion swordsmen who arrive in waves, a really ugly 1/2 ogre or orc, and a highly competent one-eyed lieutenant. Oh, and lots of wonderful dialogue too!

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Inspirational Image - Horned Hold

In honor of yesterday's epic assault on the Durgeur fortress The Horned Hold I offer these 2 images!

In other news, Cardinal Richelieu beat out Dr. Frank-N-Furter and Wadsworth by a single vote! Tuesday the post will go live!

Also, because this week is going to be a bear, expect posts on Tuesday and Thursday. Normal daily posting should resume on Saturday, where the next installment of the Starport will be revealed.

I really have no idea how I became a daily blogger. It certainly wasn't my intention. However it has gotten me 106 followers, so that's pretty cool. Keep cool everyone!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Only 18 hours left to vote!

And a couple of votes could swing this poll around! Pick the next Tim Curry post!

In about 2 hours I'll be sitting down to run session 2 of Thunderspire. I only wish it wasn't going to be 100+ degrees out today.

Keep cool!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friendly Local Game Stores

I wrote this essay about 4 years ago and posted it on my personal journal. It’s nominally about comic stores, but it applies equally to game stores, as there are rarely comic stores without games or standalone game stores. In fact there tends to be an awful lot of overlap between the two.

The essay has been edited slightly from it’s original posting.

What makes a good comic/game store?

When Virginia and I moved to Baltimore, one of the first things we did was to scope out the local comic books stores. Now, this is something that I am picky about, which is why we must have gone to 5 or 6 different stores before I settled for Legends Comics.

My pickiness is multifaceted. There are a number of features that I desire in my ideal comic store, features that have been strongly shaped by the 4 years I worked at Sarge’s Comics, and the 2 years I spent being a customer at That's Entertainment. I have high expectations, and both of these stores, although very different from one another, lived up to my expectations in their own ways.

I am going to begin by describing stores that don't meet my expectations, and then describe the stores that have.

The first type of comic store that fails is the mall/strip mall comic store. This style store is small, and carries Marvel, DC, and some mainstream indy stuff. They have a small display of some sort of gaming product (probably Magic or Yu-Gi-Oh), a couple of action figures, and one moderately expensive collectable like a sword from Lord of the Rings or Magneto's helmet. There won’t be any of the comics I read, no back issues, no art on the walls. This type of store usually doesn't last all that long because they aren't able to build a strong base of customers and continue to pay the high rent. This store always feels plastic and impersonal.

The second type is the Hole in the Wall comic store. This is also a very small store that tends to be darker then the mall store. Comic selection is the big thing for this type of store, and the selection will rival that of the biggest comic stores. In addition there is usually an illicit back room with "import" DVDs and naughty comics, and the aisles are narrow due to the extensive collection of back issues. There may be some games, but like the mall store there won’t be much. The feeling inside will be cramped and uncomfortable. The smell is usually a little funky too.

Next is the Newbury Comics type store. For those of you who have never seen one, it is the equivalent of Spencer’s Gifts mixed with a music and DVD store with a selection of comics toward the back. And by a "selection" I mean a rack or two with some of the more popular titles and some graphic novels that have been made into movies. This store only qualifies because it has more comics than the grocery store, and gets them directly from Diamond, and isn't a month behind with its titles. This store usually feels plastic and commercial and very impersonal.

The last type of store that fails to meet my expectations is exemplified by The Comic Store in Lancaster. This store was the one I visited when I lived in Lancaster during my single digit years. It was the only option at the time, and I could bike down to it on my own. Now, The Comic Store does a lot of things right, and has been around for a long time, but it doesn’t quite make the A list. They have a wide variety of titles, and a fairly extensive selection of back issues. The walls are covered with toys, models, and comic posters. They have statues, books, magazines, and a large game section. What it lacks is atmosphere and motivation. From the last time I went to it when I was in elementary school to the most recent time a few months ago for free comic book day it hasn’t really changed. Some of the stuff has seen a little rearranging, but it still looks as I remember it from a dozen years ago. For Free Comic Book Day they had some comics sitting on the counter. That’s it. No sales, no special guests, no 501st, nada. It sucked. Also all of my recent trips to the store have been quiet affairs. The clerk sits behind the counter watching sports on a small tv, and there isn’t any music playing, so mostly you hear the buzz of the florescent lights. This store wants to make you feel welcome, but ends up making you feel creeped out.

Legends, the store we subscribed with after checking out all the others in the Baltimore area, also falls short of the A-List. While they have a fair amount of comics and games, and everything else I generally want in a comic store, I found the location dark, the service poor, and the clerks unhelpful. When we initially decided to sign up there Tigs did all the paperwork, and used her name. The next time we went in the box was under my name and they had no record of her. So we eventually got that corrected. Then stuff that should have been in our box wasn’t there, and stuff that shouldn’t have been, was. Sorry, but I don’t read any manga or Spider-man, and putting them in my box doesn’t encourage me to buy them. When we went in on a Saturday we found that they hadn’t put away the week’s new comics yet. (These arrive on Wednesday mornings.) I can’t imagine letting new stuff sit for 3 days at any other store… The general feeling that Legends has given us is one of frustration, and some sadness.

The A-List currently contains 3 members. That’s Entertainment was our store in Worcester. It is housed in what I believe to be half of an old roller skating rink, with a used CD store taking up the other half. They have the largest back issue selection I have ever seen on the floor of a store (rather then in the back room), they carry a large selection of used books, magazines, toys video games, movies, and graphic novels. They have a small sports section, a large game selection (including used RPGs) complete with a highly active gaming community and a game room. There is always interesting music playing on the stereo, (no crappy light FM), and the staff is friendly and helpful. You are always greeted upon entering the store, and if there is something you are looking for and they don’t have they will special order it for you… at 25% off. (Ahhh, the sales! Especially on used DVDs...the vast majority of our current collection comes from here.)

The next store I am slightly biased toward since I worked there for 4 years - Sarge’s. It is a large store, and carries tons of stuff. Just about every comic in print can be found on its shelves. There is a large back issue area, movie rentals, anime, manga, games, t-shirts, used DVDs, statues, you name it! They also have a gaming area that is bigger then That’s E, but less well attended.

The final store that has just been added to the list is Brainstorm Comics in Frederick MD. While it is smaller then either of the other two stores on the A-List, and does reside in a strip mall, it does everything right. The owner is friendly and welcoming, even to our puppy! He carries just about everything comic-wise, and has a well organized back issue section. He also carries a broad selection of games and collectibles.

You may be wondering why I have spent over 1200 words writing about this. It’s because a couple of months after signing up at Legends Virginia and I went up to Frederick to get some more food and treats for the puppy from 2 Paws Up, and I remembered a friend of mine named Yann had told me to check out Brainstorm Comics, so we did. Being so impressed by the store and ambiance, we decided right then and there to sign up for a subscription with him and drop Legends.

So we have now moved from a comic store that is 20 minutes away to one that is an hour away, and it’ll be worth every drop of gas for the great customer service and welcoming atmosphere.

Don't forget to vote on the Tim Curry poll! Voting closes on Saturday night!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Over the Memorial Day weekend while at Balticon I picked up a very large collection of Birthright books. While it wasn’t the setting I spent the most time with (that honor goes to the Forgotten Realms and Thunder Rift) I think it may be my favorite. It was the first setting (for D&D) that allowed you to begin your career as the ruler of a domain! It didn’t matter if you were a warrior, priest, wizard or rogue, you could control not only the land, but the temples, guilds, and even the very magic of the land!

Seeing as there are a couple of Domain-Level homebrews being cooked up at the moment, it seems like a good time to spend a while looking at what has come before. Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at the setting, the rules, and doing some reviews on the various products.

But let’s start at the beginning, shall we? Unboxing Birthright!

The core box set for Birthright contains a surprising amount of material! Books, handouts, cards, maps...

The first book is the Atlas of Cirelia, and it is written by the Castellan of the Iron Throne to the new regent (you!). It gives an overview of the history of the world, the people upon it, the (literally) divine blood of kings, and the geography of the continent that is the focus of the campaign. This is the book that you hand to your players if they want to know more than “you get to play a king/high priest/guild master/court wizard, and at only 32 pages, it doesn’t take very long to read through.

The next book is the Rule Book. It explains the differences between Birthright and standard AD+D 2e, It then goes on to give the rules for using the battle cards, and then for running a realm. At the end of the book it provides rules for randomly creating your own realms, should you choose to run your own setting with the Birthright rules. This one clocks in at 96 pages.

The final book is the Ruins of Empire, which describes the realms of the Southwestern corner of the continent. These thumbnail views (1-2 pages each) are a good starting point for players to get the game going.

In addition to the 3 books there is also a battlemat and 112 war cards for resolving battles with the Birthright battle system, and a “War Chest” which is really just a small cardboard box for storing the war cards in.

Also there are 2 poster maps showing the lands of the continent. One shows an overview of the entire continent, while the other shows the areas described in the Ruins of Empire book.

A custom Birthright DM’s screen and a stack of handouts which include languages and common names, some major enemies/monsters, and domain record sheets round out the contents of the box. All in all a very worthwhile set for $30 (US MSRP) even back in 1995.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Book of Vile Darkness: The Movie!!

I'm sure many of you remember WotC's Book of Vile Darkness that came out for 3.x DnD? Well it seems that not only are they coming out with a 4e version that may in fact be a boxed set (the Box of Vile Darkness?) as it seems to come with 2 books, but it's being paired with a new Dungeons and Dragons movie!!!


Made for TV!!


On the...  SyFy channel...

I suppose it could be worse. The elven ranger might use a crossbow and have nipples on her armor... oh, wait...

This time they got a big name for the main character. Jack Derges will be playing Grayson! You don't know Jack Derges?!?
He was on Causality! For 1 episode. Back in 2007.

Well, at least Elanore Gecks is the female lead.
According to IMDB she was the rollerblading friend from You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Yeah, I didn't see it either.

Sadly I don't have cable, so I'm going to miss the World Debut of this fine piece of cinema. My guess is that it'll hit netflix pretty quickly though.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Tim Curry Tuesdays - You pick the next one!

Welcome to Tim Curry Tuesday!

It’s been a busy week, and I haven’t had time to write up a post for today, so I’m going to ask which character you want to see next?

Cardinal Richelieu - Three Musketeers
Hexxus - Legend of Fern Gully
Dr. Frank-N-Furter - Rocky Horror Picture Show
The Grand Wizard - The Worst Witch
King Arthur - Spamalot
Wadsworth - Clue
Dr. Petrov - Hunt for Red October
Gaal - Earth 2
Gomez Addams - Addams Family Reunion
Chief Elder - Dinosaurs

The poll to the right closes Saturday night.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wire Wolf

Feris brushed down the horses while Allianora and Nimble gathered firewood for the camp. Rathgar busied himself digging a shallow firepit, and setting up the rest of the camp. The sun was dropping low in the sky, and shadows growing in the thin woods.

Nimble noticed it first. He had stooped to grab a fallen branch, when he heard a cracking sound behind him. Allianora was in front of him.

“Allianora?” Nimble said quietly.

“Yes?” she asked without looking over to him.


She hesitated a fraction of a second before dropping the load of twigs.

Nimble spun around, and watched as the thing bounded past him, and after his fleeing companion. Quick as a shot, Nimble took off after them. He hated baiting the thing with her, but it did get them all moving toward their camp, and their friends! Unfortunately, it didn’t take more than a moment of chasing after them to realize there was no way they’d make it back to camp.

The thing, which looked like a sculpture of a wolf formed from thick rusting iron wire, was already upon Allianora.

Wire Wolf
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 6*
Move: 180’ (60’)
Attacks: 1 Bite
Damage: 2d6+Special
No. Appearing: 2d4 (1d6)
Save As: F6
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: Nil
Intelligence: 4
Alignment: Neutral
XP Value: 500

Monster Type: Construct, Enchanted
Wire Wolves are enchanted constructs designed to actively defend a given area. They appear as wolf shaped sculptures created out of iron wire of various thicknesses. Wire Wolves are usually found in packs, and will use their speed and cunning to thin out any groups they attack.

When two wire wolves successfully hit a single target in the same round, the target must make a saving throw vs. Paralysis or be knocked prone. If he target is hit by more than two in a round the saving throw takes a -1 penalty per additional wire wolf. They gain a +2 to attack and damage against prone targets. In addition, they can not be surprised, and are immune to Sleep, Charm, and Hold spells.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Starport Saturday

A while back coliver988 over at Citizens of the Imperium posted an idea about using a mall map as a ship construction yard. In his post he suggests that the anchor stores serve as the construction bays while the smaller stores serve as offices and storage space. While that works I saw it a little differently. If it was more of a starport/docking/repair facility, there would be a much more of a reason for players to spend a lot of time there.

I don’t know about your games, but in mine, the players tend to take a lot of fire (and therefor need repairs) and spend time shopping! At the same time I was working on my most recent geomorph set I decided to draw and stock just such a facility. Well, I’ve drawn it.

It would probably look better if it was done with a graphics program, rather than by hand, but I’m better with paper than I am with graphics.

As an ongoing project I’m thinking about stocking it with shops and characters, making it something of a mini-campaign setting. However, I also want to open it up to you. This is your chance to be a guest blogger here at Tower of the Archmage! All you need to do is to pick one of the different stores, and write up a description of what type of store it is! Now, I’m picturing this as a fairly cross genre sort of place that could fit in the Star Wars, Star Trek (Original Series/Enterprise eras) Traveller, or even Tales from the Floating Vagabond!

How to get involved: Leave me a comment or an e-mail letting me know you want to join in, and pick a space. Write your post (or posts if you’re feeling ambitious). Send me your post via e-mail, and I’ll get it up, probably on a Saturday.

A couple of examples are below

Specialty Retail
Avari’s Antiquities

The first impression one gets upon entering this store is ‘cluttered’. There is barely enough space to move around the various boxes, crates, furniture, pictures, etc. Everything in the store is, or appears to be, old, and it’s all priced accordingly. A quiet rhythmic music plays in the back room, and can only just be heard when halfway into the store. The lighting is somewhat dim, and has a yellowish cast.

Avari is a tall older man with a bald head and bearded face. He is generally kindly and very knowledgeable about antiquities from a variety of planets and cultures. Anything he feels maybe dangerous he will attempt to convince the patron that the item has some small worth, but he might have a buyer, so hell offer 10% more than he usually would. Ok, maybe 15%.

Tasty Comets

Coffee Flavored Comet with Dark Chocolate Core

This small shop has barely enough room for the equipment and supplies used to create it’s frozen confections. The store front is a garishly decorated counter surrounded by cartoon celestial bodies. Tasty Comets is staffed mainly by local teenagers who spend most of their time looking bored.

One young employee, Jayla, is perpetually perky and has taken the corporate spiel hook line and sinker. Her fellow employees resent her for making them look bad, and a one, Kat, is looking for a way to spectacularly sabotage and humiliate Jayla.

A sample of offerings include:
Comet - Slushy iceball with one of 301 flavors with a core made from a variety of cookies, brownies, frozen fruit, etc.
Hale-Bopp - Carbonated Comet
Sungrazer - Basic Comet with a hot topping
Meteor - 3 cores together with a thin icy layer on top
Shooting Star - Meteor with a hot topping
Asteroid - 7 cores with a thin icy layer

Friday, July 15, 2011

Dice Bag

A while ago I wrote about dice bags. Virginia, in need of her own, and desiring something other than a Crown Royal bag, or something you can get at any FLGS decided to make her own. So back in June she searched the net and came up with a solution. Out came the knitting needles... 

Makes me feel like I need to do something a little more special for my dice.

Pattern here for those interested!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Vance’s Dying Earth

I just finished the 3rd book in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth Saga, and I thought it was time to say a little something about them here. First off, these are my reviews of the individual books.

The Dying Earth

I read this one in part because it is mentioned as one of Gary Gygax's inspirational sources for Dungeons and Dragons, and a lot of D&D bloggers talk about it. It's a short book, and I read it very quickly, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys non-standard fantasy!

Eyes of the Overworld

The second book in Jack Vance’s Dying Earth series focuses entirely upon a single character: Cugel. This change does not prevent a grand exploration of the Dying Earth with its dim red sun. It is a truly fantastic world, more so than most fantasy authors even come close to creating. Cugel makes for an interesting tour guide, as he is much more of an anti-hero than you generally get in such a book. But then there are few that would qualify as having high moral standards on the Dying Earth. Yet Cugel is both a product of the Dying Earth and a fairly enjoyable scoundrel, in spite of, or because of his many flaws.

Cugel’s Saga

The third book of the Dying Earth saga continues to follow Cugel as he once again has to make his way back to the Laughing Magician. Cugel continues to navigate the world under the dim red Sun. He is an interesting contrast in character traits, often conflicting, even contradictory! Yet he can fairly easily be defined by his two main traits: he is selfishly lazy and highly goal motivated. This leads him to engage in some really vile acts, yet at other times can be surprisingly kind. His fortune is constantly on the rise or decline, and it’s usually doing the opposite of what he thinks it’s doing.

Art by Marc Simonetti

So what do I see of Vance’s Dying Earth in DnD? Vancian spell casting obviously, but even more the eons of history that are sprinkled fairly liberally all over the world! Treasures that are forgotten in long buried cities, abandoned towers, or even at the bottom of mud pits! Be it simple coins, fine wines, scales of a god, or ancient blades, it doesn’t seem to take much effort to find them if you bother to look, though often the dangers are great.

Another thing is the acknowledged power of magic, yet the lack of awe it inspires. It seems that magic, even something so amazing as a flying ship doesn’t turn too many heads.

I was also surprised by the waxing and waning of people fortunes. Cugel gains and loses more fortunes over the course of the books than many DnD characters, and he's fairly pragmatic about the whole thing too.

All in all, some great inspirational reading, and I'm looking forward to picking up Songs of the Dying Earth to see what the likes of Neil Gaiman and George R.R. Martin (along with 20 other authors) can do with Vance's world.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Thoughts on Thunderspire - 1st Session

I read Thunderspire a couple of times through when I first got it a while back, and then again through the first third of the adventure just before running it. I didn’t pay too much attention to the stat blocks, as the 4e monsters can run themselves pretty easily. I did not notice that the spread of monsters had changed. Unlike Keep on the Shadowfell, Thunderspire seems to be populated entirely by normal monsters. Through the Chamber of Eyes there wasn’t a single minion or elite. It made for an interesting variation on fights, but both my players and I missed the dynamics of the other style. There were occasions where 4-6 minions would have worked better, or where an action point could have pushed a fight in an interesting direction.

Additionally I found that the layout of the Chamber of Eyes didn’t really provide interesting fight locations. The Chamber itself didn’t come into play until after everything was cleaned out, and the Duergar chamber where most of the fight took place ended up being too cramped for the number of combatants.

I also wish I’d have realized that Myrhdraak had followed up his H1 conversion with the H2 and H3 conversions before starting Thunderspire. Luckily it isn’t too late! I’m going to need to tweak things a bit as unfortunately I opted not to have Kalarel’s Rod of Ruin be a magical item for the players. Having now read through the update, there is a lot to take in and to change from the original H2. As with his H1 conversion I highly recommend getting the H2 conversion. He really manages to tie the series together!

Play-wise I thought it went pretty well. I had a lot of fun playing up some of the characters they encountered in the Seven Pillared Hall, and I plan on doing more of that next time we get together. I’m also going to hold back on the pacing, and try to breathe a little more life into the Labyrinth and its inhabitants.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tim Curry Tuesdays - Premier Anatoly Cherdenko

Welcome to Tim Curry Tuesday! In this week’s installment, I’d like to introduce you to Premier Anatoly Cherdenko of the USSR. In the game Red Alert 3, Colonel Cherdenko travels back in time to kill Albert Einstein, upsetting the events of Red Alert 2, and resulting in his becoming the Premier of the USSR. Now, I’m not really familiar with the Red Alert series, but there are lots of screen caps, reviews, and youtube videos. As you might expect, Curry hams it up with an outragious russian accent, and spends his time hanging out with implausibly dressed women. But really, if you were him, wouldn’t you do the same?

Now, I don’t have any games that play in the WWII era, so instead we’re going to make some slight adjustments to the character to have him work as a Sector Governor (aka Moff) for Star Wars/d6 Space. Just the sort of character that your players will love to foil.

Premier Anatoly Cherdenko
Type: Bombastic Imperial Moff
Dex 2d+1
Blaster 3D+2, Dodge 5D
Knowledge 4D
Alien Species 5D+1, Bureaucracy 6D, Law Enforcement 6D+2, Planetary Systems 5D+2, Scholar: economics 7D
Mechanical 4D
Capital Starship Piloting 7D, Astrogation 6D+1, Capital Starship Gunnery 5D+2
Perception 2D+1
Command 3D
Strength 2D
Technical 3D+1
Capital Starship Design 6D, Capital Starship Enginering 6D
Character Points: 5
Move: 9
Equipment: Blaster Pistol (4D+1 damage)Muscovia Sector Governor uniform, datapad, Imperial ID, 1,000 Credits, comlink

Premier Cherdneko (as he prefers to be called) is the Moff of the Muscovia Sector. He was installed by Grand Moff Tarkin in 7 BBY as the Planetary Governor of Novosibirsk, before being awarded control over the entire sector. Over the last decade Cherdneko has ruled with an iron fist, instituting massive industrial growth, and turning Novosibirsk from a sparsely populated agrarian world into a major hub of commerse and ship building. The shipyards in orbit of Murmansk (a gas giant in the Novosibirsk system) produce most of the Imperial resources of the sector. Premier Cherdenko spends about half his time there, and the other half in the Governor's Palace on Novosibirsk.

Cherdenko is a bombastic leader, prone to reward those who succeed lavishly, and equally prone to remove anyone who has too much success, either by promotion to a different sector or other more permanent means. He is highly optimistic about the Empire's chances against the Rebellion, even after the Battle of Yavin, but he also views the Rebellion as a credible threat to the stability of the region, and so pursues them with great vigor.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thunderspire Labrynth - Session 1

This session was played on 6/26.

Cory ran:
Human Knight (formerly the Dragonborn Paladin)
Ander the Halfling Rogue

Alex ran:
Barakas the Tiefling Warlord
Chan Lee the Human Monk

When last we left our intrepid heroes they had just defeated Kalarel in the dungeon below Sir Keegan’s Keep. While they had emerged victorious, it wasn’t without a cost. The wizard Ulrick had been dragged through the portal into the Shadowfell. Upon returning to Winterhaven they were hailed as heroes for preventing Kalarel from opening the portal and releasing a horde of undead upon the realm. Lord Paldrig after giving the adventurers a day of rest brought up the topic of the missing townsfolk. Remembering something about that they dug though their pockets and found a couple of notes from the Bloodreavers about slaves and Thunderspire. It turns out that Thunderspire is a mountain a couple of days travel from Fallcrest. Hiring some horses they leave the adoration of Winterhaven for the comforts of the road.

In Fallcrest they paused to gather some information on Thunderspire, discovering that there is a trade town within the mountain itself called the Seven Pillared Hall. They also learn a bit about the Labyrinth that the Hall resides in. A day later they arrive upon the mountain road, and follow it up to the Minotaur Gate.

They ride in, and follow the gently sloping boulevard deep into the mountain, passing the many demon statues that line the walls. It’s oddly quiet, and even the sound of the horses hooves seems somehow subdued in the greenish light of the widely spaced copper lanterns. After travelling in near silence, they finally hear a noise that they didn’t create - a scream of pain coming from a doorway off of a side passage. Investigating they discover a chamber of hobgoblins playing with a bound halfling, and an unconscious human. A brief scuffle ensues, and inevitably one of the hobgoblins is tossed into the coal filled brazier.

The bruised halfling tells his tale, and invites his rescuers to stay at his aunt’s inn in the Seven Pillared Hall. They asked him about the hobgoblins and the Bloodreavers. Rendil says the Bloodreavers have been seen around the Chamber of Eyes, deeper in the Labyrinth, and that the hobgoblins at their feet were members of that clan.

The human turns out to be a monk with no memory of what he was doing in the labyrinth! Yet he seems to be just the sort of person to fill out a party in need of an extra adventurer. Unfortunately the monk is battered, bloody, and bruised, and will need a day to recover.

Arriving in the Seven Pillared Hall, the adventurers are given the 5 copper tour, during which Brugg the enforcer (he is the brute squad!) encouraged them not to cause a fuss. He doesn’t like people that cause a fuss. Anything from littering to stabbing someone in the eye is causing a fuss. If in doubt, presume it causes a fuss, and don’t do it. The adventurers beat a hasty retreat back to the inn and holed up for the night.

The next day (though it’s difficult to tell day from night in the Labyrinth) the adventurers got directions from their devoted halfling friend, and they ventured through the Dragon Gate into the Labyrinth! Luckily his directions were good, and they arrived at the Chamber of Eyes! They opted to avoid the big doors, and instead scale the balcony and sneak in through the side door. The rogue scouted and found doorway leading down into a barracks. Inside were a pair of goblins and a dozing hobgoblin. The monk and rogue managed to catch the goblin guards by surprise, and the rogue went straight for the hobgoblin. At the top of the round the rogue and monk both took the initiative, and the rogue performed a coup de grace on the hobgoblin, coming up 1 point of damage short of outright killing him. The knight managed to make it down the stairs, over some beds and finished the hobgoblin off before he could do anything! The monk meanwhile had finished off the first goblin, as it tried to escape past him, but 2 more appeared from the far door. taking a potshot before running away to alert the rest of the compound.

The resulting combat was a mess! The adventurers managed to trigger encounters 3+4 at the same time, most of which was fought in the Duergar guards room with the big fireplace. Because this ended up being an exceedingly long and fairly convoluted combat I am only going to give highlights:
  • The party ran out of healing, with the knight down to a single hitpoint.
  • The dire wolf ended up being a pushover. Disappointing!
  • The Hobgoblin Chieftain? Mostly useless
  • The Duergar ended up being the most long lasting opponents. The adventurers were mightily disappointed that they had fire resistance.
The noise and bustle eventually managed to draw the attention of the monsters from the final encounter just about the time they were mopping up in the Duergar’s chamber. The party barricaded themselves in a hallway to limit the hobgoblins, humans, and goblins ability to nail the party’s weakened warriors. One one side was a door, that the monk was holding closed. When he heard the room beyond the door had some enemies in it, he popped open the door, stepped in, smacked everyone around hard, slid one unlucky soul into the fire before stepping back into the hall. The remaining opponents turned tail and ran away after seeing the bodies of their comrades, and then seeing half their number taken out.

At the other end of the corridor, which lead out to the balcony that the part entered by, the monk managed toward the end of the fight to drag a hobgoblin into the corridor between himself and the rogue, and then knocked down one of the goblins, and pushed him off the balcony edge! It was at this point the last remaining hobgoblin decided that discression was the better part of valor and surrendered. The party interrogated the hobgoblin, looted the compound, and returned to the Seven Pillared Hall, releasing their prisoner just outside the Dragon Gate.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday Inspirational Image - Shores of Lanternland

Standing on the shores of Lanternland, where the spires rise from the lake, and the lights twinkle and dance upon the waters...

Yet another fantastic location, this time found on the OBI Scrapbook Blog by Albert Robida, from Three good giants, compiled from François Rabelais by John Dimitry, Boston, New York, 1887.

Saturday, July 9, 2011


Consider this FREE and OPEN content for Classic Dungeons and Dragons Rules Cyclopedia Edition

“It looks like he’s been drained of blood” Allianora began.

“Vampires?!?” One of the inn patrons cried out from the doorway. The mass of people in the hallway began to panic.

Nimble just pushed the room door closed, muffling some of the panicked noises. “You had to say that out loud didn’t you? Couldn’t just say that he was killed while being robbed by a left handed man? Noooo!” Nimble began to imitate Allianora’s voice “he was Drained of Blood! Oh My!”

“You would rather I lie?”

“YES!” answered Nimble and Rathgar together.

“It wasn’t a vampire” Allianora changes the subject.

“How can you tell?” Rathgar asks, looking at the large neck wound.

“Because the sun is shining through the window, and he was down in the tap room having breakfast not two hours ago.”

“Well then, what did kill him?” Asked the ashen-faced innkeeper from the corner


Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 5**
Move: 180’ (60’)
      Fly: 30’ (10’)
      Climb: 90’ (30’)
Attacks: 2 Claw
Damage: 1d8+1/1d8+1
No. Appearing: 1d8 (1d8)
Save As: T5
Morale: 9/7
Treasure Type: D
Intelligence: 7
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 425

Monster Type: Monster, Enchanted
While Strigoi are often mistaken for vampires due to their feeding habits and abilities, but they are in fact an evolved (or magically enhanced) form of leech. In their natural form they appear as dark grey humanoids with elongated rubbery limbs. Their skin is loose on their frame, and slick to the touch. They lack a discernible neck, and their round mouths are ringed with sharp teeth. Their hands and feet are tipped in stubby 8 fingered claws.

They have a natural shape morphing ability that allows them to stretch their skin into wings between their arms and legs with which they can awkwardly fly. They also use this ability to make themselves appear to be wearing a long concealing hooded cloak.

In combat they will attack 1 target with both claws, and if they successfully hit with both they will latch themselves onto the victim and in the following round begin to drain the victim of blood 1d4 points of Constitution per round. The strigoi will regenerate hit points at a rate of 5 per point of constitution drained. Anyone so held may only attempt to remove the strigoi. This may be done with a successful saving throw vs. paralysis, or the death of the strigoi.

Strigoi dislike bright light, and suffer a penalty of 2 to their morale. They are also repelled (but not harmed) by garlic and wild roses. Due to their ancestry, it is very difficult to permanently kill a strigoi, as they will regenerate 1 hp/day, even when killed. Unless the body is either burned or sewn with salt

I wanted to create something a little more monstrous with my version of the strigoi.

Carjacked Seraphim started the ball rolling with this Strigoi
Tim Brannan's Strigoi
Quickly, Quietly, Carefully's Strigoi
Exonauts' Space Strigoi

Friday, July 8, 2011

3rd Geomorph Set - 6

This is the last of this geomorph set. Only 11, as the 12th one I screwed up.

Caves, a deep well, a statue alcove...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thoughts on running Keep on the Shadowfell

There are plenty of reviews out there of the first 4e adventure, and most of them (the fair ones) are accurate (the paper sucks, the layout is odd, the map sheets are nice, the adventure is so-so, etc.). This isn’t so much a review of the module, but more my thoughts on running it.

First, and most importantly - It’s fun! Over the 4 all day sessions we spent playing KotSF we all enjoyed ourselves immensely. I still maintain that 4e is Dungeons and Dragons!

Second - The adventure, as written, needs a little work. Not a lot, but some tweaking is definitely in order. Luckily the Alexandrian’s modification combined with Myrhdraak’s H1 Orcus Conversion supplement both do a a lot of the heavy lifting. That does add to the prep time needed, but I think it was worth it.

Third - My Chessex Battlemat was invaluable! While dungeon tiles and Hirst Arts make for much more attractive battlegrounds, the Battlemat is quick and easy, which helps keep things moving along at a good pace. Along with this, I’m glad I took the time to presort my minis for the game. Being able to just grab a bag of orcs or goblins or undead saved me from having to dig around the box. I wish I had done that for the first two sessions. Live and learn, and now that they’re all sorted I just need to keep them that way.

Fourth - The Pacing - We squeezed in the entire adventure, minus one side encounter (Alexandrian’s attack on Lord Paldrig’s Mannor) over 4 days of playing. Total game time was probably around 24-28 hours. There were times we were all rushing, especially toward the end of each of the days. Unfortunately this means that when we got to the final battle we were all tired. I had planned on playing Kalarel as your typical over-the-top, moustache-twirling, cape-flipping cartoon villain. By the time we got there, with the clock ticking down, and my throat feeling raw, I had him chant in a dark language the entire battle.


Cory and Alex even commented with surprise that he didn’t launch into some sort of BBEG monologue. Stupid me, I didn’t take their cue and run with it. Months later, I still am kicking myself over this. I resolved that when we got to Thunderspire, I wasn’t going to hold back with the outlandish characters or the funny voices, and BBEGs would get played up.

tl:dr - Keep on the Shadowfell is fun, I still like 4e, ham it up with NPCs, battlemats and sorted minis are useful.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sir Keegan’s Keep - Sessions 3 (pt 2) & 4

Admin Note: For a variety of reasons I never got around to writing these up. And while I have some notes, it’s just not all that fresh in my mind. Therefore you’re getting a combined and abbreviated session report.

Session 3 was played on 2/19. Session 4 was played on 3/12.

Cory ran:
Rhogar the Dragonborn Paladin
Ander the Halfling Rogue

Alex ran:
Barakas the Tiefling Warlord
Ulrick the Human Wizard

Having explored the upper level of the dungeon under Sir Keegan’s Keep, the party descended the dark stairs... and encountered Hobgoblins and an open pit. They quickly attacked, and as they made it to the bottom of the stairs they saw something that struck fear into their hearts... a large caged spider! Once the hobgoblins realized the danger they moved to attack, all except one who ran to the spider cage. Realizing the danger the rogue and wizard worked in concert to stop the hobgoblin from releasing the spider, while the paladin and warlord dispatched the hobgoblins pretty quickly. So quickly in fact that they never had a chance to toss anyone into the pit!

Moving on, they next scouted the barracks. Unfortunately they were spotted and attacked. It was a relatively quick fight, with the hobgoblin warcaster being dropped to bloodied with a single hit.

The party did find itself hurting a little more than they’d realized, so they decided to head back to the hidden armory and catch a long rest. The hours passed quietly, and upon emerging from the armory they were greeted by the sound of silence.

Heading back down the stairs they found things just as they’d left them. However, upon entering the room, the Hobgoblin Chieftan and the remaining members of his warband emerged from their hiding places and attacked! This fast and furious battle resulted in a hobgoblin soldier and the warchief down the 20 foot pit, with the warchief getting kicked back down every time he tried to crawl out! After this they searched the entire Hobgoblin compound, and looted several choice items.

If I recall correctly, this is where we wrapped up the 3rd session.

The hall from the hobgoblin compound split, and the adventurers picked the side path. They eventually ended in a chamber with 3 corruption corpses before them, and a gelatinous cube behind them. The undead dropped quite quickly, as the party really focused their attacks, in spite of a series of low damage results. The cube on the other hand was a real beast. 150 hit points takes a long time to wear down!

Returning to the main corridor they arrived in the room of the skill challenge. Anyone who was paying any attention when 4e was released knows all about skill challenges, and how this one runs. It’s mostly like a combat, only using skills instead of attack powers. Why they waited till near the end of the module to show off a skill challenge, and why they used such a poorly designed one remains a mystery... We muddled though it.

The next room was the ghoul warren. This was a fun fight, especially with the Clay Scout! Plus this was the first combat where the rogue didn’t go first, and the first combat where a monster got to go first!! The ghoul wizard and clay scout all went before the rogue! The zombies all dropped pretty quickly, while the ghoul made them work for it, and they managed to catch and kill the clay scout before it managed to escape and warn those ahead! This was a tense and exciting battle! The adventurers caught their breath and explored the hidden room.

The adventurers steeled themselves and descended the stairs. Opening the door the first thing they see in this ruined cathedral is an angel pinioned high on the wall with adamantium spears. His blood flows down upon a statue of Orcus where a priest performs a desecrating rite before flowing around the room and down the central hole. The adventures decide to sneak around the side to try to surprise the priest. Unfortunately they pick the side where most of the monsters are hiding. The vampires are a surprise, but they drop quickly. The berzerkers are tough, and with the party slightly spread out they manage some solid blows. A tough fight later the monsters were defeated, and shock of shocks, one of them (the dark creeper) ended up down the shaft.

The angel, too high up to free and protected by some dark barrier, urged them to hurry! To stop Kalarel before he could finish opening the portal!

The adventures grabbed the chain that hung above the shaft and climbed down. Kalarel, his assistants, and the dark creeper were waiting.

What really caught their attention was not Kalarel, or the other monsters, but the giant glowing circle and the inky black portal that something was trying to come through.

This was a long battle! The players were really worried about the glowing circle, and were none too thrilled to find out it healed the bad guys! They were even less thrilled when the portal started grabbing at them when they got too close. The combat circled around the pit of blood, with the bad guys trying to stay near the circle, and the players trying to keep everyone away from it (and the portal).

The climax of the battle occurred as Kalarel was brought low, but Ulrick the wizard was grabbed and dragged into the portal, much to the shock of all. With the death of Kalarel, the ritual was broken, and the angel freed.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tim Curry Tuesdays - Long John Silver

Welcome to Tim Curry Tuesday! In this week’s installment, I’d like to introduce you to Long John Silver: the peg-legged cook, pirate, quartermaster and villain of the wonderful book Treasure Island, and the fun adaptation Muppet Treasure Island!

As a pirate, Long John Silver will follow the rules as found in the rules Cyclopedia. Per the pirate entry on page 193, Long John Silver is most likely the equivilant of a 8th level fleet commander, or at least he was when he served as quarter master on Captain Flint's ship Walrus. By the time we get to the events of Treasure Island, Silver is probably at least 9th or 10th level.

Long John Silver
10th Level Neutral Fighter
48HP XP: 385,005

Str: 12
Int: 14
Wis: 13
Dex: 9
Con: 7
Cha: 15

Speed: 60' (20') peg leg

Equipment: Pete's Peg-leg (+3 to AC, Speed 150' (50') 1/day),Cutlass +3/+5 vs Sea Creatures, Treasure Map

Monday, July 4, 2011

X-Men 1st Class - Supers Game?

Last night Virginia and I went out to see X-Men First Class. It was really well done, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. However, I got to thinking about running a superhero game. Granted, I don't have enough time to play all the games I want to as it is, but I've never played a superhero game! There are a lot out there to choose from, and I'd like your advice, which one should I check out?

I'd like to avoid d20 based games, as I'd like to read something new, not just a tweak of DnD rules.

So what are your suggestions? And what power levels do they handle? On a scale of Batman/Iron Man (low end) to Superman/Thor (godlike).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sunday Inspirational Image - Rift City

A city in a ravine.
One of the things I love about RPGs is the fantastic locations. This is just such an example!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Off to the beach

Today I'm off to the beach! With luck I'll be able to avoid these horrible sea-beasts!