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.

05 December 2012

Obligatory Apology Filler Post

My head seems to be spinning around non-stop lately.

I just realized how long it's been since I've actually posted anything here. And, yes, I know that I post one of these apology posts every so often; but heck, we all do, don't we?

Just to let you know what's been going on, at least, as much as I can at this point:

Work: Everyone here at the firm is soundly convinced that we will be unemployed before Christmas. I've been working and struggling to find some other options that will help me keep my kids fed and my wife's gas tank filled.

Finances: See above. There's a grundle of cool gaming stuff that I really want to shell out for--from dice made from rare, exotic woods to limited edition reprints of books I already have. Unfortunately, the "other options" I'm investigating don't really leave a lot of discretionary income. There's still a bit out there, but not much.

Health: I've been undergoing some really weird health issues. I don't think they're anything too serious, but the chronic nature of them is getting me a bit worried. However, thanks to over-regulation of the insurance industry (as well as a few pre-existing conditions), we had to cancel our family health insurance plan a couple years ago. Even with insurance, we weren't the type to run to the doctor for every sniffle and ache; now it's gotta be really serious to go to that waiting room. And frankly, no...I don't want my government to give me health care and no...health care is NOT going to get any easier around here any time soon. But that's a post for a different blog.

Family: I've got a teenager failing classes; she's a Junior in high school and we're not sure what the problem might be. She's smart--insanely so. I'm proud of her, but feel like we're pulling our hair out to try to help her succeed. I've got a Boy Scout now as well as a Cub Scout; merit badges and pinewood derby cars take a lot of time. I have an aged mother who I'm trying to help finalize the purchase of a headstone for my late father; the problems and follow-up come because the purchase was made from a monument company that now, apparently, is suffering huge financial issues itself, which tends to make me worry that we'll never actually SEE the stone. Add to that a Christmas letter or two that has to be drafted, as well as stuff for our Church....

Church: I won't even go into the time that my position with the Church requires.

Gaming: The group hasn't gotten together for over a month, now. The campaign is in the last chapter, but seems to have stagnated. There's been some odd things happen--weird dynamics and all--with the group that we're still trying to smooth over and put behind us. Nothing serious, but it took its toll. Even the PBEM I've been running with a friend has been on hold since August.

There's more that I could share, but I'm fairly certain I've lost most of my readers at this point to the [NEXT BLOG] button up on the top of the page. Suffice it to say that in my spare time I'm still noodling things out. Maps are still being doodled. NPC backgrounds are still being thunk up. And just this week I've realized that there are still a few things left undone from the 2011 OSR September Challenge--a few NPCs that need stats and I'm working on a template to put together a PDF of the entire month's creations. Again: I just need to find the time to put the stuff on paper. I'll be here and there, posting as time and creativity permits. I'm really hoping that life settles down a bit after the New Year.

Of course, I believe that I think--and say--the same thing EVERY December.


Keep your dice dry, my friends.

13 November 2012

Winter is Coming II Blog Carnival: The Frusenspöke

Around these parts, we were taken by surprise by a massive winter storm that changed our climate from a nice temperate Autumn to deep Winter overnight. Record-setting snowfalls, low temperatures...the works.

I don't like winter. At all. While I would much rather be too cold than too hot, I generally dislike the snow, ice, and all that comes with it. How serendipitous it was, then, to stumble across Dicemonkey's proposed RPB Blog Carnival: Winter is Coming II. The premise of the carnival was simply stated in the title: Anything wintry and cold. I thought it was extremely fitting, considering my lousy mood with snow falling outside my window. Unfortunately, the deadline to participate was November 14, so I knew I had to work fast to get something in.

So, without further ado, my "generic" RPG description of a new critter: "The Frusenspöke." I'll be statting this one up for 3.x a bit later and posting it up for general consumption; I just wanted to get the general stats up for inclusion in the Carnival.

The Frusenspöke

No one is quite sure of the original source of the frusenspöke. Some blame the usual suspects: evil wizards, foul sorcerers, necromancers, and other doers of dark deeds. There are those who blame the restless dead themselves, discontent to simply lie quietly among the never-ending cold and snow. Others blame it on divine retribution. Still others blame organisms within the snow and ice itself, organisms that come from “beyond the outer places” and are older than civilization itself. Whatever their source, however, all who know about the frusenspöke agree upon two things: they are evil and they are deadly. Note: the typical zombie as presented in the ruleset are modified as listed below.

Frusenspöke come in as many varied stages of decomposition as a regular zombie. However, these creatures have several consistent characteristics that set them apart. Their skin is a sky-blue in color and covered with a thin layer of frost and the occasional razor-sharp ice crystals. There are also thick razor-sharp ice crystals in whatever hair or fur the base creature normally has.

Frusenspöke have four separate forms of attacks: slam, bite, crystalline flesh, and a breath weapon.
Slam: as per the typical zombie, plus a slight amount of cold damage on a successful melee attack. (Note: the damage normally taken from flesh-to-flesh contact from the frusenspöke’s crystalline flesh [see below] does not occur with a frusenspöke’s slam attack)
Bite: as per the base creature (or a similarly-sized creature with a low damage bite attack), plus a medium amount of cold damage on a successful bite attack.
Crystalline flesh: any creature coming into flesh-to-flesh contact with a frusenspöke will take a minor amount of slashing damage from the razor-sharp ice crystals that cover the frusenspöke’s skin, hair, and fur. This damage is automatic upon contact regardless of who initiates the contact; it is not considered a separate attack.
Breath weapon: a frusenspöke can emit a cloud of noxious, freezing gas once every four rounds. The cloud is essentially a 10'-radius fog bank that deals a medium-high amount of cold damage to affected creatures who do not successfully avoid the cloud. It may also cause nausea to those enveloped by the cloud.

Those creatures who succumb to the frusenspöke’s bite or breath weapon and die as a result will rise themselves as a frusenspöke within 24 hours. Any high-level magic that cures a majority of damage and ills will prevent the creation of a new frusenspöke from such attacks.

Frusenspöke are able to move through ice and snow as if through air. While other creatures are slowed to at least one-half normal speed through snow drifts and across ice, frusenspöke retain their full movement rate.

Frusenspöke do not suffer any negative modifiers to perception rolls through snow or ice storms. Frusenspöke likewise do not suffer any negative modifiers to perception rolls due to fog banks. These creatures treat cold-related weather effects as other creatures would treat a beautiful, clear, sunny spring day.

Frusenspöke are immune to any type of cold- or water-related attacks and spells. They take double damage, however, from fire- and fire-related attacks and spells.

12 November 2012

Rival Adventuring Party: The Stumble Hollow Trine, Part 3

Alyss Krov

Alyss [pronounced “Ay-liss”] Krov was orphaned at a young age when her parents and five siblings were massacred. The individual responsible was never found, but it has always been rumored to have been the work of a powerful wizard; none know the truth. At the time of the murders, there had been a rash of thefts from the rich and powerful in the town of Byesmore. Ayliss’ father was a wealthy man in town and an outspoken critic of the town guard; when he was killed, he was in the process of bringing in a mercenary force–including wizards–to stop the thefts and track down those responsible. He and the family were killed before he could complete the transaction. Five-year-old Alyss was in the fields behind the family home picking strawberries at the time and was overlooked by the killer or killers.
Alyss has led the last 25 years of her life learning arcane skills in an effort to hunt down those responsible for her family’s death. She is extraordinarily attractive, standing 4 ft. 11 in. and weighing 110 lbs. Brown eyes peer out from a narrow face partially hidden behind long blond bangs, with her braided hair reaching the small of her back. Extensive arcane tattoos cover her face and arms.
Alyss is extremely distrustful of strangers and is only staying a member of the Stumble Hollow Trine until she finds something better; any other adventuring party that promises new places to search for her family’s killer would not have to twist her arm to join.
She carries with her a beautiful longspear, her favorite weapon. This was the weapon that took her father’s life; she found it lodged in his back when she returned from her strawberry-picking excursion. She longs for the day when she can return it, in a sense, to its former owner. She is accompanied everywhere by her weasel familiar named Fakel.


Alyss Krov
Aristocrat 4 / Wizard 3 (School: Conjuration; Prohibited: Illusion, Necromancy)
HP: 32
Init.: -1
Speed: 30 ft.
AC:11, Touch 9, flat-footed 11 (Leather)
Base Attack: +4
Grapple: +5
Attack: Longspear (+7) 1d8+1 or Crossbow, light +4 (1d8) Crit: 19-20 x2
Full Attack: Longspear (+7) 1d8+1 or Crossbow, light +4 (1d8) Crit: 19-20 x2
Alignment: CN
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +3, Will +8
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 9, Con 12, Int 16, Wis 12, Chr 14
Skills: Appraise 11, Bluff 5, Concentration 11, Diplomacy 5, Disguise 5, Gather Information 10, Intimidate 2, Knowledge (Arcana) 8, Knowledge (Dungeon) 11, Knowledge (Geography) 11, Listen 1, Ride -1, Spellcraft 9, Spot 3, Survival 8, Swim 3
Feats: Combat Casting; Heavy Armor Proficiency; Light Armor Proficiency; Martial Weapon Proficiency; Medium Armor Proficiency; Shield Proficiency; Simple Weapon Proficiency; Spell Penetration; Weapon Focus (longspear; Weapon Focus, Ranged (crossbow, light)
Languages: Common, Draconic, Abyssal

Spells Known:
Level 0 (4) DC 13
Acid Splash(Conjuration)[Creation Acid ] X 3
Daze(Enchantment)[Compulsion Mind-Affecting ] X 1
Ray of Frost(Evocation)[Cold ] X 1

Level 1 (4) DC 14
Mage Armor(Conjuration)[Creation Force ] X 1
Magic Missile(Evocation)[Force ] X 1
Shocking Grasp(Evocation)[Electricity ] X 1
Summon Monster I(Conjuration)[Summoning ] X 1

Level 2 (3) DC 15
Flaming Sphere(Evocation)[Fire ] X 1
Summon Swarm(Conjuration)[Summoning ] X 1
Web(Conjuration)[Creation ] X 1

CR 6


Crossbow, Light
Masterwork Longspear
Potion of Cure serious wounds
Potion of Cure moderate wounds
Potion of Darkvision
Potion of Invisibility
Wand Bracer
Wand of Charm person
Wand of Light
Wand of Detect secret doors

**Many thanks to WotC's "PC Portraits" Archive for the image.

Fakel, Weasel Familiar

Tiny Animal
Hit Dice: 4d8 (16 hp)*
Init.: +2
Speed: 20 ft., climb 20 ft.
AC:16* (+2 size, +2 Dex, +2 natural), Touch 14, flat-footed 14
Base Attack: +4*
Grapple: -12
Attack: Bite (+4) 1d3-4
Full Attack: Bite (+4) 1d3-4
Special Attacks: Attach
Special Qualities: Low-light vision, scent, Familiar Abilities*
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +15, Will +8*
Abilities: Str 3, Dex 15, Con 10, Int 10,* Wis 12, Cha 5
Skills: Balance +10, Climb +10, Hide +11, Move Silently +8, Spot +3
Feats: Weapon Finesse

Attach (Ex): If a weasel hits with a bite attack, it uses its powerful jaws to latch onto the opponent’s body and automatically deals bite damage each round it remains attached. An attached weasel loses its Dexterity bonus to Armor Class and has an AC of 12.
An attached weasel may be struck with a weapon or grappled itself. To remove an attached weasel through grappling, the opponent must achieve a pin against the creature.
Skills: Weasels have a +4 racial bonus on Move Silently checks and a +8 racial bonus on Balance and Climb checks. They use their Dexterity bonus for Climb checks. A weasel can always choose to take 10 on a Climb check, even if rushed or threatened.

Familiar Abilities: Natural armor, Intelligence, Alertness, Improved Evasion, Share Spells, Empathic link, Deliver Touch Spells

*modified as per Familiar description

**Many thanks to WotC's "PC Portraits" Archive for the image.

05 November 2012

Jay Penn For Sale!

No, I don't actually have the rights to sell Jay Penn, although if I did, Dennis Mize's infamous "Slave Auction" comes to mind, which is possibly the most disturbing thought I've had yet today. (Sorry, Jay.)

Those who frequent these pages will, no doubt, remember my ravings from a week ago regarding my acquisition of a couple of pieces of art from artist Jay Penn. Even further back, it was Jay Penn's illustration of an otyugh that prompted me to go crazy and purchase several WotC minis of the critter from the after-market.

Well, shortly thereafter he sent me word--and posted up on his blog--that he was opening up his Loviatar art portfolio for sale. This is your chance to own your very own piece of 'zine and art history!

There's been some fantastic stuff in the pages of Loviatar and some fantastic artistic renderings to go with it. I really can't say enough good about both Jay's art and how great he is to work with, business-wise. I'd urge anyone interested to take a peek at Jay's portfolio and his offerings. Snatch up your favorites while you can!

I'm already putting together a list of my "wants" and hoping no one beats me to them.

Why are you still here reading this? Go. Now. Look at art. Purchase. Before the otyugh is set loose on you. I'm serious.

02 November 2012

NaNoWriMo: IT BEGINS!!!!

Or it SHOULD be beginning, anyway.
It ain't happenin' here this year. I'm a little bit bummed out about it but also a little bit relieved. I think I need to step away from the "forced imagination production" for a year to recharge my batteries. I also need to step away for a year because of personal issues that just won't quit. Between my ecclesiastical duties, responsibilities to my family, concerns over my mother's health, concerns over MY health, not to mention financial worries and the looming potential that this attorney may be out of work soon...between all these things, I just can't justify spending the time, sweat, blood, and tears to pound out 1,334 words per day over the next month.

Especially when I fear that most of those 1,334 words would simply end up on the editing room floor anyway, simply because I couldn't be trusted to focus and concentrate on my craft.

It's a little bittersweet; as hard as it can be sometimes, it is still fun to sit side by side with my wife and compete for daily word count, all while helping each other with our respective budding novels.

The creative output can be cathartic, but in this instance I fear it will be a distraction instead.

And now that I read this post, I realize that this is all a bit personal and it's likely that none of my readers really care that I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo this year. On the off chance that one of you out there actually did care...well, I guess this post is for you, to help allay your frustration. For the rest of you, I guess this frees up a bit more time this month for some gaming-related creativity, which The Stronghold typically lacks during the month of October. Expect a few more posts at least this month.

Now...back to the real world for a while.

31 October 2012

Happy Hallowe'en!

Just wanted to wish everyone a terrific Hallowe'en!

May it be suitably scary or sweet, depending on your holiday bent.

May you all be well and truly chocolated!

May you all be safe.

And this last is particularly for those on the East Coast of the U.S. May you be protected, cared for, and get back on your feet as soon as possible. May you be blessed in this time of trial. After all, it's a fun holiday, but there are bigger things in this world too.

29 October 2012

Monstrous Monday: Bottled Spirits

I must apologize for the lateness of today's entry. Between courtroom dramas, professional angst among the staff, and a parent in the hospital, the hobby had to take a backseat for a while today.

Boy, could I use a drink.

But I wouldn't want to try one of these Bottled Spirits.

Bottled spirits are undead beings consisting entirely of foul bodily liquids and ectoplasm. They poison opponents and reduce them to liquid to create others like themselves.

Originally created by a necromancer with some skill at alchemy, a bottled spirit looks like a dark liquor with swirling silver streaks. They inhabit chosen vessels, typically bottles or flasks, from which unsuspecting creatures may drink. If released from its chosen vessel some other way than being imbibed, a bottled spirit can move quickly, but is usually harmless, as it has lost both the element of surprise and its favored method of attack. A cleric of at least 15th level can create a bottled spirit with the create undead spell.


Bottled Spirit

Small Undead
Hit Dice: 2d12+3 (16 hp)
Initiative: +2
Speed: 40 ft.
AC: 14 (+2 Dex, +2 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +1/+6
Attack: Slam 1d6 + poison
Face/Reach: 5 ft. by 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Poison, Energy drain
Special Qualities: Fast healing 3, turn resistance +2, undead traits
Saves: Fort +2, Ref +4, Will +2
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 15, Con —, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 12
Skills: Hide +7, Jump +5, Move Silently +7, Spot +5
Feats: Improved Grapple (see text), Toughness
Climate/Terrain: Any land and underground
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 2
Alignment: Always chaotic evil

Bottled spirits typically attack only when a creature attempts to drink from their chosen vessel. They attack alone, enveloping the victim’s head and forcing its way down the creature’s throat. A bottled spirit will remain attached until it is either forcibly removed, destroyed, or the victim is dead. If forcibly removed, a bottled spirit will quickly retreat and attempt to sink into cracks, crevices, or other hiding places until it can return safely to its vessel, or a new chosen vessel.

Energy Drain (Su) This attack saps a living opponent’s vital energy and happens automatically when a bottled spirit’s slam attack is successful. Each successful energy drain bestows one negative level to the victim. If a bottled spirit scores a critical hit with an energy drain attack, it drains two levels. For each negative level bestowed upon a victim, the bottled spirit gains 5 temporary hit points (10 on a critical hit); these temporary levels last for one hour.
A victim takes a -1 penalty on all skill and ability checks, attack rolls, and saving throws, and loses one effective level for each negative level. A spellcaster loses one spell slot of the highest level of spells she can cast and (if applicable) one prepared spell of that level; this loss persists until the negative level is removed.
Negative levels remain for 24 hours or until removed with a spell such as restoration. If not removed within 24 hours, the victim must attempt a Fortitude save (DC 12). If successful, the negative level goes away without further harm to the victim. If the save fails, the negative level goes away, but the victim’s level is also reduced by one. A separate saving throw is necessary for each negative level.

Fast Healing (Ex): A bottled spirit regains hit points at an exceptionally fast rate, 3 hit points per round.

Poison (Ex): Ingested, Fortitude DC 17, initial and secondary damage 1d2 Con. The save DC is Constitution-based. A creature whose Constitution is reduced to 0 in this manner is dead. One minute later, the corpse vomits forth a vile substance–a mixture of ectoplasm and bodily fluids that constitutes a new bottled spirit. The original bottled spirit has no control over this new creature. The new bottled spirit thereafter searches out its own chosen vessel. The transformation process can be delayed by casting consecrate, gentle repose, or delay poison on the body (delaying the process until the spell runs out), or negated entirely with heal, neutralize poison, or remove disease.

Improved Grapple: If a creature intentionally attempts to imbibe a bottled spirit, the spirit gains a +4 bonus on all grapple checks; it attempts to start a grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity.

Undead Traits: Immune to mind-affecting effects, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, death effects, necromantic effects, and any effect that requires a Fortitude save unless it also works on objects. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, ability drain, energy drain, or death from massive damage. A necroplasm cannot be raised, and resurrection works only if it is willing. The creature has darkvision (60-foot range).

25 October 2012

A Giant and a Ranger Walk Into a Stronghold....

I've been meaning to write this post for two days. Unfortunately, a barometer-induced migraine intervened and I've spent many hours with an ice pack and pain medication in a dark room instead.

Early Monday afternoon the mailman brought me a great surprise: a well-packed, stiff envelope from Ireland.

Yes, I said Ireland.

After months of back and forth e-mails (mostly from me apologizing for real life getting in the way of PayPal payments), Jay Penn relinquished two of his babies to my care on October 19th. I was surprised to get them so quickly, to be honest. Only three days in transit from Ireland to The Stronghold? Really?

Somehow I doubt it was the doing of the USPS.

But I digress. For those of you not familiar with Jay Penn's work, well, first of all: SHAME ON YOU!! But second of all, Jay Penn is known for, besides other things, giving pictorial life to the pages of Loviatar by Christian, which I may have discussed here on occasion.

Back in July, I stumbled across a link to Jay's website, Realms of Faerie. He was in the midst of a "31 Day Drawing Challenge" project. It just so happened that the day I visited his particular picture just clicked with me. I had to have it. As I said above: after several months of e-mails back and forth, it arrived on Monday in perfect condition (something I was really truthfully worried about) and ready for framing (if I can find a suitable frame and a reasonable professional to help me do it right). I think it'll look great in my study.

I don't know exactly why, but it spoke to me. I'm not well-versed in artistic theory; if you must know, when it comes to art, I somewhat ascribe to the theory put forth by Justice Potter Stewart when describing pronography: I know it when I see it. In other words, I know what I like when I see it. I generally like watercolors. And there's something about the "twist" of the giant figure overlooking the serene farm and under the watchful eye (or not-so watchful eye in this case) of the manor house on the hill. It all looks so "normal" until your eye falls upon the hazy giant figure.

During the time we were working on getting the watercolor to me, Jay decided to offer for sale a limited run of prints of his cover art for Loviatar #9: a fellow named Morgan Stringman, who certainly seems more than capable of taking care of himself. See for yourself. And pick one up for yourself while they last!

So I picked one of those up as well. I love the fine line-work and the action suggested by the drawing, not to mention the details. The attraction was helped by the fact that, over the years, I also have had several rangers amongst my players. Those characters share a soft spot in my heart; one of them even looks a bit like Morgan. This one is going to look terrific hanging on my study wall too. I can hardly wait.

I can't say enough about Jay and his artwork. I'm a big fan; it's simplistic, I know, but it's true. I think he's summed up best by Christian's words: Someone needs to come along and take Jay Penn away from Loviatar. He's too damn good to be illustrating this humble rag. His work should be on the shelves of a FLGS and he should be signing copies of his work at GenCon.

I wholeheartedly agree: he's good. Very good. (But please, Jay, don't leave Loviatar!) I'm just proud to say, "I own a couple of Jay Penns." And thanks, Jay, for trusting me with these two of your children. I'm honored.

Check him out. You won't be disappointed.

22 October 2012

Monstrous Monday: Bloat Zombie

From Zombie Pandemic dot com
Today's Monstrous Monday gets a little bit sickening with the Bloat Zombie.

This disgusting, bloated undead poses a grave danger to those unfamiliar with its peculiarity. Its massive size belies the speed with which the creature can move and attack. The creature is so engorged with gasses and infection that it seems to be larger than the creature was in life.

Bloat zombies extrude an incredibly nasty smell of rotting tissue, decomposition, and death gasses. The smell is so bad that it almost immediately sickens those who come near it and causes physical damage to those it affects. When defeated, these bloated gas bags take their revenge upon their victors, infecting them with undeath, gradually weakening the still-living until they eventually die, spawning a new bloat zombie.

Bloat zombie is an acquired template that can be added to any corporeal creature (other than an undead) that has a skeletal system (referred to hereafter as the base creature). The template utilizes the same changes as a regular zombie, with the following changes:
  • “Special Attacks” outlined below 
  • while the base creature's size remains the same, some aspects are treated as if one size larger (Strength, Damage, Natural Armor, AC/Attack, Grapple, and Hide modifier)
  • the base creature’s HD increases by 1 
  • the base creature's CR increases by 3


Bloat zombie (Human Commoner)

Medium Undead
Hit Dice: 3d12 +3 (22 hp)
Initiative: -1
Speed: 30 ft. (can’t run)
Armor Class: 12 (-1 Dex, -1 size, +4 natural), touch 8, flat-footed 13
Base Attack/Grapple: +0/+6
Attack: Slam +2 melee (1d8+5) or club +2 melee (1d8+5)
Full Attack: Slam +2 melee (1d8+5) or club +2 melee (1d8+5)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Undead reek, Explosive decomposition
Special Qualities: Single actions only, damage reduction 5/slashing, darkvision 60 ft., Hide -4, undead traits
Saves: Fort +0, Ref -1, Will +3
Abilities: Str 20, Dex 8, Con --, Int –, Wis 10, Cha 1
Skills: --
Feats: Toughness
Environment: Any
Organization: Any
Alignment: Always neutral evil
Level Adjustment

CR 4

Undead reek (Ex): The smells of death leak from the over-sized bodies of bloat zombies with the least movement. The reek of decomposition and gasses is so potent that it sickens nearly every form of animal life. Any living creature within 30 feet of a bloat zombie must succeed on a DC 15 Fortitude save or be sickened for 10 rounds. (Save DC is Constitution-based.) An affected creature also takes 1d4 hp of damage per round for each of the 10 rounds. Creatures that successfully save cannot be affected by the same bloat zombie’s stench for 24 hours. A delay poison or neutralize poison spell removes the effect from the sickened creature. Creatures with immunity to poison are unaffedcted, and creatures resistant to poison receive their normal bonus on their saving throws.

Explosive decomposition (Ex): When a bloat zombie is reduced to 0 hp, it explodes in a violent blast of gas that deals 5d6 poings of damage to all creatures within a 30-foot radius (DC 15 Reflex save for half damage). Every creature within that radius must also make a DC Fortitude save (Constitution-based) or be infected by the gas. Each day thereafter, an infected creature must succeed on a Fortitude save or take 1d6 points of Constitution damage. When the creature’s Constitution reaches 0, the victim dies and becomes a bloat zombie. A remove disease spell cast on a an affected creature before it dies destroys the infection and prevents any further Constitution damage.

15 October 2012

Monstrous Monday: Dragonette Swarm

Inspired by the pile of MegaBloks "Dragons Universe" mini-dragons** in my desk drawer, I give you today's Monstrous Monday entry: the Dragonette Swarm!

Dragonette swarms are composed of tiny dragons, or dragonettes. These tiny dragons are approximately 2-3 inches in length and have many of the same abilities as older dragons of the same color, but in a more compact size; several could fit on the palm of an average human hand. They are, however, not as intelligent as true dragons. The swarms are composed of dragonettes of all one color; however, it is possible that multiple swarms may be encountered that each have distinct colors (i.e., a swarm of red and a swarm of green that co-exist in the same nest area).

On average, one quarter of the dragonettes in a swarm may use their breath weapon each round. The swarm itself may therefore produce a breath weapon each round. Dragonettes possess no spell-like or spell-casting abilities, but each possesses the distinct breath weapon type of its corresponding true dragon form.

It is unclear how dragonette swarms reproduce; some hypothesize that they are hive creatures while others envision vast nests of the tiny creatures. Every supposed solution fails to answer one conundrum: the wide variety of colors that co-exist in each apparent colony.


Swarm, Dragonette

Tiny Dragon (Swarm)
Hit Dice: 8d12 +8 (63 hp)
Initiative: +10
Speed: 5 ft., fly 40 ft. (average)
Armor Class: 16 (+2 size, +4 natural), touch 12, flat-footed 16
Base Attack/Grapple: +12/--
Attack: Swarm (3d6 + breath weapon)
Full Attack: Swarm (3d6 + breath weapon)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Frightful swarm
Special Qualities:Blindsense 60 ft.; Damage reduction 5/magic; Darkvision 90 ft.; Energy Immunity (per type); immunity to sleep; immunity to paralysis; Spell resistance 10
Saves: Fort +10, Ref +6, Will +6
Abilities: Str 16, Dex 10, Con 15, Int 8, Wis 11, Cha 10
Skills: Fly +8, Intimidate +10, Listen +10, Spot +10
Feats: Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative
Environment: As corresponding color of true dragon.
Organization: Solitary, clutch (2-4 swarms), or horde (5-8 swarms)
Level Adjustment

CR 8

Breath Weapon: Any creature within the swarm is a target of the breath weapon(s) of the dragonettes. The breath weapons have no range beyond that of the boundaries of the swarm. The breath weapon’s damage and DC are as the breath weapon of a wyrmling of the corresponding true dragon type.

Frightful Swarm (Ex): Any living creature that begins its turn with a dragonette swarm in its space must succeed on a DC 18 Will save. Any creature that succeeds on the Will save remains immune to that swarm’s frightful effect for 24 hours. On a failure, creatures with 4 or less HD become panicked for 4d6 rounds and those with 5 or more HD become shaken for 4d6 rounds. Dragons ignore the frightful effect.

Energy Resistance (Swarm): The dragonette swarm enjoys a protection from energy attacks, as the spell Protection from Energy (CL 3). The swarm has a natural protection from the energy type that matches the breath weapon of its corresponding true dragon form.

Many thanks to my buddy Simonathi Starym for a bit of game testing, advice, and tweaking.

**Yeah.... Turns out that when I went looking for the names of these toys after I finished the entry, MegaBloks actually calls them "swarm dragons." I had no idea. Maybe my sub-conscious was working over-time on me.

08 October 2012

Rival Adventuring Party: The Stumble Hollow Trine, Part 2

Rizac the Pious

Rizac the Pious (a self-assumed title) is a follower and true believer of Bil, the Goddess of the Sun and War. Rizac was born in Ninthstair Dale in the country of Inaith; he has forsaken any claim upon Ninthstair Dale in favor of his citizenship from Mezan. He will, in fact, violently protest any connection with Ninthstair Dale or Inaith, despite the fact that his Mezanite citizenship is completely and utterly fraudulent.

Rizac is an excellent representative for Bil, as he is every bit as war-loving and arrogant as his goddess. He also shares her blond hair, although his is dyed. He is extremely suspicious, and does not give his loyalty or trust easily. He rarely smiles; when he does, it is typically a quick twitch at the corner of his mouth–there and gone.

Of all the Stumble Hollow Trine, Rizac has been a companion to Lord Alotharo the longest. He does not have a lot of respect for Lord Alotharo, as he believes the man to be a minor noble at best and a bumbling braggart at worst. However, being part of the Trine has been quite lucrative for Rizac financially and has given him an outlet to worship Bil through warfare, combat, and mayhem. Deep down he believes himself to be the true leader of the Trine; he allows Lord Alotharo to act as the leader, but Rizac knows that he is better suited to the role and that the rest of the group feels the same way.

Rizac the Pious
Aristocrat 4 / Cleric 5 (Domains: Battle, Death)
HP: 52
Init.: -1
Speed: 20 ft.
AC:16, Touch 9, flat-footed 16 (Chainmail, Heavy steel shield)
Base Attack: +6
Grapple: +8
Attack: Mace, Heavy (+9) 1d8+2
Full Attack: Mace, Heavy (+9/4) 1d8+2; Gauntlet, Spiked (+2) 1d4+1
Alignment: LE
Special Attacks: Turn Undead
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +1, Will +11
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 9, Con 13, Int 11, Wis 17, Chr 12
Skills: Bluff 4, Concentration 10, Diplomacy 8, Gather Information 1, Heal 8, Intimidate 6, Knowledge (Dungeon) 2, Knowledge (Geography) 2, Knowledge (Religion) 3, Listen 8, Sense Motive 8, Spot 8, Survival 7
Feats: Combat Casting; Extend Spell; Great Fortitude; Heavy Armor Proficiency; Light Armor Proficiency; Martial Weapon Proficiency; Medium Armor Proficiency; Shield Proficiency; Simple Weapon Proficiency; Toughness; Tower Shield Proficiency; Weapon Focus (mace, heavy); Widen Spell
Languages: Common

Spells Known:
Level 0 (5) DC 13
Detect Magic X 1
Inflict Minor Wounds X 2
Resistance X 2

Level 1 (5) DC 14
Bane X 2
Cause Fear X 1
Deathwatch X 1
Protection from Good X 1

Level 2 (4) DC 15
Cure Moderate Wounds X 1
Darkness X 1
Death Knell X 1
Spiritual Weapon X 1

Level 3 (3) DC 16
Contagion X 1
Extended Death Knell X 1
Magic Vestment X 1

CR 7
(XP: 3200)

Chainmail +1
Gauntlet, spiked +1
Mace, heavy +1
Shield, heavy steel +1
Helm of Blasting (minor) (as Circlet of Blasting (Minor))
Wand of Cure Light Wounds

**Many thanks to WotC's "PC Portraits" Archive for the image.

Monstrous Monday: Soot Drake

This two-legged dragon* is red with a black underside and is perpetually wreathed in puffs of soot. They are the abominable spawn of a red and a black dragon. They have all of the rage and maliciousness of their parents while lacking in the reason and intelligence of true dragons. They are unsubtle bullies who terrorize all lesser creatures around them.

Because of their temper and lack of intelligence, soot drakes are rarely if ever found in groups larger than two; even two together is unusual and would represent a mated pair. Such pairs will fight with coordinated attacks and will viciously protect their mate.

Soot drakes mate year-round with the females laying clutches of three or four eggs in hidden mountain nests. Parents raise their offspring for only one year before abandoning them. Soot drakes mature in 3 years and can live up to 200 years, although few survive that long. They generally grow to 10 feet long with 7-10 foot long tails, and weigh 1,500 pounds.


Soot Drake

Large Dragon (fire)
Hit Dice: 6d12 +15 (50 hp)
Initiative: +5
Speed: 20 ft., fly 60 ft. (average)
Armor Class: 18 (+1 Dex, -1 size, +8 natural), touch 10, flat-footed 17
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+12
Attack: Bite +10 melee (2d6+5 + 1d6 acid), tail slap +5 (1d6+2)
Full Attack: Bite +10 melee (2d6+5 + 1d6 acid), tail slap +5 (1d6+2)
Space/Reach: 10 ft./10 ft.
Special Attacks: Stinging soot cloud
Special Qualities: Darkvision 60 ft.; low-light vision; scent; spot +10; listen +10; immunity to fire; immunity to acid; immunity to paralysis; vulnerability to cold
Saves: Fort +8, Ref +6, Will +6
Abilities: Str 21, Dex 13, Con 16, Int 9, Wis 12, Cha 10
Skills: Fly +8, Intimidate +9, Listen +10, Move Silently +6, Spot +10, Survival +10
Feats: Flyby Attack, Improved Initiative, Power Attack
Environment: Temperate mountains or hills
Organization: Solitary or pair
Level Adjustment

CR 5

Stinging Soot Cloud (Su): A soot drake may exhale a cloud of stinging, acidic soot as a standard action in either a 30 ft. cone or a 20 ft. radius spread. The cloud persists for 1d4 rounds. Any living creature in the area is blinded by the smoke and takes 1d6 points of acid damage per round of exposure (DC 13 Reflex save negates blindness but not damage). Creatures in the cloud take a -2 penalty on attack rolls and Spot skill checks for as long as they remain inside and for 1 round after exiting the cloud. Anyone in the thick smoky cloud benefits from concealment as well.
A creature who breathes in the smoke must make a Fortitude save each round (DC 15, +1 each additional check) or spend the round choking and coughing. A creature that chokes for two consecutive rounds takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage.
The stinging soot cloud can also smother unprotected flames and can choke protected flames (50% chance).

*Yeah, yeah...I know. A "drake" in 3.X is a four-legged creature and a wyvern is two-legged; it's Pathfinder that has the two-legged drakes. I liked the idea in this instance better as a two-legged drake and used the Pathfinder drakes as a model/template for this beastie.

01 October 2012

Monstrous Monday: Eye Imp

The eye imp is a sub-class of the devilish imp family. In appearance, it looks identical to the typical imp: red-skinned, winged humanoids with bulbous features. However, the eye imp is a diminutive creature, approximately the size of a small bat. In addition, it has abnormally huge, bulging eyes which dominate its face and grant it enhanced vision.

The eye imp is difficult, if not impossible, to see directly. However, when viewed from one’s peripheral vision, it is readily apparent. Unfortunately, the eye imp’s erratic flight patterns seen out of the corner of the eye appears as a random flickering or other similar confusing motion, which easily distracts the viewer making attacks, spell-casting, and other visual skills more difficult.

Eye Imp

Diminutive Outsider (Evil, Extraplanar, Lawful)
Hit Dice: 3d8 (13 hp)
Initiative: +3
Speed: 20 ft., fly 40 ft. (perfect)
Armor Class: 22 (+3 Dex, +4 size, +5 natural), touch 17, flat-footed 19
Base Attack/Grapple: +3/-5
Attack: Sting +8 melee (1d4 + poison)
Full Attack: Sting +8 melee (1d4 + poison)
Space/Reach: 1 ft./0 ft.
Special Attacks: Poison, Spell-like abilities
Special Qualities: Damage Reduction 5/good or silver, darkvision 90 ft., distraction, fast healing 2, immunity to poison, invisibility (limited), resistance to fire 5
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +4
Abilities: Str 10, Dex 17, Con 10, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 14
Skills: Hide +20, Knowledge (any one) +6, Listen +7, Move Silently +9, Search +6, Spellcraft +6, Spot +12, Survival +1 (+3 following tracks)
Feats: Dodge, Weapon Finesse
Environment: A lawful evil-aligned plane
Organization: Solitary
Level Adjustment – (Improved Familiar)

CR 2

Like their larger cousins, eye imps are craven, but not so timid to pass up an opportunity for a surprise attack. An eye imp attacks with the wicked stinger on its tail. It quickly flies out of reach if a foe manages to strike bake effectively.

Poison (Ex): Injury, Fort DC 13, initial damage 1d4 Dex, secondary damage 2d4 Dex. The save DC is Constitution-based and includes a +2 racial bonus.

Spell-like Abilities: At will–detect good, detect magic

Distraction (Su): The eye imp hovers at the edge of a creature’s peripheral vision, causing the subject’s mind to wander and distracting her with the perception of odd, annoying movement at her side. The affected creature is allowed a DC 14 Will save, or suffers a -4 penalty to all Perception and Sense Motive checks, as well as to Attack rolls. If the affected creature is attempting to cast a spell, the creature must make a DC 14 Concentration check (instead of the Will save), or the spell fails.

Invisibility, Limited (Su): Twice per day, the eye imp may cast a form of invisibility upon itself which allows it to be invisible when viewed directly, but is visible when viewed peripherally by a creature. When using this effect, the eye imp’s distraction ability DC increases by +2 to a DC 16 save. Limited invisibility lasts 3 rounds and is not terminated by an eye imp’s attacks.

20 September 2012

Deities of Dran, Part 1

Bil is the Goddess of the Sun and War worshiped by the Humans on the continent of Dran. She typically appears as a human woman, one who is divinely beautiful with fair skin, long, swirling bright red hair, and eyes the color of black opals. She is very tall and of hearty build, and often seems stern or angry. She usually wears worn, ragged clothing dyed red-violet and yellow-green, often with a breastplate and a helm for protection. Her favored weapon is the mace.

The symbol of her power is a stylized sun image: the orb of the sun appears as an unblinking, ever-vigilant eye with radiating sunbeams (signifying power) encircling the orb. On either side of the sun image are wings, representing Bil’s strength and speed.

In addition to the Sun and War, she is also associated with arrogance, valour, and mountains. Her typical follower is generally quite youthful; most of her followers fall away from her worship as they mature and grow older. Her few followers can be primarily distinguished by their daily prayers. These prayers are often chanted to the accompanying sound of a mace striking a surface (usually a resonant surface). There are many shrines to her on lonely mountain roads to bring courage and strength to random wanderers. Her largest actual temple structure is in the city of Coldtreath.

Because of her love of war, she has occasionally been known to appear in person to great mortal leaders with the intent of misleading them and bringing about large-scale conflicts. Clerics and paladins who worship and act for Bil come from every walk of life and from nearly almost every alignment. However, those who most often seek out Bil are those who love war and conflict; while she herself is Chaotic Neutral, many of her followers tend to be some shade of evil.

18 September 2012

Rival Adventuring Party: The Stumble Hollow Trine, Part 1

Lord Alotharo of Peravene

Lord Alotharo is the leader of the Stumble Hollow Trine. A nobleman by birth, he was born into minor nobility in the country of Peravene, a small mountainous region to the east of the Feylcrest Sea, far inland.

Lord Alotharo is a blowhard, plain and simple. Most of Peravene’s citizens are imbued with a annoying sense of natural superiority in all things. One former dwarven associate said of him: “Most Peravenites think they’re Anyvoal’s gift to the world, and Alotharo is no different.” He is almost always dismissive of any person not from Peravene; the only exceptions are those who are of a social status above his and those who have saved his life. He is truly a sucker for perceived bravery.

Alotharo is likely not as bad as the rest of the mercenaries that fill the region around Coldtreath these days, but it’s only because he’s too stupid. He’s certainly no saint: he’s out for himself and his own coin purse. Alotharo is far too trusting and ready to believe what he is told. Because he is always on the watch for a new business proposition, he can be taken advantage of quite easily. The rest of the Stumble Hollow Trine, therefore, consider it part of their job–and protection of their livelihood–to monitor carefully everyone that approaches Alotharo.

He fancies himself a discerning lover of fine food, drink, and art. In reality he lacks functioning tastebuds, he can barely discern between vinegar and wine, and could not identify a work of a master if it were signed and handed to him personally by the artist. He is free and ready to offer an opinion, which are typically the worst sort of popular tripe. He is quick with his purse, especially where objects of art and artifacts are involved. However, he has been known to purchase cartloads of reproductions and trash just because he was led to believe a priceless work of antiquity was included.

He is known for his rare toothy grin and his all-too common sneer, as well as for his hands’ incessant fluttering when he is nervous. Alotharo is quite short, barely taller than the average dwarf, and is nearly as wide as he is tall. For all his mass, Alotharo is actually quite quick on his feet; many a foe has been taken by surprise at his speed and relative agility. Unruly shocks of brown hair burst wildly from the sides of an otherwise bald head and pale green eyes squint out from his florid face. A large wart stands guard over his brow. Taken all in all, he is not attractive by any stretch of the imagination, although he believes himself to be quite handsome.

He is also known for his quick, unreasonable anger and the two long, thin daggers he carries with him at all times. While his favorite sin is lust, his favorite hobby seems to be brawling. Of course, he is rarely in serious danger because his henchmen and fellow members of the Stumble Hollow Trine are always there to pull him out of scrapes.

Alotharo of Peravene
Aristocrat 5 / Rogue 5
HP: 50
Init.: +2
Speed: 30 ft.
AC:15, Touch 12, flat-footed 13 (Leather)
Base Attack: +6
Grapple: +9
Attack: Dagger (+11) 1d4+4 Crit (19-20) x2
Full Attack: Dagger (+9/4) 1d4+4; Dagger (+8) 1d4+4 Crit (19-20) x2
Alignment: CN
Special Abilities: Evasion; Trapfinding; Trap Sense; Uncanny Dodge
Special Attacks: Sneak Attack
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +4, Will +5
Abilities: Str 17, Dex 15, Con 12, Int 11, Wis 10, Chr 11
Skills: Appraise 7, Bluff 7, Climb 3, Diplomacy 6, Disguise 6, Escape Artist 2, Forgery 2, Gather Information 10, Hide 2, Intimidate 9, Jump 3, Knowledge (Dungeon) 6, Knowledge (Geography) 6, Listen 6, Move Silently 8, Ride 2, Search 5, Sense Motive 6, Spot 6, Survival 6, Swim 5, Tumble 6
Feats: Deceitful; Evasion; Heavy Armor Proficiency; Light Armor Proficiency; Martial Weapon Proficiency; Medium Armor Proficiency; Shield Proficiency; Simple Weapon Proficiency; Skill Focus (Gather Info); Tower Shield Proficiency; Two-Weapon Defense; Two-Weapon Fighting; Weapon Focus (dagger);
Languages: Common

CR 9
(XP: 6400)

Dagger +1 defending
Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds
Potion of Displacement
Potion of Invisibility

**Many thanks to WotC's "PC Portraits" Archive for the image.

17 September 2012

Canadian Visitors

It's that time of year again, when I send a shout-out to my readers.

If you're reading this site, and you're from Canada, Poland, Australia, the UK, or anywhere else around the world, please drop me a note. I'd love to hear from you. I like to see that my meager scribblings are being enjoyed outside of the lower 48 states. It makes me feel like a blogging version of Phileas Fogg.

Now, don't let that make you think that I don't want to hear from the States. I love hearing from fellow statesiders as well.

Heck, I love hearing from ANYONE.

Look... the comment button is right down here.

Rival Adventuring Parties

James over at Grognardia had a post this morning questioning both the apparent loss of the Rival Adventuring Party (hereafter "RAP") in D&D as well as the amount of information required by a DM to utilize said RAP.

His post got me to thinking. I'm in the camp that likes to have these NPCs mapped out and statted as much as possible. I find it's easier to have a pool of random information to draw on rather than try and come up with it on the fly.

In other words, I like to consider myself a sandbox DM, but a prepared sandbox DM. Let me explain; no, that will take too long...let me sum up. I have a large binder for each of my sandbox games: those big hefty 3"+ binders. Each one is filled with lists of NPCs, descriptions of people, places, things. Random treasure. Maps. Things like this. These binders are constantly expanding as the campaign progresses; if I find something I like or something I need, it goes in there. Each binder is tabbed and organized in what I call a "chaotic anal-retentive style." Included among these binders are several pre-prepared NPC RAPs. I even have separate thumb drives for each campaign; much of the information in the corresponding binder is duplicated in digital form on the drives. This is not only for backup, but also ease of use.

My groups largely use a program called DMGenie. It was the best 3.5 electronic support we found years ago; sadly it's now all but defunct. Fortunately, we have enough coding knowledge among the groups that we can still make it work for our uses. Each of my thumb drives has an NPC file for each of my NPCs, monsters, and yes, the RAPs, just so that they can be quickly plugged in to the program and included in an encounter when needed.

Again: it's partly my own anal-retentive nature that requires this level of preparation. But my DM-style also dictates that I have this information and my players expect a certain level of detail. It may not be completely spontaneous, but it comes as close as I am comfortable. Don't get me wrong: I still love and use the random tables. I just like to have some details already mapped out for me and ready for use when called upon. I find that it honestly takes very little extra preparation time; it's something I can do while the television is on or while waiting for my wife to finish shopping. It certainly feels better filling time this way when compared to the pressure of having six player stare at you while you try and create an NPC's description on the fly (and then try and remember what you said so that it can go in your DM's campaign notebook).

For the next week or so, I'm going to dig into my files and share a few of these individuals with you.

14 September 2012

[review] Loviatar #13

I had an interesting day yesterday. Had to travel an hour north to a neighboring city for a court hearing that lasted less than 2 minutes. Then I was able to have lunch with my wife and two of our friends who happen to be NY Times Bestselling authors. (I don't have their permission to share stories and I don't want to drop any names.)

Then it was off to the podiatrist for a check-up on my second matrixectomy. (About a month ago I had an ingrown toenail partially removed. Then I learned the hard way that I'm in the 5% group that the healing process heals around a pocket of infection. Then I learned that I'm also the 1-in-20 that has the removed portion of the nail actually start to grow back. So I had to go a second time to have it removed. My doctor says that we treated it "aggressively" this time. It's meant much more pain, but he says it's healing nicely.)

And then I got home and found something in the mail that made the poking and prodding worth it all: Loviatar #13 and the latest edition of "A Letter from Los Angeles." Aside from the joy of receiving something other than bills in the mailbox, I now had something I could peruse while putting my feet up (literally) and recuperating from my day.

For those of you who haven't yet checked out Loviatar.... Really? Put aside the fact that this 'zine is why Mr. Christian Walker has been (arguably) responsible for the recent resurgence of the gaming 'zine. Put aside that the material inside each issue is geared toward numerous different game systems and usable in many more. Put aside the excellent artwork by Mr. Jay Penn. Put all of that aside for a moment:

Loviatar is just plain good. And old-fashioned good. It brings back a lot of memories to me from the 1980s.

Issue #13 is no difference. I will not pretend to say that I will ever have a chance to run a Lords of Creation game. Christian admits that the decision to write Lords of Creation material may be based upon a post-surgical drug-induced haze. But he still makes it work. There's humor: Kevin Sorbo surrounded by Amazons out-of-time; Jim Brass from CSI; and an alternate-Earth Mona Lisa hanging on the wall watching over the described festivities. While I'm also not likely to run a modern game any time soon, there's still plenty of material here that will feed into descriptions of a good D&D NPC.

(Case in point: I'm right now imagining an NPC bard who has made a name for himself "speaking for the Elven Gods" who finds himself surrounded in a tavern by a gaggle of Elves just waiting for him to say or do something they find blasphemous. Enter PCs. Hilarity ensues.)

In short, I'd highly recommend snagging a copy while they're hot, fresh, and available.

I'd also suggest checking out Christian's newest endeavor "A Letter from Los Angeles." This newsletter is also chock-full of gaming goodness and the fact that it's nearly all hand-written just adds to its uniqueness. This latest issue has a map on the back of a seemingly-deserted street from which your character or characters are attacked by an invisible assailant with questionable motives. Each of the newsletters have improved upon the previous ones and this one is no different. I keep waiting for the man to reach a plateau, but he just keeps getting better and better.

I should point out too that I am not receiving payment or reimbursement of any kind from Christan, other than the simple hope of continuing to receive his gaming materials in the mail.

What are you waiting for?! Go. Subscribe. Pick up copies now! For the money, it's gaming goodness at a terrific price!

11 September 2012

Secret Santicore 2012

You better watch out...
You better not cry...
You better not pout...
I'm telling you why...
Because Santicore will come and eat you if you do.

Have you ever had one of those days when you realize that you've forgotten something very important? Something that you've intended to do for several days but keep putting off because "something else comes up" before you can get to it? Something that could mean the continued existence of life itself as we understand it?

OK, maybe it's not THAT serious, but still....

Jez over at Giblet Blizzard has announced the 2012 edition of "Secret Santicore"!! Actually, that happened late last week. I meant to pass along the news immediately...I really did. And then, what with one thing and another....

I know some of you may not know what "Secret Santicore" entails, so here it is in Jez's words:
Everybody who wants in click on the link below and fill out their request for some specific brand new campaign material--a new race, a location, a one-shot adventure outline, a random table, whatever. The idea is to be as specific as you need to be, but not too greedy (ask for a page or two of material).

Then I'll mix all the requests up and send them back out to the people who entered. Everybody gets the requests that weekend of the 14th-16th, and then they have two weeks til midnight Sunday 30th September to write up something matching the request and email it back to me.
Last year's yielded some GREAT material. I had the privilege of helping Jez by proofreading the compilation; I got a sneak peek at the stuff and was floored by the quality. I'm looking forward to this year's version with bated breath.

So...what do you do? Well, as you can see from the above instructions, you only have until THIS FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2012 to enter your requests. Follow this link to the 2012 Santicore Page adn read the full instructions and guidelines, then follow the link you find there to the request form. ALL REQUESTS MUST BE MADE USING THIS FORM. Then just sit back and wait for your Secret Santicore assignment, and get ready to receive your gift in return. That's all there is to it.

So what are you waiting for?! Get busy wrapping!

(By the way, for those of you who haven't picked up your updated copy of the 2011 Secret Santicore, you can find it here.)

Monster Mondays on the Horizon

Sigh. My life is busy.

I keep doing it to myself, I suppose. I just don't know when to say "Stop." After all, besides all the chaos in my personal and professional life right now, I'm an active gamer, an active DM, an aspiring writer (aren't we all), and I'm looking at editing several projects for others in the OSR (including the 2012 Secret Santicore I mentioned yesterday).

Well, I'm adding one more thing to that mix. A bloghop; specifically: Tim Brannan's Monstrous Monday October.

Here's the gist: Tim got to counting the Mondays, etc. in the month of October. (That would be FIVE Mondays, by the way.) Then he got thinking that maybe he should post up a new monster on each of those Mondays for all his readers to enjoy. And then, generous soul that he is, he thought that he would share the opportunity with the rest of the blogosphere as well!

Here's the rules:
  1. Sign up on his site
  2. Grab a button and link back to his site
  3. Post your Monster on Monday October 29th 2012!
As far as content? Here's what Tim suggests: "What kind of Monster? Well that is up to you really. I am going to be posting Monster stats. You can do that, or post a monster you like/love/hate, or tell us about the monster in your new book coming out. Anything would be great really."

Now, he's going to go ahead and use each Monday in October as Monstrous Monday. The only "required" date of participation is 10/29/2012. I, however, think I will take the opportunity to do the same as Tim: each Monday in October here at the Stronghold will be Monstrous Monday. And I'm sending out the call to all of you: come on and jump in... the Ooze is fine!

10 September 2012

Community Geomorphs Still Alive!

You may remember me talking about the Community Geomorph Project a few posts back, here and here. Well, Richard's emerged from the August doldrums that we all were feeling (at least, speaking for myself) and has stoked the geomorph flame. The project is still alive and well and back on course. I'd urge any and all of my readers to jump over and participate. Not only is it a good project, but as Richard says, it could be some good free advertising for one's blog once the project sees print.

I'm sure Richard's dreading this: I've got some more submissions to send over and some more ideas in my head. C'mon and join me, will you?

Here's my latest offerings to the cause:

30 August 2012

[new spell] Partial Invisibility

"Umm...Shiloru.... I do not mean to pry, but where in the name of The Stone is your right arm?" The dwarf asked with concern, stepping out of the darkness at the sound of his associate's approach. "I am fairly certain you had it when you left camp for the Baron's manor."

"Fear not, dear Alakin." The halfling reached up and patted her friend's face with her left hand. "'Tis but a wee spell I cast on myself. It enabled me to walk away from the Baron's house with this." With a flourish, Shiloru pirouetted, and her arm suddenly reappeared--her arm and a priceless ceramic vase grasped in her hand. "The Baron never knew what happened; he never saw a thing. Other than the crippled, one-armed halfling begging in his courtyard, that is." Shiloru mopped her brow with a handkerchief. "It still took a bit out of me, but 'twill be worth it when our benefactor sees
this on his own table."

Invisibility, Partial

Illusion (Glamer)
Level: Brd 3, Sor/Wiz 3
Components: V,S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Personal or touch
Target: You or a creature or object weighing no more than 100 lb./level
Duration: 1 min./level (see text)
Saving Throw: Will negates (harmless)
Spell Resistance: Yes (harmless)

This spell functions like greater invisibility, except that it applies only to a single limb, extremity, body part, or item per casting. The effected limb, extremity, body part, or item must be declared at casting and cannot be changed until the dissolution of the spell. Because the spell’s effect is so precise, if the spell is used at range then the caster must make a Concentration check each round to continue the effect. Should the caster fail a single Concentration roll, the spell does not end. Instead, the effected object merely flickers, similar to a blur effect for that round and back into invisibility the next round, assuming the subsequent Concentration check succeeds. Should the caster fail two consecutive Concentration checks, the spell ends and the effected body part returns to visibility.

If the caster uses the spell as a touch spell, he must make a successful touch attack. No Concentration check is necessary if used as a personal spell or touch spell. The spell simply expires at the end of its normal duration.

Items dropped or set down from an effected body part become visible; any object held or carried by the body part at the time of casting becomes invisible. Any mundane and unattended item upon which the spell is cast or which is picked up, held, or carried by the limb or body part after casting is not afforded a Will save and becomes invisible. Any magical item receives a Will save. Any part of an object that the subject carries in the effected body part but that extends more than 10 feet from the subject becomes visible.

As with greater invisibility any attack with the invisible body part or an item held in the invisible body part does not cause the spell to end.

**Many thanks to my buddy Simonathi Starym for a bit of game testing, advice, and tweaking.

Temporary Insanity

Everyone take a SAN check. Zoltar, King of the Wicker People has apparently seized control of The Stronghold.

Something's going on with my posts. I just had one of my new posts disappear from view, even though it's still showing on my blog roll.

Dang Blogger.

We hope shortly to return you to your reading pleasure. Do not panic. Do not take rash actions.

The Wicker Overlord thanks you for your patience.

28 August 2012

[review] Pathfinder Comics Issue #1

Back in the day, I was obsessed with and addicted to comic books. In the early 70s, my brother gave me a huge collection of early Spidey comics that he had built up. From there, I became a constant fixture at our local FLCS (Friendly Local Comics Store) from junior high through my undergraduate years. I loved me some Marvel, but there was the occasional DC mixed in. My monthly holds cost me more than I was earning, first from allowance and then from my job. Monthlies? Graphic novels? It didn't matter; I didn't discriminate. I have boxes and boxes in my basement office right now.

And then I got married.

While my wife loves her Geek, she didn't appreciate the expense of comics. So I gave it up, nearly cold turkey. Yeah, I still picked up the occasional random issue, but NOTHING on the scale of what I had once been. I had convinced myself that there really wasn't a reason to pick up ongoing monthly issues, not when the story was never resolved in a month. Plus, they seemed to becoming less about the story and more about advertising...besides, I could always pick up a bound collection next year, right?

So when Paizo announced the production of their new Pathfinder comic book, I wasn't overly excited. It barely registered as anything other than "another publication on the FLGS Pathfinder shelf." I certainly didn't look at the details.

I should have.

My FLGS has a "preferred customer" punch card: you get a punch for every $10 you spend, and with $10 punches you get $10 off any item. So...last week, I was perusing that stacks looking for something with which to get a $10 punch. I found (as I said yesterday) a copy of the WotC module from 2000: The Forge of Fury. Problem: it was only $7. So I need to find something else to make $10 in order to get a free punch. Minis were out, because where I was vacationing I didn't have access to my paints. Dice were out, because I had already picked over the dice sets they had in stock and the inexpensive ones were not calling to me. And then I turned the corner and found the last copy of the comic book.


At only $4, it was the perfect padding to my purchase.

I wasn't expecting a whole lot; I never saw a lot of value in WotC's attempts to "comic-ize" their iconic characters. I just didn't enjoy them. Little did I know; remember: I hadn't read anything about what to expect inside. There was some folded poster in the center--from what I could see of it, the image was the same as on the front of one of the Pathfinder tomes. I left it folded up and tossed it aside, unexamined.

First off, the story: it was a pretty tame "intro" story. It's weak and contrived, but aren't all "Issue #1" stories? You got a bit of insight into the interactions between the characters. There was a little combat, a little repartee. I admit that I was not enthusiastic at this point. While the art was pretty good, there were some small continuity problems in that I had to go back to a previous page to determine if two images were actually the same character. As for the story line, it seemed to take for granted that a reader knew what Pathfinders were, who the iconic characters were, and that the reader already had a little background. But it was an OK attempt at a "Issue #1" comic story--I've certainly read worse in my day.

Then I got to the middle of the book and found the tagline: "CONTINUED." I started to fume. Really?!? Only half the freaking book is story?!? WHAT A FREAKING WASTE!!

And then I turned the page, looking for the self-stroking "Coming soon in our other comics" pages.

Instead I found a write-up of the village of Sandpoint, including game stats and interesting NPCs. I got a little bit excited at this point. As I kept turning the pages I saw game stats and backgrounds for a couple of the iconic characters introduced in the comic, which made them perfect NPCs for my game. And then I came to a mini-adventure, a game version of an encounter described (or foreshadowed) in the comic.

And then a little light went on in my brain and I thought, "What if....?" I reached for the discarded, still-folded poster. I began to unfold and, yes, my initial guess was right: it was the cover of the Core Rulebook. And then I flipped it over.

Holy cow, the comic not only comes with a story, game information, NPCs, and a mini-adventure.... It also comes with a map. A FREAKING MAP.

I love maps. But you know that.

As I told my wife: how do you pack this much entertainment and game material into $4? You don't. At least, WotC doesn't. This, to me, shows Paizo's smarts yet again. They're offering the entertainment of the comic story as well as game material. The only thing they didn't do is include a special edition polyhedral die.

I'm impressed. And subscribing.

Like I said, I have some issues with the art style and the story-telling style. But to get this kind of value at only $4? You can't miss.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

27 August 2012

Reborn...with Miniatures!

Well, I'm back at the office today after a well-deserved and well-used ten days off. Those days were spent in a borrowed cabin up in the mountains, away from the cell phone and internet, and spent lying around, watching movies, and sitting in a hot tub while watching the kids swim in the pool.

I fully intended to get some gaming done with the kids, but whoops! Time just zoomed by, so that didn't happen.

I did have the time to peruse a couple new items to my collection. The first was the first issue of the Pathfinder comic book. Review coming soon on that one.

The second was an old 3.x module I picked up second-hand and cheap: The Forge of Fury. I don't know why I never picked this one up before. It didn't even sound familiar, but was apparently published in 2000. Hmm... I had to pick it up, though, because my kids are almost at 3d-level. Also: abandoned Dwarven stronghold? Hello? Is there really a question here? Seriously, I needed a good module to throw at my kids, a proven product. I've started another page here at the Stronghold for the game reports (also a way to review the module as we go).

But now I'm back to the grind. A bit refreshed, but also a bit under the weather. I suppose that's what I get for enjoying myself too much. The only highlight of being back is the fact that I have a truly wonderful, understanding wife.

"Why?" I hear you ask.... Well, for my birthday she "dragged" me to the FLGS, pulled out some cash that she had saved up, and allowed me to purchase an entire brick of the new Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder minis...as well as the Gargantuan Runegiant miniature. Needless to say, she bought a lot of goodwill and "honey-dos" with that gift.

The unboxing was a blast, although I'm quickly approaching the point at which my miniature storage needs to expand somehow. There were quite a few points at which I confess I squealed like a little girl when I opened a booster, particularly when I encountered the Warchief Ripnugget. He was one of the rare figures that I've wanted ever since the previews from Paizo. True, I've heard others express a reserved appreciation for this figure...saying that it's a great looking piece, but "how often will I need a goblin on a gecko?" Excuse me? My answer: I now have a great cavalry officer to LEAD my goblin attacks from now on. I'm going to LOOK for an opportunity to place this guy on the field. In fact, I may have to seek out a few more singles of this miniature, just so I can field a cavalry force.

Anyway: reviews of some of the other afore-mentioned products coming soon, I hope. I have to live through this infection first.


Anyone in the party have a spare Potion of cure moderate wounds they can spare?

15 August 2012

Character Punishment.

I've been staring at a blank post page for over an hour now.

Yeah. That's what my life is like right now. There's a lot of stuff that's hit--personally and professionally--in the past couple weeks and gaming, unfortunately, has taken the back seat. We're talking rumble seat, here. I've barely had a chance to meet my financial obligations to a couple of OSR friends' products, products I haven't had an opportunity to read because of those aforementioned concerns.

Writing and creating has been squelched nearly completely.

But, figuring on vacation upcoming where I'll have severely limited access to the internet, I figured I have to get a post down somehow about something to prove I'm still alive.

Hence the hour-long staring contest with the blank screen.


So I go to thinking about the only gaming I've been able to do: a PBEM solo game with one of my long-time gaming buddies. And by "gaming" I mean "stolen moments here and there when my paralegals leave me alone long enough between document drafts where I can roll a die and tell my buddy what's just happened to him." And by "PBEM" I really mean Yahoo! Messenger. It's choppy and can be slow and frustrating, but hey...it's still gaming.

So, at the risk of boring some all of you, let me tell you where we are and what we're doing with this solo game. Trust me, it has some bearing on the title of this blog entry: Character punishment.

As some of you may remember from a couple posts back in October of last year, our long-time gaming group picked up out original characters, rebuilt them for "Epic" use (meaning post-20th level and certainly NOT using the Epic Level Handbook) and went off on a "last" adventure to tie up some loose ends from some 10 years ago. At the end of some well-scripted encounters, the group found itself circled around an unconscious female NPC that had caused us no small amount of grief and pain in the several iterations of our original campaign: she had been welcomed into our party when, unknowingly, she was our red dragon nemesis in disguise. Make the assumptions that you want about the trouble she caused--you're probably 90% correct. She was so much trouble that the miniature the DM used for her was permanently cursed. He tried to use it in a different campaign and we all reacted so poorly to the miniature (with distrust, hatred, and anger) that he literally had to retire the miniature.

So we had angst toward the NPC.

And found ourselves surrounding her unconscious body.

And my friend "D", the elven Rogue...cut her head off.

Well, the DM didn't appreciate that all too much. He stopped short of calling for an alignment check. Instead, he had all of our various deities appear and take away the magnificent god-gifted weapons from the entire party. Yep....*poof*...our artifact/legacy level weapons were gone. That was how our adventure ended.... That and the final retirement of our original DM from gaming.

So...it's obvious that we were all a bit unsatisfied with that conclusion. Our group's "first-alternate DM" happens to be "D" and in the week following the conclusion, he came up with a continuation-adventure hook. You see, it was a joint idea a year ago between "D" and myself to re-visit our original characters...then our original DM jumped in and took over from there. But "D" came up with a great "postscript" story line in which the deities involved with each of our characters visited the Rogue and "expressed their displeasure." They gave him a good tongue lashing, then presented him (as part of his penance) the various artifacts to be returned in person to the rest of the group. So, we all got back our stuff...except for him. He had to go on a Quest to learn, among other things, patience, wisdom, etc. I played around with the story for a bit, added some color and flavor with the gods' different voices, and then we threw it out for the other guys to approve. Obviously, all the players approved of getting their stuff back.

Then what to do with the Rogue. You see, we all agreed (after hearing the original DMs exposition on who the NPC really was, her situation, background, etc.) that the Rogue had screwed up. He may have acted in character, but it was still a huge boo-boo. Even the Rogue agreed that he should be punished, somehow. Well, as penance, the deities would take away his animal cohort, most of his abilities, equipment, etc. (or rather, force him to leave them behind) and to temporarily reduce his XP to next-to-nothing. This effectively dropped him down to first-level, although he retained most of his skills and attribute levels. As "third-alternate DM" for the group, I then proposed putting him through several modules and adventures -- alone -- and allow him to rebuild his XP back to his 26th level. This would represent his "re-education" and "repentance." It also gave him a chance to restructure his character into a new class: one that we created that better fit his idea of his character.

It hasn't been easy for him. He's confessed to me that every time he leaves the camp or the door to the inn, he feels ready to wet himself. He's alone, remember. Even though he has most of his skills and attributes, he has no feats, no special abilities...nothing beyond second level abilities. He has none of his magic items, except for a bag of holding. He has no special weapons. Indeed, he started out with darts, a dagger, and a sap. He's since picked up a short- and long-swords, as well as a crossbow, but he's been very good at limiting his weapon use. I started him in a 1st-level adventure from Paizo (I'm not going to name names here; I was at first, but I think I won't, so as not to tempt him with metagaming and spoilers.) which, while not easy for him, went quickly. I'm now using a sequel adventure, which has yet another sequel after that. He should go up a couple levels by then.

It's been entertaining to watch. I threw a gelatinous cube at him and watched him panic; I threw some darkmantles at him and he nearly fled the ruins. In the past 12 years of gaming, we've never encountered either. It's amazing what a little lack of knowledge and surprise (and creative description) can do to a player. And to a character. I've come close to killing him a couple of times--really close--but he's pulled through. No fudging on the die rolls, either. It's all been straight up. He's done some unexpected things that have made me stretch myself as a DM and make some on-the-fly rulings. And it's been a lot of fun.

So...I suppose I can open it up to thoughts and suggestions. We, as a group, have never had to punish a character before. Did we do it the right way?
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