Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sunday Inspirational Image: Seaside Fortress

Given the terrain, or at least what I can see of it, it doesn't look like the fortress is protecting a harbor or town, or even a good spot to land. Plus it seems overly large for a lookout post. What do you think it's guarding?

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Thau'tier, Hobgoblin Warchief

"Captain Tresh! There's someone at the eastern gate!" The young private all but yelled as he burst into the planning room.

Looking up from a map of the countryside weighed down by an assortment of personal items, the guard captain fixed the soldier with his dark eyes. "What do you mean, there's someone at the gate? We're in the middle of a siege!"

"That's just it sir, it looks like one of their captains."

"And the rest of the force hasn't moved?" Tresh grabbed his helmet from the stand next to the door and slipped it on.

"No sir." The private shifted to clear the doorway.

Tresh paused, nodded, and then quickly sped out of the headquarters and headed for the east gate. The soldiers manning the walls and gatehouse were all on high alert, and the tension in the fort had clicked up a notch with this new development. Upon reaching the gatehouse, Sgt. Casius intercepted the captain. "Sir, he says he wants to talk to you."

Tresh noted the emphasis on the last word. "Me? Specifically?"

"By name, sir."

Tresh considered, brow furrowed in thought. "What do you think of him?"

"The barbarian? Hard to read sir. But fearless, and he seems pretty sure of himself."

"Why shouldn't he be? He outnumbers us 4 to 1. And you've seen the hydra they've got." Tresh sighed. "Very well, let's see what he wants." Looking up to the guards manning the gate, he ordered them to unbar the door. When that was done, the right door was pushed open.

Standing just beyond it was a striking figure. Clad in ornate armor, with a curved single edged bastard sword hanging at his side, the humanoid looked at Tresh with red intelligent eyes. His wild hair and beard the color of storm clouds shifted gently in the spring breeze. He sneered at Tresh, revealing teeth like those of a wolf.

"You are Tresh, captain of this fort?" The words fell from his lips roughly, though clear enough to understand.

"I am."

"These lands are claimed by the Tyranny of Gortho. You will abandon this fort and return to your puny lands."

"This valley was inhabited until we arrived. We claim it for the Baron of Roesone."

"Your claim..." he spit the word "is of little interest. And I am not here to trade words with you. Abandon this fort, and return to your lands, and you will be unmolested. Refuse, and we will gut you and string you up by your own entrails from the walls of your fort as it burns around you."  

Thau'tier, Hobgoblin Warchief, Fighter 8. Plate armor of command (+2 bonus to AC and moral), Bastard Sword "Shock and Awe" (on a hit target must save vs spells or be unable to attack for 1d4 rounds) 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Stonehell: Beetles and More Beetles

Session 4 of Stonehell was played on 2/19

Tink, a pretentious Elf (but I repeat myself) and former barkeep (Hanna)
Wilhelm, drunk Dwarf 1 (Julia)
Shelly, a vegetarian recovering alcoholic halfling Thief 1 (Nadia)
Lost unnamed female Elf (Sarah)

Stayed in town
Lex(i), a crossdressing thief 1 (Molly)

After resting by the well the party decided to explore what was below them. The dropped a rope and climbed down the well, emerging into a worked stone room with 2 exits. Down one was the flicker of firelight and voices. They picked the silent path, which brought them to an intersection, then a door. The first door was a moldy room with a door at the far side. They opted to skip exploring that, and moved back to the corridor and picked another door. This opened into a small room lined with shelves and lots of small bottles full of various substances. A few were collected, and a secret door found! Upon opening the door a small closet was revealed, with a glowing potion sitting on a dusty shelf.

Returning to the hallway, they continued along, finding a side passage with glowing chalk writing that said "secret door" but none was discovered. While they were looking, a giant beetle wandered down the hall, and charged them. It charged into it's own death. Shelly removed the glowing glands, and the party moved on.

The hall ended in a doorway opening into a large chamber with 4 other exits. Beyond a busted door, the eerie glow of beetles could be seen. 2 of the other exits were open doorways leading off into the dark, and the last was a closed and intact door. With some resignation the party deals with the beetles, then turns to exploring while Shelly again butchers the beetles. The piles of beetle dung are ignored, and the closed door checked. Unfortunately it revealed only some busted empty crates. Picking one of the other passages out, they soon came to another side passage at the far end of which they could see a beetle. Unfortunately, it saw them too, and charged, and was as quickly dispatched as the others. Further along they discovered stairs leading down... and took them!

Emerging through a hidden door at the bottom of the stairs, the party finds itself in a small dusty chamber. Through a door, they emerge into a hallway. Further down they come to a door that opens into a large irregularly shaped room lined with dwarf sized bunks, and inscribed with a dwarven wrestling circle in the middle of the floor. Finding nothing else they continue along the hall. A loud 'click' is heard, and a second later a spray of corrosive mist is blasted out of several unseen nozzles. They back off from the mist, then strip off most of their armor as it disintegrates on them.

A little low in hit points, and now mostly unarmored, they decide to return to town to re-equip. Amazingly, they didn't encounter a single thing on their way out of the dungeon...

Gains: 12 fire beetle glands, potion
Kills: 6 Giant Beetles
Losses: several suits of armor, a couple of weapons

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Star Wars Aftermath & Lost Stars

Aftermath and Lost Stars are a pair of the new books in the current Star Wars canon, and both proudly proclaim on their covers that they're part of the "Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and while that might be true, it's less true than you might hope. Neither book really ties in very much with the events of TFA.

The Lost Stars takes place mostly during the original trilogy. And at 551 pages, that's a lot of ground that we've already covered. The end of the book does, finally touch on TFA, but not before giving us cameos of just about every major imperial and rebel character from the original trilogy.

Aftermath takes place post Return of the Jedi and covers what happens pretty much immediately after the destruction of the second Death Star. It has an entirely new set of characters on a new planet, with Wedge Antilles being the only character from the original trilogy to make an appearance.

Aftermath is everything I should want in a bridge novel, expanding the universe of Star Wars, focusing on characters and events that don't tie directly to the Skywalker family. And yet it was Lost Stars that was the superior novel. I actually cared about the protagonists, and getting to see familiar events from a new perspective made them feel fresh. While I knew what was going to happen, big picture, I didn't know what would happen to the characters, or how they would react, or even if they'd survive. It felt like a real Star Wars story, with sweeping events, good vs evil, right vs wrong.

In comparison, Aftermath felt like someone's transcript from a long RPG campaign. I felt like I could grab the character templates from the West End Games rulebook, and tell you what each character used, Bounty Hunter, Kid, Rebel Pilot, Ex-imperial... It seemed like it was a fun sci-fi game, but, it lacked the sweeping grandeur, the epic space opera feel of Star Wars. Maybe because the events were primarily confined to a single planet?

One thing that Aftermath had that I did really enjoy was a series of interludes that give you glimpses of what else was going on in the universe... but because they weren't connected either to each other or the main storyline, it just didn't work, didn't flow the way it could have. And really I wanted those interludes more than I wanted the main story.

I'd recommend Lost Stars if you're looking for a good Star Wars book. Yes it's long, but it's a young adult book, and so the pages will fly by.

Aftermath might be worth reading if you need to read everything Star Wars, but only then.

Monday, February 22, 2016

DDS Adventurers & Dragon

Some work in progress shots from right after my last post.

And the current lineup. Almost done...

Don't think I've shown the backs before. Still need to finish the elf's sword and scabbard.

But instead I started working on the dragon...

Friday, February 19, 2016

Stonehell house rules?

I've written about what house rules I've used in my old school games before, but it's been awhile and I wanted to revisit them. Especially after running a few sessions of Stonehell.So far it's been pretty by the book, though I've already taken advantage of Meatshields. Thus far my players haven't yet learned the benefit of having... well... meatshields in their party. Some of this might be related to the lack of treasure they've managed to collect so far. But beyond that... there are a couple of things I've been thinking about.

Shields Shall Be Splintered - There's a couple of versions of this one kicking around. As kind of a death saving throw, it isn't bad. Stretches out combat potentially.

Death and Dismemberment  - Yet another version of a death saving throw, this one taking place after the players drop to 0, so it keeps combat deadly, but you might survive if your party wins the fight.

Mortal Wounds - The ACKs version of the rule above.

If I go with one of these, it'll only be one. But which one?

Criticals - Double damage? Max damage? Something cool?

Dutch Courage: Any character may heal themselves by spending twenty minutes binding their wounds, catching their breath, and consuming a pint of wine. Doing so heals the character of 1d6 points of damage. This method of first aid may only be used once per day.

2d6 Thief Skills - THe poor thief in BX is just... kinda sad. This does something to help even them out a bit.

Order of the d30 - Once per game session, a player may choose to roll a d30 instead of any normal dice roll. This cannot be used for any purpose during character creation or for hit point rolls.

Town is boring, the adventure is in the dungeon/wilderness! I've been doing this one already. Since my goal was an old school dungeon crawl, I didn't want to spend any extraneous time outside of the dungeon sandbox

Rather than just drop these on my players, at my own whim, I think I'm going to talk to them about it, and see what they'd like to do...

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

New Monster: Puppymonkeybaby DCC

“A wizard did it.” Feris said shakily.

“Why do you always say that!?” Nimble snapped, throwing the half eaten biscuit at Feris. “Why is it always some damned wizard? What’s wrong with you? Is this world not frelling weird enough that you have to…” He looked at Feris, then down at his shaking hands. “It licked me… do you understand that? It crawled up into my lap, and it licked my face.”

Rathgar reached over and put his hand on Nimble’s shoulder. “Allianora said there didn’t seem to be any lasting effects…”

“I will never forget it. How’s that for lasting effects? And where is she anyway?”

"She went off to pray. She was in there with you. We all were."

"Until you ran, and left us alone with that thing..."

Puppymonkeybaby: Init +1; Atk flail +1 melee (1d4); AC 10; HD 1d6; MV 20'; Act 1d20; SP Trasnfix; SV Fort - 2, Ref -2, Will +5; AL C

These small abominations are chimeras created by mad wizards combining a puppy, a monkey, and a humanoid baby. Which parts end up where is variable, but the end result is something that will haunt the minds of all who encounter it till the end of their days. Because their creation disturbs even their creators, only one will ever be encountered at a time.

Upon viewing a Puppymonkeybaby all must make a Will save. Those failing the first become entranced, treating the chimera as a kindly companion, even as it leads them to danger and death. Those passing the first save must then make a Fort save, or flee in revulsion.

Puppymonkeybabies have a preternatural sense for magical and mechanical traps and will avoid triggering them all the while leading their victims into them. While they don't tend to collect treasure, the bodies of their victims are left undisturbed in whatever traps they died in.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Stonehell: Orcs, Ghosts, and Dragons!

This session was played on Friday 2/5

-Hanks the dog

The party while recovering in town meets up with Wilhelm, who’s looking for his cousins to Klaus and Jorgen. Wormy decides to again accompany the party into the dungeon, though it’s obviously something he questions the wisdom of.

The trip to the canyon is without incident, and the gatehouse is again avoided, as are the side caves. Heading straight into the dungeon, Tink pulls out her paper and begins to map their progress. They decide that they should return to the fish room (Don’t mess with the fish! they warn Wilhelm) and head through the ogre mouth. Shelly thinks it looks like a beaver’s mouth, and Wormy wonders what she was on.

Coming to a 4-way intersection with a sign reading “Da Dragon’s Den” they decide to head in the opposite direction, which leads to a room full of trash, and some snakes, which Shelly talks down. From there they moved into a room that had been blasted by some powerful magic that burned the shadows of some poor souls onto the walls. Exiting that room into a corridor, they were spotted by a party of pig faced orcs. Shelly waved at them, and yelled that they were just passing through. Wilhelm smacked her upside the head and hissed at her to be quiet, and not yell in the dungeon.

The orcs watched in baffled amusement before deciding that they could take them, and charged in. Wilhelm and Tink blocked the initial rush, while Lex used her bow, and Shelly snuck between Tink and Wilhelm to stab at the orcs with her dagger. The front rank of orcs was cut down as the second wave charged in. They were also cut down, and Lex’s arrows were taking their toll on the back rank.

As the second to last orc was cut down, Shelly threw her dagger at the last orc, who decided to flee. The dagger hit, but didn’t stop the orc, and he ran into the dark. Shelly yelled “Hey! That’s my silver dagger!” and took off in the dark after the fleeing orc. The rest of the party watched her run off into the dark with aborted calls to wait. They paused to bind their wounds, and listened to hear the death cry of either the orc or the halfling, neither of which echoed back to them. Figuring that the orc was running for help, they opted to go in the opposite direction.

The next chamber glowed with a faint greenish light. As the party entered, the light came together into a fuzzy phantom of an armored man. The figure stood before the far doorway, drew his sword, and pointed it at the party. Wilhelm, Wormy, and Hanks’ courage all broke, and they ran blindly away. Lexi and Tink looked at the phantom, at each other, and decided no, backtracking the way they’d come, hoping to find their fleeing friends.

Meanwhile Shelly charged after the longer limbed orc, hurling curses since he had her dagger. Somehow she managed to keep up with him for a good distance, finally yelling “Just drop the damned dagger!!” The orc did, and Shelly stopped chasing him to pick it up. She looked around and realized that she had no idea where she was.

Wilhelm, using his dwarven senses managed to find his way back to the stairs, with Hanks at his side the whole way. About a quarter of the way back to the surface his courage returned, and he stopped to catch his breath. He and the dog returned to the bottom of the stairs, and looked helplessly at the 5 doors.

“Wormy!” Lex yelled at the 4-way intersection. The sign had been knocked down, and she hoped that he was nearby. Wilhelm and Shelly both heard the call, and went to it. Wormy, however, did not respond to the call. Figuring that maybe he knocked the sign down the way he’d run, they looked down the hall toward “Da Dragon’s Den.”

The hall quickly turned from worked stone into a natural cavern. The sound of dripping water and whistling air echoed around them. Deciding to avoid the suspicious whistling (the snoring dragon?!?) they went toward the dripping water, and entered a chamber with a pool covering the far end. Between them and the pool lay Wormy’s body in a pool of his own blood. Rushing forward to see if they could aid him, they didn’t see the giant reptilian form clinging to the ceiling until it landed on Hanks, and bit his head off before he could even yelp. (critical hit and maximum damage)

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, and recognizing that both Hanks and Wormy were beyond help, they ran. Still without any treasure to show for their efforts, they went to the whistling, and discovered a well in the caves with a bucket next to it. Nothing could be seen, so the bucket was lowered down. It hit bottom out of sight with a jingling noise. The bucket was brought back up, and a candle placed in it. The light from the middle of the bucket revealed that the well opened into a larger chamber, and also that whatever surface was below it was not firm. Since fire makes everything better, some oil was poured down and lit, revealing that whatever the surface was, burned pretty well, and that there were coins on it.

Black smoke billowed up through the well. While it burned, they decided to keep exploring, passing through a cave with a glowing moss on the wall, then back into the dungeon proper. They discovered a chamber that was riddled with cracks, and decided not to enter it. They returned to the well cave checking on their fire. It was out. Feeling worn out, they decided to camp for a bit, grab something to eat, and check their wounds.

Kills: 7 Orcs
Losses: Wormy, Hanks

Monday, February 8, 2016

4e Strikes Back

I'm a member of a website called that does pretty much what it says. It's a book swapping website. The nice thing about it is that it isn't a direct swap. You send books to whoever wants them and get credits, and those credits get spent to get books from other people that you want.

Well, I have some D&D books on my list, and some of them showed up.

Someone was clearly making shelf space for something else!

Not a bad assortment for what would be a very interesting campaign... especially with Monster Manual 2 and the Neverwinter campaign setting also on their way. What I'm going to do with these since I'm no longer running 4e, I don't know yet. But they sure do look pretty on my shelf!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Inspirational Image: Dwarven Spires

I know dwarves are traditionally seen as building underground or low to the ground when they build on the surface, but the structure of this just makes me think they built it. It somehow gives the impression of being both solid and delicate. Maybe it's the work of a dwarf and elf working together? Or built in a challenge with the elves?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Stonehell Tavern Talk

Hanging on a peg in the corner of the tavern was a crutch. Siegfried Einfub, it’s owner, sat next to it in a rickety wooden chair. The howling of his laughter poured through the unshuttered windows and out onto the street at Wormy’s tale. “Well boy, I’m glad you made it safely back to town. Sounds like with that crew it was a lucky thing.” he said, wiping the tears from his eyes.

“I don’t think I’ll be joining them again…" Wormy said sadly, rubbing the single coin of his pay "the gold is nice, but…”

“Aye, they’re green, and not just ‘cause they’re fey. But look, let me give you some advice, as someone who’s seen a thing or two. If you do decide to go again, make sure there’s enough of ‘em going. The more bodies, the better. Helps keep ya from be’in outnumbered. And for goodness sake, make sure everyone’s armed, especially the sword swingers.”

“What about the woods with the bandits?”

“Them? Oh they’re magic all right. The woods, not the bandits. At least usually. Attenhood Vox enchanted them so that he could safely watch the comings and goings of the canyon. He was particularly interested in a pair of owlbears that had taken up residence there. He wanted them to mate and lay some eggs, as I recall…” Siegfried’s face droops as he looks off into the middle distance.

Wormy waited what he felt was a respectful amount of time before asking “You knew him?”

“Knew him? How do you think I lost this leg? Damned sleep enchantment wore off on the mother while I was collecting her eggs. Attenhood was pissed too… ended up killing the mother, and broke all the eggs.”

“Is the other one still there?”

“Don’t know... but if it is, and you see it, run.”

“What about the bandits?”

“Oh, a new band moves in there every once in awhile. The Castellan will usually pay a bounty for proof they’ve been taken out, especially if they’ve been hitting the caravans.”

“What about Stonehell itself? You ever go in?”

“Oh sure! I used to love sneaking through the Quiet Halls and drinking with big ears and redcaps in the tavern. Avoid the blue stuff if you know what’s good for ya. Bring a priest or two if you go that way. Keeps the skellies away. Don’t piss off the knockers. They run the joint. They’re the smallest, but unless you want to find your way trapped to the 9 heavens and down to the 7 hells, it’s best to stay on their good side.”

“What else?”

“Oh lots… but I find my mug empty, and my leg is itching to stretch. Worst thing is it ain’t there to stretch. Ah well…” Snagging the crutch from the wall, Siegfried levered himself up and waved at Wormy as he headed out the door.

The waitress came over to wormy. “Shouldn’t have let him get away like that… it’s a silver for his drink.”

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

DDS Adventurers! Knight & Sorceress

Last post I showed the work I'd done on the thief and the archer. In the last couple of weeks I've worked on the rest of the party!

I began by using the same brown liner to base coat the minis.

For the knight, I started by giving his armor a brush of gunmetal, then some dark brown (oiled leather I think...) for the face.

The sorceress took a bit of work to find a good combo for her skin tones. I ended up using a tanned leather as the foundation color.

Here I've added the gold to the sorceresses staff and the knight's armor. The robes on the knight are Imperial Purple, while the sorceress got Splattered Crimson.

The thief and ranger continue to get tiny bits of detail work. For example, the thief's hair got some highlights. 

I've started on the dwarf's face. He's the toughest of the set to do, since none of the pictures of him really show off how he's painted, aside from the fact that it's colorful.

The knight's face is done, and the rest of him is coming along nicely.

Aside from the base, the thief is done.

The ranger still needs some work. He's not nearly as well cast as the original, and some details were lost, especially around the waist.

The sorceress' robes are getting the color brought up with Fresh Blood. Her skin is worked up with pale flesh. Pretty pleased with her eyes, but I'm going to try to give her purple eye-shadow.

Note to self: Pick one order to photograph minis in...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Stonehell: Exploring the Canyon

Session 2 of Stonehell was played on 1/30.

Tink, a pretentious Elf (but I repeat myself) and former barkeep (Hanna)
Jorgen, a recovering alcoholic Dwarf 1 (Julia)
-Hanks, a guard dog
Shelly, a vegetarian recovering alcoholic halfling Thief 1 (Nadia)
Lex(i), a crossdressing thief 1 (Molly)
-Wormar "Wormy", a torch-bearer

After recovering from their previous excursion into Stonehell, Tink, Jorgen, and Shelly met a young human adventurer who was heading to the dungeon as well. Figuring that there's strength in numbers (even if those numbers include a non-fey) they join together and head out.

The canyon is quiet, and they head for the gatehouse. Noticing both the arrow slits and the murder holes in the abandoned structure, they go around. Heading straight for the dungeon entrance, Lex asks about other ways into the dungeon, looking pointedly at the many cave openings. With a nod and a shrug they pick one at random. The first room is mostly barren, except for some glowing graffiti on the wall that spoke of a treasure and wasps. The chamber to the side held only abandoned camp trash, and was ignored.

The door to the next chamber gave way easily, swollen, but rotted. Within was a larder that had gone to mold. Crates, barrels, and shelves full of rotting food-stuff. At the back of the chamber was another doorway leading deeper into the canyon wall. Shelly makes a beeline for the passage, while Jorgen pries open a crate. It was full of something green and slimy. Unfortunately the lid of the crate was also covered in the same slime, and it began to burn his fingers. Tossing the lid away, the slime stuck to both the lid and his fingers, and stretched like a rubber band, then snapped back, covering Jorgen all over. He started to smoke, and felt burning and itchy all over. "Get it off! Get it off!!" he yelled. The rest of the party looked on in horror and confusion. No one wanted to get close. "Burn it off!!" Lex refused to let Wormy (the only one with a torch) get close to the slime covered dwarf. In ever increasing discomfort, Jorgen ran for the pool further back in the canyon.

Meanwhile Shelly, who'd ignored the entire kerfuffle, followed the passage back into a much cooler room, saw a large rounded warm... thing. Trying to be quiet, she kept to the doorway of the chamber it was in and tried to figure out what it was she was looking at. The coffee table sized thing turned, and her brain clicked into the fact that this was a GIANT BUG. An angry hungry giant bug with hot glowing things on it's head. It charged and snapped at Shelly, who ran. It caught up to her and tried again just as she got to the entrance of the cave, where everyone else had gathered to watch Jorgen run for the pool.

The bug snapped at Shelly again, and missed again, while everyone else lept away in shock, then followed shelly in the running away. Heading straight for a copse of trees, Tink hit the treeline first, and disappeared. Everyone else halted at the treeline. Tink was fine though, and they played around with the effect for a few minutes before noticing the 3 men with short bows. By this point Jorgen had gone silent. Tink waved then said they needed to be on their way. The bandits said sure, just leave your gold. Tink offered her 9 coppers. Lex offered an arrow. They fired back. Tink dropped the coins and ran. Lex missed, and climbed up into a tree, hoping for some cover and height advantage. They shot at her again, landing a painful hit. She called Wormy to her with the still lit torch, and lit an arrow. She considered just burning it all to the ground, but settled for lodging it solidly in one of the bandit's chest. Then she ran too, leaving the undiscovered Klaus the Dwarf (Julia's replacement character) bound and gagged with the bandits.

Feeling dispirited, demoralized, and a bit despondent, they ran right back to town, and took a few days to recover. Wilhelm the Dwarf showed up looking for his cousins Jorgen and Klaus. Also, a troop of religious men were looking for some info on a man who speaks with the undead living in Stonehell. They're offering a reward for information. The more info, the bigger the reward.

Gains: 2 Quests - Find the Dwarves (Wilhelm), Find the Speaker of the Undead (religious dudes)
Kills: 1 bandit
Losses: Jorgen the Dwarf, 9cp