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.

30 April 2011

Z is for Zero Dice Roleplaying


I collect dice. I don't have a huge collection, but I have more than my wife can believe.

I'll be honest: I love dice. All kinds of dice. All shapes, sizes, colors, and numbers of sides.

I love rolling them, stacking them, and spinning them like makeshift tops.

I love playing games with them, allowing them to decide the fate of my characters and of my players' characters.

But are they necessary to a good game? To an evening of fun?

29 April 2011

Y is for Yllseriad, Shrine of

Deep in the woods outside of Coldtreath a small footpath meanders past a stone altar. On that altar rests a crudely shaped stone bowl; the bowl is full of crystal-clear water. It is always full of water and that water is always crystal-clear and pure.

--Click here for a pdf.--

28 April 2011

X is for X'rr

Waulker, the half-orc, traveling home after discharge from the Army came across a dying baboon in a trap. He released the baboon and nursed it back to health. Since that time, it has been a constant companion to Waulker, and has even grown to tolerate Vesseth. Between the two of them, they have given it some rudimentary training and X’rr responds to some simple commands, although only if given by either Waulker or Vesseth. Many in Coldtreath had never before seen a baboon before X’rr, and many are still startled or scared when they come in contact with him, although they commonly remark at X’rr’s dog-like loyalty.

27 April 2011

W is for Waulker

Waulker is known throughout Coldtreath as Vesseth’s partner and bodyguard. He has been Vesseth’s shadow since they were in the Army together. Many believe that he is in Vesseth’s employ, and wonder how Vesseth can possibly afford to keep his loyalty. Many have tried to buy him away from Vesseth’s side and have failed. Some have paid dearly for the attempt.

26 April 2011

V is for Vesseth

Vesseth is well-known throughout Coldtreath, especially in the Lower Quarters. He is one of Coldtreath's nightsoil collectors. As such, it is not uncommon to see him prowling through the streets at all hours of the day or night.

25 April 2011

U is for Urosh, Temple of

Because of some personal issues, I don't have a lot of time to post today. However, so that I can keep up with the daily posts....

Behold! The Temple of Urosh the Magnificent!

23 April 2011

T is for Thoklin Oroxel

Thoklin Oroxel is a member of the Silent Blade, the private guard of the Mayor of Coldtreath. She is one of the more senior members, a Lieutenant in rank, and unusually good at what she does, even for this elite group.

Thoklin is of average height and average build, but extremely attractive. Her red eyes and blonde hair add to her exoticness, but her beauty comes from something else: call it self-assuredness, call it poise, call it magic, call it her demon-blood--whatever you call it, it works.

22 April 2011

S is for Sheriff

Darryill Epting is the current sheriff of the city of Coldtreath. Unlike the mayoral position, his is an elected position; he is currently up for re-election. Sheriff Epting is a long-time friend and ally of the Mayor, who is taking advantage of his popularity and position to stump for the sheriff.

21 April 2011

R is for Real Life

As happens all too frequently, real life has interrupted the game today. Please bear with me and I'll return (hopefully tomorrow) with some new content.

I'm simply not up to it today. It's been a long month and I've reached a breaking point. My imagination is simply not working today.

One month ago, we received a call at 2:30 a.m. this morning that my wife's mother was fading fast. She'd spent the last month in a rehab center after falling and breaking her hip (and undergoing her second hip replacement in three years). My wife rushed to her side and held her hand for the next four hours until she passed.

20 April 2011

Q is for Quaint Folk

The “Quaint Folk” as they are called around Coldtreath are observants of an ancient and peculiar religion. Most of the origins of this religion are lost to history and known only to the clerics and religious leaders of the order; they are certainly not shared with outsiders. “Quaint Folk” is a rough pronunciation for the word they have for themselves, which most outsiders find to be nearly unpronounceable. The word matches no known language or dialect and the order is again none too forthcoming with the origins of the term. What is generally known about the order follows:

19 April 2011

P is for Poushif Bonereader

Poushif Bonereader is considered to be the “oddest bird in a aviary of crazy” around Coldtreath. Born to a human father and a dragonborn mother, he was bound to have issues. Despite his oddities, however, he is a wealthy man and a man of some influence in the city. He is also one with a unique role in society: the Merchant Necromancer.

18 April 2011

O is for Opening Doors

As some of you may know, I've been running a game for my rugrats.

And by "running" I mean off-and-on for over a year whenever we get around to it.

It's been a lot of fun--we've played into the wee morning hours in our trailer; we've played during power outages, we've played both with and without Dad using his laptop for DMing.

I've been using the dumbed-down version of 3.5 released as the "Basic Set" (the 2006 version). This box set contains an "introductory version" with miniatures, dice, and dungeon map tiles. It also contains a sheet of tokens representing doors, chests, treasure, etc.

The kids have loved it and I've enjoyed it as a cut-down version of the rules; it allows me, as DM, to implement and introduce additional rules and features of the game as we go.

One frustrating thing, though: as always, the Wizards of the Coast team do an amazingly bad job of consistent and intelligible detail.

16 April 2011

N is for Nano-dice

I picked them up on my way to the office today: the newest addition to my ever-growing dice collection, possibly the smallest RPG dice in the world.


15 April 2011

M is for Maerl Dardar

Maerl Dardar is a dwarf. Stout and short, even for one of his kind, yet he is all muscle and no fat. Despite his size, he is still intimidating; perhaps it is the large, ugly scar running down his face and neck, or perhaps it is the patch over his left eye. It may also be the ornate, but sturdy and well-used axe he carries strapped to his back at all times. Or it may be the deep, low voice that reminds listeners vaguely of the sound of gravel being stirred around in a metal bucket.

14 April 2011

L is for Lehman Caves

The National Park Service website has this amazingly helpful and informative description of these caves: "Lehman Caves is a beautiful marble cave ornately decorated with stalactites, stalagmites, helictites, flowstone, popcorn, and over 300 rare shield formations."

Yeah. Doesn't that just make you want to rush right out to the middle of the Great Basin and see the caves? They actually have more descriptive information about the apricot trees outside the cave than they do about the caves themselves. Really, NPS, THAT'S what your marketing team came up with?

I grew up going to Lehman Caves. It's 234 miles from Salt Lake City. That's over four hours the way my father drove. Four hours of practically nothing. In the summer. And rarely did we have air conditioning in those days.
The view from the front of the Lehman Caves Visitors' Center, looking east.

But I loved it.

13 April 2011

K is for Key, Undead Skeleton

A skeleton key, in a very general sense, is used to describe a key (or a similar object) capable of opening any lock regardless of the lock's make or type. While the typical rogue may carry a set of thieves' tools, and a generic skeleton key, there exists a more powerful version of a skeleton key that has a dual function in assisting a party to pass through barriers--the Undead Skeleton Key.

The key itself is carved from bone, generally a finger bone of a Huge or larger creature. As a simple key its like might be found in any generic set of thieves’ tools. The use of this key on a door adds a +2 circumstance bonus on Open Lock checks, as if it were a masterwork thieves’ tool.

12 April 2011

J is for Juniper Ale

Along with "Orc's Blood," Juniper Ale is one of the specialties served at The Mournful Jackal Inn & Tavern. Juniper Ale is brewed in-house by Oodagh, the owner and inkeeper of The Mournful Jackal. Oodagh refuses to admit to the full list of ingredients, claiming it is a recipe handed down through generations of his mother's family.

Juniper Ale is an acquired taste. The drink itself is a solid black liquid with a smooth texture, although it is very thick. Oodagh insists that it must be served in a tall glass tumbler. It smells faintly of pine cones and has an unusual taste with hints of chocolate and charcoal.

But it is its medicinal qualities for which Juniper Ale is most renown.

11 April 2011

I is for Innkeeper

Oodagh is recently returned to Coldtreath from several years as a mercenary. The money he made has been invested in his tavern/inn called The Mournful Jackal. At 6'10" and 250 pounds, he is still a formidable image behind the bar and he has not yet had to hire a bouncer. Brewing and innkeeping has always been his dream; he excels at one, but is still learning the other.

09 April 2011

H is for Hargrim, the Soulhammer

Hargrim Norzak lived centuries ago in the dwarven mines northeast of Coldtreath. He was a master at the forge, creating mighty weapons and fantastic, elaborate pieces of armor.

For nearly two hundred years he worked, forging armor, weapons, and other items out of every metal imaginable. His works filled the halls of the dwarven stronghold of Boltek, known to the stout folk as the Cradle of the Hidden. Countless pieces left Boltek to join the caravans; Hargrim's work was known throughout the Western World. Coldtreath was reknowned and filled with adventurers, warriors, and kings' ambassadors--all of whom sought out Hargrim's latest work.

The forge was where Hargrim worshipped. His love and devotion he saved for Fardrid, his wife, and their son, Norak. They were his entire life and all that could pull him from his work.

08 April 2011

G is for Grick

There is a slimy creature, grasping and vicious, that lives in dungeons. This foul abberation lies in wait for its unsuspecting prey to pass below it, then pounces and attacks until its victim is rendered helpless.

No, not this creature.

G-R-I-C-K, not G-L-I-C-K. That would be one of these:

Although I can understand why there would be confusion. There's a striking resemblance, and they both have voracious appetites. Not to mention those grasping tentacles.

07 April 2011

F is for Found Items

Often I like to add a little flavor to my campaigns, as well as a little mystery to my players’ lives, by including in treasure troves or other tantalizing places certain little “found” items. Very often these items look like trash or useless little bits of flotsam on an NPC’s desk. Usually they are exactly that. But when you’re operating in a sandbox environment, it is sometimes amazing what these items will turn into, either on your own inspiration or your players’.

I have had players carry some of these little bits and pieces, just a random entry on their character sheet, for weeks and months (and on one occasion, a year) until one session they look up and say, “This little bag of fingernails.... Is it possible that it belonged to NPC X?” or “Is it possible to do Z with it?” and suddenly an entirely new window of the game opens up and you have a new adventure hook.

In one instance a player carried around a small bag filled with little bells. The character used these one night, spreading them across the floor of a cavern as an alarm so that they group could rest. The wandering monster entered the cavern, stepped on the bells which immediately jingled, the party awoke, and melee ensued.

Another option is to use them as Evil DM Fodder. In other words, they're completely useless items. However, if you plan correctly and present them in just the right way it's possible to convince your players that these little bits of detritus actually have value. Take advantage of the player mindset that says, "Everything the DM does, says, or gives us has a purpose." Take that mindset and run with it. You'll have the players thinking that the lump of dried cow dung they found has mystical properties when it was nothing more than part of an NPC's tinder box.

Hey, DMs are allowed to have fun too.

So, for your DMing pleasure and enjoyment, I present the following tables:

06 April 2011

E is for Erol Otus

Erol Otus is an American artist and game designer, known most notably for his work in the early days of Dungeons and Dragons. I would dare say that he should be called legendary. Back in the day, you couldn't swing the metaphoric cat through a D&D product without hitting one of his pieces, either on the cover or inside the book.

Yes, he was that prolific.

And no, I never have actually tried to swing a cat through a book. It might be messy.

05 April 2011

D is for Drake, Carrion

The idea was for these to be found in the outer chamber of a small dragon’s lair. I can see these guys waiting in the wings to attack until the true dragon has sufficiently weakened one in the party then attacking the weak PCe when they get an opportune moment but otherwise keeping their distance. I picture a cross between a vulture and a Komodo dragon; I plan on using this pre-painted plastic miniature from Wizards of the Coast: (This miniature is the Small Black Dragon, #53 from the War of the Dragon Queen set from WotC.)

And I apologize in advance for the length of the description.

04 April 2011

C is for Chiala Ereand

For today's alphabet entry, we have Chiala Ereand, a cleric of the town of Coldtreath.

02 April 2011

B is for Bulette

A.K.A. the Landshark.

This beast is certainly what I have always considered to be an iconic Dungeons and Dragons monster, having been a part of the game since the very beginning.

And do you know, I've known about these monsters for most of my life, and yet only today did I learn that it's pronounced "boo-LAY"? (rather, "bulette" is pronounced that way, not "landshark.")

I blame it on my public school education.

01 April 2011

A is for Adventure

Atari Adventure, that is.

Adventure may have been the first video game I ever played on the Atari 2600. It was not the FIRST video game I ever played--that honor went to the Magnavox Odyssey game system. I believe we got that game system around Christmas 1974 or so. It was a fantastic system that used TV static to hold plastic overlays on the screen. My favorite, next to the Pong-like game, was "Haunted House" where the little white cursor would light up various things in the house. I wonder what my parents did with that old stuff anyway....?

There were also several games I played on one of the first Apple PCs--you remember, the ones that saved programs on audio cassette tapes? Yes, kids, Audio cassettes. Not disks, not flash drives, not CDs. AUDIO CASSETTE TAPES. Those old Apples were where I first learned to program.

But back to Atari Adventure, that was my first Atari 2600 game.

A to Z April

In an effort to make myself actually write more, I am reluctantly throwing my pencil in the ring for the blogosphere-wide April project entitled A to Z April Challenge. Granted, I'm a bit late at deciding to do this, but better late than never, eh?

The premise of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge is that I must post something on my blog every day in April except for Sundays. In doing this I'll wind up with 26 blog posts--one for each letter of the alphabet; each day the blog post subject will be determined by the letter of the alphabet.

And so, it begins.
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