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.

29 May 2012

Level Advancement and the Brain Ghoul (new monster)

O.K. I just can't seem to get the hang of this level advancement thing. A little over a month ago I missed the Blogger Level Advancement number by five.

Now it appears I've missed it by ten. I'm not sure what sense level advancement at 20 followers and 40 followers makes; 25 and 50 make a lot more sense, at least to me. But then, it's not my table either.

By any count, I've now made it to the illustrious level of "Thinker" so I'll take what I can get, right?

Most of these last twenty-plus followers were thanks to the A to Z April Challenge. It's not the only reason to participate in the Challenge each year, but it sure doesn't hurt.

So, a heartfelt "THANK YOU" to all my current followers, and an invitiation to any lurkers out there to follow as well. Without you, this blog is nothing more than a little ego-stroke. It's nice to know think believe that my thoughts have an effect out there in the gaming world, if even for a bit of amusement.

Now for my Joesky tax: The Brain Ghoul.

Brain Ghoul

Tiny Undead (medium parent creature)
Hit Dice: 2d12 (13 hp)
Initiative: +6
Speed: fly 40 ft. (perfect)
Armor Class: 14 (+2 Dex, +2 size), touch 12, flat-footed 12
Base Attack/Grapple: +2/-11 (+5 when attached)
Attack: Sting +4 melee (1d6) (attach)
Full Attack: Sting +4 melee (1d6) (attach)
Space/Reach: 5ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks: Acid, Constrict 1d3+4, Improved Grab
Special Qualities: Blindsense, Undead traits
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +6, Will +1
Abilities: Str 14, Dex 14, Con 8, Int 8, Wis 8, Chr 2
Skills: Escape Artist 10; Intimidate 5; Move Silently 15
Feats: Improved Initiative
Environment: Any temperate
Organization: Solitary
Advancement: 3-4 HD (Small (Large parent)); 6-9 HD (Medium (Huge parent))

CR 2

The brain ghoul is nothing more than a floating brain with an attached three-foot-long spinal column. The base of the spinal column has been transformed, however, into a wicked spike, with which the brain ghoul makes its initial attack. Acid drips from the brain itself.

A brain ghoul’s initial attack is made by landing on a victim and plunging its spike into the flesh. It will then wrap the spinal column around the victim’s neck and body to constrict and suffocate the creature while also attempting to pin its arms to its sides. The brain portion then settles upon the victim’s head, relying on its acid attack to eat through the skull of the victim and absorb the victim’s cranial fluids. Any creature killed by a brain ghoul’s acid attack will have its own brain become a brain ghoul within 1d4 hours after death.

A brain ghoul will target all creatures up to one size category larger than its parent creature.

Attach (Ex)
If a brain ghoul’s spike attack is successful, it uses the remainder of the spinal column to wrap around the victim’s neck and body. An attached brain ghoul is effectively grappling its prey and can then begin to constrict. A brain ghoul has a +12 racial bonus on grapple checks (already calculated into the Base Attack / Grapple entry above). An attached brain ghoul can be struck with a weapon or grappled itself. To remove an attached brain ghoul through grappling, the opponent must achieve a pin against the brain ghoul.

Acid (Ex)
A brain ghoul secretes an acid that dissolves organic material and metal quickly, but does not affect stone. Any constrict attack automatically deals 1d6 acid damage, and the opponent’s armor and clothing dissolve and become useless immediately unless they succeed on a DC 13 Reflex save. A metal or wooden weapon that strikes a brain ghoul also dissolves immediately unless it succeeds on a DC 13 reflex save. The save DCs are Constitution-based.

The brain ghoul’s acidic touch deals 12 points of damage per round to wooden or metal objects, but the brain ghoul must remain in contact with the object for 1 full round to deal this damage.

Improved Grab (Ex)
To use this ability, a brain ghoul must hit with its spike attack. It can then begin its grapple as a free action without provoking an attack of opportunity. Once the grapple has been established it can begin to constrict.

24 May 2012

New 'Zine on the Horizon!

Hot on the heels of receiving Loviatar #10 in the mail, I've run across a new 'zine! How on earth did I miss this one, you ask?

I have no idea....

But apparently I did. Anyhow, let's send out a grand welcome to Alexey over at Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols. According to the website, the first print run of Issue #1 is almost sold out. I've jumped in line and ordered myself a copy and I'll be sure and throw out a review once I get it in the mail.

But I wanted you to all have the heads up. Jump on over and check it out for yourselves.

And don't say I didn't warn you the 'zines were coming!

[review] Loviatar #10

I've raved before about the high quality of the 'zine, Loviatar. With the first nine issues of Loviatar, Christian Walker has, among other things, nearly single-handedly spawned a resurgence of the 'zine as a means of dispersing quality home-brew RPG materials.

Just take a look around the OSR blogosphere if you don't believe me. Or down on the right side of my blog. There are several other 'zines being published with several more promised.

Last night when I got home from the office, I was pleased to find Issue #10 of Loviatar waiting for me. I've missed reviewing several issues because, as I may have mentioned, my wife tends to hold these things hostage until I get some of my "Honey Do" list checked off. Because the last few months have not been friendly to the "Honey Do" list, she hasn't been too friendly with the "sharing of Loviatar." Fortunately I grabbed Issue #10 before she could hide it away.*

I was more than pleased to see what was inside.

The first thing that caught my eye was a reminder that my subscription was up with this issue. Sure, it is a little thing, but a touch of personal service that sets forth Christian's quality control and attention to detail. I've known others that would have just counted on me to remember that my subscription was up, or who couldn't be bothered to add the reminder slip. But not Christian. Even though we had discussed this a month or so ago, he still thought highly enough of his customer base that a reminder slip was included.

The Introduction comes first: by the time I hit the end of the Introduction, I knew Christian had another winning issue. I have to sell my wife out--I'll avoid the spoilers here--I read the Introduction aloud to her and she laughed throughout the "vetting session" but when we got to Christian's bathroom, she lost it. I have to admit I was laughing hard enough I had to stop and catch a breath. All we can both say is: "I hope he SCRUBBED that bathroom down. Several times."**

I turned next to the continuation of his hex crawl. This one has the same quality content and features as the previous ones I've read. Christian has a talent for NPCs--I stand in awe of his ability to make these characters come alive. Harrowminder the Treant from this issue, I believe, may be one of my favorites.

Then I jumped back to read through his Vampire: The Requiem material. BE AWARE: THIS CONTAINS SOME GROWN-UP MATERIAL. If you cringe when you see the letters S--E--X in close succession, or you have a problem with close-up pictures of pierced navels, you may want to have someone edit this article for you. If, however, you are an adult, I think you'll be able to find something useful here. I say this as one who does not play Vampire and doesn't spend a lot of gaming time in the modern era. D&D has vampires too, and a quick change from Santa Fina to a nameless hamlet, a dive bar to a seedy tavern, and a quiet bookstore to a scroll-seller's or tome-seller's store, and voila! Quick and usable NPCs, villains, and/or memorable characters.

Look: you all know, if you've read my blog for any significant length of time, I prefer my D&D to have a bit of 3.5 flavor. But I have some Old School tendencies and consider myself to be an OSR fanatic and gamer. I just happen to not have any other OSR-lovers around me. But while Loviatar first caught my attention for some Pathfinder/3.X content at first, the OSR and other game content is good enough to be easily transferable to 3.5...and good enough for me to WANT to transfer it to 3.5.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 battleaxes.
(Note: The only reason I don't give it 5 battleaxes is that, although I can't believe he could get better, I wouldn't put it past him. I've got to give him a little room.)

*Disclaimer: For the sake of absolute honesty and continued marital bliss, I include this: I have obviously taken some literary license with sharing my family life here. My dear wife doesn't withhold these things from me too long. I actually have several issues tucked away to enjoy in one sitting when I have a free afternoon, preferably with a cold lemon-based beverage and a cool mountain breeze. It just happens that I was extra excited to see Issue #10 and I tore into the envelope before I could stop myself. Now I can go back and enjoy the others at my leisure.
End disclaimer.

**Disclaimer #2: There's no literary license here. My wife really did laugh hard. So did I. And so will you, I think.
End Disclaimer.

21 May 2012

[found items] New Old Lead

On Wednesday night last, I ventured into my FLGS to salve my plastic miniature cravings. One of the managers of the FLGS is a long-time friend (notice I didn't say "old" friend...I started counting how many years I'd known her and her husband and it was a bit depressing).

A few weeks before, we had spent some time talking about our fathers; both of us lost our dad's this past year. From our discussion, she knew I'd been having a rough time, both because of my dad and because of some other reasons/factors in my life. She also knew that I was facing a daunting miniature-painting project and was doubting myself.

When I saw her on Wednesday, she said she had something for me and took me back to the FLGS office. She said she'd been cleaning out some stuff and wanted me to have something. She handed me the following:

Yep. These are the real thing. They date back to the 1980s. Real old. Real lead.

The body of the Imperial Dragon has been assembled and pinned; the whole thing has been primed, and the underbody has a coat of yellow on it. Other than that, they're just like the day they were made. My friend tells me that she got started and then just put them away. She was going to try and sell them, but thought that she'd rather them go to a home where they'd be truly appreciated.

And I truly do appreciate them. These were made at a time where I could not only not afford them, but my parents also disapproved of the game, so there was no asking them to buy dragons for me. I was speechless when she handed them over...and I still am, to some extent. The gift really moved me. How great it is to have good friends who can stand by you and pick you up when you're down. There's no way I can repay her for this gift, as their worth goes way beyond money.

The Dragons of the Emerald Idol (Grenadier's Fantasy Lords #6001) not only comes with the dragon on the front of the box, but it also comes with two other figures. It comes with a baby dragon, captured running mid-stride (complete with cloud of dust rising from its feet) and the Emerald Idol itself (although it looks strangely more like a tiki idol than emerald. I suppose if I painted it green...).

I don't know what I did to deserve this gift or such great friends. I know however, that this has lifted my spirits a bit and I can hardly wait until I get a chance to break out the brushes and pots to slap some paint on these wee beasties.

14 May 2012

[A to Z April] Reflections

I'm pretty sure that somewhere I mentioned how crazy my April was going to be. Well it was. Oh yeah, it was last week. Let me give you a brief recap, since I'm reflecting on the month of April anyway.
  • I had a heap of religious commitments come up throughout the month as I am a member of the lay clergy in charge of my congregation. To make matters worse, another member of the lay clergy has become quite ill, laying a heavier-than-usual load on my plate.
  • Work was intense, as the boss is worried about advertising; therefore I received a new assignment from him to sit in on all the advertising meetings as a witness to the various agreements and negotiations. Training had to continue on a new member of the staff, so answers to basic legal questions had to be dredged up out of my head on a more-often-than-usual basis.
  • Family got crazy with some extended family nuttiness (we'll just leave that one alone).
  • Then we had my questionable judgment to agree to participate not only in the A-to-Z Challenge, but also the One Page Dungeon contest.
  • I had a commitment to the gaming group for at least one six-hour session.
  • In addition, I had committed to paint one of the other guys' character's miniature for him.
  • On top of that, the DM gave me the assignment to paint something enormous for him. No, really...the thing is gigantic. Easily the largest miniature I've ever had to paint. Right now I'm sworn to secrecy; hopefully I'll be able to fill you in on this project later.
  • As for projects, my friend Dylan Hartwell asked for my proofreader's eye on his latest offering, the Horrendous Heap of Sixteen Cities! This project was truly the least onerous of anything else I had committed to do in the month of April, largely because of my sick, sick love for all things proofreading. I plan on offering a more detailed review of this product soon, but suffice it to say: BUY IT. It's a great setting, and I'm not just saying that because I helped to edit it. It's a unique setting and some amazing ideas that can be ported into a campaign. (Note: I have received and will receive NO monetary remuneration for my referrals, review, or any sales of the product. I just edited it. And enjoyed it.)

And most of all of this chaos fell into place AFTER I'd made a personal committment to participate in the A-to-Z Challenge.

Enough time has now passed from the Challenge, I think, to reflect on it in an objective matter. At least relatively objective. So....

  • How did your journey through the alphabet go? Did you meet new bloggers with similar interests? Are there any you would like to feature and share with others?
    There was enough indication in mid-March that April might be a little hairy (I had NO idea) so I sat down this year with a calendar and first set out each "letter day." I then spent an hour or so with some different online random word- and name generators. I used those as creative sparks for NPC names, spell names, item names, and place names. Each one was assigned to a letter of the alphabet. In this way I was able to fill up about 20 letters pre-April and begin the idea machine percolating. I was even able to get about a week ahead before April began--a buffer that quickly evaporated.

    As far as other bloggers, there were several of my fellow RPG-bloggers that I had known previously who participated. Several more came out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, in part because of my busy schedule, I did not get a chance to visit as many other bloggers' sites as I would have wished. Certainly not as many as the Challenge is designed to send me to read. I was, however, able to find several new sites to follow.

    Confession time: my biggest reason for failing to visit a lot of other sites was a concern over plagiarism. I found out last year (and on one occasion this year) that after I visited a site and liked the idea(s) presented there, some idea, nugget, or heck--the entire subject--seemed to creep into my creative pool and demand attention. While that may be expected or anticipated, I don't like to see it happen to my work. I understand that it happens, and it IS supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery. But for the A-to-Z Challenge, I prefer to try and keep my posts based on my own ideas. (I should note: I'm not calling anyone out here. I appreciate that it happens and happens often, particularly among gamers, as ideas spread and build upon each other. I'm simply criticizing my OWN tendency to want to steal ideas during the month of April instead of relying on (what I believe to be) my own ideas.

  • What were the highlights for you? (lowlights too...we want to hear it all)
    I enjoyed seeing my numbers go up on the first week of the Challenge. It was great to be able to expose people who were not familiar to RPGs (or those who hadn't gamed in a while) to the hobby. It was also great to see these aforementioned non-gamers appreciate the creativity and/or the ideas involved in my posts.

  • Did you enjoy posting daily? What was your biggest hurdle? What was your easiest task?
    Frankly, it was difficult for me to post daily. My preparation in having a title or idea for my posts in advance made it a little easier. Some changed as the month went on because I found something more interesting to do with a letter. It was nice trying to keep a buffer, even though it didn't always work. I found that if I jotted something down, whether a thought, statistic, or even an entire post, in my spare time (sitting at court waiting for my cases to be called, sitting in traffic, sitting in front of the television) that I was able to keep at least a day ahead. It wasn't until the last five or so days that I was writing on the day OF the post. My biggest hurdle was probably finding something for some of the "stranger" letters such as 'X' and 'Y'. Oddly it was also difficult weeding out some of the ideas I had for letters such as 'M' and 'S'.

  • Was time management an issue?
    Like I said above, time management was not an issue to begin with, having prepared many of the titles and ideas in advance. This allowed me to schedule a post the day before the letter was due. Time became an issue the final seven days or so when I hit a rough patch made up of 'no time' and 'letters for which I could develop few or no ideas' (such as the aforementioned 'X' and 'Y'). There were a couple of days--especially the final weekend--when I was posting late in the day ON the day in question rather than a day ahead.

  • And what about your content - did you have a theme or did you wing it? Was it easy to come up with ideas for each letter, or were some harder?
    Wow. Another question I've already answered.... It seems I'm anticipating some of these. As I said, I didn't have a "theme" so much, unless you count RPG Gaming Material as a "theme." Because it's the theme of the blog, I'm not sure it qualifies. My pre-month prep allowed me to have a pretty good variation between spells, items, and NPCs. Some of the lesser-used letters were difficult. 'X' has given me trouble both years. So has 'Y' and, oddly, 'U' has well.

  • How about commenting - did you stumble upon lots of sites still using word verification? Did this prevent you from leaving a comment? What worked for your blog?
    As I said above, I didn't get a chance to do a lot of visiting. I can only remember maybe two sites that still used word verification and I don't seem to recall having issues with it. I will echo some of my fellow bloggers' complaints: Wordpress was NOT user friendly for either commenting or for following. Certainly not as simple as Blogger.

  • What will you do different next year?
    I will probably start a bit sooner than the end of March to pre-prepare titles and ideas. I will certainly try and resolve some of the other time consuming issues before and after April. I may even try and narrow down an actual theme.

  • What pearls of wisdom do you want to share with the Co-Hosts of this event?
    I'm not sure there is anything TO suggest. It was a good experience for me. I appreciated seeing some of the Co-Hosts visit and comment on my blog. It showed to me that they had great buy-in into their Challenge and that they embraced the spirit of the Challenge that they were trying to impart to the rest of us.

In conclusion, I'd urge anyone who HASN'T tried the A-to-Z April Challenge to try it next year. I know there are a lot of bloggers--especially RPG bloggers--and readers who believe that it is forced, contrived, or simply downright annoying. It can be done in interesting, intruiging, and compelling ways. It can also be done in quite subtle ways; at least one of my acquaintances pulled off an A-to-Z without my realizing it.

Just like any challenge, you get out of it what you put in. You can make your theme(s) and posts as detailed or as cursory as you want. Creativity is the goal (at least for me) and exposure to new ideas a secondary goal. The reduced timeline is, for me, a good driving force for focus and creative stretching, much like NaNoWriMo is in November.

And not only do I have a bunch of new stuff to throw at my players, I also have a dozen more ideas that were named/brainstormed but were passed up as the month went along.

Cue Evil Laughter.

08 May 2012

[1PD] -- The Ebony Obelisk of the Snail Demon

After several years of watching helplessly from the sidelines, I decided this year to jump in and participate in the One Page Dungeon (or 1PD) contest.

Not only did I decide to participate, myself and a group of much more creative individuals decided to throw in together and develop a small megadungeon made up of our individual one page dungeons, each one linked somehow to another "level" or one page dungeon. The collective megadungeon is called "The Watery Palace of the Ooze Behemoth" and consists of roughly seven levels.

Of course, life intervened and what with the A to Z April Challenge and a myriad of other personal, professional, religious, and familial commitments, I found myself on the morning of April 30th without a 1PD. So I delved into my archives and pulled out a map from April 2011 called The Temple of Urosh. A few tweaks to the description, a little fleshing out, and the Temple of Urosh became the home of the Ebony Obelisk of the Snail Demon (Urosh being the eponymous Snail Demon) and Level 2 of the Watery Palace of the Ooze Behemoth. My 1PD is presented below.

A great thanks to Jim Pacek over at Carjacked Seraphim for the tremendously brilliant and evil plan to combine a set of 1PDs into one megadungeon. My commitment to participate in the "Watery Palace" project was one of the only things that made me follow through on the 1PD contest this year. I should also thank him for harrowing up my memory this morning by posting that "Other folks also participated, but I don't think they've shared their levels yet! :)" That jogged my memory enough to remind me to post up my 1PD here for your perusal.

I look forward to seeing these seven± levels put together in one place. Check back and I'll share it when I get it. For now, however, enjoy "The Ebony Obelisk of the Snail Demon."

If you get a chance, take a look at Level 5, "The Pearly Spiral of the Endless Hunger" by Dave at Tower of the Archmage.

And of course, Level 7, "The Tesseract Prison of the Putrescent Lord" over at Carjacked Seraphim.

Now for a nap.

Oh, yeah. A PDF of my level is here for download.

07 May 2012

D+D=(πR²)∞ or Something Like That

This so TOTALLY describes a player in my group. Maybe every group has one, I don't know. But this is something that he would stay up nights creating.

This is a man who once took an hour of a gaming session calculating falling damage and terminal velocity in 2nd Edition AD&D game terms.

This is a man who worked the numbers and MacGyverred a short-range nuclear missle from a +2 javelin and some miscellaneous alchemical and magical items.

This is a man who.... Well, you get the idea. Like I said, it may be true that every group has one, I consider ours to be the best. He's not only an engineer, he's a chemist, loves geology and fossils, and works for the Government in a forensic role. I'm an English major and an attorney: all that "math stuff" is arcane writing to me. I look up to this guy for what he knows and what he does. What he does in the game? Well, I have to respect that too, even though it causes no end of trouble.

Remember the story from last month about an NPC who had a ranger's wolf scare him? That actually happened over a decade ago. It was our engineer's wolf; this was the ranger who designed the "javelin of destruction."

Suffice it to say: the "crying stableboy who peed himself" is legendary around our table now.

It's become one of our catch-phrases and one of our favorite memories. In fact, NONE of his characters is allowed to speak to children for this very reason.

I don't think I'm going to let him see this picture, though. It may give him ideas.

**h/t to Tom at Yawning Portal for the image.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...