Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I've never bought a zine before. It always seemed silly to drop cash on something someone typed up, copied, and stapled in their basement, especially when I could just pick up an issue of Dragon magazine where I could get “real” D+D content. Of course this was back in the days when Dragons was still being published, I was playing RC D+D, and the local shop even carried zines. (The existence of zines outside of RPGs was never something I ever knew about or even considered)

Since then I haven’t really seen any, or given any thought about them until Christian started talking about his old zine, and starting up a new one. I offered to work as a proofreader, but he already had one lined up. However, because of my offer, Christian sent me issue #1 of Loviatar.

It was better than I expected. In some ways it seemed like a cleaned up series of blog posts, formatted and published. The paper quality was good, as was the printing, and even the artwork was surprisingly decent. I was impressed, and I didn’t expect to be. While the system the material was written for is Pathfinder, it’s simplicity to convert it. The topic was about running an urban campaign, and while well written, it wasn’t really what I was looking for.

Issue 1 garnered many well deserved reviews, but in spite of this I was still skeptical. What role does a zine fill that isn’t already addressed by the vast proliferation of blogs? Mine included? Was it really worth $12 for 6 monthly issues worth? I couldn’t honestly say yes.

Issue 2 went past with a similar number of highly positive reviews. I didn’t get a copy, but noticed that Christian had maintained his planned monthly schedule for issue 2, and that he’s expanded the contents beyond Pathfinder. I wondered at the wisdom of that choice... Issue 3 received even more positive reviews.

When issue 4 was on the horizon Christian then sent me a request for help. One of his usual proofreaders was having computer issues, and he wanted to know if I’d be able to help out. I was, and the article I was proofing was on caretaker robots in GURPS for a weird sounding setting. I did what I could, and for my efforts received another free copy.

Issue 5 was another departure from previous contents. This issue focused entirely on a new feature, a hex crawl, and the entire issue was devoted to it. This peaked my interest, but it came and went with high praise. So did issue 6, which moved onto the next hex. Skipping them was growing harder...

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I subscribed, and asked to start with issue #5 so I could follow the progress of the hex crawl as it continues to develop. They came in the mail the other day, and I just finished reading issue 6, and I expect issue 7 any minute now, and I can’t wait to see what’s next!

So what does that say about the role of zines? Generally, not much, except that there is probably room for them. What does it say about Loviatar? That I feel like my money has been well spent. Christian as done a bang-up job. Is this the sort of thing that I could get in blog format? Sure, in the same way I can get Zac’s Vornheim info from his blog, fragmented and incomplete. Loviatar does all that it promises, and it does it in a way that is (semi)professional and clearly a labor of love. Is it perfect? No, but for the money it’s very nice to have a gaming magazine of such good quality in my hands.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday Inspirational Image - Spell Books

Here are some classic spell book props all from the Propnomicon blog.I especially like the travelling spell book down at the bottom.

From http://propnomicon.blogspot.com/2012/01/book-of-dni.html

From http://propnomicon.blogspot.com/2011/12/realm-of-salama.html

From http://propnomicon.blogspot.com/2011/12/travelling-spellbook.html

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Gamer Mental Disorders

Among the rpg blog community there is a well known gamer affliction known as G-ADD or Gamer Attention Deficit Disorder. Most of us suffer from it, as we get distracted by this and that, switching topics, changing gears, and shifting lanes in our gaming lives. We tend to be easily distracted, responding to changes in topic quite quickly. How can you tell? Easy, look at what happened when D+D Next was announced. Look what happened when the AD+D reprints were announced. Over the last 24 hours the Keep on the Boarderlands playtest pics have been posted everywhere.

This is pretty normal, and matches the general population’s reactions to the news.

Another affliction that gets much less press is Gamer OCD. This can manifest in a wide variety of way, some more acceptable than others. Rewritten fantasy heartbreakers can be one. Posting about the same topic over and over again can be another. At the table it can manifest in odd rituals, or requirements that everyone sit at the same spot, or always having a 6 pack of mountain dew.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I’m suffering from a bit of gamer OCD at the moment. After having the chance to play D+D for the first time in YEARS, and Stonehell to boot, I’ve had a hard time thinking about much else. You may have noticed. I’m pretty sure that Nickolas Mizer (the DM) has, considering I think I’ve sent him an e-mail pretty much everyday this week.

It definitely goes a long way to showing why blogs tend to be more DM written and focused. How much can you really post about your character? Not that much. Heck, you might have noticed that I actually haven’t posted about him directly, because I don’t want to be the guy who’s all “let me tell you about my character” because I know you don’t really care that much. I don’t really care so much, except that I want to play again.

In fact I want to play right now. Sadly as this is going live I have to do real work. Hopefully, with luck, I’ll get to play again soon. Maybe with enough recent play time under my belt I might be able to focus a little better on the things I’ve been planning on writing about.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Player Maps

Player maps tend to only resemble the original DM's map vaguely, unless the PCs spend an awful lot of time mapping, rather than exploring. They also tend to include way more notes, as they don't tend to make a key for the map. However, rather than ruminate about them, I thought I'd show you an example - my own map made as a player!

During Nick the Pikes first foray into Stonehell, he was traveling along paths that had been trodden before by other members of the party, and so the pace, at least for the first half, was pretty quick. Nevertheless, Nick did his best to keep a basic map of where they went, and he continued that for his second delve. It helped that they followed the same path the second time, so he could recheck what he had previously remembered.

These are the scans of the original maps made while the delve was in progress.

I find I actually really enjoy making notes all over it.

This is the revised combined map made after the fact.

During the games I used a small spiral bound notebook to keep track of things like names, and to sketch the dungeon as we went along. None of the rooms are to scale, nor are the corridors, but the general layout is. I haven’t directly compared this to the maps in my copy of Stonehell, because I’m afraid that I’ll be too tempted to read up on the section I’m trying to explore, but I'm really curious how close it is...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

23 Questions

Zak Asked us people some questions. I wasn’t originally planning on doing it, especially since at the time this first started going around it had been years since I last played. Then I got to play...

1. If you had to pick a single invention in a game you were most proud of what would it be?

This is a tough one, as I’m more of an adaptor than an inventor. I think I’m going to go with The Witch of the Deep.

2. When was the last time you GMed?

1/7 I ran my 4e game with my cousins.

3. When was the last time you played?

1/24 Nick the Pike made his second venture into Stonehell on a Google+ game with Michael Curtis as a fellow player.

4. Give us a one-sentence pitch for an adventure you haven't run but would like to.

Red Hand of Doom - for Rules Cyclopedia D+D

5. What do you do while you wait for players to do things?

I usually take a sip of whatever I’m drinking.

6. What, if anything, do you eat while you play?

It varies. Chips, Naan bread, pizza, carrots, etc.

7. Do you find GMing physically exhausting?

More mentally exhausting, but so worth it!

8. What was the last interesting (to you, anyway) thing you remember a PC you were running doing?

Using a pit trap as a barricade against a horde of undead.

9. Do your players take your serious setting and make it unserious? Vice versa? Neither?

My players inevitably take my semi-serious setting and make it unserious.

10. What do you do with goblins?

Mostly bog normal. I need to work on this...

11. What was the last non-RPG thing you saw that you converted into game material (background, setting, trap, etc.)?

I converted a gun from Halo into a D&D weapon.

12. What's the funniest table moment you can remember right now?

Funny and frustrating. My friend was DMing a D+D game, and we were in a green city full of halflings who only spoke french. The session closed with my character yelling “No! No ‘Por quoi’! Just tell me where to find the damn wizard you short shit!!”

13. What was the last game book you looked at--aside from things you referenced in a game--why were you looking at it?

Vornheim, because I just bought it, and Loviator, because it just came in the mail.

14. Who's your idea of the perfect RPG illustrator?

Jeff Easley has always been my favorite RPG illustrator.

15. Does your game ever make your players genuinely afraid?

For their characters? Sometimes. Beyond that? No.

16. What was the best time you ever had running an adventure you didn't write? (If ever)

I think the best was probably The Sunless Citadel when 3.0 was released.

17. What would be the ideal physical set up to run a game in?

A holodeck. Aside from that, a long table with the players along the long edges, the DM at one end, books, art, terrain, and minis on the walls. Ideally, in a real castle.

18. If you had to think of the two most disparate games or game products that you like what would they be?

Nobilis and Tales from the Floating Vagabond

19. If you had to think of the most disparate influences overall on your game, what would they be?

Currently? Zac and Raggi on one side, and C.S. Lewis on the other. Chronicles of Vornia anyone?

20. As a GM, what kind of player do you want at your table?

Well-adjusted, Engaged, Mature - in that order.

21. What's a real life experience you've translated into game terms?

Bartering in the market and hiking.

22. Is there an RPG product that you wish existed but doesn't?

I want a DM-in-a-box. Google+ is pretty close.

23. Is there anyone you know who you talk about RPGs with who doesn't play? How do those conversations go?

Not really. I generally keep it separate from everything else. It isn’t hidden, I just don’t want to bore anyone.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Return to Stonehell

After spending a pleasant evening recovering from his first delve into Stonehell, Nick the Pike hired Randolph the Herald to let it be known that he was looking for a few strong arms to accompany him into the dungeon. 4 men answered his call - Kaldue, a foreigner clad in chainmail and armed with spear and shield, Gygard in leather and shield, Sacco, Gygard's companion ad torch bearer, and Boarface, also in chainmail with a sword and defaced shield.* Nick hired them all, and also acquired 2 dogs from the Shrine of St. Guinefort.

Another outlander, an elf named Lemincanin (played by Michael Curtis) also expressed interest in seeing the famed halls of Stonehell for himself.

"Medwyn said he was going to come too, but I don't think he or Drak had finished recovering from the bender they went on when we got back last time. So we left without them. Now, the last time we went, like I think i told you before, Drak was looking for a talisman, and he offered a bounty of 500 gold for it. I figured, why not keep looking for it? So we retraced our steps from last time. At the door of the dance macabre we heard someone lurking behind us. It turned out to be an ugly orc. Now, I know, not really fair of me to call anyone ugly, as I'm only slightly more attractive than old Boarface over there!" Nick laughed.

"Was it just one orc?" Nick's companion asked.

"Yeah... odd that. I was told that the orcs and goblins of Stonehell are at war with each other, so seeing one alone was odd... but Lemincanin could speak it's language... a useful skill that. Anyway, he said his name was Bruck - or something close to that, and that going into the Quiet Halls was a bad idea, lots of skeletons and zombies. I said we should have brought a priest or two. Lemincanin agreed, which wasn't particularly helpful, but then told me that Bruck said that if we bring the orcs goblin heads that we can be friends, like Gruck. I don't know who Gruck is, but apparently he lives on the surface."

"After Bruck left us, we passed through the door of the dance macabre, and got back to the spot with the pit trap. It was easy to find because the spike that Drak put into the floor to help secure the rope was still there. We went on past the trap and into a room with a giant bull statue. It had an open mouth, and the room was scorched. Hugging the wall furthest away from the statue we moved through the room, and come to an open doorway. Beyond was a great room. Our torches barely making a dent into the darkness." Nick paused "There were whispers coming from inside... even Lemincanin's elf-ears couldn't make out what, if anything was being said..."

"Not wanting to press our luck, we moved on, and came to another doorway opening into a similar room. In fact it could even have been the same room. This time though I could see something. A body, or at least that's what I thought it was. So I lit a torch and tossed it into the room."

"Tossing that torch was perhaps not my wisest decision, but it was smarter than going in and seeing for myself! It was indeed a body on the floor, and it was only one of many, and they started to move! By St. Guinefort's scruff that was a bad spot to be in! And it turned out I was right, the two doorways did indeed lead to the same room. I yelled to everyone to head back to the pit trap and before we could get past the first doorway a pair of skeletons popped out. Luckily my investment in dogs paid off, and they and Boarface dropped them. Boarface took a hit, but it wasn't too bad. We managed to get on the far side of the pit before the skeletons, and the first one on it triggered the trap, and down he went."

"How many were there?"

By Nelson Daniel

"I didn't really have the chance to get an exact count, but we were outnumbered for sure. Probably around a score of them. We set up a shield wall with Kaldue and Gygard at the front, Lemincanin with his bow and me with my pike behind. Boarface and the dogs guarding our backs. It felt like forever as they kept pressing forward. The zombies behind did a lot of the work for us on the skeletons, pushing relentlessly forward, and pitching he bones down the pit. Some of the zombies did make it across the span, eventually shattering our shields, and then bringing Gygard down. By this point there were only 2 zombies left. One was busy eating Gygard, the other made to attack Kaldue. I grabbed the spare shield from Sacco, and pushed them both into the pit. They took Gygard with them..."

"After tending to our wounds we explored a little more and discovered an embalming chamber. We decided to grab what we could from it, and come back to town."

"So what are you going to do now?"

"Now? I'm going to finish this ale, and then another, and enjoy my time tonight with you! After that, I'm going to get ready for next time! We're going to need a priest or two if we're going to find that talisman and get the bounty!"

Hirelings generated with the ever useful Meatshields!.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tower and Dungeon

Here's a raw scan of a tower, a dungeon, and an underground river. I'm not real thrilled with it...

Sorry for the lazy post. I've come down with a cold, and it's kicking my ass.

Also, there's a new poll on the right about pictures from my actual play posts. Do you like pics from the table, pics from the module (or other online sources) or no pics?

Monday, January 23, 2012

First Foray Into Stonehell

The Bumpkin's Squire was getting quickly out of control. Drak the Hood had arrived a short while ago, already drunk, and likely experiencing the highs of some sort of mind altering substance. At the bar Medwin the former henchman was lamenting the passing of his former employer by liberally spending the former employer's gold on rounds for the house. "Ed-*hick*-rick was a good boss! And I'm going to miss him. His body lies in Stonehell, as does my friend Lurgard. He was a good friend... Here's to Edrick and Lurgard! May they never rise from the dead!"

"What happened?" my inebriated buxom companion asked.

"Well, it all started about a week ago. The warlord I was working for was murdered. No great loss, but I was out of a job."


"I was a pikesman, but now I'm not. Anyway, with the last of my pay I made it here. Drak over there had some vision or something about a talisman in the Quiet Halls of Stonehell. Maybe it was the Silent Halls. Halls of Silence? Anyway, he and his henchman Marwick teamed up with some other guys, including Edrick and his henchmen, and Sampson, a priest of some type, his adopted sons and dogs, and of course me."

"Sounds like a big party!"

"It started that way. Barely a room into Stonehell some lizard dropped down, giving Sampson a bloody nose, and killing one of his sons. We brought the beast down. Well, really I brought it down. Sampson decided that a bloody nose was enough for him, and he left along with his son and dogs. Moving on we followed the directions that Drak's vision gave him. Next we bumped into some dwarves. They'd lost a companion and wanted to know if we'd seen him." Nicholas stopped to take a drink. "After that we ran into some skeletons."

"Which direction was that in?" she asked.

"We were still going straight." Nicholas smiled. "These skeletons were all smashed up. Past that we came to a set of big doors with a dance macabre on it. On the other side were these weird glowing beetles. We killed a couple of them, and sent the rest scurrying away. Keeping on we came to another room of skeletons, including this great big snake skeleton. We killed them all, but lost Lurgard, Medwin's friend. If you check tomorrow with the alchemist you can see the snakes skull in his shop."

"Continuing on we next stumbled on a pit trap. Edwin... well, Edwin fell.Oddly the trap didn't trigger for for Medwin, even though he went over it first. Drak, Medwin and I looked at each other and realized that our party of 11 was suddenly down to 3. We decided that we'd had enough, and now we're back."

"Rich?" She asked with a smile.

"Eh, more coin than I had when I got into town, but not enough to go nuts like those two." Drak was standing in the middle of the bar, his shirt off, and juggling several bottles. "He's going to end up naked somewhere by morning."

"Are you going back?"

"Not tonight.."

Friday night I got to play my first Google+ game, run by Nicholas Mizer using my netbook. It didn't work well, and I had to steal Virginia's Macbook Pro. The next day I went and and got a webcam for my desktop.

Can you tell I'm looking forward to my next chance to play?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sunday Inspirational Image - Stonehell

In honor of the fact that I got to play in Michael Curtis' Stonehell before I had the chance to run it for myself (play report coming soon) here is the iconic ogre faced doorway from the antechamber to hell.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Thoughts on Thunderspire

As we wrapped up Thunderspire I have a few thoughts on how things went overall.

We all missed minions. It’s a little weird actually, but the one-hit wonders actually made some battles a lot of fun, especially when you can throw hoards of the things at them! Summoned skeletons? Bam - minions! Goblins coming out of the woodwork? Bam - minions! Watching them get mowed down by the PCs is actually a lot of fun. Watching them gang up on the PCs and bring the hurt? Also lots of fun.

In the last session I used the Return of Kalarel encounter which included minion versions of the PCs. I decided that running them as standard minions wasn’t going to fit the encounter quite right, so I made them 2 hit minions. It worked out well, and it threw the players for a bit of a loop.

Encounter Builds
Some of the encounter builds seemed really odd, especially the last bunch. I don’t get why Norkers (3rd level) were included in level 6-8 encounters. They didn’t serve any really useful purpose, except in the roll that minions would have better served in. As it was, they ended up just making the players expend a few actions to take them down. It’s bad when to hit them, the players needed to not roll a 1. Not only were they time wasters, they didn’t really have any connection to the theme of the adventure or the series.

You know what would have worked, given that this is the Orcus series? Undead! There was a startling lack of undead in this adventure given the overarching theme.

As written, rather crappy. As modified by Myrhdraak, about on line with Bioware games (Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, etc.). Rather railroady, with lots of extraneous moving parts. There were a lot of extra NPCs that didn’t really get a chance to get any stage time. Part of this was my fault, and part of it my players, but this play style seems to work for us, especially given out very limited playtime.

I also appreciate the work of Myrhdraak in tying the adventures together, not just in making them all Orcus themed, but actually making them work as an adventure path.

I would give Thunderspire a C/C- grade. It had a lot of potential, but it never really brings it all together in a really comfortable and coherent way. The grade goes down even further if you don’t use the Orcus conversion.

On the other hand, it was still fun, and my players seemed to really enjoy themselves.

It’s likely to be a while before we get to game again, which will give me a chance to really vet the next adventure and make sure there aren’t any crazy things going on like the norkers. I’m looking forward to it the most of the H adventure series, as I think it’s probably the most gonzo and old school of the set. More on that later...

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Thunderspire Session 6 part 2

This session was played on 1/7.

Cory ran:
Dietrich the Human Knight
Ander the Halfling Rogue

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

The death of the demonic gnoll freed the slaves from the ritual, and they collapsed to the ground drained and unconscious. After making sure they were alive, the party looted the chamber, finding an odd silver key in the shape of a minotaur's collarbone, and numerous letters. Returning to the Seven Pillared Hall, they brought the slaves to the temple for looking after. They then spent the next day resting up, and transferring the enchantment from Ander’s dagger to his rapier. They also read through the notes from the demonic gnoll, which told them that Paldemar had the matching silver collarbone key, and that both would unlocked the Shrine of Undeath! In addition, the key seemed to act as a compass, pointing the way.

Following the key’s directions brought the adventurers to the very door of the hidden Shrine of Undeath. Entering a large chamber, full of appropriately atmospheric smoke, shadows, and dark mirrors, they heard a laugh coming from their bag of holding. Opening it up and pulling out the head of Kalarel, he tells them of their doom, and then the head is yanked from their grip and a new body forms below it, and stepping from the mirrors are 5 shadowy forms that resolve themselves into the appearances of the party - and of Ulrick the wizard! The fight was tough, as Kalarel’s shadowy form seemed to resist being torn asunder once again. The companions’ shadow-selves were dispersed several times before they focused on Kalarel, who kept re-summoning them, but eventually he, and the shadow-selves were drawn back through the mirrors.

Passing beyond that chamber a teleportation circle whisked them into the Shrine of Undeath itself! Shadowy walls hid strange goblin-like creatures, and hideous columns. The creatures were cut down rapidly, but the columns blasting the characters unrelentingly was the real challenge. The only way out of the chamber seemed to be another keyed portal, which they took very quickly...

Dropping them into a much quieter area. Simple unadorned columns held the ceiling aloft, and multiple doors sealed them in. Opening the large doors revealed a similar columned chamber holding a giant bronze minotaur - one of the same type of wardens that both protects the Seven Pillared Hall, as well as the ones down in the sea of shadows! This one however seemed much more interested in attacking. It was slightly hemmed in by the tight confines of the room, and the adventurers used that to their advantage, bringing it down in 2 rounds. This was just in time as a pair of the goblin creatures from before, and a pair of robed cultists came to investigate. Neither of the goblins lasted very long. Ander ended up on one side of the room with a cultist and goblin while the other two dealt with the rest of the party. Each set was taken down quickly and without much pain, though the cultists ripping their own faces off was a bit disconcerting.

Investigating around they discovered a library full of blank books, and a laboratory with some sort of large demonic machine, and a short passage to another closed door.... avoiding the machine, the party pressed on. Opening the door they found... a small chamber with 3 more doors, one on each wall.

Taking the door to the right (north) they discovered another Bronze Warder, which also moved to attack. This time they couldn’t take it down before reinforcements arrived in the form of 2 cultists, 3 more goblin things, and Paldemar himself! The battle raged, with the Bronze Warden dropping first, then the goblin things, then the cultists.

Paldemar spent the whole time blasting the adventurers with amazingly powerful magics. Paldemar’s companions, on the other hand, found themselves less than effective. Chan in particular, deciding that Paldamar needed to be brought down, bug finding himself at the wrong end of the battle, performed an epic combination of flips, jumps, and twists that managed to hit everything between him and his target, netting over 200 points of damage total! As the last of his allies were being brought low, Paldemar found himself facing the monk. Drawing Chan away from his companions, Paldemar avoided a solid blow, and became invisible. Losing his nerve, Chan decided to wait until his friends could back him up. Paldemar decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and fled the Shrine of Undeath.

The adventurers then destroyed the Shrine, the demonic machine, and claimed a ritual book, a stash of gold, and a map as their treasure.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


"Quick! Stop it!" Feris yelled.

The darkness shrouded beast lunged toward the gate of the town, smashing into it hard. The wood strained under its impact. Nimble threw daggers at it, but they passed right through the beast and lodged into the gate. "Allianora?!?"

The golden haired cleric lifted her holy symbol "Creature of Evil I banish thee!"

The thing turned, and a malevolent laugh issued from the darkness. "You can not stop me." An arm stretched out and a glob of darkness enveloped Allainora.

"NOOO!" Feris aimed his wand at the creature, and a forked bolt of lightning struck what was within the darkness.The inky darkness folded back away from the blast, then pushed outward, traveling back along the line of electricity, and wrapping Feris in darkness and silence.

Rathgar charged forward...


Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 100+
Move: too fast
Attacks: 1 (special)
Damage: Special
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Lobbyist 20
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: Nil
Alignment: Evil
XP Value: The internet

Saturday, January 14, 2012


“RUN!” Rathgar yelled, pushing his companions away from the door. The strange turtle-like creature pointed the purple spiked thing toward the fleeing adventurers, and a blast of glowing darts zipped down the hall. Rathgar turned at the last moment, bringing his shield up. Most of the darts impacted on the shield, but two seemed to wrap around the edge, and impact solidly into his shoulder.

“Keep going!” he yelled as he turned to follow. Just then the darts popped, the force knocking him sideways against the wall. The creature made a noise like a laugh, and waved the rod above his head.

This magical device fires a burst of magical darts. The darts cause a single point of damage plus one point for every 2 above the minimum die roll needed to hit. In addition, the following round, the target takes an additional 1d3 points of damage for every point suffered the previous round from the Splinter-rod as the darts explode.

Splinter-rods may be used as a melee weapon, inflicting 1d4 points of damage. Spinter-rods will be found with 2d6 charges.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thunderspire Session 6 part 1

This session was played on 1/7.

Cory ran:
Dietrich the Human Knight
Ander the Halfling Rogue

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

The shadow dragon was dead, and the doors to the Well of Shadow’s Inner Sanctum were open. The companions made their way through the doors, and down the corridor. A dark chanting could be heard from the far end of the corridor. An acrid smoke burned at their eyes and noses. The corridor ended in a multi-layered chamber. Over the entire structure a giant idol of Orcus loomed. Within was a demonic winged gnoll chanting from a book, and sucking the life energy from the final 2 missing citizens of Winterhaven. Protecting the dark being was a large demon and three lesser demons, all of the type they’d faced before. In addition, a minotaur skeleton with a giant double bladed axe stood near the door.

The companions, battered from their previous encounter, were very focused, and took down the skeleton with extreme prejudice. Due to their highly coordinated efforts, the skeleton made a single swing before it was pulverized on the floor. The demons in the room barely had a chance to move before the companions before they had switched to their next target, the big demon in the room. This did allow the little demons to move into some tactically strong positions, which did put some hurt on the companions. However they remained committed to their strategy, in spite of the damage that they were soaking up. All the while the demonic gnoll continued to blast and curse the adventurers, while maintaining the ritual.

The big demon was near death, but the accumulated damage the companions had taken from numerous solid hits was beginning to take its toll, and the demons could smell (and taste) blood! In fact, with a succession of quick hard hits, Dietrich dropped, followed quickly by Barakas. Some quick thinking by Ander and Chan got them both back on their feet. Then Ander dropped and was revived. Dietrich fell twice more before Chan also fell. Then it was Ander’s turn again followed in quick succession by Dietrich, Chan, and finally Ander again. By this point the demons had been destroyed, and the companions turned to the demonic gnoll. Using his speed, and the terrain to his advantage he kept the party at range. While this allowed him survive a bit longer, he was eventually overcome by the party.

This was a tough fight for my players. They went into it with only a short rest after having completed the Well of Demons challenges, including the shadow dragon. Their focused fire strategy worked out pretty well, except that I was rolling slightly above average with both my hits and damage, resulting in characters falling unconscious a total of 10 times!!

The final tally for the party at the end of the fight:
Dietrich - 14 hp and 5 remaining healing surges - dropped unconscious 4 times
Ander - 13 hp and no healing surges - dropped 3 times
Chan - 13 hp and 1 healing surge - dropped twice
Barakas - 14 hp and 5 surges - dropped once.

Also of note was the use of d30 rolls. 2 were used on this fight. Ander the rogue got a 30. Chan the monk got a 1. Both rolls were used for damage.

Finally the number 34 came up a lot this fight, for both attack and damage totals.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Obligatory 5e post

There’s some big news in the gaming world. Big enough to hit The New York Times and Forbes. Honestly, if anyone was talking about anything else on G+ today, I didn’t see it.

So, 5th edition. Considering the vast numbers who were unhappy with 4e and switched to Pathfinder, earlier editions, or different games all together, this is probably a good choice for WotC. If they do it right (and it seems at this stage, with the open playtest, they are on the right track) then it could be more than 5th edition - it could be a unifying edition. Maybe even Dungeons and Dragons Ultimate Edition?

Is that a pie in the sky hope? Maybe. Probably. Yet I remember when White Wolf's Vampire was the game that everyone was talking about, when AD&D 2e was a bloated system that was rapidly becoming an irrelevant dinosaur, and the end of TSR meant the end of D&D.

I remember when that changed. I remember all the promise that 3e held.

It's been a long time since then, and things are different now. Things are more fractured, and WotC isn't battling an entirely different game, they're battling their own progeny. Between Pathfinder and the OSR getting everyone to agree, making everyone happy will be impossible.

But maybe... just maybe... Type V may be able to bridge the divide.

I think if they follow the idea Jason of the Wasted Lands (and others) expressed, with a Core D&D system, and Advanced options that can be easily grafted on then WotC will be on the right track

Monday, January 9, 2012

Going to a weird place...

I placed an order with Noble Knight games for something I've been wanting for a long time...

The Players Secrets to Endier

Oh, yeah, and Vornheim!

I haven't gotten very far into it yet, but Wow...

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Thunderspire Session 4 pt. 2 & 5

I’m actually a bit behind on my session reports. I still owe you part 2 of session 4 (from 11/12), and all of session 5 (from 12/21). Because we should be finishing up Thunderspire today, I’m going to give a quick recap of the events.

After evading the shadow dragon again, and sending the gnoll army down into a deep crevasse. Using the clues they discovered, they found the path to the Well of Demons. They confronted and defeated several more groups of gnolls in the outer rooms, as well as finding and freeing the giant boar that they’ve been keeping their eyes open for. Making their way into the central portion of the Well they encountered 3 ghosts that told them how the Well works, and what items they needed to collect.

Searching around they barely managed to survive a chamber of pillars with magic mirrors, almost becoming forever trapped in an oubliette. Then they fought some demons in a room full of acidic blood while being whipped by giant minotaur statues. Finally they retried the last item from a series of chambers with demons and demonic pillars that attacked them with a variety of powers.

With all the focuses needed to open the inner sanctum doors, the adventurers place the items, and the door begins to slowly open. It also summons the final guardian - the shadow dragon!! In a running battle that spans the entire inner area of the Well the adventurers defeat the dragon for the 3rd and final time!

The great doors open, and within a demonic gnoll leads a foul ritual that seems to be draining the life out of the final two slaves taken from Winterhaven.

I’m really looking forward to today’s game, and not just because we’ll be wrapping up Thunderspire. Even more than that I’m really looking forward to is the return of Kalarel - an encounter you’ll only know about if you downloaded the Myrhdraak H2 Orcus Conversion!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Qualta Blades

The hobgoblins formed a battle line, shields interlocked and spears pointed toward the adventurers. Standing in the center of the line, a chief wielding a fat broadsword. “Surrender!” he called out.

Rathgar flexed his neck before glancing back at his companions. “There’s only a dozen of them.”

“And I don’t fancy surrendering to hobgoblins” Nimble added.

“We could run” Feris offered.

“They’d catch us” Allianora pointed out.

“Right” Rathgar turned back toward the hobgoblins and yelled “We accept your surrender!”

The chief grunted and pointed the sword directly at Rathgar. The blade seemed to split down the middle of its length, each half of the blade sliding to the end of the crossguard. With a loud crack a a bolt of energy shot from between the blades straight at Rathgar.

Rathgar fell backward, pinning Nimble beneath him.

Qualta Blade

These rare blades were once forged in great numbers by hobgoblins, though the art of their making is thought lost. Today they can still be found in the hands of hobgoblin chiefs, handed down through the generations, and those who have defeated them.

Qualta Blades are magical broadswords (+1 to +3) that can also discharge a powerful magical bolt. In order to use the blast power, the sword must be reconfigured. This takes 1 round. To switch back also requires 1 round. Using the blade as a sword while configured to blast incurs a -2 to attack rolls (no magical bonus). The blast power is a ranged attack that deals 1d12 points of damage, and stuns the victim for 1 round on a successful hit. On an attack roll of 1 or 20 with a blast attack the blade will automatically revert to the sword configuration not be able to use it's blast attack for 24 hours.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

There and Back Again

On Christmas I finished reading The Hobbit. No, not for the first time, but yes, because of the upcoming movies. The last time I read it I was in Jr. High or High School, and there was much I had forgotten. While I remember that it was much more of a children’s story than The Lord of the Rings, I didn’t remember to what extent. For example the trolls named Bill, Burt, and Tom felt very out of place in the Middle Earth of LotR. I had forgotten how they were characterized, and how vastly different they were than the cave troll from Moria.

I also didn’t remember to what extent Bilbo continuously saved the dwarves. The entire middle section of the book seemed to be a series of the company getting into trouble, the dwarves getting captured, and Bilbo rescuing them. This happens with the goblins, the spiders, and the wood elves. It probably would have happened with the wargs, but instead of Bilbo it’s the great eagles. It seemed odd that a company of 12 dwarves, a hobbit burglar, and a wizard (even if most of them were level 1-3) could get into such trouble, and that only the burglar could get them all out of it!

I did remember that for the most part the dwarves weren’t given a whole lot of personality. Beyond Thorin, Kili, Fili, and Bombur the dwarves get very little face time and no real personality! I have the feeling that even with 2 movies there will be a limit as to how far the personalities of 12 dwarves can be developed, especially as they’ll be sharing so much screen time with Bilbo and Gandalf. However, judging by the actors chosen by Peter Jackson, and the costumes they wear, a lot of their personality has already been developed. Rather amazing how much we take in visually, and how different these dwarves are as compared to Gimli.

Of course, now I have to wait an entire year to see it on the big screen, and even then only the first half!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Map - Monty’s Hall

A small, one-hour dungeon. I drew this during the final episode of season 4 of The Closer. I don’t *think* the show had any impact on the map... A different show, one I haven’t seen in years does seem to have exerted it’s influence.

Monty’s Hall

The first three doors of the hall are all unlocked, but only one set my be open at a time. Whichever doors are not opened will magically remain closed. When the adventurers try to open any other door within, roll a d3. The door may only be opened if the number matches the door used to enter the dungeon.

The map was drawn with a fine black pen (0.5) in a graph paper composition notebook. Nothing fancy, like a moleskin book with parchment paper, just a cheap one I picked up at the college bookstore. I did use Google’s creative kit to get rid of the graph lines as best I could.

I’m not happy with the two tombs on the middle level. I need to work on that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Looking Ahead

As 2011 has come to a close, and 2012 begins its relentless drive toward 2013 it is time to review the State of the Blog.

2011 was, on the whole, a pretty good year for the Tower of the Archmage. I hosted a blog carnival, participated in several others, made it to pundit level and am well on my way to gaining another level. I participated in several contests, and even hosted one here.

There have also been a few things that have stalled out do to a variety of factors. The biggest two were switching jobs and working on my Masters Degree. While the job and school work continue, I’d like to get back to some of the projects I put aside. Starport Saturdays, Tim Curry Tuesdays, and my Megadungeon are all at the top of the list.

This year did see me return to making terrain. I built and painted several ruins as well as the fieldstone bell tower. I’m planning on continuing that trend, and making more items for my terrain table. I’m at this point seriously considering a small village to go with the bell tower and ruins that I already have, but that isn’t set in stone, or even cast bricks.

Related to terrain building is painting minis and sculpting. I didn’t paint a single mini in 2011, and I haven’t sculpted anything in years. The sculpting isn’t a big deal because I have no lack of minis to paint, however I have a dragon mini that has lost the top of its head. There is another dragon that I’ve lost its arm. I have no idea where either part is. Since I want to paint them, I need them built. To built them I need to replace the missing bits. To replace the missing bits, without buying new minis, I need to sculpt. Therefore, sculpting is back on the agenda!

I will continue to write reviews, actual play reports, monsters, magic items, and to share links and maps, and all of the other things that I (ir)regularly post. I have a small stack of products to review, and shelves of gaming material to mine for ideas. And in case I run out of ideas or inspiration there are always the random blog post generators.

What this means for you, dear reader, is that there is lots more to come! Thank you for sticking with me, and I hope you continue to enjoy the ride!