Monday, October 16, 2017

Frozen in Time

What is it? DCC Adventure #79 for 1st level characters by Michael Curtis

Spoilers Below!

So, I'm something of a Michael Curtis fan. He wrote Stonehell, which I've been running regularly for almost 2 years now. He wrote The Chained Coffin  which served as the backbone of my Weird New World campaign. Plus a whole bunch of other stuff, from system neutral books like The Dungeon Alphabet to 5e adventures. Plus in the times I've had occasion to game with and chat with him, he's been a friendly guy.

All that aside, this is a great low level adventure that packs all the weirdness that DCC has to offer into it. The dungeon is the lair of a (long dead) time traveler locked in a glacier. The glacier is retreating, and a falling ice sheet exposes an entrance to the complex. Within this futuristic dungeon among primitive barbarians are wonders and dangers the likes of which are rarely seen outside of DCC.

How many other D&D type games give you the chance to loot the Mona Lisa? Or fight a t-rex? Heck there's even a couple of interesting humaniods that could be replacement PCs, should members of the party not survive including an anthro-antis and a walrus-man!

If that doesn't strike your fancy, how about a teleporter that'll send the PCs... well... wherever you want to send them!

And then there's the fun moment when exploring all this that the power-core fails, and the PCs have to run for it. While not a 0-level funnel, this is probably the next best thing!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Grave Hounds

In keeping with the month's theme, I painted up the Grave Hounds from Bones 3's graveyard expansion. As always, they were washed in warm water with dish soap, and given a good scrub with my craft toothbrush. I based them on 25mm round bases from Reaper, and basecoated them with grey liner. I painted the bodies with (DARK BROWN) and brought up the fur on one with leather brown giving it a more yellow brown color, and on the other I just added in a bit of Linen White to bring the color up.

The exposed bone was painted with Bone, and the ripped and torn flesh with Splattered Crimson highlighted with Heraldic Red.

The integrated bases were blended in a bit with some leftover greenstuff and covered with sand that was painted Mountain Grey, then brought up with increasing amounts of linen white mixed in with the mountain stone, and given a splash of flesh wash to add in a bit more depth.

Quick and easy minis. Gotta love both undead and animals when you want to get something painted up quickly.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Spooky Familiars

It's the spooky time of year, so a wonderful time to pull out all the ghouls and goblins to work on. I've already worked on lots of goblins this year, and ghouls weren't grabbing my attention, so I grabbed a few teeny tiny familiars: crow/raven, cat, and bat. Each was given a grey liner base coat and nightmare black body. I used Heraldic Red for the eyes of the raven and mouth of the bat.

Front view

For the cat, I decided to be a little silly, and painted her up like Luna from Sailor Moon. So she has anime eyes done using Linen White and Heraldic Red, a little god dot on her forehead, and a 50/50 mix of splattered crimson and Pale Flesh Shadow for the ears and nose.

The smallest bases I could find were 20mm, so that's what they got based on. Being so tiny they needed something. The bat wouldn't stand up on it's own, and the raven and cat would both fall over if you looked at them sideways. The bases for the bat and raven are built up with cork and some rough sand, and painted with mountain grey, washed with flesh wash and red and green inks, then highlighted up with Mountain Stone mixed with increasing amounts of Linen White. The cat got the same deal, but without the cork.

Rear view
Still need to clean up the bottom of the bases, and give them a clear coat.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Review: Jewels of the Carnifex

What is it? DCC adventure #70 for 3rd level characters by Harley Stroh

Spoilers Below!

First thing's first, for those 40K fans out there, this is not the Carnifex being referenced, in spite of that awesomely weird thing on the cover.

In this case, Carnifex a cthonic goddess of assassins and torturers whose symbol is a 3 headed raven, and she's been imprisoned by some do-gooder paladin types. Unfortunately they're too pure(ish) for their own good, and can't destroy the jewels that hold her power. So their imprisonment isn't as complete as they want.

The adventure itself is a dungeon crawl through the 2 levels of the under temple of the Carnifex. The upper level is more traps and tricks, while the second level is where the party encounters the Swords of the Pious and the imprisoned goddess.

For what would otherwise be a relatively standard dungeon crawl, there are a few fun twists that make this a much more interesting adventure. Namely, there aren't a lot of good options, and the likelihood that the party manages to pick the least worst set of options is pretty slim. Do they try to work with the fanatic lawful (evil?) paladins, or do they try to release the goddess of assassins? Dare they keep the treasures they find?

In addition to the dungeon, there's an optional encounter with some descendants of the Paladins who still guard the old temple grounds, a rumors table (I always appreciate these), and a section on how to handle the PCs (potentially) acquiring some incredibly valuable treasure.

Unfortunately there wasn't an option given to have Canifex as a potential patron/god, or even suggestions for potential followups in spite of the suggestion that "The PCs are left with the sinister sense that they have not seen the last of the Carnifex". Seems like a missed opportunity.

All in all though, I really appreciate an adventure that lets you make difficult moral type choices, even if most players probably just try to kill everyone and keep all the stuff.

Friday, October 6, 2017

5e Aerial Combat

My 5e game has taken some interesting twists and turns as I introduce this, that, and the other thing to keep things interesting. For example, the party has been dealing with a hobgoblin army that's surrounded a walled town. There aren't enough troops to take the town, and the town doesn't have enough troops to force away the army. Clearly both are awaiting reinforcements. But the PCs came from the same direction the hobgoblin reinforcements would be arriving from, and they didn't overtake anyone... So the force should be coming from some other direction... or by some means other than marching. Magic could work, but doesn't necessarily make for a good story.

Flying? That could work, plus sets up an interesting tactical challenge.

I already introduced a green dragon, but he's a selfish SOB. Wyverns don't get enough love, and with Reaper doing Blacksting the wyvern as part of Bones 4 I felt inspired to include some.


Then my players asked me if there were any flying creatures in the town they were helping to defend. I'd actually figured they'd use the big weapons on the walls... but sure, why not. A small stable of hippogriffs that are used primarily as fast couriers.

Okay, so then to check aerial combat in the 5e books... and nothing. Hmmm... Rules cyclopedia? Also not really helpful. Okay, I guess we're just gonna wing it.

I basically decided that I was gonna riff on the idea that for the most part both the wyverns and hippogfiffs need to keep moving to keep flying. I decided that turning would cost 10' of movement, and reversing course would cost half move, except for the paladin's giant bat who I figure is more maneuverable. Altitude would be handled mostly by hand waving it. I used the hex grid, and called each space 10'

Playing on the Sultan... and not taking advantage of anything but the large surface area!

I pulled out 12d12 to represent the wyverns, and each player grabbed a figure to represent them and their mounts. I broke the wyverns into 2 waves of 6, and the second wave would show up after 1d6 rounds.

The players decided to sneak attack the wyverns. They have a magical top hat that's a portal to a large pocket dimension/demi plane, and had everyone and their mounts enter it, while the paladin and his bat were turned invisible by the bard. They'd fly right up to the hobgoblin's on wings, and dump everyone out in the midst of them.

The hobgoblins, loaded for attacking a city were unprepared for an aerial dogfight, so the players got a surprise round. Initially the players focused on the hobgoblins, not realizing just what asses the wyverns were by themselves.

Noting that the wyverns were fairly loaded down, the players asked a bit more about that. and I told them that some were carrying the same sort of oil barrels that the resupply caravan had. The dragonborn paladin positioned himself to breath fire on 2 that had the barrels (I decided the odd numbered ones had them) and let have it with his flame breath attack. One failed its save and caught fire, and then the bard dropped a fireball on them, and the other one fail its save. They both dropped from the fight.

Why do you do this to us?

Unfortunately the bard took a critical hit, knocking her from the back of the bat. She was saved from splatting with a featherfall., but then one of the hippogriffs suffered some massive damage and dropped. A series of aerial rescues, and acrobatic leaps onto wyverns as the battle progressed.

In spite of how well things were going, they were outnumbered, and once the hippogriffs started taking damage, things went downhill for the party fairly quickly. As quickly as they could, they retreated back into the hat. Well, those that could. The new Ranger who'd joined for this session was too far away, and being chased by 3 wyverns. He managed to kill one with Entangle, got a badly injured one to break off, and took the other from the hobgoblin rider when his hippogriff was killed. The paladin on the bat with the hat, entered the demiplane, leaving the hat to blow about in the wind 500' up, and within sight of the hobgoblins. Two of them spotted the hat, and one of them managed to snatch it from the air.

Okay, 12 wyverns was probably too much. Breaking it into 3 waves of 4 might have been better. On the other hand, I love a fight that really challenges the party.
Lances need a better mechanic. 1d12 damage is nice... but on a charge should probably do more.
Writing the stats for the hippogriffs on the playmat so PCs could track their own mounts was smart of me.
Having some sort of directional marker to indicate which way everyone was flying would have been useful, as well as a way to indicate altitude.
How easy is it gonna be for the PCs to maintain control of the 2 wyverns they've captured???

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Review: Colossus, Arise!

What is it? DCC Adventure #76 for 8th level characters (double that for standard D&D) by Harley Stroh

Me, reading on the 2 train on the way home Monday night

Spoilers below!

So I haven't run very many high level adventures in general, and none for DCC, but holy hell, this adventure will kill you PCs if they don't play it smart. Basic set up is that a group of people from the 2nd age wants to kill off humans (3rd age) to usher in the 4th age, and they're using some pretty nasty magics to make it happen.

This is potentially a world altering adventure. Maybe even a world ending adventure if the PCs really elf it up. It would also work best if the Judge (DM) had this stewing in the background for a while, rather than just pulling it out to run on game night. The inclusion of a section on how to bring the PCs in given that they're pretty high level and probably have other things on their mind than traveling to a remote desert to kill some cultists. I mean, sure, end of the world sort of stuff, but PCs have probably already handled that once or twice already, right? By itself the section probably isn't enough to just plug into a long running game, but certainly is enough to get you thinking about how to do it.

The adventure is divided up into 3 main sections: the ruined desert city, the temple complex, and the big deadly fight at the end back in the city. While traveling to the city isn't necessarily part of the adventure, there is a 2 page spread of potential encounters along the way that can help set the stage for the adventure.

The ruined city itself is occupied by an army of small quasi-titans, and though the PCs are mighty in arms and magic, they'll need to not just try to plow through it with brute force. In keeping with the more old-school theater of the mind style gaming, there's no big keyed map of the city. The environs are abstracted and events, rather than locations are the rule. Given that the PCs shouldn't be scrounging for every lost copper piece, this makes a lot of sense, and I think would play out really well.

Once into the temple and its dungeon is then things get really interesting. There are a number of challenges where there are options to make things easier early on, but can have some consequences later. There is also a spot where PCs can literally walk themselves through death's door. What fights they get in, and who they choose to engage can also make some fights easier or harder, and open up some possibilities to get more info about what's to come. The fight with the Prophetess and her shield maidens specifically can go all sorts of different ways.

Given the nature of the events of this adventure, there's a neat additional mechanic to bring back the spirits of former PCs/Henchman to help out with warnings of imminent danger!

And then there's the final battle with the titular monster. No matter how mighty the PCs might be, a 300hp titan isn't just something you hack at. Thankfully the adventure provides some potential means of dealing with it. As befitting such an adventure, they all come with a (potentially) mighty cost.

Of course, the risks and rewards of saving the world or ushering in the end of the age of man aren't anything to sneer at either, should the PCs survive.

All in all an excellent offing that can absolutely destroy your campaign world. Use with caution!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hangout Figure of the Month: September

With ReaperCon just weeks away, the general consensus was to pick something easy. So, Reaper's Animal Companions. I've already painted the bear, wolf, and wolverine, so I'll paint up the cat and the bird.

Previously painted animals

I've also got a bunch of other animals, and the temptation to just paint them all up is strong, but given everything else, I'm just gonna focus on these 2. As usual, I washed them in soapy water and gave them a good scrub with a toothbrush to clean them off. I decided to make use of my massive pile of bases and even to add some sand/gravel to them before painting. Crazy, right? Then I primed everything with Brown Liner. Still bummed that the Sepia Liner doesn't hold up better.

Starting with the cat, I decided to paint it up as a snow leopard. Maybe not the easiest paint scheme, but it fits better in Frostgrave than a black panther. Originally I thought about using either Grey or Blue, but in looking at pictures of them, they definitely have a more brown base to their colors. I brought up the fur with Linen White until it was nearly white.

The spots/markings were done with Ebony Flesh and Linen White. Getting them right was not easy, but I kept a couple of pictures up on the computer screen as I painted, and that helped, sort of. The eyes are Lantern Yellow. The nose is Pure Black, while Splattered Crimson was used for the teeny bit of mouth you can see.

For the bird, I figured some blood-hawk/crow thing would work best. Since it's a fictional bird, I decided to make it up on my own. I used Ebony Flesh (shock, right?) and Splattered Crimson to bring out some markings on the wings and head.

The branch is brought up with Ebony Flesh and Linen White to make it look like it's been heavily weathered. The stone is Grey Liner then Ebony Flesh brought up with Desert Stone.

Both figures were pretty quick and easy, and that's 2 more minis painted!

Monday, October 2, 2017

September in Review

Let's start with a reminder that this is Read and RPG Book In Public Week! I'll be reading some DCC adventure modules on the subway all week.

RPG-wise my 5e game continues along. I haven't been writing much about it, but it's a fun, fly by the seat of my pants game. I almost never do any prep, and usually come up with whatever I'm going to do on the walk to the store. As we had one week with half the players missing, I ran Tales from the Floating Vagabond, which was a blast. Definitely gonna pull that out again any time we've got people missing.

Stonehell is getting interesting. I've got a session or two to write up, but at this point it's mostly a running battle with the Hobgoblin army. Still bummed that they took out the demon before it got a chance to do anything. That story has been circulated around Kobold Korners (and therefor throughout the rest of the dungeon) faster than just about any news since... well, maybe since it stopped being a prison.

With less than a month till reapercon, hell, a mere 17 days... I am woefully behind where I want to be. At this point I have the two torch bearing figures both at about 95%. The barbarian and the pregnant lady have their base colors done. Thankfully I have a couple of weekends to go with nothing scheduled but working on the diorama, plus Columbus day.

There's a chance...

I also painted up the great cat from the Animal Companions pack, and have the bird close to done. I've been using them as a was to paint something quick and fun when I can't bare to look at the diorama. I also have the bird, bat, and cat from the familiars pack lined up and ready to go for the same reason. Look for that post later this week.

So the goal for October is simply: FINISH THE DIORAMA!!! (and then enjoy ReaperCon)

I finished 3 books this month.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman - Loved it!
The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (Malayan #1) by Selina Siak - Interesting book. Worth checking out, and glad it was on my kindle.
The Death of the Necromancer (Ile-Rien, #2) by Martha Wells - Couldn't tell this was a book #2. Interesting Count of Monte Cristo/Sherlock Holmes blend with magic.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Friday, September 29, 2017

Escort Missions are the Worst! Part 2 Dragonborn Sorceress

Work continues on my diorama... though not as fast as I'd like. I'm pretty much done with the dragonborn sorceress, and am switching over to working on the bard. I figure I should focus on getting the sources of light done first, and then move onto the other figures lit by the light.

But first, a bit about the sorceress, and my thoughts on light. Now, the characters are in a lightless dungeon corridor, so the ONLY light are the 2 torches. But light reflects, even a little, so I didn't want to make it so that everything in shadow was nearly black, because that isn't how it would look. But it's also not gonna reflect like it will in a small room with white walls and ceiling. So the shadows still get a bit of color...

And speaking of colors, these were the ones I used.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery - First Impressions

Warning: Spoilers!

Monday night my bride and I sat down and watched the prequel episodes of Star Trek: Discovery.

Prequel episodes?

That's right. The first two episodes are entirely devoted to setting up the series. The USS Discovery is nowhere to be seen (except in the opening credits). It's an interesting approach, though one taken before. The new Battlestar Galactica did something similar. What Discovery gives us for these first 2 episodes is a re-introduction to the Star Trek universe. The Federation's do-gooder "We Come In Peace" starfleet, the angry war-like Klingons, the Treknology (visually updated for the 2017 audience), and lots of fan service that manages to not overwhelm the story.

Synopsis of the first 2 episodes

The Federation

So what do we know about the pre-Kirk Federation. It's multicultural, and fairly well matured, but it's been a while since they've been involved in a war, and they're really not ready for it. Their tech is improving, but they're not in a super hurry to retrofit/upgrade their ships. Aside from some skirmishes, including the one that left Michael Burnham an orphan, the Klingons haven't really been in contact since Archer's time.

The Klingons themselves are a fractured people, with each of the 24 houses scheming and fighting each other more than expanding the bounds of the Empire. A small cult of highly xenophobic Klingon-supremacists draws the houses together in order to unite them in a war with the Federation. These are not the Klingons we're used to, but I can see the old Klingon Ambassador from Star Trek 3 & 4, and most of the plot of 6 coming out of these Klingons. Also, a ship covered in the caskets of dead Klingons?!? Love it!

The Look
This may not be NuTrek, but it kinda looks like it. The technology looks fancy and shiny, but it doesn't seem to work as well we it seems to in the TNG time period. Honestly, of everything going on, most of the visual changes don't really bother me. There was no way they were going to make everything look like it did in The Cage. It's been 50 years since that was filmed, technology has gotten better.

The changes to the Klingons appearance... I like less, but I'll get over it.

The uniforms bug me, but mostly because they're going to be such a bitch for costumers to replicate. Other than that, they're pretty...

Final Thoughts
After mulling it over for over a day now, I think I'm a fan. That the show is focusing on a primary character, rather than on a strong ensemble cast is an interesting take. That the main bad guys are 1) Klingons and 2) Stand ins for the nationalist/white supremacists works for me in a way that no prior Trek villain ever has before. I appreciate that the first two episodes were something of a slow burn leading up to a fantastic space battle I thought was a good choice, especially as I could watch one episode after the other. I'd have been less thrilled if I was watching on TV, and then had to switch over to the new CBS streaming service.

I also really appreciate that the main characters were a black woman and an Asian woman. And that they were both friends and colleagues who liked and respected each other, and didn't once talk about a man, except when planning to kidnap the Klingon zealot. I also liked that they disagreed, and talked about it... and that Burnham made a series of bad choices. That the ethics of the choices, and the Federations standing directives are questioned.

Star Trek is at its best when it asks those questions. I hope they keep it up.

One thing I'm not really thrilled with is that they made, on the whole, the Klingons even darker. The main zealot was in fact coal black. That his second was an albino... well we'll see if they can make it work without being painfully racist.

The other issue I had was the fact that Michael (not Michelle...?) Burnham is Sarek's foster daughter... Why? Why Sarek. There's a whole planet full of Vulcans. It didn't have to be her, and it doesn't make much sense given that there has never been mention of yet another sibling of Spock. Did they learn NOTHING from Star Trek V: The Search for God?

On the whole though, I'm looking forward to where they're going, and in hopes that we'll keep seeing Star Trek on the small screen, I'm almost convinced to subscribe to the CBS service to keep watching.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Tales from the Floating Vagabond: Parrot Head-case

This week's 5e game at the FLGS was off, since half the group had other events and weren't going to make it. Rather than just cancel outright, I decided to run Tales from the Floating Vagabond, a game I haven't pulled off the shelf since... 2002? And even then, I think I only ever ran it once. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to dust it off.

Plus, I came up with an idea for a ridiculous Jimmy Buffett themed adventure. After sketching down the outline for the adventure, I made up 4 pre-gens:
A Disgustingly Cute Furry Thing Bounty Hunter
Rhino-man Swashbuckler
Robot Tough Guy
Bird-brained Scientist

My 2 players picked the robot and the rhino. After going over the basics of the system, I jumped right into the scenario. Sadly, neither of them were parrot-heads, so the references were completely lost on them. On the upside, as insane as it was, they still had fun.

This is what I wrote up initially:
Space Nazis have stolen the Last Shaker of Salt, and there's a parrot-head convention arriving in hours!! (Just as soon as the concert is over!!) Spit offers a diamond as big as a ritz for getting it back.

Traffic snarled, cars, ships, boats, and planes abandoned all over the place.
Cultural Infidels! Space Nazis have the shaker of salt, but can't get away due to the traffic jam.
·   Billy is running from the big man, who aims to cut him up for sleeping with his woman. Wants protection.
·   Captain America is helping an old mother through the jam, will ask for their help with the busload of other old ladies. They're actually bimbos with guns, who try to abduct him!
·   Hippolyte hates the Parrot Heads just slightly more than he hates Space Nazis. Gives rocket ship to the space station to the Nazis.

USS Zydecoldsmobile –
·   How do you drive this thing?!?
·   What do you mean there's no gas? Who's paying?
·   Jamaica Mistake-a, getting shot at trying to land in Morant Bay

Space Station: Chase and Fights as Space Nazis make for their Shark Class Ship docked in Montego Bay
·   Desdemona's Bake Shop "Cosmic Muffin",
·   Joe Merchant hiding from Frank Bama and hemorrhoid-ointment heiress Trevor Kane,
·   Movie Theater w/ Frank & Lola watching adult movie,
·   Ellis Dee has the shakes and needs a drink.
·   Dance Hall & Tiki Bar - Hokey Pokey, Carmen, Hula/Limbo Contest

Back in time for the party???


Not all the ideas above got used, and of course things went sideways pretty quickly. With laser-like focus on the Space Nazis, the rhino decided to abandon Captain America to the Bimbos, and I skipped Billy since it was repetitive with Cap.

Hippolyte sold his rocket to the Space Nazis for *those* 20 pieces of silver. The players took the silver, and the keys to the Zydecoldsmobile.

Rhino couldn't figure out how to drive stick, but "The Machine!" could. But they realized they were low on gas, so pulled into the station to get some, and paid with the silver. The Machine kept 5 of the 20 sp. Continuing on, the Jamaican Space Station started shooting at them, thinking they were smuggling Ganja. The party floored it through the shooting, and busted into the docking bay. Unfortunately luck wasn't with them, and the cops showed up. Trying to prove that they weren't smugglers, they popped the trunk open, revealing several bales of weed. They ended up spacing the cops by lowering the force field.

Ducking into the maintenance corridors, they get lost, steal a maintenance worker's outfit (which doesn't fit either of them), cash, and ID card, and find their way out into the main station. The Rhino seduces Desdemona and they find the Space Nazis drinking coffee outside the cafe at about the same time Billy Joel runs past, followed by a bunch of rabid fans. In the confusion, some of the Space Nazis get away, rushing into the movie theater, where they take Frank and Lola hostage. The Machine! tries to get the drop on the Space Nazis, but ends up shooting Frank and Lola. The Space Nazis run for it, cutting through the Tiki Bar.

Everyone in the bar is watching Carmen dance. The Machine! shoots twice into the ceiling, causing a panic. They catch up with the Space Nazis back out in the main corridor, where one tries to wrestle with The Machine! and mostly just ends up awkwardly hugging him, while straddling The Machine!'s crotch mounted gun. The Rhino uses his rapier to duel with the last Space Nazi, gets shot, makes his strength check to remain standing, and then takes him out. They grab the shaker, and run off to the shuttle bay.

Getting into the Space Nazi's rocket, they try to hotwire it, but end up setting it on fire, and so move over to the Federation Shuttle, taking it back down to the Floating Vagabond just ahead of the crowd of Parrot Heads. Spit, the bartender takes out a box of ritz crackers, and pulls out a diamond, the size of one of the crackers. They feel like they deserve more, but Spit's cool way beats theirs, and they back down.

A fun time was had by all, and the next time D&D is off, I'll probably run more Tales from the Floating Vagabond!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Demon Disappointment

I was really looking forward to last night's game. We'd wrapped up the previous session with the party having barricaded the hallway between the Asylum and the Reptile House, and the hobgoblins having released the demon they'd summoned. It had just rounded the corner, ready to charge the 50' to their front line and lay into them. 

The demon the party faced in Stonehell was based on the manscorpion monster, one I've been dying to use since I first got the RC, and never found a good place to put one in. Now I have... on steroids! And in spite of the cool stuff I wrote above, I just ran it as a manscorpion with the basic template. Didn't feel it needed any additional powers. The beast hits like a ton of bricks, it's fast, and since it's mostly immune to the stuff the hirelings can throw at it, there are only a few characters who can do much directly. I figured that being a pretty basic, if beefy demon, that it would have the usual resistance to fire damage. 

Sadly, a pair of lightning bolts (one failed save, one passed), and a critical hit with a magic arrow were actually enough to take it down before it had the chance to reach melee range. The line of hobgoblin crossbows (12) backed up by a lieutenant and the army priest barely slowed the rest of the party down. 

It's kind of rough having a big bad go down so quickly just because of a couple of bad initiative rolls. I really wanted to see him tear into the line. More importantly, so did the hobgoblin commander. I need to sit down again and figure out what his strategy is going to be.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Defenders

It took me 2 weeks to get around to watching Marvel's The Defenders on Netflix. It's taken another 2 to get around to actually writing about it. That it took me a while to do it says nothing about how much I enjoyed it, because I enjoyed it a LOT!

There are going to be some spoilers in this review.

The Defenders is definitely a case of the sum being greater than the parts, which is impressive given how good (most) of it's parts are. And yes, I'm talking about Iron Fist. Danny Rand was most definitely the weak link in the lineup, and like many other fans, I was so looking forward to the rest of the group slamming him. And they did. He's a very self important character, and having Luke and Jessica there to take him down a notch was not just in keeping with their characters, but also satisfying as a viewer.

At only 8 episodes, it was very tight and went quickly. Other reviews I've read complained that the first two episodes dragged a bit. I didn't feel it. I thought that things moved along at a good clip, though definitely picking up speed as it went.

Being a Marvel Netflix show, there was the requisite hallway fight, but I have to admit, it kinda loses something when there are 4 protagonists fighting in the same hallway. I'm also not sure that the way the fight was cut worked in it's favor. The previous hallway fights were very smooth with the camera work. This one felt choppy.

While not a comedy, there were a few laugh out loud moments, one of which I actually had to pause the show to recover from. It happens when Jessica crashes the party in the restaurant.

I was thrilled with the returning characters outside the core group. Stick, Night Nurse, Foggy, Colleen Wing, Seeing them interacting with each other, and with the protagonists they usually don't interact with is great.

Foggy: Most people call me Foggy
Luke Cage: And you let them?

Then there's The Hand! Madam Gao is of course still wonderful. Sigourney Weaver's character Alexandra is great. I thought they handled her, and the rest of the Hand's leadership really well. Seeing their motivations, their familiarity with each other play out was well done. The return of Electra was woven into the story flawlessly, and she had maybe the most interesting character arc of all. And when she killed... well... *grin* Unexpected!

Definitely well worth the watch, especially if you enjoyed any of the previous offerings. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Friday, September 15, 2017


It feels a little silly to write a review for a book with over 300,000 ratings and 1500 reviews on Goodreads. It's like trying to come up with an original thought on Hamlet. What can I say that hasn't already been said? Maybe nothing... but let's find out.

I mostly read on the subway now, which could be the most appropriate place to have read Neverwhere. It could only be more appropriate if I was reading it on the London Underground, rather than the NYC subway. But every day, as the subway car departs the lights of the station into the dark tunnels, and through a world only briefly glimpsed, I wonder what's going on in the shadows, in the distant spots of light. Is there a giant albino alligator living somewhere down there? A magical other realm with vampires, rat-speakers, goblin markets, and even stranger things. Neil Gaiman took me into that world, and once again shows how modern fairy tails can be told.

Back in the 90's when I was in high school, I picked up a copy of White Wolf's Changeling. Mostly because I loved the cover, but also because I enjoyed Vampire and Werewolf, and wanted to see how they wove in the Fairy, but it ended up being one of those things where there was just too much going on. Nearly immortal vampires doing their political thing, werewolves doing their thing battling the modern world, and then in the same universe you've got all the fairy and mummy and... too much, and it never fit all together, so I never got to play it. Everyone was way too into their vampires to think about playing fay. And honestly, I didn't really get how to make it work either.

I wish I'd had Neverwhere to show me how it's done. Between Gaiman and de Lint, I really want to start running a modern fairy tale RPG game.

The only complaint I have about the whole thing is the final page... But then Gaiman is more optimistic than I am. I'd have cut the story off just a few lines earlier than he did.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Scenes from Stonehell: Hobgoblin Edition

The guard stood in the mouth of the narrow cave, looking out to the wilderness beyond. The trail hacked open by his century was beginning to fill in with weeds and vines, but it was still easily passable, and open enough that he spotted the marching troops well before they reached the cliff wall. Reinforcements had arrived!


"Centurion, welcome to Stonehell."

"How goes the campaign?

"Slower than I'd like. There have been some difficulties that I didn't initially expect. The narrow passages make moving units difficult, and there are too many locations where our enemies can circle back around. Plus there are a surprising number of inhabitants."

"Good slave fodder?"

"Some. The kobolds are useful. But there have been several groups of roving adventurers with powerful magics. They've been depopulating chunks of the dungeon, and now that you're here, we can begin to fortify them."


"We lost 2 patrols?" And there's now some cloud of sparkling energy blocking one doorway?"

"The omens are not favorable." The priest warned the commander.

The warlock huffed. "Omens. Bah. You're here to bring the Warrior's favor upon us, not worry like some auntie."

"As are you" the commander growled. "What do you offer?"

"The power of Tezragul, demon of the sands, bringer of death."

"You fool! You would summon that which you cannot control!"

"We would bind it within a mortal vessel, and trap it within a cage of spells and your blessed wards until we're ready to set it free."


Trustee Sniv stood in the hobgoblin stairway hall south of the Korners. He never liked leaving his domain, but the newly arrived Hobgoblin commander wanted a meeting. His bodyguards looked woefully inadequate when compared to the meatheads the Commander had with him.

"I'm concerned about the stories of those humans and dwarves stomping through our home."

"Oh, they don't cause any trouble here." Sniv assured the commander.

"And I want to make sure it stays that way." He waved vaguely at his troops "my men need a safe place to relax... to spend their pay."

"The Korners are always available to any and all who don't cause any problems."

"I'm very glad to hear that. We're expanding our holdings, and we'd like to hire you for some construction work."

"What sort of work?" Sniv asked brightly.

"Gate installation, mostly. We have the materials, but your people as so adept at construction..." A heavy sack of coins is dropped into Sniv's greedy claws.

"I think we can handle that."

"Good, and in addition this payment, I'm assigning a few of my troops as guards in the Korners to make sure no one causes any issues."

"I have guards." Sniv's brow furrowed.

"And now you'll have more! This will help make sure that none of my men become over indulgent with that mushroom brew of yours. And just like your guards, they'll only be armed with small clubs, nothing too lethal."

One of the hobgoblin guards grinned at Sniv. "That's... very... generous of you." Sniv replied, gently bouncing the bag in his claws. "I'm sure that the Korners will feel that much safer."


The volunteer stood in the circle, stripped nude, his skin carved with runes that oozed dark blood that pooled at his feet. Iron chains cuffed to his wrists were bolted to the 4 pillars supporting the intricately carved ceiling. The priest painted wards of protection, lit candles, and muttered prayers while the warlock grinned with savage pleasure. "Are you ready yet?" he asked impatiently.

With a final brush stroke, he nodded.

"Finally." Chanting in a language none of the other spoke, the warlock sliced open his hand, and pushed the wound against the mouth of the chained host. "Drink." The carved flesh began to glow a dull red, then a fiery orange, burning brighter until it glowed white. The warlock stepped back, and the glowing form screamed. Flesh tore, blood splattered, and when everyone blinked away the blindness from the light, a monster stood on 6 chitinous legs that sprouted from the torso of the scarred hobgoblin. A great scorpion's tail curled over the demon, waiving, and then moving faster than anyone could see shooting out toward the warlock. The stinger stopped mere inches away, right at the edge of the binding circle.

The commander stepped closer, but not too close to the circle. "Now what?"

"Now we wait for the adventurers to make their assault."

"Is it safe?"

"Not even remotely. Best pray that our priest has done his job."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Demon Rules for RC D&D

I'm sure somewhere out there, someone has written rules for using demons in old school D&D. This is my simple(?) take.

Basic Demon Template:
Demons are immune to sleep and charm spells. NOT hold spells. Silver weapons can cause either half damage (lesser demons) or 1 point of damage (greater demons) on a successful hit. Magic weapons cause full damage. Demons can be turned as undead 2HD stronger than their listed HD. i.e. a 7 HD demon is turned as a 9 HD undead. Demons will often have resistance to certain damage types, usually fire (auto half damage, save for none).

Demonic creatures are unnaturally strong and will gain an additional +1 damage modifier to any physical attack

As for the monsters themselves, stick this template on any other monster, and you've got a demon.

Additional Generic Demonic Powers. Different demons will have different powers.

Force Grab - Ranged attack w/in 30'. Save vs Paralysis or be thrown 2d6' taking 1d6 damage. If thrown against a wall, the demon may maintain the force, pinning the target in place.

Hellfire - Ranged Attack, 30/60/90 causing 1d6+1 damage per 3 HD of the demon

Corrupt - Melee attack, drains 1d3/1d4/1d6 points of Charisma. Damage can be restored with 1 week/point of damage or Greater Restoration (or better) magic.

Unholy Aura - Any lawful or neutral creatures within the aura must save vs spells or suffer a -2 penalty to attacks, AC, and Saving Throws while within the aura and for an additional 1d6 rounds. Aura size varies based on HD of demon.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Escort Missions are the Worst! Part 1

With ReaperCon now weeks away, it's time to actually buckle down and get SOMETHING painted. Since I've got the diorama minis already cleaned, primed, and ready to go, it seemed like a good idea to start there. But because I never do anything the easy way, and my plan calls for some serious OSL (one source light) from a pair of torches... which I think makes it TSL? Maybe DSL? Or would 2SL be better? Anyway, the 2 torches are going to be the only light sources in the dungeon scene, so I need to know where the walls are, where the figures and torches are before I can really start painting anything if I want to get the effect even close to correct. So, first wall and base building.

Step one was figuring out just how big a base I need. The advice I've read is basically "make the base as small as possible and still be able to tell the story." So, okay, big enough to fit the 3 heroes, the pregnant lady, and the monster cobbled together that's seconds from trying to eat the lead figure.

Next was fitting the wall onto the base that will split the group from the monster. Both the base and the wall are made from pink insulation foam. Once I got the wall cut out, I then cut out the doorway. I followed that up with carving in the stonework of the wall, and giving it a little depth by pressing in some of the stones. I'd be a little further along if I hadn't sliced open my index finger.... and I still need to add more texture to the stonework.

And that's where I'm at now. Still to do:
Carve the floor's flagstones
Texture the floor
Attach the wall to the base
Paint the minis
Paint the base
Attach the minis to base

It sounds so easy listed out like that. 6 weeks? Plenty of time...

Sadly that's JUST the diorama. Still hoping to enter something into Painters. Probably not gonna get anything entered into Open or Ordnance at this point.

Sunday, September 10, 2017


Back on this day 8 years ago, I started up the Tower of the Archmage.

So what does 8 years look like?
1897 posts
1,210,957 page views (at the time of writing)

Not bad at all. And it's been interesting the changes that both the blog has gone through, and the blog-o-sphere generally. Not to mention all the changes in life. Many, if not most of the blogs that I followed 8 years ago and inspired me to start doing my own thing, have gone silent. Some sit quiet, mothballed, waiting to be reactivated. Others remain only as dead links, sites nuked by their owners. A few have become infested by bots and squatters. (Sounds like a post-apocalyptic setting, doesn't it?) New ones have been built, and many of those have suffered the same fates. Yet the community of bloggers and gamers still seems to be going strong, and thank Gygax for that!

In addition I've got 2 ongoing games, a mountain of miniatures that I'm slowly working on chipping away at, while at the same time adding to!

I'm not even gonna try to guess where I'l be next year, let alone 8 years from now. But hopefully I'll still be gaming with friends at least, and if I'm lucky, I'll still have some followers who'll read about it.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Happy Star Trek Day!

On this day, September 9th, 1966, The USS Enterprise first appeared on TV screens across the USA. (The Canadians got it 2 days early, lucky S.O.B.s...)

In honor of the day, allow my to share a some pretty pictures of the grey lady herself.

And while she may not be "my" Enterprise, she came first. And I have to say, she's still a fine looking ship!