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.

24 December 2013

[Map Monday] Goblin Warrens of Weepcur Glen (Lvl 1)

Yeah, it's Tuesday, but I'm going to still call it Map Monday, because my internet was having fits of frozen rage all weekend. This was the first time I could get this uploaded.

I present for your viewing pleasure today, the Goblin Warrens of Weepcur Glen!

I don't have a lot of background for this map. I'd like to imagine lots of little goblin nests throughout, particularly right in the middle, on the top terrace, using the large stalagmite for cover to rain arrows down upon a bunch of murder hobos adventurers....

To be frank, I'm not sure I like this map much at all. I know, that's a ringing endorsement.... Don't get me wrong; I'm still putting it out here for y'all, and I'd love to hear if you use it. Honestly, I'd like to get any feedback on this, period.

It was more of a project, an experiment.

You see, I don't get to use GIMP as much as I'd like. In my professional day-job life, it's not really even vaguely required. And, honestly, I let so much time lapse between digitizing my maps that I truly forget some of the tricks and tweaks I've used in the past. For example, I've COMPLETELY forgotten how I did the various water effects in the Caverns of the Sceades map from last year. I've seemingly misplaced the graphic I used for the parchment effects on my previous maps. But also, I wanted to try out some new techniques with this map.

I have a confession to make. Maps can be tedious.

To digitize, that is. Especially if you're like me and you like lots of little elevation changes. Those little elevation lines on the ledges? If anyone could tell me a fast and simple way to do that in GIMP or Photoshop, you would instantly become my hero. If you could tell me a fast and easy way to put the elevation lines in the crevasses? Yeah. I may just put you in my will. It takes so much time and energy to put the little lines in, time after time...I think that's why I let so much time elapse between map uploads here.

So, with this map, I used a fine tip Sharpie marker (y'know, the ones that say "fine" but are really quite large and fat?) on 1/4"-graph paper. I uploaded it, then contrasted out the lines, and added in a layer of digital lines. I also created my own "cross-hatch" effect and threw that on their as well. I wanted to see what effects were possible by hand-drawing then simply digitizing, with minimal digital touch-ups and re-draws.

Yeah. Didn't turn out nearly as well as I'd hoped.

I don't like the smoothness of the lines. I don't like re-drawing over my lines after I digitize a map, but I think it may have a more organic feel when I do. I also don't like filling the page with cross-hatch; I'd much rather do a partial fill like Dyson Logos' and Matt Jackson's maps. I know there's got to be an easy way to do this digitally, rather than by hand, but I have yet to find it. And I really don't want to ask these guys about their professional tricks: this is bread and butter to them, after all. (And yes, I've tried it by hand. The results were...well...frightening.)

I also ran into a problem with "transparency." I found it difficult to add colors (like the parchment paper) without over-writing them with other layers. Again, I know I'm missing something, I'm just having trouble finding (or re-finding) the answers. If anyone knows of a good GIMP tutorial, especially in re maps and map drawing, I'd love a reference. I'd also, like I said, appreciate any other feedback or criticism you can offer. Hopefully someone out there can use it in their own world, at least as a hook or an idea. Drop me a line if you do, would you?

The JPG is here and the PDF is here.

26 November 2013

Who's Who: Baral Cloudfoot [NPC]

Baral Cloudfoot’s parents both died when he was still young, leaving Baral and his just-barely-older twin sister, Deand, in charge of their eight younger siblings. They didn’t know what they were doing and muddled through raising their siblings to young adulthood. Unfortunately, their inexperience and botched attempt at surrogate parenthood scarred both Baral and Deand, as well as their younger brothers and sisters. None of the family will speak to Baral or Deand as a result of past slights–both real and perceived.

The last time either Baral or Deand interacted with their siblings was thirty years ago when the family of youths was forced to flee their ancestral house in Bucktoast Dale. The Dale no longer exists, except in the memory of past residents; the entire valley was decimated during a skirmish near the end of the Mage Wraith Wars. The halfling family fled to the safety of Heldweave City. As refugees, they struggled to find a safe place to live; as refugees they were hated and feared by the residents of Heldweave. Even after they managed to find a home, Baral and Deand were viewed with contempt and suspicion by the Heldweavers, which attitudes were worsened by the youngest siblings who played upon the emotions and worries of the neighbors. Ultimately, the twins were forced to leave Heldweave, sneaking out of the city in the dead of night. They eventually made their way to Coldweave, where Deand now watches over her younger brother, whom she still considers to be foolish and immature.

Deand has a particular disdain for Baral’s love of puzzles; “Simply childish,” she says. He adores puzzles, enigmas, and riddles of all kinds. He is positively giddy when he comes across a new type of lock or trap mechanism. This curiosity motivates nearly everything in Baral’s life; those few things not powered by his curiosity are instead fueled by his anger, particularly when ignited by a desire for revenge against the strong. He is not overly quick to temper, but when it is loosed, Baral becomes deadly and almost cruel. He is careful not to lose control too often, however, as he does not believe in murder, although he is proficient at violence when necessary.

Baral is quite capable with his blades. He practices his sword work in his off-hours, then whittles and carves small tokens and statues from spare wood when he is exhausted from his sword practice. The edges of his blades are always keen, the metal always clean and untarnished.

One of his younger sisters, he has learned, became an assassin. While Baral is not above a little petty theft and larceny, especially when it will benefit someone less well-off than he is, outright murder is beyond his ken or tolerance. It is clear that this sister was not of the same character as either of the twins. Both Baral and Deand blame themselves for this family tragedy. Although their younger siblings have rejected them, the twins both still love their brothers and sisters very much, and would do nearly anything to help them.

Baral is not an attractive individual. His brown eyes are just a bit too far apart and his hair a dull black. He is also a bit too tall for a halfling. In order to blend in with his favorite targets – the rich and powerful – Baral puts most of his money and efforts into attaining an extensive wardrobe of very nice clothes. He is not great at what he does, but he is workman-like and gets the job done eventually.

Baral believes strongly in luck over ability. He is a worshiper of Inudor, the Goddess of Luck and Chance. In fact, he believes so strongly in Luck and Inudor’s intervention in mortals’ lives, he has inadvertently become one of Inudor’s clerics. Contrary to other deities, Inudor chooses her priests, rather than the other way around. Those who aspire to be Inudor’s clerics and high priest rarely become such. She favors those who truly believe in luck and chance, instead of those who seek out luck and hope that chance plays a part in their lives. Clerics of Inudor still have to prepare their daily spells, they do so by praying to Inudor, believing that she will grant them the necessary luck to make it through life “just one more day.” Inudor's clerics seldom, if ever, realize that they are actually clerics of their gods; even when they unknowingly cast spells, they believe that it is Luck magically intervening in their life.

Baral is no different: he carries a set of dice in his pocket and is always willing to trust to the flip of a coin when required. He does not realize that he is casting spells to aid him in his work: things simply “happen” for him. Afterward, he prays to Inudor to thank her for intervention.

He is annoyed by those who, finding themselves in distress, whine about their circumstances. Inudor helps those that she will; if you are out of luck, that’s just the way of the Goddess. No reason to complain about it. And if you do complain, you are spitting in the Goddess’ face and she will be even less likely to help you the next time. This does not apply, of course, if you are a true innocent. Baral is a sucker for innocents, true innocents, and will go out of his way to provide assistance.

Baral Cloudfoot CR 4

Male Halfling Cleric 3 / Rogue 2
Chaotic Neutral Small Humanoid
Init: +1
Senses: Low-light Vision
Languages: Common, Halfling
AC 15 (Dex +1, Size +1, +1 Leather +3), touch 12, Flat-footed 14
hp 25 hp
Fort +4, Ref +5, Will +6
Speed: 20
Melee: +7 Sword, short (1d4+1 / 19-20) or +6 Dagger (1d3+1 / 19-20) or
Ranged: +5 Sling 1d3 (range 50)
Space/Reach: 5/5
Base Atk 3; Grp 0
Atk Options: Sneak Attack; Turn Undead
Combat Gear: Sword, short, Dagger, Sling, +1 Leather Armor
Spells Prepared: (CL 3)
2nd — (DC 15): Calm Emotions*, Find Traps, Silence
1st — (DC 14): Charm Person, Entropic Shield*, Magic Stone, Shield of Faith
0 — (DC 13): Detect Poison, Resistance, Virtue
*Domain Spell. Domains: Luck, Charm
Abilities: Str 12, Dex 12, Con 13, Int 11, Wis 16, Cha 11
SQ: Fearless (+2 save vs. fear); Weapon Familiarity; Trapfinding
Combat Casting, Evasion, Heavy Armor Prof., Light Armor Prof., Shield Prof., Simple Weapon Prof., Weapon Focus (Sword, short)
Skills: Appraise 0, Climb 4, Concentration 7, Diplomacy 0, Disable Device 3, Gather Information 0, Heal 5, Hide 7, Jump 3, Know religion 1, Listen 5, Move Silently 5, Open Lock 3, Search 2, Sense Motive 5, Spot 5, Tumble 3, Use Rope 2
Possessions: Combat gear plus Explorer's Outfit; Belt pouch containing the following potions: Cure light wounds, Cure serious wounds. Also: acid flask, caltrops, flint and steel, Thieves' tools, Waterskin, Whetstone, 200 gp, 9 sp, 9 cp

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

23 November 2013

The Manor #5 is OUT!!!

Great news!

Tim Shorts, of Gothridge Manor fame, has released the latest issue of his OSR 'zine, The Manor!

Issue #5 is chock-full of gaming goodness, from the Tavern Name Generator to the host of evil-doer NPCs. Let's not forget cover and illustrations by Jay Penn! I honestly can't say what my favorite part of this issue really is.

Yes I can. My favorite part is that my copy will be winging its way toward me and my bookshelves any day now.

Go on over and pick yourself up a copy: it's available in PDF or Old School hard-copy format.

Disclaimer: While I participated in proof-reading and editing of this issue of the Manor, I did so (and offer this review) without promise of any monetary gain. However, I may or may not receive a copy of this issue for my assistance in proof-reading.

22 November 2013

300 Posts! Milestone Reached!!

I just now realized that today's post makes a round 300 posts! From what I understand about the blogging community, I believe this means that everybody needs to send me presents and gifts to celebrate the milestone. I'm pretty sure I read that on the Internet somewhere. In that case, I'd gladly take large-denomination American currency or gaming supplies. Honest, I'm not that picky.

Seriously, though. I can't believe it's been 300 posts.

From and including: Friday, April 9, 2010
To and including: Friday, November 22, 2013
Result: 1324 days

It is 1324 days from the start date to the end date, end date included

Or 3 years, 7 months, 14 days including the end date

Alternative time units
1324 days can be converted to one of these units:

114,393,600 seconds
1,906,560 minutes
31,776 hours
1324 days
189 weeks (rounded down)


[From the Mailbag] Nothing from Golarion

Yeah, I know. I promised crunchy stuff this week, not more mailbag stuff. But depression hits different people different ways. Some people stay in bed, or curl up on the couch with a bag of Doritos and a stack of DVDs. Others get out the gallon-size bucket of ice cream and a warm spoon. Still others buy shoes, ties, or purses.

With me it's minis.

Well, it's some of the other things too, but this week it was minis that I used to try and salve my emotions. It helped that they were sent to me on a 2-day priority. (Oddly, it was their cheapest delivery option too!) And the box came today.

I was feeling a bit depressed and overworked--stressed to the hilt--and then THIS happened.
Yep. Those are three large bundles of pore-painted plastic minis wrapped up in brown-paper-anonymous goodness. One of the minis I ordered apparently vanished from the inventory before the seller filled my order, so it WAS one mini short. But the other 47 made up for it.

That's right. I said 47.

This is a group of Mage Knight, HorrorClix, and Dreamblade minis. The great thing about this deal is that I found a great discount sale price and the whole lot cost me less than 50¢ apiece. The downside--and this may be buyer's remorse talking here--is their size. Most of these had no size reference in the original pictures and I forget that these brands are not always compatible (size-wise) with the Pathfinder and Wizards plastic minis. Also the bases are unwieldy and I'm not sure where I'm going to store these. Space in my current mini-storage is at a premium and I don't know how I can conveniently expand. I need to put a picture of my mini storage up here to explain that. Someday. But for now, they'll probably find their way into a small cardboard box, or in the nooks and crannies of my current storage system.

So: Pics. I really didn't want to load up the blog with lots of individual images of these beasties, so I took a group photo, I'll give a list, and let y'all look up pictures if you're really interested. Or you can ask me and I'll give some detailed photos if you really want. Otherwise, just keep on reading....

16 November 2013

[From the Mailbag] Bride of the Return of the Son of the Unboxing of Golarion

It's been a frustrating couple of weeks here at the Stronghold. Let me just say that, while being the ultimate boss at the Stronghold (finally) is something special, the fretting about taking care of all the families at the Stronghold is not quite so fun. You realize suddenly that everybody else's family needs to be cared for first, then your own family. And the minions here are great, but a bit expensive and irreplaceable. That adds to the stress and fretting on every level.

But payroll is done for another 2 weeks.

So, on to the fun stuff. Last weekend was a great mail weekend. I got home on Friday night from our monthly 3.5 game to find a hard copy of Dylan's Tombstones of Terror: Curse of the Sin Eater waiting for me. I've already posted my review of it, but I love sitting down and digging in to a physical hard copy. This one is one of my favorites, in part because yours truly is immortalized on the front cover.

Yep, I sure am.

If you look carefully on the tombstone peeking out from behind the eponymous gravestone, you'll see the letters: "-oric -uum" which are, of course, short for "Boric Glanduum." Michael Monaco, from Swords and Dorkery is interred on the other side so I'm in good company.

Then, on Saturday, I received an even better surprise in the mail. 

15 November 2013

Found Item Friday: At The Potion Merchant's Cart

"Dilil, would you stop touching things? You have no idea where those things have been!" The female halfling slapped at her brother's hand just before he touched the oddly-shaped bottle on the merchant cart. Whispering, she continued, "Plus, if you break it, he's going to make you buy it. And you, brother, are a klutz."

Dilil sucked on the side of his hand and muttered, "Shiloru, you need to have more faith in me. And I'm not a klutz; put a sword in my hand and I'll show you." He waved his arm in a broad gesture, sweeping his cloak out of the way. The weighted edge of his cloak swept across the front row of bottles. Several fell to the ground, shattering, and leaving a variegated puddle.

The merchant smiled a cunning, toothy smile. "I'll just total up your receipt shall I, little master? Mayhaps you ought to listen more closely to your sister. Unfortunately, you chose a couple of the more rare items to, ahem, sample. If you wish to take them home with you, little master, I do have some – undamaged – bottles of the same draughts. I can just add them to your bill." Shiloru glared at Dilil and shook her head as the merchant walked around the corner of his cart, whistling happily.
  • Bottle One: Nectar of Life
    – This potion is contained in a glass conical bottle. The bottle itself is sealed with a screw-on lid covered and made air-tight with blue wax. On the side of the bottle, a single strange rune is painted; the rune is from a very rare language and names the potion. Through the glass, the potion is seen as a turquoise color. If opened, it smells reminiscent of rhubarb. If consumed, it is a very thick liquid, much like yogurt, and has a very sour taste. If the entire bottle is consumed, it causes leaves to grow on the drinker’s body. The leaves last for 5 minutes. If consumed in full sunlight, it acts as either a heal or restoration spell. MSRP: 3300 gp

  • Bottle Two: Oil of Irritation
    – This potion is in a brass container, one shaped to look on both sides like a grinning goblin face. The container is corked and sealed with black wax. There is no label on the container to identify the liquid within. If opened, the potion is seen as a yellow liquid, but is found to be odorless. If consumed, it tastes alcoholic, but with a greasy, oily texture. When consumed, the liquid causes the drinker to hear a high frequency noise for six hours; during this time, all of the drinker’s senses are diminished. MSRP: 300 gp

  • Bottle Three: Tincture of Predictions
    – This crystal flask is sealed with a glass cap, which must be broken off to open. This makes the flask impossible to reuse. On one side of the flask is a glued-on paper label, which describes on ly the general type of potion contained in the flask. The potion is visibly crimson colored. If the flask is opened, a harsh chemical smell is released. The potion itself is bubbly and fizzy when the flask is opened. If consumed, the potion tastes like chicken and grants the drinker a vision of one day into her future. (This is not the full 24-hour span, but simply the actions, situations, etc. a full 24 hours after consuming.) This vision lasts for 1 minute. After the vision subsides, the drinker suffers from drowsiness and mild paranoia for 24 hours. MSRP: 800 gp

01 November 2013

Found Item Friday: Battalion Mage's Desk

Seandi peeked around the tent's door, holding the fabric back with one long, delicate finger. There was no one visible within the tent; the coast was clear. Taking no chances, however, she slipped quietly between the tent flaps and quickly tip-toed across the inner space. As her lithe form crossed to the far side, her eyes flickered constantly around her, never once focusing on her true goal: the traveling desk of Master Alashor, Battle Mage for the 6th Battalion, Army of the Frozen Brand.

Her employer had said he would pay dearly for any items she could find on--and in--Alashor's desk. Now she just had to inventory the items and pack them away before she was discovered. Let the others worry about how they were going to get her back out from the middle of the enemy army.

Seandi grinned. She liked a good challenge.

Twenty Things Found in Master Alashor's Desk
  1. A packet of six 6" wooden dowels, tied with a purple ribbon.
  2. The heel (stale) from a loaf of bread.
  3. A shard from a broken looking glass.
  4. Four unmatched buttons.
  5. The stubs of two beeswax candles.
  6. Five cherry pits.
  7. A chunk of brimstone.
  8. One spool, made from clay.
  9. The remains of a large, hairy spider in a 4" bamboo cage.
  10. A dead newt floating in a fishbowl.
  11. A dead tortoise in a jar filled with an orange-tinged liquid.
  12. A 12"-long leather cord.
  13. A dessicated orange rind, peeled as one piece.
  14. Three dried peppers.
  15. A soiled handkerchief.
  16. Two peach pits.
  17. A pixie's skull, apparently suspended in a small crystal ball.
  18. One silver sewing needle.
  19. A skeleton key.
  20. A carved wooden whistle.

30 October 2013

Prepare to be Jealous

A couple weeks ago, Tim Shorts over at Gothridge Manor showed off some artwork he'd received in the mail. The name of his post was "Prepare to be Jealous." Seeing how his post inspired this one, and the sentiment fits, I've co-opted his post title for my own today.

Thanks, Tim.

If you're a long-time reader of my blog, or have been around the OSR for a while, you've no doubt heard of Jay Penn or have seen his work. He was the artist for Christian Walker's Loviatar 'zine. Jay's been generous enough in the past to allow me to purchase some pieces from him, pieces awaiting framing for my home office. Well, Jay recently completed an artistic challenge "100 Heads in 100 Days"; he put these works up for grabs and I grabbed several.

Here's what I found when I opened the envelope:

I'm currently looking for a frame for this one. I loved the idea and the colors in this.

I actually received two of these from Jay. He graciously sent a second print that I delivered to my FLGS, Hastur Games and Comics. The owner calls himself "Cthulhu Bob" and the managers of this store have been good friends of mine for over three decades. They all loved this piece; I understand it's getting framed and put in the manager's office.

These were pieces from Jay's "100 Days"; The one on the upper right, titled "Nanna Orc" was Day #5 and is in pencil. Kiddy-corner to that, the one-eyed dwarf, is an ink piece for Day #7, appropriately named "Left-Eye the Dwarf." The piece on the far right is Day #18, an ink/watercolor rendition of Tolkien's Gimli, son of Gloin. The upper-left hand pieces is another ink/watercolor for Day #36 and is what Jay titles, "A Stonehead Waymarker."

[Aside: I had to share Jay's explanation of the piece here.... "Faerie is ribboned with paths, roads, trails, passages and the likes. They go in every which way, over mountains, under hills, around lakes, through streams. On some of the ancient and seldom used paths, one may come across a Stonehead Waymarker. These talking stones will only give directions if asked the correct question. The catch being that they will not tell you what that question is or how to discover it. To further annoy passing travelers, the 'right' question is never the same one twice, it always changes. Stonehead Waymarkers are, thus, entirely useless in every way except as a cautionary tale of the importance of a good map on a journey. Perhaps that is why the Stonehead Waymarkers exist in the first place..." End aside.]

Finally, the one in the bottom center is Mr. Tolkien himself, a pencil sketch for Day #42.

To tell the truth, there were LOTS more that I wanted. I didn't want to be greedy, however. Tim actually got one that I really wanted. I guess I'll let him keep it. Although, I should add a disclaimer: if it comes up missing, Tim, it wasn't me. Honest.

If you haven't seen Jay's work, or haven't picked up something from him, head on over to his Realm of Faerie blog and take a look around. He's always got something new up his sleeve. And don't let my pictures fool you or dissuade you: they DO NOT do the artwork justice. Not at all.

22 October 2013

[Review] Tombstones of Terror: Curse of the Sin Eater

Well, my good friend Dylan over at Digital Orc has done it again, and just in time for Hallowe'en gaming goodness.

This time 'round he gives us a little adventure titled: Tombstones of Terror: Curse of the Sin Eater.
First: a disclaimer.

I was an editor/proofreader on this project for Dylan. Thus, I want to make it clear: I have not received and will not receive any monetary remuneration for either my proofreading work or this review.

Now that's out of the way, let's get down to business.

We're looking at 32 pages of Labyrinth Lord goodness. (No worries to those who don't play LL; I regularly use Dylan's adventures in 3.x settings and they translate well.) As usual we have Dylan's unique artwork sprinkled throughout. I particularly like his grey-scale setting images and his critter pics. I will confess that my wife saw one image and hollered at me, "WHAT are you reading?!" I told her it was grown-up stuff for grown-ups and not to worry: the kids wouldn't see it. That didn't help my cause, of course. Once I told her it was Dylan's latest, she was mollified because she knows his work. (In hindsight she agrees that the picture wasn't all that bad; it just took her off-guard.) YMMV.

The adventure is not graphic, it's not James Raggi grown-up stuff, but it's not intended for the little ones. Definitely PG, or maybe PG-13, based on some of the thematic elements. This is not a critique or a complaint, just a warning to my more sensitive readers and the parents out there. As with most things: if you have a concern with your kids seeing something, take the time to look at it first rather than complaining later.

The premise of the adventure is intriguing: the death of a village "sin eater" causes a curse to descend and sets the stage for some interdimensional doom and destruction. In order to lift the curse on the town, the adventurers must unlock riddles on seven different tombstones, each one a magical portal to a different and unique dungeon. Each dungeon has its own creatures and settings; each dungeon has its own boss. All seven dungeons must be overcome and each of the eight bosses Dylan gives us must be conquered in order to lift the curse.

As usual, Dylan gives us some interesting souls (literally in this case) to populate his world: lost sailors, grieving bards, and lustful priests. He also gives us some familiar monsters to battle, but adds in some new ones of his own. And yes, we have another spider. A wonderfully, gruesome spider. One that makes my skin crawl, and yet I cannot wait to unleash it on my own players.

[Aside: Dylan knows I'm an arachnophobe. (I know better, but...) I swear he lays awake at night thinking up something new and creepy to do with spiders just so that I can proofread their stats and text-blocks and get the heebie-jeebies. He's even threatened that his next work will be: Boric's Basement Book of Spiders -- 20 Arresting arachnids for your old-school games! Written & Illustrated by Dylan Hartwell. I told him that I may not be able to handle the editing work on something like that. (Shudder) I wanted to tell him that I didn't think he could come up with 20 new ones, but that sounded too much like a gauntlet being thrown down so I resisted. End aside.]

Dylan also gives us seven new maps, one for each dungeon. The text accompanying each dungeon is just detailed enough for most DMs: giving enough detail for some DMs to take it as written and run with it, while leaving room for other DMs to add/subtract details of their own. I think he strikes a good balance with the detail, myself. I will say this about the details, though: Dylan likes his Easter Eggs. He sprinkles little bits of continuity from his other adventures throughout. It's a nice nod to those of us who have/enjoy the other adventures, plus it gives an opportunity to expand from a quick adventure into a campaign.

If I had one complaint, it would be this: I want just a bit more. I'd like a bit more flavor about the town, a few more NPCs and townspeople with whom to interact. I realize I can do this myself, but sometimes I'm lazy. It certainly works well without the extra flavor and NPCs. I just think it would be even better. (But then, I collect NPCs, so I suppose it's not that difficult for me to pull a few out of the file drawer.)

Really, then, my one complaint comes down to pure, unadulterated selfishness.

I'm going to give this 4 battle-axes out of 5. I'd highly recommend it to anyone; as I said above, I think it could make a nice one- or two-night adventure for a group, or it could form the basis of an entire campaign. Great content, period. Currently it's available at RPGNow in PDF format for $3.99. He's anticipating the print version to be available soon for $4.99 -- if you'd rather the print version, just keep an eye out over at his Digital Orc blog.

21 October 2013

[From the Mailbag] Return of the Son of the Unboxing of Golarion

The mailman hadn't even hit the next building yet before I got the box opened. Most of what I got today were duplicates of my favorites from the Legends of Golarion Pathfinders Battles set I opened last week. Specifically, I picked up a few more Tatzlwyrms, Degenerate Serpentfolk, and some more Monkey Swarms.

But I picked up a few more individual minis that had piqued my interest.

18 October 2013

[From the Mailbag] Son of The Unboxing of Golarion

Well, you gluttons of punishment, you're back for more, eh? Yesterday didn't scare you off? Or maybe it piqued your interest? Either way, let's go ahead and finish up the accounting from the Legends of Golarion minatures set from Paizo/Pathfinder.

17 October 2013

[From the Mailbag] The Unboxing of Golarion!

I tore into my free booster packs last night as soon as I got in the door. All in all, not a bad haul: there were only 2 duplicates, and both duplicates were of useful miniatures. I'm getting more enamored of these sculpts as time goes by. The first couple releases just didn't impress me. The last few, however, have had some amazing pieces.

For example, I like what Paizo/WizKids is doing with clear plastic. The two goblins in this set are carrying torches, made from colored clear plastic, and the flames look really nice. One of the other minis from this set (not received in my boosters, but put on order a few hours ago) uses clear plastic to denote a slimy outer covering. Earlier sets have used the clear plastic for see-through housings on golems and similar miniatures. It adds a layer to the 'realism' that is difficult to get in metal unless you really spend a lot of time, money, and talent.

I can hear you saying, "Yeah, yeah. You like the sculpts. Get on with it and share your loot with us!" OK, maybe you aren't saying that. In fact, if you are, I may have to worry a bit. But without further ado, here's the accounting:

16 October 2013

,[From the Mailbag] Legendary Mail Surprise

I spent most of Columbus Day (observed) out of commission from a "gastric disorder" and didn't make it into work until Tuesday morning.

Imagine how much better I felt when I saw the big box sitting on my office chair, containing a full brick of Paizo's newest miniature release, Legends of Golarion.
And the best part? I didn't have to pay a thing for them.

"Zip. Zero. Nada. Zilch," as they say.

There's a long story behind these that I won't go into here. Suffice if to say it ended a much better day than it started. Hopefully real life will slow down enough to allow me to do an unboxing and give you all a report on what exactly it was I got.

Until then, keep your dice dry.

08 October 2013

It's the Final Countdown!

Friends, a reminder that there's less than 36 hours remaining on the Kickstarter for my friends Tracy and Laura Hickman's latest gaming endeavor! They're not just friends of the OSR; you may say they help embody the OSR! Plus, they know a thing or two about making games....

I think they've got another home run on their hands!

Let's make a final push toward the finish line; there's some GREAT stretch goals that are well within reach. (These include plastic counters, special dice, and input from author Kevin J. Anderson!) They've already met stretch goals to include a game module written by author Larry Correia.

It's a fun game and a worthy cause.... Besides, you can never have too many board games, right? Best of all, it's suitable for adults, kids, and families.

If you haven't had a chance to pledge yet, jump on board! If you've already pledged, take a moment and check out the great add-ons!

Here's the link: Sojourner Tales Board Game.

27 September 2013

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 9


What is your favorite character that you have NOT played?

Put simply: A Goliath rogue.

The goliaths were a race introduced by Wizards of the Coast into 3.5E in the supplement Races of Stone. The D&D Wiki calls them: "massive creatures unafraid of throwing their weight around in a fight. Highly competitive, these strong nomads can prove to be powerful allies and welcome additions to any adventuring party." They were a lot more than that, however. Their favored class was barbarians; they live in the mountains, have bluish-grey skin, and hard nodules randomly on their bodies. Picture giants, but of Medium size. Rather, they're Medium size, but so massive that you treat them in many respects as a Large character.

OK, you have that picture in your head?

Now make him a rogue. Blow up his Move Silently and Hide skills (a.k.a. Stealth). Maybe add in a Cloak of Elvenkind. Make him ultra quiet, ultra sneaky, and ultra...well, ultra rogue. But when you look at him, he's this big lumbering mass of flesh. It's a great contradiction. I want to play one just for the shock value, and I've been waiting for the right time to spring one on my group.

Until about 6 months ago. One of our other players--who does not like playing the same race twice--was looking for an innovative character idea. So I gave him this one, thinking he would never try it.

Well, he did. And he died within one session to the attack of three giant spiders. A very ignominious end. There was a lot of mocking and laughing. So I've shelved the idea.

For now.

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 8


What is your favorite character that you have played?

I made a list of my favorite characters earlier in the Challenge Meme entries. I'll narrow it down a bit to this:

#4 - Malgrim Irontomb, Rogue
The rogue is what I'm playing now. Malgrim is fast becoming a favorite, not just of mine but also of the group as a whole. I've never played a rogue before; Malgrim has enough hit points that you're not concerned about him dying, and while he doesn't have terrific strength, he can do sufficient damage with what he has (and his sneak attacks) that he is a very useful and efficient second-line asset to the group. We've never had a rogue that could soak up so much damage (and do so much damage at the same time) and be as efficient as he is in opening locks, etc. We've had one or the other, but never all three in one character.

#3 - Urdin Darjyr, Storm Druid
The storm druid was introduced in Dragon Magazine, Issue #328. Instead of focusing on nature and plants, etc., the storm druid looks to the skies, channeling nature's raw, untamed energies. In addition, this particular dwarf was a dream dwarf by race: a sub-race introduced in the 3.5 Races of Stone supplement. From the D&D Wiki page: "Dream dwarves feel the hills slumber beneath them. They see the world as a resting giant of inestimable power, and they are caught in the dreaming. While other dwarves shape metal and stone, dream dwarves contemplate and meditate. Wise and cautious, they understand nature in a way at once similar to and wholly alien to the understanding of druids and shamans of other races." Yep, a dwarven hippie. His backstory made him quite interesting and fun to play, while the special druidic class gave him some serious awesome nature-magic firepower. He wielded a pretty wicked dwarven warpike, too. However, if I remember correctly, he was a multi-class nightmare. I think I had a couple levels of fighter and of barbarian to give him some additional oomph feat-wise. Urdin took his retirement and sacrificed his freedom for the party (and the world) by linking himself to a MAJOR magical item. That link allowed the item to slumber once again, but meant that Urdin would forever be trapped on a small island... at least until his replacement appeared.

#2 - Azarr Stonetower, Barbarian
Speaking in a rough patois, a mix of dwarven and english, this character was a straight barbarian. He cut first and and asked questions later never bothered to ask questions ask questions after burning the remains of his foes to ashes. He eventually became a lycanthrope--a werebear--thanks to the DM's wickedness. He was a mean, tough, unrefined, and uncouth kick-in-the-door-arrow-magnet type. He was a LOT of fun to play and was responsible for some of the most memorable moments in our group's gaming history. He used a wooden bench as a club in a tavern fight, right before he killed another foe with the long table. He sprinted up a stairwell into an area of darkness taking crossbow bolt after bolt without stopping. He also saved another character's life by stabilizing him by force-feeding him a goodberry; the now-infamous quote: "At least it weren't me wipin' hand!" Azarr was axe-bladed death on two stumpy legs.

#1 - Boric Glanduum, Sonnlinor (warrior-priest of Moradin)
2nd Edition Boric -- FrontBoric, as my namesake, is obviously my #1 favorite character. I said in my previous post that editions subsequent to 2nd Edition have nerfed him. Truthfully, he's not as fun to play as he used to be. But he remains my favorite. I like to picture him as retired, with the other characters from that epic group. He's a silent partner in the elf rogue's Lawful Neutral/Chaotic Good endeavors and Guild, all the while while working to bind together the scattered dwarven clans. He still participates in Matters Of Importance to the world, but nowhere near as actively as he once did.

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 7

Well, that certainly worked out well, didn't it? That blog meme really motivated me to write more, no?

Actually, it really did. I was just a victim of (a) failed technology and (b) personal issues. I tried to post a second post while at Salt Lake Comic Con on September 7. However, we Con-goers apparently broke the convention center's tech; e-mails, texts, even cell phone calls--nothing was going in or out of the building. When I tried afterwards, from home, my cell phone ate several posts. Admittedly, it's likely due to user error as I'm still getting used to using a smart phone.


But the remainder is purely my fault. Purchasing a law firm is rough enough. Trying to sort out the various administrative and financial messes that the former owner left for me adds several layers of exponentially-greater difficulties to the process. I actually found a six-inch-square part of my desk top bare today. I don't plan on it being there very long. At any rate, the whole new-business-owner thing is still fresh and still causing a major hassle. It's a distraction from my distractions. But know I'm at least thinking about you all while I struggle through real life.

Without further ado, then...


What is your favorite edition?

Well, that's easy enough: D&D. Period.

What? You want MORE, you say? You want specificity? OK. Sigh. Back in 2000, when I picked up the dice again, my group was playing 2nd Edition AD&D, and had been for some time. My favorite character was spawned during that campaign, and I maintain he could kick the tail of any later iteration of the character. The subsequent editions nerfed a lot of what made him great, effective, and fun to play.

We were dragged, kicking and screaming, into Third Edition, and soon thereafter, 3.5E.

And we enjoyed it. Sure, there are some hiccups, hills and valleys, and speed bumps. Every edition has its problems.

Let me say that again, clearly: every edition has its problems.

Enough so that our long-time Dungeon Master decided--with the advent of 4E--that he'd had enough of the vagaries of 3.x and jumped ship. He tried to get us to go with him, but for various reasons no one else in the group wanted to jump with him. Since then, we've instituted a grundle of house rules and incorporated a lot of Pathfinder (and some OSR). What we play right now would be classified as maybe 3.8E (if Pathfinder is 3.75 as it's so often called). We also have several rotating DMs, all of whom understand that there's rules and then there's RULES. There are ways to stay within the RULES and still have a speedy, fun, and technically "correct" game. We try NOT to refer to any books while play is going on. If a rule is found later to have been violated by either DM or player, appropriate rewards or punishments are meted out.

I've played 4E and found it wasn't my cup of tea. I've played 2E and enjoyed it, as well as 3.x. So, I guess I could fudge and say "D&D of any edition." But, long answer short, if you're going to pin me down and make me pick something specific: my favorite edition would have to be 3.8E.

07 September 2013

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 6


What  it's your favorite deity?

Anyone want to take a guess?

OK, that may have been too hard of a question. I'll give you a hint:

His name is Moradin All-Father, the Soulforger.

06 September 2013

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 5

Whoops. Something happened yesterday and this didn't post.


What is your favorite set of dice or individual die?

Anyone that has ever read this blog for any length of time know just how difficult a question that is to answer. Just search "dice" on the Stronghold and you'll see. Maybe I can pare it down a bit, though. To start with, we have my everyday dice. This is the set that I carry in my backpack with me everywhere I go, complete with a little velvet drawstring bag. Yes, they also go to court with me. Why? Hey, Jack! Who knows when a game will break out? or a random encounter helps your client?

Second up are a couple of my d20s. I love d20s. I don't exactly know why, but they are very appealing to me. I have a full range of sizes as shown above. I have several colossal d20s like the black one; I like them, but they're not my favorites. However, the red d20 shown here is my "pocket die"--a lucky d20 that I carry in my trouser pocket with my pocketknife and keys. Again: you never know when you'll need to roll-to-hit.

These last two sets are my pride and joy. The first one here is a set of Crystal Caste Dwarven Stones. They're made of hematite and I find them glorious. Of course, that may be because I'm a dwarf. I love the Dwarven Stones series and have longed after several of the sets (the dinosaur bone and meteorite sets, particularly) but never seem to have a spare wad of cash when I think about buying a set. Maybe when I'm rich and famous. These have never been used, however, because I don't want to risk any kind of damage.

This is my other favorite set: pewter. I don't remember who sold these, but I bought them back in the early 2000s. I've used them once or twice; they roll terrifically and they're nice and heavy. The downside is that they're soft. Really soft. And they're dinged up from just a couple sessions' worth of use. So, they're the emeritus dice in the collection. They're the 600-pound gorilla on the dice shelf, just daring the other dice to step out of line.

Tracy Hickman's New Game

OK, so, I need to throw a shout-out to all my readers about this.

Tracy Hickman's Kickstarter went live last night and I'm pretty excited about it. It's for a new board game...well, that's like calling Buckingham Palace a "house." It's so much more than a simple board game. Put away Clue and Monopoly for a while, in other words. I can't wait to get my hands on it. In fact, I'm hoping to find the Hickmans at Salt Lake Comic Con and sit down for a demo, just so I can say I've played it.

Here's the link: Sojourner Tales Board Game.

From the Kickstarter description:
Sojourner Tales is a board game featuring new, downloadable ebook adventure modules that make the experience new every time you play.
In Sojourner Tales, you will use strategy and wits as you discover and collect the pieces of your mysterious story as you strive to be the first to complete the epic adventure. The tale is different every time you play ... or you can download new Sojourner Tales to explore from our website!

Number of Players: 2-6
Playing Time: 60-90 minutes
Age of Players: 12+ (requires minimum reading skills)
Setup time: 5-7 minutes
Teach the rules: 3-5 minutes
Unique Ebook Story Modules: The story told in every Sojourner Tale is designed to be contained entirely in the electronic mobi or epub files. You also have the option to download the adventure in PDF format to print out and use with the game if you do not have a tablet or other device that supports the electronic book formats. However, the use of any touch-screen device provides a magical experience in storytelling and helps the game move faster.
Adaptable Design: The game components that come in the box and the rules of the game itself are specifically designed to be adaptive to a broad spectrum of storytelling. Each Sojourner Story Module contains information on which location tiles are to be used on the board with that particular story, thereby changing the look of the game board depending on the story being told. All of the flavor, setting, characters and narrative of the adventure are contained in the downloaded module ... meaning the game can adapt to any story you want to live.
Innovative Storytelling System: The board keeps track of your location in the epic story, making certain that the game flows back and forth between the board and the ebook with the story continuity left intact. For random encounters, an innovative 'Twisted Tales' system lets the players draw two twisted cards and one tales card and then 'stack' them in such a way as to make a phrase -- a phrase which takes them to a specific adventure entry for that combination of cards.
Grass-roots Licensing: We want YOU to write adventures for our game and so we are even providing you with a 'grass-roots licensing option whereby you can not only create your own Sojourner Tales games but (with our license) also sell those adventures on our official website.

Here's the link one more time: Sojourner Tales Board Game. Jump on over and pledge away; there are some great early-bird perks still available.

For now.

So act now, and act quick.

04 September 2013

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 4


What is your favorite game world?

Well, with the limited playing time my group has, it's interesting to note that we've had several home-brewed campaigns interspersed with our published worlds. I had a DM try and play us in the Amber universe. That failed miserably: all the players agreed with that assessment. We've had some interesting planar adventures and a jaunt to Pathfinder's Golarion setting. All in all, though, I'd have to say I enjoy the Realms the most.

Mind you, it's an "edited" Realms. This ain't your daddy's Forgotten Realms, in other words.

I found a kindred spirit in this respect this morning, perusing the other participants in this month's blogging challenge. I happened across The Tower of the Archmage and was interested to see that he plays in a similar Realms that we do.

All of the major figures/players are absent. If they DO exist, they are elsewhere, putting out fires. Elminster is the only one that really has been named as existing. Drizzt and his companions? Nowhere to be found, happily, although we HAVE had one player dabble with a Drow character. He did it well, and different enough from Drizzt to be palatable.

The events of the novels and the campaign settings do not effect our Realms, unless we are actually playing through one of the campaigns. Largely, we are in a Realms sandbox, and take bits and pieces from published settings as it suits us.

My experience with the Forgotten Realms in this way is one reason I do not understand people who say that they can't play in this-or-that Published Setting because they don't like the major characters, don't want to worry about canon, don't want to be stuck following the guidelines of the novels, don't want to blah-blah-blah.

Make it your own. That's all it takes. Just like complaining about a rule set--take what you want and leave what you don't. Just because it's in a book--campaign setting or rule book--doesn't mean you HAVE to use it, unless the DM and/or entire party decides to use it.

We've journeyed through Our Realms since 2000. We've gone through 2E, 3E, 3.5E, and now Pathfinder as we've traveled. We care nothing for Salvatore or Greenwood's opinions on the matter, and we certainly didn't bother with any 4E Spellplague drivel. It's our Realms. And it's going to stay that way.

03 September 2013

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 3


What is your favorite playable class?

Some of my favorite recent Dwarven characters:
  • Malgrim Irontomb, Rogue
  • Kilvarn Dornkral, Sonnlinor (warrior-priest of Moradin)
  • Thain Dorzring, Paladin
  • Urdin Darjyr, Storm Druid
  • Azarr Stonetower, Barbarian
  • Boric Glanduum, Sonnlinor (warrior-priest of Moradin)
By and large, I've enjoyed what each of these characters brought to the table. Part of it may be the backstory I build into my characters. Part of it is the class itself. I'll be honest, of this list, my LEAST favorite was Thain Dorzring, Paladin. I hated playing the paladin. I didn't like the class, didn't like the build, and I didn't like the character. I couldn't even come up with a likeable backstory for him. But this post isn't about my least favorite playable class, but rather my most favorite. I will be honest, it's a kind of tough decision. It would probably be the dwarven cleric/Sonnlinor. The Sonnlinor originated in 2d Edition AD&D days, a character "kit" presented in Demihuman Deities, if I'm not mistaken. While not as powerful, necessarily, as a straight cleric build, it has a warrior aspect to it -- they are the elite warrior class of Moradin. Now, WotC has come up with some other builds that seem to trump the Sonnlinor, but nothing else had the same flavor.... So my group sat down and created one, just so we could have one in the party. Yep, it's my party's most favorite dwarven class too. Just enough oomph in melee with some divine magic thrown in to balance out the party.

Oh, yeah.

02 September 2013

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 2


What is your favorite playable race?


Have you seen the name of this blog? The graphic up top? Yeah, my favorite race is actually the kender.

--deadpan mode--

No, but seriously, it's the dwarves. I relate to them on many levels. I like their solid-ness, their hardiness. I like the traditional values and even the stereotypical gruffness (at least to outsiders). About the only thing I don't like is the ubiquitous Scottish accents and a penchant for writers to turn dwarves into the buffoons of the story. (**I'm looking at you, Salvatore, and your Cleric Quintet!**)

Really, though. Scottish accents? This LONG pre-dates Peter Jackson. Back in 2000 I wrote up a quick campaign journal for some extra RP for our campaign. My dwarf character had a unique vocabulary. The DM's response to it? "I had a hard time reading it because I couldn't reconcile his vocabulary with a Scottish accent." I'm sorry? Did I ever ONCE speak in a brogue when playing this character? NO. And yet the DM automatically assumed that he had one. Sigh. Yeah, it's a pet peeve.

I really do identify with them, though, in many ways. I love caves, rocks, jewels and semi-precious stones. I love to craft things with my hands. I would, someday, dearly love to learn ironmongery and blacksmithing. I'm gruff and impatient at times. Strong convictions and morals. The list could go on and on; suffice it to say, people who know me well are not surprised to learn I have an affection for dwarves.

01 September 2013

September Blog Meme Challenge Day 1

So, I haven't posted in about a month.

Yeah. I'm still alive. Suffice it to say there's been a drastic upheaval in my professional life, and I now own the firm. I'm the boss, the head cheese, the Leader of the Stronghold in more ways than one. But that also means an entirely new, elevated level of stress. Wow, does it. Not the least of my problems is figuring out cheap but effective advertising and, oh yeah, how do I pay the minions next month?

But all that's taken its toll. I haven't been gaming much, or doing much reading or writing.

And then this happens. Right over there, on the right. What better way to get me back blogging than a meme/challenge? OK, it's a crutch, but a darn fine one, and it comes at a good time.

So: let's get started.


How did you get started?

I'm going to cheat here and refer back to my second-ever post on this blog, because it says it pretty well.
I was introduced to Role Playing Games (RPGs) in the late 70s by a friend at school. At that time, the game-play between us essentially consisted of moving the lead figures about in mock battles with very little regard to the rules or to dice-rolling, although there was more of the latter than the first. Stats meant very little. These were, at the time, essentially small, hard action figures to us. We used up A LOT of Testor's enamel paints painting up these little guys, and painting them up BADLY. Of course, they were masterpieces to our eyes.

My first mini, if I remember correctly, was a dwarf. I'll dig him out and post him up sometime.

I was one of those poor saps that went around the family and around the neighborhood twice annually selling gift wrap and greeting cards. You remember the school programs: here's a catalog of all the cool stuff you can "buy" with your sales points. Of course, they don't tell you that you have to sell the equivalent of Oregon's annual paper output to get enough points to earn the really cool stuff.

And of course, just how many people need to buy THAT much gift wrap twice a year?

But then came one year: 1981.

There in the catalog was this: The Basic Set. Erol Otus' adventurers worked their magic on me, even through the long distance of the catalog page. I was hooked: I ran my tail off selling cards and paper that year. My parents at the time had no idea what it was--they thought it was just another board game. To be honest, I wasn't much better educated than they were about it, but I knew that I just had to have it.

I can still remember where I was when I first opened up the box: in the basement, sitting on the floor in front of the couch. Blue and green shag carpeting in front of the enormous Magnavox console television.

I peeled the cellophane off the box and proceeded to remove every last item in the box, almost reverentially.

First thing I did? I colored the dice with a white crayon.

Then I rolled up characters for the rest of the night.

I think that was where my parents first started to worry. The worry quickly turned into a near-Jack Chick-like obsession against gaming. I played on the sly, going through reams of graph paper creating dungeon after dungeon, world map after world map. Then I added Star Frontiers, Doctor Who, and Star Trek to my list of games. I still have a binder full of starship drawings I made in High School when I should have been listening in class. [I forgot to include Car Wars and Champions in the list the first time around.]

Yup. Hook, line, and sinker.

I admit that I put them aside for a while through undergrad and grad school. Got married, enjoyed my first six years of marriage...then broached the subject one day on a long road trip for a job interview.

And I found out I'd married a past gamer myself.

And shortly thereafter I got reacquainted with my inner dwarf.

Since then, I've been a player once again.

10 July 2013

Loads of New Magic and New Spells!

I'm kinda late coming to this particular Kickstarter party on this, but hey...every little bit helps, right? And this one has exploded. With a few more great stretch goals in the works.

There's less than 5 hours left, though. And they need another $2,000 to reach a stretch goal to include Dwarven magic. Reaver magic too.

But c'mon, people. DWARVEN MAGIC.

Head on over HERE. Get yourself a copy of Deep Magic: A Tome of New Spells for Pathfinder RPG. It's for a great cause. Just look at the contributors: Jason Bulmahn, Amber E. Scott, Richard Pett, Wolfgang Bauer, and Ed Greenwood. Yes, THAT Ed Greenwood.

Oh yeah, and Brom.

Look at the stretch goals: blood magic, new archetypes, fiendish Gnome magic, extreme battle magic, ioun stones, and curse magic.

Look at the add-ons: pdfs of divine magic; arcane symbol hand-outs; spell scroll hand-outs; maps; iPad, iPhone, and Android reference apps, and Hero Lab files for the spells.

It's some good stuff. Even if you don't play 3.x, there's stuff in this Kickstarter for you. C'mon. Jump on board.

Y'know you want to.

05 July 2013

Free RPG Day Loot Report!

Yeah, yeah. I realize that Free RPG Day was several weeks ago. Yeah, I'm a little late at getting my loot report done. Y'all who know me well know that there's some serious negative juju going on in my professional life right now. Unfortunately that has to take precedence sometimes.

So, without further ado, here's what MY haul looked like at 5:00 p.m. on Free RPG Day 2013: First off, I took my kids with me to ensure a "shotgun" approach to gathering loot. Our FLGS allows two items per person; even though I'm well known by the staff, I try not to take advantage of that...at least, an advantage obvious to other customers, that is. As in past years, many of the publishers provide PDF versions of the Free RPG Day offerings after the fact (where available, I've included links to legal PDF copies of the materials as well.); I still prefer to get hard copies of these where- and whenever possible. For one, I like holding and reading printed materials; for another, the post-Free RPG Day offerings are not always free after the fact.
Starting at the upper left, we have the Hall of Bones adventure from Frog God Games, for the Sword & Wizardry ruleset. I haven't had a chance to go through this one yet.

Next to that there's Paizo Publishing's follow-up to last year's We Be Goblins!, the cleverly-named We Be Goblins Too!. This was one of the titles that I was particularly excited to get. I enjoyed last year's offering and this one, at first glance, appears to be as fun and interesting as the first. Unfortunately, my gaming group has no interest in playing goblins...so, this seems destined for good NPC fodder. In fact, our current DM is running an orc/goblin-centric campaign right now. I may just have to pass this off to him for inspiration.

Finishing the top row, there's Goodman Games' RPG offering. Like last year, they have stuffed two good modules within these two covers. One is a DCC adventure for 1st-level characters. The other is a Pathfinder Xcrawl adventure. This one is going to be milked for inspiration for sure.

The second row has the Flying Buffalo T&T Adventure Fire Dwarves of Zorr and Troll Lord Games' C&C Adventure A Pot of Broken Bones and Halfling Broth. Both of these are destined to be mined for inspiration for 3.x. The next two items are also for inspiration...I just have to find the correct Sci-Fi/Space Opera game system. Fantasy Flight Games' Edge of the Empire and Catalyst Games' flipbook for Shadowrun and Battletech. (This one will be doubly useful, as one of my gaming buddies wants to start working on a Mech game of his own.)

The last two are two others that were the reason for my foray into the shop: Lamentations of the Flame Princess' Better Than Any Man and James Porter Jr.'s NeoExodus Temple of the Forbidden God. I have plenty of lizardmen just waiting to come out of hibernation. I even recommended Better Than Any Man to a teenager who was struggling over what to pick out; his mother was standing there looking lost. Her advice was "Pick something that you think looks like something Dad didn't pick out himself." He had this one in his hand and I told him that Raggi's products were all pretty sound and quality. It wasn't until I was on my way home myself that I noticed the "18+" tag on the module.


Still, though, it's impressive and amazing that Raggi puts out a book--yes, a literal BOOK--of this size for a Free RPG offering. Usually you can count on a dozen pages. This thing FAR exceeds it at 96 pages. NINETY-SIX. That's EIGHT DOZEN pages. Plus the cover is removable and contains a map on the inside.

Hopefully the kids' mom will forgive that anonymous "dirty old man" in the FLGS....

About an hour after leaving the FLGS, I received a phone call to inform me of the results of the in-store prize drawing: my oldest daughter's entry won the collapsible dice tower from Blue Panther. She, of course, gifted it to me out of the goodness of her heart. Then the manager laughed and told me I'd won the grand prize: the massive hardcover DCC RPG. Needless to say I was pretty psyched. (Of course, I may have to look at selling or re-gifting, because I'm not sure how much re-purposing I can do with this, and my game group isn't too OSR-friendly nowadays.

Finally, as some of you may know, I have an addition to dice. Dice. That's right I said: dice. Ahh, the mere word sends my heart racing and my hands shaking. Dice. DICE.

Did I tell you I like dice?

Well, the managers also know of my love of dice and when I went in to pick up our family's my winnings, he slipped me these little beauties. I really liked last year's offerings--a complete set (or nearly complete in my case)--mostly because I don't have a lot of uses for d6s. But they're pretty. And he even slipped me a second Q-Workshop for my daughter, who loves yellow. She "squeeed" just a bit at the gift.

Whew. All in all, a pretty successful Free RPG Day this year. I'm not sure I can match it. I was constantly reminded, throughout the day, of the generosity I felt from my fellow gamers last year, all those who were able to grab up extras at their respective FLGS for my library.

01 July 2013


Do you ever find yourself wandering through your local Big&Name bookstore, looking at the rows and rows of so-called fantasy books? Do you find yourself waxing nostalgic for a good, old-fashioned Frank Frazetta-like cover on your fantasy? Do you miss swordsmen on distant planets, amazing heroes with massive thews, truly evil magic-users trying to bring about the End Of All? Do you miss terrifyingly powerful monsters threatening barely-clad damsels? What about santity-threatening entities? Do you wonder if we have modern-day Bradburys, Lovecrafts, Burroghs, and Liebers? Do you miss undead that don't sparkle and wizards that aren't still in High School?

If you can say "yes" to any of the above, then you're in luck.

Even better, if you can say you like to write about any of the above, you're in luck, and you're exactly who we're looking for

I am pleased to announce the formation of Pulp Mill Press! Pulp Mill Press is dedicated to provide those things we all miss, things which have seemingly vanished from our bookstore shelves. Tim Shorts (Gothridge Manor), Ken Harrison (The Rusty Battleaxe), Sean Robson (Tales from the Flaming Faggot), and I have banded together to form Pulp Mill Press in an attempt to offer an outlet and a source for those who share the same literary loves that we do.

We're all excited about this new venture. At first, it'll be a labor of love; ultimately we hope to make it a going concern. We hope to take this from e-copies to print, eventually. Sean said it best on his blog: "There are few venues for speculative short fiction these days, and even fewer of them are receptive to heroic fantasy and weird fiction.... We want to publish the sorts of stories that we love to read."

We're hoping there are some writers, artists, and gamers out there who share in that love and who want to share their talents with the larger world. We've opened submissions for our first anthology: Libram Mysterium. We hope to do well enough through this first effort that we can offer financial remuneration for future volumes.

If you're interested in joining the effort and throwing some artistic or literary work product our way, please visit the Pulp Mill Press home page and submission guidelines for more information. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at pulpmillpress4@gmail.com.

18 June 2013

Digital Orc: Verloren (Review)

I have a whole slew of potential posts that are bouncing around in my head, including a recap of Free RPG Day loot-gathering. Unfortunately, my personal and professional life was turned topsy-turvy last Friday when my boss decreed that, in two weeks, he was shutting down the law firm and I'd be "self-employed."

My head hasn't been in the game since then, although I'm getting a bit more emotionally stable with the passing days.

But I was heartened this morning when I slipped over to the Digital Orc's blog to see what Dylan had in store. Lo and behold! Dylan's newest offering for Labyrinth Lord is up for sale!

(Disclaimer: I was an editor/proofreader on this project. I am not being compensated for this review, but will receive a copy of the final product for my proofreading services.)

I have not yet seen the final, finished product, but based off of the preview copy I saw as part of my proofreading? Wow. I should say up front that I do not play Labyrinth Lord, but all of Dylan's stuff has been fairly easy to port over to my 3.x campaign(s). My players have been known to recoil over some of his monsters. (Hello, backpack spider! I'm looking right at you, buddy!) This is more of the same.... From the evocative settings to the weird mutants, from the death-gamblers to the manipulative alien beings, from the sexy werewolf sirens to the hive-mind giant rodents....

Well, Dylan has done it again. This is some great stuff. He self-described this one to me as "weird" and it is. But that's not a criticism. It's weird stuff, but a cool weird. I liked what I saw and I think you will too. I can't wait to hold Verloren in my hands and let the ideas germinate for my own campaign.

You can buy the PDF on RPGNow.com for $3.99 or the limited run print version for $4.99. That's a small price to pay for 32 pages of cool gaming content. In fact, the only page I saw that was of little-to-no-use was the OGL page. Everything else had great content, maps, hooks, or images for in-game use.

From his own ad copy:
Verloren is a city hanging in the balance. Either it will fall to an ancient evil or triumph based on your actions. Enclosed are city details, maps, nine original monsters, and interesting non-player characters for encounters in and out of Verloren. In this fantasy supplement, players will face powerful monsters and explore a decaying city to discover the secret of The Change and save the thousands of inhabitants.
  • 9 Original Monsters
  • Over 20 Original Illustrations
  • 3 New Spells
  • Lots of NPCs and Story Hooks
  • 2 Maps
So take a moment if you would and jump on over to the Digital Orc: he's got purchase links for each option there. Verloren--GET IT NOW!

01 June 2013


Thanks to Stelios over at d20 Dark Ages blog, I am the proud owner of a new miniature for my collection: Reaper's Angel of Death!

In honor of his 200th blog post, Stelios ran a give-away. A random drawing (ok, only a d6 roll, apparently...but still....) resulted in a win for yours truly.

And believe it or not, despite my love of Reaper miniatures, the Angel of Death is one I never had the chance to pick up for myself. And now it's winging its way toward me. I can't wait to start picking a color scheme for him.

Thanks again, Stelios!

And to all you who haven't had a chance to check out his blog, he's got some great stuff: reviews, gaming philosophies, soundtracks, and more!

14 May 2013

[From the Mailbag] Playing Catch-up from Los Angeles

The recently-completed A to Z April Challenge took more out of me than just physical and emotional stress. It also pretty much kept me from talking about some very generous and terrific things I received in the mail during that time.

First up are some offerings provided by Christian Walker. Old timers will remember him for his several excellent 'zine offerings, most lately Loviatar, a 'zine which I credit for a resurgence in interest and production of self-published RPG 'zines. He called it quits on Loviatar in late December 2012. Since then, he's been re-charging his batteries and taking a break. However, imagine my surprise in walking in from work one day and finding a LARGE envelope on my desk...a large envelope with his return address stamped on it. I tore into it with excitement and confusion, as I hadn't been expecting anything from him. I'm well overdue for saying THANKS, CHRISTIAN!!! Inside the package I found this little beauty:

I must confess, I've never seen this or heard of this setting before. I'm not well-versed in any Labyrinth Lord material, to be honest. This particular gem was first published in 2007 and is the basis for Mr. Bezios' "Phoenix Barony" setting (the end of the book promises several more adventures/modules in the setting). The gift was completely unexpected and utterly appreciated. It came on a very, very bad day and helped alleviate some emotional pain. The material within looks generic enough that it shouldn't be too hard to adapt and modify for my own 3.x/Pathfinder uses. In fact, I'm already plotting how and where to fit the Phoenix Barony in my campaign world in relation to Coldtreath.

Heh. Good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, imagine my surprise when I received this in the mail on Thursday. Christian had, last year, started sending out one-page gaming material letters together with (and eventually in lieu of) Loviatar. I really enjoyed them and found them useful in my own campaigns. Well, he's started a new one-page letter 'zine: a Los Angeles-centered Cthulhu-oriented campaign setting, Shudde M'ell Confidential.

This first issue was intriguing to me. So much so that I sat right down and scribbled out a quick map and a letter to his newly-introduced first NPC regarding some mysterious runes discovered in an unusual excavation in the basement of a downtown building.

Yeah, I've got a set of brass ones. I'm a bit forward sometimes. But as I said, the material inspired me.

To be honest, I've never even played in a Cthulhu campaign. I'd do almost anything to live in Christian's neighborhood and take part in this one, though. Every Lovecraftian game I've heard any of my acquaintances run have all been New England-oriented campaigns. One friend had planned a northwest/Washington State-oriented game, but it never left the initial "wouldn't this be cool" planning stages. The idea of investigators in early 20th-century Los Angeles really sets off a spark somehow. There's a lot of interesting individuals, personalities, events, etc. that exist on the West Coast during this time period; certainly sufficient to make for a fun and realistic campaign setting.

Sigh. And here I am, stuck in the Rockies.

13 May 2013

[A to Z April] Wrap-up and Thoughts

My final entry for the 2013 iteration of the A to Z April challenge was to be titled: Z is for Zhurra’s Complicated Blade (spell). However, I also had some notes that I actually needed to swap this spell idea out for another map, because I'd swapped a map for a spell in my planned posts earlier in the month.

Sadly, this post may never see the light of day anyway. April just about did me in, blog-wise, you see.

As April went on, I was glad that I had taken the opportunity the first few days to pre-write and build a buffer. Stress at the firm is getting high, as the unknown creeps ever closer. Stress in the family because of that unknown, and worrying about my staff as well...well, suffice it to say it started taking its toll, mentally and physically. I suffered through a bad cold at the first of April, to be followed by a sinus infection in mid-April, to be followed by another bout of pink eye that hit on the last week of April.

I was simply in no shape to finish up the Challenge.

Truth be told, I haven't even thought about the blog in the last two weeks. I simply wasn't up to it.

The April Challenge is always a two-edged sword for me. It's like a mini-NaNoWriMo in some respects, as it forces me to be creative and to write. But it also burns me out.

True, the sickness didn't help.

It will take me a year to get excited about another A to Z April Challenge. Especially after this year, because I'm not sure what I actually got out of it. True, I have 24 posts of what I believe is good and useful game material. I am happy to have seen some positive feedback from this material. I feel like the Challenge was a success in that respect, even though it may remain unfinished (for now).

I'm not sure, though, that there was that much exposure to my blog this year. That's always one side-effect of the April Challenge: exposure and increased "follower" counts. It's not why I do it, but it's there. Problem is, my follower count only increased by eight in the month, and two of those have since disappeared. Not even remotely close to last year's effect. Ah well, their loss.

I was also concerned about this year's organization: each blog was supposed to have listed a theme or genre when they signed up, to aid in finding like-minded blogs. I noticed that a lot of bloggers didn't bother categorizing. This is one reason I didn't do a lot of reading across the Challenge's blogs: Blog names simply don't often tell you what the subject matter actually is; if it wasn't categorized as a gaming blog, I just didn't have the time to visit it.

I also think that it may have gotten just too big for its britches. There were a LOT of blogs participating this year: 1,656 of which I was number 815. It's easy for ANY blog to get lost amongst 1,655 others. I don't know if there's a solution to that, unless it's by having each genre hosting its own Challenge...but I'm not sure how that would work, or even IF it would work. It may defeat the purpose of the Challenge.

Now...to buckle down and get some more writing done. Maybe. If I can.

30 April 2013

[A to Z April] Y is for Ynx (creature)

A tall, slender humanoid approaches you from the end of the corridor. It reaches out its four arms, equidistantly placed around its torso. The creature has an equine head with donkey-like ears and shark-like skin. Its eyes glow an eerie green The creature flails its arms around as it nears you; one touch of its hand and it vanishes, as does the corridor around you. When your vision clears you find yourself in an unknown place.

Ynx CR 4

CE Medium Monstrous Humanoid
Init: +5; Senses: darkvision 60 ft.; Listen +4; Spot +4


AC 18 (+4 Dex, +3 Studded leather, +1 natural), touch 14, flat-footed 14
hp30 (6d8+3)
Fort +5; Ref +10; Will +7


Speed 30 ft.
Melee +8 Slam (1d6+3)
Special Attacks Displacement burst
Spell-like Abilities (CL 8th); 3/day -- quickened dimension door


A ynx attacks with all four arms, slamming its foe repeatedly. It will first target its foes with its displacement burst, or the largest group of its foes. It will flee if it is reduced to less than 5 hp.


Str 19, Dex 12, Con 17, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 18
Base Attack 4, Grapple 8
Feats: Improved Initiative, Improved Natural Attack, Mutliattack
Skills: Concentration 6, Escape Artist 7, Hide 5, Intimidate 7, Jump 5, Listen 4, Move Silently 2, Spot 4
Languages: Common, Ynx, Telepathy 100 ft.


Displacement Burst: Once per day, a ynx can teleport all creatures within 50 feet of it to randomly determined locations. The ynx can only affect creatures of which it is aware and to which it has line of sight. A successful DC 16 Will save negates this effect. An affected creature is teleported in a random direction (roll 1d8, with 1 indicating north and the other numbers indicating compass going clockwise) and a random distance (1d10 × 100 feet) away from the ynx; determine each creature’s direction randomly. A teleported creature arrives in the closest open space to the determined destination, but must appear on a solid surface capable of supporting its weight. If there is no appropriate destination in that direction, the creature does not teleport at all. The save DC is Charisma-based.

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

27 April 2013

[A to Z April] X is for Xal's Dire Brown (Beverage)

Xal’s Dire Brown

This brew is the insane creation of a dwarven brewer known only as “Xal.” His name does not translate into any known language, so it is rumored that he changed his name after being cast out from his Clanhold. There are also those who say it was actually created by a well-known dwarven brewer who changed his name for the original brew so that he would not be blamed for its horrible and unappetizing appearance. The recipe has been handed down through the generations, but is believed to be identical to that originally created by Xal. The brew is not common, but can be found here and there across the realm, usually on dusty back shelves in finer drinking establishments. Only a true connoisseur knows that the ugly and dingy bottles contain a truly magnificent treasure.

The brew itself is a murky brown color that has a thick, viscous texture. It smells of wax and sulpher but tastes of grapes with a hint of citrus and spice. After drinking, it has been known to cause momentary giddiness and dizziness. These are side effects from which a drinker will recover in 1d6 rounds. Although safe to drink, if spilled on an object or a creature, the brew will melt or burn similar to the effects of acid. When spilled, it will cause 1 hp damage, regardless of amount spilled. This damage is not incurred when the liquid is consumed.

The typical bottle is an iron flask with a metal cap. The label is fastened to the bottle by a silk ribbon tied around the neck. The label itself is written in an ancient dwarven dialect, not commonly spoken. These bottles, when new, each contain ten servings of the brew.

Xal’s Dire Brown, 50 gp/bottle

**Many thanks to Dyson Logos and his Random Table of Potion Containers, used to create the bottle for this particular brew.

Previous "X"-es:
2012: X is for Xouvyus (New NPC)
2011: X is for X'rr

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