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.

15 July 2014

Mail Call!

Over the weekend, I received a Mail Call extravaganza.

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

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

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

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

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

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

14 July 2014

Post-FantasyCon Catch Up

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As I said, FantasyCon really raised the bar.

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

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


Because, hey, dice. Am I right?

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

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

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

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

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

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