A place wherein this Dwarven Cleric can share his love of maps, dice, miniatures, and all things involving gaming and general geekery--not to mention the occasional witty non-gaming observations--whilst escaping from the humdrum existence of his routine Terran existence.

Hail and Well Met, fellow traveler! May my Stronghold provide a place for enlightenment and amusement, and somewhere to keep your dice dry. Enter and rest awhile.

03 August 2015

Sick and Tired

I am so freaking sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Backstory (and I’ll try and keep it brief): as some of you know, for the past two years I’ve been suffering from some strange sort of food allergies/sensitivities.  We’ve narrowed it down to where I can basically eat grass and water, but we’re not too sure about grass. Or water. Now, it’s done wonders for my waistline: I’m wearing t-shirts and jeans I last wore nearly 30 years ago. After all, when you’re not eating--and if you do eat it’s immediately and forcefully eliminated for the following 36 hours--your weight can drop fairly quickly. But painfully. Whatever it is has affected my body in other ways: I’m constantly tired, and suddenly so, as if someone had simply “unplugged” me; my depression is aggravated; I have difficulty thinking at all let alone clearly and/or creatively; painful bloating and uncontrollable, vile gassiness.

Short statblock: All this makes me the life of the party and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the pain, the fatigue, the emotional and mental issues. I’m tired of watching my family eat burgers and pizza, milkshakes and cookies while I’m eating carrots and celery, simple unseasoned ground beef (assuming it has no filler) and the occasional kosher hot dog.

So, sitting here tonight in the midst of an allergy attack and--ahem--“marinating” in my office, it got me thinking. When I game--and I know the rest of my group thinks the same way, so I can only assume we’re not unique--I don’t give much thought to my character’s illness, fatigue, and the like.

In other words, being sick and tired.

You and I get up at 5:00 a.m., maybe work out for an hour sometime during the day, put in a long day at the office or the assembly line with its accordant stress, anxiety, frustration, and back- or mind-breaking labor (physical or mental, respectively). Add in rush hour traffic both ways--or the stress and discomfort (again, physical and mental) of public transit--then you crawl your way in the front door and your toddler climbs up on your lap and either knees you (dad) in the wobblies or head-butts (mom) your sweater puppies. Then there’s the familial stresses and duties expected of you now that you’re home. And it all starts again tomorrow. Five days a week, if we’re lucky. If not, then six or even seven.

Now, I know that the above paragraph is perhaps the biggest reason many of us game. We want to get away from our normal lives. I understand this, I really do. And in this fantasy escape of ours, whatever the flavor or system, why on earth do we want to worry about mundane things. There's a reason we don't play "Houses and Humans." (There's probably several reasons why we don't play it, but that's another story.)  But face it: whether it’s through ability score modifiers, “conditions,” or some other form of RPG abstract health-tracking, characters should feel--and are, by rules as written at least, expected to feel--sick and tired. And this goes beyond simple encumbrance tracking.

Look, like it or not, it makes sense, at least from a ROLE playing standpoint. No matter what any of us do during the day, it’s not likely that we commit deeds on par with the basic tasks of our characters. When was the last time you killed a band of roving kobolds, defended a village from marauding orcs, suffered the slings and arrows of outraged towns guardsmen, or simply ran screaming from the biggest fire-breathing lizard you ever saw? All while wearing armor. And weapons. And adventuring gear. After spending the night on hard ground, half-frozen, and with a rock in your back Right. There. Oh, and you have the runs from a bad tavern meal; you’ve also been saved from near-death a half-dozen times by magic--you have to believe that that puts a little bit of stress on a body. And this is every day of the tenday. Yet we all--and I realize I might be generalizing--we all assume that a healing potion and a good night’s sleep in the woods is going to take care of all those aches and pains.

I mean, if I go camping, I’m on an air mattress and in a nice, cozy tent (if not a trailer). I’m in sweats or pajamas, not armor. And I still get up in the morning with a crick in my neck, a screwed-up back, and the legs of a 90-year-old near-invalid. Forget running from kobolds, I can hardly make it to the breakfast table.

What I’m saying is this: maybe tracking encumbrance or noting conditions, fatigue--or whatever the system equivalent is--maybe it’s a pain in the neck. Maybe it’s that “one more thing” with which you don’t want to hassle. All this might be true. But if you’re in the mood to do a little ROLE playing--or in the mood to force your players to do a little ROLE playing--consider the fact that even semi-super-human demi-demi-gods might get a little muscle-stiff or brain-sore once in a while.

Now, I don’t know the right answer here, I’m just brainstorming. Thinking aloud, as it were. Throw a couple extra conditions on ‘em. Drop an ability score or two. Give ‘em a little extra something to think about when they’re tracking down the big bad. Or running from the big bad. Whichever the case may be. Of course, you’ll have to be judicious: what would be a discomfort to high-level characters obviously could incapacitate low-level characters. Conversely, what would be a discomfort to low-level characters may be nothing more than a mosquito bite (or less) to a high-level character. Scaling the discomfort may not be the right move, as logic dictates the longer you adventure, the more accustomed you become to the rough conditions. On the other hand, the longer you adventure, the older you get, the stiffer your muscles get, and the more fragile your bones get. Then you get into the “aging” rules--something else that a lot of us tend to ignore in our adventures/campaigns.

Just something to think about. Please: let me know where I’m mis-thinking this or what your ideas on the topic might be. Until then, I’m just going to keep muddling along as best I can.

26 July 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Worst Fears Confirmed....

So, a little while ago, I heard from one of my Stronghold readers/customers. It's been two weeks since Issue #2 was mailed out to him and ... nothing.

Sigh.

I sent out a mass e-mail to my Issue #2 customers. I've already heard back from at least one: Another failed mailing.

So I started doing some research. Turns out that the stack of mailing labels I had in my label drawer--sans packaging--appears to be 3.5" diskette labels, not mailing labels. They're apparently the removable diskette labels as well.

Double sigh.

So...my guess is there's a stack of Stronghold #2s out there in the void. There may even be a couple issues of #1 out there as well. If you're one of my customers and you may be affected by this, you should have an e-mail in your in-box (PayPal-related in-box, at least). Let me know and I'll see what I can do to rectify the situation.

My sincerest apologies to all of you who are still waiting. Let's get you taken care of.

25 July 2015

Hello?

Hello? Is this thing on?

Testing.... 1...2...3....

23 July 2015

Eleven Again and Blowin' Up Stuff

 I got a wild hair last night.... But I'm getting ahead of myself....

We've been doing a lot of day-trip stuff this year, add we really can't afford an extended vacation. We just got back from a two-day trip to Dinosaur National Monument, which was an annual trip when I was a kid. Faced with some hours in the hotel, I got thinking about what to do instead of TV.

When I was 11, my buddy and I pooled  our money and bought some Car Wars stuff. He bought the books, I bought some maps and counters. I photocopied the book. When we went on vacations, I'd usually spend downtime in the hotel designing cats and running scenarios by myself.

I still have all my maps and counters. The photocopies are long gone. My buddy's books? Burned up in a fire.

This weekend, memories ensued. I picked up a dozen Hot Wheels with the idea of fiddling something together with the  PDFrules I have on my laptop.

That didn't happen.

But my wife and I decided to try a "gamecation" late this year. We have some timeshare access...in a place with terrible TV reception, no phones, no distractions...other than what we take there ourselves. So we're taking games.

Scrabble. Boggle. Sojourner Tales. D&D. May even try some X-Wing Miniatures. A couple others.

So, the wild hair. Tonight I grabbed my wife and headed 45 minutes south to a FLGS in a city down south from here. I knew they had a copy, at least they had one back in February. (Of course I'm this obsessive to remember that.) Sure enough, they had a copy.

Car Wars Classic.

And I bought it. Opened it up as soon as I got home. And I was transported back thirty-some-odd years. I was like a little kid, looking at the counters, the blank vehicle sheets. I started giggling at some point, reading the rules. Yeah, they're not elegant, they're complex, and they're not QUITE the rules u remember...but, yeah.

I think my giggling scared my wife a little.

I know what else we're going to play on our our gamecation. And once my kids know the ropes, I know where I can download a turning key for Hot Wheels.

And my youngest son is nearly the age I was when I first played....My kids are gonna blow stuff up. And I'm going to get to do it with them.

  Warm up the side-mounted flamethrowers and the front-mounted linked twin Vulcans. We're goin' auto-duelin'.

15 July 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Pushing Forward

Finished up an article today for Issue #3 of The Stronghold 'Zine.  I'm already getting excited for #3 and this is only the first article. It's a random table article, it's a lot of fun, and my test subjects have shown a lot of enthusiasm for it. It'll be a bit less "repressed 14-year-old gamer" than those in the last two issues, but I think it will please both crowds.

But as I said, it's only article #1. My muse is fickle and doesn't want to work with me. It may be something I'm doing/not doing while I'm attempting to write.

Regardless of the lack of muse, push forward I must. And so I shall.


Meanwhile, there are still copies of Issues #1 and #2 available for purchase. Y'know, just to tide you over for a while.

14 July 2015

[From the Mailbag] Kickstarter TPK Happiness!

If you've been around the internet for any length of time, I'm sure you're aware that Kickstarter projects are a mixed bag. Particularly, it seems, where RPG materials are concerned. Some are just bad ideas to begin with. Some are good ideas, but don't get the backing they need or deserve. Some are great ideas that fund--sometimes spectacularly--and are never heard from again.

Then there's the good stuff. Ahhh, yes. The good stuff.

Look. There are some good Kickstarter campaigns that make wild promises and never seem to deliver. I think we know of at least one "infinite" example. The names associated with these campaigns become watch-words. Just head over to Tenkar's Tavern and you'll learn about a few from his excellent and often money-saving reviews. There are some campaigns that fund and rush to get a project out the door...and it winds up crappy disappointing less than it could have been. I've seen a few of those.

Then there are those campaigns from individuals and/or companies that you can trust; who will fund, communicate, and provide product ... and will take their time to do so to ensure a quality product.

In my opinion, that's TPK Games in a nutshell.

TPK has a great reputation in my house. My kids know (and fear) the company logo. But they also know that it means fun, creative, and imaginative gaming material. And quality.

This is what I received in the mail just ten minutes ago.
 Yeah. So eager to share that I just pulled everything out onto my lap/keyboard and took a photo. The main product of the KS: Fen of the Five-Fold Maw adventure and chase cards. Thrown in as incentives are copies of Feats Reforged Vols II and III. (I already have Vol. I.) And, as a bonus, a TPK pin. Here's a close-up of Fen and the chase cards (and pin).


Brian and his team over at TPK are great people. Not only are they creative and know how to put out a good product, they're honest and communicate with their customers. Fen was a little late coming out in hard copy, largely because of some production issues on the printer's end. But TPK sent out constant and frequent updates, enough so that I never once pictured them sitting on a beach in Cabo drinking umbrella drinks. I cannot stress this enough: TPK Games stuff is so good and they're such a good company that I'll wait patiently and without complaint for their product. Period. They're currently running a new KS campaign, called Wardens of the Wild. Just as soon as my next paycheck comes in, I'm hitting the pledge button on this one. I trust them enough to do so on this elf-centric product, even though dwarves are more my style, simply because TPK MEANS QUALITY.

And if you haven't already picked up a copy of Fen of the Five-Fold Maw for yourself, hit the link and get one NOW.

Now you'll have to excuse me while I go seek out a cold beverage, a shady spot, and start a read-through of Fen. I'll see you all later.

(Go get a copy. Seriously.)

10 July 2015

{From the Mailbag] Terrific Mail Day!

Here's what I found in the mailbox when I got home from the office today. Considering I was suffering from some severe gastro-intestinal issues due to food allergies, it really made my day 100x better to find this.

Right. So...there were two terrific mini-adventures and a mini-module, courtesy of +Tim Shorts. All three items have Tim's great content and imagination. The mini-adventures carry maps that are terrific on their own. The mini-module? Well, I think that's going to be dropped into my own campaign as a little side-adventure. All three are stocked with great flavor.

I also found a postcard map from +Simon Forster. Typically, Simon's maps are of caverns or buildings. This time? This time was worthy of a hex: a mountain range, forest, and two villages. All of these are just BEGGING to be statted out and populated with NPCs and monsters.

These items came to me through Tim and Simon's individual Patreon campaigns. Both of these guys are fantastic vanguards of the OSR. If you haven't signed up to support them, head on over to Tim's Patreon page or to Simon's Patreon page. Better yet, hit 'em both and give 'em some shekels in support. It's definitely worth it!

08 July 2015

[From the Mailbag] Planetary Transmissions #1 Received!

Unless you've been living in a cave--or have been ignoring your OSR gaming feed--you've heard in the past couple months of the new system: White Star: White Box Science Fiction Roleplaying from Barrel Rider Games. I've been looking for a good Sci-Fi system for a while--collecting them, really--and grabbed up White Star as soon as it was released. (I'm actually anxiously awaiting the dead tree version.) I haven't had a load of time to peruse the PDF, but I like what I've seen: simple, elegant, and ultimately customizable.

This last is borne out in the sheer volume of third-party stuff that's been put out since the release of White Star. Heck, they've already had a little online controversy of their own, which will not be rehashed here or given any more print space. Suffice it to say, the system is kinda blowing up all over.

Enter Planetary Transmission by Leviathan Publishing. Issue #1 was released back at the end of May 2015 and Issue #2 is just about ready to be released. Just yesterday I got my hands on a copy of Issue #1 and ... HOLY COW.

This is some good stuff.

I think one of the marks of a good 'zine--or a good supplement of any kind, really--is its application to other settings/systems. It's why I try and stack a boatload of system-neutral stuff into The Stronghold. Well, Leviathan did it with Issue #1.

Just on my first read-through, I could see how both the new creature (the Dreg) and the creature template (the Strain) could be taken from the stars and translated to my 3.x campaign. The articles on "Allegiances" and "Contacts" spark some ideas for organizations and guilds in my campaign world, as does the article on "Armor Options." I'm already framing some of my own armor options and modifiers based on appearance, utility, etc.

The Death table easily transports to a fantasy setting for adventure hooks and quest ideas, and the Merchant table provides a useful NPC background for a fantasy bazaar. Granted, the Necro-sword would take some tweaking and the spaceships don't do much for a fantasy setting, but they are still cool ideas for a sci-fi campaign.  (I just need to convince my group to play some sci-fi, dang it all.) OH! Paper minis, too! BONUS!

All in all, a terrific first 'zine. I can't wait to get my hands on Issue #2....which should be hitting the printers any day now.

Do yourself a favor: Grab your own copy ASAP.

[The Stronghold 'Zine] 'Zine Love from a Legend and Another Mail-Map!

Those of you who've read for a while know that +Christian Walker (of Loviatar fame) is not only a good friend, but the late (demise much lamented) Loviatar 'zine is an inspiration for The Stronghold, as it is for many recent 'zines.

Well, Christian's received copies of both Issues #1 and #2of the Stronghold...and then I heard from him last week: his son enjoyed Issue #1 so much that he stole absconded with claimed for his own borrowed Issue #1 and won't give it back to his dad! Christian ordered up another copy of #1...so I included a copy of #2 for the son, with a letter inside (explaining that "This is your copy. Not your dad's."). On the outside of the envelope, this happened:

Yep. Another Mail-Map!

In the short time I've been doing these, as with most of my maps, I typically start out with a general idea, then let the pen(s) go from there, until I realize just how much work the cross-hatching is going to be and then I look for a stopping point. For this one, I just wanted something quick and dirty, short and sweet. I'd actually intended it for a small shrine...one with a hidden danger of ghouls (or somesuch) who live in caverns behind/beneath the shrine and use the shrine for food, water, etc.

Well, Christian took this, and ran with it, making it his own. And I'm awed and honored to have had this map appear on his blog as "The Skin Lab": a secret workshop for a purveyor of flesh golems. Head on over to take a look...as I said, I'm touched and honored. (And remember, all my stuff is free for your use...just please let me know how you used it and how it was received.... I'm a proud papa that way; I love to hear how my kiddies are faring out in the big wide world.)

Oh, and from all reports, Christian's son loved the letter and having his own copy of Issue #2...so, double win!

Oh, and as always, you can pick up your own copies of Issues #1 and #2 here, at Blue Moon Ink Press.

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Heartwarming Thanks!

This past week I received a heartwarming e-mail from a reader thanking me for The Stronghold. Through some further correspondence with +Jarrett Crader, the story deepened and the gratitude became even more heartwarming. I've received Jarrett's permission to share (names have been redacted).
Heya- thanks for putting out an extremely handy zine. Both issues thus far have been great! I used the nose picking section of #1 several times and I am going to make Quimby's Pets into a solo mini-campaign for one of my younger players. She's 9 and plays a 5e/BX hybrid with me and I am always looking for shorter fetch quests that don't tax a single player but don't also force me to be the voice of multiple hirelings. Procuring some of the rarer specimens for Quimby should provide us with several adventures worth of material.
Also, the fart table will be used in every possible campaign I ever run- I am a huge fan of bodily excursions and CON/Fort saves. Awesome s**t! Oh and I have a mid level table of 5e that will be running into a gholl very soon. Keep breathing new life into the game and I'll keep buying. Cheers!

[The 9-year-old's dad] works at one of the coffee shops I frequent (and that my girlfriend used to work at) and she was always fascinated with the dice and books that I had at the table. She is a regular in our 5e public play and is also one of the players in my girlfriend's all-girl group (which consists of the 9 year old and three 13 year olds plus one of the girl's moms. We have a great core of kids that game at our FLGS ... including one table of young people being DMed by a young person as well as two boys that are total rules lawyers (but in a good way!) It's content like the fart table that introduces different dice/gameplay mechanics than the usual 5e stuff that helps keep the young ones engaged and the adults will totally laugh like crazy.
 When I thanked him for helping introduce younger players to the game, and particularly younger female players, this was his terrific response:
I figure we're all paying it forward, right? I was lucky enough to learn BX from my uncle in '82 and since I don't have children of my own I want to pass on the tradition to another generation. Kids these days are lucky- they get to draw from 40 years of the game/hobby. I can't wait until I get to break their game someday!

Kudos to Jarrett for his good work promoting the hobby and a great big thanks for a glowing review. If you don't understand Jarrett's comments, you can pick up your own copies of Issues #1 and #2 here, at Blue Moon Ink Press.

03 July 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Celebration in the Stronghold!

The Stronghold received cause to celebrate this weekend for the US Independence Day: two terrific reviews for Issue #2!

First off, +Tim Shorts over at Gothridge Manor gave a blow-by-blow, article-by-article review. You can read it here. The summary: "The Stronghold is a strong entry into the OSR zine community.  Which continues to grow.  I hope you all take a look at Boric's cool zine and grab a copy or do what I did, ask for the Boric Special and get two!"  As Tim says in his review, we've been friends for several years, but I don't consider that to be a shoo-in good review. Tim's honest in his praise and in his criticism.  (And even better, Issue #9 of his own "Manor" 'zine is in the works!)

Then the Frugal GM gave a good, overall review, which you can read here.  One point I should mention: he states that he is not a "huge fan of the way things are statted out." I hope he doesn't mind me clarifying this. Through an e-mail exchange, I learned that it was that he just didn't care for 3.5 itself--the statblock style in general--rather than something I was doing wrong. I appreciate his candor; I understand that the 3.x system is not everybody's cup of tea. That's part of why I try to include at least a balance of non-3.x and 3.x material.

I tried quite hard for Issue #2 to keep the statblocks, etc. to a minimum and to aim towards a more system-neutral approach. You'll have to pick up a copy and tell me whether you think I succeeded in my goal.

To grab a copy of Issue #2 so that you can judge for yourself, head over to Blue Moon Ink Press and follow the "Buy Now" links. While you're there, you can also still pick up a copy of Issue #1 to keep your collection complete.

26 June 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Map Mayhem!

So...this just happened.

I was in the midst of addressing an envelope containing The Stronghold 'Zine #2 for shipment over the Pond. Then I got inspired. Then I thought, "Hey, let's give this overseas friend of mine a little bonus something with that inspiration." And then the inspiration got out of hand. And then I just had to Dyson-ize it with some cross-hatching. And then the colored pencils came out for some minor touch-ups. The result?


 Yeah. That's the back of the envelope winging its way across the Pond. I +Simon Forster 'd it.... I'm sure I'll get a nasty letter about it from someone from the USPS or the Royal Mail. One would hope they simply enjoy it, get a chuckle at least, and then pass it on its way. [Aside: The eponymous blue moon there is the envelope seal I employ as an extra guard against bad glue. It was merely coincidence that it fits in with the map. End aside.] I plan on cleaning this up a bit and reposting it to the Blog; I just wanted to share it ASAP...'cause, I got a chuckle out of it. So did my family.

Of course, I thought about the potential problems AFTER I had sealed the envelope and put the postage on.

So, to the lucky individual about to receive this extra special envelope, thank you for your support with The Stronghold 'Zine. It's truly appreciated. (And if the pen should happen to have bled through the envelope onto the 'zine itself, let me know, would you? I'll make it right.)

To everyone else...YOU may be the lucky recipient of the next original spontaneous mail-map creation. But you have to order a copy of The Stronghold 'Zine to have that chance! Both Issue #2 and a limited number of Issue #1 are available at Blue Moon Ink Press.


[The Stronghold 'Zine] Issue #2 is Flying!

Day Two into its young life, and Issue #2 is already a world-traveler! Issues have hit the post office and are winging their way to each corner of the continental United States, to Canada, and across the pond to Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, and Austria.

Sales have been steady and issues are flying out the door. If you've already ordered a copy, they should be showing up soon.

If you haven't already ordered a copy, well, you can do that right now with the button below (or at Blue Moon Ink's website).



Rates:








I'm also pleased to announce that I've uncovered some additional copies of Issue #1. (That's what happens when you take several different briefcases to the office; things get lost. But then there's the joy of finding them again! And you get to benefit from my forgetfulness. If you need a copy (or a duplicate copy) for your collection--or if you just want to buy a copy for your best friend or your DM, head on over to Blue Moon Ink and pick one up.

24 June 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Issue #2: It's ALIVE!

With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing.... It was already one in the morning...and my candle was nearly burnt out, when, by the glimmer of the half-extinguished light, I saw the dull yellow eye of the creature open; it breathed hard, and a convulsive motion agitated its limbs.
~Mary Shelley
                                                  
It is done. The Stronghold, Issue #2 is unleashed!

I'm proud of what's inside. I'm amazed that it's ready so soon. I'm also excited to hear what you think.

The cover of this issue was donated by a talented young lady who shows a lot of promise. Inside, Jim Magnusson has kindly provided me with three (3!) illustrations.

The first few copies are already winging their way to some lucky individuals. The link to buy your own copy is below; still only a print 'zine, in the old-school-style tradition.

**You can see a preview of the contents here and pick up a copy of Issue #1 as well. --OR-- click on the link below to go ahead and buy #2.**




When you do pick up a copy, please drop me a line, especially if you use anything from Issue #2 in your game.

Rates:


22 June 2015

[Mini Map Monday] The Sepulcher of Craemal the Decayed

I had some time on my hands today, plus a stack of 3" x 5" gridded cards, and a couple of pens, so I decided to jot down a quick off-the-cuff mini map. This has the distinction of being my first attempt at "Dysonizing" a map with cross-hatching.

The map is a bit linear, I'll admit, but I think it makes sense as a sepulcher. I imagine Craemal the Decayed as a low- to moderate-level lich. I also imagine that directly below the large mausoleum there's a room that matches the dimensions and is Craemal's workroom/library. The workroom/library would be accessed through Craemal's sarcophagus. There is a 200' shaft, perfectly smooth, that leads downward to a series of spikes set into the floor of his workroom/library. An illusory panel in the sarcophagus hides the shaft from detection...until it's too late.

In addition to the basic map, I have a numbered version as well as a gridded version. If you're interested in me posting up links to either of these maps, let me know via comments and I'll throw up a link.

As always, feel free to use my map in your home games. You can rename it, modify it, stock it, or abuse it in any manner legal in your particular jurisdiction. If you do use it, all I ask is that you let me know and tell me about it afterwards.
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