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. 

Underdark Campaign Log #18

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

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.

Kickstarter: Southlands by Kobold Press

Kobold Press has a reputation for putting good stuff out there, and this one looks to be another in their long line of quality products.

Click the video to find out... duh. Or just jump straight to their Kickstarter.

Underdark Campaign Log #17

This post has been a long time coming. I've actually been a few weeks behind on posting campaign logs, so this week I'll be posting two in order to get caught back up.

More of Jake's artwork here.
  • 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)

When last we left off, our heroes were in Mantol-Derith, their guide and business partner assassinated, looking for a way back to the surface. After talking to all of the factions in the trade post, they determined that they had several options:
  • Try to retrace their steps on Hadrogh's secret trade route without Hadrogh.
  • Take the ogres' route back to Skullport, then Waterdeep, and then travel on the surface back to Daggerdale.
  • Travel to Menzoberranzan and hope to make it to one of the earth nodes there. Unfortunately, all of the ones there are claimed by powerful noble houses. 
  • Visit the steel sage, a human mage who has recently come to this region of the Underdark and has been trading with passing caravans. Rumors suggested that she might have arrived through an earth node.
Naturally, they chose to investigate the steel sage, as it was the closest option. They got directions, and left to find the steel sage. On their way, a dark naga and its bone golem ambushed them, hoping to steal the snake flute

When they finally arrived, they found a human woman who seemed to recognize Blue. In fact, she spoke of knowing his grandfather when he was young. Despite her youthful appearance, Blue remembered hearing tales of a beautiful blonde who visited the family when his father was but a child. According to the story, his grandmother did not appreciate the visit, so it seemed to hold at least some truth, and none of our heroes could detect any hint of treachery in her tone or demeanor.

The steel sage went on to reveal that she did arrive through an earth node, and she waved away an illusionary cavern wall that concealed its presence. She allowed the group to stay the night, and assured them that the place was safe. As they talked, she shared with the heroes why she was there and some of what she had learned thus far.
  • There is a prophecy among the drow, that Lolth will steal the power of Lathander and blot out the sun long enough for the drow to conquer the surface world. This prophecy is called many different names, the most common of which are the Darkening and the Shadow's Apex.
  • The steel sage is from the Coldlands, and came to this region to investigate drow plans when their numbers and activity increased drastically over the last few months. She believed they were coming from here, but she now believes that they were not. The drow in the Coldlands believe the prophecy will soon come to pass, but most drow in this region do not.
  • Most who have studied the prophecy believe that it will not be fulfilled for at least a century, but the drow of Maerimydra, a drow city below the Dalelands, believe they can help usher it in earlier. The drow of Menzoberranzan are curious, but aren't convinced that it is possible yet.
  • When the group asked her about the snake flute, she seemed horrified that they had it. She explained that the flute was the only way to open a magically sealed chest that was believed to contain an orb that would allow its owner to control dragons. She begged them to leave the flute with her so that she could destroy it, and while there was some argument among the heroes about whether or not to do so, Blue gave it to her while the rest of the group slept.
The next morning, the heroes touched the earth node and traveled to the Coldlands, emerging in a frozen cave infested with ice trolls. They defeated the trolls quickly, and Himo even raised three of the creatures as hulking skeletal servants. 

The group then navigated their way through the cavern to the outdoors, where they saw an open plain of snow stretching before them as far as they could see. A few evergreens dotted the landscape, but otherwise the only thing breaking the horizon line was a small hut a few hundred feet ahead of them. A trio of frost drakes circled overhead like vultures, and as the group walked out onto the plain, they swooped in to attack.

Two of the three fell to the might of the heroes, and the last managed to flee into the skies. Seemingly alone, they started walking toward the hut. 

Friday Link Dump 9/19/2014

It has been a few weeks since I've posted a link dump, mainly because the time I've had available to casually surf the Internet has been minimal. Still, here are a few sweet links that I consider dump-worthy from the last few weeks...

Apparently, there is a giant Lego bridge in Germany that you can actually drive a car on...

Paizo's Advanced Class Guide for the Pathfinder RPG has officially hit the market, which is pretty sweet. I've been keeping an eye on this release since the playtesting phase, and I'm excited to see it become official. I even got to play a bloodrager/slayer in a campaign we recently started.

Ever wanted a sweet dragon cake? Here's one I'd love to have at my next birthday party...

Dragonlance dwarf subraces for Pathfinder... pure awesomeness. I guess it's probably too much to ask for gully dwarves to get racial weapon familiarity, huh?

Kickstarter: Strange Magic

I'm always up for interesting new Pathfinder material, and this looks pretty sweet...

Check out the Kickstarter by clicking here.

Folderol Campaign, The Gully Dwarf Chronicles #2

Bodunk blinked a few times and wiped the sleep from his eyes. He didn't remember falling asleep, and he certainly didn't remember it being this dark, or this itchy. He was lying on a thin bed of hay, atop a cold stone floor. He squinted, trying fruitlessly to see better through the darkness. He stood on shaky legs and stumbled a bit as the feeling of pins and needles let him know the blood was flowing in his feet again. The snap and sizzle of a match being lit behind him had him spinning in a circle and reaching for his hammer. Perhaps worse than his still-asleep legs failing him was the realization as he fell flat on his face that his hammer wasn't there.

A human sized figure stood between him and a candle that it had just lit. Bodunk couldn't make out much at all, except that the figure before him was dressed in a black cloak that hid its body and flowed all the way to the ground, and a hood hung low to conceal its face in the shadows and candlelight. As Bodunk stumbled to his feet again, it spoke in a melodic voice that sounded far too soothing to come from such an ominous figure, "Be at ease. I am not here to harm you."

"Where heroes?" Bodunk asked immediately, wondering why he was here without his companions.

"I'm afraid they are not here, little one," the hooded one purred sweetly. "But you should tell me about them. I would very much like to learn more about these heroes. Where did you meet them?"

  • Bodunk, gully dwarf bloodrager/slayer (me)
  • Anex, human fighter (Jammie)
  • Athok, goliath warpriest (Andrew)
  • Sjach, spellscale bard (Stetson)
  • Hooded One (NPC)
Even though he was wary of talking to this hooded woman, Bodunk's excitement about his hero friends got the better of him, and he started boasting about how they got started on their adventuring careers. "Guardians good hero group. Good jobs for Guardians. Pick one, do it, get gold. Good gold! Heroes find big gem. Big as me!"

The hooded one smiled, though Bodunk couldn't see it. She was certain she had captured the right gully dwarf. As far as she knew, none of the pathetic creatures had the courage to join the Guardians except this one. She let the dwarf go on without interrupting him.

"Good heroes fast. Left without Bodunk. Bodunk run fast! Heroes travel, get attacked, but Bodunk save them. No good heroes if die on way to Kingsport! Kingsport big city. Big tower in the middle. Heroes need find big big gem. Big as me! Big hero Aflack want go shopping. Shop man mad at Aflack."

The hooded one rolled her eyes, another expression the dwarf could not see. After all this time, the idiot still couldn't pronounce Athok's name correctly.

"Heroes find Shineycat in Kingsport. Satch sing! Bodunk talk to Shineycat. Get good deal. Two gold for job, and Shineycat let heroes stay night at Dog-Wolf Bar! Bodunk genie-us! Sleepy time!"

Shineycat? Satch? Dog-Wolf Bar? The dwarf was butchering nearly every name. For a moment, she wondered if anything he said could be trusted, given his stupidity. Still, his description was matching the story she had been told, more or less. She would just have to get used to him getting details wrong as she tried to coax information out of the idiot.

"Dog-Wolf Bar have good breakfast. Dwarf lady eat with heroes. Dwarf lady say Shineycat no good hero. Bodunk mash him! No, Anex say no mash him. Mash later, maybe."

Bodunk stopped for a moment, his face serious. He was staring at the floor and pounding a fist into his open palm, deep in thought about about the idea of mashing "Shineycat." Just before the hooded one prompted him to go on, a goofy grin came over his face and he looked back up.

"Big tower in city middle! Heroes go find big gem! Big as me! Big tower have two guards, two traps," he said, holding up two fingers on each hand. "Two kitties, too!" He looked down at his hands, wondering how he was going to show her how many cats were in the tower without another hand to hold up. After a moment of confusion, he shrugged and continued.
The chuul was actually a fifth lion.

"Big mean kitties! Bodunk try sneak, but Aflack LOUD. Kitties wake up! Kitties hungry! Try eat Bodunk! Bodunk good hero! Bodunk no good breakfast! Bodunk close gate. Gate make good kitty-shield. Bodunk genie-us!"

The hooded one snickered at how animated the dwarf got as he told this part of the story, his arms flailing around as he pantomimed sneaking across a room and slamming a gate behind him. It seemed clear that Bodunk thought he would be eaten by those lions, and his concern for his life didn't stop there. He went on to describe another level of the tower just above the lions. Even if he wasn't giving her any useful information yet, at least his storytelling was amusing.

"Spiky room next. Big spikes! Big wind! Whoooooooosh! Wind make Bodunk hit spikes!"

At this point, Bodunk was hopping around and acting out his story frantically, as if it was still dangerous and he needed to tell it quickly to get to a safe place. He finally described making it through the trapped room with the wind and the spikes, and he plopped down on the floor, exhausted. "Lady, Bodunk thirsty."

"Of course you are, dear," she purred. She motioned back toward the bed of hay where he had been resting, and he noticed a pail of water on the floor beside it.

As Bodunk guzzled the cool water, he heard the woman behind him murmur a few words behind him that he almost recognized. Magic lady? he thought, as his eyes grew heavy again. Then he fell backwards onto the hay, snoring loudly.

Folderol Campaign, The Gully Dwarf Chronicles #1

Tomorrow, I'll explain how the first session went, but for today's post I'm focusing on my character. It's kind of an odd topic for Outsyder Gaming because I don't normally spend much time talking about the characters I run. That's partly because I don't get out from behind the screen too often, but it's also because (let's be honest, here) most people don't want to read about them. This character was a little different for me, though, because he ended up such a quirky blend of flavor and optimization that I just have to write about it.
I had forgotten how much fun RPGs can be when you take the focus away from optimizing and just do something fun. When I'm creating characters, I typically start with a concept that has a high power level or a high "cool factor," and go from there. This time, I started with something a little less serious... I wanted to play a gully dwarf, and I wasn't going to let the race's mechanical disadvantages deter me.

Why a gully dwarf? Well, I still have fond memories of playing Sestun. He was a DM-PC that I ran back in middle school, and while he was rather pathetic, he was fun. Yes, I stole his name from the character in Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and no, I didn't think it was a big deal at the time. Our party consisted of a Drizzt clone, my gully dwarf rogue, and a dwarf fighter named Gimli. Being innovative wasn't quite on our radar in those days.

But enough about stuff that happened almost twenty years ago. Let's talk about Bodunk. I wanted an incredibly dim-witted character who was convinced that he was a hero, and if things worked out, he might accidentally become one after all. The gully dwarf is the perfect race for such a character, and with so many good memories of running a gully dwarf in the past, I jumped on the idea.

With the Advanced Class Guide just hitting the scene, I knew I wanted to use one of the new hybrid classes as well, since multiclassing has always been one of my favorite aspects of the game. I rolled up Bodunk as a slayer, but I found myself somewhat irritated by a few aspects of the character. Being small really sucks for a melee character... having a lower damage die for your weapons is bothersome, and the decreased movement speed is annoying as well. Even though I initially planned to avoid optimization as much as possible, I just couldn't stomach a melee fighter that was doing something like d6+2 damage and had a movement speed of 15'. I started fooling around with switching to light armor and taking the Fleet feat, but I eventually decided that it wasn't worth the effort.

As I've already mentioned, multiclassing is one of my favorite aspects of the game, and a quick dip in another class could solve all of my problems. Why not? A one level dip in barbarian would fix the speed problem and at least help with damage output... but why settle for one class when you can take a hybrid? Bloodrager gives the same speed and damage increases, plus some other goodies as well... and it inspired me to put in a quirky twist in the character's background to help justify it.

Here's the background for this bloodrager/slayer...

Bodunk is from a long line of proud gully dwarves that lived in the ghettos and sewers of a mighty duergar city. Legend has it that the city was attacked by monsters, and that the gully dwarves were the only ones smart enough to hide. They survived, and resettled the ruins as soon as the monsters moved on.

Living among the abandoned treasures of the duergar city, the gully dwarves thrived. They even managed to accidentally find and figure out how to use some of the more cleverly hidden treasures of the duergar, those items that were not looted by the monsters before they left.

Among these treasures was a trapped djinn vizier, who was forced to grant Bodunk’s great great grandmother three wishes. She wished for a child, and by some twist of fate her wish was worded in such a way that the djinn was forced to father the child himself. Ever since then, members of Bodunk’s family have occasionally exhibited odd traits tied to their elemental bloodline, and other gully dwarves consider them great heroes of the people regardless of how cowardly they might actually be.

Bodunk grew up like most gully dwarves in the old duergar city, scavenging for everything he needed, accumulating as many shiny things as he could, hiding his favorite shiny things for safekeeping, and subsequently forgetting where he hid them. His most cherished items were those he carried on his person at all times, mostly because it was hard to forget about the exquisite duergar breastplate strapped to his chest, or the potions that clink around in his backpack.

On one particularly unsuccessful scavenging run, he ventured outside of the city for food and got lost, as gully dwarves are wont to do. After a few weeks of wandering the underdark, he found himself on the surface, and overheard some children talking about how all true heroes get their start with the Guardians. As a true hero, it only made sense for Bodunk to find these Guardians and lend a hand.

When everything was rolled up, calculated, and recorded on the sheet, I had a character with decently optimized abilities and some really fun quirks as well, such as...
  • A bunch of silly catch phrases, such as "Bodunk genie-us!" (which he says whenever he thinks he did something smart, but has the added irony of referring back to his bloodline)
  • A wand of expeditious retreat (which he can cast because it's on the Bloodrager spell list) that he calls the "quickie stick"
  • A spellbook full of doodles and artwork that he studies every morning (because he thinks he needs to in order to use the magic "quickie stick")
  • A battle cry of "BZZZZZZT!!!!" that he uses whenever he uses his bloodline power to add electricity damage to his attacks
Munchkin? No. Optimized? Sure. Fun? Absolutely.

Kickstarter: Decks Miniatures

I've always liked the idea of paper miniatures, but I'm not a big fan of them in practice. Two things keep me from using them regularly:

  • Durability - Yes, you can argue that if they break or tear, you can print more pretty cheaply... but the cost of color ink adds up, and I would rather just purchase something that doesn't break easily to begin with. Pathfinder's pawn series is the only product I've purchased to date that is durable enough for me to invest, and even they fail in the next category.
  • Pic-Friendliness - I try to post pictures from games whenever I can, and paper miniatures just don't look good without taking the time to turn them all toward the camera. 
Decks Miniatures is running a kickstarter right now that might be able to bridge the gap between "real" miniatures and paper miniatures. These are plastic, which should make them much more durable than paper, and they appear 3D enough that they might look decent in pictures without a fuss.

I'm not sure yet if I'll pull the trigger on investing in this product, but I'm intrigued enough to share. I think it's at least worth a look. Check it out here.

Dice Shaming: This One's for Stetson

Not sure how I feel about the whole dice shaming phenomenon. I guess you could say that I find it equally funny and stupid... which I guess is okay after all.

Azandir Campaign Log #5

Fash - Whisper Gnome Fighter-Rogue (Stetson)
Snapdragon - Kender Wizard-Alchemist (Jammie)
Telamar - Half-Drow Ranger-Cleric (Me)
Fjury - Human Fighter-Paladin (Jake)
Master Meatbeard - Human Fighter-Rogue (James)

The sewers were dim and cool, and I might have felt more at home if not for the smell and having to watch my every step. Fortunately, it didn't take long to get out of the sewer pipe and into chambers that felt more like a dungeon and less like a cesspit.

As we continued, looking to make our way up into the city proper, we came across quite a few of the dungeon's denizens. Despite the number of fights, we were actually slowed down most by stuck doors. Perhaps all the door were swollen by the wetness in the sewers, but I question the intelligence of anyone who would put wooden doors in such a damp area. Drow would not make such blunders, so either this complex was built by someone else, or the creatures in the city above are not drow after all.

The more we explored, the more outlandish features we found. One room featured a mosaic of legendary monsters on the floor, while several corridors had graffiti written all over the walls, and one room was decorated with demonic masks.

In our way were plenty of chokers and stirges, an otyogh, and a troll. The kender tried to get their attention with her tried and true battle cry of, "Hellooooooooo, monsters!" I'm not sure that she considers it a battle cry, but I find it hard to imagine any other result from such a shout.

At one point, we barricade ourselves in one of the rooms in order to make camp, and were interrupted by even more chokers as they tried to take us by surprise. Luckily, the kender was alert enough to wake everyone up, and we turned the tables on them.

We will continue to explore these passages until we find a way into the city, or we are forced to try our chances outside the city walls again. Hopefully it will not come to that.

-Telamar of the Veldrin Velve-
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