Friday, January 31, 2014

Four Interesting Things

1.) I am getting a lot of hits from Facebook lately. Is this happening to anyone else; because I'm at a loss to explain why it's happening.

2.) Hello reddit-ers. I have no idea why you're here either, but it's nice to have you.

3.) I had an e-mail last night from an author I've been reading for years about my blog. Seems they had stumbled across it and liked the damn thing. Who knew someone that actually gets paid to write might like something I'm putting out there?

4.) EN Worlders, why?

Friday Artfest: Astronaut by Robin F. Williams

Astronaut by Robin F. Williams

Madness is a relative term when it comes to art, but when you have the ability to capture the look of a man over the edge and down the rabbit hole you've come a long way, and this piece by Robin F. Williams shows an artist pushing beyond the boundaries of normalcy and straight on through to glory. Everything about this oil painting is magnificent. 

The vivid colors of the astronaut's helmet pop off the canvas and give them impression that he's stole some child's Easter basket. Yet what draws your attention to this piece and keeps you staring down the avenues of this madman's world are his eyes. Unlike other artist who are able to craft eyes that seem to look into you or to follow you Robin F. Williams is able to create a piece where the eye look through your outer shell and into the core of your being. 

It's as though the astronaut isn't mad but is actually beyond our understanding and has seen through this reality into another, far more palatable, reality. One where he isn't an object of scorn and derision but where he has stepped beyond the dreams and taken flight among the stars. He is a traveler from beyond waiting to take us further than we've ever been and it only our hang ups that keep us from seeing the truth.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

300 and 1.

I started this blog on July 21, 2013 and as of this post I just hit my 300 and 1st post in 193 days. So a couple of things that I discovered in that time for the folks who care about this stuff (those of you who don't I'll be back with other gaming ephemera later today).

Page View Counter
As of 1:42 pm I've had 67,990 page views. I think that's pretty cool considering when I started this blog I had 1,200 views in the first month. 


Anyway, I don't know about anyone else, but the page view counter that I've been saddled with on the Blogger Dashboard resets at 7:00 pm every day. Which means that if I want to rig my page views to come out with the highest numbers possible than I need to post every night at 7:00 pm. I almost never do this because I prefer to post my first post of the day at 12:00 am so that I can keep up my daily posting schedule.

Silly I know, but I would rather keep as close to a daily schedule as possible right now because it keeps me writing. And because I'm writing so much I'm getting better at it - not good enough to be Hemmingway but good enough to drink in the same, very, large bar that covers the coast of Key West. Perhaps if I practice enough I might even be able to get in the same room, not likely, but one can hope.

As of 1:42 pm this afternoon I've had 871 comments posted to the blog with two spam comments, and six comments deleted over time by either the authors or me when they were being trolls. By and large the majority of folks who have left comments have been really cool and I thank all of you who have come by to offer your thoughts, suggestions, praise, and criticisms.  

 HTML for the Loss?
When I first started blogging back in 2000 HTML coding was the way to do everything, and in certain situations on blogger it still works today, but those situations are far and few between. Most of the problem lies squarely on my doorstep as I've failed to keep up with the current code and am about 14 years behind in how to do things. 

But I am learning. 

Moving on.
Thank you all for reading my silly, little blog and for your comments, +1s, links and reshares. I hope you all can continue to find things worth enjoying and that this thing doesn't become a boring mess of essoteric garbage. 

More later. 

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

While some people see this as an invitation to disaster my lovely wife informed me that it was "totally legit" and that I should stop being such a pussy and just go in there.

I think she's trying to kill me.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Dear Blogger, Stop Messing Up.

That is all.

The Tuesday Incident, Part 3

What do you need Commissar?

He started talking in that way that every politician seems to do when they realize that you've got them over a barrel but don't know it yet. Lots of this is a duty, sacred trust, and the like seemed to be coming out of his mouth. I watched the clock as he spoke and counted the minutes. There was a saying that the longer the higher ups talked the more shit they were shoveling and the more likely we were to have our asses in the fire. At five minutes you'd feel toasty but make it out. At ten things were looking grim but chances were good that with a timely evac. things would be okay in the end. If the wind up ever went over thirty then you should go ahead and sign your will.

"So are you up for it," the Commissar asked?

Forty-five minutes.


More later.

Sick Burn, Bro.

The other day I was working my way through a local used book store when a couple of meat heads walked up behind me and started making snide comments about the gaming books I was perusing. Now normally these sort of fuckheads don't bother me and I don't bother them as our paths generally intersect in different venues; but on this occasion we met on grounds that they assumed would mean an easy win for them. They started with a mumble and muffled laughter but slowly made their way to louder and clearly discernible comments as they guffawed their way through my apparent short comings. That is till I turned around and then they started trying to bulk up. 

It's always stupid kids who think they're intimidating when they have numbers on their side. I remember someone once called it a "pack mentality," and it often works - that is until they run into someone who has been breaking up those packs for ten years. The strategy is always the same; single out the leader, scare the shit out of him, and watch them run; and if you're lucky, you get to hit them until your knuckles bleed. 

The leader was a Blondie kid who was of a slight build and kept flipping his hair out of his eyes. What's your fucking problem?

"We ain't got no problem dude," mumbled the heavy kid who flanked Blondie. 

If I wanted your fucking answer I wouldn't have asked your girlfriend the question. 

"What'd you call me?" Blondie tried to shout with the base up in his voice.

I believe I called you a little fucking girl who's about to get her god damned head kicked in by a grown ass man in front of everyone in this damned store - including those little split tails you've been trying to impress by talking shit about me for the last ten minutes.

He cut his eyes back at the girls and his buddy pulled at his arm. "Come on Jody, he isn't worth it."

Yeah, come on Jo-dee, I mocked, he isn't worth it.

Indecision played across his face as we stood there looking at each other and I positioned myself in such a way as to where I could slam his head into the side of the bookcase if discretion lost to testosterone. Finally he attempted to shove me away as he said, "Whatever psycho," and made his way back towards the girls who'd been watching.

Sick burn, bro. I catcalled after them as the made their way out the store, never taking my eyes off their retreat. One thing about breaking up packs is you never take your eyes off of them, because once you do they turn on you. Taking your eyes away is how you get stabbed 42 times and get left for dead - a friend of mine learned that lesson the hard way.

Monday, January 27, 2014

It Would Have to be a Red Shirt

Honest to God Asking for Help Here.

What are Linear Fighters and Quadratic Wizards?

I saw someone bitching about them over on Google+ and I haven't the slightest idea what any of that gobbly gook means in English. Can anyone, please, explain that non-sense up there to me?

The Forgotten Citadel, Part 6 or Two Too Many Demons

We made our way to the Portal Room as we had so many times before with our new players in toe when a siren started blaring. 

"We're under attack!" Neverwas shouted as he stood at the end of the table flinging papers everywhere. "Portals are opening up all over the Citadel and demons are pouring out of them!"

The Fuck they are! I yelled back as I threw a d20 at Poot. Let's go fuck there shit up!

The Master Planner was already running down the hall firing arrows into anything that moved and double tapping anyone laying down on the ground; and I was counting his shots, marking down his ammo in the hopes that he'd waste his last arrow before we got to the courtyard and started fighting demons.

Sadly that would not be the case. 

We reached the court yard and Poot shouted across the table, "Ugg, fastball special!"

"Uh," Kid Icarus growled out as he rolled a d20, "okay."

He picked up the little gnome wizard and chucked him like a football at the largest group of demons who erupted into flames as Poot dropped a Fireball in the middle of them. Baby Momma took flight and started raining hell down from up on high; while the Master Planner dropped demon after demon with four natural twenties in a row. Kid Icarus, Step-up, Little Caesar, and Little Boy were going toe to toe with some big bastard who blew infected spikes into them every chance he got. And Thief 2 was sitting on the steps watching everything, smoking a bowl, while Hamhock (his animal compainon) charged into the fray. 

As for me I had dropped two demons and had stepped up to the biggest mother on the board. Four flurry of blows later, he's laughing at me, and I'm trying to remember why I chose to play a monk in the first place as he's got me hoisted up in the air. Kid Icarus sees my predicament, rolls a d20, and decides to charge at the demon who has me. 

You know how they have those improvised weapon rules in Dungeons and Dragons that are designed to be used for tables, chairs, and the like? Well, it turns out that they can also apply to a 280 pd., Half-orc, Monk who is being used as a club. 

Three rounds later and Kid Icarus and I are making hunch punch while our characters are unconscious on the table but before we can get back with the bowl Poot, Baby Momma, and Little Boy join us. So I'm ladling out punch with a soup spoon and trying to remember if I've got any cigarettes left when Step-up lights up a cigarette next to me and starts telling me the craziest story about little brother fucking with Kid Icarus. I'm laughing my ass off when suddenly it strikes me that the only people left up are Thief 2, Hamhock, Little Caesar, and the Master Planner. 

We're about to be boned kids. I confidently announced when the Master Planner rolled a 1 and dropped to fireball.

"Don't be so defeatist," Little Caesar chidded me, "you'll be confused for the French."

Two rounds later and his burnt corpse was being ground into meal by a group of demons that liked Billy Joel way too much. So we're down to two party members on our side and the demons have seven up and have captured all of the npcs. 

Thief 2 announces that he's going to go buy some more of his herb but Hamhock's to continue the fight and we're down to a single man - erm, pig. Seven to one should be uneven odds and it was as Hamhock dropped demon after demon while Neverwas rolled four natural 1s, two sixes, and a seven. 

So all of us are around this table watching Thief 2 roll his d20 like he's got money riding on it as he keeps taking demons down like their school children when Neverwas rolls a natural 20. The whole table takes a gasp as Hamhock is knocked down to his last hit point and we all realize that the campaign hinges on a single roll. Thief 2 picks up his die, turns his head away, and rolls.

"What'd I get?"

More later. 

Additional Links

Sunday, January 26, 2014

I Hear You Have a Giant Problem. Let Me Get That for You.

That first one wasn't that big of a deal. I mean she wasn't even looking when I shoved the broom through the back of her skull. So what else do you have?


He ate a dog right in front of you?

I'll get right on that one. 

Sharing on Google+

My description for that last post is so damned weird. 
I'm continuing to look into the Summoning Magic that has escaped my notice up till now. And I find myself looking at 100d10 centipedes and wondering who has that many d10s to begin with and when it became a good idea to buy all of them. Seriously, who has that many d10s and what are you doing with them? Building a dice throne for the dice god where only the faithful roll high and everyone else gouges out their own eyes?


That got dark quickly. 
I know that I'm not helping publicize my blog with descriptions like that, but it cracks me the fuck up and I can't help myself.  I have no idea if this is becoming a "thing" for me or if it's just because it's one o'clock in the morning. 

Either way I'm enjoying it, hope you are too. 

See you folks in the morning. 

Summoning Magic, Part 2: the Creeping Doom

After having looked into the nature of summoning magic (see Summoning Magic for more) it’s time that I start looking into the spells that use that form of magic and put the earlier theories into play.
Creeping Doom
Conjuration (Summoning)
Level: Drd 7
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 round
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)/ 100 ft.; see text
Effect: One swarm of centipedes per two levels
Duration: 1 min./level
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

When you utter the spell of creeping doom, you call forth a mass of centipede swarms (one per two caster levels, to a maximum of ten swarms at 20th level), which need not appear adjacent to one another. You may summon the centipede swarms so that they share the area of other creatures. The swarms remain stationary, attacking any creatures in their area, unless you command the creeping doom to move (a standard action). As a standard action, you can command any number of the swarms to move toward any prey within 100 feet of you. You cannot command any swarm to move more than 100 feet away from you, and if you move more than 100 feet from any swarm, that swarm remains stationary, attacking any creatures in its area (but it can be commanded again if you move within 100 feet) . . . (Wizards of the Coast, 3.5 SRD, Spells C).
Initially it would appear that this spell represents the first real challenge to my understanding of summoning magic as we’re dealing not with a single entity, such as our previous example the Celestial Dog, but instead are dealing with a swarm representing hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. Yet this problem quickly dissolves when we look at the way swarms are dealt with in the game.
“. . . Swarms are dense masses of Fine, Diminutive, or Tiny creatures that would not be particularly dangerous in small groups, but can be terrible foes when gathered in sufficient numbers. For game purposes a swarm is defined as a single creature with a space of 10 feet—gigantic hordes are actually composed of dozens of swarms in close proximity. A swarm has a single pool of Hit Dice and hit points, a single initiative modifier, a single speed, and a single Armor Class. It makes saving throws as a single creature.

Many different creatures can mass as swarms; bat swarms, centipede swarms, hellwasp swarms, locust swarms, rat swarms, and spider swarms are described here. The swarm’s type varies with the nature of the component creature (most are animals or vermin), but all swarms have the swarm subtype.

A swarm of Tiny creatures consists of 300 nonflying creatures or 1,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Diminutive creatures consists of 1,500 nonflying creatures or 5,000 flying creatures. A swarm of Fine creatures consists of 10,000 creatures, whether they are flying or not. Swarms of nonflying creatures include many more creatures than could normally fit in a 10-foot square based on their normal space, because creatures in a swarm are packed tightly together and generally crawl over each other and their prey when moving or attacking. Larger swarms are represented by multiples of single swarms. A large swarm is completely shapeable, though it usually remains contiguous . . .” (Wizards of the Coast, 3.5 SRD, Monsters S)
In terms of the game swarms count as singular individuals; however, this begs the question: if we have determined that the magic user has a connection to the summoned creature, then how does this work in relation to the swarm?

While it would be possible for the magic user to have a connection to each individual centipede in the swarm it isn’t palatable to my delicate sensibilities. Instead it is far more appealing to imagine that the magic user, in this case, has a connection with a minor nature spirit who is associated with the swarming mass of vermin. This would provide the magic-user with the singular connection denoted in the summoning magic description and would keep the ever-present deaths of the myriad of vermin associated with this spell from making it useless in short order (after all, how could you ever expect to keep using the spell when centipedes only live five or six years – if they’re lucky – and you can’t expect them to keep coming back to you when you’re calling on them ten years out from the first time you made the connection!).

The Nature Spirits

The idea of using a Nature Spirit has a certain appeal for me that tends to harken back to my affinity for Buddhism and the Ancient Greeks’ Polytheism, so it’s one that I would prefer to use. Yet I don’t want to just throw these spirits into the game like slavish servants bound to the magic user’s will – I want them to be meaningful for both the player and the spirit.

Now there are examples already published by Wizards of the Coast for creating pacts with spirits (most recently the Sorcerers from Fourth Edition and their Pact Magic) but I’d like to form this connection in a way that is more satisfying for me.

My natural inclination is to have the spirits drawn to the magic user through their exertion on reality, much as the moth is drawn to the flame. The magic user would naturally be able to draw on the spirit for the invocation of this spell but their actions would have an impact on the willingness of the spirit. Essentially your actions as a player would determine the ease with which you’re able to cast the spell. For example, if you kill someone who’s looking to murder you in your sleep, no problem; however, if you burn down a forest so that the trees don’t attempt to murder your paranoid and delusional magic user in his sleep, then you’re going to have to make an opposed check against the spirit to successfully cast the spell.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Last of Us. Best. Game. Ever.

Just beat the Last of Us tonight and without a doubt it is the best video game I have ever played in my life. The graphics are fantastic, the music is amazing, and the story - my god that story! I cannot say enough good things about this game so just do yourself a favor and buy it. Buy it, play it, and be better for it. 




Organization is a Key to Success

Over the last ten years or so I have spent an inordinate amount of time organizing my life and at one time my computer typified this approach - but those days are long since gone.

When my old computer blew up on me I found myself in the lurch and feverishly worked on finding a way to get my old files onto the new hard drive and in the process all  my pdfs got all kinds of fucked up. So today I'm remedying that problem. 

Fascinating reading isn't this post?

The Lost Caverns of Tsjoconth, Part 3: In the Woods We Go

While it would be easy to simply move on to the actual cavers as the original module does not contain any wilderness encounters it would be a disservice to the sequel if we didn’t look into how it handled those badlands.

Random and Encounters

Unlike a lot of the more modern modules that I have encountered the sequel does not just give you a listing of possible enemies but rather encourages you to mix things up so that it becomes a more interesting encounter:
“. . . There are six numbered areas, shown on both the DM's and the players' wilderness maps. No specific encounters are given for these six areas. The DM should choose an appropriate encounter for each area, using the WILDERNESS ENCOUNTERS CHART in this module. The creatures chosen for the numbered areas should be encountered only once. Do not choose numbers 1-6 simply because the encounter areas are numbered 1-6. For example, 1 could be the stone giants or the wolfwere; 2 could be the wyverns or the hermit; the tribesmen or the dragon could be at 3, etc . . .” (sequel, pg. 4)

I like the way that things are a bit looser in this section of the module as compared to a more modern module, such as Expedition to Castle Greyhawk; but that isn’t to say that everything is perfect here. While you are able to have random encounters the six numbered areas are set encounters where your players are required to have an encounter. Or as the module puts it:

“. . . Encounters in the wilderness will not occur randomly. The party will have encounters at specific points when travelling along the trails. These encounter sites are marked as heavy dots on the DM's map. If the party camps in a hex adjacent to a dot, the DM may decide to give the party a night encounter. Daytime encounters occur whenever the party stops in or passes through a hex with a dot . . .” (sequel, pg. 4)
Yet all the same Gary Gygax has done a remarkable job of encouraging you to stray from the script and expand the game beyond the restrictive boundaries initially described in the module.
“. . . The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth is a module with a great deal of potential, one that can take many sessions to finish. DMs should consider stressing this to their players, because it is possible to have an enjoyable adventure before the caverns are even reached. The wilderness section includes a wide variety of possible encounters.

Some of these can become the basis of several adventures. The gnomes, dwarves, elves, and mountain tribesmen are fully described, and these entries can be used to create communities of mountain dwellers. A sample lair map, usable for the gnomes, has been included, should the DM want to fully develop this community. Befriending one of these communities could be of great value in providing the party with healing, information, or help against bands of raiders. However, gaining the trust of one of these communities usually requires that the party fights against their enemies.

An encounter with a military patrol could be a challenge to the party. A friendly patrol could tell the party how many "dangerous areas" (variable encounter sites) are on the trail ahead, but not the exact locations. Winning the trust of a patrol is very difficult, however, for it is their mission to be suspicious of all armed travellers.

A third possibility is the Craggy Dells. If the party succeeds in defeating the brigands there, they could find (at the DMs option) information that will lead them to the persons buying hippogriffs from the bandits . . .” (sequel, pg. 4)
While these possible encounters described by Gary Gygax could easily be used to fluff up the adventure into a larger and more expansive adventure they could also lead to an expanded campaign where the players make enemies and alliances on the boarder that carry over into their return trip to Bissel.

Looking at this adventure so many years after its publication I find it remarkable how often Gary Gygax is able to provide you with additional adventures, hooks, and campaigns without so much as even wasting half a page in doing so.

Absolutely remarkable.

The Hermit

One of the possible wilderness encounters that your players can become involved in ties back to the original module. If they’re lucky enough to encounter the Hermit and they act like human beings toward him – instead of the murder monkeys they’re likely as not portraying at this point in the adventure – then they can actually be gifted with a single journal page from a solitary survivor of a doomed expedition into the caverns.
“. . . The small cave was the secret, for in back, hidden by (here the text is blurred beyond any reading)... and we descended. There was no certain path, so we (smudged)... and this is told of above, for it is where Yaim and Brelid met their end. Our persistence paid. The right way was beyond and narrow, so (writing covered with dark stain)... -earn lies straight pas(more stains)... -pe the span swiftly to plunge to doom where the wat- (here smudges and stains obliterate several lines) ... They were right. It is more dismal here than above. Only the two of us su- (blotch) ... We pray that the lucky (smudge) is true, for we are now going to attempt entry fo- (large rusty smears have wiped out the next words) ... of no help. I managed to escape. Why did we (here the remaining few words are smeared and unreadable, save for the last word) ... beautiful . . .” (sequel, pg. 7)
This journal extract is actually an expanded version of the original text our adventures had entering into the Caverns, which read:
“The right way is narrow . . . (words obliterated) . . . eam lies the straight pas . . . (more smudged writing) . . . pe the span swiftly of plunge to doom where the wat . . .” (original, pg. 2)
By comparing the two it’s easily apparent that Gygax had grown in his ability, not only as a writer, but as an adventure designer. The original is so sparse in details and discernable information that it’s practically useless for inspiring our imaginations and driving us into the dungeon. Yet the sequel has enough to make you long to enter into those damnable Caverns.

The Gnome Valley and Craggy Dells

There are two more designated wilderness encounters in this adventure that are given the letters A and B to denote their occurrence. A is the Gnome Valley which can easily be a great place for your party to resupply and rest or a death trap if you’re playing with a bunch of savages ass-hats. B, the Craggy Dells, is the sort of encounter that I wouldn’t be able to walk away from as a player. It hits every single one of my buttons and makes me want to savage every last motherless bastard involved.

In the next installment we’ll be entering the caverns properly. Hope to see you there.

Works Cited
 Gygax, Gary  The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth. MDG, USA: 1976. pg. 2

Gygax, Gary S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth. TSR Hobbies, Inc. USA: 1982. pg. 4, 7.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Friday Artfest: The Autumn People by Frank Frazetta

The Autumn People by Frank Frazetta

This haunting piece by Frank Frazetta is the sort of work that will creep into your mind and kick around the childish nightmares of your youth. The bulbous nodes making their serpentine way up the tree's trunk seem to hold the ghoulish images of lost souls captured by the restless spirits rising from the misty ground below. The whole image seems to cast the tree both as it is, and as a terrifying image of death itself holding watch over some long forgotten graveyard. 

The world seems to warp around the tree. Indeed even light seems to explode in the deadly ecstasy of death's embrace. Then there's the rising corpses. I imagine that Frazetta had seen Night of the Living Dead and decided that it just wasn't something worth thinking about. So he created a nightmarish hell that once it rose from the dead wouldn't falter, would stumble about like stiff necked children, but would come swift like a corpse' breath. 

Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

I Was Walking Alone When Tiamat Called Me Home.

Tiamat, artist unknown
This afternoon Wizards of the Coast announced the next major event for the Forgotten Realms setting: Tyranny of Dragons. The company plans to build on the success that has been generated through the multi-platform Sundering event following a similar path of integrating novels, the Dungeons and Dragons Encounters program, and video games.

According to USA Today Tyranny of Dragons will be the launch storyline[1] for the new edition of the game. This move will be in direct contrast to previous edition launches which had organized play but not the sort of cross market saturation that this new version will come with; which may be a signal that Wizards of the Cost has taken the lessons from their past launches and come up with a new strategy to reinvigorate a customer base that has languished for the past few years.
"This is a huge year for us," says Nathan Stewart, brand director for D&D at games publisher Wizards of the Coast. "At the heart of Dungeons and Dragons, it's adventure." (Details of next Dungeons and Dragons Revealed)
An adventure that many players and Dungeon Masters have actively been involved in shaping over the course of the last two years as over a 150,000 people have participated in the playtest of the new rules system[2]. This inclusiveness of the consumer base is a major change in Wizards of the Coast policy and seems to be the direction the company is pinning its hopes on for making the new edition a success.

Greg Leeds, CEO of Wizards of the Coast, described this new strategy with the launch of the Sundering event when he told ICv2 that 
“. . . [w]e are very ambitious with Dungeons & Dragons, and . . . the strategy that we’re pursuing is starting to emerge. One of the most important things with Dungeons & Dragons is that we are able to take the same stories and themes and execute them across platforms, not just in the paper side of the business but the digital side. It’s beginning to happen now with the launch of The Sundering. It’s our opportunity to rewrite the story of the Forgotten Realms and bring the realms back together.

“The first and most tangible example of that is Bob Salvatore’s book, The Companions, which is doing extremely well. We’ve got five other great authors who are working on The Sundering. Those stories will then be taken to digital and paper products.

“On the digital side, we’ve got a really exciting line-up of things that will be coming out shortly. The Neverwinter launch from Perfect World came out in June and already has two million people who have downloaded the game. This brings a whole bunch of new fans to the D&D business.

“Next month we’ve got a new mobile game coming out, which is a battle RPG called Arena of War. It will bring in all kinds of new players who want to have that RPG experience on a mobile device, either a phone or a tablet. On the traditional board game sides, we’re coming out with Lords of Waterdeep as a digital tablet experience sometime in early 2014.

“As we bring the stories together with all of those expressions across those platforms, we think D&D is poised for a completely new generation of consumers and excitement around the brand . . . ” (Interview: Greg Leeds on the Game Market and Wizards of the Coast).
It is clear at this point that the Sundering Event was created to test the principles of this new strategy Greg Leeds described prior to the launch of the new edition. The success of the Sundering can only be assumed since Wizards of the Coast is not only following through with the marketing program but doubling down on it by tying the program with the new edition’s launch[3].

There is a clear and concerted effort by Wizards of the Coast to not only recapture their previous market share but to expand it by moving into additional markets of untapped consumers. And it is hard to argue against the possibility of success as the company moves steadily forward, towards the launch of the new edition.

[1] I received a comment on the Google+ community that the idea that Dungeons and Dragons had a storyline was "laughable." I'd like to take just a second and point out that the A, T, and G series of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons modules formed an overall campaign and storyline for the game that has been well regarded throughout the years. Additionally there have been other storylines for the various settings over the years (such as the DL series of modules from Dragonlance) and have been present in each of the previous editions. The novels, comics, and modules have helped influence and shape the game throughout the years and have developed a "cannon" storyline for each of the settings and the game as a whole. 

[2] Mike Mearls discussed the number of participants in the Dungeons and Dragons Next playtest during the GenCon 2013 Dungeons and Dragons Presentation. You can read more at Dungeons and Dragons 2013 Gen Con Presentation , and can even watch the actual video of his presentation.  

[3] It was announced that the new edition will be coming out in the summer of 2014. You can read more about that announcement at Thoughts About the Dungeon and Dragons Release Date.

Baking Potatoes and Contemplating Being Left Behind

On Saturday I bought a Playstation 3. It's quite an achievement for me as it's the first new system I've bought in fourteen years - my last was the Playstation 2 which I got two weeks after launch. I had been contemplating buying a Playstation 4 but eventually decided against it once I started reading about the blue light of death that seems to be creeping through their systems right now. Sony is being far more receptive to fixing the problem than Microsoft was when the Red Rings started cropping up, but I just don't have the tolerance for dealing with that sort of hardware problem on a six hundred dollar purchase (almost eight hundred when you throw in the second controller and a video game); and while I don't mind dealing with Customer Service the unacceptably long wait times with Sony (according to the Amazon reviews the average wait time with customer service has been around two hours) would only have me working my way up into the company until I hit somebody with some real weight and chewed their ass until I got the damned thing fixed. 

Honestly though, I just don't have the willingness to go through all that with a new system anymore. 

So I bought the Playstation 3 and two games (Borderlands 2 and Last of Us) for $250 and I have to tell you that I am completely blown away by the experience with these games. You have to remember that the last system I bought had chunky looking people and functioned on a level that we thought of as revolutionary at the time and now realize was one incredibly bad step above utter crap. The game play is phenomenal and the graphics are so beautiful that there are times when I'm looking at these games and just enjoying their beauty. 

I've never done that with any other game before and I can't wait to buy more games for this system. 

But I'm baking potatoes and a pork loin for lunch with the little boy and I find myself contemplating how far behind the game play mechanics I have become in such a short amount of time. When I was playing my old system I could manipulate the controller with the best of them and even when playing against a semi-pro player I could manage to win a match or two. Yet when I put in Last of Us and started playing on Hard, as was my usual practice back in the day, I found that I just didn't have the wherewithal to pull it off.

Now I'm relearning how to play the modern games while saving up to purchase a Playstation 4 after all of its bugs have been worked out and Destiny has been released, and I find myself wondering if I'm the only one who's been this far behind and decided to catch back up?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Summoning Magic.

Over the course of the last few sessions of the Dyvers campaign my lovely wife has begun to develop here Sorceress into a pretty potent Summoning Mage. Which has been producing some really enjoyable results from my perspective; but I have a confession: I don’t know hardly anything about Summoning Magic.

In the nearly ten years that I’ve been running I’ve only had a handful of occasions when the magic user in my games has decided to Summon – which meant that most everyone else was as unfamiliar with the process as me – so I’ve always been able to just fudge the mechanics. However, with my wife getting really into this process it’s time for me to get off my rear and actually learn about this spell.

So that’s what we’re doing today.
“Summoning: A summoning spell instantly brings a creature or object to a place you designate. When the spell ends or is dispelled, a summoned creature is instantly sent back to where it came from, but a summoned object is not sent back unless the spell description specifically indicates this. A summoned creature also goes away if it is killed or if its hit points drop to 0 or lower. It is not really dead. It takes 24 hours for the creature to reform, during which time it can’t be summoned again.

“When the spell that summoned a creature ends and the creature disappears, all the spells it has cast expire. A summoned creature cannot use any innate summoning abilities it may have, and it refuses to cast any spells that would cost it XP, or to use any spell-like abilities that would cost XP if they were spells.” (Wizards of the Coast, 3.5 SRD, Magic Overview)
Let’s breakdown the salient points from this description of the Summoning Spell. (1.) the object or creature summoned appears in a place of your designation; summoned objects remain after the spell’s end but creatures do not; (3.) you can only summon one of any type of creature and if it dies under your summoning then you cannot re-summon it for 24 hours; summoned creatures will not use spells or spell-like abilities that cost XP; summoned creatures cannot hold any spells once they disappear.

There are some questions about these points that I need to address, though, before we move on to the actual spells.

Summoned Creatures and Their Possessions

According to the descriptor for Summoning magic creatures disappear when the spell ends but objects do not. Does this then mean that if a creature is summoned carrying an item that it will remain after the summons ends?

Not so much.

In the May 5, 2007 Sage Advice column this very question was asked. The Sage (who I believe was still Skip Williams at this time) replied “When a summoned creature goes away, so does everything it came with.

“If it’s holding or wearing something it didn’t appear with, that item drops to the ground in the creature’s space after it disappears . . .” (Source).

Now the interesting idea, at least to my mind, is that as a Summoner you can have your summoned compatriot retrieve most anything in the world, telling them any number of glorious lies, and then watch them disappear leaving it with you. Yet as appealing as that idea might be, the far more compelling idea is that the creature you brought into our world will take your most prized possession, hide it away, and then disappear into another realm where they then guard themselves from your re-summoning them to this realm.

The One True Celestial Dog

There is an interesting subplot working through these spells that had never occurred to me prior to reading the Summoning entry above: that for each of our characters there is only one creature that is ever summoned.

In the text above we’re told that a “. . . summoned creature also goes away if it is killed or if its hit points drop to 0 or lower. It is not really dead. It takes 24 hours for the creature to reform, during which time it can’t be summoned again . . .” (Wizards of the Coast, 3.5 SRD, Magic Overview). Which leads me to infer that for each magic user who summons a devil to do their bidding that there is only one such devil that they can contact.

In the terms of Third Edition this means that each magic user has a magical connection to one, individual, Celestial Dog and that only that single creature can be summoned when attempting to bring in that beast. In other words, though there may be hundreds of thousands of Celestial Dogs roaming about the planes only one of them is connected to your magic user and may be summoned by them.

That is a thoroughly interesting change in how the summoning spells should be thought about. Previously, I had always assumed that when you call on a Celestial Dog that you just happened to pull one from the ether to your side; but by this understanding of the spell you’re pulling the same Celestial Dog each and every time that you summon the creature. So doesn’t that mean you should know his name?

More later.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

We're Playing Burning Wheel? I Thought You Said Burning Man!

Saturday I was able to pick up a copy of the Burning Wheel and I've been digging the hell out of this little game. It's well written so far and really clever.

Anyone ever play it and have anything to add? I'm really interested in hearing from people who have actually played the system.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Lost Caverns of the Tsojconth, Part 2: Getting to the Adventure

Once we’re through the introduction for the module we come to a major deviation between the two versions: how we came to exploring the caverns.

Getting to the Adventure
You are a member of a group of six adventurers, met by chance some weeks past. Each was seeking the Caverns, each possessed a fragment of information regarding them. Together you have compiled what seems an accurate set of direction to the entrance of these caverns, and you are certain that the Archmange has filled them with fierce creatures to prevent trespassers from gaining their goal. A fragment of parchment you have states: “The right way is narrow . . . (words obliterated) . . . eam lies the straight pas . . . (more smudged writing) . . . pe the span swiftly of plunge to doom where the wat . . .”

Your information indicates that the caverns are on two levels, and that the way to the deeper section can only be gained by a chosen few, for the lacale is strange in yet another fashion. The Caverns of Tsojconth are a nexus in probability, where several alternate worlds touch. Each of you is aware that numerous parties such as yours, each containing six alternate persons like each of you, will be entering that part of the Caverns which manifest itself in their respective worlds. As each group adventures through the upper caverns one of their number will gain a certain aura, and he or she alone will be able to enter the lower level, while the rest will have to turn back (For tournament use only). The chosen from each party will meet – possibly with one or more of their alter egos – when the descent to the lower caverns is made. It is important to get as close to each other as possible to the way down, for the shift by the nexus will throw together those individuals who are relatively close to each other in location in their respective caverns. Those who have not located the way to the lower level prior to the shift will not have certain information.

Aura will be gained by ability – to reason cleverly, to lead, to defeat opponents, to avoid damage or death, to find valuable treasure, to co-operate with your fellows. The gods are watching. Good hunting! (original version, pg. 2)
The prominent parts of this set-up are as follows: (1.) each member of the party possessed a fragment that lead the entire group to the Caverns; (2.) the parchment fragment appears to identify a dangerous environment; (3.) there are only two levels to the caverns; (4.) the caverns are a nexus point where different realities can interact with one and another; (5.) there are multiple versions of your characters running about the caverns; (6.) the final party may have multiple versions of your character in it; (7.) if you don't move quickly enough you may be pulled to the final battle without learning all of the necessary information.

Let’s compare this with the sequel:
Your party has been gathered by agents of the Margrave of the March of Bissel. He tells you that there are "political considerations," which he does not explain, that prevent him from searching for lggwilv's trove himself. However, it is vital that the treasure not fall into the hands of his enemies. Your party's goal is to get the treasure before Bissel's enemies do. The Margrave has provided you with horses and a map showing the most probable location of the Lost Caverns. The Margrave will also give you an escort from Thornwood to a narrow trail leading from the easternmost arm of the Bramblewood Forest northward into the Yatil Mountains-the very heart of lggwilv's old domain. You have pledged to repay the Margrave for your horses, as well as any other equipment he provided, out of the monetary treasure obtained. You will also be required to pay a treasure tax of 15% on all money taken. He tells you that the remainder, as well as any magical items taken, are your reward for undertaking this perilous quest. However, you are warned under threat of dire punishment not to allow any magical items to fall into evil hands.

An examination of your map reveals that the track through the mountains has numerous branches. At the end of each track is a number, evidently standing for something unknown. The agents of the Margrave cannot tell you anything about their significance, except that it is likely that at one of the sites are the caverns you seek. Obviously, the map is incomplete, for from what you know of this part of the world, there are mountains where nothing but blank space is shown on the chart. With this map you must somehow find where the treasure is hidden. The more direct your route to the caverns, the less the likelihood of injury or death from the many perils of the journey. A scrap of parchment with a bit of doggerel on it might be a clue, or it might be of no use whatsoever, save to mislead you.

The verse says

The horn of Iggwilv
pierces the heart –
look over your shoulder
before you start.
How many sorrow?
Foolish men,
because they didn’t
turn back then.

After a journey of a sen'night [seven nights – Charles] your band has reached the foothills of the Yatils without incident. Before you is the winding path leading into the grim mountains; behind is the escort of horsemen riding south for home. Fortunately, you have sure-footed, mountain-bred horses given to you to assure a swift passage to your destination. Vellum map secured safely, there is naught else to do but proceed with the quest to find the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (sequel version, pg. 3)
The salient points from this version of the module are: (1.) that you are agents of Bissel looking for the Caverns; (2.) you have access to a ridiculous amount of adventuring gear and resources – with the caveat that you must pay it back and an additional 15% tax; (3.) you have a map that is badly out of date and possibly filled with a tremendous amount of outright wrong data; (4.) you have a bit of verse to help drive you forward; (5.) you are going to be adventuring out in the wilderness at the start.

Getting to the Dungeon

The original version of the module is a tournament piece and it was limited by time; so the players come into the game with six pre-generated characters, each with a fragment of information about the Caverns, fully equipped, and they start at the Caverns. As a tool for getting to the meat of the adventure it can’t be beat; but when compared to the sequel it lacks the sort of room that a Dungeon Master would look for when molding an adventure for his group.

Yet it would not be a hard decision to choose to include a wilderness adventure for the original module, nor would it be difficult to provide the players with fragments of information on the Caverns. Indeed it might even be preferable as it would provide the Dungeon Master with a greater allowance for his natural creativity to be brought to bear.

Of the two I favor a modified original with a wilderness adventure.

The Nexus of Worlds

While the sequel is, thus far, silent about the nexus of worlds within the Caverns the original module is tantalizing. I have read over its set-up four times in the last couple of days and each time I find myself wrapped up in the idea that it would be incredibly fun to create alternate versions of each character using some of my favorite systems. There is a possibility here that excites me and I could see this adventure being used by a group of Dungeon Masters under the Flailsnails banner, working in concert together, each with a different system, leading towards the ultimate finale.

The Poem and the Fragment
“The right way is narrow . . . (words obliterated) . . . eam lies the straight pas . . . (more smudged writing) . . . pe the span swiftly of plunge to doom where the wat . . .” (original, pg. 2)
This fragment is an intriguing string of words that make me want to plumb the depths of the Caverns, exploring its mysteries and uncovering its secrets.
The horn of Iggwilv
pierces the heart –
look over your shoulder
before you start.
How many sorrow?
Foolish men,
because they didn’t
turn back then. (sequel, pg. 3)
Unlike the fragment above this verse does nothing to inspire me to delve into the dungeon and instead fills me with a sense of regret. Which is a strange thing to happen when starting out an adventure that is going to push us farther into the world of Greyhawk and into a game that should challenge us on new and strange levels.

Works Cited
 Gygax, Gary  The Lost Caverns of Tsojconth. MDG, USA: 1976. pg. 2

Gygax, Gary S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth. TSR Hobbies, Inc. USA: 1982. pg. 3

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Answering Questions, Part 6: Tell Us About the Blogs

I feel like, as the guy with the monster blog roll, you probably have a pretty good feel for the RPG blogosphere's pulse. I'm curious how you would profile us?

How do we play? What fraction of the blogosphere is "new school" versus "old school"? How many people are playing AD&D, Pathfinder, 4e, Fate, etc? Are there bloggers for whom you really can't tell? What fraction of bloggers are also homebrewing their own systems?

Who are we? This may be hard to tell from a blog, but what's the age range of the community? Gender balance? How are we distributed geographically? How many of the bloggers seem like, actually, pretty cool people that would be fun to run a game with -- or just grab a beer with? +Charles McEachern 

Okay, let’s deal with these in order.

How do we play?

By and large the majority of us play our games with respect for one and another – which isn’t the least bit surprising as most of us play with friends.

What fraction of the blog-o-sphere is “new school” versus “old school?”

I think that if you go by how people self-identify than the "old school" blogs tend to outnumber most of the other blogs both in terms of activity and profusion; however, that label tends to often be misapplied by authors trying to identify with a movement larger then themselves. And it’s only natural that each of us wants to be a part of something bigger rather than living on an island with our own ideas.

So that label is a great way for people to connect and to announce to one and another “Here’s one creative bastard, come here for great ideas and ways to enrich your games!” But so often what they’re putting out isn’t what I would define as “old school,” instead they’re just being highly creative – and being highly creative isn’t something that ended when the new edition of Dungeons and Dragons came out (no matter which version of the game that is to you).

How many people are playing AD&D, Pathfinder, 4e, Fate, etc?

By and large the biggest group of blogs I have encountered are playing retro-clones based on editions of Dungeons and Dragons prior to third edition. Then you have Third Edition/Pathfinder crowd that occasionally breakout into idiotic fights over their incredibly similar systems. Followed by FATE, Fourth Edition, GURPS, and then those hold outs for the smaller niche games.

Honestly the system most people are playing is so meaningless when it comes to their blogs that I’ve had a hard time understanding why they insist on shouting to the mountains about it.

Look, you can use the amazing ideas coming from Elfmaids and Octopi, or False Machine, or any of the other two hundred and fifty blogs on the Great Blog Roll Call without worrying about whether they’ll fit with Third Edition or GURPS or Tunnels and Trolls. The ideas that these authors are putting out there are often system neutral and you’d be a fool to eliminate anyone who puts out a good idea because they’re using the ‘wrong’ system.

Are there bloggers for whom you really can't tell?


There are bloggers out there who never tell you they’re running first edition or FATE and you’re reading them for months thinking that this would be the most amazing Gamma World game when suddenly the author talks about how he’s been running GURPS for the last four years.

What fraction of bloggers are also homebrewing their own systems?

At one time it was a whole lot more prevalent than it is today (I read about it in their archives all the time), but I would hazard a guess that full system homebrews come in about one out of every hundred blogs or so. Now partial system homebrews are found in practically every single blog I read as all of us are constantly adding, subtracting and manipulating our favorite games.

I guess it must just come with the hobby.

Who are we?

Mostly good people who just want to get their voices out there and find others who can identify with them. Some of us are liars who pretend to be what we are not, but that always seems to come out in the end.

This may be hard to tell from a blog, but what's the age range of the community?

Most of the blogs I read are written by authors between the ages of thirty and fifty, though there are outliers in each direction, with the vast majority being in their mid-to-late thirties.

Gender balance?

I think I’ve only run across maybe two or three female hobby bloggers so far? It’s sometimes hard to tell.

I have a suspicion that there are more out there that I’ve not encountered but they just aren’t being promoted because the authors don’t have the patience to deal with the idiots asking for pictures of their tits and slavishly dotting on them. It’s a shame too because girls can write and I love reading their perspectives on not only the hobby, but on life in general.

A great one to look at is +Rachel Ghoul's blog Rachel Bonuses. She updates on a regular basis and has a great mind that will, hopefully, be providing us all with amazing content for years to come.

How are we distributed geographically?

Most of us are in the United States, then the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Russia, and the Philippians, in that order.

How many of the bloggers seem like, actually, pretty cool people that would be fun to run a game with -- or just grab a beer with?

There have only been three bloggers that I just would not hang out with that I’ve encountered since I started blogging. All three are assholes in completely different ways and I have no idea how any of them are able to maintain healthy relationships inside, or outside, of the blog-o-sphere. Other than those three, I have been amazed at how many creative and well-meaning people I’ve met through their blogs.

Answering Questions, Part 5: The Railroad in the Sand

So, sandbox games. If the DM has everything planned out down to the end, does it necessarily follow that the DM has railroaded the campaign? Could it not be that the DM just knows the players so well that its possible to judge their actions, even tweak them using game events, without ever having to put up an invisible wall or telling the players they NEED to do a thing? +Alexis Smolensk 

Let’s imagine just such a campaign and Dungeon Master.

John has spent years developing his campaign world. He has countless maps, spreadsheets, random encounter tables, the detailed histories of his campaign world, and an overarching theme and storyline he would like to present to his players through the campaign’s progression.

Now John has an aversion to heavy handed Dungeon Masters ever since that incident at GenCon ’85, so he’s bound and determined that he will not railroad his players. He sits down at his desk and begins to prepare the campaign, plotting out a storyline of major events that should happen and minor events that would be good to occur as immersion points. But like every good Dungeon Master John knows that once the players sit down to the table even his best laid plans will come to nothing if he doesn’t throw some guidance in there from time to time.

There are several ways John could achieve this goal and nearly all of them are terrible. Yet John knows his players well, having gamed with them for decades, and he quickly sets up a few guiding encounters to appeal to their individual proclivities and aversions. Over the course of the campaign he’ll use each of these ‘button’ encounters to poke and prod his players towards his desired ending.

Now did he railroad his players?


In all likelihood the players enjoyed the hell out of the ride, but it was a ride with a single starting position and a defined ending that allowed for the players to feel like they were in control when nothing was further from the truth.

If John had wanted to run a sandbox game then he should have come to it with his world and allowed the players to go wherever the hell they wanted, crafting the story as they went and building their own ending – whether it was a group orgy of death and destruction or a heroes ending with the sun setting in the distance and the pretty girl (or boy) on their hip with beckoning lips and lusting nether regions.

Answering Questions, Part 4: The Flag in the Corner.

White. +Matt Matlo 


White was the color of surrender and the last sight on dark nights where mad men burned down the symbols of my youth and proclaimed themselves the one, true, vision of enlightenment and divinity.


That was the color of the froth on the sea the day that hell came in and I watch a shark swim through the waves as a surfer jumped it. I screamed out as its jaws opened and the devil himself showed up to offer the boy a contract there on the spot.


The sound that came to me after the canon fired and shrapnel exploded off the trees and back against me. I can still hear it, feel it, and remember it when the night gets as dark as a grave and the stillness of the world belies its lie.


A sign that read “Only” over the gas station door telling the world that a bigot made his living there and I shamed him for being small even though he was four times my size.


Was the smoke that came out when her car blew up and I found myself loading her whole life into the back of my pickup truck while she cried, and cried, and cried.

Answering Questions, Part 3: Hurry Up and Finish Your Article Already!

Will you be continuing your analysis of the Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth? I really enjoyed that first article. +Joesph Bloch 

I'm really glad that you enjoyed it +Joesph Bloch!

I'm planning on continuing the series this upcoming week. We've finally finished moving and I've just scrapped the last of my documents off the old hard drive so things should start picking up on that front. 

Hope you like the second part when it gets here!

Answering Questions, Part 2: Drinking GURPS?

How many beers does it take to get through a game of GURPS? +Eric Paisley 

Before I started reading blogs like Dark Paths and Wandered Roads, Dungeon Fantastic, and the Gaming Ballistic I would have told you that there wasn't enough beer in all of Minnesota to make me want to play that bullshit system. But honestly, these folks are so passionate about the game that they've been slowly converting me over into a GURPS fan. 

Hell, I even bought a GURPS book this afternoon - in my defense, there was alcohol involved in that decision. 

So I guess the answer is three Long Island Iced Teas and two Screwdrivers? 

Answering Questions, Part I: About a Bear

A hunter makes camp and then goes out hunting. He walks exactly 10 km due south. Then he walks 10 km due east and shoots a bear. He discovers to get back to camp, he must walk 10 km due north. What color was the bear? +Shawn H Corey
That the color of the bear is your primary question does not surprise me, but have you not wondered why it distorted reality around it?

Think about it! The hunter moved 10 km south and then again as far east; yet he found that he only had to go 10 km north to get back to camp. Such a circumstance can only occur under the rarest of occasions!

It has been rumored for some time that after the radioactive cobalt bombs dropped their devastation over New Tokyo back in ’93 that one of the bears in the zoo had been transformed by the tremendous energies released. The villagers along the Mogami have reported seeing the beast for three hundred years as it makes its way along the river, tearing deep fissures in the earth as it passes.

They say that it on some days it is covered in weeping lesions and that on other days its fur shines like the noon day sun and all who look upon it die from radiation poisoning. The slightest scratch from its claws is rumored to tear a man’s soul apart across his entire lifetime!

Most assuredly this is the bear that your hunter killed and it must be that the cobalt bear has not died but that he has decided to punish your friend. Go to him now and warn him! Warn him before its too late!
Clarification needed: what time is it when he finds the bear? +Todd Colstrom
Time for such a creature is only relative to the position you are from it when it appears. If you’re next to it when the beast appears it may be 1989 and Prince is still putting out hit, after hit, after hit. Or you could be a half mile away, looking down your scope, at a creature that moved on seven days ago, all the while wasting away from dehydration and hunger.
Night. +Shawn H Corey 
Oh? Well then it couldn’t have been the cobalt bear for he only comes out during the day time.

I amend my early declaration and state that the bear’s color was brown.
Does the hunter have special night-vision gear of any sort, or does he shoot the bear un-aided? +Todd Colstrom 
From what I understand the hunter shot the bear with a specialized gun that he had implanted into his cybernetic arm after he lost his original one in the Battle of Seattle back in ’22. The rounds he used were modified elephant shot, which is only reasonable as all the elephants went extinct during the summer of ’19.

I should add that according to the police reports his round also hit what remains of the Washington Monument and knocked the head of Abraham Linclon off his statue at his memorial. They are looking for him and there is a substantial reward which I’m told includes not only money but the sexual partner of your choosing.

Things are getting weird in Virginia of late.

Closing Comments.

Due to the influx of spam comments on Dyvers I am closing the comments. I'm not currently doing anything with this blog, but I don'...