Monday, December 1, 2014

Science Fiction Miniatures for Savage Worlds or GURPS or Rifts or D20 Future or... You Get the Idea

I admit it... I'm a mini junky. I have always used miniatures, even back in the day when we didn't use them for much more than occasionally showing marching order. I've run plenty of games without them, and they've been fine... but ever since the rise in popularity of prepainted miniatures, I have been hooked.

Unfortunately, as I have complained about several times over the years, there is a real shortage of prepainted plastic miniatures for science fiction games. They're out there, but they're nowhere near as numerous as the fantasy miniatures.

Today I'll share what miniatures I've been using (and plan to use) for Alpha Enigma, my Savage Worlds campaign that began last month.

First of all, let's be honest. Your science fiction universe probably has aliens of some kind or another. There are a lot of figures from traditional fantasy lines that can be used to represent these creatures just fine. In Alpha Enigma, I have used the shadow to represent a strange ghost-like creature that was killing passengers on the Nova Eclipse, and I used this earth elemental to represent a mineral based life form that the party encountered in an asteroid mine. I haven't used that warforged mini yet, but it'll work just fine as a droid or a soldier in power armor.

Though I shy away from the more recognizable storm troopers and named characters, the Star Wars Miniatures line has a ton of generic looking miniatures that represent less iconic factions. These are perfect, as they fit side by side with minis from the D&D and Pathfinder lines without doing any work at all. I wish there were more of them, but Wizards of the Coast didn't renew their license, so they're technically out of print. They aren't hard to find second-hand, though.

Wizkids makes approximately 9,322,192,823,828,423 different lines of "clix" miniatures. From Mage Knight to Mechwarrior to the actual Heroclix themselves, there are tons of these out there. If you can imagine it, there is probably a miniature for it in one of their products. The scale is a little larger than the Wizards of the Coast lines, but it's close enough that the differences aren't noticeable on the tabletop. My only issue with these minis is that their bases are too large for 1" scale maps. Fortunately, re-basing them is a breeze, and the sheer variety of what is available more than makes up for the minor annoyance. I particularly like the Mechwarrior miniatures that look awesome as large power armor suits.

There are other miniatures that I use as well, most notably those from Warhammer 40K - but the others are typically cost more money, and I have to take the time to paint them. The older I get, the less time I have to sit around painting miniatures in the man cave, and I'll take as many prepainted miniatures as I can find.

Are there any lines of miniatures that I'm missing?


Friday, November 28, 2014

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir


The Martian by Andy Weir is a science fiction novel set in the not-too-distant future. The book's protagonist, Mark Watney, is a botanist and mechanical engineer who is extremely intelligent and always wisecracking. In other words, he's the kind of guy I'm pretty sure I could hang out with if he was a real person... except for the pesky little issue of me being here and Mark being stranded on Mars.

There are some people who just love their hard sci-fi. I'm not one of them. I tend to fall in the Stephen King camp of appreciating the story a lot more than the technical details. However, since the majority of the story is told in first person from Mark's point of view, we get all of the science from the mouth of a very likable character. It makes the chemistry digestible, as if you were learning this stuff from your best friend rather than from a professor's monotone lecture.

I recall Mark mentioning several times that he would spare me the science, and even though the character makes the subject more palatable, I still remember thinking, "Man, I wish you would save me a little more of it!" Likable narrator or not, there is a lot of technical mumbo jumbo in The Martian that I felt could have been condensed. The botany didn't bother me at all, probably because my sense of humor got stuck somewhere around age twelve, but the chemistry was a little much at times. Even though it helps explain exactly how the protagonist was managing to survive, if you don't find the protagonist's explanations funny, you might find yourself bogged down in chemistry rather than enjoying the story itself.

I'm sure there is a demographic out there, however, that loves all the technical detail that Andy Weir included in The Martian. I'm certainly not a scientist myself, so I don't know whether he actually knows his stuff or not, but it certainly sounds like it... and since the plot revolves around improvising ways to survive in a harsh environment without the necessary supplies, some might even say that the technical details are necessary.

All in all, I really enjoyed the book. I may sound overly critical of the abundance of science in this review, but the story underneath all the jargon is excellent. Even if you think the science is a slog, it is presented by a character whose commentary is usually amusing and sometimes downright hilarious. If you like science fiction at all - even if hard sci-fi isn't normally your thing - I highly recommend this book.

Note: Special thanks to bloggingforbooks.com for providing me a free review copy of the Martian.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thankful for Gamer Friends

I've been known to post holiday themed content from time to time, but it isn't usually my thing. However, "my thing" or not, I feel the need to show my thankfulness publicly today, because this year has been awesome for me as a gamer. Let me explain why...

I started playing D&D with my dad when I was six, and as I grew up, I continued to play RPGs with family. The occasional friend joined in, but I have logged more hours of roleplaying with family members than any other demographic. However, over the last few years, my family has just stopped playing. My brother will argue that he still plays computer RPGs, but let's be honest. Computer games don't count, despite how much overlap there may be. 

After months of fruitless attempts to organize another game night with my old group, I decided to quit bugging people who were clearly no longer able and/or interested in playing. People get married. People have kids. Work keeps you busy. Priorities change. Life goes on. I understand.

What followed was a search for gamers in the area, and I started a Pathfinder campaign with just two players. Since then, the group has grown and evolved into what it is today: five of us who meet every week to get our geek on. That original campaign is still going, and we've added several more to the mix, but no matter what the game of the week is, I know that every Thursday I can look forward to spending the afternoon with good people having an awesome time.

I am truly grateful. Thanks, guys.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Savage Worlds: Some Observations and Comments

I've owned the Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer's Edition for quite some time, and even threw together some stats for a few characters I was writing about when I first purchased it. However, for the most part, it has just been gathering dust on a bookshelf between my D&D and Rifts books, overshadowed by the two systems I grew up playing.

A friend mentioned the system about a month or so back, though, and I figured it would be perfect for the science fiction setting I had been working on: Alpha Enigma. So I blew the dust off of the old Savage Worlds book and opened it for the first time in over a year. The possibilities flew off the page at me.

I have gotten quite a few puzzled looks and inquiries since we started, probably because my group is still getting used to Savage Worlds after playing D20-based systems for so long. This is a collection of my thoughts on the system and what my players have asked me about it.

Game Mechanics
  • The concept of the action deck was one that I turned up my nose to when I read the book the first time, but I have grown to love it. In fact, it's something that I would port over to my D20 games if I could figure out an easy way to do it without penalizing players who have Improved Initiative or similar feats/class abilities.
  • It takes a bit to get used to using correct vocabulary for raises and aces. I mixed up the terms at least twice during our first session, and I think some of it bled over into the second session. By the end of the second session, I think we all had it right, but it would have been easier if I had been more attentive on day one.
  • A single Extra probably won't be challenging for a group of heroes regardless of its toughness. Aces make it easy for players to deal a lot more damage than the dice would suggest.
  • "Did I re-skin these powers so that they made more sense?" Sort of... except the rules are pretty un-skinned to begin with, and I just added whatever flavor made sense for each character.
  • "Where's the system reference document for this game?" Apparently, there isn't one. But seriously... the book is like ten bucks. This is the cheapest RPG I've ever purchased, and the scope of what is possible within the ruleset is definitely worth the investment.
  • It seems like the hardest thing for players to remember is the penalties to die rolls for being wounded and/or fatigued. There has to be an easy way to help new players remember, but I'm not sure what that is yet.
Setting Creation
  • It might be easier to stick to one identifiable genre or sub-genre when you describe your setting. Unless you have a lot of images, describing your world as a mix of Mass Effect, Firefly, and Phase World is probably too broad.
  • There are tons of fan-created converted settings that are already out there. Just do an online search for "Savage Whatever," and more than likely an appropriate document will be on the first page of results. I was able to find Savage Mass Effect and Savage Firefly pretty quickly, and even though I didn't use much from either one, they were still good reads. 
  • I purchased the Science Fiction Companion, but I really didn't need it. I think I could have created everything I needed from the core rulebook.
What might be the craziest thing is that we agreed to go back to the Underdark campaign for a while... but I'm actually feeling a little indifferent to a campaign with a heavy drow theme. The ease of play and shortened prep time of Savage Worlds has made me want to stick with it instead of playing drow.

Next step... drow in Savage Worlds.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Alpha Enigma Campaign Log #2: Escaping the Asteroid Mine

The ship detailed here is based on this one
in the Maps of Mastery line.
When we last left off, our heroes were investigating an asteroid mining complex that had been attacked by orks. Their mission was to recover the ore the Nova Eclipse was supposed to pick up, and rescue the captain's brother if he was still alive.

Cast:
  • Jane/Iris/Avery/Rose (Jammie) - a smuggler and rogue with multiple personalities
  • Alistare Nameless (Andrew) - a tech-savvy follower of a secretive religious order
  • Joseph Wrenly (Jake) - a man out for revenge, tracking down the man who stole his ship, stole his wife, and kicked his dog
  • Julian (Stetson) - an mercenary with a sniper rifle, a survivor's horror story, and a chip on his shoulder
The group continued exploring, and managed to rescue a maintenance worker who had barricaded himself in a room. He was grateful to see humans again, but not completely trusting, and he was right to be nervous. Julian decided that keeping the man around wasn't worth the effort or the risk, and shot him. The shot didn't penetrate the armor that the worker had taken from the barracks and strapped on haphazardly, but it sparked a scuffle in the group. After a few moments of infighting, Julian found himself unconscious and without any weapons. Jane dropped off the would-be murderer's rifle and knife elsewhere before he woke up, and Julian ended up taking the maintenance worker's old slug thrower for the remainder of the mission.

They continued exploring, eventually finding and killing the ork leader, and venturing into the mine shafts themselves. Not far into the mines, they found the ore they had been searching for atop a broken hover-palette. Alistare was able to get it back online, though, and the first step of their mission was complete.

Farther down the passage, they stumbled onto the body of the captain's brother. He had not survived, but it didn't look like he had been killed by orks. Joseph threw the man's body over his shoulder to carry him back to the ship, but they would find his killer on the way back to the complex, a giant vaguely humanoid creature made of stone. It pummeled Alistare into unconsciousness, but Jane got the drop on the creature by jumping up onto it and shooting as she climbed. It didn't take long for the creature to fall.

Back on the ship, Julian managed to convince the captain not to blow him out the airlock for his actions on the asteroid, but the captain's decision wouldn't matter for too long. Later that night, the captain was shot in his own bedroom, and nobody saw the killer. Unlike the last few crew members who went missing, this time there was a body, and after a thorough investigation, it seemed the party was convinced that the killer was using the ventilation shafts to move through the ship undetected.

Just in case an unknown passenger might be hiding there, the group decided to release the rat drakes into the vents to flush out any unwanted stowaways... but the execution of that plan will have to wait until next time.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Friday Link Dump 11/21/2014

With all the Alpha Enigma Savage Worlds stuff we've been playing (and I've been writing), this week's link dump is very sci-fi focused...

If you're looking to generate a random solar system for your sci-fi universe, this is a pretty decent place to start. It isn't perfect, but it'll do in a pinch. Note: If you know of a better one, please send me a link!

Need to figure out exactly what's in the cargo hold? This random generator will do the trick!

Looking for some sci-fi miniatures, and don't want to go through the trouble of painting them yourself? Here's one option...

Looking for sci-fi maps with a 1" grid? Maps of Mastery is one of my favorite lines.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Worldport, The Planar Hub

The Tomb is a planet-sized megalopolis, a world that is covered from coast to coast on every continent with post-apocalyptic ruins. Abandoned by the ancients thousands of years ago, The Tomb once supported billions of inhabitants but is now sparsely populated. Landscapes filled with abandoned structures stretch from coast to coast on every continent. Dimensional portals rip through space and time, sometimes to snatch The Tomb's unlucky inhabitants from where they stand, and sometimes to drop off bewildered immigrants from across the planes.

One place stands out in contrast among the savage ruins, a city called Worldport. Here, nobody fears the dimensional portals, because they never open within the city. Here, elves in the arcane college study the dimensional portals in hopes of someday harnessing their power. Here, refugees from any solar system, any time, and any dimension are welcomed as long as they can survive long enough in the ruins to reach the city gates.

Because so few people who ever come to The Tomb ever venture any farther than Worldport, many in Alpha Enigma have come to refer to the entire planet as Worldport even though the city occupies only a tiny percentage of the planet's surface area.

The Tomb, and Worldport
Gravity: Normal
Atmosphere: Normal
The Tomb is very similar to Earth in terms of size and composition.
Dominant Terrain: Artificial
Although much of the planet is now overgrown with plant life, the plants have had to adapt to the urbanized landscape that the ancients created.
Population Density: Very Sparse / Dense
In Worldport, the population is quite dense. People of many different races compete for living space in the only area of the planet that is safe from the dimensional portals. Beyond the gates of Worldport, the population is very sparse, as almost nobody chooses to live there, and the life expectancy of those who do wind up there is quite short.
Dominant Government: Magocracy
Worldport is ruled by a cabal of elven spellcasters whose only real concern seems to be their research.
Dominant Law: Lenient
The mages who rule Worldport don't really care what happens in the city, as long as their research isn't interrupted. Thus, the farther away from their tower one is, the more lawless the city seems.
Technology Level: Significantly Higher Than Average
Between the technology of the elves (which is more advanced than humans) and the salvaged technology of the ancients (which is beyond even the elves' understanding), Worldport is the source of Alpha Enigma's most advanced tech.
Spaceport: Large
As a major hub for technology and magic, Worldport's spaceport has to be equipped for visitors from all over Alpha Enigma and beyond.

Population:
Elves 25%
Humans 20%
Orks 10%
Other* 45%

*Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of intelligent races call Worldport home. However, none other than the elves, humans, and orks make up more than half a percent of the city's population. In fact, some number fewer than a dozen individuals. None of these races are native to Alpha Enigma, and none have established more than a foothold in Worldport.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Kickstarter: RPG & TableTop Gaming Audio Collection

My gaming group has mentioned a few times having music playing for game night, but the one time I tried to look up some background loops, what I used was more distracting than anything else. This might be the answer...



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Nova Eclipse

The ship detailed here is based on this one
in the Maps of Mastery line.
Paragon class transports are often used to move goods from colony to colony in Alpha Enigma. Their design has since become rather outdated, and paragon class transports are no longer in production. Despite this, paragons have a reputation for being rugged and dependable, and are still used by plenty of organizations and independent contractors.

The Nova Eclipse is one such vessel, with an aging captain who has somehow managed to survive many a dangerous job through a combination of daredevil stunts and dumb luck. The jobs he prefers are often risky and occasionally illegal, but always high profit. He would likely be a millionaire if not for his habit of spending money as soon as he gets it. His "crew" is constantly in flux, as not many are willing to stay (or able to survive) in such a stressful and dangerous work environment for long stretches of time.

Medium Starship: Size 8, Acc/TS 55/700, Climb 2, Toughness 25 (6), Crew 5, Cost $8.24M, Remaining Mods 8
Notes: Anti-Missile Countermeasures, Atmospheric, Crew Space (12), Garage/Hangar, Planetary Sensor Suite, Speed x2
Weapons: Light Missile Launcher and Medium Laser on on turret, Twin-linked Light Lasers on the other turret


Monday, November 17, 2014

Alpha Enigma Campaign Log #1, From the Cybernetic Logs of Jane Hatfield

For some awesome sci-fi maps,
check out Armored Cartographers.
As has happened quite often lately, I haven't had time to write up a proper campaign log. Luckily, Jammie shared with the rest of the group her character's "Cybernetic Logs," a summary of the session's events from Jane's point of view. With her permission (and a little censorship just in case my students find my blog), here are the events of the first Alpha Enigma session from Jane's point of view:

Cast:

  • Jane/Iris/Avery/Rose (Jammie) - a smuggler and rogue with multiple personalities
  • Alistare Nameless (Andrew) - a tech-savvy follower of a secretive religious order
  • Joseph Wrenly (Jake) - a man out for revenge, tracking down the man who stole his ship, stole his wife, and kicked his dog
  • Big Julian (Stetson) - an mercenary with a sniper rifle, a survivor's horror story, and a chip on his shoulder


Status Update: 5014.11.6

Jane--

I've booked us passage on a ship. Alright, "ship" is a charitable word for this pile of rust and rat leavings, but beggars can't be choosers. It's called the Nova Eclipse. The security's a joke and we're rooming with three other people, including a gadget freak and interplanetary super cop Victoria Chamberlain.

Yeah, way to bury the lead, I know. The techie doesn't seem like he'll be a problem, his sort tend to have a fluid relationship with the law anyway. As for the law woman, well, let's just keep our head down.

Our bunk is bottom, first to the right of the dorm door, crew and captain's quarters are out of bounds.

Avery, if you discharge our weapon on this ship for anything less than a bone fide emergency, I will dye our hair neon pink, so help me God.

Status Update: 5014.11.7

Iris--

Do it, Jane! Please?

Also, yuck. I am going to need a tub of rosewater to get the stench of unwashed man and, what is that? Canned meat? Ugh. Lord Almighty knows the trials I face. He sees and he sympathizes, I know it in my heart. Where's this law lady, anyway? I've been up since six ship time and I haven't seen hide nor hair of her. Speaking of hair, is hers amazing? I bet it is. I bet she's glamorous like nobody's business. Why didn't we become pirate hunters?


Jane--

We are all very sympathetic to the trials you face, Iris. Make sure to give Rose some face time in the head tomorrow morning so she can process where we are in private. We don't want another Lando Creek meltdown on our hands.

Nobody knows where the cop is. I say a grown woman should be allowed to find a quiet corner by herself, especially one where she's nowhere near us, but the crew is getting itchy so we're spliting up and searching the ship for her. This pain in the *** meathead--Big Julian? Juliard? Let's just call him Julie. He stinks to high Heaven, can't miss him--is going to the top deck to search so I figure this is a good time to poke around engineering. This ship may be a bucket, but it'll be good to get an idea of her capabilities in case of an emergency.

Huh. The engineer seems a little...twitchy.

Oh. Huh. Looks like our law lady friend might have decided to take a walk outside. And the engineer doesn't want to tell the captian. This can only end well.

Iris--

Don't worry, Shug, I got this. I'll just convince this nice man that we can go togeth--

Welp, he's definitely on the sly. Can't get blood from a turnip.

Avery--

You SOB. Oh, forgive me, was that uncouth, Jane? Let me rephrase that for you ladies' DELICATE SENSIBILITIES. I would APPRECIATE IT if in the future you would give me some idea of what the is going the **** on when I wake up with a GUN pointed AT OUR HEAD.

Oh, I see it now. Why do you got to use so many words to say simple stuff? Gun in face? Emergency. Simple.

So I'm guessing this is the captain? He and a bunch of other people just ran in. I still oughta shoot him.

Pink hair, huh?


Jane--

I'm pretty sure Iris is itching to try out matching finger and toenails, too. Good choice on lowering the gun. Remind me to pick you up a present when we get back in port.

So the airlock deployed last night when the engineer was on shift. He swears it wasn't him, and Victoria is definitely no longer on board. Everyone's antsy, but we dock tomorrow at some backsystem asteroid mine. We might not find answers there, but it'll be good to get off this ship for a few hours. There's something not right here.

Status Update: 5014.11.8

Rose--

THE GAFFOGHINI FAMILY WANTS US DEAD?!?

Omigosh. Ohmigosh. Ohmigosh.

We're going to die. Oh no. Oh my.

Should a ship have this much rust? This can't be spaceworthy. I think I just heard a creak. What if the hull breaches?

I don't see why you keep bringing up Lando Creek. That was a long time ago and I feel I've grown as a perso--

OH MY GOD THERE WAS ANOTHER ONE! We're going to die.


Iris--

Good God Almighty, Rose. Why don't you just rub our face with sandpaper next time? I can't imagine it being any more red and blotchy if you did.

Oh great, now there's somebody trying to get in. You have left me no time to fix this mess, you big baby. I need a hot towel and hair brush, stat.

Why doesn't this heap have an adequate number of bathrooms?!


Jane--

That's right, Iris, you just focus on the big problems. Meanwhile, it looks like someone jettisoned the engineer last night. I can't say he'll be missed, but I don't particularly want to be next. I was with Alistare--the techie--when he "accidentally" accessed the ship's records to find out when the airlock was accessed. 2:30 Ship time, each time. I'll be happy to get on that asteroid.

-

...Or maybe not. Something's up. It looks like the mine might have been attacked. The captain is sending me, Alistare, that meathead Julie, and the other passenger, a quiet cowboy type called Joseph down to check it out. Did I happen to mention I got the ticket cheap by promising a bit of muscle if needed? Yeah...maybe I should've spent the extra credits.

We're taking a shuttle down to the surface. The mission is to find out what happened, find the captain's cargo... oh, and also his brother. They must not be a close family.

-

This place is a war zone. Definite gun fights, traces of blood...be on edge, people. We're trying to find a security badge to get through these fire doors.

-

This place is crawling with Orks. The first group was dispatched easily enough--well, Joseph was hit, but he seems sturdy enough--but there's definitely more. We found a security card, so we're making out way to the control room. Just got to keep it together.

Rose--

ORKS! This place is crawling with Orks! How do I get out? How do I get out?!


Avery--

Oh **** yes. You should'a seen the way that Ork's head flew clean off. Thanks for running away, Rosie. All the others got the first shots at the Orks. There ain't hardly any left. On the other hand... You just gave me a little thing I like to call an ENTRANCE. It's my time to shine.

BOOM.


Rose--

ARE YOU ALL INSANE?! WE'VE GOT TO GET OUT OF HERE!


Jane--

Don't worry, it's over. Well, for now. Good job, Avery. Doesn't look like the Orks left much by way of cargo or survivors so far, though.

Avery--

When you buy my present, I want a girly magazine.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Alpha Enigma Campaign Setting

Some time ago, I rambled a bit about how I was interested in running a science fiction campaign. The campaign that grew from all that rambling started last week, and though I didn't have time to write up a proper campaign log for the first session, I do want to share the player information that I sent out to everyone in the group a few days before the first session.

We are running this as a Savage Worlds campaign, a system that I think is versatile enough for players to run just about any character concept they want without getting bogged down in the minutiae of D20 rules... plus it is a ton easier to create adventures since monster stat blocks are so easy to throw together.

This is the first time in ages that I haven't run either Rifts or a D20 variant, so the rules are taking a bit to get used to, but I like the system so far. But I'm getting off topic... here's the player info I promised at the beginning of the post.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Underdark Campaign Log #21

Our heroes, having just defeated the last of the duergar defenders standing between them and the ancient dwarven city, rest in the duergar lair and then move on.

Cast:
More of Jake's artwork here. As we
have grown in number and changed
characters, this image is only 60%
accurate at this point.
  • Blue, Human Fighter (Jake) 
  • Rurik, Dwarf Barbarian (Stetson) 
  • Mercy, Half-Orc Ranger (Jammie)
  • Temerith, Tiefling Wizard (Andrew)
  • Naga, Nagaji Cleric (Rurik's Cohort)
  • Beltin, Aasimar Summoner (Temerith's Cohort)
Deeper in the duergar lair, the party finds a lone svirfneblin who had been captured by the duergar. He explains to them how he was captured, and brings them to his homeland, a heavily fortified area of the ruined city that the svirfneblin have claimed as their own. He goes through the customary scolding for revealing his home to outsiders, and then the leader of the svirfneblin, an aged gnome called Irzangle, comes out to meet the heroes.

Our heroes immediately ask about the Shards of Day, and Irzangle admits that he knows about the blades. However, before he will tell them, he requires a favor... specifically a favor that requires their sword-arms and spells. He tells of an eye monster that hunts the tunnels between the svirfneblin and a cavern full of edible fungi, and he wants the group to guard his engineers while they collapse tunnels to seal off the beast. 

I used an oversized D6 for our
beholder, but here's a cool
alternative to the official D&D
miniatures.
Of course, our heroes aren't content just to contain the eye monster. They decide instead to hunt it down and kill it instead... and it doesn't take them long to find just such a monster.

They do attempt to talk it into leaving, but that strategy was far from successful, and they destroyed the floating eye in just a single attack. Surprisingly, it exploded in the midst of their barrage, and a trio of driders attacked the group. They didn't fare well, either, though they were able to harry the party with spells before being defeated by superior melee capability. One did manage to escape into the city ruins, though, using an invisibility spell to aid in its escape.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Underdark Campaign Log #20

As our heroes push deeper and deeper into the underdark looking for the Shards of Day, they find themselves having to fight through a band of duergar who aren't very accepting of outsiders traveling through "their" lands.

Cast:
More of Jake's artwork here. As we
have grown in number and changed
characters, this image is only 60%
accurate at this point.
  • Blue, Human Fighter (Jake) 
  • Rurik, Dwarf Barbarian (Stetson) 
  • Mercy, Half-Orc Ranger (Jammie)
  • Temerith, Tiefling Wizard (Andrew)
  • Naga, Nagaji Cleric (Rurik's Cohort)
  • Beltin, Aasimar Summoner (Temerith's Cohort)
At the gates of the ancient dwarven city, their progress was slowed by a group of dark dwarves who claimed the area long after its mountain dwarf inhabitants abandoned it. They had encountered a few of the band's scouts in a tunnel on the way to the gate, but this was a fortified position, with the old dwarf defenses making its defenders much more of an annoyance than they might normally have been.


Once they took the gates, however, their struggles were far from over. Not far beyond the gates, the dark dwarves attempted to ambush the group from a secret passage that ran parallel to the main tunnel. Luckily, our heroes spotted the secret door, and pushed it open, foiling the surprise. They still had to fight a squad of dark dwarves in close quarters, which the spellcasters in the group disliked, but they managed to defeat their attackers without much trouble.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Link Dump 10/24/14

I can't really claim to have found this one online recently, but an often overlooked source of Magic: The Gathering strategy is PureMTGO.com. I'm a big fan of some of their writers, and I even wrote a few articles for them a few years ago.

I'm not exactly awesome when it comes to map creation, so a program like this one would go a long way toward making my games look better.

A compilation of RPG bloggers on G+? Sounds good to me. As I write this, Outsyder Gaming isn't on the list yet... but I just fired off an email, so hopefully it will be soon. I can't believe it has been there for two years, and I just saw it this week!

Noble Knight has started sending out emails whenever they get rare games in stock, and their last one clued me in to this little gem. If I had the money, I'd scoop this up in a heartbeat. It even comes with miniatures!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Underdark Campaign Log #19

When we last left our heroes, they had just defeated the last of the enemies standing between them and the surface world: a drider, its xorn minions, and a strange ice golem.

Cast:
More of Jake's artwork here. As we
have grown in number and changed
characters, this image is only 60%
accurate at this point.
  • Blue, Human Fighter (Jake) 
  • Rurik, Dwarf Barbarian (Stetson) 
  • Mercy, Half-Orc Ranger (Jammie)
  • Temerith, Tiefling Wizard (Andrew)
  • Himo, Drow Fighter/Cleric (James)
  • Rasa, Nagaji Cleric (Rurik's Cohort)
  • Beltin, Aasimar Summoner (Temerith's Cohort)

After the battle died down, the group tried to free Blue from the block of ice. Their efforts were unsuccessful, but after some time passed, he burst forth on his own with an icy hue to his appearance that had not been there before.

With an even bluer Blue, the group stepped out into the sunlight again, the first time in over a month that they had been in Daggerdale. Their first stop was their tower to drop off all the trophies they'd collected along their way, and then off to Dagger Falls to sell some loot and buy some magic. On their way, they were surprised on the road by a particularly nasty bulette, but they dispatched it quickly.



Once their shopping trip ended, they went underground yet again - this time to hunt down the Shards of Day that the old dwarf had been urging them to do for quite some time.

Once underground, they made it all the way to the dark dwarves without incident, but it didn't take long for the duergar to begin their attacks. First a small group of guards accosted the heroes, but they were hardly a challenge.

To save some time, some in the group hopped on mine carts and hurtled through the near-abandoned mines. Some deft reflexes saved them from certain death when they encountered a stretch of collapsed tunnel, but the stopping point at the end of the line turned out to be too abrupt to avoid injury.

Not long after their cart rides, the group came upon the lower gates of the ancient dwarf city, and it too was guarded by dark dwarves... but we ran out of time, so the fight for the gate would have to wait until the next session.

Note: I am almost a whole month behind on posting. My immediate goal is to at least get campaign logs up to date so that I can start getting them out regularly on Mondays again. Sorry, guys!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Friday Link Dump 10/10/14

I've never actually played the Firefly RPG,
but I love RPGs and I loved the series. Maybe
worth a shot?
Good stuff I noticed online this week...

Papercraft Terminators... I don't think I need to say anything more than that to make you click that link.

Rite Publishing always has sweet products. I'm a big fan of their free e-zine, Pathways, but this cover art really caught my eye recently.

If you ever find that you just can't get enough drow, you might find this web comic enticing.

Star City Games now has a ton of tournament coverage and play-testing videos on YouTube. Standard rotates so quickly that most of those videos are outdated, but you can still gain a lot of relevant insight for Legacy and Modern.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Folderol Campaign Log #3: A Goliath's Tale

This is a continuation of The Gully Dwarf Chronicles from a few weeks ago, but I had to miss last week's game night. So when Bodunk noticed something shiny, wandered away from the rest of the group, and got lost... well... somebody else had to tell the rest of the tale. Andrew took over this week, and his take on the story from the goliath's perspective is pretty awesome. A big thanks to Andrew for taking over the chronicles and writing a guest post this week... I'm sure everybody will enjoy his work!
Cast:
  • Anex, human fighter (Jammie)
  • Athok, goliath warpriest (Andrew)
  • Sjach, spellscale bard (Stetson)
  • Hooded One (NPC)
Athok could count no small number of acceptable ways to have been roused from sleep: with an attractive woman in his bed; with the smell of a hearty breakfast served to his room; or even with painfully bright light sneaking in between half-pulled curtains and a pounding hangover.
Waking all but naked, with metal restraints binding his wrists and ankles? That didn't make the list.
Wherever he was, it was dark. Dark and damp and accompanied by a hint of some bitter stench. The latter was him, he realized with disgust. How long had he been out cold that he needed to bathe that badly?
Athok Magebreaker,” a feminine voice called from somewhere he couldn't see. It came from just outside the light provided by flickering torches on either side of his shackles. “Quite the machismo, your little moniker.”
Tradition,” he said. “I'm at a disadvantage. Who in sheol are you? This isn’t the bloody inn I paid for and I’m starting to think you ain’t the tavern wench either.”
A hooded figure stepped into sight, hovering just at the edge of the shadows. Athok couldn't make out any details. He had the vague notion she was a female of some kind; he ruled out a few races just by her height and voice alone. That still didn't tell him as much as he would have liked.
No, you’re quite right,” she said, chuckling.But no matter- we'll be getting to know each other well enough in all due time. So let's not rush things, deary. We'll start with the basics: what happened at the tower?”
What tower?”
You know which one I mean. The first time you traveled with other Guardians for a job,” she said. What sounded like eagerness crept into her voice for a moment, before tapering back out.
Personally motivated, perhaps? Though Athok couldn't be sure what it was she was after. No one went through the trouble of subduing someone as dangerous as he without a very good reason. And they had to have either strong magic or a strong arm.
I want to know,” she said, pacing the edge of the light, “what happened after you arrived on the fifth floor of that tower.”
So she had information already. Had she captured one of the others too? Or – the thought troubled him – was she working for someone he had thought to be a friend? Neither option alleviated his worries. Both were dangerous situations, to say the least.
Bugger off,” he muttered.
Something flickered in the general vicinity of her hands. Athok felt himself growing light-headed. Biting down on his tongue and, with a surprisingly exhausting mental effort, shook off whatever magic she had tried forcing on him.
No, he wasn't going to be manipulated that easily.
Alright then, you stubborn little mule,” she said, her words shaded with a sudden harsh tone. “If you don't feel like cooperating, I don't suppose you care if the clergy discovers your dirty little secret? I'm sure they would just love to hear all about it.”
Athok let his body sag in the restraints. How did she know about that? He had been the only survivor. Everyone else who would have known had died. Hadn't they?
The fifth floor,” she said in faux-whisper. “I'm listening.”
He considered resisting for a moment. Whatever she was after was important enough to capture him alive, after all. But the thought lasted only a moment. He wasn’t sure he could resist her magic much longer in the state he was in. He’d be better off telling her willingly; he could keep things he didn’t want slipping out of his admissions easier this way.
A demon door,” Athok said finally. “We were ambushed outside a demon door. From the ceiling no less. Clever attackers. Not very strong though. We cut them down in no less than thirty seconds. Friends of yours, maybe?”
I'm afraid not,” she said, no longer moving. She was paying attention to him now that he was talking.
A pity. The door gave us a riddle. Fancied himself clever, I suppose. You know how those things can be. It went something like: 'It's hard to give up. Remove part of it and you still have a bit. Remove another part, but bit is still there. Remove another and it remains.' I figured it out after a moment and a repeat. 'Habit.' That was the answer.”
And what was inside?” She leaned forward, expectant. Athok made out the vague outlines of a face in the torchlight, but nothing telling.
A bar,” Athok said, managing a half-hearted chuckle.
A bar?” She was incredulous.
Seats, drink, and all. Some fox-folk inside fancied himself a trickster. But we got a little bit of loot out of the place. Nothing too major. Nothing you're interested in, I'm sure. The magic bag was nice, though.”
The hooded lady began pacing again. “Alright, fine then. What next?”
Some sort of stitched-together chimera on the next floor. Bloody thing breathed acid.” Athok twitched at the memory of being caught in that deadly cloud. Twice. Saying it had hurt would be an understatement. “Naturally, we cut it back into the bits it was made from. And then some.”
I wouldn't doubt it. Not from you, butcher.”
Athok flinched at the accusation, but he made it a point to ignore the provocation. They both knew what he'd done. He was long since past that. He was a different man now. Or so he kept telling himself.
I didn't say you could stop talking,” she said.
He took a deep breath. The manacles were starting to bite into his flesh, groaning when he relaxed in them. They clearly hadn't been made to support his weight and girth. But he didn't dare try to break them in front of her. Not without his normal armament. Naked flesh had a way of being torn apart very easily by steel and magic alike. He didn't dare presume he could overpower her quickly enough to stop a spell.
The gem was next. The one we'd been sent for. A blind elephant-being sat on a throne, watching over it. In return for giving us the gem and its power, he asked we do something for him: put him out of his misery and then kill his elven captor on the floor above.”
The hooded lady tensed, as if eager to hear about the gem. Was that it, then? Somehow, he doubted she even knew exactly what it was she wanted to know. He knew he still wasn't certain.
So, we did,” Athok said, managing something resembling a shrug. “I slit his throat. He died. Rather typical of a cut to the throat. Turns out he was tied to the gem. Magic and all that. His blood flowed from the throne, down the steps, and all the way to the gem. When it touched, the gem turned red. Clear as it had been, but red then. Like blood. No one had been expecting that. But we didn't hesitate to take it with us to the stairs. Didn't want to risk someone else grabbing it while we made good on our promise. The thing was clearly valuable. Far more than we were being paid for it. We were starting to think we shouldn't turn it over to our employer.”
The hooded lady began pacing again. “So you made good on this promise of yours, then?”
Athok nodded. “We found him right upstairs. The elf was scribbling something. When we spoke to him, it didn't take long to realize he was both powerful and mentally disturbed. A spellcaster and no pushover. He took more than one cut from my blade over the course of the battle. And before I could deliver the fatal blow, he changed into a flightless dragon.”
She snorted. “You expect me to believe that?”
Athok laughed and managed another half-shrug. “Don't care if you do. But I remember that all too well. The little dragonling bard of ours nearly soiled himself at the sight of the beast. Two of the others ended up nearly swallowed, stabbing the beast, and getting flung against a wall for their efforts. That was the first time I'd truly wondered if we'd been outmatched. A timely bolt brought him down, though. The thing was covered in its fair share of wounds by that point.”
I see. Well, what- wait. Just a moment,” the lady said. She turned her back towards Athok, as if she were suddenly somewhere else entirely.
Athok was tiring. He hated to admit a weakness, even to himself, but there was no denying it. Whatever they had done to him had brought him to his threshold of endurance. And he was scared, in pain, and feeling more than helpless. Not something that happened often.
The hooded woman turned suddenly back around to face him. He thought he could see the hint of a smile on her face. “We'll have to get back to your story another time, my dear,” she said. “I have to take care of a dear friend. Poor thing finally woke back up. He was simply exhausted by this whole ordeal.”
With the wave of a hand, one torch went out; with another quick motion, the other followed suit. The room was bathed in pure darkness. Athok thought he could hear the hooded woman walking away, then the near-silent scrape of a door shutting. He was almost certain he heard the tell-tale knock of a bolt sliding into place.
Exhaustion was setting in; he gave into the urge to shut his eyes. Though his prison was cold and agonizing, sleep felt to be an encroaching neighbor. Worry and apprehension were sole companion to his thoughts.

He was afraid. He was in pain. And he was completely, utterly alone.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday Link Dump 9/26/14

Good stuff I noticed online this week...

TCG Daily puts pretty much all the relevant Magic: The Gathering articles in one place. My only complaint is the embedded window that the links open into. Other than that annoyance, it's still pretty convenient.

I really want one of these chairs for my office at work... but they're $800, and that's a lot of Magic cards I could have bought instead.

If you're into games on mobile devices (who isn't?), you'll want to check out the Phantom Rift RPG. It looks pretty sweet.

How to Create a Player Packet is a great article for GMs looking to give their players more setting information without overwhelming them. Full disclosure: I might have already linked to this one in a previous link dump... but it's quality stuff, so even if I did, it's totally worth it. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Underdark Campaign Log #18

We last left our heroes on a frozen tundra, as they fended off an attack by three frost drakes.

Cast:
More of Jake's artwork here. As we
have grown in number and changed
characters, this image is only 60%
accurate at this point.
  • Blue, Human Fighter (Jake) 
  • Rurik, Dwarf Barbarian (Stetson) 
  • Mercy, Half-Orc Ranger (Jammie)
  • Temerith, Tiefling Wizard (Andrew)
  • Himo, Drow Fighter/Cleric (James)
  • Rasa, Nagaji Cleric (Rurik's Cohort)
  • Beltin, Aasimar Summoner (Temerith's Cohort)
As the last frost drake screeched and fled to the skies, an aging human woman clothed in a patchwork of leathers and furs emerged from the hut ahead of them with two gigantic wolves. She immediately pointed at Himo and called out, "You were warned before you came here that you would be killed on sight, and yet you have come anyway. Why should I spare your lives now?!"

It took some convincing to turn the druid's negative reaction around, but Himo's declaration of hate for his own people helped, as did Blue displaying his family crest. In the end, the heroes were able to avoid this fight, and were even allowed to stay in the vicinity without any trouble from the lady or her winter wolves. Of course, without room in the hut itself, they needed to find their own shelter from the cold. A few endure elements spells were shared among spellcasters, and then one by one, each of the players built an igloo.

As they talked to the druid, they learned a few bits of information about the area and the increased drow presence here:
  • The drow arrived only recently, and have been raiding the human tribes of the area with the help of their new frost giant allies.
  • The humans, a nomadic tribal people, have not been able to unite long enough to fight back effectively.
  • The drow are based in a cave system to the east, one very much like the caves the party just emerged from, but one that runs deeper into the mountains. It contains an earth node.
  • One of the human tribes was camped a day's travel (give or take) to the west, but since they are nomadic, the druid couldn't guarantee that they would still be there.
The next morning, the heroes decided to head straight for the drow caves. Keeping the mountain range to their right, they traveled the better part of the day before seeing anything more than snow and the occasional patch of evergreens. Then they spotted something dark in the snow ahead that suddenly disappeared.

Himo sent a skeleton forward to investigate, and it succeeded in luring out the giant creature hiding ahead. The skeleton was crushed in the maw of an ursikka, and it fired its sticky saliva at the party as they charged. It didn't take long for it to fall to the heroes, however, and they were soon heading once more for the drow caves.

When they finally arrived, they found a pair of frost giants guarding walls of ice around the cave entrance. They picked up boulders to hurl at the party, but the presence of a drow in this group of newcomers stayed their attacks. With the help of Beltin's charm, the group was able to convince the giants that they were sent to talk to the drow leader. A third frost giant came forward, and escorted them deep into the caves.

When they finally arrived in the central chamber of the caves, the heroes found themselves face to face with a drow mage and his hobgoblin bodyguard. All around them were trolls and frost giants, and it was clear that they were outnumbered. Fortunately, Temerith was able to remember just enough details from Maerimydra to convince the drow to let the group pass, and they used the earth node to teleport to Daggerdale. 

The earth node where they arrived was in a crypt of sorts, so ancient that the bones were too brittle for Himo's magic to make anything useful of them. As they explored, Blue was surprised by a creature made entirely of ice. It froze him in a solid cube of ice, and there he remained as the rest of the group battled on. Perhaps even more surprising, Rurik entered his rage and transformed into a bear as he charged. Two xorn and a drider joined the battle, and the group realized that they had stumbled into the lair of a drider and his minions.

The drider disappeared, casting illusions to confuse the heroes while the xorn and the ice creature battled them. Meanwhile, Himo's skeletal trolls pushed, pulled, and smashed the block of ice in an attempt to free Blue. When only the drider remained, it turned invisible and tried to escape by climbing to the ceiling above them. However, it brushed by one of Himo's skeletons, who took a swing at it. Alerted to its presence above them, Mercy shot a bag of glitter at the ceiling where she believed it to be, and revealed it to the rest of the group. Meanwhile, Rurik leaped up into the air and grabbed onto the creature, delivering the last few blows before it fell, ending the battle.

Unfortunately, despite the party's victory against the drider and its allies, the session ended with Blue still encased in a solid block of ice... frozen solid.
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