Friday, June 28, 2013

Genderswapped Lord of the Rings

One thing about the Lord of the Rings is it's lack of female characters, outside of Eowyn. Peter Jackson buffed up Arwyn's character I think in large part because of that. Ove on Livejournal a user named Annis put together a visual essay of a genderswapped Lord of the Rings. Below are just a few examples.

It's definitely worth checking out the rest!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

New Magic Item: Heart of the Earth

“Look out!” Morak yelled as the red minotaur charged into the room.

Rothwin stood his ground, and launched a quarrel straight at the charging beast. It flew true, but lodged itself in the beast’s horn. Rothwin was knocked to the ground unconscious, his crossbow clattering across the floor. Morak dodged out of the way, but Kargar found himself slammed against the wall, his head cracking against the intricate stonework.

Vladimir screamed and leapt upon the beast’s back, jamming his dagger deep into it’s shoulder.

Morak scrambled to his feet, and swung his flail at the beast’s knee, connecting with a sickening crack. The beast grunted in pain, reached back to grab Vladimir, and flung him into Morak, sending them both to the ground in a tangle. He slammed Kargar against the wall again, before adding him to the pile of bodies.

“Ow...” Morak groaned. Blinking he found himself on the ground, stripped nude. His friends lay injured and unconscious around him, and bathed in a red light. Blinking he looked around and found the light emanating from a rock in the minotaur’s hands. As he looked, the stone of the floor, walls and ceiling oozed out in long thin fingers, forming a lattice trapping him and his friends within.

“Thanks to you and your friends, I can now continue my work.” The beast rumbled. He turned and limped down the corridor, the stone dimming, and darkness enveloping all.

Heart of the Earth

This giant uncut ruby allows it’s owner to mentally move, mold, and dig through solid stone as if it was clay. Attuning to the stone will permanently drain 4 hit points, and for every day of use, the stone must be bathed in the blood of a sentient. Activating the stone takes 1 turn, after which the owner may burrow at a rate of 10’/turn. Detail work will vary based on the level of complexity.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Some 5 minute and micro maps

If you follow me on G+ you've probably already seen these.

This was Monday's #micromapmonday

On a 3x5 card for #fridayfiveminutemap

Also a #fridayfiveminutemap

And obviously a #micromapmonday

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kobold Bones II

So over a year ago I wrote about the kobold bones I picked up and started working on. I finished painting them not long after that post, but never got around to taking pictures.

Here they are! Finally... Only 13 months later...

If you can't really tell which ones were primed, and which ones were not, it's because it's really hard to tell. Overall I think priming was not worth it, and I'll be doing the rest of my Bones without it from now on.

Monday, June 24, 2013

New Monster: Red Minotaur of The Golden Halls

What do you hope to gain?” the nasal voice asked.

“The usual: fame, fortune, and all the assorted sundry that goes with it.” Rathgar answered with an obvious smile.

“You will find none of that if you seek out Kokin. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a quick death... if you’re unlucky...”

“Then it’s a good thing we merely seek passage through his realm.”

“He’ll kill you.”

“We’ve handled worse, I’m sure.” Rathgar’s confidence practically dripped.

There was a deep sigh. “Do you have no idea?”

“He’s a minotaur.” Rathgar shrugged. “We’ve faced them before, even in their own labyrinths.”

“Kokin Tavros is not just a minotaur! He is the total and complete master of his realm and he’s insane.” The priest pointed to the slaughtered goat on the alter. “The signs are not in your favor.”

“We make our own fate.” fishing a few golden crowns from his pocket, Rathgar dropped them into the priest’s hands.

Kokin Tavros
Red Minotaur of The Golden Halls
AC: 5
Hit Dice: 8** (L)
Move: 120’ (40’)
Attacks: Ax/Ax or Gore
Damage: 1d10+4/1d10+4 or 2d6+4+special
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Save As: F8
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: A
Intelligence: 7
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 1750

Kokin Tavros rules a narrow mountain pass dividing a pair of large towns. In the past he would simply charge travelers a fairly nominal fee to pass through his realm unmolested, but in the last couple of years the minotaur began attacking caravans that he felt did not pay proper respect or coin, and for the last 2 seasons no traveler has successfully passed through his realm. One of the towns sent an armed force against Kokin, and they were all wiped out but two, who were left alive to tell the tale.

Aside from the mountain pass, there is an ancient temple carved into the living rock of the mountain where Kokin makes his lair. Using an enchanted stone, he has expended the original structure, digging deep into the rock, and creating a labyrinth for himself. It's also a potent weapon... check back Thursday for details.

This is my Reaper Bones minotaur.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Morak's Blades

“Morak!” the boy yelled. “Kargar!”

The three warriors looked up from the fish roasting over the campfire. Vladimir ran back to camp, his dagger gripped tight, and eyes wide. “Demons!” he yelled too loudly, skidding to a stop on the far side of the fire.

The men grabbed their arms and put their backs to the fire and looked out into the deepening darkness.

Vlad tossed a small tightly bound bundle of sage on the fire.

“What’s that for?” Kargar asked softly.

“Mum always burned sage to keep demons out of the house.”

“I don’t know that’s going to help any.” Kargar replied dubiously.

“Hush” Rothwin admonished

Kargar’s gaze flashed to Rothwin “Hush yourself, bastard. I don’t take orders from-”

“Brother, Kargar, shut up.” Morak sighed. “And keep your eyes to the dark.”

The only sounds were the crackling of the fire, a gentle breeze rustling the leaves, and the normal night noises of the woods.

After a long pause Morak asked “Vlad? What exactly did you see?”

“A demon!” he said excitedly. “It was hiding in a pile of leaves, and I didn’t see it at first. When I went to gather some of the wood near it, it reached toward me!”

The three warriors sighed, their weapons drooped. “Is the fish burned?” Kargar asked, as he turned to the fire.


“It was just the wind, Vlad.” Rothwin said, setting his crossbow against the log, and retrieving his winskin from the dirt.


“There’s no shame lad, be at ease” Kargar speared one of the fish off the fire, and handed it to Vlad.


“Now” came the soft voice from the dark, and diminutive grey skinned creatures loped into the firelight, their large maws open wide.

Morak's Blades

Morak (Human Male F1 N) is a younger son of a minor lord who stands to inherit nothing. Making the best of the situation he gathered his childhood companions and struck out to make his fortune. He fights with flail and shield, wears high quality chainmail and helm, and is proficient with a shortbow. He is young, a bit naive, but cautious.

Rothwin (Human Male F1 N) is the bastard son of the minor lord who fathered Morak. Rothwin was raised with Morak, and feels that they both deserve better, and harbors a strong hatred of the heir. Rothwin wears black studded brown leather armor and wields a crossbow with deadly accuracy. His face and neck are tattooed with a red dragon breathing flames.

Kargar (Human Male F1 L) is the son of the lord’s master-at-arms. His father recommended that Kargar to keep an eye on Morak. He may be a younger son, but he’s still in the line of succession, and his mother (a witch) saw great things in his future. Kargar wears a suit of chain and helm of equal quality to Morak’s, and fights sword and board. He is also learning ancient common from a translating dictionary.

Vladimir (Human Male F0 N) was a stable boy at the lord’s manor, who decided that following Morak was significantly more exciting than cleaning stalls.

Inspired by a result from Meatshields! The Classic Fantasy Hireling & Henchman Generator

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Familiarity of the Other

The poll I ran last week about familiars ended differently than I expected. I figured that the cat and the toad would by the top pics. Instead other and the crow were the top pics, and the poor toad, the granter of a constitution bonus, got a single vote.

So we're left with "other", but what is other? I'm guessing that "other" refers to some of the weirder options, things like elementals, homunculi, or winged cats.

or mechanical owls

So I'm curious, what's other? If you were going to pick something other than a traditional familiar, what would you pick? As always, the poll is to the right.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Get Torchlight for Free!

Torchlight is a diablo-like game, made by some of the same people who made Diablo, and until Thursday 12:59pm GMT you can get it for free!

Now, I'd heard about it before, but never checked it out. No time, really. However, last night I got to see it in action, and if you liked Diablo, you'll like this. It does what the diablo games did so well, letting you run around and kill stuff, smash things, and have a good time without having to worry about much of a storyline.

It also avoids all sorts of unnecessary choices for a game like this. You get to pick one of 3 characters, and one of 3 animal companions that have some interesting options of their own. No picking hair color, or skin tone, or even what sex you are. Pick a class and play!

Then you go, kill stuff, get XP, better items, and kill more stuff.

It is, in some ways, very old school. And yes, it's a little more cartoony than Diablo, but does it matter in play? Nope. Not a bit.

So go! Download it now! The price couldn't be better, and you also get the soundtrack for free, which I think is a nice touch.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Review: Empires of the Shining Sea (Part 2)

The Empire of the Shining Sea boxed set comes with 2 large maps and a 200-page book dealing with the Shining Sea region of the forgotten realms. In spite of the cover, showing a blue dragon fighting a Jinn, it’s much more northern African in flavor, rather than Arabian Nights.

The book’s goal is to provide the information that would theoretically be necessary to run a game set somewhere around the Shining Sea. What you get is 200 pages of history, sociology, biography, travel log, and CIA info dumps. It’s all pretty well organized, and the references to other products are kept to a shocking minimum. I expected significantly more cross-referencing than I found. The only product that is consistently referenced is Lands of Intrigue (TSR1159) boxed set, and less often the For Duty and Diety Forgotten Realms/Planescape crossover adventure (the results of which could have some interesting impacts on the lands of the Shining Sea).

I was also shocked to find that there was almost next to no crunch in this set. No new spells, kits, monsters, rules tweaks… nada. There was a new artifact, some minor magic items, and that was about it. NPCs were provided with the minimalist 2e stat line (example here), and while there is the usual assortment of high level NPCs, there were also a shocking number of low level and 0 level characters in positions of power. I can’t remember the last time I saw a 0 level character in charge of a village shop in the realms, let alone in a position of real power…

Intrigues abound in the shining sea, helped in no small part to a number of secret, centuries-old groups, some of which are still run by their founding members. Nothing like vampires, liches, and dragons to minimize turnover at the highest levels of an organization…

Because the Realms are so interconnected, an understanding of the various power groups around the area detailed within really is necessary. Knowing who Elminster is isn’t enough. You have to know who the Zentrum are, who the Harpers are, where the Sword Coast is, Skullport, Hastur, Cormyr, etc. You also need to know Realmsian history, at least the major events like the Time of Troubles. Without such knowledge (most of which would be obtainable from the basic Forgotten Realms boxed set) you’re likely to find yourself lost.

I can’t say reading this was much fun. It’s dense like a textbook, but written in a much less formal tone. More like a modern version of the type of travel books written during the 18th and 19th centuries, full of questionable information and personal observations that may or may not be accurate.

Unless you’re Ed Greenwood, and know the Realms inside out, I wouldn’t suggest trying to use everything in here as is. While there is some genuinely useable gaming material that can be pulled from it, a DM will have some work to fully flesh any of it out, and in the process will toss a lot of material that’ll never be used.

The original price of the set was $29.99. Was it worth it? I would have a hard time saying yes. The maps are nice, the book was very informative, but... I would have preferred a shorter book and an adventure or two designed to introduce characters to the shining sea. Maybe one designed for 1st level native characters and another for 5th level foreign characters? As it is, there just so much info that'll never ever see use. I can't imagine many games would even use half the info in this book. I also can't imagine players spending the time to read through 200 pages of stuff that isn't going to impact their characters.

Final Thought: Skip it, unless you're really really interested in Calimshan.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Guinea Pig Armor

One of the non-gaming activities I participate in is guinea pig fostering for the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue. At any given time I have my own guinea pig, Chicken of the Andes (aka Andy), and one that has been given up and is looking for it's forever home. Right now I have a sweet boy named Rascal.

That's Alice in the background, Rascal behind the box, and Andy in front.

Here's a closeup of Rascal. He's a sweet little guy, and while I'm enjoying fostering him, I think he'd like to find a real home.

You might remember that Andy and a previous foster pig (Pumpkin) were featured in a past post: Guinea Drakes.

I bring this up because there is a suit of chain & scale armor for a guinea pig, complete with a helm up for auction on e-bay, the procedes of which go to the Metropolitan Guinea Pig Rescue. Not only is it insanely cool, it's for a good cause so please check it out, share it, and if you're interested bid.

A noble warrior...

armored head to toe

Ready for adventure!

There's only a couple of days left, so check out the auction. It's for a good cause. And if you need a pig to wear your new guinea pig armor, I recommend you check out MGPR's currently available pigs, including Rascal.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Now that's Familiar...

Let's start with a poll - What's your favorite familiar? Go vote on the right.

Since mages (and arcane casters in general) have always been my favorite class, one spell that's always been at the top of my list has been Find Familiar.

It's also a spell that doesn't show up on my rules system of choice: the Rules Cyclopedia. In fact I don't think it shows up until Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, and never makes an appearance in basic/classic/BECMI.

For reference, this is the spell as taken from OSRIC:

Find Familiar
Arcane Conjuration/ Summoning
level: Magic user 1
Range: 0
duration: See below
area of effect: 1 mile radius/ caster level
components: V,S,M
casting time: 2d12 hours
Saving throw: See below

Magic users of higher level often summon familiars to assist them with various tasks. Indeed, a familiar can also be of considerable benefit to a lower level magic user (even increasing others’ estimation of his or her power), but the risks inherent in losing a familiar can be daunting to a weaker spell caster. To summon a familiar, the magic user must intone the words of the spell over a well-stocked fire source, sprinkling the flames with expensive incense and powders (100 gp in total value). The caster must maintain his or her casting for as long as necessary (2d12 hours) until a familiar arrives (or the casting time expires without success). The spell may be attempted only once per year, and the caster has no control over the type of animal that will respond. When it arrives, the familiar is a faithful servant and ally to the caster. Normal familiars have 1d3+1 hit points, are AC 7, and are as intelligent as a lower-than-average human. When the familiar is within 120 ft of the magic user, the magic user gains additional hit points equal to the familiar’s. However, if the familiar is ever killed, the magic user permanently loses twice the familiar’s hit points.

In spite of how much I appreciate just how flavorful it is for a spell caster to be accompanied by a familiar, the actual implementation from 1e-3.x was always a bit lacking, and usually dangerous. Taking it with you, anywhere, just turns it into a target, especially when facing an opponent who’s even vaguely intelligent. Yes, the bonus 1d3+1 HP for a first level wizard basically doubles your hit points, but the death of a familiar can also potentially kill a 3rd level wizard!

In 3.x the loss of the familiar hits a wizard or sorcerer as an XP loss (200/level). That's at least not potentially fatal...

4e handles familiars differently. The basic idea is that familiars aren’t actually real animals, they’re spirits or elementals, and when not actively being called upon by their wizard they basically pop off screen, and if they "die" you just re-summon them.

Now, this might seem to go against the grain of OSR grittiness, but honestly, that’s pretty much how I played it back when I ran 2e. I wasn’t going to penalize a wizard with a familiar so egregiously that they’d never take one.

So how do you run familiars? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pyramid of Shadows - session 2

On Saturday my cousins and I picked up Pyramid of Shadows right where we left off a year ago. I can't link to the first session report, because I never wrote one. There wasn't too much to it, as I recall. We spent a bit too long working on getting to the Pyramid, rather than delving right into it.

We left off with them having just killed some Knowledge Eaters in a big library, a fun fight that included running around on top of the book shelves. Picking up from there, they passed through into a smaller set of rooms, and found a few more knowledge eaters, and the first Karavakos.

The one on the right

It wasn't actually that interesting a fight. We were all working hard to remember who did what, and I missed one of the big terrain features. Not to say that it was easy for them, just lacked some of the really interesting possibilities that 4e has.

Moving on from there, they next explored a frozen room that their eladrin head in a ball told them had some magic weapons in it. Trapped in the rooms were some ice zombies and a demon who just wanted to get out of the cold. They didn't know that, not speaking abyssal, so they pulled out the head to ask her, and then the demon went nuts, tossed the monk grabbed the head and ran.

This was a more interesting fight since I actually remembered the terrain effects, and the demon had some nice personality. In the second picture you can see the demon making his escape from the chilled and slowed heroes. He didn't get much further, and they rescued the head once again.

Across the hall was a room with 4 pylons powering a force cage holding the head's body! Destroying a pylon released the body, and caused the head fly out of the hero's hands and become embedded in her own chest. Now this was a fight! Multiple area of effect spells, lots of hit points, interesting powers, and some tough decisions. I don't know if the heroes would have survived if I hadn't rolled so poorly so often.

I used wire to note the area of effect.

They did managed to survive, but it cost them, and they opted to return to the now less icy room to recover.

After that they pressed on, and found a hall of mirrors that spat fire attacks, some flying demons, and a couple of dark creepers with daggers. This is kind of like facing a trio of minotaurs, and a pair of kobolds. Now, maybe I could have used them better, but the heroes just ignored them and their 1d4+4 damage. A couple of higher level minions would have been a much better addition to this fight.

After this, they found themselves in a weird garden, and facing a giant boar, and some viscous plant creatures. This is a spot in the adventure I tweaked, but I wish I'd tweaked it more. According to the adventure, the creatures in the room a humanoids with scythes, and twigs and leaves sticking out of their cuffs and collars. Ok, sure they've got the whole classic death look, but... eh. I just made them really angry plant things. Unfortunately the players are really good at focused fire, and they took down the boar before it could charge, and slammed the first plant monster so very very hard it went from full health to almost dead in 1 round.

All in all it was a pretty good day, and we all had fun playing again, and since we're all done with school, we don't need to wait another year to play again!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

From the The Journal of Valentine MacGee, Dark Wizard Supreme

The excerpt from The Journal of Valentine MacGee, Dark Wizard Supreme details last weekends delve into Stonehell, and was written by Chris Peterson.

The Journal of Valentine MacGee, Dark Wizard Supreme
Report – Stonehell- Location- “The Lost Level”, Date- Saturday, June 1, 2013
A Weekend In Stonehell

Following our misadventures in the Western League, Fethellen Etan and I discovered a scroll that could open a portal to the dismal dungeon known as “Stonehell” and for good reasons.  Dark secrets are said to lie within, but darker dangers guard them.  We rented a room at an inn, and used the scroll there.  We explored the dungeons for a time. I’ve found Etan is almost as ruthless as me when it comes to exploitation of those who would trust her- I’m not sure whether to be aroused or be angered.

She may threaten to kill me bloodily, but I think I’m working my way into her heart.  I just wish she would stop marking everything with her chalk.  It almost makes me think there’s something wrong with her. But then again, I suppose not everybody can be a paragon of sanity, intelligence, and common sense like yours truly.

Instead of a long, boring narrative, journal, I thought I’d just go over the highlights and notable features of the dungeon:

-This place has obviously not seen use in a while. The entry chambers were covered in dust, and in a nearby room, all wine casks were all reduced to vinegar.  Of course, some giant beetles didn’t seem to mind.  We dispatched them heartily.

-Chained up zombies in another room. They were fond of gnawing on my 10 ft. pole apparently. We decided to avoid them.

-The discovery of a floating white door, of an architectural style unknown to me.  After dispatching some stirges inhabiting it, it seemed like merely a lounge for resting. How out of place! Sadly, only a few coppers in the cushions, but I made off with some of the throw pillows.

-Several puzzles we couldn’t figure out. A 4 pillar room with each of the pillars having a roll around section with different letters on it. Also a giant clock face on the floor one room. Later I would guess this would correspond to several magic swords in another room (see below)

-Gnolls who weren’t at all familiar with this area.  One named Flynn musta been from New Feierland. He let Etan lull him into a false sense of security and let her walk him into a lonely room to murder him. His friends weren’t so gullible, but my SLEEP-DO-KEN works on them just as well as anybody.

-A room filled with lizardmen chanting to some dark gods. We avoided them.

-A pit trap, and inside the pit trap a secret alcove with a chest. Inside the chest was a skeletal hand clutching an old book.  Although the wretched hand did not respond to my 10 ft. pole prodding it, it did react to my hand touching the book by lunging at me.  Luckily, I’m most resilient, and I wrenched the hand off and stuck it in a bag.  The book turned out to be a wretched draft of the play “Springtime for Orcus”.  Obviously garish and crude, but I surmise something calamitous will happen if it’s ever put on. I will have to save this for a special occasion…

-A room of swords stuck into a round dais in different positions in a clocklike fashion.  Reading nearby scrolls, I discovered the tale of an order of knights sworn to battle evil. Unfortunately for them, they became corrupted and only one of them, a latecomer to the group, could resist.  He dispatched the other ones, and these were their swords. We knew not the name of the uncorrupted knight, so we had to take a wild stab at picking a sword. Etan withdrew one, which turned out to be the wrong one, and we had flying swords after us.

Luckily for Etan, I was brave and stood my ground (decidedly NOT retreating for the door leaving just her and her henchman Smaar to face the swords alone.) Dodging swords coming after me, I drank a plasmid from Hexenbracken and melted some of the fell swords to puddles. Etan drew the sole uncorrupted sword and began fighting off the blades, but I rushed down the stairs and finished them off with another breath of acid.

But did she even thank me? NOOOO!! Too wrapped up in talking with her new magic sword “Niner”- a sword of decidedly Lawful temperament that didn’t like me. Imagine the gall!

In any case, the emergence of some white gorillas made us decide to make a strategic retreat, for now.

I love how character biased it is! Glad you had a good time Chris!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Back to 4e - again

The last time my players and I sat down to play 4e was months and months ago. A span of months that usually counted as “a year”

Yeah, we’ve all been busy.

I haven’t spent much of any time over the last year thinking about 4e, or the adventure, except in general terms. I’ll be spending my lunch time today reading through it in preparation for tomorrow’s game.

Yeah, tomorrow. A game system I haven’t played in a year, an adventure I haven't thought about in a year, and today at lunch is my prep time.

It’s the sort of prep I usually associate with running something a little more old school.

Things I won't be doing include: Putting the corrected damage/defenses/HP in the adventure, writing up the encounter tracking sheets ahead of time, making sure I have the right minis for the parts of the adventure I expect we’ll get through.

What will I be doing? Rereading the background info, and scanning through the adventure itself. Oh, and trying to figure out what they’ve done so far. I would just go and reread the actual play report for the last game, but I never wrote it.


I don’t even have a draft.

Bad blogger, no cookie for me.

I think I’ve still got the encounter sheets though, so at least there’s that.

Expect a write up on Monday!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

New Magic Item: Silver Key

“Where is it!?!” Rathgar spat. The room had been torn apart top to bottom. Furniture, clothing, and bric-a-brac were spread out across the floor.

“It’s not here” Nimble answered, sitting on the back of an overturned chair. “We’ve looked, all of us, two, three, even four times. The key isn’t here.”

“Then how are we going to open the Dark Fane?” Allianora asked with a sigh.

Rathgar threw the book in his hand against the wall with a wordless growl.

"I don't know." Nimble said tiredly.

Feris sighed "The sage said-"

"Sage?" Rathgar snarled. "That old man may be many things: drug-addled, a fine actor, and a natural con man, but he was no sage. And now we're off track with no idea where the key actual is!"

"The sage said that the Baron of Nox always, always, has the key with him."

"Unless its his armor or his mace, he doesn't have it" Nimble pointed out.

"Maybe" Feris shrugged. "They're both magical."

"And both are tainted" Allianora added.

"Do we chance it? You know what happens if we go to the fane, and we don't have the key." Nimble warned.

"What choice do we have?"

The Silver Key

This magical mace is a highly ornate weapon, etched with abstract and geometric shapes along the entire length. It radiates strongly of magic, and faintly of chaos/evil. In combat it counts as a +2/+4 vs Humans. It's primary ability is to unlock the Dark Fane (or other suitably evil location in your world), and it also has the ability to unlock magical locks and wards (Base chance of 20%)

Image Source: The Silver Key