Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Stonehell: Alwin is a Free Elf!

Session 130 was played on 3/26

Joho, Mystic 6 (Chris)
Karl, Dwarf 8 (Julia)
Hobart (dog)
Alwin, Elf 2 (Robert)
Boris, Cleric 2 (Jeff)
Torchbearers - Rolestad
Elwood, Cleric 2 (NPC)

Starting in the northeast side of the Hothouse, the party explores along the northernmost passage heading west. Poking around in the gallery, Alwin finds a dirty old sock. Moving on they encounter a troop of mushrooms folk that are wary. Someone tries to speak orcish to them, since they don’t respond to common, but that angers them, and they toss sleep pots, knocking out Elwood and Joho. Battle is joined, Hobart the dog falls, but is revived with healing magics, and the mushrooms are killed. The party finds a statue head that might be worth some coin to a collector.

Deciding that they’d had enough, the party retreats to the surface, encountering some kobolds and some fairies that taunt them and throw rotten fruit at them.

Gains: 200gp broken statue head
Kills: 6 mushroom folk

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Star Wars Re-Review: Rogue One

I originally reviewed Rogue One back in 2016. You can click here to read that review.

Taking the time to go back through the galaxy spanning saga that is Star Wars, this is the movie that I find myself returning to. Is it weird that my favorite movie is one that doesn't focus on the Skywalkers?

I only barely touched on Donnie Yen and Wen Jiang as Chirrut Îmwe and Blaze in my previous review, which is a crime. These two brought so much to the movie. And sure, they were the stand ins for the Jedi, but given the focus on the Kyber Crystals, it makes sense. Given what's been shown of the Jedi Order in the movies, it's nice seeing others with Force connections. And yes, there's Finn, who is clearly force sensitive, if not yet a force user, but here in Rogue One we have 2 very different force users. Blaze with his heavy blaster cannon and broken faith and his friend Jiang, blind but so connected to the force that he can take on an entire squad of storm troopers with just his staff or shoot a tie fighters out of the air with his blaster bow.

We see these two adrift, their temple raped, their order destroyed, and the boot of the empire crushing all beneath it. Like everyone else in this movie, the inexorable crushing machine that is the empire is rolling over them, pushing them to the brink, and this movie is about how some individuals choose to face it, knowing the odds.

It isn't a perfect movie, but it is good in spite of some of the storytelling flaws, and carried by some excellent acting from some excellent actors. And in the final analysis, I think that this may be the best Star Wars movie so far.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Happy Towel Day!

Just because we're all dealing with the pandemic, and not really going out, doesn't mean you shouldn't know where your towel is!

Happy Towel Day!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Balticon 54

2020 is really the year that wasn't. Basically everything is being canceled and replaced with virtual options. Conventions are really no exception. On the upside, they're mostly free.

So this weekend I'll be attending Balticon.


But all the usual favorites will be hosted, an I'm looking forward to tonight's discussion on the news out of the Trek-verse, the Dinosaur Update, and the Short Film Festival.

Gonna check out the virtual dealers room and artist's alley too.

It's crappy that we can't all get together in person, but at least we have this.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 18, 2020

Retro Review: Revenge of the Sith

Apparently I got my posting order wrong, and posted Solo before this. Ah well...

We all know where this is going, where it has to go... how it has to end.

One of the downsides of doing direct prequels is that the story has to end up where you know it will, and because we know who the key players are, we know who lives, and who dies, though we might not know exactly the route taken to get there.

For example, how does Padme die? How are the Jedi killed off? How does Luke end up on Tatooine, while Leia ends up on Alderaan?

Episode III continues to suffer from much that plagued Episodes I and II, namely the terrible dialogue (which leads to flat performances), and an over reliance on CGI. So little of the prequels feels real in the way things felt real in the original trilogy largely because they aren't real. There's nothing there for the actors to see, to interact with. Green screens and characters that aren't really there make for a boring performance.

But I do have to give the CGI artists props for their work. It is all very grandiose, appropriately visually stunning as a good space opera should be. I just wish more of it had been real. Thankfully this is a lesson that the later movies and shows are taking into account, but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

Chancellor Palpatine has played everyone, from the Jedi Council to the Senate to the Separatists... and as he corrupts Anakin rather blatantly, playing on his fears of Padme's death in childbirth, he admits to being the sith lord, and then waits for the Jedi to come to him. Serious power move on his part. Anakin's fall is possibly the best bit of acting Hayden Christensen performs in the movies. At least it's the first bit I actually believed.

Kenobi's heart break also felt real. When he watched the security footage of Anakin killing the younglings? When they crossed sabres on Mustafar, when he left him for dead... I believed that too.

One of the worst parts of the movie, and the one that gets brought up regularly (and deservedly) is Padme's dying of a broken heart. But did she? Palpatine couldn't let her live. Did he kill her? Honestly, that seems much more likely... I wish the idea was better supported in the movie though.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Stonehell: Karl Returns.... with a BANG!

Session 129 was played on 3/22

The Return of Karl - One upside to everyone being stuck at home is the return of old players and their characters to the dungeon…

Borumar, Thief 7 (Josh)
Karl, Dwarf 8 (Julia)
Alwin, Elf 2 (Robert)
Boris, Cleric 2 (Jeff)
Torchbearers - Rolestad
Wardog - Captain Morgan
Elwood, Cleric 1 (NPC)

While in the market hiring some new meatshields, a drunk dwarf stumbles up to them and hugs Borumar. Startled, Borumar awkwardly hugs back asking Karl what’s up. He replies he’s going to stonehell with them… The rest of the party watches confused…

Gathering their supplies, they head down to the hothouse. At the bottom of the stairs to the pump room, they see a bunch of mushroom folk. The party takes some ranged shots at them, but then Karl pulls out a “nate-bomb” and chucks it at the mushrooms from the back of the party…

And rolls a 1.


The burned party grabs who they can, and runs for the exit. The mushroom folk don’t follow.

On the way out, a troop of berzerkers is heading toward the party. Borumar, not wanting to take any chances, activates his magical war mammoth, and sends it charging down the hall.

Exiting the dungeon, they make it back to town and heal up.

Karl apologises.

With some down time, the party reviews their maps, and the clues they’ve found, and heads back to the dungeon, aiming for 2C, fight some giant bees, strip off their armor to pass through the electrical field, redress, hurry up to the Asylum, passing speedily through the mad mural hall around to the talking mushrooms, and then down to the Dorm. They fight some shadows and retrieve the treasure from their earlier victims, then continue into the northeastern side of the hothouse.

Gains: Assorted coinage, magical throwing hammer.
Kills: shadows, mushroom folk, giant bees, berzerkers
Losses: Goober the dog, Rolestad the linkman, Holden the giant rat

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Review: Neverland: The Impossible Island

While D&D is very often somewhat jokingly described as being able to play as Gandalf and Conan and go on adventures together, there's a large grain of truth to it. The stories, the movies, the fairy tales that we grew up watching and reading directly impact what we want and expect to see and do when we sit down to play. So often though the stories that are told in children's books are ignored in favor of of more "adult" tales.

Which is silly. There are amazing stories that can be told from children's literature. Sometimes what you need is a little bit of fairy dust, and a guide to help you find the way.

Neverland: The Impossible Island is one such guide.

It would be easy to do a copy/paste of Peter Pan, slap some stats on a few key things, and call it a day. The author does so much more than that. Taking the original source material, and looking at it through not only a lens of what would be fun to play, but also tweaking and updating the source material to better fit modern sensibilities.

Yes, that means there aren't racist native american caricatures to be found here.

We can all admit this was trash, okay?

Instead, you get several interesting factions of island inhabitants, descriptions of various locations, and of course stats for important characters, including Pan, Hook, Smee, and the Croc. Interestingly no stats for Wendy or Lilly... But they do get a write up.

One of the things I most enjoy about Neverland are the figments. The creatures of the island aren't natural, and are created from the bits and pieces of the inhabitant's imaginations. There's a fun and infinitely expandable chart for creating simple figments, but as they're literally creatures of the imagination, there's no limit to what you can come up with.

If you've ever been interested in adding a bit of fairy dust to your game, it's worth the suggested price of admission (though it's PWYW) to pick up Neverland: The Impossible Island.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Stonehell: Hothouse Dorms

Session 128 was played on 3/19

Due to the Coronavirus we’ve added a second weekly session to the game. Which means I'm even more behind on my session reports!

Borumar, Thief 7 (Josh)
Joho, Mystic 6 (Chris)
Alwin, Elf 1 (Robert)
Boris, Cleric 1 (Jeff)
Torchbearers - Rolestad
Wardog - Captain Morgan
Elwood, Cleric 1 (NPC)

In town, the alchemist’s guild’s entrance exam was making healing potions, and the extras were sold off to the public at less than their usual rate. All 9 potions were bought by the party.

On the way to the dungeon, they’re spotted by the dragon flying overhead. Thankfully they’re near to the hobgoblin caves, and make a run for it. The dragon follows them over head, and takes a potshot at them while Borumar takes aim from the cave mouth. Both attacks hit, and both are hurting.

Down to the hothouse, the party begins exploring the southern bunch of dorms, finding giant ticks, giant slugs, and a massive plant with grabbing roots and an oversized bite. In the middle of all this Joho decided to try on some leather lederhosen that wasn’t too moldy. While he literally had them down around his ankles is when the slugs showed up. Rolestad needed one of the healing potions that the party bought due to the slugs acidic spit. Sadly there was a distinct lack of treasure to be found, aside from some odds and ends that weren’t worth much.

The party returned to town with little to show for their efforts.

Kills: Giant slugs, giant ticks, and one big octoplant

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Star Wars Re-Review: Solo

2 years ago, I watched Solo: A Star Wars Story, and then wrote about it here.

Watching it again, my feelings are much as they were before. This was a completely unnecessary film that was still a blast to watch. I really appreciated more this time all the little touches on the Corellia shipyards that I missed the first time around. The stack of partly assembled Tie fighters in frames ready for shipping? It helps make everything feel more connected. More real. Like the Empire really is a massive force that takes over everyone's life in some way, shape, or form.

Plus Han grubbing around in the mud like some poor trooper? Captured that feeling of war from the perspective of someone too smart to be in one and charging for that next muddy hill without a good reason.

And as before, I'm still mourning the fact that we haven't gotten a Lando movie after this... We've seriously been robbed.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Stonehell: Legal Issues and Conference Rooms

Session 127 was played on 3/15

Borumar, Thief 7 (Josh)
Joho, Mystic 6 (Chris)
Alwin, Elf 1 (Robert)
Torchbearers - Rolestad
Wardog - Captain Morgan
Elwood, Cleric 1 (NPC)

Joho begins the session looking for healing potions, and when he can’t find any, looking for drugs. He ends up buying some from an undercover constable, and is brought before the court. It’s explained to him that he must convince a jury that it wasn’t a giant wolf spider (stand in for Joho) that was trying to buy the drugs, but entrapment by the horse (stand in for the cops). Joho, utilizing a new ability, speaks to both the spider and the horse, and convinces them to play along. The horse pushes away from it’s handlers and goes right for the drugs. The spider stays unusually quiet. Joho is found not guilty. The horse goes back to police work, and the spider is sent to the fighting pits.

Grabbing Joho before he can get into any more trouble, the party heads to the dungeon. In through the hobgoblin caves, they head to the west, then down into the hothouse. Exploring a new section they find a peaceful old shrine, but while they’re there, a trio of giant spiders readys an assault. Joho is bitten, and begins to shake and undulate, and Boris is weirdly overcome with the same shaking in spite of not being bitten by the spiders. Even after the spiders are killed, the pair of them continue to twitch. Holing up in the shrine, the party waits it out....

After 2 hours, the shaking stops… but they’re so exhausted that they collapse into a deep sleep.

17 hours later, they finally awake.

Resuming exploring they find an old conference room, untouched by the water and dirt and plants. And within a hollowed leg of the table that dominates the floor, a stash of coins and a potion of treasure finding! They also take the boring landscape from the wall.

Heading out, they’re set upon by 2 giant bees as they reach the second level. The bees are quickly killed, and the party makes it back to town.

Gains: potion of treasure finding, minor coins, large but boring landscape.
Kills: Giant bees, giant spiders

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Sunday Inspirational Image: Left in the Dark

by Shue13

I've been watching a lot of Star Wars, and this seems like the sort of place that a good Star Wars campaign might start off in.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Star Wars Retro Review: Attack of the Clones

Episode II: Not as bad as Episode I, right? Well... maybe?

Here's the thing... no one in these movies is a bad actor, but the force preserve us, they had some bad direction.

And look, I get it, Anakin is supposed to have flaws that Palpatine uses against him, uses to turn him to the dark side, but... What a whiny little brat. Kenobi is kinda obnoxious, Padme is... just... it was all painful, ok, and instead of a cool sith lord like Maul, we got an old dude.

Okay, yes, the old dude just happened to be Christopher Lee, and he worked it for what it was worth, and yeah, he got a LOT more to work with than Maul did. But I'm still bummed that Maul got so little when he deserved so much more.

And you can see that they're trying to address the shortcomings of Episode I, but... I don't know, it just lacks something that, for all that was wrong with it, Phantom Menace managed to capture.

Not helping things is the fact that the Jedi council is just blind and dumb for all they attempt to be wise and all knowing.

On the other hand, there were lots of cool ships, laser swords, big battles, and I have to admit the whole Clone Army was kinda great. (Again, the Jedi are so dumb...)

Friday, May 8, 2020

Stonehell: Ivan's Terrible No Good Very Bad Delve

Session 126 was played on 3/8

Borumar, Thief 7 (Josh)
Joho, Mystic 5 (Chris)
Daton, Fighter 1 (Jay)
Alwin, Elf 1 (Robert)
Ivan the Terribad, Cleric 2 (Jeff)
Men at Arms -
Torchbearers - Rolestad
Wardog - Captain Morgan
Elwood, Cleric 1 (NPC)

Entering the teleportation chamber, the party presses the glyph, and suddenly there’s a different door on the chamber. Pulling the level, the metal iris opens, revealing a small room lined with similar irises. Thinking that each one goes down one level, they try the one that should (if that theory is correct) bring them down one level from the second…

Taking that teleporter they step out… into the medusa’s lair on the 3rd level! As only Borumar had been here before, the party explores around, seeing if anything has moved in since the medusa was killed. Sadly they discovered a giant pit trap… and Ivan falls in and to his death next to the corpse of a plated ape. Joho retrives Ivan’s body, and the party heads for the surface.

On the way back to town they stumble upon a pair of merchant wagons being harassed from the bushes by gnomes. Avoiding the encounter, they return to town to find that a young priest named Boris has been tending to the sick, which is timely as a sickness has been spreading around the poorer parts of town.

Losses: Ivan

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Stonehell: Random Treasures

Session 125 was played on 3/1

Borumar, Thief 7 (Josh)
Daton, Fighter 1 (Jay)
Alwin, Elf 1 (Robert)
Ivan the Terribad, Cleric 2 (Jeff)
Men at Arms -
Torchbearers - Rolestad
Wardog - Captain Morgan
Elwood, Cleric 1 (NPC)

The party stocks up on silver weapons, then heads to the dungeon, planning on checking out the teleportation chamber in level 2. Through the main entrance, they’re quickly stopped by troblins, who lead the party to Zunbar the Troll soaking in a shallow pool. He wants spicy fruit from the hothouse.

Deeper into level 1 they’re set upon first by some crab spiders, then some fire beetles.

Making it down to the second level of the dungeon they encounter a bunch of skeletons, but Elwood turns them. Near the teleportation chamber they’re attacked by stirges, which are quickly put down. In the bloodsucker’s nest they discover a golfball sized diamond! Rather then flee with this mighty treasure, they head to the teleportation chamber…

Gains: Diamond, fire beetle glands
Kills: crab spiders, skeletons, fire beetles, stirges,

That random gem table can make some wild results!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

April in Review: Pandemic Edition

Work has been kicking my ass this month. Between year end and audit prep, and a monster of a project, it’s just… Uff. Plus, you know, the pandemic that’s making everyone miserable.

My birthday was nice, if weird. It stank not being able to get together with friends, and go out for a good meal.

Stonehell is cruising along. My players have found 3 big treasures recently, and I have no idea what their next move is going to be. So far they’re just filling in the map down on level 4A. I’ve got a bunch of session reports written and ready to post, so you’ve got a bunch of reading to catch up on everything.

So, I made Kornovik the Outcast, and I’m really happy with how he turned out. I haven’t gotten around to taking pictures of him in his nearly done state. I just need to add a bit of grass and snow to his base, then he’s done.

The Battlefleet Gothic ships I got in, I’ve been speeding through. At this point, I’m nearly done with them. They’ve been a joy to paint.

I also knocked out some flying magitech monkeys, a Brain in a Jar, and an Iron Golem. Quick and easy paint jobs.

After the BFG ships I’m gonna paint some Maggotcrown Ogre Juggernauts, and… I don’t know what else.

Oh, and I built and painted a couple of outhouses.


Movies/TV Watched

Star Wars The Phantom Menace
Star Wars Attack of the Clones
The Three Musketeers (90’s version)
A whole bunch of Parks & Rec
Pride and Prejudice (also the 90’s version)

Finish the BFG ships
Catch up on Stonehell session reports
Survive the pandemic

Monday, May 4, 2020

May the Fourth Be With You

In celebration of Star Wars day, I'll be watching Revenge of the Sith tonight!

What's your favorite Star Wars ship?

Mine is the Ghtroc light freighter, cause one of my old characters had one!