Underdark Campaign Log #12

Last week, we left off with our heroes in Dagger Falls trying to negotiate some trades with a half-drow merchant for magic equipment. This week, they investigated a few local rumors and concluding those trades... and then the "fun" started.

More of Jake's artwork here.
  • Kjell, Dhampir Inquisitor (Andrew) 
  • Blue, Human Fighter (Jake) 
  • Rurik, Dwarf Barbarian (Stetson) 
  • Mercy, Half-Orc Ranger (Jammie)
The group spent a total of eight days in Dagger Falls, mostly resting and taking in the local scene. Kjell spent time recruiting for his order, Mercy bonded with her cat, Rurik looked for a way to get under the city, and Blue drank the time away at the local tavern. During their downtime, they picked up on a few local rumors: 
  • the disappearance of several mages that has been attributed to Zhentarim assassins (an illusionist who was new to town, a merchant nobody liked because she had been accused of duping customers with magic, and an enchanter who was known for locking himself up in his tower for long periods of time)
  • a sudden influx of coins that nobody seems to recognize (but that appear to be dwarven)
  • a relatively absent town guard due to their reassignment to restoration duties after a dragon attack a few weeks ago, as well as the mysterious (but welcome) disappearance of the thieves guild

Garruk, Apex Predator

While it is really expensive at seven mana, this card is downright ridiculous... and it's in Golgari colors to boot. I cannot wait to get the chance to play this card.

Kickstarter: Pop-Up Miniature Terrain

This concept is downright amazing, and the Kickstarter is ending TODAY. I really wish I had caught wind of this before now... I definitely would have backed this project if I was able to make room in my budget ahead of time. But since I can't, the least I can do is share this and hope someone else doesn't miss out on the chance.

Kickstarter page: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2087444096/pop-up-miniature-terrain-kit
Company website: http://stonehavenminiatures.webstorepowered.com/

Friday Link Dump 6/27/2014

For this week's link dump, I want to start by introducing you to the Drow War series by Mongoose Publishing. I started glancing back through these books for inspiration since my own campaign is getting closer to the group actually traveling through the underdark (and spending some time with the drow). It's one of those super-campaign adventure path style series, but this one takes characters from first to thirtieth level. That's right. Level thirty. Granted, I haven't read through the third book in the series because I can't imagine a campaign actually lasting that long before my gamer ADHD wants to try something different, but it still sounds pretty awesome.
Next up, we have an excellent article about the good guys, particularly how to make them less Lawful Stupid and more in line with what true heroes look like in real life (and in good fiction). Check out Good Isn't Stupid, or weak, or nice at Don't Split the Party.

Last, we have a little nostalgic piece. I remember having some of those little plastic monsters when I was a kid, but my understanding back then was the exact opposite of what actually happened. I thought the toy company was making D&D toys, and I thought it was awesome! Check out Throwback Thursday: Rust Monster over at Ultanya.

Inspiration at the Art Museum

Last week, my wife and I visited the Hickory Museum of Art. It's not the Smithsonian by any stretch of the imagination, but for a small town like Hickory, it's really nice. I've been there several times before, but a lot of the art exhibits rotate (as art museums typically do), so with each new visit there is at least something I've never seen before.

This time, I got a little creeped out when I walked by a glass door in a part of the museum that usually doesn't change much: the folk art gallery. In a side room, behind a door but still visible because of the glass, stands this statue:

At first glance, I thought it was one of those models of all the organs in the human body that they have in anatomy classes sometimes. Look a little closer, though, and you'll see it's actually made up of various animals...

This just screams "DRUID SPELL!" to me... or maybe some kind of nature guardian... any ideas? Is this just a Druidic Voltron?

The Slapping Hand

Would Bigby yell out, "I'm Rick James!" just for effect?
Okay, maybe not...
I've always been a big fan of Bigby's spells, and while reading through the Spell Compendium, I came across a version that had me laughing out loud... the Slapping Hand. Oh, it's not crushing or helpful, and it's certainly not a clenched fist... but it is funny. Getting smacked upside the head in the middle of melee is bad enough, but getting distracted enough to immediately provoke attacks of opportunity just adds insult to injury.

I think I have a new favorite spell...

Magic 2015 (M15) Spoilers

Somehow, in the hustle of work and my focus on Pathfinder, I completely missed the fact that Magic 2015 is right around the corner and spoilers are already popping up. I will definitely be sad to see Scavenging Ooze go, but other than the old ooze, I wasn't a huge fan of M14. I am a fan of the new, slightly altered card borders, and I'm eager to see what new gems are still waiting to be unveiled. To see what's been revealed so far, hop on over to www.mtgsalvation.com.

Set InformationMagic 2015 Core Set features 165 black-bordered cards, including randomly inserted premium versions of all cards in the set. Magic 2015 is available in booster packs, intro packs*, clash pack* and fat packs*.Set Name: Magic 2015 Core Set Number of Cards: 269 Twitter Hashtag: #MTGM15

Events InformationPrerelease Events: July 12-13, 2014 Release Date: July 18, 2014 Launch Weekend: July 18-20, 2014 Magic Online Prerelease Events: July 25-27, 2014 Magic Online Release: July 28, 2014 Pro Tour Magic 2015: August 1-3, 2014 Game Day: August 9-10, 2014

Underdark Campaign Log #11

After several weeks on hiatus because of my horrendous work schedule, we returned to the Underdark campaign last Thursday.

More of Jake's artwork here.
  • Kjell, Dhampir Inquisitor (Andrew) 
  • Blue, Human Fighter (Jake) 
  • Rurik, Dwarf Barbarian (Stetson) 
  • Mercy, Half-Orc Ranger (Jammie)
After felling the last of the orcs and rescuing Kjell's old friends, the majority of the group backtracked toward their stash of loot. Once there, they sent Kjell's friends back toward the tower and started toward Dagger Falls with their wagonload of goods to sell.

Meanwhile, Rurik was hustling toward Dagger Falls on his own, knowing that a vampire's drain is much more difficult to be rid of if one waits too long to find a capable healer. Unfortunately, he ran himself into unconsciousness... but was awakened by an ancient dwarf who healed him in return for a favor. The two dwarves spoke for a time, but soon the old dwarf interrupted Rurik to say, "Go that way, right now, and you will meet your friends on the road to Dagger Falls." Rurik tried to ask another question, but was again interrupted only long enough to explain that the old dwarf had seen the future, and if Rurik waited too long, he would miss his friends on the road.

The rest of the group continued north on the trail they had started out on days earlier. They saw the ruin of Castle Daggerdale off in the distance to the west as they traveled, but didn't stop to investigate. Not much farther down the road, Rurik stumbled upon them as if he knew exactly where they would be on their path, and perhaps he did with the ancient dwarf's help.

A few hours later, as the group came into the White Crags, Mercy recognized where they were and warned the group about the lich of Bloodstone Castle - a fortress teeming with undead that had been "allowed" to stand by local rulers. In truth, local lords have sent more than their fair share of expeditions to destroy the castle's inhabitants, and none have returned. However, since the lich doesn't seem interested in conquering the surrounding lands (aside from patrolling the immediate area), they've stopped devoting resources to the "problem." 
Quite possibly the worst in-game photo I've taken since
the beginning of this campaign... oops!
Unfortunately for our heroes, they encountered one of those patrols on the road, and although they managed to spot the burning skeletons long before they noticed the group, Rurik forged ahead with his axe at the ready. A grueling fight ensued, the group's piercing and slashing weapons a burden against their skeletal foes. They finally managed to destroy them, however, and they traveled hastily through the rest of the White Crags to Dagger Falls.

When they finally arrived, they spent a great deal of time in the marketplace, mostly dealing with the wolf tribe barbarians who traveled with Hadrogh the half-drow. Hadrogh wasn't there in the flesh, leaving his barbarian friends to do the talking in towns where the presence of a drow might hurt sales. They did, however, manage to set up a meeting with him later that night, after the sun went down... but details on that will have to wait for a later post.

Friday Link Dump 6/20/14

Swords and longbows in World War II? No, this isn't an alternate campaign setting... this actually happened. Read the story here.

Chaositech is a supplement by Monte Cook that Rognar suggested for my Rifts-inspired D20 campaign. It's a book that I probably would never have even known existed, but I'm really glad someone pointed it out to me!

Note: This Friday post is shorter and later in the day than usual... but sometimes the beach takes precedence over blogging!

Dragon Kings

Painting by Brom
Almost a year ago, Timothy Brown announced a project that (as far as I know) has never been done before - the creation of a campaign setting with fiction, art, and music all involved from the beginning. Better yet, it's inspired by the Dark Sun campaign setting, which I used to love back in the 2nd edition era of D&D. Now his vision is complete, and ready for release.

If this sounds even remotely interesting to you, I would encourage you to visit www.dragonkingsproject.com and at least download the Gazeteer. It's a free PDF, and if you like what's inside, you can purchase the campaign setting PDF and/or the music.

The best part is that there will soon be a Pathfinder supplement, so running a Pathfinder game in the Dragon Kings setting won't require so much GM legwork. 

Kickstarter: Urban Shadows RPG

Although I rarely spend a lot of time on non-D20 RPGs, some searching when I was thinking about a Rifts-inspired campaign turned up this little gem. It's not rules compatible, but anything is inspiration compatible. I'll be keeping an eye on this one down the stretch.

Review: Character Sheets by Dyslexic Studios

It isn't often that I find character sheets worth bragging on. They're essential to the game, but they're such a basic component that it's hard for a character sheet to break the mold enough for me to notice. Dyslexic Studios managed to get my attention, though.

Azandir Campaign Log #2

Our heroes picked up right where they left off, and went on exploring the sewers under Celestia's Gray Quarter after resting in the guard station.

  • Fash - Whisper Gnome Fighter-Rogue (Stetson)
  • Kid Curry - Halfling Fighter-Rogue (Jake)
  • Snapdragon - Kender Wizard-Alchemist (Jammie)
  • Telamar - Half-Drow Ranger-Cleric (Me)
The first area of any import that they came upon was filled with tents and clearly impoverished  people. Although Snapdragon tried to talk to some of them, she got few answers to her questions. These were assumed to be the squatters that the guards spoke of before running off to try to save Celestia. Although the guards seemed to be annoyed by their presence, these were pathetic creatures. They seemed neither threatening nor useful, so the heroes left them alone and moved on. Although they did stumble onto another pair of duct tape golems (adherers), they found nothing else of interest and headed through the door to the mountain pass.

The boneclaw miniature represents an enlarged adherer.
Before they went too far, our heroes found themselves face to face with a gigantic version of the duct tape golems. It stood twice as tall (perhaps more) as any of the others, and when they closed in, they noticed eyes circling its head. This was the queen of the adherers, and she was not alone. After a hard fought battle, the heroes emerged victorious and they were able to head out into the mountain pass itself.

Finally outside, the group found themselves amid cliff faces that extended hundreds of feet above them. They could hear howling in the distance, but otherwise seemed to be alone. As they traveled farther, however, they encountered some wolves. Telamar was able to calm them enough to prevent an immediate attack, but they still looked quite threatening whenever the group tried to pass by, and a fight seemed inevitable. Unfortunately, there were quite a few more wolves than the group could see, and what looked like it might be a quick fight turned into an extended affair.

Once again, the heroes won in the end... and Telamar was even able to save one of the wolves with some healing magic. With his ranger's charm, he befriended the beast, and it began following at his heels as they traveled through the pass, to the road, and onward to a town in the distance.

Friday Link Dump 6/13/14

What are the 10 greatest board games you haven't played this year? If you can't make a list on your own, this post will probably help you out. I am particularly interested in Race for the Galaxy.

Finally, a book about how to turn my home into a castle... or at least how to defend it as if it was a castle. http://www.geekalerts.com/defending-your-castle/

If you're a fan of Ultimate Campaign, you might want to check out Ultimate Rulership. Written by Jason Nelson (designer of the kingdom building system in Ultimate Campaign), this book expands on those rules. I don't have it yet, but it's definitely on my want list.

Supplements for a Rifts-Inspired D20 Campaign

I've run a Rifts-inspired D20 campaign before, and it was a resounding success despite being relatively short-lived. These are the books that I recommend using if you plan to go ahead with such a setting:

I've already mentioned that these books are likely to be great additions to the idea, but I haven't actually read them yet.

Any recommendations for other products that would fit?

Help Troll and Toad Empty their RPG Stock

Four books... $15... 'nuff said.
I was saddened to learn that Troll and Toad seems to have stopped carrying Pathfinder products. However, I found a great store to shift my business to in their place. Before I completely make the transition, though, I don't see any reason not to capitalize on Troll and Toad's RPG clearance sale. After all, while I might be irritated that they seem to be ditching the RPG business, my wallet is still glad to take advantage of ridiculously low prices. Most recently, I picked up four Dragonlance books (the campaign setting itself, two sourcebooks, and an adventure) for less than $15. That was including shipping, by the way.

Troll and Toad Stops Selling Pathfinder?

I've been trading Magic cards for store credit with Troll and Toad for over six months now. Initially, I just wanted more Magic cards, but since our little Pathfinder group has been going so well, I decided to start cashing in store credit for Pathfinder books. Unfortunately, I found out some startling news. Here's the exchange I had with someone in their customer service department. I summarized the exchange in text, but feel free to click the images for the full messages.

Me: I want to buy more Pathfinder stuff, but I can't even find the product pages for stuff you're advertising as "Now Available."

T&T: Sorry, we aren't selling these products anymore. When we sell out of what we have, we won't be restocking.

That's frustrating, especially considering I had (at the time) several hundred dollars of store credit that I wanted to spend on Pathfinder products. I have since spent some of that on D&D Miniatures and a few items in their RPG clearance sale, but I don't foresee doing any more trades with them if they don't plan on carrying the products I want.

Is this bad news for Paizo? Is Troll and Toad anticipating a lack of interest in Pathfinder once D&D Next is released? If it's just anticipation, I understand their hesitance to invest in a product that won't sell. Or are Pathfinder product sales slipping already? Hmmmmmm...

6/16/14 Update: As of June 13th, several Pathfinder books were restocked. On June 16th, some flip mats and map packs were added as well. You can still find a much better stock at Noble Knight Games, but it looks like Troll and Toad does plan to keep a few Pathfinder products in stock. 

Azandir Campaign Log #1

I knew ahead of time that I wouldn't have time to prep for my Pathfinder game last week, so I sent out an email to the group about what to do that day instead. Andrew volunteered to start his own campaign... a gestalt Pathfinder game set in a world of his own creation. Gestalt campaigns tend to be pretty epic, and this one proved to be no different.

Unfortunately, nobody had wet erase
markers, so these ghost grid posters
had to make do. The silly stars and
ribbons were a little ridiculous, but I
didn't realize they were there when
I bought them.
  • Fash - Whisper Gnome Fighter-Rogue (Stetson)
  • Kid Curry - Halfling Fighter-Rogue (Jake)
  • Snapdragon - Kender Wizard-Alchemist (Jammie)
  • Telamar - Half-Drow Ranger-Cleric (Me)
All of the characters were from various planes, and all had chosen for their own reasons to travel to Azandir. They traveled together through portals* to Celestia, a massive city in Azandir that also functions as a hub for planar travel. Arriving in the center of this metropolis, they were surrounded by massive white buildings and crowds of people. It didn't take long for them to realize that something was terribly wrong.

*The portals as Andrew described them reminded me of stargates.

The hustle and bustle of the crowd died down to a whisper, as peoples' gazes shifted skyward. Comets were streaking by in the sky above... at least they seemed to be streaking by at first. Then the first one hit, the crowds realized that the sky was falling, and the world erupted into chaos. These were not mere meteors as they seemed to be in the sky. Each time one of them crashed to the ground, it stood up and began attacking the crowds of people around it.

Shadow Giant
by NickNightshade
One of those monstrous
creatures that kept falling
from the sky.
In a strange city with no clue what to do next, the four travelers stood together amid a mass of panicked people. Then they noticed a hooded figure in the crowd, beckoning them to follow him. Not knowing what else to do, they did so. He led them through the streets toward safety, but monsters crashed down in their path. Going to confront it, the hooded figure just said, "Run, you fools." Ignoring his advice at first, the heroes decided to help, but their attacks seemed futile against the beast that had fallen nearby. When two more arrived, they did as they were told and fled.

He caught up with them a few moments later, and led them to a gate. The guards there obeyed him and left their post to defend the city from the falling invaders. Meanwhile, the hooded figure (now known to the group as Gaun Spelloyal) headed through the gate and down a massive stairwell to the subterranean Gray Quarter, the slums of Celestia. Gaun cautioned that if they needed supplies, the heroes should get them in the Gray Quarter because there wouldn't be many opportunities in the near future, but no one seemed interested, so they proceeded to the sewers.

Elder Thing by NathanRosario
Another of those foul beasts
that kept falling from the sky.
At this point, Gaun charged the group with finding a man named Zanben Hawklight, someone who would know more about what was going on. He gave brief directions (through the sewers to the mountain pass, then north on the road), and then left them to go help defend the city.

The sewer itself was full of danger, including tentacled creatures, adherers*, and human thugs that seemed to want to knock the heroes unconscious and sell them. Our heroes were up to the task, though, and survived multiple assaults by monstrous foes before finally coming upon a guard post.

*Adherers will henceforth be known as duct tape golems.

The guards stationed at the post had no idea what was going on above and were naturally skeptical, but mentioning Gaun seemed to lend credibility to the heroes' tale. The guards left for the surface to help defend Celestia, but agreed to allow the heroes past the gate to the mountain pass first. However, they didn't want to wait around for the heroes to rest, and insisted upon closing and locking the door behind them. Reaching a "compromise" of sorts, the heroes decided to go ahead and rest, but Kid Curry lifted the gate key from one of the guards as he rushed to leave for the surface.

Friday Link Dump

Pathfinder Point Buy Calculator - I don't know that this needs any explanation... it makes me have to do less math, so I like it.

Brutorz Bill over at Green Skeleton Gaming Guild pointed out that Broken Earth and the Pathfinder Technology Guide could make for a cool Rifts-like experience. Since they're d20 compatible, I could still mix in D20 Future, D20 Apocalypse, Urban Arcana, and Modern Magic. The idea of it kind of makes me want to ditch my current campaign and run Rifts... or at least a D20 version of Rifts.

This is a fun dice game that I bet you've played before without even knowing it's a game. Okay, maybe it isn't a game... it's still a good time killer.

Adventure Journals

I remember an old D&D supplement that had all kinds of sheets for characters. I can't for the life of me remember what it was called, but it had pages for NPCs, pages for adventuring groups, location notes, and all kinds of random things I would want to keep track of as a player. I remember buying it. I remember thinking it was really cool. Sadly, I also remember stuffing it in a binder and never using it in a game.

Now I might get a second chance with a similar, but much more detailed product... Adventure Journals.

Review: Evil Ruins Map Pack by Paizo Publishing

The Pathfinder Map Packs are a product line that can really add to the appearance of your gaming table. Sure, it's less expensive to just draw out some ruins or whatever you need, but they just don't look as good as having real artwork for your battlefields.
Note: Orcs not included.

The Evil Ruins set is just another in this line, but it is one of my favorites. 

This set, as its name implies, is meant to depict an ancient evil ruin... or perhaps a ruin that has just been corrupted for evil use. Although there are plenty of small details that make each of the tiles unique, you could summarize the tiles included as follows:
  • Six tiles with short walls
  • Four tiles with long walls
  • Four tiles with corner walls
  • Two tiles that depict an altar
  • One tile with a pit
  • One tile with no major or distinct features
Aesthetics (4 out of 5)
I love the artwork on these. My one small gripe is the gloss finish. I prefer the matte finishes on some of the older products because it is easier to snap photos during a session for the blog. With the gloss finish, I have to change my angle because the ceiling lights reflect so clearly on the tiles. Check out the bottom left corner of the image above to see what I'm talking about here.

Ease of Use (5 out of 5)
It's as easy as plopping them down on the table and putting miniatures on top of them. It doesn't get much easier than that! Even better, as outdoor tiles, you don't even have to worry about the edges lining up right the way you might have to with dungeon or cavern tiles.

Price (4 out of 5)
It is never easy for me to give any product a 5 out of 5 for price (unless it's free), but these tiles are about as close as I can get. They're definitely a great value for the money, especially compared to similar product lines by other companies.

Value (4 out of 5)
Because the art on these tiles is very specific, these tiles aren't as reusable as a more generic set (such as a forest or town) might be. For this reason and this reason only, these get a 4 out of 5 rather than a 5 out of 5.

For dungeons, I still prefer the Dungeon Tiles line by Wizards of the Coast. For everything above ground, Pathfinder Map Packs have them beat hands down. 

Anniversary Present #1: John Avon Prints

Last weekend was the one year anniversary of my wedding, and my wife went all out. Apparently, the first anniversary is supposed to have a paper themed present, and she got me six John Avon prints. My buddy Matt tipped her off a long time ago about my love for Avon's work, and she has a pretty good memory. These are the prints she got me, along with a pic of me flipping through them.

Me... opening artwork...

The basic lands set from Return to Ravnica.

The Unhinged basic forest.
What can I say? She's pretty awesome.

Underdark Campaign Log #10

After clearing the tower, claiming it as their own, and resting, our heroes set out for Dagger Falls yet again...

More of Jake's artwork here.
  • Kjell, Dhampir Inquisitor (Andrew) 
  • Blue, Human Fighter (Jake) 
  • Rurik, Dwarf Barbarian (Stetson) 
  • Mercy, Half-Orc Ranger (Jammie)
Unfortunately for our heroes, their journey was far from uneventful, and what they wanted to be a trip into civilization to look for a magic vendor turned into a fight for the lives of Kjell's friends.

As they traveled north, they came across a grippli being tied up by a band of bugbears. Naturally, they intervened and saved him. What they found was that this particular frogling was a member of the band Kjell traveled with long ago. He was glad to hear that his friends were still traveling together, but feared the worst when he learned that the rest had been captured by a large band of orcs.

Bugbears! Note: The die is Chirk the grippli. The cough drop
is Mercy's feline animal companion.
After healing Chirk and hearing his tale, the group set out to rescue the rest of Kjell's old friends. What they found was intimidating... over twenty orcs in an old ruined temple, chanting around an altar.

It looked as though two of Kjell's friends, an oread and a drow, were about to be sacrificed in some foul ritual. Our heroes set the orcs' tents on fire in hopes of distracting them enough to interrupt the ritual, but it didn't work. The armored orcs advanced on the heroes, but the majority of them continued their chanting, and their leader went on tying the two rangers to the altar.

As the battle raged on, the orc leader finished his work and screamed, "It is done!" As he did, a mist appeared near the altar, and two vampire spawn materialized from it. They moved toward the tied rangers, but when the adventurers moved in, the vampires turned their attention to their attackers.

After a hard fought battle, the heroes emerged victorious yet again. Kjell's friends will occupy the tower while he and the others are out adventuring, and perhaps our heroes will finally make it to Dagger Falls the next time we meet.
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