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.

31 January 2012


Oops. Apparently I posted my previous post earlier in the day and never previewed it.

When I finally went there tonight, what did I find? No picture of the map and an odd, broken attempt at a link.


I apologize to you all. The link is now mended and the picture of the map is there for all to see.

I'm confident that it was, in fact, NOT user error. It was instead an act of vengeance by Th'a-gaar, Patron Deity of the gaming blogosphere. He was seemingly angered by two mis-used "Map Monday" posts. In a row.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. (Rolls Bluff check.)

Map Monday: Caverns of Sceades, Level One

Awhile back...OK, last November to be exact, I posted up level one of the treacherous Caverns of Sceades. THAT wasn't a Monday either, although I billed it as a "Map Monday" then as well. I also promised some dungeon-stocking and keying to happen in the following week.

Yeah, that didn't happen. What did happen, however, over the past few days is a re-imaging of the first level. I suppose it's a bit of a re-imagining too, but specifically a re-imaging.

It's not perfect, and my skills still aren't what I wish they were, but here's the new Level One of the Caverns of Sceades.

And here's the link to download the .pdf for yourselves.

A few clarifications of the previous description: there is still a shaded-out portion of the lake. I called this a "overhang" previously. Instead, imagine it as a solid rock wall that comes down nearly to the level of the water and which stretches across half of the lake. Also, that little statue room up in the upper left-hand corner? The statue is still there, but you'll notice that the walls of the cave are smoother, more polished than before. That's right: the chamber walls are highly polished and completely smooth, in an almost spherical shape.

As usual, the map is free to use. Just please shoot me a link and a note to let me see how and where you used it.

30 January 2012

A to Z: Round Two

How on earth is it almost that time again?

Yeah, we're two months away, but it's never to early to start planning. Especially for a professional procrastinator.

What is the "A to Z Challenge" you ask? Well,
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenges to post the letter of the alphabet every day during the month of April, with Sundays off for good behavior. Since April 1 falls on a Sunday, that will be the day we start with A. Whether you go with a theme or freestyle, your post must match the letter of the alphabet for that day....This is a great opportunity to discipline yourself, grow as a blogger, and make new friends -- come join us!
I managed it last year...barely...and am looking forward to pushing myself again. I agree it's a great discipline and growth process, and would encourage any and all to join in the fun.

Of course, I have no ideas, no plans, and no direction. But I've signed up, so...I'm committed, right?

(Or maybe only about to be committed....)

29 January 2012

2011 Totals

The end of 2011 is well-past, and it's also well-past time to tabulate the numbers for my year-long gaming addiction.

Adventures written: 31
Creatures created: 4
Dice obtained: 105
Game sessions DM'd: 11
Games played: 5
Items created: 7
Maps drawn: 12
Miniatures painted: 1
Miniatures purchased: 120 (5 metal)
NPCs created: 38
Spells scribed: 2
Tables drafted: 3
Terrain constructed: 0

Some of those numbers are quite similar to 2010; some show a stronger addiction dedication to the habit hobby. With the ending of WotC's miniature line, I suppose my miniature numbers will not be as high this year. (I've already purchased some of the Pathfinder minis, and am not overly impressed with many of them--blog entry coming soon on that topic.)

I've done a much better job of keeping the blog current, but not as good as I would like. I'm aiming for at least an entry a week, if not two. As the workload at the firm looks right now, that may be a lofty goal.

Like the year prior, it was a year of considerable stress and family sorrow--even more so than 2010. The game certainly helped, but so did the kind words of my friends out there in the blogosphere.

Keep your dice dry....and here's to another year.

28 January 2012

[Blog maintenance] Inventory Tracking

I've decided to keep an even more detailed inventory of my gaming acquisitions and purchases for 2012. I've placed them (for the present) on the right-hand side of the blog, underneath the "generic" 2012 Totals accounting. I'm guessing it won't stay there very long; for length reasons it may need to move, perhaps to the very bottom of the front page of the blog. Any advice you all may want to give as to placement, etc. will be welcomed.

This probably won't be of interest to anyone but myself...and probably my loving, long-suffering wife. But there it is.

20 January 2012

Found Item Friday: Beholder Pong


The firm has been kicking me while I'm down lately. I thought that after the New Year I'd have more time to blog, game, write, etc. This last week is proving me wrong. I've left the office after longer-than-usual days with the best of intentions, only to fall asleep in my recliner.

Anyway, I had a little time to dig through some old boxes and guess what I found: my first beholder mini! (It sounds like it should be the new Fisher-Price release: My First Beholder!)

Twelve years ago, when I got back into gaming, there were few-to-no options on the market for gamers who wanted a beholder miniature. At least, no inexpensive options. But my group needed one and I devoted myself to finding one for the campaign.

So I did some searching.

I reached out to the few people I knew in my newly-rediscovered hobby. And lo! I lucked out. There used to be a "little" site up in Canada called Cyberdungeon.com. I'd had some quick e-bay interaction with the store and happened to ask a then-employee named Luc if he had any suggestions for a beholder.

He said that he'd heard of people using ping pong balls and making their own.

It was a revelation. I tried my hand at it. Using estimates from the 2nd Edition AD&D books, I roughed out a size-to-character ratio. A ping pong ball fit the bill perfectly. A bit of Green Stuff, some random beads and wire, and a little paint.

Say hello to my little friend.

So here it is; the pictures aren't that great, and he's got a bit of paint loss in spots, but all in all, I still love the little guy.It remains my only scratch-built/sculpted miniature, and was only my second "kit-bashed" miniature. But I think it worked. And I'm still danged proud of it.

Best of all: it scared the crap out of my fellow players and the DM loved it. I was named "propmaster" for the group and the rest is local miniature-collecting history. (grin) I only wish that I'd had a chance to show Luc what his innocent comment spawned. I promised him several times a photograph, but I never got around to it. Cyberdungeon.com closed their doors a year or so later, and I quickly lost touch with Luc. [By the way, if anyone out there knows Luc from Cyberdungeon.com or has any connections to the store (I believe he was in Quebec), I'd welcome any chance to get back in touch with him.]

Yeah, it's a bit cheesy. His secondary eyes make him look a bit like he's a crown rack of lamb; his eyes are not quite as wild as newer renditions seem to appear. And the guys can laugh at it now, years later. In fact, they call him "Ping." But I think they've forgotten that they all wet themselves--just a little--when the DM put this guy out on the board. (Here's a side view just to show that there is a bit of detail work; he isn't just a flat, painted ping pong ball.) I'm a bit proud of some of the details; for example, his pupil is a thrice-forked pupil. This came from an image from the Monstrous Manual; a picure by Tony DiTerlizzi of a group of beholder-kin showed several variations on the pupil shape. This was my take. I figured, "Hey, if they can have a pupil split into two, or stretched out, who's to say there's not a type out there with a thrice-forked pupil. Maybe it's a signal that the central eye just ain't what the characters expect it to be. Maybe THAT'S the disintegrating eye instead of an anti-magic field." I should note that this is the first time that theory/explanation has ever been used. No one's ever questioned the odd pupil. Who would have guessed? (And in truth, it makes me a bit sad that WotC decided to go with the plain, old single pupil with their beholders. Kinda boring, ain't it boys and girls?)

And just to show that my measurements were fairly accurate, all those years ago? Here he is next to one of Wizards of the Coast's DDM miniatures:
He flies a bit higher than WotC's mini. Attribute that to either higher buoyancy, a better attack angle, or the simple fact that I had never heard of a "flying base" for a mini before and I did the best I could with what I had. Size-wise, I think it matches up.

My buddies have always mocked the coloration of my beholder, too. Granted, it was an early paint job and he doesn't look slimy so much as metallic. But again, WotC validated my choice when they released their "ultimate" eye tyrant figure. Tell me what you think; I think the colors work JUST FINE.

Like I said, my buddies laugh about him now; in fact, they've nick-named him "Ping" (for obvious reasons). I don't take that as an insult, though. I take it as a badge of honor and a show of respect. Because all of them have admitted to me that I did something they could not do. And all of them have come to me at one point or another and paid their respect to Ping. Most--if not all, including the DM--have admitted being scared for their characters' lives, as well as the entire party, when Ping makes an appearance.

And something about him seems to demand a little respect. Maybe it's just the idea he's a beholder. Maybe it's something mystical; perhaps I instilled a bit of life to him with the care and patience with which I constructed him. I don't know what it is, but I do know that my kids shouted "NO!" in horror when I brought him out last night.

That makes me smile.

13 January 2012

Catsup Dreams, and a Spell!

Just a quick post today as it's game night and I have to finish prepping a character.

I took a break from the grind at the firm today for lunch and headed to the local Golden Arches. For setting purposes, this particular McDonald's is one of the top five busiest in the city. And, for the sake of argument, remember that McDonald's itself is probably the busiest (or in the top three) hamburger joints in the country-slash-world. Then consider that their french fries are arguably the most popular (or in the top two) in the country.

All set?


You heard me: Out. Of. Catsup. or Ketchup. However you want to spell it, this popular purveyor of pomme frites was completely out of packets of sweetened tomato-based condiment. What the...?

I wound up being given a small plastic dressing cup with one squirt of catsup in the bottom.

Sheesh. Fries without catsup. The inhumanity of it all....

Joesky tax time:

Create Syrup
Conjuration (Creation)
Level: Clr 0, Drd 0, Pal 0
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 1 standard action
Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Effect: Up to 1 tablespoon of syrup/level (max of 15)
Duration: Instantaneous
Saving Throw: None
Spell Resistance: No

This spell generates one tablespoon of syrup per level. This syrup has a wholesome, purifying effect which, when consumed atop another food source, grants to the consumer 1 temporary Hit Point per tablespoon consumed (max 5 tablespoons per day). Any syrup conjured cannot be stored or preserved and will spoil within one hour, losing its magical property, if not consumed within that time. The temporary hit points last for an hour after consuption.

This syrup can take the form of numerous sticky, syrupy condiments including maple syrup, catsup, hot pepper paste, or chocolate sauce.

12 January 2012

[game report] New Year's TPK (almost)

So the dust of the new year has started to settle, and the post-holiday chaos at the firm has also started to die down (somewhat). I can finally dip my pen and pick up the blog again. I hope that you all had an enjoyable holiday season and have had a good start to 2012.

Heading into New Year’s Eve, my wife and I had planned a quiet night at home with the kids, with copious amounts of reasonably healthy snacks and loads of board games. When she approached the kids with this idea, the unanimous response that morning was that they wanted to play Dungeons & Dragons with Dad.

We’ve played occasionally over the past couple years; I started the four of them off with the 3.5 Basic Game, the 2006 edition of the set. It’s not a bad iteration of the rules...a very simplified version of 3.5 with each pre-gen character (there are four) having an entire booklet for their character. Granted, the way the rules are presented led my children to say things such as, “I want to move my speed, then move my speed again.” It also reveals the nerfed version of some of the 3.5 monsters: just three encounters after reaching second level the PCs are led to face (and expected to defeat) a young blue dragon.

No joke. Allow me to repeat myself here: THE iconic creature of D&D is expected to be defeated by a party of four second-level characters.


At any rate, after running through the encounters contained in the Basic Game in September, I had several different ideas about where to take the characters next. The appeal to play on New Year’s Eve made the decision critical, so I turned to something that I knew would allow for some range of open decisions on my kids’ part and something that would allow for some exposition on detail, backstory, and whatnot. I was also concerned that it pose a serious enough challenge to them that it subdues their memories of killing a dragon so easily. What I decided upon was this: Dyson’s Delve.

I had a “battle map”: I’d wanted to run my adult players through this little gem in the next few months and so I’d already taken some time to prepare some blown-up versions of the first three levels. They weren’t perfect and they weren’t hi-res, but they worked with the kids’ miniatures at 10' per square. And they gave the kids something to look at. And I know, all my OSR friends and readers are apoplectic right now. I know that I didn’t have the maps and miniatures back in the day and I did just fine with my imagination. My kids range from sixteen to eight and have varying degrees of concentration so I’ve found the miniatures and maps are necessary for now.

I also have to admit that I turned to what most consider to be an overused trope: the tavern meeting. Not having a lot of time to plan any kind of set up, I jumped to Digital Orc’s Inn Table. The percentile dice came out and rolled twice giving me The Putrid Wand, a less-than-reputable inn on the edge of the Thieves’ Quarter in Burlingbrook, the town at the base of Mt. Chal (my homebrew location for the dungeon in our Basic Game).

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!! (And to my Players: this means STAY OUT.)

08 January 2012

Fever Dreams and Obnoxious Toys

JB over at B/X Blackrazor is feeling under the weather. First of all, I have to pass along all the good karma possible, as well as two vials of cure serious wounds to build his hit points back up a bit.

In the course of warning us all to stay away from his contagion explaining his illness, he made a comment that made me blow cola out of my nose:
My son got this Elmo airplane from his grandparents that he has been riding up and down the hallway. It is cool (he loves it) but it plays this eerie flute music that sounds like something described in a Lovecraft story...creeps me out, especially with the background propeller noise. Like some bizarre machine of ancient evil space gods.
It's nice to know there are other parents out there with creepy, disturbing (and annoying) toys. My parents delighted in giving my kids any toy that operates on batteries and either makes annoying noises or music.

The closest I have come in my home to what he experienced is a toy my parents gave my oldest some six or seven years ago. This little piece of work is called: "Fright Light Scooby-Doo with Ghost Spotting Flashlight." The little plush toy seems harmless at first glance. Turn it on, however, and prepare to welcome Linda Blair, an Old One, and Ted Bundy into your home.

The premise of the toy isn't a bad one: when the motion/light sensor is activated, the toy shouts out something in "Scooby-speak" about seeing a ghost, the flashlight in his hand turns on, and a "ghost" silhouette shines on the wall. Then Scooby starts to shiver and shake. Great fun, right? Except for the fact that the motion/light sensor on this thing is incredibly sensitive and touchy. It sets the toy off at the slightest breeze or shadow.

Again, this wouldn't be a huge problem. Except when you consider the toy sitting in your child's room, at 2:00 a.m., when you get up to get a drink and are wandering down a dark hallway. A car goes by outside and the shadows in your child's room shift and suddenly you hear a voice talking in an otherwise dark house.

Or you're laying in bed in the wee hours of the morning and suddenly hear a strange voice talking somewhere in the house after your child left it in the living room. Or they left it in the furnace room and the voice is echoing through the air vents.

You get the gist? The toy is evil. I think the thing may have originated somewhere just slightly left of the Mountains of Madness. And I think he boarded the Elmo Plane to get here.

Satanic toys aside, though...JB? Get feeling better...and if you need to dismantle the Elmo plane, let me know. I'll supply the hammer.
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