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 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?

08 August 2012

[review] Delve! #1

After much angst and worry on my part, the inaugural issue of Delve! 'zine finally reached my mailbox this past week.

Go ahead, ask John. I really WAS angsting about it.

Anyway, this little packet of loveliness was a joy to dive into. It gave me something to read last weekend. I spent a good amount of time savoring the adventure, the critters, and all the fresh stuff that John Bingham packed inside. All in all, I really enjoyed it.

However, in the interest of an honest review, there were a few things that detracted from the experience for me.

I am, at heart, a reader. I come from a genetically-good speller on one side and a line of English teachers on the other. I was an English major in college. I've worked at times in my early career as a proofreader, editor, and writer for the Chief Justice of a state Supreme Court. Heck, I'll admit it: I'm anal retentive. Especially when it comes to proofreading...just ask Dylan Hartwell or Jez Gordon about that.

The things that detracted from the Delve! experience for me were, probably, little things that others wouldn't notice. For me, it pulled me out of the Delve! world for a moment as the proofreader in my head went "Whoa!" There were some spelling errors, some punctuation errors, and some formatting problems. They didn't really affect the content in any way, except for--as I said--pulling my own proofreader out of the moment.

The content is statted for OSRIC, but I'm sure it's easily converted to any old-school or retro-clone. I've already started doing some conversion for use in my 3.x sandbox game. Even more amazing: all of this was done by one man...the content, the artwork, everything. The content is compelling and the art is amazing. I have no complaints about the content whatsoever.

Overall, I probably would give the 'zine a 3 out of 4 stars (I'd say 4 out of 4, but I want to give him the benefit of the doubt for future, greater content!) For myself, it probably rates 2.5 out of 4 just for the formatting and other issues. As I said, that's ONLY for myself, because the issues I found probably wouldn't bother other readers.

In any case I'd still highly recommend picking up a copy: the .pdf is available for $3.99 from RPGNow while the hand-assembled print copy is available from John's blog for $5.00. I'd say splurge and get yourself the hard copy, simply because (1) the quantity is limited and (2) I love holding the 'zine in my hands, knowing how much love, sweat, tears, and work has gone into producing it. I'm just old fashioned that way.

Whichever you choose, GET IT NOW.
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