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.

28 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty-eight

Day Twenty-eight: What's the single most important lesson you've learned from playing D&D?
Otherwise known as "Wheaton's Law."

27 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty-seven

Day Twenty-seven: If you had to do it all over again, would you do anything different when you first started gaming?

This is a tough question, because I'm not sure that I'm in a "bad place" gaming-wise.

I suppose it would have been nice to have had a wider gaming circle, or to have had more exposure to different games and gaming styles. But Utah in the 1980s was not (or didn't seem to be) a gaming mecca. If I had searched harder, perhaps I would have found a wider group of gaming friends. But then, I may not have ever met the friends or group I have now. The guys I play with now are a pretty good influence on me in all respects of my life, including my emotional, spiritual, and professional life.

I'm sure, if you've read my blog for very long, you probably think I would like to do away with the decade-plus long drought from gaming. I disagree. I'm not sure I could have attained the college and post-graduate degrees I have had I been gaming at the same time. That is not a statement about gaming or the gaming culture. That is a statement about me. I know just how obsessive I could become with video games or other distractions. Heaven knows that my grades and education suffered enough from Civilization, Sim City, WarCraft, Doom, and Diablo. I can't imagine what it would have done if I'd thrown in D&D and any of the attendant parts of the hobby.

I'm guessing if I'd done anything differently, I'd be a very different person today, and probably not in a good way. All in all, I'm pretty satisfied.

26 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty-six

Day Twenty-six: Do you still game with the group that introduced you to the hobby?

Nope. That ship sailed a long time ago. It wasn't really a "group" per se. As I've mentioned several times, my original "group" consisted of two of us: my best friend and I. We've gone our separate ways, although we've recently re-connected in a different circle. We still talk about gaming, but we play different games these days.

Now, if you were to ask if I still gamed with the group that re-introduced me to the hobby, I'd have to say, "Yes."

25 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty-five

Day Twenty-five: Longest running campaign/gaming group you've been in.

That would be my current group.

We've been gaming together for the past 14 years. We've had several campaigns during that time, the longest being our Dragon Mountain campaign back in 2000-2004 that spanned AD&D Second Edition through 3.5. Over that time, three of the members left, two of whom came back. We're a good group, we work and play well together, and have strengths that support the overall group. Sometimes I wish they had a desire to branch out once in a while to some Sci-fi or Superhero, but you can't have everything, right?

Slayers, I salute you!

24 February 2014

2013 Totals

2013 is now a cold corpse, receding in the distance as we journey onward on horseback. I was doing some book-keeping/house-cleaning in the Stronghold and noticed that my "2013 Totals" table (on the sidebar) had not been updated since mid-June 2013. I also noticed that my "Year-To-Date Acquisitions" page had suffered in limbo since July 18, 2013.

So...I have no idea how my totals compared to 2012. But, I think I can be excused, seeing as how I purchased a law firm and became a self-employed small-business owner around the time that I stopped keeping track of my gaming milestones.

I'm going to try and do better this year. I make no promises; of course, I have no idea if any of you care about my self-congratulatory totals and inventories. If you do, then accept my promise in good faith. If not, continue to ignore my tallies.

One thing I think I will have to do is refrain from including links to products on my "Acquisitions" page. That alone was sufficiently time-consuming (between link-searching and coding) that it made updating the page a chore. Shopping sprees of free items on DriveThru RPG and similar sites also made upkeep generally confusing and frustrating, especially when you add in the afore-mentioned link-searching and coding.

As far as the biggies--Miniatures and Dice--I have found a rough estimate, made as of about mid-November: 125 miniatures and 33 dice. There were probably a few more before the end of the year, but that looks pretty good. I also hereby declare 2014 to be the year of the dice, apparently, as I've already doubled my total dice purchases for last year...I'm at 70 right now, after a mail delivery today.

I know I said this last year, but I'm going to shoot for some increased blogging. 2013 was a year of stress and frustration, both on a personal and professional level, even more so than 2012. I've already endured health issues, family issues, and financial issues and it shows no signs of slowing down. As always, though, the hobby and the friendships made through the hobby helped make it survivable.

Everyone join me in a toast: raise your dice cups high and keep them d20s dry. Here's to 2014!

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty-four

Day Twenty-four: First movie that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?

Dragonslayer would be the answer to this question.

Why? Well, let me count the ways.
  1. Hello, DRAGONS?!?
  2. It came out during my gaming youth.
Honestly, though...it was a tie between this movie and Clash of the Titans, also from 1981. I'm sure a lot of people would go with Clash first, because of the whole "lots of monsters, swordplay, adventure, quest-thingy" theme, whereas Dragonslayer is something of a different movie, in part because the hero is a bungling clod through most of the movie. (Before you object: Peter MacNicol. A dragonslayer? Really? In what universe does that make sense?)

On second thought, I'm firmly going with Dragonslayer. It edges out Clash of the Titans on several fronts. First, a golden mechanical owl. Secondly, Clash always gets all the love; Vermithrax Pejorative is due a little respect himself. Thirdly, you've got the bungling hero thrown at the dragon right off. First adventure, BAM! DRAGON.

Finally: "ten tons of rapacious reality. No maiden is safe."

Need I say more?

23 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty-three

Day Twenty-three: First song that comes to mind that you associate with D&D. Why?


Hotel California, by the Eagles, 1977.

If you have to ask why... c'mon, have you never LISTENED to the lyrics? I know, I know, Don Henley has claimed that the song was an "interpretation of the high life in Los Angeles" and that "It's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America." All that symbolism aside, I still say:

Why has no one written an adventure based on Hotel California?!?

Let's take a quick look at the obvious: you have an adventurer, traveling in the dark. He sees a light in the distance, and immediately becomes sleepy. We have a mysterious woman whose motives are unclear who welcomes him into the house by candlelight. Charm spell, anyone? Once inside, he hears voices. Ghosts? Undead? Captives? Minions? Who knows?

This mysterious woman--Tiffany--has a bunch of boy toys pretty boys thralls in the courtyard, dancing. Honestly, some of them may actually be zombies, too. I can see in my mind both kinds: the thralls are in the middle of the courtyard, ball-room dancing while the zombies are around the edges, perhaps a few interspersed in the crowd, and every day they're shuffling, shuffling, shuffling. (I couldn't resist.)

Now, the idea that you entered the building willingly takes on a particularly dark and sinister note, doesn't it?

The hero asks for provisions, without any luck. And then, the voices come back, and loud enough to wake you up in the night. As you wander around investigating the building, you find garish, tacky, or out-of-date decor: mirrored ceilings, although despite the lyrics I always see them as a room of mirrors, like in the funhouse; fancy, cloying food and drink; and prisoners, but possibly willing prisoners. Maybe they're more thralls, maybe some of them are merely kept for occasional "snacks."

Then you find yourself in the "master's chambers." Perhaps Tiffany isn't the BBEG after all.... Whoever IS master, however, has a beast of some kind chained in his chambers. All of the thralls and his other subjects have gathered there for a ritual sacrifice: The Feast. No matter what they do to it, it will not die. Perhaps it's troll-kin. Perhaps they have a resident cleric who waits until the creature is on the verge of death and who then heals it back to normal. Whatever it is, the ritual is sufficient to cause the adventurer to run, nearly senseless, for the front door.

Only now he finds that there is no front door. The entire building is a trap. And the evil butler, himself likely a mid-level vampire, tells him that he can "check out" at any time, but cannot leave the building. He can die at any time, but he cannot escape.

Now you tell me.... Why would I possibly associate this song with D&D, hmmm? `

"Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light. My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim; I had to stop for the night."

22 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty-two

Day Twenty-two: First D&D-based novel you ever read (Dragonlance trilogy, Realms novels, etc.)

OK. I have to play a game of semantics here. I'm pretty sure I know the answer to today's question, but there's some difficulty in my mind with the word "novel." Did the author of the list of questions mean "novel" to be "any non-game book that is associated with the D&D world"? Or did he mean it to be "any non-game book that is associated with the D&D world that is of generally-accepted novel length"?

Here's why I ask the question. Rather, here's why the conundrum is raised.

My first true novel-length D&D-related non-game book was R.A. Salvatore's The Crystal Shard. Yep. You could say that I cut my teeth on Drizz't Do'urden's swords. I want to say it was somewhere in the fall of 1991 when I first read it, although I didn't remember that I had read it until about a decade later when I picked it up again and got one-third through it before I had the "a-ha! moment."

I'm not as critical of the series as a lot of gamers are. Yeah, Salvatore's not Shakespeare, but he's also published a heck of a lot more than I have. So, he's due a little deference for that, at least. They're a fun read, again, as long as you're not expecting Twain, Steinbeck, or Hemingway. I also like how he treated the dwarves, at least initially. (I take GREAT exception to how dwarves were treated in his Cleric Quintet, on the other hand.) I certainly prefer his writing to that of Ed Greenwood. Although I understand that--for some--that may not be saying too much.

Now, the conundrum.

This little gem was, I believe, the first "non-game book that was D&D-based" that I ever read and owned. Revolt of the Dwarves was one of the Endless Quest choose-your-own-ending* books that TSR published. In fact it was the fifth in the series. I still have it, I believe...somewhere in my vast library. As I said yesterday, I've never sold--let alone given away--any of my books that I can remember. I don't remember a lot about it; I seem to remember a story line about some rebellious dwarves, the reader is separated from his/her parents, and you have to attempt to survive on your own in the world. I'm truly not sure what else there was. In fact, looking online, I'm surprised to find that the book was over 150 pages. I certainly don't remember it being that large. I've only found the page count in one place so far on the internet. Granted, I haven't looked that hard; maybe I'll have to dig out my copy for verification purposes. And to make sure it gets on my game-stuff shelves. [Aside: for the record--and to beat my gaming group to it--"Yes, all dwarves are revolting.They're smelly and hairy. We get it. Ha. Ha. End aside.]

Looking at this book again after all this time raises a few questions in my older, more cultured, gamer mind. Why are the dwarves riding horses? And why does the dwarf in the lead look more like a mongol--say, Gengis Khan--than Gimli? Of course, I guess you could make the argument that these are war-ponies and not actual horses...but there's nothing else on the cover that gives a sense of scale.

*There's a specific reason I did not call it a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book. That phrase actually described specific titles published by Bantam. I did not remember these two were separate until I did a search for "choose your own adventure" and "TSR" at which point "Endless Quest" popped up in the results.

21 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty-One

Day Twenty-one: First time you sold some of your D&D books--for whatever reason.

Another easy one. I have never sold any of them.

Heck, I'm not sure I've ever sold any of my books, regardless of what they were, RPG or no. (OK, college textbooks don't count in that respect.) I love books. I am a self-proclaimed bibliophage. I have a book with me wherever I go. As much as I would like a Kindle or similar e-reader--for the convenience of it--I love the feel and smell of books more. My library is huge. I've even lost track of where some of my books are.

Yeah. I'm not even sure I've ever even traded books to a book exchange or a used bookstore. They just mean too much to me.

So...selling game books? Not yet.

20 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twenty

Day Twenty: First non-D&D RPG you played.

After D&D, I had one other RPG love as a youth. One that rescued me from having Gamma World as my first non-D&D RPG by a couple of months. (See yesterday's post for an explanation of that comment.) In fact, it was this other RPG love that caused much of the grief and contention with yesterday's-mentioned Justin Case.

What was this first second love?

One hint:
This, D&D, and Car Wars formed the triumvirate of my gaming loves for most of my youth. We even managed to shoehorn a bit of Star Wars into our Star Frontiers. Lightsabers and the Force--granted, not under those names, of course--were statted up, as was the Sith Lord.

I haven't played in over twenty years. My books are all still somewhere around, though, and I try to keep somewhat abreast of the still-living Star Frontiers online community. Unfortunately, none of my current gaming group wants to try their hand at Sci-Fi or Space Opera.

19 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Nineteen

Day Nineteen: First gamer who just annoyed the hell out of you.

There was a fellow once, back in the mists of time, that I met at a summer camp. He introduced himself as Justin Case. I still have my doubts as to whether that was actually his name or not. Anyway, I was stuck in a cabin with him for an entire week with no escape from the tales of his exploits.

He didn't play D&D--he felt that was too childish a game for his mature twelve years. Yeah...that was the footing from which we started. HIS game was Gamma World. I'd never played or been exposed to Gamma World before then; "lucky" for me, he brought his books to camp with him.

This also explains why I've never picked up Gamma World since that week.

He ran a couple of quick adventures for a bunch of us after "lights out." Most of what I remember is foolishness about finding a sacred toaster and his powerful PCs showing up as NPCs to taunt, fight, and kill off our characters. When he wasn't fighting us with his personal characters, he was telling us stories about what these characters (and others) had done in other campaigns.

Finally, it got bad enough that a couple others in the cabin wound up helping him find his way into one of the large multi-gallon trash cans near the kitchen. I have to confess: I wasn't involved, but wasn't sad to hear about it. It worked, too--whatever threats had been levied against him, he shut up about Gamma World, which gave us a 24-hour period of peace and quiet.

18 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen: First gaming convention you ever attended.

This one's easy too.

I've never been.

I've done some writing conferences where gaming was present. I hit an Origins Star Trek convention that came through back in the day. I've hit a Comic-Con. But never a gaming convention. To my knowledge, they don't even occur around here.

Maybe someday. Although the grief and bad reviews that Gen Con has been getting lately, I'm not sure I want to make the effort. Maybe someone can convince me otherwise.

17 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Seventeen

Day Seventeen: First time you heard that D&D was somehow "evil."

This one's kinda easy, although I can't put a specific date on it. My parents, I guess, bought into the hype of the day a few years after I started playing. Let's call it the early 1980s.

Throughout my junior high days, they counseled and argued about the "wisdom" of playing, and expressed a lot of concerns, although I'm not sure that I ever actually heard them use the word "evil" in connection with D&D. I knew they considered playing it a bad idea and were concerned about its possible effects.

I have no proof that a Jack Chick pamphlet was ever in my parents' home.

In high school, I let my gaming taper off; by then I was more into Car Wars, Champions, and Star Trek. By the time I graduated and started my undergraduate studies in 1987, I'd pretty much put everything away. It was a personal choice, not one imposed on me. And it was a choice made based on time-use and priorities, not "evil vs. good."

A dozen years later, I picked up my dice again.

16 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Sixteen

Day Sixteen: Do you remember your first Edition War? Did you win?

After several years of playing Second Edition at the turn of the century, and several years of putting off changing over to Third Edition, we eventually made the switch. The book-buying and materials-buying went crazy. Then came Fourth Edition.

Apparently our DM at the time decided that he'd had enough of 3.x oddities--concerns and oddities he'd never bothered to share with any of us. It truly was sudden: almost overnight he became enamored of 4E and convinced of its ultimate superiority over all prior things D&D. Even now, I'm not sure what happened or how it happened. I almost wonder if he wasn't somehow in on the playtest. He knew about it almost before it was publicly released.

He also seemed to take it personally when we didn't jump at the chance to change over. You see, we're all middle-aged. We're all really busy, with family, jobs, and church responsibilities. We're also none of us rich. We all determined that it was too expensive in terms of time and money to change over to 4E with nothing earned (at least that we could see) except the DM's worries about 3.xE. So we said no to the change.

And our DM walked away.

Yup. He'd been friends with most of the group since high school, or before. And he walked away. He'd told us he wanted to play football instead of baseball, and when we didn't jump at the chance, he took it personally, he took offense, and he took his football and went home.

As I said, I tried 4E. I really did. I even sat in on a couple of sessions he ran. And I just couldn't do it. I don't know if the other guys ever went further than just reading the 4E Player's Handbook. But none of us ever saw anything in 4E that we wanted to incorporate into 3.xE; neither did we see anything that won us over to 4E to any degree, let alone the highly-personal commitment the DM had apparently found.

That was the first Edition War I experienced; to this day, I'm not sure who won the war.

15 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen: What was the first edition of D&D you didn't enjoy? Why?

{GROAN}I've been dreading this question. To me, it smacks too much of a lighted fuse on the powder keg of Edition Wars. No, really. I'm going to stay in my own little corner of the internet today and not read the other bloghop blogs because, frankly, I hate the edition wars. The answer, for me, is settled. To me, there is only ONE "correct" edition of D&D.

That's the one that you enjoy. That's any edition you find fun.

Now that's out of the way, I guess I need to provide an answer. If I were to pick out ONE edition that I've played that I don't enjoy, I guess it would have to be Fourth Edition (4E). Honestly, I can't pick out exactly one reason for that feeling. I've played several times in several different settings with several different DMs. Every game was different in nearly every way. It was a pleasant way to pass a few hours; at least, it beat a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. That's less than a rousing endorsement, I know, but it's the truth. When I returned home, my wife asked "how it went"--my response? "It was O.K."

Maybe it was the DMs' styles. At the time, i thought that they were all different. Looking back, perhaps they were closer than I thought. There was very little intellectual buy-in with the encounters/adventures and some other stylistic issues. But I also kind of disliked the (possibly perceived) tendency in 4E to make all characters exactly the same, regardless of class, race, etc. I had a DM once who preached the absolute gospel of "BALANCE". (Hopefully you heard the great, booming god-voice there.) Everything had to be balanced. All I have to do use use "the B-word" around one of my current group who also experienced the other DM...and if I do use "the B-word" around him, I have to run from his flailing fists. But I digress....

"Balance." You have fighters casting spells through rituals. You have everybody healing themselves, and not with expendable potions. And yet, you seem to be pigeonholed into specific roles in the party, and each role is "necessary" for an adventure to "work." Again, this may only be a perception, based on limited play, so please don't flame me. I'm not trying to tear 4E down, but merely explaining what I didn't like about it.

I'm at a writing conference today, and have been here since Thursday. I wore my Pathfinder shirt on the first day; one of the first people I ran into was a teenager who looked at my shirt and said, "At last! Someone who plays the REAL version of D&D." As a Grognard and a member of the OSR, I snickered at him, considering I've been a gamer nearly twice as long as he's been alive. I just smiled in response and shook my head. I said it above, 4E is not "bad." It's just not for me.

14 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Fourteen

Day Fourteen: Did you meet your significant other while playing D&D? Does he or she still play? (Or just post a randomly generated monster in protest of Valentine's Day.)

My significant other had no idea that I was a gamer for the first several years of our marriage. And vice versa.

As I've explained countless times, there was a large gap of non-gaming time in my twenties. As the turn of the century approached and a new gaming group invited me to join, I went to my wife for "permission," seeing as how it was bound to take time away from her, which, as a new attorney, was extremely limited. The prep and self-psyching for THAT conversation was really interesting!

And anti-climatic. It was more of a "What? You played? So did I!!"-kind of conversation. Come to find out that she also started playing with the Moldvay Basic Set. Unfortunately, most of her gaming stuff has vanished over the years.

As far as still playing, well, she's dabbled. My group tried to spin-off a "wives' group" game; that ended for her with the birth of our son and a changed focus and time-consuming new "hobby." This past New Year's Eve she actually sat-in once my eldest daughter wandered away and locked herself in her room with her cell phone. My wife jumped in and played the daughter's character for a little while; she seemed to have fun. Perhaps it's time to get her to roll up a character and add her in to the group.

Happy Valentine's Day, honey.

13 February 2014

Found Items: Used Book Haul

It's the time of year again for the sci-fi/fantasy writing symposium, Life, the Universe and Everything (LTUE).

The guest of honor, Orson Scott Card, is a no-show until Saturday, being trapped by snow. Several of the panels I wanted to visit lost their luster as a result, so I took a little more time in the dealers' room than I had planned...and walked away with a haul. (The panels weren't a complete loss, though.... Getting to listen to my friend, Larry Correia, talk about his favorite monsters is worth the admission by itself.)

All paperbacks $3; hardcovers $10. I'll be lucky if my wife lets me in the house tonight. But I'll have good reading material, at least....

Not shown are: an original paperback of Robert Bloch's Psycho, Craig Shaw Anderson's Difficulty  with Dwarves, and Outland, the novelization by Alan Dean Foster. I also passed over a bunch of old Moorcock and some John Norman Gor novels (which I know nothing about, I'm ashamed to say). Here's the rest of my haul (at least, the OLD stuff):

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Thirteen

Day Thirteen: First miniature(s) you used for D&D.
My very first miniature is apparently lost to time. I have looked and looked and cannot find him anywhere. I believe that what happened is this: my first DM and I, as I mentioned yesterday, commonly pooled our spare change to buy minis. I vaguely remember when we went our separate ways we divvied up the minis. Somehow, it appears, I ended up with most of the monsters and none of the characters. I've gone searching on the internet and have found a picture of what I believe was my first purchased miniature, ever. If you read my post yesterday, you'll remember that I said the game store/toy store broke up boxed sets and sold the miniatures individually? Well, this one was a victim of that practice, coming from Grenadier Models' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons #2002-Halflings boxed set. This fellow was known simply as "Swordsman." I seem to remember that the color yellow figured prominently in his paint scheme, and I also think red was in there.

Boy, I wish I still had him.

I've managed to dig up most of my other 30+ year old miniatures, though. My kids, when they asked, "What's in the box, Dad?" and I answered, "Miniatures. 35-year-old metal miniatures..." -- Ooh-ed and Aah-ed. It was a great moment. Here's a few of the old ones.
This miniature was one of my favorites at the time. I'm pretty sure that's why I kept this one. I mean, it was a giant carrying a morningstar, right? How could you go wrong with that? A quick internet search tells me that his actual name is "Hecatron"--Ral Partha 01-067 (Personalities and Things That Go Bump in the Night). Ral Partha included a brief bio on Hecatron in their catalog: "An outcast among giants as a scrawny youth, Hecatron has become feared by giants and humankind alike -- he is one of the few giants alive with the wit and speed to master the arts of war. Encountered in a nonviolent situation, Hecatron is quiet, gruff, and polite. In combat, however, he is a metal-sheathed tornado, never checking morale and avoiding incoming attacks with surprising grace and speed. Hecatron will not change loyalties in a fight for which he has already been been paid, even though he may sympathize with his foes. (His money goes immediately for food and drink.)"

"Cyclops"--Grenadier 8003e (Action Art Series: Mythological Creatures). This was another favorite. I loved the detail and concept of the cyclops carrying a bag of skulls that he used for missile weapons. I've always thought of cyclopes as rock-throwing creatures. I remember thinking what a cool idea it was that this cyclops used the heads of his victims as weapons against future prey.
This one is "Djinn 1"--Ral Partha 01-069a (Personalities and Things That Go Bump in the Night). This one really intrigued me, mostly because of the size of the sword. It was bigger than many of the player character minis. I also liked the massive teeth poking out from his bottom jaw. I remember that he and Hecatron were the two heavy-hitters on my time. I'm pretty sure that the DM had another Djinn with a large sword, but a different sculpt.

That's it for now; I have to save some for a later post, after all.

**Many thanks to the Lost Minis Wiki for the information on the miniatures.**

12 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Twelve

Day Twelve: First store where you bought your gaming supplies. Does it still exist?

Hammond's Toys & Hobbies

It's still around, in various forms. By that I mean it's no longer in the same location and their selection and quality has decreased somewhat in the face of box stores. But they're still around and still family-owned. I even worked for them for a while several years back. The place was quiet enough at night that I could actually get some painting done at the front counter.

This was the place that I picked up some of the first metal minis and polyhedral dice I ever owned. My friend (the DM for our skirmish games) and I would pool our cash to pick up minis, Testor paints, and dice. The Armory dice from a few posts ago? Those came from Hammond's. They were a great source of back issues of Dragon and White Dwarf magazines back in the early 2000s. I was able to pick up a boxed set of Rod of Seven Parts at a terrific discount long after it was out of print.

Looking back, though, it's a little frustrating to realize that one of their business models with the lead miniatures was to open and break up boxed sets and sell the individual miniatures at a higher price than they were valued as part of the whole box. Granted, I owned a few miniatures that I likely never would have owned otherwise, but it's still upsetting to think that they were doing this at all.

The greatest memory I have of the store is of the owner. At that time, I thought he had to be over 100 years old. He was ancient. He was also always grouchy. I remember that he seemed to hate kids; ironic, of course, considering he made his living by catering to us snot-nosed brats. But the strongest memory I have is of this man shadowing the kids around the store, making sure no one shoplifted anything. It was comical to watch and admittedly creepy if you were one of the watched-over kids. I suppose it probably helped quell their losses; I know that the store I worked in had a very low merchandise loss ratio. (In one of their now-defunct stores, they replaced Gramps with fake video cameras. Black plastic cameras with a 9-volt battery to run the red "recording" light and a short cable that was stuck up into the drop ceiling.) He wasn't the manager; the manager was invariably one of his family members and was always behind the counter.

11 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Eleven

Day Eleven: First splatbook you begged your DM to approve.
I've said several times that my early days were spent in mostly skirmishing. We had the base set, the core rules so to speak. We didn't need or use anything extra. It wasn't until I started playing 2E AD&D in 2000 that I discovered the joys of splatbooks and supplements. In my case, I decided (on my own) that Boric needed a bit more OOMPH in the divine spell-casting department. Of course, back then--just as with the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM Archive--it was still quite easy to find 2nd Edition AD&D material, even if 3E was appearing on the scene.

So I scrounged around a bit and found these little gems.
The DM took a brief look through these and rapidly accepted and approved them, and some of the choicest spells were then transferred onto 3"x5" cards and carried into adventure in a recipe box. Yep. With these I had enough divine magic to open up a large can of whoop-*** at Moradin's will.

10 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Ten

Day Ten: First gaming magazine you ever bought (Dragon, Dungeon, White Dwarf, etc.)

Technically speaking, the first gaming magazine I ever bought was the Dragon Magazine Archive CD-ROM. I lucked into finding this in early 2000, shortly after it was released. I say "lucked" because it's quickly become a highly sought-after piece of gamerabilia. I still have these and now use Adobe to read them, as the interface is a little buggy on these new-fangled computers. But hey, I still have the first 250 issues for reference, right? I've even used them since changing over to 3.x edition, so they're still useful and helpful. Plus, they're fun to read.
Then there was this, the first actual hardcopy Dragon Magazine that I purchased was this one: Issue #278. Why, you ask?

Because DWARVES, that's why.

I stumbled across this one day walking through one of the (then) local game shops, saw the "Dwarves" headline and I was sold. Yeah, I was still playing 2nd Edition D&D at the time and most of the 3E stuff in the issue wouldn't come in handy for another couple of years. But the issue contained Dwarven language information and sample battle cries. This was the one that prompted me to collect--ultimately--the other 108 issues. Yup. I have all the others. At least, I purchased/subscribed all the others, from 251 on. Double copies on some issues.

Of course, at last count I'm missing about 8 issues somewhere. I suspect a former GM still has some mixed in with his packed-up 3.x stuff. So, now I'm stuck trying to fill holes. Of course, the missing issues are also some of the most popular issues and replacing them is proving to be more than difficult. But it will happen. Oh yes, it will happen.

And it all started with #278.

09 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Nine

Day Nine: First campaign setting (published or homebrew) you played in.
Faerûn. Plain and simple. From day one of the new century onward, that's where we've played, adventured, laughed, cried, lived, and died. Previous to that, as I've said, was largely skirmish miniature play. Post-turn-of-the-century, well, there was the abortive attempt to have the "spouses' game"; that was set in one of the guys' homebrew world. Other than that one failed attempt to deviate from our norm, it's been the land of Drizz't and Elminster.

That being said, however, it's an unwritten rule that none of the "heavies" from the novels or from the campaign setting will actually ever cross paths with any of our parties. We just don't want them in our world, so...they aren't. I know that's one of the common complaints about settings, and Faerûn in particular. We just work our way around that; they're not even mentioned. Canon too, is played with fast and loose. We don't care what's happened in the books or the setting previously unless it directly relates to the adventure at hand, which it seldom does.

Mostly we use Faerûn because it's easy. We have a map. We have established regions and cities, cultures and deities. Where canon works, we keep it. Where it doesn't, we toss it. We don't have a lot of time to create our own world(s); we're all forty-somethings with largish families and careers so we don't look a gift horse in the mouth. It actually adds to the flavor; our characters know about Waterdeep because Waterdeep is an infamous location. We know what to expect when we go there, just like someone from our world knows what to expect when they travel to New Jersey. There's some basic knowledge there that helps move the game along. We don't treat it as a closed setting either. If we find something non-Faerûnian that works, we sandwich it in somewhere. We've taken the campaign setting and made it our own.

08 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Eight

Day Eight: First set of polyhedral dice you owned. Do you still use them?

These are the ones that started it all. They're my oldest and dearest. They're the ones that started the crazy addiction that has grown (nearly) out of control.

In the bottom center are my three remaining dice from the 1981 Basic Set. I don't know where my others have gone over the years. I was sure I still had a d4, but it's nowhere to be found. The two crystal dice on the top left were the first ones I purchased for myself. I had just read The Sword of Shannara, and of course I had to have my own elfstones. (Yeah. I know. But I was young.) Now, of course, I just wish I knew the manufacturer. They have the flattened tops that were common way back when. (Edit: thanks to Kevin over at Dice Collector.com who identified the red and blue d10s as Armory dice. Thanks, Kevin!)

The red and green d6s are from some long-lost board game. These four were the dice I used with Car Wars.

The orange d10? I don't remember it's origins, but I know it's old. Hence, it goes in the +5 Box of Altoid Protection with the other retired gentlemen. (Edit: Again, thanks to Kevin over at Dice Collector.com. He's not sure about the orange, but thinks it may be Armory. Issue: that style has been so copied, he can't be sure. Thanks for the help, Kevin!)

Yeah, you can take that implication as truth: I don't use these any longer. I've heard too many stories of rounded edges and deterioration. I'm too sentimental to really play with these guys. They've earned their rest.

07 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Seven

Day Seven: First D&D product you ever bought. Do you still have it?

Let's see.... I've talked on several occasions about the first D&D product I ever owned. That would be the 1981 Basic Set, otherwise known as Moldvay D&D. Arguably all my knocking on doors and pimping crappy wrapping paper would constitute "buying" and I do still have this box and most of the contents.

However, I choose to be pedantic about it. Most of the "product" I purchased in those early years were miniatures; in fact, other than the copy of B-2: Keep on the Borderlands that came with the Moldvay set, I'm not sure I ever purchased another "module" or adventure for D&D until the turn of the century. Other games? Yes. (Star Frontiers and Car Wars products come first to mind.) But seeing as how the miniatures question is set for next week, I'll hold off on those items until then. Besides, one could argue those weren't truly D&D "products" as they were produced by third parties. Same argument about the dice I bought: produced by third parties. (Leave me alone; I sleep just fine at night with my justification as my pillow.)

So we have to fast forward to the turn of the century as I said. There was a slew of purchases that first year as I tried to get up to speed with 2nd Edition AD&D. But the very first item I purchased was a copy of the 2E AD&D Players Handbook. Well, I suppose it's properly the 2nd Edition AD&D Revised Players Handbook. Y'know, the 1995 version of the book, not the 1989 edition. I still have it and it's in great condition, even though it saw a lot of use that first few years. I must confess... I don't think it's been off the shelf more than a handful of times since the group switched over to 3.x Edition. It certainly hasn't been off the shelf in over three years, that's for sure. But I still have a lot of fond memories associated with it. I even have a second copy, one I purchased for my wife when a couple of us guys from the group were trying to get a "spouses" game started. That one's in even better condition than mine; I think it's only been opened three times.

But can anyone tell me what the heck is going on with that barbarian's arm? I mean, really? Did Jeff Easley have a brain cramp when he got to that part of the man's anatomy? Seriously, it's always bugged me. I would have much preferred if they'd used the same illustration from the 1989 version; I've always liked the warrior-on-warhorse Easley illustration instead.

06 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Six

Day Six: First character death. How did you handle it?

I've discussed this one before too, in passing at least. I have to look back at Urdin Darjyr, my Dream Dwarf Storm Druid. Yeah. Really.

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.

Urdin's 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. If I remember correctly, he'd started out as a fighter, one of Boric's bear-riders. Then he was trapped, alone, in the wilderness for several years which gave him a few levels of barbarian--mostly for the rage ability and a couple others. Then he had levels of storm druid. He had forsaken the worship of Moradin for the worship of nature after he was stuck without shelter during a tremendous thunderstorm.

Ultimately the adventure led Urdin and his compatriots to a small island--Mezeketh Isle--in search of the Jathiman Dagger. The Jathiman dagger is a weapon capable of killing gods and, at least in this campaign, was kept in check by a "curator" whose will and soul kept the dagger's powers from manifesting. He also acts as a physical guard to keep the dagger from being removed from its current location. Urdin died in the fight to keep the dagger out of the hands of the villains. He was resurrected shortly after the battle ended. In an effort to protect the dagger from the world (and vice versa), Urdin took his retirement and sacrificed his freedom by trapping himself on the small island, at least until a replacement could be found. Through a little post-campaign PBEM, he actually became a Death Delver, a Prestige Class that "delves...deeply into the mysteries of death...to better understand and eventually gain some small power over it...and thereby draw strength from his understanding and indomitable courage in the face of it." {Heroes of Horror, Wizards of the Coast, p.93}

In effect...and we said this at the time...by being struck down he became even more powerful. Of course, he can never leave the island to exercise that power.

05 February 2014

[D&D 40th Anniversary Bloghop] Day Five

Day Five: First character to go from 1st level to the highest level possible in a given edition. (Or what's the highest level character you've ever ran?)

My characters didn't last long, back in the day. Mostly because we were easily bored and changed it up far too often. So, once again I'm going to have to jump ahead to my first 21st-century game, Dragon Mountain for the answer to today's question.

2nd Edition Boric -- FrontI've spoken about him before, my namesake, Boric Glanduum. As I've said before, shortly after the turn of the century, I joined a newly-resurrected group as one of two new players. I was the last one recruited and so was shoe-horned into filling a party need--the cleric. But I made the best of it and rolled up a dwarf. I hadn't played in a LONG time, and certainly had never played 2nd Edition AD&D; I was a NOOB for all intents and purposes. The DM was willing to work with me, though. He and I had a killer backstory woven into the entire campaign. Yeah, it was full of the usual tropes: exiled royalty, stronghold-stolen-by-dragon, magic weapons, etc. You know the type. He put together much of the backstory. I started out as a chosen of Moradin, a High Old One, even, and then advanced from there. During the campaign we had visitations from Moradin's Avatar, I became a Favored of Dumathoin, and lost a clan artifact to a lowly rust monster. Boric spanned 2E, 3E, and then 3.5. He's had several incarnations in 3.5; currently he's 26th level and we're preparing to dust off these epic characters and bring them from retirement.

Let me share a few artifacts I've dug from my files about Boric. You can click on the links if you should happen to want to look at full-size PDFs of the documents. First, a little of his backstory (the introductory paragraph was updated as time went by to show some of the later deeds. It also relied heavily upon a Dwarven Lexicon I've built up over time from various TSR and WotC products.

I also came across a copy of the 12th-level version of Boric's Character Sheet, complete with THAC0 chart for his various attacks, both with his ancestral warhammer and with his clan's Rod of Lordly Might (featuring a hammer rather than a mace).
By the way, this chart is what I think of every time someone tries to tell me just how much more complicated 3.x Edition combat is than, say, 2nd Edition combat. It features every possible iteration of each attack, special attack, or power, including certain common buffing spells such as prayer and bless.

I'm All For Freedom of Speech, But...

I noticed this Facebook issue a couple of days ago and reported it to Facebook. Tracy Hickman let me know about it again yesterday and says it more eloquently than I could. Tracy's notice as follows:

(1) Go to this DISGUSTING facebook page and IGNORE its contents.
(2) Click on the 'gear' next to message and select 'Block/Report'/'Submit a Report' / 'Report Gary's Account'
(3) Select 'This timeline is pretending to be someone I know' / 'Pretending to be a celebrity'
(4) Type 'E. Gary Gygax' in the field.
(5) Click 'submit report.'

I honor and respect the man I thought of as my friend -- the man who helped us all remember how to play. You can honor and respect his memory, too, by crushing this TASTELESS IDENTITY THEFT.

I'll throw in my recommendation to do this as well. I'm all for freedom of speech and allowing a person to be as big of a jerk as he wants to be. However, I'll throw this one under the heading of an "inciting to riot" exception to that right. I don't think the guy realizes that there are a lot of people out there who love and/or respect Gary, and there's a lot of those that could put a serious hurt on him for his words. Y'know, if they were incited to riot against him. For his words. Or something.

04 February 2014

[From the Mailbag] It's All Tim's Fault, Honey!

A couple weeks ago, Tim over at Gothridge Manor decided to show off his loot from the Troll & Toad Clearance Sale. At the time, it caused great consternation in some corners of the OSR as others dropped by Troll & Toad and promptly dropped their paycheck(s) on clearance items. At the time, I resisted the urge.

Then I gave in.

I dropped more than I expected, because every new web page that I flipped over had something else that I "needed." Plus, I argued with myself, I really need to get the order to a point where the exorbitant shipping is justified. So let me share my loot with you...with the understanding that it's all Tim's fault.

First of all, they had a few Babylon 5 titles to go along with the new Ruleset I picked up over the holidays from Paizo. They had a copy of the ship plans for the G'Quan, a Narn heavy cruiser. This should dovetail nicely with the Earth Force Hyperion plans that came in from Paizo. Plus, I just really love the Narn and am excited to crack this open and see what the ship actually looks like.
The next item they had was a 1st-level adventure: The Cold Equations. The players have to flee a dying passenger liner a day or so out from the station; it looks like it involves the Psi-Corps and corporate intrigue. In looking at it now, it may not be compatible with the ruleset I have. I'll have to really sit down and figure out if that's true. The problem is that there were (apparently) several different versions of the Babylon 5 system published.
The third one evoked a few bad words when I pulled it out of the box and saw the Traveller brand sprayed across the front of the book. I definitely know that this one isn't compatible. This one is a "start up" adventure in which the players are thrust into the middle of an inter-Drazi conflict (hence the title: "The Trouble with Drazi"). At least this may give me some ideas and inspiration for the system I do have. I will hold out that hope, at least.
The final Babylon 5 title is a sourcebook covering the Zocalo, the merchant/shopping area on the station. After being burned with "The Trouble with Drazi," I need to sit down with this one and review compatibility. It's an interesting little read, though, including some species-specific weapons, things to buy, connections to make, and so forth.
Now, Tim could try and argue that the Babylon 5 titles are not his fault because I was already on the hunt for those game materials. These next few are certainly his fault, because he brought them to my attention. Because of that, and because I'm weak-willed, I lay these directly at his feet. Well, figuratively. After all, he already has copies and they may get ruined with all the snow and water on the ground.

The first one is a monster manual from Expeditious Retreat Press entitled "Monster Geographica: Underground." I also wanted the other one Tim grabbed up that dealt with marsh and swamp monsters, but I guess I pondered my purchases for too long and it was sold out. Like Tim, I love me some monster manuals: you can never have too many.
Next up is a level 4-7 adventure from Fast Forward Entertainment entitled, "Temple of the Troll God." The adventure promises full-color maps and an introductory portion of the adventure online; unfortunately, the website no longer exists. I'll have to do some checking around to see if these bonus materials exist anywhere else.
Another title from Fast Forward, this one by none other than James Ward himself. "Slave Pits of the Goblin King" also boasts free maps and bonus adventure stuff online. Maybe this material will be easier to track down if I can track down contact info for James Ward. We'll have to see; it may not be worth the effort.
The final Fast Forward title, also by James Ward, is "Demonic Lairs"--a collection of homes of ten powerful demons and devils. I had to grab this one because, hey, LAIRS.
Troll & Toad was getting rid of a bunch of their magazines as well. They had a good stack of Dragon magazines, and quite a few earlier issues. Since I have the digital versions up through Issue #250 on my Dragon CDs, my collection starts with #251. I subscribed starting with #279 through the death of the print run. Somewhere, however, I've developed holes in my collection. Fortunately, they had one that I was missing: #278. This one I know was borrowed by a guy in my group that wanted to start his own group with a couple of the guys from the group and their wives. The campaign lasted exactly one session and I've never seen the magazine again. Needless to say I was happy to see this one for sale, especially on clearance.
And the final "book" purchase for this order was the one issue of Autoduel they had. I've never owned a copy of Autoduel before; I've never even held it in my hands. I may be addicted now; I may just need to try and track down all of the issues (even though my brain tells me it would be pricey). Just flipping through it brought back fond memories of playing Car Wars. That still remains one of my fondest set of gaming memories, Car Wars.
Then there were the dice. Yes, Tim's fault again. He alerted me to the fact that they were selling off dice on clearance as well. The first set I grabbed up were a set of Crystal Caste Ancient Red. (I love the little spring-loaded latched boxes, although the latch never seems to be very secure.
Like Tim, I like me some odd and unusual dice. (Note: the Lego minifig is there for scale. These are some odd size dice!) Two of them are Chinese character dice: one shows numbers 7-12 to go with the 1-6 d6 I already own and one shows the characters for the words for each number 1-10. Also shown is a d10 showing geometric shapes; I thought this would be perfect for random dungeon design. Simply roll the die to get the shape of the next room, hallway, or structure.
Again, there's my Lego Centurion (non-Battlestar Galactica Ancient Rome version) for scale. These dice are "rock, paper, scissor" dice. I bought two so that it would keep both parties in a "rock, paper, scissor" contest on an even keel and remove any possibility (OK, most possibilities) of cheating from the game. Yeah, I know you could just play "rock, paper, scissors" but LOOK DICE!
Finally, my King Emeralds. These things are massive for regular polyhedrals. I have some d30s and a couple d20s that are this size already. When I saw that it was a complete 7-die polyhedral set, I just had to jump on them. Especially for $3.13. You read that right. I don't know that I've ever purchased a set of 7 dice for that price (other than the Ancient Red shown above that were $2.36).
As far as prices on the other stuff above, all of the books were priced at 49¢, except for the "Demonic Lairs" title which was $1.99. The magazines were 99¢ and 86¢ respectively.

There was a pile of plastic miniature goodness in the box as well. In an effort (too late) of keeping this post picture-light, I won't post individual pictures of the minis. Maybe I'll keep that for another post later in the week/month.

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