Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dennis Hopper 1936-2010

Hollywood icon Dennis Hopper has died at the age of 74 from complications due to prostate cancer. The Easy Rider star -- who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in late 2009 -- became too weak for chemotherapy treatments in March when the cancer metastasized to his bones. According to a friend, he was surrounded by family and friends when he passed away in his Venice Beach home on Saturday morning.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Session XIII: Oddities In Caladan

So where to begin…? Right where we left off!

Our weary and stinkin' party returned to Caladan after their encounter with the Rat-God worshipper deep in the rat tunnels beneath the Tower of Zenopus. On the way they picked up a bleary eyed Gnarly having spent some time "Communing with Nature".

Returning to the Cloven Hoof, most of the party got cleaned up and attempted to recover from their wounds. Geedlesmote headed down to the wharf to wash off and Slick Vinny decided it's a good time to tie one on and began to whoop it up in the tavern.

Geedlesmote the dwarf, while washing off in the surf was approached by four roughs each with a matching black hand tattooed on their shoulders. They came to collect on the dwarf's gambling debt which, of course, he did not have. After smarting off to the thugs they preceded to beat him into unconsciousness with clubs.

The dwarf regained his wits and came to in some basement room with the four thugs and their leader - all members of the Brotherhood of the Black Hand. They wanted their gold and to know of the whereabouts of their cousin Mor who, if you recall, was charmed by Slick Vinny after they came looking for payment of the dwarf's debt the first time and then whom later died in the Tomb of the Iron God.

The exchange which went something like this:

Mob interrogator who has had Geedleesmote kidnapped and roughed up: "You owe use 800 gold coins."
Geedleesmote, tied to a chair: "Do I?"
M: "...yes."
G: "I have a drinking problem."
M: "..."
G: "So I don't always remember things, you see."
M: "Also, there was the matter of one the members of our organization, Mor. He seems to have joined with you and your friends..."
G: "Oh, yeah, Mor. Yeah, he was good pals with our mage, Slick Vinny. Vinny and Mor, best buds. Of one mind, y'might say."
M: "But then he went missing, while exploring a dungeon with you."
G: "Yeah, him and a guardsman. Gods, they died horribly. Not much left. Kind of a paste of guts, and blood, and—"
M: "Be careful what you say, dwarf. He was my brother-in-law!"
G: "Died a hero. Just about to say."
M: "Do you have any of his belongings?"
G: "Belongings..."
M: "Yes, personal effects? Or perhaps his sword?"
G: "Sword...can't rightly say."
M: "..."
G: "Can I check my cart? Might be on the cart. Or you could ask around the pawnshops. Uh, anyway..."

*thanks to Max for this recap

The dwarf, admitting he had not the coin to pay back the debt, offered up his services. The Brotherhood of the Black Hand took him up on that and in return for a clean slate the dwarf and his companions (for The Brotherhood are quite aware of their exploits) must steal a Crimson Skull from a cult who has taken up refugee in an abandoned temple in Harrowood.

The dwarf was again knocked senseless and dumped back at the wharf.

The next day the party gathered at the Cloven Hoof to head over to the Temple of Mithra and chat with Father Halford but Slick Vinny was missing! Gnarly questioned some of the patrons and after talking with Jack the stable-boy discover that Vinny, in a drunken state, had left the tavern with three members of some odd 'group' called the Crafty Mages.

After inquiring around town they discovered that this 'club' hung out at a run down tavern on the wharf called the Silver Eel. There they found Vinny passed out, dressed only in a white robe, along with his lackadaisical companions in similar dress.

After rousing the mage (and quite rightfully teasing him quite a bit) they left the tavern. Walking half naked down the street Vinny sought out a well-clothed citizen about his size. Finding one, the mage charmed him and lead him into an alley to exchange clothes. It turned out his new 'friend' was an apothecary. Looking for a way to cure his 'social disease' Vinny followed Ungar to his shop. There they both are questioned by the shopkeeper's wife, Penelope. When things get too hot for Vinny trying to explain to the wife why he has on her husbands clothes he decided it best to high-tail it out of there and meet back up with the others at the Temple of Mithra.

Meeting with Father Halford, they discussed the repayment of priest's services which cured Geedleesmote and Tibag of their diseases acquired in the Tomb of the Iron God. Halford wants the party to recover an ancient artifact held by a death-cult in a ruined temple somewhere within Harrowood. Geedleesmote begun to piece things together that this was the very same artifact that the Brotherhood of the Black Hand asked him to retrieve. Father Halford informed the party that this Crimson Skull of Yam-Gregak may be used by the Death-cult to raise an army of the dead and wanted to get it out of their hands. He doesn't want the cult to think that the Temple of Mithra would be involved in the theft as that may start a holy war The Temple of Mithra wants to deal with the Cult in their own way and in their own time.

Father Halford healed the party of their wounds and Wolfheir and Vinny asked the priest to supply them with some healing potions for their quest. Halford agrees and asked that they come back at the end of the week when he will have some ready for them.

So with time to kill what would any treasure hungry party do? Return to the Ruins of Zenopus of course!

So once again, descending into the Underworld, the party retraced their steps to the Sarcophagi of the Ancients where Geedleesmote then captured the Dancing Dagger in small cage.

The party leaft through the southern door, avoiding the accursed rat tunnels, and came across a four-way intersection. Coming from the east they heard clicking noises and then the pattering of bare feet. Out of the darkness came six Crypt Crawlers, known by seasoned adventurers as Crotch-goblins!

Adara and Gnarly took out a few of the advancing creatures before two of them leaped onto the dwarf and start clawing and biting him. The dwarf then tried to smash one of them between himself and the wall which he succeeded in doing shattering it's bones and killing it. The other fell off due to the impact. Gnarly then attempted to skewer the prone beast with his spear but sliped on the gore and fell to the ground. Geedlee split the crawler with his axe while Adara slayed the remaining creature.

Further down the hall they discovered a short flight of steps leading down and to a door. Going through the door they enter a large pillared chamber with cobwebs in the corners. As they traversed the room a Giant Spider droped from the ceiling landing on Slick Vinny biting him and killing him! The others surrounded it and began hacking away at it while Adara fired arrows into it's bulbous form. The Giant Spider sunk it's fangs into the Dwarf injecting it's poison. Soon the beast lay dead and the Dwarf quickly pulls out the magic tobacco from the mage's pouch and smoked it to neutralize the poison.

Having had quite enough, they carried Slick Vinny's body back to town and to the Temple of Mithra and pleaded with Father Halford to help their fallen comrade. Reluctantly, to save his 'investment', he agreed and the next day raised the mage from the dead. Vinny is quite thankful of the Priests of Mithra and considered (briefly) joining their church. The party is now indebted to to the Temple of Mithra two-fold!

This was yet another fun session. Not much in battling action but a lot of separate odd encounters in Caladan, role-played very well by all of the players.

I've always felt it's a bit iffy keeping all the players, especially large number of players, interested and involved when one character breaks off to do things on his/her own. I'm learning to keep that portion of the session interesting so that all the other players can watch and enjoy the role-playing situation. It's always been a challenge for me in my younger DMing days but the thing you learn with a sandbox is to just roll with it and improvise. It also helps when you have some good role-players as well and I have a table full!

I also broke out my Ref Sheets that I put together from various sources. It streamlined reference and improvisation quite a bit and it was all in one place instead of scattered all over. Big improvement on the DM side of things.

Also, I broke out the minis that I picked up at a yard sale and have begun to paint. It was a great playing aid and not the focus of the session or encounter (see the above image). It helps keep track of were all the PCs are in a large party without becoming a distraction. We'll see how the next session goes but I'd like to keep using them for a while.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Dungeon Art

One more illustration of our module adventurers seeking the lost ruins of the jungle!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Odds And Sods

Just some odd bits and pieces that I'd thought I'd share.

Golden Age Comic Book Stories has been showcasing some incredibly fantastic Frazetta comic art and illustrations. A Must See for everyone!

In Conan news, here's some stills from the upcoming Conan movie courtisy of CROM! The ultimate Conan fan blog. I'm skeptical about this new movie but I'll withhold judgmental for now. Also take a peek at the new CROM! banner image designed by yours truly.


Your all time favorite robots in cutout: Botropolis

...And for your Saturday morning enjoyment.....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Campaign Calendar

With my sandbox campaign I used a broad-stroke at the beginning and have been fleshing things out as we play or as is needed. I've had the cosmology floating in the back of my mind and this is where I'm currently at.

Over at Lamentations of a Flame Princess, James Raggi posted his campaign calendar. I had just so happened to have finished the visual representation of my calendar earlier his week and thought I'd add to the mix.

I love the concept of a lunar calendar and mine is also based on the 28 day, 13 month calendar with one day out of time (Agas). Agas would be a time of High magic and ritual both black and white while the 15th day of the Toad would be a time of only Black Magic potency. The standard 4 seasons apply with the Month of the Phoenix being the beginning of the year and the first day of summer. The moon sister planet of Thuvius (maybe?) waxes and wanes in the 28 days of the month reaching full on the 14th-15th.

I may throw in more Dates of Reverence and Ritual as time progresses but this is what I'll be working with for now.

I liked James' concept of having the players cross off the days as the game progresses. I've been doing that for them and have been giving them an update on the general amount of time that has passed but I'm not sure if they get a real picture. If the players tend to the calendar I think they may have a greater sense of the passage of time and plan events accordingly.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sci-Fi Action With Plant Guy!

Wrote and illustrated this 3 page Plant Guy story a couple of years ago for a Sequentially Tucson comic. I think it's out of print right now so I thought I'd share it here.

For more Plant Guy adventures in a future of Mutants and Monsters check out the first issue of Plant Guy from IndieOnly Comics.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Frank Frazetta...

There's a fantastic write-up about the late Frank Frazetta over at The Secret Sun written by Christopher Knowles. It's a great read and something that I highly recommend.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Frank Frazetta 1928-2010

Apparently it is confirmed that the Godfather of Fantasy Art, Frank Frazetta has passed away at the age of 82.

There is no doubt that his work in comics, painting and illustration has been a huge influence on millions of artists, film-makers, gamer-designers and pop culture as a whole.

His vision of Howard's brutal and vicious Hyporean age, Burroughs' Mars stories and raw fantasy power as well has been burned into our subconsciousness for all time.

Truly a master artist who's mark will forever be stamped on the world of pop (pulp) culture. His passion and life will be honored and missed. Condolences to his friends and family.

Frank Frazetta 1928-2010
Frank Frazetta Museum


After about 30 long years I have painted my first minis. Yes, that's right, thirty years! It is a really enjoyable process and I'm pretty happy with the results. I still have to figure out how to paint eyes without them looking psychotic!

On the left is a mini that my player Zach purchased for his character Skwanky Furrytoe the Halfling warrior. He picked it up over at Reaper Miniatures.

The one on the right is a good 'ol classic lead mini that I picked up at a yard sale with about 100 others for $5. I'll slowly be painting a selection of those as time permits. I'll post them here.

As for using minis in our games, well that's still up in the air. We haven't needed them but it's always fun to have a mini of the character you're playing.

Sorry about the crappy photo. I'll do better next time.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

John Eric Holmes 1930-2010

Word has been spreading throughout the fantasy role-playing blogosphere about the passing of John Eric Holmes. For those of you that don't know, he was the writer of the infamous 'blue book' rule set of 'Basic' Dungeons & Dragons. It was his rule book that captured my imagination as well as thousands of other youth int he late 1970's and first pulled me into this hobby of Role-playing games over 30 years ago.

I have always returned to his Blue Book over these thirty plus years. It was my opinion that his rules, though eventually amended with the term 'Basic', was a very gritty, adult version of the game before the it was filtered down to a more acceptable version marketed towards a larger mainstream audience of families and children. And it was all packed into just 48 pages. This was even before Advanced Dungeons & Dragons came out set the bar for hundreds of pages of detailed hard-bound rules.

And let's not forget his infamous Zenopus' Tower complete sample dungeon adventure which were part of his rules. It is truly a classic and still stands up after all these years as my players can attest to!

Though Gygax and Arneson will forever always be the pillars of the hobby, it was John Eric Holmes that was the gateway for many.

Dr. John Eric Holmes passed away on March 20, 2010.

Friday, May 7, 2010

First Friday

So first Friday brings us, once again, to the Pulp Calendar collection and today we have Strange Adventures on Other Worlds with Planet Stories!

So what do we have? A golden skinned woman passed out, a hoard of blue skin, mohawk sportin' spiked club wielding barbaric aliens and hero space-man blasting off to the stars. Nothing more than the usual fantastic fare from the highly imaginative illustrators of our pulp culture past!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Session XII: Rats! Rats!

Our brave though foolish treasure seekers, after having raided the Sarcophagi of the Ancients beneath the Tower of Zenopus, decide to explore the infamous rat tunnels. Geedleesmote the dwarf lead the way having to just barely hunch over while the rest of the party crawled on their hands and knees through those filthy, stench filled burrows. Skwanky the halfling stayed behind and guarded the dwarf's cart.

Tibag's skillful mapping saved the party from becoming hopelessly lost in the many twisting and turning passages.

Eventually they began to follow a tunnel that spiraled deeper below ground finding a suspicious and ancient gold coin along the way.

The stench in the tunnels became more and more unbearable as the rat urine and feces thickened. Wolfheir sensed that this may be leading to their doom and warned the rest of the party of a possible trap perhaps prepared for unsuspecting visitors. But the party pressed on despite a nervous Viking and, finding a descending side passage, followed it down where the squeaking noise of rats filled the air. Ahead of them the passage opened into a chamber where dozens of red eyes reflected in the lantern light.

Geedleesmote and Tibag burst into the chamber with the rest of the party following behind. Before them lay a sickening site. A cavern filled with giant rats and standing before a roughly carved statue of a blasphemous rat idol ordering the rats to attack was a sickly Man-Rat!

Wolfheir, Geddleesmote, Tibag started hacking into the hoard of vermin while Adara held fast as the rats bit at her flesh fired arrows into the disgusting man-beast. Slick Vinny, while staying behind in the passage opening, tossed surprisingly accurate darts also at the foul creature.

After a blood-bath the rats lay dead and the Man-Rat after having let out a loud screech also had crumpled to the floor. Tibag and Adara are very near death. Geedleesmote and Tibag pry the jeweled eyes from the idol and with the help of the Viking defile the statue and hammer the head off. But it's not long before the screeching of rats is heard once again coming from up the passage! With no other way out the party is trapped!

Vinny decides to lay a fire trap at the entrance of the tunnel. An angry debate ensues between the mage and Tibag and the rest of the party over the wisdom of igniting oil in these stench filled crawlways with no way out. Alas, the debate is quickly ended as the hoard of giant rats fill the passage. Vinny lights the oil and the rats savagely pour into the room bursting through the flames and burning to death. The few that get through are hacked down. More rats continue to charge into the room as the flames die down including a monstrous rat!

Another blood-bath ensues and the party comes out victorious once again!

Having enough of the rats and their stinkin' tunnels the party once again heads for the surface and returns to Caladan.

A very fun evening and good adventure. There was a lot of the usual laughs and some good role-playing and PC conflict when different opinions popped up. These characters have come a long way from their first timid forays into the Underworld!

We're all looking forward to the next session which should be a full table once again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Free Game Aid: The City Guide Booklet

In my never ending quest to streamline what I need and what I do behind the DM screen I've been trying to consolidate all my house rules, charts, notes etc. into a nice little easy to manage package. Up until this point, by the end of a session I have sheets of paper strewn about the floor behind me and stacks behind my screen. It's been a mess and it's been really bugging me.

Running a Sandbox style campaign opens that door of disorderly chaos even further as I need close at hand a reference to most any direction the PCs decide to go, whether it's to the next town, a return to this dungeon or that, sneaking into the local thieves guild or a wilderness trek.

Though I've been frustrated in dealing with this mess of notes, charts, tables, dungeons, city maps an on and on I've been trying to put together digest sized gaming aids to help with this. Thus my Books of Wizardry and the Divine, Campaign Journal, House Rule booklets and now the new City Guide.

The new city guides are created to help with sandbox campaign note taking and planning of various towns and cities that the characters may explore. As I've mentioned before, my sandbox is just a very broad-stroke which I fill in as the players explore. Thus, notes were beginning to pile up all over the place and on all sorts of notebooks and scraps of paper. Cities were a special case as residents may come and go, items sold or traded from previous adventures would now be a part of this shops inventory. This booklet will help keep that organized.

It's a 16 page booklet with room for 20 building maps and descriptions, a page for the general city map and city notes such as government, trade, laws, etc and finally a numbered hex map of the general region around the city or settlement.

Free City Guide PDF Download

If you enjoy digest sized booklets for you games, check this out!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

PC Resources: Physical Drains on the Character

Another interesting session last evening which I will be recapping shortly.

Max, one of the players, brought up a good question one that I've been thinking about in the back of my mind for some time but I wasn't sure how to implement it. The question was about Character stress and psychological fatigue. Now I've liked that concept and Akrasia over at Akratic Wizardry had a nice little house rule on using a character's Wisdom score as a basis for sanity. It also applies to Magic Users casting spells of Black Magic that can lead them down the path to maddness.

I've liked this idea and haven't yet implemented it into our game but after yesterday's session I think I may work this in. Not only will there be a tax on character material resources during an adventure (a very important aspect of classic style of gaming) but also their physical well-being.

With hit points being the most obvious physical toll on a character, there is a mental toll that, I believe, needs to be implemented on the characters as well. When you think about adventuring, characters are exploring dark tunnels, deep underground, with potential death around every corner. Most likely, if your characters in my game, you come crawling out of the dungeon covered in blood and gore from the battles in the Underworld.

Now, most characters will have a natural desire for explorations and the dangers encountered. That's their nature and what separates them from just settling down as a merchant or laborer. But even the most brave of heart will be affected by just too much stress due to the horrors of treasure seeking. A type of Traumatic Stress that will take it's toll on our poor characters.

So lets take the last 3 gaming days of our characters. After killing the horrific demigod demon thing, The Eater of the Dead, they high-tailed it out of one town, traveling all through the night to another, do some business, carouse all night long and then dive back into the local dungeon. In this dungeon the explore these rat tunnels where they have to crawl through a stinking maze of cramped, twisting passages to eventually end up in a room filled with giant rats, their leader the were-rat and a statue of a blasphemous rat god! After defeating this hoard another comes and fills the room and the battle continues. After that they have to crawl back out of the same rat tunnels.

Now this all would be very fatiguing just in a general sense of exploration, but throw in the rat tunnels and the rest, I don't care how brave and sturdy you are, you're going to come out of this psychology fatigued and in need of some mental rest.

So Wisdom as a sense of sanity will be another resource that the characters will need to keep track of. Now, it will be the DM's discretion as to how this works, Dwarves and Halflings may not be as affected traveling through the above rat tunnels mentioned above but characters that prefer the outdoors, ie. Rangers or Druids may be more affected by crawling through these tunnels.

So here is Akrasia's rules that I will start to use:

A character’s Wisdom score is a measurement of his/her sanity. A character with a Wisdom score of 18 has a firm grasp of the nature of reality, considerable self-discipline, and remarkable strength of will. In contrast, a character with a Wisdom score of 3 is barely lucid, easily confuses reality with fantasy, and is on the border of lapsing into madness. Characters with Wisdom scores of 2 or lower are utterly insane, and must be treated as non-player characters. (If this Wisdom loss is temporary, as explained below, the character is under the control of the Game Master until he/she regains his/her sanity.)

If a character witnesses an unspeakable horror, the Game Master may require the player to make a saving throw (versus ‘spells,’ if using a system other than S&W). The saving throw should be modified by the severity of the horror in question. If the character fails his or her saving throw, he or she loses points of temporary Wisdom. The exact amount should be determined by rolling 1d6. If a ‘6’ is rolled, the character also permanently loses one point of Wisdom (i.e., one permanent point of Wisdom and five temporary points of Wisdom). Temporarily lost points of Wisdom may be regained at a rate of one point per day of complete rest. The spell ‘Restoration’ (which I treat as a 6th level spell of ‘white magic’ in my game) will restore instantly temporarily lost Wisdom points, but will not restore any permanently lost Wisdom points.

I'll have to give it a bit more thought on how to apply it to our trusty Magic-Users but for now, be warned O' my players! Adventuring will take it's toll on your sanity!