Saturday, August 26, 2017

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Let's Make Something Challenging Together

The more that I've thought about creating a 30 Day Challenge list the more that I've become serious about actually doing it; and after my little rant yesterday a few friends stopped by the blog, got me on twitter, and on Google + to tell me that they'd like to help make this project a reality. That's pretty excellent of you guys and I'm going to be taking you up on the offer.

This evening I will be creating a private Google + Community where we can workshop this shit and create some challenges that will get our creativity firing on all cylinders. I want to give all of us the opportunity to refine our ideas into something that pushes the right buttons and makes this a challenge that people are both excited to try and a bit intimidated by because that's the sort of thing that I need in my life - and with the people who have contacted me so far coming from some pretty diverse perspectives on the game I think we've got a good chance of doing just that.

If this sounds like something that you would like to be a part of this is your open call. Drop me a comment below with your Google + info and I'll add you to the community. Don't have a Google +? That's fine too. Send me an e-mail and I'll copy and paste you the conversations that we're working on so that you can help in the process.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

I'm Tired of the Way We do the 30 Day RPG Challenges Every Year.

So the current fad going through my role-playing social media accounts is this year's version of the 30 Day RPG Challenge and while I know the people who made it worked hard on creating something fun, I'm just not feeling these sorts of things anymore. I don't want a challenge that feels more like a survey to get to know me and my role-playing history. That doesn't feel challenging these days.

Instead I want something that would require me to think about my answers and that would force me to test my abilities as a Game Master and player. I want questions like, You must create an encounter that will challenge your players critical thinking skills and that incorporates the following elements: a sprung trap, a kobold, and an iron statue of your choosing. 

That's the sort of thing that I want to see!

I want to see a challenge that makes me excited to attempt it and that makes me curious to see how others solve the situation. I want to see people like +Kelvin Green+Douglas Cole+Mark Van Vlack+Jens D., and +Chirine ba Kal come at a problem from each their unique perspectives. I want to see +Chris Tamm and +Arnold K. take the challenge in directions that no one else saw it going. I want to see the community doing something interesting that gets all of us moving in a creative direction and not just getting to know each other like we do every year with these sorts of challenges.

You know what?

I need to stop complaining and start working on doing this. If you want to help jump in. Lord knows I could use it.



Monday, August 14, 2017

Dragon Warriors Delayed One Week

Just wanted to let everyone know that Dragon Warriors will be delayed until next Monday. We've had too much going on this weekend and I wasn't able to devote any time to it. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hirelings in D&D 5e According to the DMG

Last night I was contemplating the uselessness of the hireling in Dungeons & Dragons Fifth Edition. In this Edition, more so than in any previous edition, they're the faceless drones of our fantasy worlds carrying out the mundane tasks that our players find too trivial to do themselves. The Dungeon Master's Guide (DMG) even goes so far as to describe them in the following way:

". . . Hireling NPCs rarely become important in an adventure, and most require little development. When adventurers hire a coach to carry them across town or need a letter delivered the driver or messenger is a hireling, and the adventures might never even converse with that NPC or learn his or her name. A ship captain carrying the adventures across the sea is also a hireling, but such a character has the potential to turn into an ally, a patron, or even an enemy as the adventure unfolds . . . (94)

Essentially what the DMG is arguing is that your average hireling, much like you average person behind the counter of a fast food restaurant, is a vapid memory that barely registers for your players. They are a means to an end and their fictional lives have no meaningful impact on your players. So what benefit is there to using a hireling in your game? A sense of the world's lack of technology? Tradition? Because you think your game should have them? 



Works Cited
Mearls, Mike and Jeremy Crawford. Dungeon Master's Guide Fifth Edition Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast, USA. 2014. PRINT

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Today is the First Day

Today is the first day of school for my son. He's five and every day this summer he has asked me if tomorrow is the day he'll go to Kindergarten. 

Today is that day. 

I've taken off work so that I can be there with him and last night he picked out his outfit and helped me make his lunch. He won't be eating it there, but we made it all the same because he was excited and could hardly stop running about the house. If I'm honest with you all I'm excited too. I look at the way that he deals with other kids, the way that he stands up for himself already on the playground, and I know that he's going to be alright. He's smart and I'm so proud of him. 

Today is the first day and there will be hard days ahead where he struggles to get things, and easy days where it comes second nature to him. I am so excited for him and he can barely contain himself waiting for me to finish writing this because today is the day he goes to Kindergarten. 

Life is coming fast in the Akins household. Let's run with it.

Dragon Warriors RPG PDF Currently is FREE!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

If you've liked the start of my Dragon Warriors series and have been thinking to yourself, "Man, this thing sounds neat but I'm not sure that I want to spend some money on it yet." then have I got a great option available to you! Right now, on Drive Thru RPG, you can pick up the PDF of Dragon Warriors for FREE! 

Go out there and download the book! It's fantastic and if you're like me then you'll find yourself picking up a hard copy of it too! So go check it out already!


Thanks to +Andy Bartlett for the heads up on this fantastic deal! Three cheers for Andy!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Things that Shouldn't Need to Be Said, Part 1: Gaming Inclusiveness

Of late I've noticed this trend going through my social media circles where role-playing enthusiasts feel the need to make statements like, "Gaming should be inclusive," as though such a statement were some monumental comment that took a lot of courage to make.

It isn't.

Gaming absolutely should be inclusive. You should game with all kinds of groovy people whether they like boys kissing boys or big, burly men dressing up with tiaras and high heels. The only thing that should matter at your table is that the people there are good to each other and that everyone is willing to have a good time.

"But Charlie," I hear my fictive, counter-argumentative friend say, "but there are people out there who are shitty and that believe women, trans-people, and people of color shouldn't be at the table! We have to make a stand!"

Yeah, you ain't standing for shit when you're saying that on social media. What you're doing is asking for people to tell you that you're a good person for telling the world that everyone should be invited. Fuck that noise. Instead of wanting that feeling through platitudes, fucking do the thing. Invite the trans-kids you know to play. Call your friends of all shades to the table and let them beat the shit out of some imaginary creatures for a few hours while telling terrible jokes and drinking beer. Get your gay buddies to come over with their blinged out notebooks to show you how it's fucking done. Call on all the cool kids you hang out with every day to come and play with you.

Stop talking, and start doing.

Bring the people you want in this hobby to the table and help teach the next generation of players not to be a bunch of fedora wearing, misogynistic, fuck-faced, douche bags. Start a gaming group for kids at your local library. Invite everyone you know that likes Star Wars, the Lord of the Rings, and Game of Thrones. Fucking be the change you keep saying you want to see in our hobby.

"But Charlie," I again hear my fictive, counter-argumentative friend say, "what about when I see someone being shitty to a woman, trans-person, or person of color on social media. Shouldn't I say something about that noise?"

Fuck yes you should! Call that shitty bastard out. Tell them to stop being a fuck head and send your buddy a word of support. Don't make that shit about you with some meaningless platitude. You're not the important one in that situation so stop worrying about your feelings and worry about your buddy's instead.

Right, enough of this soapbox.

I'm going back to planning a raid into the Far Realms on leaky ship, laden with high explosives and my black heart of hate. I fucking love Roll 20.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Dragon Warriors RPG, Part 2: Building a Character for Play (Barbarians and Knights Only)

Building a character in Dragon Warriors begins in a familiar fashion to Dungeons & Dragons players, but then it quickly deviates as the game begins to assert its own sensibilities. This game is attempting early on to differentiate itself as a quicker, more deadly version of Dungeons & Dragons. Let's go through the steps

Step 1

Like many other role-playing games Dragon Warriors has the players rolling their abilities using 3d6 for five characteristics that will define what the character is capable of doing in the game. Where Dungeons & Dragons had the players defining Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma Dragon Warriors instead has the players defining Strength, Reflexes, Intelligence, Psychic Talent, and Looks. Of note here is that once these characteristics are rolled they will not advance or deteriorate unless the character is affected by some disease or magical spell. This is a huge difference from the Dungeons & Dragons 3.5e game I'm used to and I kind of dig it.

Now when I first noticed the truncated characteristic pool that Dragon Warriors was using I assumed: that Strength and Reflexes would be the same as in Dungeons & Dragons; that Intelligence would be a combination of Dungeon & Dragons Intelligence and Wisdom; that Looks was as meaningless as Charisma; and I had a vague notion that Psychic Talent had something to with psionics. On the first four abilities I was largely correct, but on Psychic Talent I was off slightly. In Dragon Warriors Psychic Talent is defined as the ". . . basic ability to resist (and in some cases use) magic . . ." (Morris, 22). When I first read that Psychic Talent was actually a character's magical aptitude I was rather befuddled by the terminology. It would have been nothing for the authors to describe magical aptitude as Mystic Talent or some other such direct terminology, but to call it Psychic Talent implies that magic in this world is more than some arcane art as you find in other role-playing games. I suspect that we'll find a clarification on this in the second book, The Way of Wizardry.

Step 2

At this point the book begins to discuss the Professions (or as a Dungeons & Dragons player might address them, classes) available to the player of which there are four presented in the first two books (the Knight, Barbarian, Mystic, and Sorcerer) with an additional two presented in later books (Elementalist and Assassin). If I had been purchasing this game at the time it released the discovery that I would need to buy four of the game's six books just to be able to play the game's only available classes would have chapped my ass. Luckily the version released by Serpent King Games allows me to have all of the books in a single location instead of having to buy it across a series of books. The frugal bastard at my core can indulge in that. 

Moving on.

Step 3

Health Points (HP) are to be derived at this point. All characters use a d6 to determine the random number that will be their base score and then add an additional, static bonus that is the same regardless of their characteristic scores. This static bonus is derived from the character's class with Barbarians having the highest bonus presented in this book. It's a simplified system that speeds up character creation in a slight manner as compared to Dungeons & Dragons modifier system. It's not necessarily better or worse but it has a simple format that I rather like.

Step 4

From this point forward there will be no more dice rolling in the character creation process which is an interesting choice when compared to Dungeons & Dragons where you're rolling throughout the majority of the character creation process. Instead you're going to be denoting your character's basic scores and then modifying them according to a series of charts. 

It's here in this step that we really begin to see hints of the hard shift away from Dungeons & Dragons shadow and see the potential for where Dragon Warriors will be leading us as players throughout our learning of this game. We've moved to a passive role, and as you'll see in upcoming sections, it won't be the last time either.

In step four we're determining a character's Attack score and Defense score. For combat characters, the Knight and Barbarian, your Attack score and Defense score will be everything to you. You will need to make sure that your Strength, Reflexes, and Intelligence are your highest characteristics. We'll discuss this more fully in the next part of the Dungeon Warriors series, The Rules of Combat, but for right now it's enough to know that higher abilities in these areas will provide your character with better chances in combat. Your score modifiers will be found on pg. 25 in the first table.

Step 5

As with determining your Attack and Defensive scores in the previous part now you will now be determining your Magical Attack and Magical Defensive scores from the second table on pg. 25. Higher is again better than lower and I suspect that for many melee characters that they will want to focus their fourth highest stat in Psychic Talent as it provides them with the greatest opportunity for a bonus to their Magical Defense - a facet of their defense that they will need help in shoring up.

Step 6 

In Dungeons & Dragons there are a lot of rules and saves that are used to take care of things that occur outside of your normal combat situations. In earlier editions you had things like Save vs Dragon Breath and Save vs Magic Wand; Third Edition introduced the Reflex, Fortitude, and Will Saves as a way to handle those earlier complex situations. In Dragon Warriors there is Dodging which allows a character to evade those sorts of situations. It's based on your Reflexes characteristic that determines your bonuses for this ability. You will find the modifiers for this on pg. 26.

Step 7 

In this step, Initial Equipment, the player has again taken a largely passive role in the character creation process. Knights and Barbarians are presented with a list of their starting equipment and money (it should be noted that the Barbarian is the only one of the two who actually rolls for their starting cash). They may purchase additional equipment if they have the money but largely they're done with equipment after this point.

My initial reaction to this step was a bit of shock because I tend to enjoy spending a lot of time purchasing my equipment and preparing my characters for the sort of adventures that I envision them going on when I bring them to the table; but the quickness with which this dispenses with that step would significantly speed up my ability to bring a character to the game. And that brings me to an aspect of this game that I'm already falling in love with: speed. After working my way through the character creation process I can honestly tell you that I'm able to bring a Barbarian or Knight character into a Dragon Warriors in less than ten minutes - and that's with me taking my time, hand drawing my character sheet and making it look just the way I want it. 

I love that speed and it's something I suspect we'll be seeing more of when we move into combat in the next part. 

Step 8

This is the final step in the character creation process and it's here that you are given your rank, or as Dungeons & Dragons players would call it, your level. You start play at level 1 in this book though I'm sure that there are rules out there to allow you to start at higher levels if you're so inclined. 

And that's it, our character is made. at least as far as the Barbarian and Knight are concerned. The process is a streamlined affair that allows the player to get quickly to the table and actually play the game. Comparing this process to my beloved Third Edition Dungeons & Dragons' character creation process is a no contest: Dragon Warriors is, far and away, simpler and faster. 

I'm excited to see where this game takes us as we move on to the way that combat is handled. I hope you'll be joining me for part 3.


Dragon Warriors Index
Part 2: Building a Character for Play (Barbarians and Knights Only)
Part 3: Combat

Works Cited

Morris, Dave, Dragon Warriors Book One, Dragon Warriors. Corgi Books, UK. 1985. pg 22 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

2017 Dyvers Progress Towards Stated Goals Updates

At the beginning of the year I did my quasi-regular update wherein I discussed the health of the blog over the previous year and where I would like the blog to go in the future. We're now a little over eight months into the year and I'd like to evaluate where we are in relation to those expressed goals. 

Stated Goals

Break 1,000,000 views on the blog. 
Currently sitting at 868,272 which is a gain of 98,016 page views since I originally set this goal back in January. That reflects a false average of 1,922 page views per update this year. I call it a false average because it implies that each new post received that level of attention. No. The average post this year has received 312 page views with the majority of this year's later content receiving greater attention than posts published earlier which is probably reflective of the fact that I have been  more active updating the blog this year than in 2016 when I just fucked off for most of the year. 

That said my conclusion is that it is probably unlikely that I will be able to break the 1,000,000 page view mark by the end of the year; however Dyvers should still pass the 900,000 page view mark and that is still an accomplishment that I feel I can be proud of doing.

Expand reader engagement by being quicker to respond to comments both on Google+ and Blogger. 
While I engagement is still solid on Blogger I'm woefully unresponsive on Google+ - though I have gotten far better to responding to comments on Twitter and through my e-mail. My conclusion is that I am on the right track but I need to continue improving in this area if I want to do better by my readers. 

Use correct tags throughout 2017 and correct erroneous tagging in 2013 posts to allow for easier exploration of the blog. 
I have been able to use the correct tagging throughout my 2017 posts; however, I have made no progress on the 2013 posts. I still have time but my guess is that I will not have the 2013 updates done before the end of the year. 

Complete Artisan Toolkits series (14 parts remaining). 
Fucking no.

Complete Prelacy of Almor series (5 parts total - planned). 
Fuck no

Complete 2017 Great Blog Roll Call 
I'm through the first 125 blogs but progress has been slow as there is just a phenomenal volume of content out there to read through as I'm adding nearly 300 new blog to the list.

Complete 2017 Best Reads of the Week run throughout the year. 
The sheer volume has made doing a Best of Weekly series for my entire reading list practically impossible. I don't have the free time necessary to read nearly 700 blogs every week. So I'm thinking that I'm going to be doing this as a monthly thing once I've published the GBRC

Make it through the year with an average of one post daily. 
Not even close. Though I have managed to double last year's output and this year has the promise of putting me at a respectable 100 post total. So while that is not the outcome that I had wanted it's one that I can still be happy with when it's all said and done. 

Post Quarterly Reports. 
Yeah, not so much. 

Complete every project I begin this year. 
Nope. 

Post regular campaign write-ups throughout the year. 
I haven't played very much until recently when Mark Van Vlack of Dust Pan Games got me to play with him on Roll 20. Since then I've launched two campaigns with two different groups, am playing in two more, and have been invited to play in three more. Don't have time for all of that but it's fucking fun over here kids! Anyway, I recently began my first write up which published earlier this week and that I'll be working on as we play through the campaign. I won't be publishing it concurrently with events in the campaign as I don't want to give away things that will spoil the game for anyone so expect it to be a slightly slow update. 

Further explorations of Greyhawk. 
Feeling okay about this. Not as much as I would ideally like but progress is still progress.

Read, and create a teaching series on, Burning Wheel. 
I've gotten permission to do this one but I want to finish Dragon Warriors first. 

Read, and create a teaching series on, Rifts. 
I have yet to receive permission to do this series. I really want to do it as I think the game needs someone out there advocating for it but I have to proceed very carefully down this path.

Double my earnings through the Advertising on the blog (yeah, gonna buy me three lotto tickets).
Surprisingly done! I have earned a total of $11.28! Thank you to all the people who have decided to click on the advertisements on the blog. You fucking rock!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

An Update on the Complete Lovecraft

I'm still working on the volume but I put it down because I picked up Clive Cussler, Peter F. Hamilton,  and a new to me R.A. Lafferty. Eventually I'll write up my thoughts on the stories I've read but let me just tell you right now early Lovecraft and I do not get along. He bores the ever loving fuck out of me.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Friday Artfest: 1920 - Final Charge by Jakub Rozalski

1920 - Final Charge by Jakub Rozalski
1920 - Final Charge by Jakub Rozalski is part of a larger series of paintings that the artist has been working on from an alternative earth and First World War where massive war machines ambled their way across battlefields and wrecked havoc on a scale that I don't think any of us are capable of fully grasping. The entire series is well worth exploring but this one in particular has kept my interest for months and each time that I look at it I find some new detail that I had previously missed.

On this occasion my eyes are drawn to the delicate, orange flames lingering on the wreckage surrounding the lone solder with his rifle drawn in a hopeless stand against the charging cavalry. His legs have this implied tremble to them that hints at his desperation but his upper body shows a resoluteness that holds him firm in the face of insurmountable odds. Then I find myself noticing the eagle that flies over the left of the solder mounted on the white horse. I've assumed since I first saw this painting that it was a vulture but upon closer inspection it appears to be an eagle. Is the implied message here that the charging cavalry represents the forces of freedom while the soldier is but a stubborn hold out from some oppressive regime? I don't know the answer to that questions; however, I do know that I want a canvas print of it. 

If you, like me, enjoy Jakub's work I encourage you to visit his store on society 6 and purchase some of this gifted artist's works. I know I will be.

Dragon Warriors RPG, Part 1: An Introduction and Early Impressions

The Dragon Warriors role-playing game was a British publication that came out in 1985 by Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson that I was recently turned on to, and that has been rocking my world since I first started reading it. Unlike more modern games that tend to provide players with everything they'll need in three, relatively, well organized books Dragon Warriors spreads its rules out across six books. Now these are relatively short things with beautiful art crammed throughout. Comic strips are even sporadically placed within to help illustrate the rules in a better way. The early impression all of this creates is that it's really brilliant stuff; but is it? 

That's the thing that I want to figure out about this game because so often when you read a review of a game you have some loud mouthed son of a bitch haranguing you with how wonderful it is and the whole time that they're lecturing you they're not actually saying anything but the usual platitudes. The game mechanics are inventive and groundbreaking. The art is inspired. Combat plays quick, and is done in a streamlined format that makes playing a breeze.

It's a fucking bore that tells none of us anything important or meaningful. So instead of just telling you what I've gleaned from it in the first few hours of reading through the books I'm going to learn how to play the damned thing. If I wasn't a role-playing game blogger that would mean that I'd sit back in my room and read the books while I dreamed of convincing my players to try it one day - but that ain't me. Instead I'm going to be working my way through the books, learning the game as I go, and blogging about it along the way. I'll be highlighting things that I think are interesting and discussing the rules like I often do with Dungeons & Dragons. But more than any thing else I'm going to be working towards the goal of running an actual game on roll 20. This isn't me calling out in the void hoping that someone hears me. This is me getting my shit together so that we can play a game. 

You up for this, kids? 'Cause I am.

The Dragon Warriors RPG project will be publishing once each week. My goal is to start off each week with Dragon Warriors because these books really make me excited about role-playing games and I find that writing about them puts me in a good place. You can look forward to Dragon Warriors each Monday as I work my way through. 

Dragon Warriors RPG
Part 1: An Introduction and Early Impressions
Part 3: Combat





Note 1: I began this project using a copy of the first book, Dragon Warriors, that I picked up from Amazon after I had been reading a copy of the game on SCRIBD. Since that time I have purchased a collected volume of the game from Drive Thru RPG. At the time of this writing getting a copy in both print and PDF, which I'm using currently while I wait on my print copy, is only $35.03 that will give you both a PDF of the game and a hardback printout. I receive no money from you clicking on that link and purchasing the game so you don't have to worry about me pushing the game because I'm getting something from it. I just genuinely like the hell out of this game.

Note 2: While it should go without saying I feel like in this modern climate where every Tom, Mary, and Joaquin is attempting to get your cash without disclosing that they're doing so that I should make it clear that I did not receive any compensation for doing this series. I just genuinely want to play it and would love to get some other people excited to play it with me.

Note 3: I contacted Serpent King Games, the current license holder for Dragon Warriors, before I launched this project as I wanted to ensure that I wasn't crossing any lines that would get me in trouble with them. They have given me the go ahead to proceed with this project and I wanted to take a moment to publicly thank them for giving me their blessings.

Enough notes, let's get on with this project!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

New Saddle, Same as the Old, Just Better Leather pt. 2



"Before we begin," I said as my Lovely Bride picked out her dice, "I just want to make it clear that all of you fuckers know each other. We're not going through that bullshit where you pretend like you don't know each other and then try to awkwardly work together."

"Aw," Brittle Betty said as she laid out her rules cheat sheet, "I kind of like that part."

"Why," Biggboy's deep, gravelly voice asked from the end of the table.

"Oh," Brittle Betty said as her eyes got big, "I didn't realize I said that out loud."

"Well, you did," Poot said as he laughed. "So why do you like that part?"

"Um, well, I'm new," Brittle Betty said as she looked at her sheet and began to rearrange her dice, "and I don't really know you guys too well."

My Lovely Bride gently patted her on the arm and said, "That's okay dear. We're all new sometimes, just not in Charlie's games."

"Okay," Brittle Betty said with a smile.

"Right," I said, "let's get to it then." Characters were made, names written down in my book, and we began.


"A month ago you were all hired as couriers for the TAB Trading Conglomerate. As condition of your hire each of you were provided with a horse for your journey and room & board until you were called up. Those you see next to you were bunked in the same room alongside you as a 'team building strategy.' Hard to say if it worked as your days were filled with the boring monotony of being constantly on the alert for your first mission and it seemed as though you were going to die of boredom before anything interesting might happen. 

"Then came Tuesday night. 

"You were roused from your beds, rushed out to the patio in a pouring rain where you and your bunk mates were brought your horses. In front of you stood an elegant woman that towered over you as a small man strained to keep her dry under a massive umbrella. Her voice was a deep baritone that sounded as though it started in her ankles before it ever came out her severe mouth. She looked your group over with a look that might have been called disgust if she could have just cared enough about you to form an opinion. 'Give it to the tall one,' she says with a dismissive hand wave before turning and going back into the office.

"Biggboy, a bedraggled goblin walks over to you with a sealed, leather scroll case in his hand. 'My Lady says you're to have this and to go east to Red Castle,' and with that he walks away."

Biggboy held his hand up and mimed handing the case to my Lovely Bride, "I'm not fucking carrying that thing."

"Oh, thanks," my Lovely Bride said as she tucked it into her belt, "knowing my luck Charlie's just given us a portable black hole that will break open and kill us all starting with my lady bits."

"Your lady bits," Brittle Betty chortled.

"It makes boys uncomfortable in their pants when you say vagina," she said.

"You know," the Master Planner said, "I've been trying to get one of those for the better part of the last two years."

"Oh," I said as I set my dice in a row, "how's that working out for you?"

"Fucking terrible. You can't get those things to grow for shit."

"So, anyway," Icarus said, "we were D&Ding."

"Right," I said, "so what are you guys doing?"

My Lovely Bride looked about the table and said, "So how are we doing this?"

"What do you mean," Biggboy asked. "I mean it's D&D. We're going to kill things and take there stuff."

"Naturally," she said, "but this reminds me a lot of Arabella and that has me worried."

"Arabealla," Brittle Betty asked, "what is Arabella?"

"Who," my Lovely Bride replied, "she was a cross-dressing half-giant that nearly killed the whole party back in '06. Icarus, She'rah who you haven't met but is fucking awesome, and Step worked for her for a while. Then we crossed her."

"As you do," the Master Planner added.

"And she came after us."

"Yeah," Icarus said as he set his abacus just to the right of his character sheet, "it wasn't a fun time."

"Good game, though," my Lovely Bride added, "but it ended with the first TPK I've ever been a part of."

"So are you saying we shouldn't do this," Brittle Betty asked. "I was kind of looking forward to going to the Red Castle."

"Oh no," Biggboy said, "no they're not saying that. They're saying we shouldn't fuck with this bitch."

"Right," said the Master Planner, "so we do this one mission and then bug out on her?"

My Lovely Bride turned her gaze on me, "Can we do that?"

"You absolutely could. You would have to return the horses and any additional equipment you have borrowed from the TAB Trading Conglomerate," I told her as I started making notes of their suppositions. I've always found it best to take the game in directions where their imaginations are leading them and do something along those lines. The game seems to have a deeper impact that way.

"Okay," the Master Planner said, "then I'm ready to go."

The rest of the group took a few minutes to purchase some last second supplies and off they went into the world. The rain came down hard and the paths they traveled were muddy morasses that found their horses hooves sinking into the muck. Still they persisted on through the night until early morning when they saw a light off in the distance, flickering dimly in the darkness of the pre-dawn hour. 

"Is that where we're supposed to be going," Biggboy asked. "seems like we're awful close to the TAB house to be there so early."

"I don't know," the Master Planner said as he studied the map I'd handed him before the left, "we should be at the Red Castle about now if every thing went as normal but with all the rain and shit we could still be a few hours off."

"Do you want to wait until dawn and check it out then," Icarus asked. "It might be the best option."

"I don't really want to wait," Brittle Betty said in almost a whisper.

"What did she say," Biggboy asked.

"She said she doesn't want to wait," my Lovely Bride announced. She then smiled at Brittle Betty and gently said, "You're playing with a bunch of deaf bastards, dear. You're going to have to speak up."

"Okay," Brittle Betty said with a smile, "I can do that."

"A better question," the Master Planner said as he stroked his beard, "is are you a sneaky, little, rogue-like person who might make his way up the hill and tell what's going on up there."

Brittle Betty flashed a smile that lit up her whole face. "As a matter of fact," she said, "I think I might just be."

"Good," the Master Planner said as he checked his character sheet, "I'm pretty shit as anything dexterity based. Anyone capable of rolling up there with her or is she just better off on her own."

"I'd, um," Brittle Betty stammered, "I'd like to do it on my own. If that's okay?"

"Of course it is," my Lovely Bride said, "just scream if you need us."

"Okay," Brittle Betty said as he picked up her d20. "I'm heading up there."

As the party watched Brian of the Seven Fingers slipped off his horse and disappeared into the darkened woods. Brian of the Seven Fingers made his way up the slippery hillside, deftly finding secure footing along the way, and with barely any sound beyond the heavy drops of rain splashing off his clothing. For nearly ten minutes he carefully made his way up the hillside until he approached the edge of a clearing where the flickering torchlight had lead him. 

The clearing before him stretched out into a muddy semi-circle about a dozen paces across at it's longest. In the center, against the back of the hill, stood a large red door half open with lit torches to either side of the entrance. The ground showed heavy traffic of large footed humanoids and deep, drag lines leading deeper into the hillside. Brian of the Seven Fingers noted all of this down before returning to his waiting companions.

"Ogres," Biggboy said with a smile. "It's bound to be fucking ogres."

"Ogres," Brittle Betty stammered, "are they dangerous?"

"They can be if we get surrounded," the Master Planner said.

"So what do we do," Brittle Betty asked as she looked about the table.

"I guess we should keep going," Icarus said, "I didn't really prepare to fight ogres this early."

"Ogres," Biggboy rumbled as he began checking his character sheet.

"We could," the Master Planner said, "but if that's their home then there's no telling how much loot they've got inside."

"Ogres," Biggboy said with a smile as he caught my Lovely Bride's eye.

"Shit," she whispered.

"Ogres," Biggboy said with a nod.

"What's going on," Brittle Betty asked.

"Ogres are what's going on," Biggboy boomed. "And we're going up that hill, kicking their asses, and taking their stuff!"

"Okay," Brittle Betty squeaked.

"Ogres," my Lovely Bride said as she began gently slamming her head on the desk. "Fuck you Charlie Akins. It had to be ogres."

"Ogres," Biggboy practically shouted!

"Ogres," echoed the Master Planner and Icarus.

"Ogres," I said with a smile. 

"God damned ogres," my Lovely Bride said.



New Saddle, Same as the Old, Just Better Leather
Part 2

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The Book Shelf: The Radioactive Redhead by John Zakour & Lawrence Ganem



One of my favorite series right now is the Zachary Nixon Johnson adventures. The titles to the books in the series always read like they're from some pulp era magazine and this latest addition to my collection, The Radioactive Redhead, is no different. The books themselves have a definite formula: Zach has his life endangered by some outside group - be it mutants, criminal organizations, robots, or genetically modified superhumans - shortly thereafter he's contacted by a seductive woman that needs his help, and of course the situation always gets more complicated the deeper in he goes. They're just a fun and enjoyable read. 

The Radioactive Redhead is slightly different from some of the other stories I've read in the series as it largely feels like a scenario that you might find in any modern detective story. A singer, Sexy Sprockets, is being pursued by an obsessed fan and that obsession has begun to turn violent as there have been increasingly hostile acts done towards her. She then hires Zach to guard her and from there things quickly go away from the usual and solidly into more familiar territory for the series as acrobatic assassins, psychics, and even crazed television producers all make an appearance in this entertaining adventure tale. If I'm being a bit vague here it's because I genuinely don't want to ruin anything in this story for anyone who might pick it up. 

It's just really a fun, little read. 

I picked up my copy on Amazon with the Ballistic Babes Omnibus, which contains both the stories The Radioactive Redhead and The Frost-Haired Vixen, for $4.20 used since the omnibus is no longer in print. I keep hoping that Zakour will pick the series back up but there haven't been any new stories in about three years so I'm going to keep making my way through those he's published and hoping new ones are percolating. 

By the way, in the interest of full disclosure, if you click on that link it's through my Amazon Associates program so I get a small referral payment if you purchase anything. Thank you if you do, and thank you for reading. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Jesus, That's Hot.

Watching the news about tomorrow's weather out on the West Coast of the United States. You kids be careful out there cause they're predicting record breaking temps. Remember to drink lots of fluids, take frequent breaks, and stay out of the direct sun as much as possible. 

Be safe out there. 

New Saddle, Same as the Old, Just Better Leather pt. 1

I was laying the bed, watching the ceiling fan cast odd shadows in early Monday morning light, when my lovely wife rolled over and slid her arm across my chest. "Honey," she whispered before blowing a loose strand of hair away from her mouth, "what are you still doing in bed. Don't you have to work?"

"I've been thinking that I'd like to run a game this weekend."

She rose up on her elbow to get a better look at me. "Are you sure," she said, "you haven't run anything in a year."

I watched the fan wobble overhead for a moment before I said, "Yeah, I think I would like to run again."

There was a slight intake of breath and even with her face blackened by the cloying darkness I could tell she was pensively chewing her lip. Finally she said, "Can I play?"

"Yeah," I said as I smiled at her, "do you think anyone else will want to play?"

"Are you fucking kidding me," she said as she rolled over and grabbed her phone. "I'll send out the invites. How many do you want at the table?"

"I'd like to keep it small if you don't mind."

"Sure, Honey," she said as her fingers moved deftly across her screen. "I'll just invite our core group."

I got up from the bed, "I'm going to get a shower and get ready for work." 

I took a quick shower, got dressed, and took my medicine as my Darling Bride came out of the bedroom. Her hair was a wild mane surrounding her face and she held her phone out towards me with her eyes closed, "the Master Planner, Brittle Betty, Poot, Bigg, and Icarus have all said they're in if you've got spots left."

"What are they doing up at five in the morning?"

"Who knows," she said as she turned back into the welcoming darkness of our bedroom, "but the game is set for Saturday at two."

"But I didn't tell you a time," I stammered.

"I didn't ask," she said as she closed the door.

"Right," I said to myself as I got up from my computer desk and switched off the light, "guess I'm running then."


Saturday

It's been a few years since I've been back home for longer than a weekend and as I pulled up to the new game shop, Dungeons & Dames, I found myself missing the old back corner streets with their busted streetlights where the dope dealers crossed to the other side of the street because two  dozen nerds poured out of a metal door in the side of an old factory building billowing smoke and talking about esoteric nerd shit. Those dope dealers would stand under the flickering neon sign of Lucy's Dinner while we stood under the orange glow of the sensor light and I would watch meth heads slink up in the eerie, flickering neon to buy their latest hit. Once I even saw a girl I had loved with all my heart over there. The beautiful girl she had been, and woman she had grown into, had been replaced by an emaciated skeleton covered in sores that reeked of cheap cigarettes and cat piss. She saw me too, and then she pulled up her hoodie and ran off down the street into the cavernous back of a van with no windows.

I haven't seen her since.

I climbed out of the Blue Fox, a little Chevy Spark I had bought for my wife earlier this year, and watched as the Master Planner came out the door with both arms wide open. "About fucking time you ran again," he said as he enveloped me in a hug that nearly took my breath away. "God, I've missed you."

"I've missed you too," I said as I squeezed him back.

"Come on," he said breaking our hug, "people are going to think we're fucking if we keep holding on to each other out here."

"Right," I said as I looked at the door of Dungeons & Dames and saw Icarus bent over while Bigg feigned humping him from behind, "we're the ones they're going to think are fucking."

As I walked into the shop, saying hi to everyone I had missed over the last few years, I found myself slightly underwhelmed with the Dungeon & Dames role-playing game selection. They had a single bookcase to the left of the counter that housed all of their role-playing games. Behind their glass counter were Magic and various card games; and in the big room they had a Warhammer table set up and more figures than were probably strictly necessary for their volume of business. We went past all of this with Icarus leading the way through a winding corridor of rooms and dead end hallways until we reached the "Gray" room where they all turned to me with these tremendous grins on their faces.

"It's the 'Gray' room," my Darling Bride said as she nudged me in the ribs. 

"I noticed," I said with a repressed smile.

"Do you get it," she as she pointed to the gray walls and then to my notebook, "the gray room? Like, as in Greyhawk!"

"I get it, Darling," I said with a chuckle. "Gray and Greyhawk. You're all very sweet."

"So what are we going to be playing," Poot asked as he sat down beside me. 

"I bet it will involve dungeons," my Lovely Bride said.

"There's going to be dragons," Brittle Betty said as she took her seat next to my Lovely Bride, "I just know it."

"Well," I said as I opened my notebook, "let's see where you guys end up."

Found on Pinterest, Artist Unknown

New Saddle, Same as the Old, Just Better Leather
Part 1

NEW D&D SURVEY UP AND IT'S ALL ABOUT SETTINGS! GO GREYHAWK GO!

The new D&D survey has gone live and it's mostly about new settings for the game to explore. GET YOUR GREYHAWK VOTES IN NOW KIDS! ...