Monday, November 17, 2014

What's this! Gameholecon 2014

Hello?  Anyone out there?  Been a lot of stuff happening in da real world, but now it's time to gather some gear and get back down into the Catacombs.

Earlier this November, I attended Gameholecon 2014.  My buddy Marc flew up to visit and - with my better half - we pilgrim-aged to the holy lands of gaming for a few days of dice rolling.  Besides a missed toll and a rock breaking the brand new Jeeps window, the trip was uneventful.

  Wisconsin has it all...Under one roof!

Fridays game schedule was a full one, things started off with a rousing game of Munchkin Legends (won by first time player Joyce - Woot!).  Next up was a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics: The Emerald Chanter ran by Sean P Kelly.  Never before have I witnessed someone roll a '73' to hit on a d20.  Pure awesome, way to go Marc!  We wrapped things up later that night by going through the classic AD&D module Ghost Tower of Inverness...DM'd by none other than Allen Hammack himself!

After dining on some questionable Thai food we headed back to the hotel and went to the open gaming area to play a board-game.  Marc picked up Lords of the Waterdeep so we broke it out and gave it a go.  I have to say this is a fun game, with great replay value.  It became our go-to game in between events.  If you get a chance to play, or buy it, I recommend it.

Saturday we revisited the DCC rules again, but this time with Michael Curtis at the helm of his new tournament module The Fourth Phantasmagoria.  He explained that this was to be a module he would be running 'for score' at various cons.  At the end of its run, he will tally up all the points and the winning group is going to receive a prize.  Having the honor of debuting the module at Gameholecon, I think we set the first score pretty high.  The group we played with were pretty clever and ambitious at finishing as much of the module in the time period given.  Michael is an animated DM and provided a lively game for us.  Saturday night was filled with terror as we ventured into the realms of Cthulu.  The adventure was called In Plain Sight and ran by a very talented GM named Ed McGlinn.  I got to play a heavy-handed detective type that survived the adventure!  Actually everyone survived (escaped) except for Marc who got squished into jelly by a rather violent tree-spirit-demon-thingy.  Too fun!

Sunday rolled around and we all had picked up Con-Crud.  Suffering through the hotels take on breakfast, we managed to get to our final game, Dragon Lairds head for Outer Space hosted by Tom Wham.  I was excited to roll dice with the venerable board game master - but sadly, our games fun was marred by the dysfunctional group we got stuck with.  It became uncomfortable so we decided to cut it short and head for the hills.  I felt bad for Tom, but at least I got to thank him for his continued efforts and hope to see him again.

All in all, we had a good time at the con.  With the exception of our last game, the people we met and played with were awesome.  Picked up some cool stuff and added to my dice collection, natch!  Had a lot of good laughs and got to roll some dice with good people...That's what gaming is all about!


Monday, March 31, 2014


Took the plunge and headed up to the wintry shores of Lake Geneva for the annual gaming convention that honors D&D's patron saint.  The venue for GC was booked up way in advance, luckily the cons overflow hotel was just down the road so things worked out fine.

Have to say it was a great con, not the largest - but very condensed with what I look for in a gaming convention.  Had some great conversations with Jeff Easley, Frank Mentzer and Steve Chenault, all very approachable and incredibly good people.

Moved on to a couple of miniature games with another nice guy, Mike Carr.  He is a focused individual during the game and kept things moving quickly.   We continued the fun with D&D Next as well as AD&D 2nd ed.  Both games had some awesome role-playing on the parts of the DMs.  Its fun when people put in the effort to make a game work, many games I wandered past had a lot of energetic role-playing going on.  At the vendor’s room I picked up some sweet loots at good prices, after haggling of course!  I will post some pics as soon as I sort them out.  Game On!

Of course the con is in the basement...Where else would you have it?

Monday, December 23, 2013

OD&D Reprints

Hozzah!  Christmas came early today!  My copy of the OD&D reprint wood box set arrived.  WoTC hit a home run in my opinion, this is a sweet bit of gaming gear.  Flipping through the books I was pleasantly surprised - covers have heavy stock paper and their new exterior artwork isn't harsh as it seemed from some of the preview pics on the web.

Inside, a full set of dice sit in a foam rubber cradle.  The box has red velvet lining AND there's even a ribbon to help with lifting the books from their close fitting home.  Such opulence!  However, I did notice a slight discrepancy from the picture of contents on the WoTC site.  Their set showed opaque red dice, my dice are clear-red with sparkles.  Mmmm...Sparkles.

I purchased this set through Barnes & Noble and it qualified for free shipping, a nice bonus.  Procrastinators take note - I just checked B&N website and the price has already gone up $20 dollars more than what I paid.  You snooze, you lose.

Friday, December 13, 2013

B/X Magic User & Elf spell books - Redux

In preparation for an upcoming B/X game I am going to be running, the subject of Magic User and Elf spell books surfaced.  Once again talk of how many pages do spell books contain?  How much do they weigh?  What are the rules on travelling spell books?

In keeping with the clean and tight guidelines that is B/X D&D, I wanted to stay within the borders of the written rules, yet still explain my interpretation of a spell books size and weight to my players.  Since I enjoy a bit of fanciful magic in a game, I figured why not have some fun with a spell casters most prized possession?

Here is the excerpt from my house rules concerning spell books:

"Due to the magical and costly nature of the materials needed to construct one of these tomes, a normal book is not suitable to store spells. Since most magic users do not possess great strength, spell books are magically crafted to have very little weight.  For encumbrance purposes they are considered part of Misc Equipment (80 coins weight).  Elven spell books also follow these rules. A spell book is bestowed on the fledgling caster by their mentor, after tutelage is completed, as they begin their adventuring careers.

In regards to the number of pages contained in a spell book, an interesting anomaly can be found - a spell book will always have just enough pages for a casters spells. During the ritual of inscribing a new spell, these books magically gain new pages as required. Thus, a spell book will contain spells equal to the number and level of spells a caster can use in a single day (pg X11)."

So that's it, short and sweet.  I don't think this idea should be seen as a game breaker.  Rather, it's just my way to explain the small details left out of the rules by the original authors and to inject a bit of whimsy into the magic user and elf characters.  As always, thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Orc Rage!

I picked this up over at Miniature Market.  It's a Reaper mini, #3405 Black Orc Hero. The figure was sculpted really well - there is some serious definition in the muscles and the face has a great expression. I deviated from the standard GW green ork color and went with a sallow flesh tone. My cruddy photos are not lit well and he looks a bit on the orange side...Ah well. Anyway, here he is - ready to chop some elves to bits! Thanks for looking...

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Just in case you missed it...

Neat little YouTube interview with Tim Kask and Ernie Gygax.  Take a gander, yeah?

Absolutely NOTHING to do with link...But hey, it's Otus!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

One Step Closer

After finally getting all my main cities and points of interest labeled, I am getting closer to the the fun part - setting up an area of my world for actual play.  There is still the problem of finding a suitable starting point for this project, but I have a few ideas about that.  In the meantime, you can see the full sized map >here<.  It's roughly 5100 x 4100 and in .png form about 10MB.  I went with 1 hex = 50 miles, I felt this made the continents large enough for exploration and gave each hex enough size to be further detailed out.

Head Of Vecna

Came across this story again after going through some old links, pretty funny read from SJ Games:

Thursday, August 22, 2013

What's in a name...

I am at the point in my mapping project of assigning names to my cities, which is usually pretty fun...But I  was having trouble coming up with more diverse sounding locations that differ from places you might find in medieval England.  I re-discovered this gem of a tool over at the donjon website. It's a random name generator (character & town) that allows for influences from different regions of the world, adding some spice to your otherwise vanilla town names.  Drop-down menus offer other choices.  Check it out: Fantasy Name Generator

Monday, August 12, 2013

Creating A Brave New World

Dusting off some world maps that were stowed away in the corners of my hard drive, I created a hex-based version using Inkwell's Ideas Hexographer.  If you haven't used the demo version on the website, go try it...If you have, go buy it!  With a straightforward interface, it is quite easy to churn out a hex based map in no time.

Once complete, I used Photoshop to tweak and polish it up.  Each hex is 25 miles, but after thinking about it I'm going to change it to 50 miles.  This should make it comparable (roughly) in size to the upper half of England.

I intend to develop this into a usable campaign map, complete with a few fleshed out hexes and ready-to-go sandbox style adventures.  Keep an eye out for further developments.

Next Time:  Adding towns, cities & other landmarks.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Shootouts & Sammiches!

I decided to have a bit of fun with an impromptu game of Star Frontiers, mostly to re-learn the rules and become better acquainted with Roll20.  I grabbed a map off of the internet, loaded it up and had a quick combat encounter with my buddy Bob playing solo.

Our hero, Gestur Graf was enjoying downtime from work at Universal Droid Repair (a PGC company) and found himself downtown at Cortigino's Deli for lunch.  While ordering his meatball sub, a rotund woman burst in from outside.  It was none other than the notorious Mama Duke!  Local thug and synth-whiskey drinking champion, standing 5' tall and tipping the scales at around 180 kilos.  She whipped out a needler pistol and shouted around her cigar at the clerk behind the counter 'Gimme all yer credits...and a Po'Boy...To go!'.  

Deciding he was having none of this guff, Gestur quietly produced his stun-stick and decided to have a go at Ma Duke.  After all, what kind of resistance could an older, portly woman wearing a mu-mu and foot tall beehive hairdo offer?

While she was shouting at the deli clerk to not be so skimpy with the mayo and cheese, Gestur managed a perfectly placed blow to the behemoths head.  Ma Duke went down like a ton of mashed potatoes, wig flying off in the process.  In between glad handing with the clerk and offers of two free subs for helping, Gestur grabbed Ma's spiffy needler pistol.

With barely enough time to tuck the weapon in his belt, much less get his free sub, there came a strange noise from outside.  It was a rumble, similar to an elephant stampede - but it couldn't be...theirs was an extinct species and even the mechanoid replicas weren't this loud.  The source of the sound became obvious as it crashed through the deli's plexiglass door, calling out for its Mama and demanding to know where his lunch was.  Yup, Gestur had now met Mama Dukes pride and joy, the 4'tall (and almost as wide) man-child known as Lil Duke. 

Observing the chaotic situation inside the deli - Ma stunned on the floor and his sandwich nowhere in site, Lil Duke drew his own needler and began firing at random while screaming at the top of his lungs.  Surgically sharp shards flew furiously, peppering the parlor with pins.  Gestur was trapped with no way out, so he decided to return fire with his new weapon.  A lucky shot put three needles in Lil Dukes second chin!  Howling in pain, Lil gave up any ideas of payback or food and quickly ran out into the street.  Gestur had to pause a bit, wondering how that massive life-form could run so fast, wearing slippers even!

With no time to waste, Gestur pursued his large quarry outside the deli.  Local citizens couldn't help but notice the wailing Duke trundling past, needler pistol firing off at nothing and screaming 'Maaawr!  Where's mah sammich!'.  A crowd was gathering and  Gestur had to act quickly.  The last thing he needed was to be seen spraying this bawling beast with needler rounds.

The younger Duke proved to be an easy target.  His initial burst of speed lasted only 15 meters and Lil slowed to a stop, bent over and breathing heavily.  Gestur moved forward a half step and leveled the barrel of the pistol towards Lil's rotund posterior, it was an ample enough target for sure. 'Here's something for the ol' meatballs Sonnyjim!' Gestur taunted as he squeezed the trigger...A more perfect grouping could not have been wished for!  Staggering in pain, he pawing at the quills lodged in his rump as a couple of Star Rangers happened upon the scene.  Very unfortunate for Lil Duke.

Recognizing the wanted criminal, they ordered him to surrender and drop his weapon.  Rather than complying, Lil took a potshot at the rangers and was subsequently rewarded with two perfectly aimed laser blasts to his massive torso.  He would hunger no more.

Gestur couldn't believe his luck at the outcome, it would have been an all day shoot-out having only a needler to penetrate Lil Dukes thick hide.  Slipping quietly inside a nearby computer shop he watched the nosy locals pull out their vid-corders and document the clean-up, much to the annoyance of the rangers.  A vrusks soft voice greeted Gestur.  'Hello sir!  I am Ba'baahj. Welcome <click> to my store!  I hope you google what you need and <click click> may I point out <click> our sale on antique input devices?'  Cracking a smile, Gestur couldn't help but wonder about dinner...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Incoming Lootz!

Luckily, the Sathar didn't intercept this delivery ship!  Spent some credits over on Starfrontiersman's webpage and received this nice selection of books from Lulu in just a few days.  My only gripe is that some of the art is pixelated, but text is clear and the prices were so low that even a Yazarian wouldn't haggle over it.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Star Frontiers Love!

UPF File# AGI00134-D-11973  ***Approved For Release***

Subj AGI Corp Vessel ALTRAN STAR

Id# TSR1982 LKP Sector 98.223-1A

Status MIA Salvage|Reward 11D/1*

Request for investigation/recovery of Altran Star.  Last seen heading towards outer fringes of Sector 00-98.  Carrying a crew of 225, Altran Star was on a mission of exploration/research for AGI. The Delphi-Class ship had sent out a distress signal and reported being under attack by pirates.  Approx 200 escape pods have been recovered but fate of remaining ships crew is unknown.

AGI allocates full salvage rights but requests return of IP and data recovered from memory banks - Ref UPF Property Rights #PR2443-11D.  Additional reward for flight data computer core.

Encounters with unknown armed forces is expected to be high.  Possible Sathar involvement.

--No provisions offered for crew return--

--Salvage claims can be filed at any authorized UPF terminal--

Digi-Cap/Specs available


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Cool graph paper find...

I came across this nifty utility for creating your own graph paper online.  Sure, I know its nothing new, but this one just seemed to have all the bells and whistles I needed and it lets you save it as a .pdf.  Variable colors, graph sizes, very customize-able.  Enjoy!

Wowza!  Free Online Graph Paper!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Guidelines for the Paladin class - A Paladins Code

For Chris, Rob, Robert & Robert

Having been witness to many paladin characters played badly over the years, I started to think about the classes basic tenets of behavior...What principles serve as a model for the paladin?

'Fie on thee, bro!'
As written in the 1st Edition Players Handbook and Dungeon Masters Guide, there are not many rules demonstrating the particulars of a paladin-like attitude.  

How is a paladin supposed to act out in the field?  What actions could cause a paladin to lose his powers or require a quest of atonement?  Is a paladin just an expendable pawn in the battle between good and evil?

There are some strictures listed on p.22 of the PHB, here they are in a nutshell:

  1. No more than 10 magic items.
  2. Never retain wealth, only keep treasure to support themselves modestly, pay henchmen, construction of a small castle, etc.
  3. Tithing of income.
  4. Only have henchmen of LG alignment, only adventure with good aligned groups, etc etc.

Admittedly, its something.  But there are not many specifics to guide the paladin on his merry way towards destroying all that is evil and setting wrongs to right correctly.  Using chivalry of the medieval knight as a starting point, I tried to put together some specific rules that can better define a paladins actions.

Now, there are as many examples of chivalric ideals as there are leaves on a tree, but some similarities were found after a bit of research.  These common traits are what I used to develop my 'Paladins Code'

  • Faith:  Showing faith in divine guidance and in your cause.
  • Honor:  Having good morality and virtue.  Being generous in spirit, showing dedication and resolution. Being truthful and courteous.  Showing valor and sagacity when dealing with enemies.
  • Justice:  Being fair and mindful of the laws when dealing with the guilty.  As sure as evil should be overcome wherever found, there is always the law of the land to be observed of when deciding a course of action to take.
  • Temperance:  Moderating your thoughts, feelings and actions.  Abstaining from debauchery and base behavior as well as disdaining such activities. Avoiding gluttony.
  • Nobility:  Upholding your convictions at all times, being noble in character.  Having dignity, morality and being spiritually good.
  • Loyalty:  To your deity, to your sovereign and country as well as your code.
Whether playing a paladin, or DMing of a group with a paladin, this could be used as a guideline for a paladins conduct.  Knowing what is expected of the class may help to better role-play and avoid the Dudley Do-Right stereotype that I am sure we have all seen.  It's ok to have more depth to your character than 'See evil-smash!' 

I think that the paladin, when played correctly, is a VERY interesting class.  They could be the center of many adventure hooks from political machinations to crusades against evil.  They are martially strong, able to gain spells at higher levels and having a huge variety of armor and weaponry to choose from...whats not to like?  Now, go break out those d6's and roll one up!  Oh, and don't forget to drink your milk! :)  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Time keeps on ticking...

Hard to believe its only been a few days since my last post!  Ok, would you believe a few months?  Oh well, point is I am posting again and that's that!  I received a nice present in the mail in the form of some gently used Citadel paints that my buddy Bob from Back to the Keep sent me.  He wanted to know what I thought of them and was kind enough to let me give them a go.

This past GenCon both myself and Bob entered a speed painting contest and this was the mini they supplied.  It is plastic, from a game where puppets come to life at night and wield swords or something similar.  Brrr, the stuff of nightmares if you ask me!  Anyway, opening my box of excuses back at the contest...I had my contacts in and could not see the figure up close to do a good job and just faked it until time ran out.  I did manage to get some color on it, but because I was painting 'blind' my mini didn't fare too well in the judging round.  Bob did much better.

I thought this would be a good model to re-paint and test the Citadel paints on.  Was I surprised with these paints!  Having previously used AV Game Color and Reaper MSP I have to conclude that for me, the winner is Citadel...Hands down.  The paint dries flat, with a nice smooth surface.  I will definitely be fleshing out my paint line with more from the Citadel brand.

Ok, enough of the jib-jab, here is the mini.  Thanks for looking in!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Cave Lair Map

I had the urge to create a quick dungeon that could be used as an in-between adventure...Something that could be explored in a session or two.  Here is a map I created in photoshop using a familiar style.
I will now start stocking the caverns and most likely will put it together in a  PDF.  More to come!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Going to Aethercon!

Well, not actually going anywhere since Aethercon is a free online convention.  But, I will be gaming on Sunday for sure!  I have seen quite the interesting list of games being offered, all the ones I have liked are being played on Roll20.  Nothing to download, just create an account and game on.

Anyone want to get together and do some gaming on Sunday, let me know!


Thursday, October 4, 2012

B/X Magic User & Elf Spell books

I was talking to Chris over at Aspiring Lich about B/X Dungeons & Dragons (Moldvay/Cook) the other day and the topic of spell books came up.  Mainly, how big is a B/X spell book and just how many spells can you put in one?  Although there are no real specifications on the dimensions of a spell book, a closer read of both the Basic and Expert rules revealed some interesting information.

I have to admit that I had intended to do an in depth, page by page analysis of whatever I could find pertaining to spell books and offer up an answer for this.  I took notes, read through the rule books and had my plan of attack all laid out.  But, it got to being late so I set my notes aside and headed to bed.  Of course, just before you nod off, it seems your mind is flooded with all kinds of good ideas and inspirations.  I came to realize that all of my 'research' was totally unnecessary.

B/X is not a system that needs extensive changes, heck, it doesn't need any changes in my opinion.  That is the beauty of those two books.  The perfectly encapsulated pages contain everything you need to have a fun game without sweating over small details.  So, in the morning after some coffee, the notes went out with the trash.  But, this still didn't answer the question about the size of spell books...

Now, the rules do give some hints about it.  It is mentioned that a magic user or elfs spell book is 'large' (page B16).  There is mention about the price of replacing a book if it is lost or destroyed (page X11).  A cost of 1000gp per spell level is needed and then a set amount of time spent studying and rewriting everything.  What a bargain!  Page X11 says that a spell book will always have the amount of spells equal to the number and level of spells that a magic user or elf can use in a day.  So it stands to reason that a spell book is big enough to hold 14 elf spells and 22 magic user spells.  Since this is the most they are able to cast (at 10th and 14th levels respectively), the book should have enough pages to hold them all.  Easy-peasy, right?

Lets say you are playing a 1st level elf.  At some point before your adventuring career begins, you are given a large, well made tome with many blank pages.  Within is inscribed the one spell you can cast.  You are instructed that it is important not to lose this or let it be destroyed.  Also, when you have earned enough experience and advance to a higher level, come back to the mages guild and talk with your mentor to gain another spell.  Don't worry, the new spell will fit, in fact all of your spells will fit.  Since B/X rules don’t mention anything about copying scrolls into spell books, you wont have to worry about this taking up more space either.

Does this mean a spell caster will have only one book?  Of course not.  Let us assume that a magic user has reached 15th level, is maxed out in his current spell book and somehow manages to get another spell.  Perhaps he has researched a totally new one (page X51).  Or, maybe the magic users guild are so impressed by an accomplished deed that they bestow a super-secret spell previously unknown to your average magic user.  What if the character spends a lot of time researching at the guilds libraries and the Dungeon Master lets them ‘redo’ their spell books with all different spells!

Have the character pay the cost of getting a new book and re-scribe their spells until its full again.  The same goes for a spell caster who wants a backup book to take with them on an adventure.  We know from examples in the Expert rules that spell books are needed to relearn your spells, so a character can travel with them.  In fact, on page X19 it describes an equipment list for an adventuring party and 'spell books' are mentioned.

But what does all this blather mean you say?  How can I run a game without knowing the EXACT size of a spell book and its weight?  I say you don't need it.  Keeping things simple and light is what B/X is all about.  Sure, you can house-rule the game until you end up with a Frankenstein's Monster set of rules, but you would be missing the point and the beauty of B/X.  It wasn't designed with all the answers, nor are they necessary.  Moldvay, Cook, Marsh...They got this system right in my opinion.  I don't think there is anything else to add.

In the end, a spell book is large enough to hold all of the spells you can currently cast, yet not so big it can't be carried by the character.  Why worry about the page count and the weight?  Even if you use the optional encumbrance rules, it would just be entered under 'miscellaneous encumbrance' (80cn weight, page X2) anyway.

So, forget about the nitnoy specifications of your spell books, just gather them up and get to adventuring already - the dungeon awaits! 

Friday, September 7, 2012

Heavy Metal

Back so soon?  Well, this latest mini is again a Ral Partha figure.  Another 3-Stage Player Character, catalog number 01-315 Fighter.  This is the 'Lord', presumably a high level dude by the looks of his plate armor and HUGE sword.  This guy is ready to charge in and kick some butt!

I wanted the armor to look like iron, worn from adventuring as well.  Since there was no fancy fluting or decorations, simple metal was the way to go.  Painted with a mixture of Vallejo Tinny Tin, Chainmail Silver and a touch of Brown, then washed a bit to accentuate certain areas.  Sword gems were painted using Apple Barrel colors with a layer of Citadel Bloodletter glaze.  Hit with dab of Citadel Gloss Varnish and the stones were complete.

Now, to do something about those bases...