Monday, November 29, 2010

Session XXVI: deeper, Deeper, DEEPER!

Yes, our party took steps to take their explorations of Zenopus' tower deeper than any one has gone before, or so they thought!

Having charmed Eric, a surviving member of the Black Hand and part of a party that was also sent into the tower to seek out Zenopus' spellbook, Slick Vinny, and the rest of Arvin's Avengers (and joined by Tibag and a weakened Adara still suffering from nightmares) delve below the tower once more.

Taking some time to finish mapping out the loose ends of the 1st level (completing the map with much accuracy, I must say), they returned to the 2nd level and the natural caves beneath.

Retracing their steps they made their way to the cavern where where they had slain crotch-goblins. There they found the remains of the half-eaten corpses being devoured by carrion-crawlers.

Working their way past this ghastly scene they once again walked through the cave the the green mist and entered the enormous natural cavern which was the Lair of the Crotch Goblins! Seeing the remains of the battle between the ghouls, goblins and themselves the party traveled along the wall of this immeasurable space.

Spotting a ledge above them, it was decided Adara and Tibag should go up and have a look. As the two brave souls climb up to the ledge and explored a cave, the others saw a dim torchlight coming from a cave opening far on the opposite side of the cavern. Arvin's Avengers douse their lights and watch as three bloodied and harried members of the Black Hand made their way across the cavern. Slick Vinny sent Eric over to talk to them.

The Black Hand was surprised to see Eric within these dark depths as he was ordered to stay in the tower itself and watch-over his companion who was wounded by ghouls. Suspicious, the other Black Hand members of his party questioned him and soon decided to leave the dungeons as half of their party had been killed by some nameless horror within the caves and they were no no shape, mentally or physically to continue on.

It is at this moment that Tibag and Adara attack the Black Hand with arrows. Caught by surprise, the leader falls, pierced with a number of arrows, the other is wounded and falls to the ground. Gnarly casts fairy-fire upon the third who looses the last of his sanity and runs wildly yet comically between the stalagmites of the cavern. As some of the party tried to chase this guild member down, the others tied up and questioned the survivor. He too has hit his breaking point and was nothing but a gibbering, screaming soul.

All that the party was able to gain from this broken man was that of some unspeakable horror within the caves which devoured his party.

As this questioning was going on, the party saw the Black Hand member alight with fairy fire and running madly throughout the cavern was swooped down upon by some enormous black winged shaped, lifted off the ground and carried off screaming into the distant heights of the underworld.

Thinking it best to move on, Tibag put the remaining screaming member of the Black Hand our of his mad misery slaying him and followed their blood trial across the cavern, over a natural stone bridge above an underground stream and into a dark cave.

The blood trail lead the party through some twisting tunnels and into the lair of Gricks! After slaying the horrific worms Arvin's Avengers continued through the caves and descended down some natural steps. Traveling down a long natural tunnel they come upon a strange site. Standing before them and carved out of the natural stone was a giant face whose mouth was outlined with stalagmites and stalactites and within this mouth was a pair of tall iron doors.

Opening the doors, they enter into a large man-made chamber of polished black stone, the walls of which are arched and ribbed giving the impressions of being in the belly of a beast. Opposite the door they entered is an arched tunnel with stairs leading deeper beneath the surface.

Arvin's Avengers descend the stairs….

Friday, November 26, 2010

Tales of High Adventure Submission Guidlines For Writers

Thrilling pulp fantasy returns with Tales of High Adventure from IndieOnly. Featuring fiction both old and new and penned by some of the greatest writers of gritty pulp drama as well as yet undiscovered gifted word-smiths!

Issue number 2 of Tales of High Adventure, to be released in the Spring of 2011, is now seeking submissions.

Tales of High Adventure is now accepting submissions of prose, poetry, illustrated comic stories, and single page art pin-ups as published in the pulp magazines such as Weird Tales, Astounding Stories, Spicy Mystery Stories, Amazing Stories and Startling Stories and inspired by the works of Robert E. Howard, H.P. Lovecraft, Dashiell Hammett, Mickey Spillane, Leigh Brackett, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Jack Vance, Fritz Leiber and others.

Hard-boiled Detectives and Private Eyes!
Spectacular Swords and Sorcery!
Fantastic Science Fantasy!
Spine-tingling Horror!
Daring Cliffhanging Adventures!

Submission Guidelines For Writers
  • We will accept short stories up to 10,000 words. If you have a longer story it may be serialized between issues, please query first.
  • New and original material only. One story at a time and no simultaneous submissions.
  • Please edit your work carefully.
  • Please submit stories in a Word doc or as an rtf file, single spaced text, between paragraphs double spaced. The title page should contain your name, email address, word count and date submitted. Number your pages.
  • All creators retain all rights to their characters and stories as this would be a one time, non-exclusive publishing agreement.
  • We cannot pay cash for your stories at this time. We will, however, send you a free printed copy of the issue where your work appears.
Become part of Pulp Culture and the stable of creators for Tales of High Adventure!

Send your inquiries or submissions to pulp at indieonlycomics dot com

More details on comic and art submissions coming soon.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mistress of Horror Ingrid Pitt - 1937 - 2010

The voluptuous Hammer mistress of horror Ingrid Pitt has passed on. Before vampires became all glittery they were horrifically sexy and that undead sexuality was never more defined than by Ingrid Pitt. Anyone who loves those old Hammer horrors undoubtedly will recall the beautiful Mrs. Pitt starring in such classic films as The Wicker Man, The House That Dripped Blood, The Vampire Lovers and Countess Dracula and helped usher in the sexually explicit horror films of the 1970's.

The Pitt of Horror: Official Ingrid Pitt web site

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tale of High Adventure Preview

As we finish up the final layouts for the 1st issue of our pulp fantasy adventure magazine Tales of High Adventure we though we'd post a few preview pages to whet your appetite. Our goal was to mimic the old fashion pulp rags of the 30's and 40's as much as possible in terms of the look and feel of the publication, whether it be prose or graphic stories. And all in a nice digest format too!

Title page for Edgar Rice Burroughs' At The Earth's Core

Page 1 of the Science Fantasy adventure Homeworld by Paul J. Fini

Midnight Eagle by Mike Moran

The contents of the magazine how it is set now.

And if you haven't seen it yet, the fantastic cover by Clay Lewis!

The book should be sent off to the printer early next week and if all goes well should be available a couple of weeks after that, just in time for the gift giving season (hint, hint!).

Submission Guidlines

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Monday's Session Report: Getting Into The Groove

The last good handful of sessions have been really enjoyable. I mean, for the most part they all have been entertaining sessions, but these have become much more so. They've been laid-back and off-the-cuff and in a way I feel it is in part because I have hit a stride in running the games.

My prep time has diminished to almost zero. For the past year, the players have adventured in and around the city of Caladan so the area has been established pretty well (with the help of those players!). The small piece of the campaign world and the events have fleshed themselves out nicely

I've gotten comfortable playing on the fly. I have gathered enough charts and tables and dungeons and encounters that any play outside of the 'comfort zone' can be handled quite easily. Many times those sessions have proven to be our most memorable. I think it's also a part of the DM being more a part of the game as I posted a while ago. Even when I feel a bit worn out or tired, I think enough gets started at the table that before you know it, three hours have gone by.

I'm more interested in letting the players decide the course of action and just going with it then dump on them anything that I create or want them to do. That has always been the goal but it has now become my modus operandi. There's enough hooks and dangling plot threads that the world and events and player interactions are just running themselves. I also feel comfortable letting the game be what it is, everyone's contribution, both players and DM breathing life into this campaign world. We've run a sandbox campaign with options wide open but over the past year, a nice 'story' has developed.

The game is starting to feel more focused too. A good portion of that has to do with the players themselves. Early in our campaign, the PC's carousing opened up a ton of side-plots that, in most instances, eventually needed to be followed; interactions with the Black Hand, various debts to the Temple of Mithra, Adara's dreams (which are still open but are slowly affecting that character). This lead to everyone joking that their party has AADD (Adventurers Attention Deficit Disorder) as they were unable to complete tasks or quests. With a lot of these circumstances 'out of the way', events around the Tower of Zenopus have been slowly building and that is where the play has been focusing. There seems to be a certain tension and excitement as the players delve deeper below the tower knowing that they will be facing every more dangerous foes and perhaps Zenopus herself!

Finally, the camaraderie around the table has just been fantastic and great to be a part of. I think everyone has hit a comfort zone and that helps open the game up creatively.

Oh, and if you really want to freak a party of dungeon delvers out (and believe me, it doesn't take much), place shiny apple in the center of a room with piles of busted furniture. Good Times!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Creepy Inspiration For Your Gamma World / Mutant Future Game

A new book, 'Micro Monsters', showcases some of the planet's most horrible insects and microscopic beasts, perfect inspiration for your post-apocalyptic Gamma World campaign!

More Creepy-Crawlies can be found here

Friday, November 12, 2010

Session XXV: Aftermath

This session involved the characters roaming through the city of Caladan and picking up additional facts about the Tower of Zenopus, the Witch-queen of Stygia, the comatose Lord Osric and general post Black Sabbath happenings before delving back into the tower in search of Zenopus herself!

I'll just let the party's druid, Gnarly Blunderbrush, retell the tale courtesy of the Level 1 Gamer:

The Book of Gnarly

Thanks to Corey (Level 1 Gamer) for this recap.

For the DM's session report...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Behind The Screen Part 2: The Screen

Part 1 can be found here: The Rules.

So after talking about what rules I use in part 1, today I'm going to look at every DM's crutch, the DM screen.

In the early days of my playing the hobby, I recall using the monochrome adventure module covers to separate my duties from the rest of the players. Mostly used to hide the dungeon map and the map key from the players, this separation has somehow evolved with Role-playing games and appears in some form in almost every genre of the hobby and in some cases a bit overkill.

I'm not quite sure where the Game Master screen came from, I don't recall reading about it in the Holmes blue rule-book or in the Dungeon Master's Guide but somehow, in the early days of the game, it became part of standard table-top paraphernalia. The earliest version I came across put out by TSR was around 1979 and came with 2 durable screens. This was for the Advanced version of the game. With the release of 1st edition D&D, the many complicated charts within the DMG and the Player's Handbook made it almost a necessity to have quick access to these finer points of the rules to keep the game flowing.

When I was a young 1st level DM at the ripe age of 10, I enjoyed that separation from the players. That barrier was something that I was able to hide my lack of knowledge of the game and my insecurities behind. Now days, I find that separation an annoyance. I like to be as much a part of the table as my group of players are. The separation now feels too distant.

Having said that, I do still have a screen handy. Again, it's only used to separate the map and the key from the players (only when I have to) but also house a few quick reference charts and rules. And like many things in my current campaign, I've created a custom screen.

Since my reliance on the screen is quite minimal I tried to make the screen as small as possible yet still 'hide' the map key and additional notes from the players. What I ended up with was an 17"X 11" screen. The main portion is a full 8.5" X 11" and it is here that I attach my dungeon map with tape or a clip. Since this portion changes often, it is not a permanent element of the screen, just a blank slate to be filled as needed.

On either side of this I have a 4 1/4" X 11" flap where I attach my game charts. These narrow portions have two functions, the first is to make the screen stable, the second is to have a quick reference to some of the rules and charts that I tend to use often within the game. I kept them narrow to keep the screen fold-able and compact as well as less of a barrier between me and the players.

I created the chart itself with two pieces of 8 1/2" by 11" black foam-core with one adhesive side. I cut one of those sheets vertically in half and attached it all together with black tape. The outside of the screen being the adhesive side, I attach various dungeon artwork taken from various rulebooks. I like the black and white as I find it less distracting that anything in color. It's just there for ascetic decoration at this point and I don't think any of the players even notice it anymore.

With our use of a rules-light game system (Swords & Wizardry) and using an ascending armor class combat system, the charts that I use on my screen are more for little rule tweaks or game additions that I've only placed there to keep the flow of the game going. Things like movement and encumbrance rates (always bog me down) and wilderness encounters and custom moral rolls. See the images below for what I've added to my screen.

Again, I tend not to use the screen unless I really need to, usually when the PCs are delving into some doom filled dungeon. Beyond that I like to join the festivities at the table and have a good time.

Now, all this doesn't mean that I don't have a full reference of charts compiled within a notebook to access at all times, 'cause I do. When running a sandbox campaign, all those charts are your best friends and I'll touch on those in our next installment.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

3rd Annual Tucson ComiCon Photos

The 3rd Annual Tucson ComiCon was a blast, as always. Best event yet, really well put together by Mike Olivares and his crew. Good times were had at the IndieOnly Booth and many-a good folk were met. There was a lot of good interest in our preview copy of Tales of High Adventure and we even sold a number of copies of The Outpost On The Edge Of The Far Reaches adventure module.

Along with Clay Lewis and Mike Moran, who are part of the High Adventure project and members of our gaming group, the rest of our gaming group trickled through the con. Fun Times!

Clay, me and Mike flyin' high at IndieOnly! Oh yeah!

Steamcrow Press, as awesome as ever!

What's a comic convention without your gaggle of heroes!

Check out the IndieOnly Books here!

Next year we'll be at the Tucson Convention Center andwe're sure to have a number of issues of Tales of High Adventure out by then. Plan your trips now!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Warlock At The Third Annual Tucson ComiCon

The Third Annual Tucson ComiCon is today Saturday November 6th! IndieOnly (my small press publishing company) will be there with a limited preview of our upcoming Pulp Book "Tales Of High Adventure". There will be a ton of other great independent publishers and vendors there as well. So if you're in the Tucson area (or the entire southwest of the United States) check it out, stop by and say hi and pick up your preview of Tales of High Adventure!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pulp Goes The Warlock!

That's right dear readers! The Warlock's Home Brew is proud to announce it's upcoming release of it's anthology pulp series Tales of High Adventure!

Tales of High Adventure will be a quarterly magazine filled with yarns by some of your favorite pulp authors from yesteryear. New stories and authors will also be showcased as well graphic tales and other good gritty stuff.

The book should be out sometime in December and I'll be posting some updates shortly. There will be a preview sampler available at the Tucson ComiCon this Saturday. Just stop by the IndieOnly booth and pick up your preview of Tales of High Adventure; a magazine of adventure, daring, mystery and suspense!

Submission Guidlines

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Last Night's Session Report

After a bit of a break from our usually scheduled Swords & Wizardry campaign (our group had an open game session last week) we got back into it last night.

It was an interesting session as it was laid-back and much more driven by reaction to outside events than dungeons, hacking and treasures, though all the players were involved. We also saw the return of Max who plays the character of Slick Vinny after a hiatus of a number of sessions (three if I recall).

I know I felt a bit tired, probably from a busy weekend and Christy did as well. Mike (Wolfheir), too, seemed a bit in lower gear after returning from a week long business trip. So I'm sure that contributed to the slower pace of the session, though Max, Corey and Clay seemed pretty ready to go.

Since it was 3 weeks since our last game and the players had left the dungeon at the end of that session, three weeks of game time has gone past as well. Usually when our sessions end in dungeons or traveling in the wilderness, we pick up right where we left off. However, if the PC's begin or end the session in town then however much time passes between sessions pass during game time as well. I believe I got that concept from 1st ed DMG and it's stuck with me ever since. I think it's a great little rule for campaigns. It forces the characters to spend their gold and gives them motivation for refilling their coffers. I like the passage of game time and try to incorporate that into play as much as possible. In this instance, much happened within the three weeks to 'move the story along' so to speak.

The events that have come to pass revolve around Zenopus' tower and the town of Caladan which indirectly have an affect on the events that the players have been involved with throughout the campaign. Also, Slick Vinny's disappearance for those three weeks added to the mysteries as well.

As the players meandered throughout town picking up rumors and interacting with some of the NPC's involved and purchasing equipment for their next foray into the town there was a lot of role-playing. Sometimes in a more mellow session, especially when the PCs are in town, actual role-playing comes to the forefront. As tired as I was, it made for an very fun and interesting session.

When the players finally returned to the tower at the end of the session, they discovered that they now are not the only ones delving the basement levels.

This was a nice break from the usual dungeon crawling and hacking and slashing. I found the session to be very enjoyable and satisfying and I think the players appreciated it as well.

We'll be posting an actual session recap shortly.