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.

19 December 2014

[From the Mailbag] MYTHOARD!

I just received the inaugural Mythoard package/bundle in the mail today. Great stuff. Really great stuff. Talk about an early Christmas; my wife suggested I leave it under the tree for a week.


The first thing I saw coming out of the envelope was a poster of two baby phoenixes, courtesy of Baby Bestiary.

Next out was a book: 10+ Treasures by David Guyll & Melissa Fisher, published by Awful Good Games. Designed for Dungeon World, at first glance, most--if not all--of these items are easily translated to any OSR or 3.x version of that one RPG. Not only does the book come with 30+ detailed treasure items, there's also a section that walks through item creation, and the theory behind it. Excellent stuff.

Then there was a postcard from the incomparable Jim Magnusson. This postcard features the Mushroom King. As one of Jim's Patreons, I already received a copy of this; however, one can never have too many--it just means another framed piece of art for my office. (Let my clients figure THAT out.)

Also included was a pack of Blue Dungeon Tiles by Red Kobold. I didn't have the chance to support these when they came up on Kickstarter, as I was low on funds. I wish I'd made the effort; these look GREAT. They're double-sided, usable with wet-erase, dry-erase, or permanent markers. 4x4 grids of corridors, rooms, and stairways. I'll definitely be saving up to grow my collection of these babies.

Last, but not least, Tim Shorts' Mythoard Exclusive labor of love: Stone Fields of Azoroth. Three separate books outline the environs: The village of Bad Water, the Last Temple of Praxus, and the Prison of Azoroth. Each one comes chock-full of NPCs, flavor, and maps. Everything you've come to expect from Tim, and more. You won't be disappointed. Well, I guess you will...unless you were one of the subscribers to Mythoard.

Then, down in the bottom corner of the envelope were three little beauties. A random d20 and two random d6. Ain't they purty? They wanted to get photographed just as soon as they came out of the wrapping. As you know, I can never have too many dice. These will cap off my 2014 fairly well.

Thanks to Jarrod Shaw as well as Kevin Chenevert and all the other contributors. My day has been made! If you haven't already checked out Mythoard, do it now. Sign up. Well, as long as you don't take MY bundle.

[Found Item Friday] El Diablo Cometh!

I dropped by my FLGS this morning, thinking as I got out of my car that I should leave my wallet under the seat. After all, I really couldn't afford much of anything. I mean, NOTHING at all.

I should have listened to my doubts.

Well, maybe; maybe not. I went in looking for a copy of the 2nd Edition AD&D title, The Complete Book of Dwarves. I was going through my shelves earlier this week and realized that my copy was missing. At least, I'm fairly sure I had a copy. The FLGS usually has an eclectic mix of out-of-print titles from earlier editions. They didn't have that title (although they did have The Complete Book of Psionics (which I'm not interested in) and The Complete Book of Fighters (which I already have)) but they did have a couple titles that piqued my interest. Titles that I got for around 60% of cover price (even the marked-down price was discounted for me).

First up was the Diablo II: Diablerie. One shelf down was the Diablo II: To Hell and Back. Both are 3.x supplements released by WotC, meant to build off of the popularity of the Diablo II video game. The first, the Diablerie is more of a brief "setting" book. Within its 96 pages you can find character classes for Diablo-specific classes, such as the Amazon, necromancer, and sorceress. There's some equipment lists and a bestiary. A blank character sheet template in the 3.x style. Even a sample adventure--five pages--that sets out a "How To" for the uninitiated (with differing levels of encounters: Basic Level, Nightmare Level, and Hell Level), explaining how to prepare an encounter for the Diablo-verse. Most of the book is geared this way: playing in the Diablo-verse.

The To Hell and Back volume is a detailed 192-page "module" set in the Diablo-verse. It contains a bigger bestiary, equipment lists, and magic items. I'm not sure that I'd ever use it as a stand-alone adventure path. I'll more likely cut it into pieces and use those pieces as drop-in encounters in our regular adventure. However, I can also imagine sitting the guys down one night and describing how they wake up next to a shimmering portal, a portal which disappears even as they awaken. They find themselves in a small hamlet, one terrorized by demonic creatures that have taken over a nearby church and accompanying catacombs. Heh. Just thinking about it makes it more intriguing.... Hmm....

They were previously-owned by the same person, as I found scribbled notes on steno-pad paper in several spots in both books. Also slipped inside To Hell and Back is a print-out of the web enhancement "The Secret Cow Level" that anyone familiar with Diablo will recognize. There's also a couple of old PC character sheets: Krump, the human barbarian (played by "Jake") and Isabell, the human Amazon (played by "Sally").

I'd be interested to know if anyone's played around with these books. If you have, drop me a line in the comments. Let me know your experiences, would you?

08 December 2014

Mini-Map Monday: The Citadel of Nor-Von

Just a little something I threw together last night as I was suffering from insomnia. The Citadel of Nor-Von. The corridors are somewhat larger and wider than what the normal Dwarven citadel would contain. The reason for this--indeed, the reason behind the citadel's existence--is that the hallways were originally the shafts and corridors tracing the mithral deposits. They were eventually shaped, dressed, and decorated as the citadel aged and became the formal home and hearth for the Dwarves of Nor-Von.

I'll leave it to you to stock and key; just a few pointers from my own thoughts.
  1. The large round oval is an open fighting arena/training area, ringed by a walkway.
  2. To the immediate left of the arena are two throne rooms. These rooms are connected by a secret corridor. The smaller, oval-shaped throne room is reserved for meeting foreigners; the larger throne room is the formal, ceremonial throne room.
  3. Three bridges cross the chasm that bisects the citadel. These bridges--and the open caverns to which they lead--are edged by a banister, otherwise open to the chasm.
  4. To the right of the chasm is a formal statuary. Each of the fifteen previous Masters of the Citadel are represented here by stone golems.
  5. The citadel is edged on the right side by an underground river.
  6. All of the arrows designate a descending corridor.
The medium is the back of a 3"x5" card, using a fine point Sharpie grip pen. This map is smaller than the ones I typically draw on 3"x5" cards, primarily because I chose not to use the gridded side, but the plain, white side instead. This, combined with the fine point pen, freed me to draw smaller rooms, corridors, and features than I would have with the 0.25" grid. I'm actually pleased with how this turned out. I'm providing links to both a gridded and a non-gridded version. Contrary to my usual, all of the lines were hand-drawn; the only GIMP work I've done are some slight touch-ups, contrast/brightness, and adding the grid. Also atypically, the grid I've used is scaled to the image rather than using a 1" grid, so it may not be overly useful as a battle mat.

Feel free to use my maps in your home games. You can rename it, modify it, stock it, or abuse it in any manner legal in your particular jurisdiction. If you do use it, all I ask is that you let me know and tell me about it afterwards.

05 December 2014

[Found Item Friday] Pristine PHB!

In my city, we have a used bookstore that has been in operation since 1929. It was housed in a GREAT location in downtown, three floors of new and used books, rare books, odd books. Especially great was the basement--meandering corridors, random rooms filled with ramshackle shelving, everything was just on the edge of controlled chaos. It was always great to go in, if even to browse. (It is said that one of the Magistrate Judges at the nearby Federal Courthouse made a visit there every lunchtime of every weekday of his tenure as judge until his death a few years back. I believe it, based on what I knew of the man.) Recently the third-generation owners made a controversial decision and moved the bookstore from its historic location to a nearby mall location.

My post is not about that bookstore.

Instead, it's about the location. A newer, Johnny-come-lately (relatively) bookstore seized on the opportunity and consolidated their three or four smaller stores and moved into the space. The shelving is all a bit newer and more modern, but their selection is just as eclectic as the "historic" bookstore. I hadn't had a chance to visit since the move; all that changed this morning.

About ten years ago, the original owners added a coffee shop to one side of the store front. I've never frequented the place, mostly because I don't drink coffee, but also because their baked goods were exorbitantly-priced, mediocre-quality items. But I had a meeting yesterday and they wanted to meet there to chat.

This was a mistake.

After the meeting, I wandered the aisles. Call it fate, call it karma...I wandered straight to the "game" section. Most of it was Call of Duty guides (and other various video games). But then...the infamous binding jumped off the shelf at me.

Now, you may ask yourself why I'm so excited by this, even though you should know I'm a big 3.x fan. I'd be a lot happier if it was a 3.5 PHB, but I'm still happy with this. Why?
  1. It's in pristine condition.
  2. It's for the use and education of my kids.
  3. It's "close enough" to 3.5 or Pathfinder. Especially for my kids.
  4. Did I mention it was in pristine condition? The binding is still tight and the Character Creator disk in the back? Still sealed in the plastic envelope. The Wizards of the Coast order form is also still folded inside the back cover.
  5. Oh, and it was only $6.00.
  6. Yes, I said $6.000
Yeah. I'm pretty pleased with myself. They also had a 3.0 DMG in the same condition; sadly, I only had so much cash with me yesterday. I figure the PHB will get more use anyway.

Also grabbed was this little beauty: "In the Belly of the Beast" by Mike Mearls. It was only $1.00 and in very good condition; the pull-out pages of NPCs, etc. was still intact, for example. I grabbed it for that fact alone. It's more of a political intrigue than my normal fare, but it still has some good fodder for combat and adventure too. It's got some good, dangerous NPCs with some good backstory; they'll take a little beefing-up, as the equipment lists are fairly generic. Maybe it'll be good for my players to do a little bit more role-playing; it requires the careful negotiation and manipulation of three rival factions who are all ready to fight. Hmm. I'll just have to find the right place to drop it into a campaign.

Unfortunately, the store is now on my radar. NOT good for my wallet.

20 November 2014

New Minis: Praise and Complaints

So, a couple months ago, the Magic-users on the Beach jumped back into the miniature business. I knew that they were releasing a new miniature aerial combat game, but hadn't heard about the new randomized pre-painted plastics line. So imagine my surprise when I walked in to my FLGS back then and found them. Tyranny of Dragons no less. I bought a couple boxes, of course. I mean, scientific research purposes and all that.

Hey, don't look at me like that...I can stop buying minis whenever I want. I'm not addicted.


So, upon opening the two boxes I learned a couple of things that I want to share with you, just in case there's any of my readers who have NOT yet picked up a box of these for themselves.

First, I was shocked to realize that they are produced by WizKids/NECA, just like the Pathfinder pre-painted plastics are. I say shocked because (a) they're rival companies and it just seemed a little odd and (b) the quality is significantly lower than on the Paizo Pathfinder miniatures. No, I'm serious, the paint jobs are, for the most part, simply terrible. Let me give an example (although my camera with the macro function isn't working, and my cell phone isn't so hot at small close-ups).

This little beastie is a new sculpt of a wraith. They've prepped him up with the nice see-through plastic, tinted grey of course. Mantle streaming out behind it, nice pose, full of motion. They even put him on a post so that he appears to be hovering or flying along. Nearly everything would be perfect with this sculpt and make it a great addition to my collection.

Nearly everything...except for one thing: THE FACE.

Look at that face. THIS is the face they choose to strike terror into the hearts of the adventurers. Really?

And I know that it's not just WizKids' production issues, because dang...their Pathfinder minis have come a LONG way and they've refined the process. In fact, just this morning I deleted a draft post from a couple years ago complaining about the paint jobs in the first Pathfinder minis release.

This wraith looks like it came from the PRE-PRODUCTION runs of that first release.

And the guy who said, "Y'know, I think it looks GOOD with the 'faux-glowing-eyes-and-mouth' effect. Let's run with that paint scheme"? I have to wonder if he still has his job.

In fact, this wraith looks like something off of which the Scooby Gang is about to rip the mask.

And do I even need to go into the paint scheme on this Hobgoblin Fighter? There's four colors. Green on his chest plate. Red for his armor. Black for his hair and facial features. Black with a little metallic added for his underarmor and sword. So, really, he has three colors. There's no distinguishing features, really. Oh, y'know what? On closer inspection his right eye has a yellowish-greenish pupil while his left eye has the same color serving as eye-shadow. Nice job, Mages of the Beach. Yeah, it's a little thing, and I'm sure I'll get someone telling me that limiting it to four colors reduces costs, etc. These were just the first two minis I pulled out of my backpack.

Second beef.
Take a look at this picture. These are representative bases of the miniatures. Pathfinder (on the left) and the new Mages of the Beach (center), with an older Mages of the Beach (on the right). You see anything? First gut reaction?

Well, it may be tough, because the camera is picking it up better than the naked eye. The names on the new Mages of the Beach minis are next to impossible to read? Now, you may tell me that's another cost-cutting measure, saving on white paint, or you can tell me that the old ones didn't need white paint. Well, it may just be my aging eyes, but I still say that the new names are really tough to read: smaller fonts, not as raised, not as much contrast. And then there's this: The BIG minis have the names painted in white.

It's a minor thing, and easily rectified. You can also consider it your Free Tip of the Day: I grabbed a white paint Sharpie and scribbled a bit. It's not perfect, but it works. It adds just enough contrast for my old eyes. Here's a look at the result. I just realized that I probably killed resale value, but I don't plan on getting rid of these any time soon. And who knows, someone may actually pay more to be able to read the names. (Yeah, wishful thinking, but it's all I have.)

My final beef (for now) is kind of a mixed bag. There are dragons. New dragons. I love dragons. One thing that I can't get enough of is dragons. For example: I'm pretty sure I have most if not all of the dracolich pre-painted minis, and a good number of metal ones of all sizes. One thing I DON'T have is any red dragons. Mostly because they're so sought after and therefore expensive.

Well, in these two boxes, I pulled--would you believe it--a red dragon. (Oh, wait. You CAN believe it; a picture of its base is right up there.) This new mini is a red dragon in flight. It's executed quite well, to be honest. I'm glad to have it and I was excited when I saw it in the box. However, I have a complaint about size. In this picture I've included an elf and a halfling for scale. As you can see, it doesn't seem as daunting as the old Mages of the Beach dragons used to be. Now, I'm not expecting a colossal red dragon, but this is on--what used to be considered, anyway--a large base. Now that I mention it, maybe it is to scale. I haven't measured it against any of my others. It just seems small.

Whew. That's enough beefing for a while, I suppose. Gotta go work some more on Issue #1 of the Stronghold. More soon.

19 November 2014

[From the Mailbag] Manor Micro-Adventure

Look what came in the mail today!

Yay me!

(Yeah, I actually said "Yay me"...so sue me.)

Gotta love them Patreon perks. Map goodness, micro-adventure goodness, and my friend Tim Shorts' warped mind-- all wrapped into one. And let's not forget the joys of getting something useful and fun in the mail instead of another overdue bill.

Guess work is on hold for a little while today while I read through the Hideout of the Long Dead Mardrid. That's OK. That foreclosure will hold off just a little while longer.

Oh, and if you want cool stuff like this in YOUR mailbox -- and who wouldn't -- head on over to Patreon and sign up to support Tim's work!

EDIT: I should note that the vertical lines in the pictures are a product of a bad camera and low lighting and not due to any defect in the actual product. Sorry, Tim.

16 November 2014

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

It's time to start getting a little excited. The Stronghold 'Zine is nearing completion. The articles are getting a few finishing touches. The artwork is nearly ready. The cover art has been commissioned. Layout is in the planning stages. Next step...finish up and find some poor suckers slaves editors to tighten the work up. Then it'll be up to you, my readers, to want to take a gander.

A word about the artwork: I've been blessed to obtain the help of a couple of FANTASTIC artists. First off, Jim Magnusson agreed to do some illustrations for the interior...and they look TERRIFIC. Then, I managed sneak in a request for a cover from Jay Penn  just before he closed his commission's calendar for the next year. I'm really excited to see what he comes up with.

More coming soon....

03 November 2014

Wherein the Effects of Unfortunate Pizza are Experienced

I have to admit that some of my best ideas are the fault of Tim Shorts over at Gothridge Manor. Today's is no exception. Over on Google+ he mentioned he'd had leftover pizza for lunch. It was good enough, apparently, to be "stat-worthy"...if he hadn't eaten it all. He followed that up with a list of XP awards, as follows.
I'm gonna go with 25xp per slice. And additional 50xp if you can eat the whole pizza in one setting. However you'll need to make a save vs. heartburn. [Aside: for my PF/3.x readers, I'd suggest a Fortitude Save, DC 16. End aside.] A failure means you'll have a -1 on your rolls when interacting with others.
Then Mr. Jason Zavoda (from Hall of the Mountain King) provided the kicker: If you fumble you have to roll on the flatulence table.

Well, how could I let that gauntlet lay untouched on the ground? Answer: I couldn't, not without bringing great shame to the OSR Blogging Community at large.

And so I present to you: The Flatulence Table: (Note: roll once on each table for each failed save.)

Flatulence Table 1: Severity

d20 Roll
Area of Effect
Silent But Deadly Completely silent, but oh, so potent.
Mousey Nothing but a little squeak. Sounds like a shoe with a bad sole.
FlapperThere’s some flapping cheekage. Sounds a little moist.
TrumpetProud, triumphant. Heraldic, even. Nothing to be ashamed of.
ElephantineTrumpet, but more so. Worthy of a grass-fed giant mammal.
Weapon of Mass DestructionThe truly epic, in all respects: sound, smell, and yes--taste.

Flatulence Table 2: Side Effect

d6 Roll
Side Effect
Gas only. No effect.
Shart. A little s**t, a little fart.
Total Trouser Betrayal.

For Area of Effect: roll 1d20 x 5' for each occurrence.

As usual, free for your use. Just drop me a note to let me if and how you used it, and to what effect.

27 October 2014

'Zine Construction Continues

Work continues on the first issue of the Stronghold 'Zine. Foundations have been laid; bricks for most of the outer walls have been put down and mortared. Some of the infrastructure is still a bit unclear--the architect keeps changing his mind about exactly what rooms need to be included and where they need to go.

I think there's some good stuff there. Most of it is the kind of stuff that would be included in the online version of the 'zine. Most of the struggle is coming with the mini-adventure I want to include. I've drawn three different maps and started to digitize each of them...then I try and stock them, and that's where the wheels fall off the wagon.

I'm also in the need of some illustration(s). I've got a couple specific ideas and then some general needs. The biggest problem is finding someone to whom I can beg for a freebie commission. I can't afford anything for art, at least for this first issue or so. If anyone out there has some ideas or offers, let me know...please. I've put out some initial feelers, but it's tough approaching people I barely know and saying, "Hey, you do good work, I really like the art you spend so much time on, and could you do me a solid and give me some for free? I'd really like that."


Anyway, I just wanted to throw out this update; it's been a little while since I gave one. More soon, I hope.

13 October 2014

[Map Monday] Still Alive, Still Plugging Away

Despite appearances and weeks of sickness, I'm not dead yet. I'm not dead and neither is this blog. This is also despite two trips to the Emergency Room in the span of four days for non-stop vomiting (including vomiting up blood). The diagnosis? "Well, you're sick."

No joke.

Oh, even better was the comment, "We don't think your internal bleeding is critical."

While the dizziness continues, the stomach issues have (mostly) resolved, and since I don't have the $400+ "up-front" to get the esophagogastroduodenoscopy (EGD), I'm just crossing my fingers for now and trying to relieve stress in my life.

In "Even Better News," the Stronghold Zine is still alive. I'm plugging along, trying to come up with more ideas and doing my best to make the Stronghold epic. Tim, over at Gothridge Manor challenged his readers to a massive map-share. So, I dug into my drive and threw out a little sneak preview for The Stronghold, Issue #1. And so I need to share it here as well:

It's your basic forest lake, gnoll village (complete with boar pen), and gigantic monolith on a small mid-lake island. More details will be forthcoming in Issue #1 of The Stronghold.

02 September 2014

"Death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth."

Nah, it's not a new monster. Or even an old one. It's a new stapler. Yep. I purchased one of these puppies.

Having already assembled my arsenal of the bone folder, my big ol' metal ruler, and my heavy duty razor knife, I've got the essentials for the physical creation of my planned 'zine, The Stronghold. Guess the purchase of the stapler means that I've committed myself to actually producing the 'zine now. (The list of "necessities" courtesy of (or fault of, whichever is applicable) the magnificent Matt Jackson.
  • Foreword written
  • Treasure table drafted
  • Gratuitous map drawn and digitized
  • Monster article #1: WIP
  • Monster article #2: WIP
  • Adventure article: Planning stages
Artwork is looking sparse for this issue. I'd be willing to accept any offers of donated art (hint, hint, nudge, nudge) from readers. I have some artwork donated by Dylan Hartwell for one of the Monster articles, and some stats for the critter. It looks utterly KILLER and I can't wait for you all to see it.

Over all, I'm getting more and more excited about this project. It's a ton of work, including stuff you never think about when you're simply vomiting onto a blog post. Gives me a whole new respect for those heavy-duty 'ziners out there.

So why the vorpal bunny quote as the title? Hey...if you've ever stapled yourself, you know just how bad it hurts.

28 August 2014

Not Quite Dark

Yes, I have to admit, the blog has gone a bit dark of late. Not through any intentional act, but suffice it to say that depression, family problems, car problems, career problems, and money problems have all descended upon me all at once and have made it hard to really find any joy in anything right now.

Heck, I even tried to map my way out of it and the result came out looking like...well...it wasn't pretty.

One bright spot was being able to sit in the living room of Tracy and Laura Hickman on Sunday and have a nice 2+ hour chat. Catching up, gossip, that kind of thing. I was also able to pick up my Kickstarter-funder copy of their game, Sojourner Tales. I can't wait to get the families schedules all worked out so that we can sit down and play. The final product looks TERRIFIC. Tracy and Laura know what gamers want, know what board gamers want, and this product fits the bill. Just PHYSICALLY you know that when you pick up the box. This thing has heft.

I believe you could kill a kobold with it. Although that might scratch up the box a bit.

This past weekend was my birthday, too. I received a copy of the Hickmans' latest book, Unwept from some close friends. Couldn't wait and stayed up most of the night to read it.

I loved it.

I'd highly recommend it. Great dark gothic work. I told my wife I kept expecting someone to mention how much Rebecca was missed, or "Look, over there. There's Mandalay." (And I mean that as a compliment. I LOVE Rebecca.) I was truly sorry when I reached the end, because of course, there wasn't any more.

Work continues on the Inaugural issue of the Stronghold. Slowly, but surely. I hope to have some more news for you soon.

19 August 2014

Printing Press Installed at the Stronghold

This post serves as the formal announcement. The Stronghold is about to see print.

Well, OK... "about" is a relative term. But it's in the process.

That's right. A 'Zine is on its way. Inspiration such as Christian Walker, Tim Shorts, Dylan Hartwell, and Matt Jackson has made me yearn to have my own musings put into black and white and mailed out to various and sundry parts of the world.

Or at least that's my hope.

There's going to be a definite 3.X Edition focus; that's just how I roll. Of course, there'll be some system neutral stuff, some fiction, some tables, maps, NPCs. Everything that you've come to expect from the Stronghold.

And that'll be it's name: The Stronghold.

Yeah, I was inspired by Tim's "The Manor"--I had a couple other thoughts for titles but he gave his thumbs up (and blessing) to "The Stronghold."

The first few articles are penned. I just need a little more stuff, some art, and then figure out how to assemble it all together. I REALLY don't need to try and learn new software right now. We'll see how it goes. I also have to figure out the whole OGL and copyright thing.

07 August 2014

Bilingual Stronghold

Just sitting here, typing away at my desk, when my e-mail buzzes at me. It's an e-mail from my 13-year-old son, who rarely messages or e-mails me so I dropped everything to see what it was. Now I want to share it with all of you.

Apparently, it says "The Dwarven Stronghold" in Elvish. Now, I have to take his word for it, as I have not sullied my pure, Dwarven mind or tongue with anything Elvish (except that one half-Elvish ranger lass that once, but that's another story for another time). I need to find out from him how and what he used to translate and write it, but it looks like it may have been by hand. No matter. I still wanted to share his handiwork.

It warms a Gamer Dad's heart, y'know?

02 August 2014

Random Table: Picking

In celebration and honor of having my first set of Zocchi dice, I've created my first d2 and d5 tables, for use, obviously, with my new d2 and d5.

Plus, I need to pay a little Joesky tax. OK, a LOT of Joesky tax. Call this a down-payment on my tax payment plan.

Your characters come up against an NPC. He's a bumpkin and a character. You need a little bit more color...flavor...to his description. You're wracked with indecision. I have you covered.

NPC Nose Picking Table 1: Nostril

d2 Roll

NPC Nose Picking Table 2: Hand

d2 Roll
Hand Used

NPC Nose Picking Table 3: Finger

d5 Roll
Finger Used
Ring Finger
Middle Finger

You're welcome.

Mailbag Paradise!

Just a quick post to let you know I'm still alive here at the Stronghold.

I received a wonderful package in the mail this morning: my first (and likely only) set of Zocchi dice.

Yeah, I know, they're controversial with some people. After all, when am I ever really going to need a d3, d5, d14, d16, or d24? I mean, really?  When am I going to use them?

That's just it. I may NOT ever use them. But I NEED them. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Hey...dice!

And here they are:
If you didn't know, it appears that GameScience has closed its doors. The website is defunct (at least as far as purchasing goes) and hasn't been updated in a while. There are rumors from online retailers that the last of the d100 (the Zocchihedron) are up for sale. There are also rumors from the same sources that the last of the Zocchi dice 5-sets are now being received and sold as fast as they can get them unpacked. I'm not one to buy into hysteria or rumor-mongering, per se, but you never know. I mean, it's been a LONG time since I've seen a Zocchihedron in my FLGS, and they used to stock them ALL the time.

So I caved in and bought a set. They came all the way from the UK, partly because I trust the seller, but also because I couldn't find a comparable price here in the States. That's right: even with shipping, etc., it was still cheaper to import. I was shocked. Now, I got the uninked set, but that can be easily rectified, even if I have to resort to (gasp) OSR Crayon techniques.

Plus, they're purty. I have a couple other "clear" or "diamond" crystal polyhedron's in my collection, and I wanted some more. My other GameScience dice are ruby red, so these will contrast nicely. These are quite nice to behold, even without colored numbers.

And last of all.... Hey... DICE.

Also purchased at the recent FantasyCon, but forgotten about resting in my pocketses, is my very own, brand-spanking new and shiny d2. Yep. I bought myself a d2. "But why," you ask, "do you need a d2 when you can find any size d2 in your change pocket at any time?" "Well," I would answer, "I don't always have change. I'm a starving business owner."

"And didn't you hear me? It's shiny!" It's for a good cause, too. Proceeds go to my friend Howard Tayler of Schlock Mercenary fame.... Yep, it's an Officially Sanctioned XDM d2! [Aside: Extreme Dungeon Mastery or "XDM" is the book written by Tracy Hickman and illustrated by Howard Tayler. I've written about it before. End aside.] And here it is!

Click HERE to get your own!

15 July 2014

Mail Call!

Over the weekend, I received a Mail Call extravaganza.

OK, see, that implies that I received a hefty-sized amount of mail. I don't mean to imply that. I just mean that what I got in the mail was terrific.

A week or so ago I finally had enough disposable income to jump on-board a couple of Patreon funding projects. The first one was Tim Shorts' Micro Adventures efforts. Anyone who knows Tim from The Manor 'zine knows that he does good work.

In the mail I received three of these micro adventures--two copies of #3 and one of #5. (As you may know, Tim and I have this running joke about me getting two copies of everything he does.) These babies are fantastic! They're ideal for a little short side adventure; I can even see using these as adventure hooks to something bigger.

The first one he sent was his "The Pig and the Ogre" micro adventure while the second one was entitled "Ghost Ship." For patrons of his efforts, he sends out 4" x 6" copies of these adventures--hand-drawn color map on one side and flavor on the other. The copies are laminated, both to protect them and to enable you to use grease pencil or dry-erase markers to customize them and make notes for your own campaign use. Initial reviews suggest that 30-45 minutes of game play can be culled from these little gems. I'm guessing that a good DM could stretch that as necessary.

I can't wait to take over the DM screen in my group sso that we can incorporate some of these adventures. Meanwhile, I'll just have to content myself with reading them over and over.

If you haven't already, please consider following the above link over to Tim's Patreon page and throw him some monetary love. The quality of the product--both physically and intellectual--is top notch.

14 July 2014

Post-FantasyCon Catch Up

It's been a hectic couple of months around the Stronghold. Health issues have rebounded and expanded, while stressful life- and career-related problems have stayed fairly constant. I still haven't paid myself a paycheck in three months. More ecclesiastical duties heaped on my shoulders as well.


This shirt may be my new favorite!
But we had scrimped and saved and, for our "summer stay-cation," attended the inaugural three-day FantasyCon, as well as the 67th annual WesterCon, both in Salt Lake City. We made it to both the inaugural Salt Lake Comic-Con last fall and the "FanX" version of the Comic-Con in the spring.

Yes, Salt Lake City hosted three fantasy/sci-fi conventions in the last 9 months. (Not counting WesterCon or LTUE.)

The Comic-Con experiences were a lot of fun, even if you had to endure a LOT of people. I hate crowds, so it was a real downer for me. But it was a blast to be around the cosplayers, the vendors, and the celebrities. Plus, I grew up with one of the founders. So, I thought that this newcomer upstart, FantasyCon, had a lot to prove.

Turns out, IMHO, that they instead raised the bar for Comic-Con to meet.

Yep. I said that. Despite being on July 4th weekend, and despite not having the benefit of public transportation ON the 4th, there was a pretty good turnout. Around 50K is the last estimate I saw. While not Comic-Con numbers, it was a reasonable result for a holiday and a convention lacking the "Comic-Con" branding. Of course, the smaller numbers were a definite plus for me. I think the planning and mechanics were better than Comic-Con, as were the panels and the exhibits. (Although some of the volunteers were trumped-up little Nazis with delusions of grandeur. Also, I didn't like being searched upon entry. Comic-Con didn't bother to check for my concealed carry; FantasyCon almost made me surrender my grandfather's pocketknife. Guess where I felt safer?)

This guy sums it up pretty well. The LARPing was amazing. As were the displays and all the "extra-curricular" stuff. It was fun to walk through the Hall and feel the thumping of the kettle drums coming from the battle arena and, simultaneously, hearing the clangs of hammers on anvils from the on-site blacksmiths. Then to randomly hear the notes of a bagpipe echoing through the Hall above everything?

The guest list was pretty stunning, too, especially when comparing it to the guests that Salt Lake Comic-Con has announced. FantasyCon had a pretty hefty line-up of Lord of the Rings and Hobbit actors. Heck, they had Elijah Wood (yes, Frodo) DJ their opening night party. The day after that was announced, Salt Lake Comic-Con announced who? Oh, yeah. Smallville's Lex Luthor. Ho-hum.

As I said, FantasyCon really raised the bar.

Of course, getting to meet some childhood and longtime heroes of mine didn't hurt. I'll have to share my conversations with John Rhys-Davies, Sylvester McCoy, and Claudia Christian. But that's for another time. Suffice it to say that not only did I have a longer beard than Gimli, but Sallah (the finest digger in Cairo) told me I had a beautiful family and took the time to speak to each of my children (and forced the photographer to break the rules about the number of people in one paid picture and forced him to take another photo). The Seventh Doctor showed me on my Day of the Doctor shirt exactly where his TARDIS was parked. And Susan Ivanova was calling us "her family" by the end of the weekend.

While there, I increased my gaming inventory. A local game store--that has heretofore gone unnoticed by me--had a booth and were running a 20% off sale. I was tempted to pick up a couple of Pathfinder tomes, but even at that price, I would have quickly blown my budget. Instead, I picked up a couple sets of dice...they were pretty and hey, as you know, I can never have too many dice. Here they are, in all their polyhedral glory: they come from Chessex, of course. "Silver Volcano (speckled) and "Purple-Teal/Gold (gemini)" dice sets, shown in that order. These latter ones are the first ones I saw, from quite a distance away. They grabbed my eyes and held on for dear life. (Of course, it didn't hurt that  They're also ones my wife fell in love with. I think she thinks I'm going to give them to her.


Because, hey, dice. Am I right?

There was also a booth for an outfit called "Dark City Games." I didn't know anything about them, but their booth signage boasted "solo and single-player" games. The packaging was sufficiently retro to catch my attention: they looked for all the world like a 'zine stuffed into a plastic zipper bag. Now, when I go to conventions, I collect business cards. I collect them like crazy. I'd rather do my research online than be harangued by a salesperson in a crowded space. Plus, if I do see something I like, I can always get more stuff later. But all these people had on their counter space was some resin scenery, some WotC miniatures, and a display of their own wares. It looked like they had some fantasy, sci-fi, and steam-punk adventures, as well as a western and a horror title.

No business cards.  No flyers, No advertising materials of any kind.

So I asked for their contact information. The girl looked left and right and told me that, if I was really interested, she'd give me a free sample; the contact information was inside the product. Well, who was I to say "no"? So I grabbed their fantasy offering and thanked her. Come to find out, it's a $12.95 bit of gaming.  At first glance, it appears to be their own system; at least, I didn't see anything immediately obvious that denoted an outside system of any kind. It contains a 48-page booklet, outlining rules, backstory, maps, and the adventure itself; it also comes with a fairly nice (albeit small) sheet of counters and an 8"x14" map.
The map isn't great quality, but sturdy paper stock (not quite card stock weight). I haven't had a chance to really delve into the system or mechanics. Hey, if nothing else I can either throw it in the trailer for use while camping or use the background, flavor, and maps for my own world, throwing out their mechanics.

My wife was shocked. I told her, "Hey, it never hurts to ask, right?"

WesterCon was a fun experience, although the panel selections weren't as varied or numerous as those at, say, LTUE. I had the chance to sit down and talk to author Larry Correia for a while as well.

All in all, despite hurting my knee the second day (which prompted me to buy a sweet cane topped by the "Hound of the Baskervilles" in bronze), it was a terrific vacation and money well-spent.

06 June 2014

Abrams' Star Wars

I'm really trying to keep an open mind about all of this. I truly am.

You probably have guessed I'm a HUGE Star Wars fan. HUGE. The original trilogy (hereafter referred to as "the Trilogy")? Tops in my book. While I tend to disavow knowledge of the second trilogy, I can sometimes convince myself to watch them...usually by convincing myself they're simply part of the Expanded Universe. As for the EU, I'm not sure I've ever read a BAD EU novel, although I'm told by many that they exist and that most of them were penned by Kevin J. Anderson. I refuse to acknowledge the "Legends" label.

I had to do the same thing with J.J. Abrams' Star Trek movies: I've had to convince myself that they exist in an alternate time-line. One with a madcap, out of control lens flare epidemic.

When Abrams was announced as the new director for the upcoming authorized movie(s)...I was scared. Then upset, then in denial, then scared again.

But now I've figured it out. I've learned to accept the possibility. You see, I've figured out what may very well be the plot to the next trilogy.

You see, these films are about a couple of misfit New Republic security agents who fly around the galaxy investigating reports of "weird science" occurrences, like missing star-liners and invisible polar bears. One of the agents happens to be Han Solo's son.... Han Solo travels with his son and the other agent because, y'know, he's flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and he's seen a lot of strange stuff, but he's also gone just a bit senile from the lens flares caused by the Millennium Falcon's new warp drive.

Then there's the sub-plot--the time travel sub-plot--that involves the character of Wedge Antilles. Now, Wedge is a hero from the EU; after all, he's the only pilot other than Luke Skywalker to survive all the major battles of the Rebellion (at least, as shown in the Trilogy). The EU expanded upon the character and made him a fairly major player. Actor Denis Lawson has already stated that he won't reprise his role in Star Wars VII. HOWEVER: what if they were able to convince him to appear for one single solitary scene--a flashback to pre-Trilogy--in which he has been catapulted back in time to meet his younger self, played by another actor, and give his younger self advice pertinent to staying alive throughout the Rebellion period and into the New Republic Era? Then this new actor could take the reins and be shown (albeit aged) in the new films? 

Then there's the sub-plot? R2-D2 is now (secretly) able to access security cameras from all over the New Republic worlds and can send anonymous information to the New Jedi Order to help save innocent lives. Thus Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3P0 race around the galaxy saving those lives (actually, C-3P0 usually stays on Coruscant manning the computer systems from a forgotten digital library because, well, he doesn't get around as quickly as you would imagine necessary).

When I ran this past a friend, he suggested that the time-travel sub-plot also allows for the cast to wear costumes from the 1970s in the new movies. An added bonus!

Does all this sound a bit too extreme? Maybe so. I just don't want to see this happen on the big screen:

Cosplay by BelleChere; Picture courtesy of FirstPerson Shooter

30 May 2014

A Long Time Ago...

Aw, heck. I just realized how long it's been since I actually dropped by the Stronghold. Unfortunately, things like A to Z April tend to have a stifling effect once the "pressure" is over. That's why I've given up on NaNoWriMo the past few years...it just takes too long to get the machine back working again.

But today I noticed something across the gaming blogosphere: people are starting to receive their boxed Tantive IV Star Wars Miniatures in the mail. I won't argue; it's a nice looking pre-paint. It looks hefty, too. Fantasy Flight worked out a "proportionate" scale, for lack of a better term. At first blush, it SEEMS to be about the same size as my initial Tantive IV purchase, although it's tough to tell; all the comparison pictures I could find today were of odd sizes, and the "product dimensions" tell me the size of the box. Plus, well, my real life is a bit hectic and I'm not that interested in doing a lot of footwork/research into this. I hope you all will forgive me for this oversight and laziness.

You see, this release? It's retailing at $89. It's even $64.59 at Amazon. Just way too much for my wallet right now.

Besides...I have an alternate. No, not just the "initial purchase"--the Action Fleet model referenced above.

I now have... THIS:

Yep. It's a vintage Kenner Star Wars Collector Fleet Electronic "Rebel Blockade Runner" from 1996. It was a STEAL, including shipping. It was used, opened, etc., but I didn't buy it for resale value. I built it to use on the gaming table. All the electronic functions still work, including the light-up engines:

And as far as scale goes, well, it's close to accurate. As I estimated in my previous post, the Kenner model is about 5" short of being true 1/270 scale. But, what's 5" here and there, eh?

Ahem. It looks terrific when put up next to the FFG models. I'll admit, it's not as detailed, or as pretty, out of the box as the FFG Tantive IV. If I want to, I can always touch it up, though. It'll double nicely as a display model in my home office. Y'know, establish some Geek cred. Seriously, though, I think it looks great up against the other models, even if I only use it as a centerpiece--or an obstacle--in an actual game. Now I just have to see if someone out there has prepped templates, rules, or other tidbits for using the actual huge model...or if I'm going to have to jury-rig rules from the FFG release.

13 May 2014

Gothridge Manor Random Purchase Table

Anyone who's read my blog or Gothridge Manor for any sizable length of time knows that I have a, well, let's say "penchant" for accidentally purchasing multiple copies of the Manor.

Now, see, I say it's because the Manor is such a great product that I need multiple copies of this awesome 'zine: you know, one to use and one to keep pristine. Tim, however, believes it's due to a mental deficiency on my part and feels it necessary to mock me over this. Actually, I think it's a mental deficiency too, and I openly mock it as well.

This all stems back to, I believe, the release of the Manor #2. I'm sure Tim can correct me if I'm remembering incorrectly. After reading Manor #1, I promptly sent the cash for a subscription to the Manor. And, apparently, promptly forgot about the subscription. Upon the release of Manor #2, I sent more cash to Tim for that issue as well.

Hilarity ensued.

Well, the same thing just happened this weekend. Tim released Manor #6. I posted a couple comments on Gothridge Manor's publication announcements suggesting I was getting ready to send cash to Tim for the purchase of Manor #6. Shortly I received the following in my e-mail:

Boric...YOU HAVE A SUBSCRIPTION...lol...even my wife is laughing.

Sigh. So, as any good lawyer knows, you have to start damage control, right? So I prepped the following d12 table. Tim and I thought I needed to share this with the world at large just in case anyone else ever suffers from the same mental lapse.

Gothridge Manor Random Purchase Excuses

d12 Roll
Hey...in all fairness, it's been 6 months, right? So, it must be YOUR fault.
Ill do just about ANYTHING for multiple copies.
I have an Int of 6 and a WIS of 9.
I failed my SAN check.
I was under the effect of a charm dwarf spell.
Hey, I'm senile. Cut me a break.
I'm single-handedly trying to pay for the Lemon Fart Tart Room.
It's all a ploy to help drum up interest and business for the Manor! (I'm the "crippled" plant in the snake-oil audience.)
I'm looking for the Golden Ticket.
Wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world?
Dude...where's my car?
A Teen-Age Illithid Ate My Brain.

05 May 2014

[A to Z April] Z is for Zekri's Brain Wound (poison)

Zekri's Brain Wound is a vicious, powerful poison. Fortunately, the process of creating the poison is sufficiently difficult--and the ingredients involved rare enough--that it is not commonly available or widespread in use. The main ingredient in the poison is calcified brain dust made from the brain of an illithid.

In order to preserve the freshness and vitality of Brain Wound, it is stored and sold in small wax vials, each one topped with a small wax cap. The unmarked vial holds only a single dose. The innocent and simple wax cylinder belies the horror contained within.

Brain Wound itself is a bright scarlet powder that turns colorless when mixed with liquid, at which time it can be identified by its smell of wet dog. The smell quickly dissipates when it is thoroughly mixed. The taste of vinegar remains, however. As a result, those who now how to use it, know how to use it only with strong-flavored drink or food to mask its taste.

In addition to the powerful effect of the poison, Brain Wound has an immediate side effect. Within one round of ingesting the poison, the victim begins to hallucinate, believing that the ground is gently rumbling and trembling, as if there was a small earthquake in the vicinity. This effect lasts only until the onset of the more serious symptoms.

Zekri's Brain Wound
Type: poison (ingested); Save: Fortitude DC 18
Onset: 1 minute; Frequency: Once every 1/2 hour for 12 hours
Initial Effect: 1d2 Wis and Int damage
Secondary Effect: 1d4 Wis OR Int damage (alternating) Once every 1/2 hour for 12 hours

Cure: 2 consecutive saves

Cost: 1000 gp per dose (powder)

Previous "Z"s:
2012: Z is for Zone of Terror (spell)
2011: Z is for Zero Dice Roleplaying

30 April 2014

[A to Z April] Y is for Yvus Toothsplinter (npc)

I spent an hour crafting a great back-story and description for this NPC only to have my laptop eat the entire entry.

Fortunately, I still had the stats, so I’m presenting this NPC as is. Let me be frank, though. This is no simple NPC. This is not a random merchant in a bazaar, it's no skulking thief in the alleyway.

To be blunt: he’s a villain. BAM.

There you have it. Plain and simple.

Without further ado, I give you: Yvus Toothsplinter, Good-bane Dwarf-slayer.

(Incidentally, he has about six more "titles" that all vanished with his back-story. Add in whatever you like and whatever fits.) Use him, plug him into your own campaign, give him whatever back-story fits your story. I imagine him to be a recurring villain that will harry and annoy your party.

Please note: All my NPCs are free for you to use. Please, feel free to use them. All I ask is a note to let me know if, where, when, and how it was used. Especially Yvus; I'd like to know player/character reaction, back-story, and especially a body count (if any).

Yvus Toothsplinter, BUGBEAR Fighter 10CR 12
XP 19, 200
CE Medium humanoid
Init +1; Senses Darkvision 60, Scent, Listen +4, Spot +2
AC 24, touch 11, flat-footed 23 (+1 Dex, +3 natural, +10 armor)
hp 99 (3d8+10d10+26)
Fort +10, Ref +5, Will +4
Speed 20 ft.
Melee +1 vicious greatsword +22 (2d6+13/19-20)
Ranged +1 good bane longbow, composite +14 (1d8+8 x3) range 110
Full attacks +1 vicious greatsword +22/17/12 (2d6+13/19-20) or +1 good bane longbow, composite +14/9/4 (1d8+8 x3) range 110
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Str 22 (+2 mag)=24, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 9
Base Atk +12; Grapple +19
Feats: Alertness, Armor Proficiency (Heavy, Light, Medium), Blind-Fight, Cleave, Combat Reflexes, Great Cleave, Greater Weapon Focus (greatsword), Improved Bull Rush, Improved Overrun, Improved Sunder, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Power Attack, Shield Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Tower Shield Proficiency, Weapon Focus (greatsword), Weapon Specialization (greatsword)
Skills: Climb +6, Hide +0, Intimidate +15, Jump +5, Listen +4, Move Silently +2, Spot +2, Swim +0
Languages Common, Goblin, Dwarven
Full Plate (+2), Gauntlets of Ogre Power, +1 vicious greatsword, +1 good bane Longbow, Composite

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

Previous "Y"s:
2013: Y is for Ynx (creature)
2012: Ylder's Timid Divinity (spell)
2011: Y is for Yllseriad, The Shrine of (map)

28 April 2014

[A to Z April] X is for XOXO

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is widely considered to be the best movie of the Trilogy. I don't happen to agree with that; it's my second favorite after the original. We won't discuss Return of the Jedi, because dang it...choosing Ewoks over Wookiees? Really? The only real high point of Jedi is that Wedge finally got the credit he deserved as an Ace pilot; it's obvious why they couldn't do it earlier--Luke Skywalker was the hero and so had to be the only real Ace.

I enjoy me some ESB, though. I still remember the thrill of a 10-year-old boy hearing the words "The first transport is away. The first transport is away" and wanting to cheer with the rest of Echo Base. Not to mention the dread of the inexorable approach of the AT-ATs. And it's a joke between my wife and myself...when she says, "I love you," I invariably respond, "I know." That line has always irritated her. By the way, my six-year-old daughter saw a Wampa backpack in the FLGS this weekend, squeeed, and then asked if she could have one. Parenthood success!

But there is one thing about ESB that I would change in a heartbeat, if I could. It doesn't matter how old I get, or how many times I see the movie...this moment's "ICK" factor is just too high.

Hugs and kisses. Hugs and kisses. [shudder] I'm in the camp with those that believe this is proof that Lucas pretty much made it up as he went along.

In related news, look what I got in the mail today!

Called the "Republic Cruiser" by Hasbro/Galoob, the ship is actually the Consular-class cruiser, typically used "to transport Jedi and diplomats to troubled spots across the galaxy." This ship is what I was originally looking for at Comic Con, when I discovered the Tantive IV. The first mission in the boxed set of X-Wing Miniatures Game involves a "Senator's Shuttle." A little bit of research reveals that this is actually the CSS-1 Corellian Star Shuttle. What was the purpose of the shuttle? "To carry a large number of ambassadors on missions throughout the galaxy." Remarkably similar purposes, no?

The game comes with a cardboard punch-out token with the image of a CSS on it. However, while I was looking on-line at others' game reports, I noticed a couple players had the same thought: it would be so great to have a three-dimensional stand-in for the CSS. So I started shopping.

The scale is a bit off, of course, just as it was with the Tantive, although not quite as drastic. The Consular-class Republic Cruiser comes in at 115m in length while the Corellian Star Shuttle measures only 80m long. (The Tantive IV is 150m long.) It's still a bit large for the shuttle, especially when it's compared to the punch-out cardboard token representation of the shuttle. I like it more for the CSS than I do the Tantive IV. Even better was that I found a steal on two: $14 for the pair and free shipping. This way I can craft a mission with dual shuttles, if I need to.

And even better, look what I found when I opened the cockpit: Qui Gon Twins! This despite the listing details that said teh miniatures were NOT included. To make things even better, the seller threw in some other Micro Machines he had "laying around." Specifically, there was a small zipper bag containing a Gungan Sub, a Trade Federation Tank, and miniatures of Boss Nass and Nute Gunray. While these likely won't see any action on the X-Wing table, they make a nice addition to my overall toy collection. Come to think of it, the Tank is about the right size to stand in for a Delta-class DX-9 stormtrooper transport. Hmmm....

Previous "X"-es:
2013: X is for Xal's Dire Brown (beverage)
2012: X is for Xouvyus (New NPC)
2011: X is for X'rr

[A to Z April] W is for Weak Essence of Alcoholic Retreat (beverage)

This alcoholic beverage, often called "Speed Wine" by its users, is marketed in a large flask cunningly crafted from large reptilian scales of unknown origin. Each flask holds up to 12 doses, and costs 500 gp per dose. Due to some quality inherent to the scales, the labels quickly fade to near illegibility. The flasks are traditionally sealed with a plug of tree sap; unfortunately, this seal is imperfect and leads to reduced freshness in nearly 50% of all bottles, especially if one or more doses have already been used.

The liquid itself is watery and of a sparkling gold color. A hint of curry wafts up from the liquid, which actually tastes like sherbet. Within 1d2 rounds of drinking a dose, the drinker gains an additional 5' to her movement for 4d6 rounds. Reduced freshness reduces the duration of the effect to 1d6 rounds. Once the "speed" effect has worn off, the imbiber becomes sickened for 4d6 rounds, suffering a –2 penalty on all attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws, skill checks, and ability checks.

Previous "W"s:
2013: W is for Wild Drip
Crater (locale)

2012: W is for Wyrm, Slimeclaw (monster)
2011:W is for Waulker (npc)

[A to Z April] V is for Vaena Shieldbadger (npc)

Vaena Shieldbadger is an orphan. She knows nothing of her parents or ancestry. She was found in a burned-out caravan by a human ranger named Tephye Wardsalt. Tephye took Vaena in, raised her as his own and taught her everything she knows. About six years ago, he was killed by a rampaging pack of ghouls, fostering in Vaena an undying hatred for all things undead. Tephye’s leather armor is the only thing she has to remember Tephye. Since her adoptive father’s death, Vaena’s experiences have taught her the horror of unnatural aberrations. Together with her riding dog companion named “Mel,” she travels the forests and byways across the length and breadth of Dran, although she currently calls the wooded foothills outside of Coldtreath "Home."

Vaena has straight blond hair and striking ice blue eyes. She stands average height for a halfling and is considered quite attractive. She has one shortfall: she is filled with pride. She believes she was trained by the best and is, therefore, the best now that Tephye is dead. She believes in no deity or higher power beyond that of luck. Besides her animal companion, Mel, she loves what others would call "creepy crawly things." Vermin, insects, and reptiles all have their place in nature, they are a part of nature and therefore revered by Vaena. She never keeps more money around than she needs for supplies and equipment; she hates shiny things that other female halflings of her age would swoon over. Other than honing her own skills, she loves teaching the odd woodcraft skills to others, just as she was taught by Tephye.

Vaena Shieldbadger, HALFLING Ranger 5CR 5
XP 1,600
CN Small humanoid
Init +4; Senses Listen +11; Spot +9
AC 19, touch 15, flat-footed 15 (+4 Dex, +1 size, +3 armor, +1 shield)
hp 26 (5d8)
Fort +4, Ref +8, Will +2
Special: Fearless
Speed 20 ft.
Melee Sword, short +7 (1d4+1/19-20)
Ranged Sling +12 (1d3+1) range 50
Full attacks Sword, short +7/2 (1d4+1/19-20) or sling +10/10 (1d3+1) range 50
Space 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks: Favored enemy (Undead; Aberrations)
Ranger Spells Prepared: (CL 5; concentration 6)
1st – alarm
Str 12, Dex 18, Con 11, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 9
Base Atk +5; Grapple +2
Feats: Armor Proficiency Light, Martial Weapon Proficiency, Point Blank Shot, Rapid Shot, Shield Proficiency, Simple Weapon Proficiency, Track, Weapon Focus (sling)
Skills: Climb +6, Handle Animal +1, Heal +4, Hide +15, Jump +5, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +3, Knowledge (Geography) +4, Listen +11, Move Silently +5, Ride +6, Search +3, Spot +9, Survival +9, Swim +1, Use Rope +5
Languages Common, Halfling, Elvish
SQ animal companion (riding dog), track, wild empathy, endurance
+1 deathless leather armor

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

Previous "V"s:
2013: V is for Varra Turnskull (npc)
2012: V is for Vapor Dwindle (spell)
2011: V is for Vesseth (npc)
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