Sunday, October 30, 2011

Creature Features

If there's anyone old enough to remember (we're talking early 70's) on Friday evenings WGN channel 9 in Chicago would run their classic horror program called Creature Features. This was long before The Son of Svenghoolie though I think around the same time as the original Svenghoolie. Anyway, I grew up watching these classic horror programs on our little black and white tv in my parent's bedroom. The cool thing about the show was the intro recreated here by Dan Siciliano.

Now it's off to watch our annual viewing of Night of the Living Dead.

Happy Halloween all ya Ghoulie Grognards!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hammer Time

This Halloween I'm on a Hammer Films kick. Not only do you get gory horror with the likes of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing but plenty of eye candy with Rachel Welch, the late Ingrid Pitt and the rest of the Hammer Glamor girls.

Dracula A.D. 1972
Dracula rises from the dead into the swinging 70's of London in this inspired version of the same old story. Peter Cushing plays Van Helsing's modern heir and Stephanie Beachman plays his daughter who gets caught up with some swinging hippies lead by Johnny Alucard who's real motivation is to bring Dracula back from the dead. The opening scene is pure late 60's hippie schlock with a rock band and a bunch of their followers sticking it to the man. But with Lee, Cushing, Beachman and Caroline Munro this is a must see for Hammer fans. Available through Netflix streaming so perfect for this weekend's Horror film festivities.

Vampire Lovers
An odd but enjoyable vampire story staring Ingrid Pitt and Peter Cushing. Pitt plays the beautiful Marcilla/Carmilla preying on the young and beautiful Madeline Smith. Great Gothic imagery, though much of the day for night shots look terrible. Some minor nudity with Pitt seducing Smith but, hey, it's a Hammer film. Great for late night Netflix streaming this weekend.

One Million Years B.C.
Now I haven't seen this one since I was a kid but watching it now, with an adult perspective, I see it as a one of the best pre-historic (though not at all accurate) flicks. Made in 1966, a couple of years before Kubrik's 2001: A Space Odyssey and his famous ape sequence, it has quite the spacey intro grounding the audience in the past. If it wasn't for the cheesy narration to spoon-feed the time frame to the audience, it's quite a great sequence. Then we meet the brutal Stone Tribe and the 'enlightened' Shell Tribe and the stunning Rachel Welch as the most beautiful cave-woman in pre-history. When I was a kid watching this flick, I was taken more by the Ray Harryhausen animated monsters then a scantly clad 60's icon. But now, Rachel is the star of the show and real joy to watch. Besides all that, the whole story has quite the pulp feel as the Tomac, the outcast from the Stone Tribe explores this desolate wilderness. Oh and then the great cataclysm at the end? Great stuff! Unfortunately, it's not available on Netflix streaming so I had to order it via Netflix snail-mail (yes, despite everything we're still Netflix customers - for now).

Bonus feature:
Twins of Evil
A great little vampire flick staring Peter Cushing and Madeleine and Mary Collinson (the Twins of Evil). Cushing's role is great as a puritan witch-hunter (think Solomon Kane) who tries to protect one of his nieces (one of the twins) from falling for the satanic Count. I thought this movie had some amazing themes which would make for a great remake.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Skirmish (Mass) Combat Part 2

First off, let me say that I'm not any type of expert at 'creating' gaming rules. I'm fine with tweaking and altering something that exists already and lifting and mixing from other sources but to flat out creating balanced war-game, rpg rules, - nope, not me. There are plenty of other folks out there who are much better creating something like that than me.

So I'm still looking for some alterations on the Swords & Wizardry Mass Combat rules which I've scaled down to just Skirmish Rules.

Justin from Old School Psionics came up with some simple streamlined Mass Combat rules. I'll be giving those a closer look later today.

I also ran across these sets of rules; Song of Blades and Heroes from Ganesha Games which looks promising on some levels. For only $5 for the pdf download from Lulu, it's worth checking out.

Grungi posted his results of a similar combat yesterday using the Gabor Lux's Swords and Magic Retro clone and the Ghouls overwhelmed the soldiers as well. That verifies some of the results that I've been getting in my sample combats as well. Very similar to the Swords & Wizardry Combat rules but with a few more things added.

Conclusion: Ghouls are pretty bad-ass as an 'army'.

So there's a lot to look over today but some of the questions I'm looking to answer are the following:

Defensive positions, how would they come into play and for how long?

Would monster units get multiple attacks? Some folks say yes, but how would a special attack such as Paralyzing touch from a ghoul come into play for a unit vs unit battle?

What about the ghoul units that were 'wounded', how would that be handled after the battle? In the example above, sure some of the Ghoul units were hit and their HP numbers deflated, even to zero (which doesn't mean they are killed) but how many are actually left?

How would a PC support a friendly unit in combat or moral? What about adjacent units?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mass Combat Part 1

In my most recent S&W session we had a battle of about 40 ghouls vs about 30+ soldiers and a couple of PCs. As I wasn't yet 'fluent' in the S&W mass combat rules and thought I'd like to see the battle play out in 'real scale' we started rolling the dice. It actually worked out pretty well and didn't take too long, though we still have to finish the battle in the next session.


I don't think I would run something like that again as a straight combat. So it was off to explore the S&W Mass Combat rules.

I ran through the same combat, minus the PCs, on my own to see how it would turn out compared the actual combat. Using the Swords & Wizardry mass combat rules the Ghouls pretty much overwhelmed the soldiers. Perhaps that is what would really happen? Ghouls are pretty vicious creatures and with forces of equal number on both sides the ghouls would still have the advantage.

For those unfamiliar with the Swords & Wizardry Mass Combat rules, they are part of the Core Rules and only take up two pages. The rules are quite simple, as they should be. Soldiers and monsters are grouped in units of 5 or 10, hit points added for a unit's total and you roll on the regular charts to determine out come. If a hit is scored, the unit is not destroyed (1 in 6 chance) but could be 'broken' and unable to fight until moral (d%) is made. That's just a broad stroke and if you are more interested in reading the details you can download the free version of the rules and look it over yourself.

A number of questions come up using these rules as is, and who says you have to use the rules as is?

Ghouls normally get 3 attacks per round, would this hold true in Mass Combat? Thus three chances to 'wound' a unit and roll a d6 for reaction results? That would seem pretty extreme but perhaps true to the monster. Perhaps just one attack with a d6 damage would be fine. For other monsters as well? How would you handle the paralyzing effect of their attacks?

How are PC's handled? That's not really handled much in the rules. A unit attacking a PC does half damage to the PC which could still be pretty vicious and deadly. In this case, would Ghouls still get their 3 attacks? How would the PC's presence affect the ally unit's moral on breaking?

I know the Mass Combat Rules are a very broad stroke to handle a situation like this and maybe works fine for larger scale battles but groups of about 10-50 combatants on each side should be handled by this rule as well as taking the PC abilities into account. So maybe what I'm looking for isn't mass combat but something in-between?

This week I'll be exploring this Mass Combat system and tweaking things and hopefully come up with some useful additions. I want to keep it simple and don't want to break out of the RPG and into a totally different (war) game. I'm looking to make or add some supplemental tweaks to make a combat such as this flow better within the scope of a table top RPG and make it fun, exciting and have the outcome be 'realistic' in terms of the outcome of standard melee combat.

If anyone has any thoughts on this I'd love to hear from them. I'd want to keep things pretty quick and simple using the Mass Combat rules but tweaked a bit to make it a bit more scaled to a large group of combatants and not so much an army.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Session XXXVIII: War With The Living Dead

Ah, to have a cleric in your party when needed - which was not the case in Monday's session. The hints were there but who listens to their DM when there's slaying to do, right?

IN camp with the Watchmen, the rebel group of former Caldan watch members, Arg the half-orc, Flora the fairy, Gnarly the druid and finally joined by Wolfheir and Skwanky plot their rescue of Lord Osric who had been overthrown by Morak.

After much discussion it was decided to try to move the Watchmen to the Moontower which would involve crossing a guarded bridge and working their way around the outskirts of Caladan unseen. It was decided to go with the ol' Wookie in chains trick.

At dusk, Skwanky and Gnarly, after paying a toll, crossed the bridge and hid in the woods on the other side but not before being warned about traveling at night.

After a while, Wolf and his brigand followers dressed in stolen soldier uniforms, lead Arg and some of the Watchmen, as prisoners, to the bridge. There the guards question Wolf and Arg which goes something like this:

Guard: Where are you taking this...thing?
Wolf: Prisoner transfer from cell-block 1138.
Guard: I wasn't informed about this....
Arg: Look out, I'm loose!

And Arg proceeded to toss a bunch of the guards over the bridge. Meanwhile, Flora cast sleep on the rest of the guards rendering them helpless.

After some looting by Skwanky and more body tossing by Arg, the bridge guards were replaced by the five charmed soldiers from the previous session to cover their tracks.

Flora flew back over the bridge and gave the signal for the Watchmen to cross.

From here, the large group headed around the farmlands of Caladan. Edging the woods south to cross the Great Coast Road to return to the Moontower, they spot a lone figure standing in the dark in the middle of the road. Trying to get it's attention but to no avail, Tuk the owl and Flora fly out to spy who this might be. It turned out to be a ghoul.

Arg, loosing patience, walked out of the woods and approached the creature who turned to face the half-0rc and let out a fearsome screech! From the woods on the other side of the road rushed a literal army of hungry ghouls, former travelers and townsfolk of Caladan!

Arg high-tails it back to his party and the Watchmen while Wolf organized his men into defensive positions.

After burning the initial wave of undead, the ghouls rushed the group of defenders and a brutal battle erupted. The Watchmen along with Wolf and Skwanky on the front lines hack and slash at the fierce creatures who claw and gnaw their way through the lines of fighters.

The session ended with half of the Watchmen dead, half of the Ghouls dead and Skwanky paralyzed by the attack!

The beginnings of battle. The tokens with the peanut butter cups are ghouls ablaze!

The faceless tokens are allies while the imaged tokens are the Ghouls. Slips of paper keep track of the monster's HP. We played the battle out completely - every monster and every NPC and PC.A rules lite combat make this possible.
It appears that the ghouls are breaking through the lines...

To Be Continued....
(thanks to Zach and Corey for the war photo)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Campaign Hex Map

So I've had to work up a full 11 x 17 campaign hex map with a 2 mile scale.

I've worked up pieces of the map before in a 10 x 10 hex format on the One Page Wilderness pages and populated most of the hexes randomly.

You'll notice that the hex numbers repeat as those are pieces of the 10x10 hex maps which fit on the one page wilderness layouts. I've had to piece these together and add the currently 'unexplored' areas into this larger map so the players can get a better view as they travel around Caladan which we will be using the chits form Death Maze!

007 Dr. No Pre-credit Sequence

*UPDATE: Sorry, but it doesn't appear that this video will play due to various 'issues'. Dunno why Youtube plays tons of copyrighted material but not this. Oh well.

I've been on a bit of a James Bond kick these past few week, specifically analyzing five of the first six films.

Watching the early Bond film adaptations in the order as they were written; From Russia With Love, Dr. No, Goldfinger, Thunderball and On Her Majesties Secret Service is a fantastic viewing experience to watch the progression of a very human James Bond. The only issue is the reversed order of the first two films films From Russia With Love and Dr. No.

Dr. No (1962) was the very first Bond film. Without any disrespect to a great film and though it had many of the elements that would later be expanded upon in the future Bond films, it lacked some of the polish that showed up in the second film (From Russia), most notably, the full John Barry score and the infamous pre-credit sequence. It becomes quite apparent watching Dr. No after From Russia.

So I created a edit of Dr. No with a pre-credit sequence and a new score over the title credits. I never liked the looped James Bond theme which eventually breaks into "The Three Blind Mice"during the Dr. No titles. Though it blends in with the first scene of the three blind assassins, the lightness and comical attitude breaks the thrill of the Bond film especially placed second in the film sequence.

The music I placed there instead was an unused track from the Dr. No soundtrack which fit quite nicely into the sequence and keeps the mood a bit darker and dramatic (or so I felt). Ironically, it too is called James Bond Theme but it was only an early version of the theme.

So placing Dr. No as the second film with this edited pre-credit sequence I think helps smooth the transition between the new sequence. I'd be curious for your opinion on this too.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Avengers Assemble!

No doubt to be talked about all day....

Quite a lot going on there but it all looks quite marvelous in the Merry Marvel Manner!
Highly anticipated? Hells yes!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

This Week In The War Of The Ring

October 3rd
Gandalf is attacked at Weathertop.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Warlock's Digest of Dungeon Dwelling Denizens

I've been working on trying to keep the GM's side of the table a bit less cluttered these days. I love the digest sized books or smaller for quick look-up reference. I needed a quick guide for monster stats so I didn't have to flip through books for AC, Experience, Damage, etc.


I've put together The Warlock's Digest of Dungeon Dwelling Denizens, a no frills old school monster statistical reference in digest format. It lists the stats only for all the monsters published in the Swords & Wizardry Core rules with a couple others monsters that I've used in my campaign thrown in. It sports ascending and descending armor class so it should be helpful in most old school style games.

It's a free download so have at it!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

This Week In The War Of The Ring

Sept 25
The hobbits re-unite at Crickhollow.

Sept 26
The hobbits enter The Old Forest and have an unexpected encounter with Old Man Willow. They're saved by Tom Bombadil

Sept 27
Gandalf crosses Greyflood.

Sept 28
Those poor hobbits run into a barrow-wight.

Bree at last and a drink at the Prancing Pony. An' w'hos dat? Why it's Strider!

Sept 30
The Black Riders attack Bree.

The hobbits and Strider leave Bree in the morning.
Gandalf arrives at Bree in the evening.

Oct 1
Gandalf leaves Bree.