Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Cultural Stew That Birthed Dungeons & Dragons

There has been much talk over the recent years about the early evolution from war-games to that fantasy game we all love with all those funny looking dice. But one must also keep in mind the mindset and culture of the times when the game was birthed. We're talking the late 60's and very early 70's. A time when fantasy and science fiction were being "rediscovered" so to speak.

Tolkien's high fantasy Lord of the Rings books achieved a popularity with it's peaceful hobbits and getting back to the land concepts very much in tune with the counter-culture philosophies and fantasy-trips of the day. There was a band called Gandalf, a London club called Middle Earth, and don't forget the infamous "Frodo Lives" T-shirts too. There was even talk of a Lord of the Rings movie to be directed by Stanley Kubrik and staring The Beatles.

The mid and late 60's also saw the publishing of the Robert E. Howard Conan stories in paperback by Lancer and ACE, albeit heavily edited. That, of course, lead to the Marvel Conan comics by Roy Thomas and Barry Windsor-Smith. Other paperback companies jumped on board as well featuring Moorecock, Lovecraft and others, sporting fantastic cover art from the likes of Frank Frazetta and Jeff Jones.

Science Fiction, too, was leaving it's impressions on the experienced minds of young people. This was Science Fiction driven by concept and story and not laser-blasts and action. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey with it's cosmic rebirth of earth's star-child, and grim post-apocalyptic dramas such as (Beneath the) Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green and The Omega-Man (okay, maybe Chuck Heston had a monopoly on the apocalypse). Bakshi's Wizards and even Jack Kirby's DC comic Kamandi can be added to this fertile stew.

Fantasy and Science Fiction were seeping deep into the pores of our culture. It was all around and still in a pure-form. It had not been commercialized or sanitized or even sharply defined or divided. It was Science Fiction and Fantasy and it encompassed many things with the two very much blurring into each other.

It is no surprise then that some creative war-gamers took those games to another level; to attempt to bring one into these realms of fantasy and to experience for one's self the excitement and freedom and in some cases grim horror of these worlds, if only for a few hours. Thus were born Greyhawk, Blackmoore, Dragons, Dungeons, Metamorphosis Alpha, Tekumel, Traveller and many other 'Fantasy Role-Playing Games', the affects of which are still being felt to this day.

More to come....

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Research Or Just LARPing

The University of Regensburg in Germany has an interesting research project going on. Or perhaps it's just extreme LARPING?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Dungeon Art

An illustration that is to appear in the 4th issue of Knockspell, with regards to a character in an adventure; the Caretaker of the Rats!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Session IX: Loose Ends

So this session was short two players and one player had to drop out completely of the campaign for the time being. We ended up with three players, each running their character and one other (1 PC and 2 NPCs). Grik-Grik the goblin captive was still hanging out with the party as well as the two guards sent by the Magistrate, Fargon and Ebe, now given much needed personality by two of my players. Father Harris of St. Mellon was, of course, still active with the exploration.

After defeating the goblins that had taken up residence in the Ruins of the Tomb of the Iron God, the party explored the goblin lair only to find that there were no other goblins around. Considering that Grik-Grik had said that their numbers were at least twice what the party encountered, it was strange indeed. Still, that didn't stop our fellow adventures from looting the lair, mostly consisting of grave trinkets stolen from the catacombs.

Leaving the former goblin lair, they entered a vary large chamber. There was an iron offering bowl filled with silver coins, some ceremonial items on an alter and a door with carved writing above it warning against entering the catacombs. The party had found a total of 3 entrances to the catacombs. It was decided to leave the catacombs for now as well as the silver coins.

More exploration turned up a prison with a lone, dead priest in the sole cell. Also found was one of the goblins that escaped the battle. Chief Grik-Grik took the scared and defeated goblin under his care.

The barracks of the priests were discovered and a search of the beds turned up another clue. A note, apparently intended as a threat for one priest that had doubts about the new direction the others appeared to be moving towards.

Slaying some rats in a storeroom, the party soon opened a door to a once furnished room, the items having been destroyed and strewn about around another iron statue of a priest. Upon entering, this particular iron statue began to flail it's arms around, attacking the party knocking Tibag across the room. Each attack by the party would result in some damage to the living statue but their weapon would be embedded within the statue and thus lost. It was finally took the lumbering statue keeling over and Tibag, using his enchanted sword taken from the dead pirate captain beneath the Tower of Zenopus, to put the thing out of commission.

Examination of the room turned up a tome bound in human skin which, later examined by the gypsy in town was found to contain a spell to animate the dead.

Upon leaving the room, two other goblins show up, haggered, wounded and scared. They had been part of a larger expedition into the catacombs only to escape with their lives from the infestation of living dead. Chief Grik-Grik takes these last two goblins under his wing and leaves the temple ruins, vowing never to return and to never forget the party.

The party decided to return to Brakken and leave the catacombs for another foray.

Some time is spent in Brakken recovering and carousing leaving the dwarf Gedleesmote with an obscene tattoo on his forehead!

Though short on a couple of players, the session was still enjoyable. The present players pulled some extra weight by manning some of the NPCs which added a lot of color to their character. Two more characters reached second level and one is nearing third. Slick Vinny, the Mage who had missed a number of sessions is the only level 1 character currently running around. Not too bad after 9 sessions.

We should have all the players back next session which should prove to be interesting if they decide to help a grim Father Harris rid the catacombs of the blasphemous undead!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Dungeon Art

The Shadow Lord!
My entry into the Erol Otus art contest put together by Fight On! magazine last year.

I'll soon be posting some more recent images (finally!).

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Outpost On The Edge Of The Far Reaches Reviewed

James over at the Underdark Gazette has a nice review of The Outpost On The Edge Of The Far Reaches adventure module. So a big thanks to James for taking the time to give the module a write-up.

I'm currently offering the module as a free pdf download so now is your chance to pick it up. If you like it, you can purchase the print version through Lulu or directly through me via my IndieOnly Comics website.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Session VIII Goblin Trouble

Our party returned to the town of Brakken, with their goblin prisoner Grik-Grik, after their initial foray into the Tomb of the Iron God. As they spend the next couple of days recovering, the weather takes a nasty turn. A sharp blast of cold hovers over Brakken. Many of the townsfolk contribute the extreme cold on the fact that the Iron God has forsaken the town.

In a couple of days, with the party recovered, it is thought best to lay to rest the bodies of Capt. Conik (slain by Sgt. Morak beneath the Tower of Zenopus), Moar, and Tero with a burial at sea.

With the townsfolk worried about the news that Goblins have moved in to the abandoned tomb, it was debated what to do about them. The town Magistrate's position was to not anger the Iron God any more and to just leave the temple be. Father Harris, on the other hand, felt that letting the Goblins of the Iron Hills gain a foothold near the town would spell trouble for Brakken. Against the Magistrates wishes, it was decided to rid the ruined temple of the Goblin presence with the aid of the captured Grik-Grik.

So the next morning, the party, along with Grik-Grik and Father Harris, made their way up the Path of the Dead once more. They were surprised, however, having met two of the Magistrate's body-guards, who were asked to accompany the party to the Tomb. Wary of their true motives, the party reluctantly allowed them to come along.

Before long, the party descended the stairs beneath the ruins of the Temple of the Iron God. Following Grik-Grik direction, they headed through the left door.

As they traveled down the passage, Father Harris triggered a trap door and fell into a pit. Wounding his leg pretty badly, the good priest of St. Mellon heals himself before climbing out of the pit.

Once the party made their way to the other side of the now open pit, they explored a side chamber and found a round room with a pool of murky water. After toying with the water for a bit and not finding anything odd, Gnarly filled a water skin thinking the murky water may come in handy.

They continued down the hall and ducked down another side chamber as the buzzing of a couple of Stirges flew by.

They found that they were in a similar chamber except that the pool was empty and there were two iron statues of priests of the Iron God. Also the walls were decorated with inlaid iron in a mesmerizing pattern.

Tibag and Gedleesmote examined the fountain while Gnarly examined the statues. The druid noticed that the statues were incredibly detailed and that their faces held an expression of great horror and pain. Upon further examination, Gnarly noticed that their facial expressions has, however slightly, changed.

Not knowing if these statues were alive, animated or dead, the party tested the iron figures with weapons. Seeing as how nothing happened, Gedleesmote preceded to knock one of them over, the sound of which reverberated throughout the silent halls.

Finding nothing of value in the empty fountain, the party decided to continue forward seeking the goblins. They didn't't have far to search as they heard a ruckus and a number of goblin voices in the distance down the hall. They decided to take cover in an alcove and let Tibag sneak forward to see whats-what. Well, the goblins spot him and fired some arrows. Tibag hi-tailed it back down the hall with the goblins in hot pursuit!

As the Rogue passes the alcove, the party lets a couple of goblins pass before they jump out and engage.

Wolfheir, Father Harris defend the hall from the oncoming creatures along with the help of Gnarly in the second rank. Tibag turned to face his pursuers as Gedleesmote and one of the Guards attack them from behind.

Alas, the battle faired poorly for our brave adventurers! (The dice were not rolling in our players favor that evening, much like an earlier expedition). Though Wolfheir and Father Harris were barely heald their own, they were getting sliced up pretty badly. Gnarly even tossed his flask of water from the well only to apparently soak a goblin. Seeing the battle leaning in favor of the Goblins, Grik-Grik leaped on the back of one of the guards who shook him off with ease. Tibag and Gedlee finished off their goblins and the dwarf stayed the hand of the guard who is ready to slay their goblin captive.

It was decided to retreat to a more open area as the hall in front of them filled with goblins and the wounds were piling up. So the party retreated to one of the round chambers. Gnarly lit a flask of oil and as Wolf and Father Harris entered the room with the goblins in hot pursuit, Gnarly tossed the flask. The oil ignites in the center of the oncoming horde killing many of the creatures. A couple of them were close enough to miss the flames but are dispatched by Tibag's arrows and the Dwarf's axe.

How quickly the tide has turned! The rest of the goblins began to retreat as Tibag continued to fire beyond the flames killing more of the fleeing creatures. With a burst of confidence, the party chased after the remaining goblins only to come face to face with their goblin chief and his shaman who rallied the few remaining gobos.

Tibag took aim at the shaman with his bow but the shaman proved to be a challenge to kill as he healed his wounds after the arrows struck! Eventually, Tibag took him down. Gedlee and Wolf battled with the remaining goblins while Gnarly killed them with his spear and flung their dead bodies over his shoulder and into the Dwarf's cart. The last goblin ran in fear down a hallway leaving the Chief who was extremely pissed off, especially at the Dwarf Gedleesmote. The chief vowed to slay the dwarf and the two engaged but the dwarf was quick and cleaved the chief from skull to torso!

Grik-Grik ran up and removed the Chief's neckless and declared himself chief. With most of the goblins dispatched, Grik-Grik lead the party to the goblins lair. Grik-Grik and the party, thinking that the rest of the Goblins would be there cautiously opened the door only to find the chamber empty. Plenty of evidence of goblins but none present. Just a collected pile of grave trinkets recovered from the tombs.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


The other day I received a comment from one Astropia. As per usual when someone new makes their presence known, I click on their link to learn more about this person, who they are, where they're from and what might've brought them to The Warlock's Home Brew.

Astropia turned out to be quite interesting. At first I wasn't sure if this was an actual RPG or Movie or TV Show or combination thereof, but whatever it was it looked very interesting. I mean, gangsters, RPGs, Comic Shops, and live fantasy action! How can I not share this with all of you? Apparently it's one of the top grossing films from Iceland.


UPDATE: Here's some more information about this film as well as some other tid-bits.
Heroes v.s. Astropia
I guess it's not so hard to find in these days of the interwebs

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Dungeon Art

A submission for Fight On! magazine #5. "Enter the Realm of the Mole-men"

Monday, March 8, 2010

House Rules Or Just A New Rule-set?

We've been playing our Swords & Wizardry campaign for about 7 months now. Prior to making my decision on which rule-set to use I did a lot of investigation as to what I wanted out of my game, what I enjoyed about D&D in the first place - pretty much what we've all been discussing over the past couple of years.

I've read through all the retro-clone rules (BFRPG, LL, S&W Core and WB, even Microlite), re-read Holmes and Modvay and skimmed through 1st ed. AD&D. I even read through the OD&D books. All of these rule-sets are great in their own way and each, even the newer reiterations, brings something new to the table, so to speak. So I did my homework. I ended up with S&W mostly because of the rules-lite mechanics and the room for customization.

I then scoured the forums and blogs to pull those customizations together and mix my homebrew stew. It was a fun process and I got to know my game really well.

As we have played, the house-rules have evolved based on suggestions and our collective gaming experience to make, I hope, our play better. I mean, you never know how a rule or concept might work until you play-test it a bit. So modifications have been made.

Now, Labyrinth Lord's Advanced Edition has come out, chuck-full of 'advanced' style rules and tweaks and chunkyness. I am sure I'll be adapting some of these elements to our game. Some may be optional rules and some not. But at what point am I doing too much work? Why not just adapt to another system that is closer to where the houserules seem to be evolving? I mean, my house-rules are not that unique or anything, just little tweaks here and there. Even if I were to switch to LL, I would most likely pull things out to make it more grittier which is why I choose the S&W Core + Houserules in the first place.

I feel like I'm hitting that middle point between the two extremes. For me, I think it may be easier to build up than to tear down so I think I'm fine sticking with where I'm at for the time being. We'll see where things evolve. As long as we're all still having fun, and I think that we are, then we'll keep on rolling down that same ol' road.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Fantasy Friday

First Fantasy Friday of the new month brings us to our pinup for March.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Grand Wizard

"The secret we should never let the gamemasters know is that they don't need any rules. "
-Gary Gygax


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The Thrill of the Hunt

There was a time, not too long ago and I'm sure most of us can still recall, if you wanted to track down an out of print item or a classic toy or figure or other trinket, you'd have to get up off your butt and pull out the phone book, make some calls and journey from used book store to resale shop, far and near, seeking your treasured item.

Walking into these musty and dusty shops, you were overwhelmed with the sense of glorious hidden treasures lining the shelves and crammed into every nook. You had but to seek and you would find. And if you didn't find what you were originally seeking, you'd most likely, surprisingly find something you weren't quite expecting. Just ask James from The Underdark Gazette.

Sure, there was a bit more leg work involved but when you found that first printing of Ian Fleming's Thunderball or happened upon a wall filled with vintage pulp paper-backs from the 50's and 60's or perhaps a box full of Weird Tales, the thrill and excitement and the sense of digging up that obscure lost buried chest of gold is something that you didn't soon forget. And don't even get me started on the bargains you got with these items.

Now with the internet and sites like eBay you can pretty easily track down just about any odd, obscure item your crafty mind can desire. But really, where's the fun in that. Now you're just competing just for who can pay the most for something. Case in point.

Now, I'm not knocking any method of obtaining a cherished item. Hell, I've bought and sold my treasures many a time.

I bring this up because of one thing. I never owned the original boxed set of D&D. I remember seeing it on the hobby store selves next to Holmes Basic, the monochrome Steading of the Hill Giant Chief module and Traveller . Now I never bought those Little Brown Books as I was having enough trouble figuring out how to play this "role-playing game".

Last fall, I was determined to track down the original D&D box set and pay as little for it as possible. And by little, I mean around $10. Crazy you say? Impossible? You must think me mad? Perhaps.

So, I thought, hey, I'll start hitting up antique stores, yard sales etc. Nothing too revolutionary. But what are the odds, with eBay and all, of finding that item for that little?

Never tell me the odds.

So my first trek out, I headed to an antique fair just outside of Tucson where I now live. Middle of the desert. Odds seem pretty stacked against me, I'd say. But I'm going there for one thing.

So I take a glance around and see a lot of south western style antiques. Not surprising. But then I notice a table, right at the entrance, with some interesting items; toys, some comic books and other rusted trinkets from the 50's 60's and 70's. Some old cowboy sitting in the shade minding the table. I walk up and lo', I see the the famous Erol Otus Basic box cover. Well, interesting but I have those rules so no big deal. But upon opening the box, what do I find?

Yes, that's right. A bunch of 'classic' TSR adventure modules. Obviously, not first printing or anything but a surprising find nonetheless. And the best part is what I paid for them. $5. And no shipping fees! Not bad on my first day out - and in the middle of the frickin' desert no less.

Ah, the glory, indeed!

So, since then, I've always kept a casual eye out for this Holy Grail, my King Kong so to speak. And recently, I found my second clue.

A little obscure plastic box at a yard sale this past weekend. And inside? About 50 lead minis from '78 and '79 and for only $5. Some awesome dragons, some great Dungeon Delvers, even some of those Grenadier Hirelings. Just as random as a dice roll! Oh yeah, there were dice in there as well.

Now, those 3 LBB are yet elusive, but I feel that I am on the trail. The footprints becoming a bit clearer, the trail more recent.

After all, it's not bagging the beast, but the thrill of the hunt.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

More Of My Players Are Awesome

Those who've followed this blithering blog may remember that I've mentioned how awesome my players are. So at last night's session, one of our players, Zach, who has actually been out of play for a number of sessions due to real life commitments, bestowed upon us a grand gift.

Now, if you can't tell from my photo, this is the infamous Jones soda D&D Limited Edition 6 pack. Not only is this D&D themed soda chock-full of tasty pure cane sugar goodness, with names like "Sneak Attack", "Potion of Healing" and "Dwarven Draught" it brought a lot of spice and camaraderie to the table.

So thank you Zach, who couldn't be with us (though we expect him to return next session), your potions were quite uplifting. Experience Bonus for you, my friend!