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 May 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] Possibly the Worst Part of the Process

Update time for Issue #2:

Personal life has set me back a bit: Mom's been in the hospital. This, allied with some ailments of my own, mean that #2 has been pushed down the calendar just a bit.

The good news? I think I finally have everything: art, articles, stat-blocks...the works.

The bad news? Now the formatting begins. In truth, I had everything nearly perfect, then decided to add the infamous, dreaded "Just One More Thing" to the issue. Now that has me editing, changing, and just plain cutting text in an effort to make everything fit. (I'm sure I'll have a couple people when the issue comes out tell me freely that there was one or two select pages that could have been spared publication.)

So...wish me luck as I go and ready my red pen. I'm going back in.

18 May 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine] The Countdown Begins to #2

That's right, boys and girls. I'm officially starting the countdown to Issue #2 of The Stronghold 'Zine. I'm just waiting on one more piece of artwork and one more bit of info to finish up an article, then it's Foreword and Table of Contents time.

After that, it's a trip to the office supply store for a new color of cardstock for the cover.

Then the fun begins anew.

What's in store? Well, let's see.... Where's my draft ToC?

O.K. First, we've got some stats for three new critters; one of these is friendly, one can be friendly, and one is...erm...not so much.

There's a new locale, with a new map. Two of the critters are also associated with the locale, as is the new NPC I've included. In addition to the statted critters, there are nearly a dozen-and-a-half new and system neutral critters described. There's another installment of system-neutral random treasure tables included; these can be used with the locale as well as your own setting.

NOT associated with the locale are a series of new wondrous magic items; these are fairly system-neutral as well. And finally, even though the random nose-picking article was not a big hit with some readers last issue, my philosophy is that every game needs a little bit of humor. Accordingly, and due to the joint fault of +Tim Shorts and +Jason Zavoda, there's another useful (I think) set of random tables to add a little bit of humor and ...erm... flavor to your game.

Keep watching for the roll-out announcement and purchase links to be coming soon!

12 May 2015

[review] The Manor #8

I can't tell you how much I enjoy mail-call here at The Stronghold when I see the "GM Games" logo on an envelope. Well, that happened yesterday: Issue #8 of The Manor appeared!

The usual disclaimer applies: I am one of Tim's proof-readers, so...there's that. That doesn't color my perception or review; all it means is that I get to see the good stuff in advance. Even still, there's nothing like holding the final version in my hands and giggling reading the good stuff. So...without further ado...let's look inside Issue #8!

John Larrey's cover art sets the tone for the issue. Who among us has not been in the shoes of that fighter, facing down a slavering troll, with naught but our shield between us and certain death?

In point of fact, all of the artwork in Issue #8 (as usual) is top-notch and fits perfectly in its assigned place, setting the scene for the article.

The grappling article by Cole and Dell'Orto, while written for S&W, is going to be stolen for my 3.x house rule file, at least for my kids' game. It's just so neat and elegant, especially when you compare it to the cluster that is Wizard's attempt at explaining a grappling system. (Honestly, 3.5's grappling rule is one of the things cited by a player who left our group as one of the things driving him away from the hobby.) This system seems like it would resolve grappling quickly, neatly, and easily.

There's only one thing I would change, and that's an addition. Now, I will admit to knowing very little about the S&W rule set. I know, I know...go ahead, get the gallows started. But as far as using this grappling rule in 3.x, there are times when a creature can substitute a DEX modifier for a STR modifier. I think that this should be one of those instances, at least for certain classes or Prestige classes (the "Brawler" or the "Swashbuckler" for example). I don't think this would violate the spirit of this easier rule; instead, I think it fits right in to the very spirit this rule change is designed to promote. Additionally, it adds a bit more flavor to the rule. As an illustration, remember back to The Princess Bride.

[Aside: I'm referring here to the BOOK version of the story, as it's the version I prefer. However, for purposes of this example, I suppose one could refer to the movie version as well. It fits my purposes just as well. Just this once, though. End aside.] 

So...The Princess Bride. Fezzik lies in wait for the Man in Black (MIB), waiting to crush his head with a stone. When the MIB appears, Fezzik agrees instead to best him in a Feat of Strength --mano a giant-- instead. They begin to grapple wrestle and it quickly becomes apparent that Fezzik's STR modifier is MUCH higher than that of the MIB. However, after a few initial grappling attempts attempted holds, it also becomes apparent that the MIB's DEX modifier was equally higher than Fezzik's.

SPOILERS: The MIB's DEX wins the day and Fezzik succumbs to the grapple, the MIB successfully (essentially) pins Fezzik and renders him helpless. The MIB then runs off after Vizzini for a Battle of Wits for the Princess' life.

As for the other articles, they're also just as useful as the Grappling article. I just purchased a copy of Trey Causey's Strange Stars RPG. I'm looking forward to getting my print copy and sitting down to absorb a great-looking Sci-Fi setting (and then trying to convince my group to play it, but that's another story).

Tim's hirelings, torches, and Torchbearer class all made me ask the same question: Why isn't our 3.x party using hirelings?!? It's a proposal I'm prepping in my head already to present to members of my group. Definitely some good stuff here.

My recommendation? Get yourself a copy. Even if you've never picked up a copy of The Manor before, get this one. 5 out of 5 stars. Yeah, it's that good.

09 May 2015

[The Stronghold 'Zine]The Rallying Cry Goes Forth!

Issue #2 of The Stronghold is in the works. But I want need art. Don't get me wrong; I love +Jim Magnusson's work and am extremely grateful for his generosity, help, aid, and talent. I've got a great line-up of his work just waiting for content.

But I don't want to kill him with over-work, either.

So, if there are any artists out there that would like a chance to appear in an upcoming issue of The Stronghold 'Zine, please...contact me. Or, if you know of an artist that might be interested, pass my contact info along to him/her. I can't promise much in the way of recompense, save a gratis physical copy of the issue. That and my undying gratitude and respect, of course. I've got some ideas for Issue #2 that would benefit from some artwork, or we can discuss ideas for later issues.

My artistic abilities are incredibly limited, especially when it comes to drawings, sketches, etc. Therefore, I rely on the kindness of strange artists. Wait, let me rephrase that. I rely on the strange kindness of artists. OK, third time's a charm: I rely on the kindness of artistic strangers. I'd like to rely on you.

Yeah, you. Right there. You.

07 May 2015

[review] Pounded By This Pound Of Dice

You all know how much I love dice, right? You all know that I believe that there's no such thing as too many dice, right?

Well, I may have to eat those words. I've been mulling this over for a while and finally need to post it to get it out of my craw. My review may not be startling news to anyone but myself. I freely admit that I could in fact be late to the party. [Aside1: I'm reminded of the News Radio episode (Season 3, entitled "Rap") in which Bill McNeal discovers that his beloved rap music has lyrics and wants to run an expose to proclaim his outrage at the "disgusting" lyrics. The station manager tells him in response: "Put aside the editorial, invent a time machine, travel back to the year 1988, and you might actually be one of the first thousand journalists to break this story." Yeah, this post may be like that. End aside.]

So, I watch and read with great interest reviews concerning "pounds of dice" (or "PoD")from the various dice companies. There's the ubiquitous Chessex "Pound-o-dice" of course; I hear tell there's another company on eBay that's even cheaper, and (depending on the review you read) has similar quality of dice. The reviews ALWAYS state (and often show) that one can pick out several complete 7-die sets from each of these massive bags. Even given my earlier-stated opinion, I prefer full and complete 7-die RPG die sets.

Heaven knows that I have a bag-load of loose singles (especially d6) from my years of gaming.

Well, I've looked at them as they've crossed my awareness, but I've never been really "in the market" for a PoD until now. But now, my eldest son has decided to pick up the DM screen for his buddies and I thought a PoD would be a cheap way to get him a bunch of dice to let his players use.

Unfortunately, when I was first looking for it, I couldn't fine a PoD at ANY of the local game and game-related stores. So I put it off.

So, imagine my glee when I went to my FLGS and, although they had only the d6 version of the Chessex PoD, I learned that Crystal Caste had started selling their own version of the PoD. I was excited that I wouldn't have to mail-order myself a PoD...plus it was at least $10 than the Chessex PoD (and it came in one of Crystal Caste's nifty "skull" bags. Now, as I said, I haven't seriously looked for a PoD for purchase until now, so this may not be a new thing.

Apparently they're calling their PoD, Skull Bag: Skull + Bones. At least, that's what the tag on the dice bag says. Perhaps it's just referring to the bag, I'm not sure. I'm guessing it's the PoD name; one of the selling points was that each bag contains one of Crystal Caste's awesome Dwarven Stones dice. At any rate, let's open it up and see what's inside, shall we?

So I got home and cracked it open. This is what I found. At first glance, there seems to be a heckuva lot of d6...NOT my favorite die. (I don't often play wizards or other characters with massive d6 attacks, after all.)

So I spread them out, grouping them by type. Hmm.... I'm starting to worry at this point.

Not nerve-shattering, teeth-rattling concern, mind you. Just a mild sense of unease. The FATE dice didn't help me feel much better, as I don't play any FATE-driven games. And I've already got a handful of +/- dice as it is.

Then I spread them back out and sorted them out to collect my 7-piece set(s) before turning the singles over to the boy. And THAT looked like THIS:


[Aside 2: OK, technically I suppose you could say I have a couple complete sets...if you're counting d6 sets. I don't. End aside 2.]

Not one. The closest I got was one matching set of 4 out of 7. There were several that had 4 (or in one case 5) matching dice...but they were 3 or 4 of the same die, with 1 different die. There were a couple 3 out of 7, but nothing close to 7 out of 7. Not a single complete set. I mean, look at the yellow ones in the upper left, for crying out loud: 1 d6 and 4 d%. No joke.

Oh, and right below the yellow dice, do you see that little "L"-shaped bit? That was another bonus: a piece of sprue.

So, I did what any anal-retentive nerd would do. I started counting. Here's what I found, out of 162 total dice.

Percent (Decimal)
(Percentages are rounded up.)

As you can tell from the picture, a few of these dice are from Crystal Caste's "Crystal" range. (Specifically, and just for the record: 1 d4; 3 d6s; 2 d8s; 7 d10s.)

[Aside 3: a d1000 for Pete's sake? Not only did I not know Crystal Caste made such a thing, I already have one, made by Koplow. I mean, I'm a dice freak, but really...how many d1000s does a person need? How often am I going to need a second d1000? End aside 3.]

I suppose if you're looking for a cheap bag of dice to let your players (or kids) play with, without regard to matching dice or complete sets, this is the deal for you. If you're looking for a good source of a cheap stack of d6 mixed with a few other polyhedrals, then this is the deal for you.

If you're looking for some random complete sets + loose dice, however, at a cheap price, I'd try the following:

  1. Chessex Pound-O-Dice ($24.95 on Amazon, MSRP $35.00)
  2. Easy Roller Dice Co. -- 105 Polyhedral Dice (15 Complete Sets), plus a velvet dice bag ($24.95 on Amazon, MSRP $39.00)
  3. Wiz Dice -- 100+ dice (guaranteed at least one matching set in a velvet dice bag; also guaranteed 6 different colors) ($19.99 on Amazon)
And that's just from a quick search. Now, I WILL confess that the Dwarven Stone included in this set kinda makes up for some of the other disappointment: it's a mini d20; I haven't been able to identify which stone range it's from, but it's a pretty li'l thing. It also contained the largest d6 in my collection; that will be good for hucking at inattentive players. As for the rest of the set? YMMV.

02 May 2015

Awww, Crap. Missing Game Stuff.

OK, I;m a bit frantic, I have to confess. I like knowing were my gaming stuff is, all of it. I'm a bit anal retentive that way.

I just went searching for a few things and realized I have some conspicuous absences in my collection. One hole I was able to fill: I was missing a dice pouch with my "DM Dice"--a collection of random dice useful in DM-ing: 30-sided alphabet die, critical hit location dice, direction dice (for random mapping), NPC attitude dice, etc. I panicked when I realized that was missing. Took me an hour or so to remember where I'd had and used them last. Actually, it took me 1:20--twenty minutes was trying to remember what dice pouch I had used.

I found them, but in so doing I realized that I was missing three more things. I put these out there just to shout at myself. Feel free to yell at me too.
  1. A Kickstarter package from way back when containing three -- I said THREE -- full sets of the ORIGINAL Dungeonmorph dice by +Joe Wetzel  and +Inkwell Ideas . A full set of each of the patterns. Plus all the extras. Yeah, Joe. Feel free to yell at me about this one.
  2. My X-Plorer Boxed Set from +Brave Halfling Publishing . Both #1 and #2 were received at about the same time, and in the same place (last that I remember). And now? Not.
  3. A set of 7 dice purchased at FantasyCon last year. Specifically, the "Silver Volcano (speckled)" set; I laid my hands right on the "Purple-Teal/Gold (gemini)" set purchased at the same time. Both of these sets were in the same place when I saw them last. And now? Not.
Hey...I'm sure I'm not alone. Someone out there has the same OCD I do about my gaming stuff, right? Please tell me I'm right. And throw some karma my way, so that I can put my hands on these three items and rest easy this weekend.

Because you know I'm going to lay awake wondering where they are...especially my dice....

I've  just now realized I'm missing a couple other things:
  1.  My XDM d2 by Howard Tayler. (Funny...also from FantasyCon.)
  2. My Kickstarter package containing the original Scenes of Chance card deck.

[From the Mailbag] Simon Forster Surprise

OK. If you've ever wondered, here's proof. The USPS is either violent, incompetent, or careless.

The postman brought a surprise from +Simon Forster  today, and just look! Dog-eared corners, dang it!

But another gorgeous little locale. I can endure a little damage, I suppose.

If you want to get little tid-bits like this from Simon, make sure to visit his Patreon page!

01 May 2015

Throwing in the April Towel--A to Z Reflections

That's it. I'm done.

I have three blog entries sitting here on my desktop: X, Y, and Z. Maybe someday soon they'll appear on the blog.

Some serious life issues popped up during April. Every week that went by the weight seemed to get heavier and the quantity increasing. Imagine trying to catch random drips of acid in a teaspoon. On a windy night. In the dark.

Yeah, kinda like that.

This isn't blogpression. This isn't a call for a hiatus. I just can't finish up April right now. I want to focus on my own game. I want to finish up a miniature painting project. I want to focus on helping my 14-year-old who's starting his first campaign as a DM (proud of him for that, btw). I want to focus on Stronghold #2.

Besides which, I noticed an interesting phenomenon this April. My page reads have actually decreased throughout April. I know that many readers go dark for April for a dislike of A to Z April posts. But every other year I've actually seen an increase in traffic, even if only a slight one.

Not this year.

To be honest, I rarely go to other A to Z sites simply because I don't want to risk unconscious plagiarism.  I've always found my own posts to be a creative spark, a spur to actually produce something.

Not this year.

Gives me something to consider in the coming 11 months. I put a lot of thought, time, and energy into each post every year; maybe too much time? Maybe there's just too many blogs involved? The topic tags are a good idea, but I don't think that everyone is using them. Maybe it's just the gaming readers don't want to deal with A-to-Z posts. Maybe, maybe, maybe. There's a lot of maybes. I don't know. In the past I've never been too concerned about the readership, partly because my blog is largely for me alone, but partly because traffic has always been steady. Plus, I have to admit that the freakin' Challenge Logo was just HUGE; it took up a lot of space. Maybe I'm just feeling like I let myself down; I'm the only one that was policing my work, after all.

I'm sharpening my pencil and getting back to real work. Thanks for sticking by me.
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