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.

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.
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