Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Projecting D&D

Sometimes movies that have nothing to do with fantasy interpret the old school style of D&D much better than many fantasy movies do.

For example, my wife and I have been watching the mini-series Lonesome Dove (1988) this week. It stars Robert Duvall (with pretty great performance, I must say!), Tommy Lee Jones, Robert Urich, Danny Glover, a young Steve Buscemi and Chris Cooper and a very attractive Diane Lane who all put in great performances supported by an outstanding script.

It is a western about two former Texas rangers (Duvall and Jones) who decide to move cattle from southern Texas to Montana.

Pretty standard fare, right?

Well, first off, morality is quite blurred as these 'good guys' rob, gamble, and have quite an affinity for chasing down the whores. And I don't mean some stereotypical broad stroke of a character. It's the underlying theme of the story. In fact, most of their conversations revolve around whores and killing Indians. Their whole venture is based on stolen cattle and horses from a rancher in Mexico.

Lonesome Dove is a godforsaken town in the middle of southern Texas along the Rio Grande river. It's not much of any type of settlement but these two rangers have cleared at least a couple of hexes worth of indians and bandits.

As they break out on their journey, they are accompanied by a number of great NPCs and are followed around by a number of interesting sub-plots.

It's a great slow-paced wilderness adventure filled with danger at every turn, small towns and gritty violent death. It doesn't hold back on any of the true darkness that is missing from most westerns. In fact, the violence can be quite pulpy if you take my meaning. Oh and being a woman in this movie is not something that anyone would find enjoyable no matter how tough a character they may be.

True, westerns are not a far cry from the worlds of rough D&D adventures but this has more of a classic pulp D&D vibe with it's camaraderie, blurred morality, tough characters, wild lands and savage violence than most other fantasy movies.

Am I just projecting D&D onto a show I'm watching? Well when my wife, who has only been playing D&D for about 6 or 7 sessions now, blurts out, "this is one old school adventure!", there must be something there to take notice.

So over this holiday season, if you can't roll dice and you have a taste for a great wilderness adventure I would suggest checking out the mini-series Lonesome Dove (I think they made a tv series after it but I can't vouch for that). You can watch it instantly on NetFlix.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Session XXVII: When The Dead Are Hungry For Souls

Quote of the Game:
"I'm wearing Plate Mail so I hope I don't get a boner."
Descending deeper beneath the Tower of Zenopus than ever before, our party of intrepid adventurers worked their way down a steep flight of dusty, cobweb filled stairs. Along the way, Gnarly discovered a red gem buried in the thick dust.

Finally coming to the bottom of the they followed a passage to a dead end where only a small portly statue stood upon a pedestal. The statue had a human body but it's head was that of an amphibious creature. It had a single red gem for an eye. Gnarly placed the red gem that he found into the other eye socket and a hidden door opened into a north-west passage.

Heading south they found a long narrow chamber with alcoves along the walls. As they began to search the room from the alcoves came a pair of mummies! Failing to fall back from the Televon's symbol of Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams, the mummies engaged the party.

Before the battle was over, two additional mummies appeared out of the darkness. And as the mummies were slain or a burning ruin, Wolfheir and Gnarly ended up with the dreaded mummy-rot!

Exploring the chamber, it was found that one of the pillars holding up the low ceiling had a hidden compartment inside of which was a spear inlaid with decretive heads of wolves. Wolfheir proudly carried the spear and decided to attack from the second ranks as his wounds from the mummy were grievous.

Retracing their steps, they followed another passage south into an odd hall bathed in a slight green glow. The glow was coming from a large pool of green mist in the center of the room. The four corners of this pool had 4 stone statues of domesticated cats with emerald gems for eyes. All along the wall were relief carvings of cats of various breeds and sizes facing the pool.

Exploring the pool of mist, it was decided to tie someone to a rope and lower them down. There wasn't a volunteer so it was decided to tie their Black Hand captive to the rope and lower him down. This captive was just awakening from his horrors from the previous explorations when he found himself tied to a rope and being plunged into the mist. He screamed in protest as he was lowered down to at least 50 feet when his screams had stopped. Tibag and Wolf pulled him back up and found that he had fainted once again.

Wary of the mist, the party decided to play it safe and just steal the emerald eyes from the cat statues and continue out a side passage from the room.

Exploring further they came across tomb where black shapes were lifting off the lids of coffins. Tibag fired an arrow into one of their backs. The four hungry wights turned and charged the party. Yielding not to Morpheus' symbol, the four soul sucking fiends attacked the party. Gnarly sent his mushrooms out to attack but one fell to the touch of the wight.

Maudlin, in battle with a fiend felt the odds were against her survival after she had sacrificed her shield to save her soul and stepped back to retreat. In doing so, Adara the ranger tripped upon the retreating dwarf and fell prone before two of these vile beasts! The life was drained out of her!

Finally defeating the wights, the rest of the party explored the tomb and discovered it to be the resting place of dwarven lords. The tomb was looted and the party thought it best to retreat back to the surface and lick their wounds.

This was our last session of the year as the holidays usually become too busy for everyone to meet. It was a good session to end on, a lot of excitement and fun to end the year. We planning on getting together sometime over the holiday for some additional gaming (there's a large list of games that we've all been waiting to try). Our Swords & Wizardry sessions will return in early January.

Best of holidays to everyone!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Prog 200!

Yesterday I hit my 200th post.

And with that I've just crawled over 100+ followers. A decent ration I suppose.

So to celebrate, I thought I'd review some of the highlights of the past 200 posts.

The most popular page just happens to be one of the crappiest dungeons and that would be the Castle Caldwell page with 1,170 pageviews. Now, I really don't think all these views are game related. I think most folks are looking for this: Castle Caldwell Won't they be surprised if they use my map while exploring the real Castle Caldwell ruins and run into some goblins and firebeatles!

The next highest page view is my Frank Frazetta memorial page. No mistake here that visitors are indeed seeking out one of the greatest fantasy artists of all time whom we have lost this past year.

After that we have my map making tutorials as the most frequently viewed pages. That is good. I'm glad people find it useful. I feel that I've contributed something back to the FRPG community.

After that we have just a various list of pages with our session recaps scoring quite high too. I'm glad you're enjoying our misadventures!

Some of my favorite posts while hosting this blog are:

5 Great Things To Come Out Of The OSR
One More Delve Back In Time
DM As Participant At The Table: Improvisation
New Race Atlantean

My thanks for all of you who enjoy reading my rambling posts about this extremely odd yet extremely entertaining tabletop game and a welcome to all you new followers too. I hope you find something useful, entertaining, or thoughtful about The Warlock's Home Brew.

Oh, don't forget to check out The Warlock's Curiosities for a bunch of free goodies!

Now for other 200th celebrations!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hack And Slash

Continuing our look back over our past year's worth of sessions we decided to collect a list of all the monsters hacked and slashed. And so, in no particular order....

1 Zombie Cat
9 Ghouls
5 large spiders
54 Giant Rats
1 Zombie
1 Evil Wizard
1 White Ape
6 Pirate
130 Crypt Crawlers (Crotch Goblins (yes, that's right, 130!))
2 Giant Centipedes
5 Skeletons
1 Iron Statue
1 Eater of the Dead
1 Giant Tic
1 Were-rat
5 skeleton
1 Monster Rat
1 Giant Spider
3 Cave Eels
1 Giant Crab
4 Mushroom-men
7 Giant Frogs
14 Members of the Black Hand
9 Beast-men
6 Orcs
1 Wooden Golem
6 Evil Clerics
2 Gargoyles
1 Hell Hound
2 Shadows
1 Evil Priest
1 Living Statue
6 Giant Ants
2 Jackals of Darkness
1 Giant Skeleton
1 Walking Slime
2 Gricks
4 Mummies
4 Wights


PC Deaths:
Arven - Priest of Mithra
Gedleesmote - Dwarven Axe-bearer
Adara - Stygian Strider
Slick Vinny died but was resurrected.

...and with that we hit 200 posts!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Peak Of The Marvel Silver Age

It would be hard to argue that the Marvel Silver Age of comics was the best for the superhero genre. The stories and artwork exploded off the pages especially with the artwork of Jack Kirby, John Romita, Steve Ditko and John Buscema and with inspired dialogue by Stan Lee.

Beginning in in the early 60's with the Fantastic Four and soon after with Spider-man, The Hulk, Thor and the Avengers, the stories progressed in a linear fashion with events having far reaching consequences upon the characters and situations throughout the new and expanding Marvel Universe. Character deaths were, at that time, permanent and character change, even for their main characters and supporting cast evolved throughout this era.

This lasted until about 1968 when Marvel was sold and the characters began to become marketable iconic images of the day. Story-lines began to be repeated and cause had only temporary effects.

There might be many arguments when the actual peek of this era was, but for me I would say that it was December 1966 with this story here:

All the issues of the Fantastic Four lead up to this moment of spectacular greatness!

The ongoing battles with the infamous Doctor Doom, the baddest of the bad of marvel villains who had been out of action for more than a year after his hands were crushed by an out of control Ben Grimm!

The cosmic power of Galactus was unleashed upon the earth for the first time and the power of the Silver Surfer was demonstrated when he fought The Thing a couple of issue earlier. All the elements were in place for the battle royal! Here we have the Shakespearean tragedy at it's greatest!

The unsuspecting three-some (Johnny was out seeking the hidden refuge of the Inhumans and his love Crystal) get called into stop a prison escape of their old enemies the Sandman and the Wizard.

But this is all small potatoes as the Silver Surfer answers a royal summons from the ruler of Latveria...
After a brief friendly display of power between the two Doc Doom almost lets the cat out of the bag as one of his servants inadvertently bumps into his fearful master!

Doom is quick to seize control of his explosive anger in front of the wary Surfer.

And now begins the ultimate peek of the Marvel Universe...

One of the greatest, if not the greatest splash pages brought to you by Jack Kirby, Joe Sinnott, and Stan Lee.

So what does Doctor Doom do with his new found power cosmic? Begins to conquer the world starting with his own hapless Latverian villagers before moving on to the Defeat of the Fantastic Four in issue 58!

This storyline would continue on for another 4 issues after that. This was the very first time in the Marvel Universe that the power cosmic was stolen by an the diabolical Doctor Doom and went head to head, no holds barred against the heroes of the earth.

It would only be a few short years later that Kirby would bitterly leave marvel and the creativity would stagnate (for the most part). Unfortunately, this exact storyline would be revisited again and again in the 70's, 80's and 90's and adapted into a less than satisfactory movie with each time being watered down in it's power and grandeur.

Just thought I'd share....

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Road Goes Ever Ever On...

This coming Monday will be out last session of the year. With the hectic holiday season upon us, it's just to difficult to commit time to Role-Playing. We'll be picking back up our Swords & Wizardry campaign in early January. That's not to say we won't be squeezing in some gaming between now and then. There's a whole list of games that we all want to try!

With our bi-weekly games we will be hitting our 27th session. I thought I'd look back over the types of sessions that we've had. It's amazing how the characters, stories and events just sort of evolve on their own. Since we gather every two weeks, it's amazing how many weeks a dungeon crawl or quest might take. But with a rules light game, it's also amazing what can be accomplished and the types of sessions that one can have.

Session 1: City adventure (Caladan) and begin dungeon crawl (Zenopus Tower).
Session 2: Dungeon Crawl - City adventure - Dungeon Crawl
Session 3: Dungeon Crawl
Session 4: City Adventure - Dungeon Crawl
Session 5: Dungeon Crawl - 1st PC Death
Session 6: City Adventure - Wilderness
Session 7: Dungeon Crawl - Tomb of the Iron God
Session 8: Dungeon Crawl
Session 9: Dungeon Crawl
Session 10: City Adventure (Braken) - Dungeon Crawl
Session 11: Wilderness - City (Braken and Caladan)
Session 12: Dungeon Crawl (Zenopus Tower)
Session 13: City Adventure - Dungeon Crawl - 2nd PC death (resurrected)
Session 14: Dungeon Crawl (Zenopus Tower)
Session 15: Dungeon Crawl
Session 16: City Adventure (Caladan)
Session 17: Wilderness
Session 18: Wilderness - Dungeon Crawl (Quest for the Skull of Yam-Gregak)
Session 19: Dungeon Crawl
Session 20: Dungeon Crawl - 3rd PC Death) - Wilderness
Session 21: Wilderness
Session 22: City Adventure - Dungeon Crawl (Zenopus Tower)
Session 23: Dungeon Crawl
Session 24: Dungeon Crawl
Session 25: City Adventure
Session 26: Dungeon Crawl (Zenopus Tower)

As you can see we've had much more dungeon crawls than City or Wilderness adventures but still a good balance, I feel because; one, Dungeon Crawls are the staple of my favorite type of adventure and a core of classic gaming, and two, game time moves much slower in the Underworld than on the surface. The surface world adventures usually have a lot more going on and more ground being covered, so to speak.

Also notice via the map that the campaign has really only taken up a very, very small portion of a tiny slice of the entire campaign world map that I drew up. Which goes to show, depending on your campaign plans, that you really only need to focus on detailing a tiny portion of your world.

It's been a great 26 sessions. Well see what number 27 brings before our break and with the way our sessions go, anything can happen!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

More Cubes of a Gelatinous Nature

It seems that the new trend these days is creating your own Gelatinous Cube miniature. Seriously, just look around:

Society of Rope and Pole's Gelatinous Cube

The Cube from Dungeons and Digressions

And Carjacked Seraphim's Cube

So I'm a DIYer when it comes to my gaming material as some of you may know, so when I saw a way to make a cheap mini I jumped at it! A perfect project for a Sunday afternoon between watching some good ol' American Football action (Go Bears!).

So I went down that path using Michael Curtis' method with but a few minor changes.

I'll be using some basic acrylic art supplies (gesso and molding paste), paint, brushes and a wooden block. The wooden block was only $.99 a super bargain for any mini project! The rest of the material I already had around.

So I too started with a cubed block and chipped away the edges and corners with an Xacto knife then sanded those rough edges to soften the cube.

The next thing I did was break out the Acrylic Modeling Paste and using a pallet knife just started spreadin' that stuff all over the cube to give it an irregular shape. Michael used joint compound and you can get pretty much the same effect. I had this lying around so that's what I used. It's fun working with this material so have a blast!

Now our cube is starting to take form quite nicely.

After another quick coat of Gesso I begin painting it. Now I'm partial to the purple cube myself though many others like green. So I started with by base purple coat.

From there I just added layers of greens, yellows and blues and then finally a lite wash of purple again. Then some edging highlights with a dry-brushed metallic silver. Finally finished it up with a gloss varnish.

And behold! A hungry scavenging cube ready for it's next victims!

Here's a couple more Cube DIYers

Thiel a Vision

Kev's Lounge

And for those of you who prefer your cubes clear....

Fake Ice Cubes

I may try this method next:
Clear Cube Tutorial

Monday, December 6, 2010

Getting Older Is Okay Where D&D Is Concerned

I'm sure that many of you that take the time out to checkout what I'm saying over here at the Warlock's Home Brew probably started gaming back in the late 70's early 80's which makes us all around the same age and most likely the of the same generation (remember the whole 'Generation X thingy way back?).

Many of you started playing this fantasy game at a very young age, for me I was 10 years old. I was also the oldest in our group and thus the default Dungeon Master. Sure we had a great time exploring dungeons and killing things and taking their stuff and rolling up characters and all that goodness but, as a 10 year old, what did I know about the ins and outs of bringing a sense of realism to the game? Not much. My reality was pretty much colored by Science Fiction movies and comic books. We played on nonetheless.

So here we are, 30 years later and I find myself back behind the screen. Yeah, I took about 25 years off of playing RPGs as I stepped into the rivers of life but, like many of you, I too have returned.

Yes I have returned and returned much wiser (without a doubt this can be argued) in the ways of gaming.

With this older age comes a new perspective, for me anyway, on running my games.

Life experience has given me a better background to run my campaigns. I can flesh out my NPCs to give them a more realistic color than I could when I was 10. Same goes for my cities, towns and plot-hook and situations. Don't get me wrong, the game is just as insanely hilarious and at times disturbingly twisted as ever but I think that there's just more of a sense of groundedness that experience can bring.

Also with age comes the concept of just letting go. We're all in this campaign together so lets drink some beers, laugh a lot with some friends and have a good time! Playing off the cuff has become a much easier endeavor as flexibility has become the philosophy.

And with these years of experience comes patience which really lets me paint one hell of a mini! I've come a long way from the green paint glob with the bright red mouth. Though minis play a small part of our game, when I do get a chance to sit down and paint it is quite a satisfying experience!

When I was younger and playing these games, I always wanted to run games like the adults that I saw running games, I always wanted to paint those miniatures like those skillful hobbyists of the time.

Well, now with some life experience under my belt (and still colored by science fiction and comic books, mind you) I do and it's fantastic! It's one hell of a game and it's more fun than ever.

So here's to all of us (Grognards?) that have made it to this point to run and talk about our games and in living life have become better games!

Fantasy Pop: The Stones Are Light Years From Home

Cast your spells to the outer-planes....

UPDATE: Damn! this 'embedded' video was working. They must have just changed it. Well, just click on the the YouTube link to view. Sad days....sad days....

Friday, December 3, 2010

Campaigns vs. One-Offs

Over at the Lands of Ara, Carter posted about hitting that sweet spot in his campaign. Here too, we seem to have hit that nice sweet spot for all of the same reasons. The PC' s are a bit tougher now and can survive some heavier battles, plots are thickening nicely, and through all their trials and tabulations, the PC's are beginning to leave their mark, however small and for good or evil, on the game world.

This got me thinking about campaigns compared to one-offs.

I'm a big fan of the campaign. I love the 'story' that evolves from the players and their characters actions, the ever present cause and affect. I love the slow moving 'story' arcs and the re-occurring NPCs. I love the fact that PC's deaths become more bitter and have weight. And I love the fact that once you hit that sweet spot the campaign begins to run itself which I feel is a sign of a successful ongoing adventure.
"...once the campaign is set in motion, you will become more of a recorder of events, while the milieu seemingly charts its own course!"
-Gary Gygax, DMG 1st ed. p. 87
I love that there's a history and that when new players come in the veterans retell their tales. Our group's character levels are between 1st and 5th and that adds a sense of realism (if you can have realism in a FRPG) to the campaign world and a sense of ongoing depth and a passage of time.

Campaigns are where the concept of Role-playing games come to life as characters and events are brought are colored, explored, live for a while and then die (sometimes horribly).

Now one-offs, on the other hand, don't do much for me. I've run a few and, granted they can be fun and a good way to introduce players into the concepts of the game but it just leaves things hanging.

Players that bring their characters to life during those few hours are gone - poof! vanished at end of game. It leaves myself (and hopefully the players) wanting more. I want to know what the consequences of these players actions are! I guess it's hard for me to let go of the long term cause and affect in game. In this sense, one-offs tend to be quick quests, hack-n-slash of careless adventurers who do not fear death. Though that, of course, can be fun is almost the antithesis of the game - my concept of the game anyway.

So while one-offs have their place, for me they don't compare to the struggling saga of some poor characters clawing their way to leave some mark in their world.