08 September 2010

My Top 10 Comics #4: Spider Smash!!!


Well, I'm running behind..as usual. Teaching, Labor Day, acolyte training...life never seems to stop, does it?

But, anyway, here we're up to #4. The choices are starting to get harder!! Well, today a bit of whimsy, I guess. Let's go with Web of Spiderman #70.


This issue is part two of a two-part story. The cover alone is  terrific! "Spider smash!" indeed! It's also representative of the craziness that is Peter Parker's life and indicative of a more subtle and profound change in the Spidey comics.

In the 1990s, Peter's life would get very complicated. It was like the writers at Marvel decided that nothing good could happen to Peter. Oh, there were bad things prior to this time [cf. Gwen Stacy, 1st app of the Punisher (gunning for Spidey)], but mostly his life wasn't the parody that it would become in the movies. He has some good times and some bad times; things always seemed to even out in the end.

Things would get worse. Venom and Carnage wanting Pete dead, MJ "dying" and then returning only to separate from Peter, selling his marriage to the Devil...the new Spidey just couldn't catch a break. Things seem to be more on the minus side of teh balance sheet--it's all in the red. Poor Peter.

By itself, this is a great storythat links all the way back to 
Fantastic Four #51 with its villain. It's all just plain out FUN. Spidey pulling off the Bruce Banner signature move of getting angry and big and green. You have to read it to get it. Smiley

30 August 2010

My Top 10 Comics #3: Enter the Batman!!!

Well, are we up to #3 already? Excellent!

Number 3 has a special place in my heart; it's 
Detective Comics #450, August, 1975.

Why is a pretty mediocre issue in my top ten? Well, glad you asked. That's because it's the first comic I ever bought myself.

It was summer and my grandmother took me to the grocery store with her. Next door to the grocery was a drug store (Louis-Morgan, to be precise, on the corner of Marshall Ave. and Alpine, Longview, TX). She gave me a quarter and told me to "go and buy a funny book." Really? All by myself? Cool! (I was only 5!)

Well, I went in and looked and saw...Batman! Now, even as kid, Supes was my favorite, but Bats was "ok." (As I got older and more "mature," Bats would win out. The circle is now complete and I'm more of a Supes fan these days. Smiley )

Well, I went to the counter where a teenage girl was working to pay for my "funny book." "26 cents," she said, after ringing it up.

26? I only had a quarter (sales tax was beyond me at the time). I must have looked crestfallen, because she laughed and said that the quarter would be fine. Ecstatic, I took my purchase outside to read on the curb while granny finished shopping.

I still have that comic. It's not as good as the one in the picture, probably fair to good. A lot of my comics didn't survive over the years--they were scribbled in, lost covers, had pictures cut out. But, somehow, this particular one has made it with me, to the army and now in my own home. It's the pride of my collection.

Louis-Morgan Drugs is no more. There are a couple left around East Texas (it was a chain), but that store was tore down in the early 90s to make way for a bigger and better "super market." My grandmother died last year. But I have my memories of her and the comic she gave me a quarter to buy.

Batman's history is practically as long as Supes' or Cap's. I think that the reason I shied away from Bats as a kid is well, Adam West. "Batman '66" was in syndication and West was still voicing Bats in the cartoons. It's not that I dislike West's portrayal; his Bat's is a "Nice Guy" sort of like Supes. The campiness and the hilarity are fun but it's...forced for want of a better word. It wasn't true to the essence and character of the Batman. Michale Keaton is a Nice Guy himself, but his Bats in the 1989 movie mad it clear from the get-go that he wasn't a Nice Guy: "Who are you?!!" "I'm BATMAN!" ~smack~

West portrayal was a result of the Comics Code Authority and the backlash of the anti-violence movements and concern "for the children." Batman became this almost Boy Scout like figure who's job and purpose was to be a role model. That's not the purpose of the Batman. the Batman's job is to strike fear and terror into the hearts of criminals and bring them to justice. If Batman is a role model, it's more because of his refusal to use lethal force. Lately, that has turned into an anti-gun platform (cf., Batman: The Seduction of the Gun), but that's another debate.

The point is that, although West was true to the character as written, that character was not true to the Spirit of the Bat.

But about this issue specifically. The mid 70s was an interesting time for comics. they were trying to get rid of the CCA and tell relevant stories again (there's that 'R-word' again!)--you know things that reflected society as it was like assassinations, drug use, promiscuity, etc. One comic that handled that from DC was Green Lantern-Green Arrow #65.

That issue didn't make my cut, but it was close. This issue of Detective Comics touches on some of those issues. The antagonist isn't some campy, zany, costumed psychopath. No, Wormwood is a mercenary who kills for money flat out and simple. He's hired to get Batman's cape and cowl. Of course, it's all an elaborate plot by Batman to obtain evidence about the murder of a U.S. Congressman. There's a wonderful shot of Bruce Wayne drinking scotch or brandy while wearing a smoking jacket...he almost looks like a young Hugh Hefner!

This Batman is, in some ways, transitional. Note the elaborate plot to get the evidence: he's pretending to be someone who wants Batman's cape and cowl. But he strikes terror into the Wormwood's heart by disappearing without a trace after the cops put the cuffs on him. "He's not human!" Wormwood shouts.

On a side note, this issue was later adapted for an episode of Batman: The Animated Series as the "Cape and Cowl Conspiracy." There are some minor changes in the story...Wormwood becomes the 'Interrogator' and his look changes although he still doesn't wear a costume. Such is inevitable after 20 years, I guess.

29 August 2010

My Top 10 Comics #2: Captain America! (Do we sense a trend?)


Well, for my second choice in my top ten, I have to go with Captain America, March, 1941. By now, you all probably sense that I love the Golden Age. Mostly. Hopefully some of my other posts will prove otherwise.

This is in my favorites less because of the story but more because of the cover.Yes, they did redo this one for Captain America Reborn (#2), but the original is sooo Golden Age....smacking Hitler down with a strong right hook. So much more satisfying than choking the bejesus out of him. 

I say that because in the modern rendition, it looks like Cap has a bit of a struggle on his hands. In the 1941 version, it's clear that der Fuhrer has been PWNED!!!! Heck, he's not even concerned about the Nazi soldiers gunning for him! It's all about Adi. 

Much of what I mentioned about Superman holds true for Cap as well, but even more so. One can divorce the patriotism from Supes fairly easily. This doesn't mean that I like that especially, but it can be done. Cap on the other hand...well, his identity is framed by his patriotism. Supes is an alien from Krypton who grew up in the Midwest; Cap was a frail young New Yorker who wanted to serve his country and fight the Nazi menace. Cap even drapes himself in the colors of the American flag.

When Cap died a couple of years ago, there were people who were ecstatic on the news reports. Basically, some people saw it as putting a dinosaur to rest once and for, questioning whether his "jingoism" was even relevant in a post-9-11 world. Again, I use a magic word: POPPYCOCK!

Cap would be the first to say that just because he is ultra-American, it does not make anyone else's country or patriotism wrong or inferior. Cap embodies the ideal that love of country and  
personal sacrifice are laudable goals regardless of where one is from. He embodies this ideal even more so than Supes because Cap doesn't really have any powers. Oh, he's the peak of human conditioning but there is nothing "inhuman" or "superhuman" in his abilities.

I think, for me the scene that best exemplifies this idea is in the Secret Wars series. In issue #1, Wolverine questions why Cap should be the leader of the heroes because, "He's the least of us! He can't do anything!" Thor steps forward, however, and proclaims, "I am a prince of the gods...This man I will follow through the gates of Hades!"

In the same issue, we see Cap's mercy as well. When Doctor Doom is shot down by Kang,  Captain America offers to help Doom. Doom of course refuses, but that does not make Cap's offer any less sincere or noble.

One final thought for the day. Last year,over on YouTube, Just Some Random Guy did a tribute to Cap for the Fourth of July. [I seem to be referencing his work quite a bit; what can I say? He (and Random Gal!) are brilliant!] I'm going to leave you with that for now, True Believers. Excelsior!


28 August 2010

Ah, what direction to go?


Well, I have been floundering around with the idea of running a Supers RPG for several months now. The question is, what ruleset?

1. Heroes Unlimited (Palladium Books).  For me, this one is tried and true. It's very old school in feel. It uses d20 and the "Megaversal System" that some love and some loathe. It uses experience points, but classes in this game are more of a "power origin" than anything else.  And I like Kevin Siembieda; odd, yes, but I do, so there is a lot of personal loyalty there as well.

The Pluses. I have run this bad boy in one form or another since the Teenaged Mutant Turtles RPG was published by Palladium back in the mid 1980s. I even ran this at a con this year, and I can wing this one in my sleep.

The Minuses. There's not much in the way of advancement. Oh, combat levels do improve as do skills and you gain some new skills occasionally. However, powers are pretty much locked in at first level and, generally, do not change at all.  On the flip side, your character will pretty much be the way one envisions him at first level.

2. DC Adventures RPG/Mutants & Masterminds 3E (Green Ronin). This is the game that really started the supers genre back up in the RPG world. True, Heroes Unlimited and Champions stayed in print (mostly as far as Champions/Hero is concerned), but it was very niche. Still is, but M&M was
the one that made Superhero RPGs "kewl" again (funny to use that phrase where geeks like us are concerned :D).

The beginning for this game is awesome in my humble opinion. Green Ronin came to Steve Kenson and asked, "Can you design a d20 Supers game for us?" Steve said, "Yes, I can, BUT I want to use my campaign for the default setting." You see, back in the 90s, Steve had designed a city for Champions but, with all the upheaval with that game line, it got tossed to the curb. Steve kept on it, though, because it was his baby in many respects. So, when opportunity knocked, he jumped on it.

Recently, GR obtained the DC license, a much coveted piece of paper since Mayfair lost it so long ago. (We won't mention WEG at all. Oh, wait, I did.) This also gives GR a chance to update the M&M engine and make some minor changes to the rules.

Pluses. M&M2E is a joy to run. It has a lot of neat ideas (GM fiat, for instance) and powers are built much easier than in Champions. Unlike HU, powers can be customized. The Freedom City 
setting is rich and vibrant; comic fans can glean homages to their favorite heroes and teams all through the book. There is also a lot of original thought and care put into the setting. Centurion is my favorite hero (a Superman homage) and even spawned the idea for my main toon in City of Heroes, Tribunus. Alternatively, there is the whole DC Universe top play with; a campaign centered the premise of the DC Universe MMO (new heroes have arisen to aid the "regulars" and prevent a future cataclysm) is very plausible.

Minuses. The pluses. Seriously. One can get very involved in the number crunching for characters although nowhere in the league of Champions. It does take some getting used to, however. Also, the setting (both of them). I know, I know, I can create my own, but it's hard not to use the premade ones, especially seeing as how vibrant they both are. Also, M&M3E is not out yet, although that is essentially the engine that DC Heroes uses. I'm a bit of a completist, when  it comes to games. I could just use 2E, however.

3. Bash RPG! (Basic Action Games). One of the newer super games, but a good one. This game harkens back to a mechanic superficially similar to the old TSR Marvel RPG of the 1980s. 
I say superficial because it's not quite the same thing. it is a color chart and you roll dice to find not an effect level, but just success. The character creation is simple and quick. When I first skimmed through the book, I thought, "Too simple." But it's not. There's a hidden layer of complexity in the rules and yet, it retains a certain level of simplicity at the same time. Combat is not done in rounds or melees, but in panels and pages. It's a system that works well with supers.

Pluses. Simplicity. It's quick and easy to create characters and run combats. No getting mired down in the fighting like in Champions. [We once spent an hour on a single SEGMENT (phase) of a round in Champions!] It's has an easy mechanic that apes that of the genre quite well.

Minuses. The only real minus is the fact that I've yet to actually run this game. Now, I've been gaming since 1982 (egad, I'm getting older!), so one would think that that wouldn't cause any apprehension, but it does.

4. Villains and Vigilantes RPG (Monkey House Games).  Last, but by no means the least, is V&V. If M&M rekindled the flames of supers genre, V&V was the first...EVAH! Jeff Dee and Jack Herman have reasserted their claim the trademark and taken it back from FGU (a debate for another time and place). Unfortunately, V&V is not sold on Amazon (yet?) but here's a link to MHG's Lulu store. It can also be bought in pdf form here.

I recently got the "new" 2.1 version of the rules from Lulu. 55 pages. 55 PAGES!!! That's not a lot. Unlike many of the games that FGU published back in the 1980s, this one had a lack of crunch...which is good, because sometimes I felt like getting out the calculators and slide rules when playing Space Opera or Aftermath! To be so brief, there is a certain attraction for the rules as they are. I said that Heroes Unlimited is old school, but so is V&V. How so, you ask? Well, if HU is analogous to AD&D (1E), then V&V is analogous to original D&D (0E, or "whitebox"). It leaves a lot in the hands of the GM. And admittedly, the older I get the more I like simple systems that just allow me to roll some dice and go with the action. Gary still preferred original D&D when he died.

Pluses. This game would leave a lot of the detail up to me, which is fine. There is a lot of support out there in the way of fan sites and even a great fan forum. Heck, there are even metal minis still in production! (That's not so good for original heroes, but if I use their villains....)  And see above for my thoughts on simplicity.

Minuses. Well, am I looking at the game with the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia? Admittedly, I didn't play a lot of V&V back in the day. I was more of a Champions guy back then and well into the 90s.

Well, there you have it. I'll probably run HU at home with the kids. We alternate between AD&D (1E) and Palladium Fantasy, so crunch is fine. It gives them structure. :) But, I would like to run an alternate supers game for my adult group to give Ramsey a break occasionally. I am definite leaning more to #2, 3, or 4. If anybody actually reads this, your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

My Top 10 Comics #1: Where it all began....


Over at the Villains and Vigilantes Forum, 8675309 Jenni started a thread for members to list their top ten comic issues of all time, "not bound editions of multiple issues...not...graphic novels..." Just single issues.

Top Ten Comics thread

Well, I decided that over the course of the next week and a half or so to post one a day. Then the idea struck me (since my blog has been languishing again) to expand my posts there here on my blog. So, without any further adieu, post the first.

This is it, the one that started it all. The first appearance of Superman. As I stated on the V&V Forum, it is Superman from which all the others flow. Yes, there were the early "mystery men" in the pulps, but it was Superman that started the Golden Age and four-color comics. It is hard to picture a world without Superman, although some have dared.


Sometimes it feels like Superman has become outdated, outmoded, that the world has passed him by and left his morals and ideals back somewhere before the assassination of JFK. People question his relevance, mock his politeness and his stand for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. At best he is seen as quaint, at worst as naive. To all this negativity I say: BALDERDASH!!!

As the movie Superman Returns shows, there is a need for Superman in the world. I would like to think that there is a little bit of Supes in each of us, that he reflects the kinder, gentler part of our natures. Like the knights of old who tried (and quite frequently failed) to live up to the tenets of chivalry, we can look up to Superman and try to go his way; each of us can make a difference in this world. Personally, I think this is the lesson of Superman and, t a lesser extent, all of those who have followed him.

Of course, there are always those who can say things way better than me. So, here's a clip from Just Some Random Guy on YouTube. The relevant section is from ~1:55 to 4:35 and 7:20-8:20.

So, go out there and make a difference!

22 July 2010

Pathfinder Giveaway

Aruneus is giving away a set of hardcover core rulebooks for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game! Easy to enter.

Full details are here: http://trollitc.com/2010/07/the-pathfinder-international-give-away-3-books-tons-of-pdfs-16-winners-anywhere-in-the-world/

They are also giving away pdfs.

Full disclosure: You get more entries for blogging about it! ;)

Apparently their campaign world has a friggin' zombie apocalypse going on....either Strahd von Zarovich or George Romero is on the loose. I'm not sure which!

Anyway. that's my insane ramble for the day! :)

26 May 2010

And the second session.

Chello! And this will bring the blog up to date. Session from 1 JAN 2010.



Cast of characters:

Katherine (13.5)/ Aislinn Blasdesong, a High Olve Fighter/Magic-User, CG.
Rene' (almost 12)/Anana of Glorsten, a Hill Dwur Fighter/Thief, NG. (and war dog!)
Jenny (10)/Elvina Everheart, a Half-Olve Ranger, NG.
Will (8)/Richard Willowgrove, a Hobniz Thief, NG.
GM NPC/Dalgard Nordis, a Human Cleric of Pelor, NG.

With some of their newfound wealth, some of the players went and obtained maille from the traders and even sold some of their excess gear ("what a bargain!"). Calmert also came by and healed the cleric so that he could attend the meeting. 

As evening drew near, Ostler informed the party that the Town Council wanted to meet with them after dinner. The party assented and went down to have dinner together in the Inn. After dinner, they went over to the Council Building where the fact that bandits were harassing caravans was relayed to the party. However, the problem to date had been confined to the northeast; goblins to the south was a new problem. Would the party go and see what they could learn. This heretofore unknown dungeon complex could easily be turned into a lair by goblins, cutting Hommlett off from the lands to the south. The party, naturally, consented, although the dwur was curious (under her breath) as to what Hommlett's "heartfelt gratitude" was in solid gold....!

To date, the party has paid no attention to Kobort, Turuko, Spugnoir, etc. That might change after they return from the latest expedition to the South. 

The next morning, they set. In the meantime, the goblins had invaded the Nameless Dungeon. I rolled up a tribe of 70 members + the chief and his retinue. they set themselves in some of the empty rooms plus a couple of the rooms that the party had already cleared.

Upon arriving in the complex, the half-olve ranger pointed out that maybe they should check out the rooms they had already been to. The two older players rolled their eyes and said it was a waste of time, but followed her anyway. smart girl. Opening the doors to the large room the the stirges had nested in, a cry of "Bree Yark!" let them know that were now goblins infesting the halls...just as the Council of Hommlett had feared! However, the party was not surprised and were quickly able to dispatch the little terrors. The dwur's faithful hound took a hit, as did the cleric. The Cleric burned 1 of his 3 CLWs for the day on himself (why is he always the one getting hit? :? ). The Ranger also took a hit, but with 17 hp, it was a mere scratch. The Dwur and the Olve praised the ranger's foresight in rechecking the other parts of the complex. They thus continued forward. They came to a room that was previously empty, but again, the soon-to-be familiar cry of "Bree Yark!" let them know that there were more goblins present here!

(A tactical stupidity on my part...I should have sent a runner to surround them here, but I forgot. They would be rectified in the next battle.)

Once again they slaughtered the little horrors. They opened the doors to go down the corridor and, at the next intersection, a goblin patrol! The goblins (for a change) won initiative and sent a runner down the corridor to the south. The weasal room had been selected as a secure treasure room and was guarded by a goblin leader and his 5 assistants. While the patrol flooded the passageway, 1/2 of the special guard detail run north to help them out. The other 3 run east to enter the room the party was leaving and cut them off! 

The fighting was fierce! Oh lucky the PCs that had the foresight to buy maille! The hobniz was a dead shot, hitting everytime he sent a lead bullet downrange, and usually taking his target down. The olve was in the thick of the battle but pulled back afte recieiving a horrible strike from one of the guards (8-5=3). As fell back to the hobniz, the reinforcements arrived behind her! Screaming that she was going to die, she charged the three goblin guards (equal to orcs, AC 4, hp 7 each) and hit one for 4 points of damage! All three managed to miss her!

Next round, the fight raged in the corridor. The hobniz (who had already learned the hard way about firing into melee--in the last game he had been hit by the ranger in the back for 1 pt of damage) took a chance and sent a bullet toward the wound goblin guard...and pegged him for a full 5 pts dropping him!!! The olve held her own again.

The cleric pulled off the front line to help the hobniz and the olve...the fighting there was just as fierce, but the ranger, dwur and cleric had whittled them down. The hobbit grabbed his club and surged forward into the fight as well and accounted well of himself. After the last goblin finally fell, the cleric healed the elf back up and they went to the weasel room to find the goblin's treasure: a chest with silver and copper and a few gems! (mostly ornamental, but an excellent aquamarine worth 1000 gp).

The party made a big circle...the ants were non-aggressive; they found an exit and backtracked around finding some other minor areas. They found a room with a stone face that needed payment for answers to questions. The ranger finally figured out that "beware the odds" was a subtle clue (she loves Labyrinth) and wanted until question 14 to ask "What does 'beware the odds mean?" The answer is that all his odd questions are lies.

They still found out nothing of import. :)

They managed to stumble across the teleport trap that sent them to the second level, but easily found their way back up. They then ran into the goblin chief, but, after the fight near the treasure room, it was almost anticlimatic. They did find the chief's banner....a black field with a yellow eye......!

((I have decided that this was merely an advance group of a larger tribe and they really only got the subchief. They know nothing at this point, really. Besides, I want to use some Bugbears and wolf riders! :) ))

They finished clearing out level one, finding the skeleton room and the last goblin guard room (set up in what was once the cobra lair...they lost a few themselves clearing that room!).

Rather than heading back to Hommlett, they've decided to sleep at their previous campsite and hit the ruins again and go down through the second level. I wonder if the Council will be concerned...who to check on them: Jaroo or some of Burne's Badgers?

Oops...let's start at the beginning.....


It has been pointed out that I started the blog in the middle of a module. So, from the Dragonsfoot Forums, here is the first session from from 12-31-09.


Well, it was time to bring my 8 and 10 year old into the fold. So, after puttering around with my books, I decided to run Hommlett, always a favorite, and to insert Chris Gonnerman's The Nameless Dungeon as a good opening dungeon. Statted for classic, I only had to make a few changes to update it for AD&D (the one thing that sticks out in my mind is changing the giant shrew to a giant weasel).


The ruleset is AD&D, no UA. The cast of miscreants is as follows:

Katherine (13.5)/ Aislinn Blasdesong, a High Olve Fighter/Magic-User, CG.
Rene' (almost 12)/Anana of Glorsten, a Hill Dwur Fighter/Thief, NG. (and war dog!)
Jenny (10)/Elvina Everheart, a Half-Olve Ranger, NG.
Will (8)/Richard Willowgrove, a Hobniz Thief, NG.
GM NPC/Dalgard Nordis, a Human Cleric of Pelor, NG.


(Yes, I have this thing for NG parties. Of all the alignments, NG is the easiest for kids and 1st-timers to grasp, I think. "Just act like they tell you to in church. :) )

Katherine and Rene' cut their teeth on Hackmaster almost 5 years ago. Jenny rolled up her character under the supervision of her sisters and Will told me what he wanted to be and I rolled it up for them. 4d6-L, reroll 1s, and arrange as you like, max hp 1st level. 

Backstory. Aislinn and Elvina were sent to investigate the area around Hommlett for the Queen of Celene. Apparently, there has been trouble with caravans running into bandits and the like recently. Anana was sent by her stronghold in the Lortomils (Glorsten, my creation) for the same reason.

Richard is actually the son of one of my old characters, Thomas Willowgrove, a retired 12 lvl thief. As far as Richard knew, his father was just a respectable tailor who was quite successful and had some money stashed away. However, after his father's recent death he found Tom's journal and discovered that he had been an "expert treasure hunter" in his youth. Rich found himself wanting to see beautiful things, "to carry a sword instead of a walking stick...just once" and thus set out on the road.

Dalgard is NPC healing backup and actually saved the party tonight (through happenstance and almost at the cost of his life!) He's a wandering Priest of Pelor doing "knight errantry" essentially and also had heard rumors of bad goings on around Hommlett.

The PCs (and NPC) all met on the road to Hommlett and decided to travel together and see what they could discover (wonderful how good parties just work together like that--"You seem a decent fellow; fall in line!").

After setting up camp for the night (about 5 miles south if Hommlett), the Nameless Dungeon calls for a Goblin attack in the middle of the first watch. On watch were the Hobniz thief and the Olve fighter/mu. Surprise check is negative, 8 goblins rush the party in a semi-circle roughly 0 to 90 degrees. Initiative is tied. The Olve gets off a sleep spell and promptly drops 6 of the goblins. The Hobniz drops another with a sling bullet. The last goblin holds morale and manages to stab the Cleric who's trying to awaken. Next round the Hobniz rushes forward and hits the last goblin with his club, killing him.

In the aftermath, the olve suggests slitting the throats of the sleeping goblins, the dwur agrees and helps, and the cleric drops a CLW on himself. The party then notices a goblin scout in the underbrush who takes off! The dwur sicks her trusty dog after him and the olve and the ranger take chase. The dog manages to crash through the brush into the entrance to the Nameless Dungeon. The ranger goes back to get the others and to explore this ruin.

They go down and go east, finding a room of magical darkness and then come across a large room where they are attacked by stirges! The dog is wounded, as is the olve (for 7 of 8!). The cleric heals the olve (8 on d8!). It is at this point that the hobniz asks, "Why did we come into this dungeon anyway?" :) They also find the secret door in the room; the hobniz pulls the lever before anyone can stop them, thus deactivating a trap elsewhere in the dungeon.


Pressing onward, they find and defeat the giant weasel and find the bag of gems in the refuse pile. They then find the room with the trapped chest. I should have got a pic of this one; I told them to arrange everyone and they put the cleric in the door. Perfect. They open the chest; the Olve reads the scroll: "You lose!" The door slams shut, but the cleric makes his death save to block it; he makes the save, taking 8 points of damage, dropping him to 0! The PCs flee the room (the dwur is the only one to fail the poison save...for 1 pt of damage!). I rule they're able to stabilize the cleric and they retreat back to the campsite. I have some mercy on them, and keep the goblins from ambushing them again. Of course, who knows what'll happen while they're gone...: :twisted: (The goblin tribe moves in?)

The next morning, they decide to push on to Hommlett. Fortunately, the cleric had a horse so they lash him down and ride for Hommlett, arriving about noon. They cause quite a stir, arriving with a comatose cleric and make for the Inn of the Welcome Wench. The stableboys help them get the unconscious cleric down and one runs for Gundigoot. Ostler (who I describe as looking a lot like Barliman Butterbar from the LotR movie; an aside to Rich...."Your father's diary said to never trust a skinny innkeeper; this one is quite fat.")

While the Olve arranges for a room for the cleric, the other 3 decide they want food. Ostler has the barmaids set them up in one of the private dining rooms and gets a private room for the cleric. He sends for Jaroo while the Olve waits with him, eating her rations! (She said she was feeling guilty because she caused him to get hurt since she read the scroll! she even paid for the room.)

Jaroo arrives and questions her briefly while healing Dalgard for 3 pts, bringing him around. She asks how much it'll be to heal him and Jaroo says a donation for the needy in Hommlett would be fine. She offers him all of her remaining gold (17!) and Jaroo smile and takes 3.

Dalgard smiles as well and finding that she paid for his room insisted that she take the payment from him. The Olve then goes down and inquires about shops and he directs her to the moneychanger. There, the olve is able to exchange most of the gems for 60% of value. He can't handle the tiger eye ruby (5000 gp!) so she keeps that for the moment. She goes back and distributes cash to everyone and they all take separate rooms in the Inn (the dwarf opting for the 5 gp/night suite!). 

And there we ended for the evening. They're debating going back to the dungeon (which the goblins will have occupied by then). I expect that as evening draws near, the Town Council will want to talk to them. Goblins on top of the recent banditry? Horrors! 

One last thing. My 13 yo is an aspiring artist and decided to make her own PC sheet:


My wife might join us for the next outing. She was a computer gamer (old SSI AD&D PC games) when we met in college in '93. She's been playing tabletop RPGs since 94 or so. She was a tad tuckered tonight, though.

This is fun! :)


13 April 2010

A brief update...


I'm having comprehensive exams in grad school this week and final paper due in two, so the games are currently on hiatus. Easter also disrupted the schedule as did my 40th birthday party. We will resume in May. :)


20 March 2010

Help, save us!

Well. yesterday was th last day of my children's spring break. We didn't get to go anywhere during the week because my break at grad school was last week. Go figure.

Anyway, Beth decided it would be cool to spend the day at Dinosaur Valley State Park (website). So in the morning we gathered up sandwich supplies, snacks, drinks, and waters and headed out.

Beth had never been there before and it's been 30 years since I was last there...but we spent a day clambering over rocks, crossing the Palauxy River on foot and looking at dinosaur prints in the river.

It's really a nice little park and we're making plans to go back this summer and camp out and enjoy all the trails and such at our leisure. Plus, since the river will be lower in the summer, tracks that were unavailable for viewing will be present then. :)

15 March 2010

Beware the Ides of March, noble Caesar.


Tonight, in memory of the 2054th anniversary of the assassination of Gaius Julius Caesar, I will drink a glass of wine. I might watch Rome or Cleopatra. I will definitely read the story of his death from Seutonius to my children.

That is all.


14 March 2010

Old School Gaming goodness continues!


Ok, quick update off of today's game. But first the one I missed...lol.

After the last game, my wife and my GM from my Hackmaster group joined in the fun. Add another Elf Fighter/Magic-User (Eritholos; Ramsey) and 1 female paladin (Valya; Beth). Eritholos had been sent from Verbobonc to investigate the impeded shipped on the road through Hommlet, and Valya was a paladin of Hieroneous out doing Knight Errantry. They were in Hommlet and, when the party didn't return in the evening, the village council asked them to go check on them. They encountered them at their campsite and agreed that continuing on through the dungeon.

So, they went in and cleared about half of the second level before finding (!) the trap door that dropped them down into the prison cell on the 3rd level. The elves immediately noticed the secret door in the cell and they quickly solved the puzzle and found the way into the room with the magical elven "tapestry of holding." They went back out, the Hobniz thief picked the lock to the cell and they decided to call it a night. This was Sunday, 10 Jan.

Well, life interfered (as it most often does) and we finally got around to continuing the game today. The roster starting out, looked like this:

Katherine (13.5)/ Aislinn Blasdesong, a High Olve Fighter/Magic-User, CG.
Rene' (12)/Anana of Glorsten, a Hill Dwur Fighter/Thief, NG. (and war dog!)
Jenny (10)/Elvina Everheart, a Half-Olve Ranger, NG.
Will (8)/Richard Willowgrove, a Hobniz Thief, NG.
Beth (wife)/Dame Valya, a Human Paladin of Hieroneous, LG.
Ramsey/Eritholos, an High Olve Fighter/Magic-User, CG.
GM NPC/Dalgard Nordis, a Human Cleric of Pelor, NG.

Well, they went south and found the "oven" room, but other than prodding the elven skeleton and taking it for burial elsewhere, they didn't learn or find anything. Next, going north again, they found the room with the apes, but handled them fairly well. Eritholos was dropped by the timely application of a CLW by the cleric kept him from death. They found a secret door that led to a giant tarantula's lair, but it never had a chance. Oh well.

Next, they found a room where they were attacked by giant fire beetles next and defeated them. The dwarf's trusty hound dropped to -2 hp exactly in the fight; they bound its wounds, the paladin laid on hands to bring it to 0; they stuck the dog in the tapestry to get it out and home.

The next fight was the most deadly, at least potentially. They found a room with a stuck door. Across the hallway, a gargoyle was supposed to attack the PCs from the rear as they make noise. Now, this is still a 1st level party and I'm pretty sure (I know that is!) there is no magic or silver. (I think my daughter the elf has some silver arrows.) so, I was lenient and changed the encounter to an Ogre on the fly. The Ogre gets 1 surprise round on them, and drops the female olve. The paladin and the male olve drop the ogre fairly quick, though. Damn the luck of d12 long swords vs. large creatures and the high strength bonuses! Another CLW gets the olve up to 1 hp, but, shaken, she decides that discretion is the better part of valor and hangs at the rear of the party with the cleric and the tapestry!

Deciding they need to get out of this place as soon as possible, the party tries to figure out where the stairs might be. They pass through several more rooms when they find, by the key, an empty room with a pool in it. A wandering monster check indicates a party of 6 ghouls in the room, however. The trusty NPC cleric actually managed to get a 19 on a turn check and managed to make 5 bolt for the other door. The party, of course, is having none of that so they pursue and whittle the ghouls down pretty quickly. The treasure indicated for individual ghouls is a 50% of magical scrolls, 1-4. Yep, they got them. They managed to get 2 prot. vs. undead, 1 protection vs. magic, and 1 scroll with Tenser's floating disc, shocking grasp, and polymorph other.

They then found the way up to level 2 and managed to get out of the dungeon from that point fairly easily.

Feeling generous, I went ahead and gave them enough xp to level the paladin. At the end of the night, the party now looks like this:

Katherine (13.5)/ Aislinn Blasdesong, a High Olve Fighter 1/Magic-User 1, CG.
Rene' (almost 12)/Anana of Glorsten, a Hill Dwur Fighter 1/Thief 2, NG. (and war dog!)
Jenny (10)/Elvina Everheart, a Half-Olve Ranger 2, NG.
Will (8)/Richard Willowgrove, a Hobniz Thief 3, NG.
Beth (wife)/Dame Valya, a Human Paladin of Hieroneous 2, LG.
Ramsey/Eritholos, an High Olve Fighter 1/Magic-User 1, CG.
GM NPC/Dalgard Nordis, a Human Cleric of Pelor 2, NG.

And, yes, the Hobniz went two levels up, but he's 8 y.o., so why not?

After some ruminations, I've decided not to go on to the Moathouse. I came across this wonderful little module, DC-1 The Outpost on the Edge of the Far Reaches by Paul Fini (http://www.lulu.com/content/e-book/the-outpost-on-the-edge-of-the-far-reaches-download/6474363). It sounds like a good idea to expand on my earlier idea of the goblins having something to do with the Temple.

The moathouse has been done to death. I was looking at the TOEE regional map:


and realized that the action focuses on the area to the E-NE of Hommlet. The south isn't even on the regional map. Well, I set [u]The Forgotten Dungeon[/u] about 5 miles south of Hommlet. It stands to reason that the forces trying to rebuild the temple would want to cut off Hommlet off and surround it. I was considering adopting the "Caves of Chaos" from B2 for the adventure, but then I found The Outpost. I think it will work out quite well.

I'll be sure to keep y'all posted. The next game is in 2 weeks.

11 March 2010

Father Jupiter smiles on us!, Pt. II

...continued from Pt I...

Yes, yes, splitting the party. But it was the only thing we could think of.

The chaplain sent us with a letter to the magistrate and one of his acolytes as surety of the veracity of our claims. It was decided that the thieves (Serge and Candy) would stay in the Keep and keep an eye on the smithy to see if the missing die was discovered. It's only three says (round trip) to Arz, so we figured we had everything well in hand. Wrong.

Corporal Nargus (remember him?) and a gaggle of confederates ambushed us on the road to Arz. He called our paladin out and or paladin critted him on the first hit! Not enough to severely hinder him and must assuredly did not have the upper hand.

In short, it was hard fought battle. I dropped to -2 HP at one point, the dwarven berserker fell to about -22 or some such (very, very dead) and the paladin had to take on 3-4 survivors of teh ambush party single-handedly (the Pixie Fairy was out of spells). However, the quick application of a healing potion brought me back, and we captured one alive to drag to the magistrate in Arz. Said magistrate agreed to relieve the prefect and began the journey back to Frandor's Keep with us. Cut back to the day previous....

Meanwhile at the Keep, the thief has noticed nothing wrong. However, while keeping observation of the smithy, a hand grabs him from behind! It's the former keep commander, Hollman. Apparently the prefect had learned of the adventurers and their "investigation" and had arrested the chaplain, Greytar, and Ledra. The had to get out of here and the commander knew a secret way!

The thief decided they were probably going after Candy as well and got the commander to follow him to the Inn. They were too late and a squad of four men had Candy in custody! The thief made the ballsy decision to rescue her, and the pair shadowed them and took them as they turned a corner. A brief fight and the the trio made it to the commander's secret escape route and met up with the party returning on the road from Arz.

At this point, it was very clear that they were on to us. We decided to ensconce the magistrate and his soldiers at our "claim" (in Hackmaster, members of the Adventurers' Guild can stake claims to dungeons--we had already cleared the kobold caves). Meanwhile, we would infiltrate the keep from the caverns beneath using a route known to Hollman and capture the prefect and return to the magistrate with him.

Well, we worked our way up and, as we were nearing the actual dungeon level of the keep, we heard a strange chanting coming from a room just pst the stairs leading up. A 01 on my religion roll identified it as a chant to Yigor, the god of subversion and treachery! During the aforementioned Twilight War, the one god who caused the most ruin to Father Jupiter was Yigor. So, with an attitude of "screw the commando raid" I led a charge against the foul worshippers!

When we threw open the door to the room there was a bunch of skeletons ("who doesn't love smashing skellies?"), 2 acolytes and our friend Harkus, the supposed priest of Shona!

Initiatives were rolled, actions stated and in the ensuing melee, I managed (with a yell of "Traitor!") to throw a hold person on Harkus. Which is GOOD because as Ramsey later told us, he was a lvl 7 cleric. Serge managed to douse him with a Greek Fire Fire and waiting a couple of rounds to set him on fire...anticipation, good! :) The rest of the room was fairly anti-climatic.

Making our way up to the keep, we manage to catch the prefect with 4 guards and carts full of gold ore, obviously preparing to make a break for it. A brief battle ensues in which our hidden thief, with an expert use of caltrops and shots to the back of the head with his crossbow, is able to keep runners for going for help. The prefect is captured, and Erig arrives on the scene to find out what the hell's going on? ("I hate to tell you this, Erig, but your lover is a traitor and a thief.")

All-in-all everything turned out well. The magistrate came in, settled arrives. The prefect comes from a senatorial family in Fangerie, so he escaped with a demotion and a reposting. Fines were paid, some merchants had to leave and Hollman was reinstated as the commander. We still have a lot of work to do against the humanoids, so now we get to go into "hack 'n' slash" dungeon-crawl mode! Yay!

Several more thoughts....

My poor misguided and gullible cleric also had the enabler flaw. I wonder how far I can get away with pushing the whole "gay" with Erig? Maybe keep introducing to handsome men with certain proclivities? lol, yes, I'm terrible, I know.

Louie, our paladin (Sir Jordan), also does a lot more than comes across here. HE's the most charismatic member of the party and keeps everything and organized and pretty on track.

Cliff was buried in the mountains near our claim with all the rites of the Church of Jupiter. It was his wish not to be resurrected. He merely wanted peace and rest.

Father Jupiter smiles on us!, Pt. I

Well, the culmination of a couple of month;s hard work finally paid off in last night's Hackmaster game (the true 4th Edition!). It was an epic struggle that lasted a full 9 hours (we usually only game 4-5 hours at a stretch--Wednesday night game and all that) and could have ended "very badly" for the party. I had this feeling of trepidation because I've been reading George R.R. Martin's Game of Thrones, and this most assuredly had the type of Machiavellian backstabbing that brought down the ill-fated Eddard Stark. Let me explain.

One of the subplots in Little Keep on the Borderlands involves a cabal of military conspirators who have created devalued counterfeit gold coins and worked them into the economy of Frandor's Keep. Our party became aware of this several weeks ago and managed (through blind luck, as it happens) managed to bypass the conspirators in the keep and go straight to the only people in the Keep who were not part of the conspiracy. Maybe a bit of a recap and party introduction is in order.
GM: Ramsey Williams
Marcus Ironfist, Cleric of Jupiter the Mighty (NOT Zeus the Diminished!), lvl 3: Yours truly
Sir Jordan Iscariot, Paladin of Jupiter, lvl 3: Louie
Serge (Sarge, Surge...his name seems to change in my mind), Thief, lvl 3 (4?): James
Al (sort for something very long and rambling), Pixe-Fairy Evoker, lvl 2 or 3: NPC
Cliff, Dwarvan Berserker, lvl 2: NPC
Candy Applebottom, Thief-Acrobat (with COM 19!), lvl 2 (?): NPC follower
Elroy, 15 y.o. torcher bearer: hireling
and a couple of other hirelings...our party banner bearer, my 1/2-orc valet (!), animal handler, etc.

Marcus and Jordan are members of the Church of Jupiter...due to the effects of the Twilight War amongst the Gawds, Zeus lost some power and shifted to the LG alignment. Jordan is actually the first known paladin of Zeus in our campaign. Even though we're both LG, we tend to play our PCs more like Roman aristocrats and less like ascetic Christian monks. Not ~too~ epicurean, but also not too stoic either. :)

Our PCs had been sent by our Church to the Keep to check on Ledra Moss, a lvl 2 cleric and (according to the module) also a cleric of Zeus (we prefer Jupiter for obvious reasons...the Church is "restructuring" due to a "unfavorable religious climate"). We also had no clear orders rather than to perform the "work of most Holy Jupiter" and to "increase his standing in the eyes of the inhabitants of the lands to the west." So, we started adventuring in the area.

Well, anyway, about the same time the debased currency started showing up in the keep, we recovered a ledger and some gold nuggets in an abandoned mine. The ledger was a sort of paybook noting transactions and payments of some sort. We lucked out, and rather than taking the nuggets to the gem dealer for appraisal (a member of the cabal!), we asked the keep's paymaster (not in the cabal; the fellow who pays out the humanoid bounties). He told us to not flash that around and went into some detail about the gold problem and the fact that it might draw too much attention of the wrong sort (he had a favorable reaction to us due to our paladin...go figure!).

So, we headed off to Ledra who confirmed that this looked suspicious and contacted Greytar the sage and the Keep's chaplain, both not listed in the book. They assigned us the task of trying to gather more information.

I should mention that prior to this, we had solved the mystery of the "Mad Hermit" who was actually the keep's previous commander who had been driven mad by the influence of an evil magical artifact. He had been recuperating in the chapel and the whole thing had been kept quiet to avoid embarrassing Hullman (the commander/mad hermit).

We had to find more info to directly the current prefect to the conspiracy. And that's where tonight started...sorta.

The night began, as most adventures do, in a tavern where we were quietly meeting with Ledra. "Meet in the open?" you ask. Well, he is a Cleric of Jupiter, so what's more natural than us all hanging out? Hey, my cleric is gullible and misinformed!

Ledra insisted that we do something (Gm prodding!), so we decided to get Candy, our delectable NPC companion, to ingratiate herself with the prefect at a social the next evening and learn what she could from him. After looking at the list of conspirators, we decided that the dies for the coins had to be in the Keep. Of they were hidden in the Wilds, then a group of adventurers (like us!) might stumble upon them. Logic dictated that they had to be used near a forge. We decided that the Smithy was the possible best choice and decided to have our thief infiltrate and search.

Well, I won't go into the heretos and the whytofors, but, after Ledra left, we had an altercation with Corporal Nargus, one of the main conspirators, and a brawl ensued! We handed out a stunning victory, kept property damage to a minimum (one chair, courtesy of our berserker) and stayed out of the stockade. We also made the acquaintance of an "apparent" cleric of Shona (LN god of fair play) named Harkus during the fight.

At the social the next evening, some good roleplay occurred. My gullible misinformed (and toga clad--in the best Roman tradition!) cleric learned that the prefect had recently had a conniving shrew leave him for greener pastures. He had stole her from one his sub-officers one Erik, (Erig? Erag?--something like that) who he was now "buddy-buddy" with. (My cleric wrongfully inferred that the two were now "special friends"--I won't relate it all, but my PC made various inappropriate, yet funny, comments for the rest of the night about the two).

Candy insinuated herself with the commander and they disappeared together as the evening was winding down. Plan 2 immediately went into action. Short story...apparently the smith and his wife were out at the tavern for the evening and out thief was able to infiltrate and find the dies and the gold. He left half of the die set. Our thoughts were that maybe we could by with it and they might not check the stash every die. (Poor planning on our part, but what else could we do?). Plus we wanted to leave some evidence for a hopeful search.

Candy returned the next morning and was able to abscond with papers from the prefect's desk showing that he had went in debt to refurbish his rooms in the keep for his former lover. He embezzled money from the keep's treasury to pay for it and was apparently replacing it with the debased currency.

A quick meeting with Ledra and the chaplain confirmed that we would have to ride t0 the town of Arz and meet with the magistrate there. He was the only one with the authority to launch an investigation of this magnitude.

Thus it was that we made one of the most fundamental mistakes that a gaming group can ever make....we decided to SPLIT THE PARTY!!!

....continued in Pt. II....

09 March 2010

And back again....!


Ok, I'm really bad at writing blogs apparently. It's been well over a year since my first post. Well, time to get cracking!

Let's see, what to write about....

Well, I've lost over 70 pounds since last June. Go me. I still feel like I need to shave off another 20 or so, but I haven't lost anything since Thanksgiving. On the other hand, I've been bouncing around in the 190s, so there is no "upward mobility" either. Heh. Well, since spring is here, maybe we can get back on board with the program and get the rest off. :)

Let's see, what else? Well, all of my kids are gaming now, from the 14 year old to the 8 year old...AD&D (First Edition, there is no other!). You can read about it here:


I also need to update there. We've only had one other session....also sidetracked by life. Starting up again this Sunday, if all goes according to plan (does it ever? ~sigh~).

School..final semester. I should graduate with my M.A. in History this May. I'm looking at teaching high school and have a couple of leads. I'm also looking at Region VII to go through the certification process.

SCA. I'm also working on finishing up the Crusader helm that my squire-brother made. I have the padding in and it's been painted white to match the top half of my arms. I'm thinking about making mantling and a torse with three red crosses on it to complete the effect. Add a red tabard with gold fleur de lys and I'll be my arms! Heh. I'll be sure to post pics. Oh, and I have the maille to make the drape for it.

Also, my name and device finally made it past the heralds. Let's see where is a pic? Ok, there it is at the top! Drawing by the most talented Baron Tostig of Rosenfeld, one of the few heralds who know what the deal is. Oh, and teh registered name is Bernhart von Bruck. Nice and German :)

I guess that's all for now. I really need to blog at least once a week. Maybe I can do that. Yeah, right!