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.

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:

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