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.

20 August 2015

Dwarven Happiness--Sometimes it's the Little Things

Some of you may have already seen this.

I'm just going to leave this here, because it makes me happy.

19 August 2015

[From the Mailbag] Post-Vacation Embarassment of Riches

Well, I went away for a week--far away from cell service, land line service, internet service. It was restful. Utterly restful. Gamed a bit with my family (game report in process). Read a bit. Slept a bit. All in all a very, very restful week.

It made coming back to the office dreadfully miserable.

But, oh! What was waiting for me when I got home. The neighbor collecting our mail commented on the number of packages and hand-addressed envelopes I received. I guess all they ever get is bills and shopping mailers.

Here's what made last weekend terrific. Sorry for the bad photo, but I wanted to get everything in one shot.

Going from left to right:
  • A buddy of mine came across some duplicate 3.x titles from "his source" and passed along his extras to me: A Pathfinder module named Guardians of Dragonfall. Also a Pathfinder sourcebook entitled Tombs of Golarion--because one can never have too many tombs or ill-meaning NPCs. A CD, released with Dungeon #87 that includes the first issue of Dungeon as well as some bonus adventures and other stuff. Then there's a Paizo-produced map of the Sleeping Dragon Inn. You may recall I already have a copy of this, but it's gone missing, so I welcomed the new copy.
  • Then there's the latest two creature postcards from +Jim Magnusson. As usual, these are gorgeous and creepy. If you aren't already a patron of his, you should be. Rectify that. Soon.
  • Up top were some duplicate WotC miniatures, also from that great friend of mine. These are the Blackroot Treant from the Against the Giants set (my collection's first treant) and the Flesh Golem from the Night Below set.
  • The July Mythoard arrived as well: no dice or miniature this time, but almost as good--some fire counters from Advanced Deployment and a stack of coaster-dungeonmorphs, and a d12 table of NPC names on a business card (thanks, +Jarrod Shaw, et al.). Also included is a copy of Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits! (an introductory RPG), a copy of Issue #5 of the Undercroft 'zine (thanks +Daniel Sell), another binder-ready locale/NPC, a copy of The Red Mausoleum module from Expeditious Press, and a copy of a Judges Guild adventure, Rat on a Stick. 
  • Next to the miniatures are the latest Patreon rewards from the great and incomparable +Tim Shorts. Again, he fails to disappoint. A medieval crypt and a futuristic sci-fi patrol scenario. Great maps, great substance, and laminated for dry-erase or Mountain Dew repellant qualities. If you have ever enjoyed an issue of The Manor 'zine and haven't yet signed up for his Patreon account, get over there and do it now.
  • And the gifts continued after the weekend. When Monday's mail arrived, I found another great postcard map from +Simon Forster. This time a two-room main floor building surrounded by idyllic trees. The basement of the building is filed with surprises, including an attached cavern room. I always love getting these postcards; they are, to be honest, the main inspiration behind my own mail-maps that I've been sending out to Stronghold 'zine customers. These are great little locales just crying out for some dungeon-stocking, awaiting a drop-in into your campaign as a side-quest or random encounter. If you haven't signed up on Patreon to support Simon, well...see the above-pro-Patreon-support exhortations and feel a bit guilty, OK? Then go to Patreon and start clicking to support these fine gentleman artists!
Speaking of mail-maps, I suppose I'm well overdue to pay a Joesky tax. So, I present to you the following mail-map that went out to +Jason Zavoda. As I imagined it, it's a shrine built into the side of a cliff. The shrine has an attached chapel area, with a passageway down to an altar/contemplation pool. Then a little trapped hallway (see the inset for the pit trap side-view) leading into the cult's treasure room. But use it how you will; it's free for your use. As always, if you use it, drop me a line to tell me where and how it went.

The Shrine of Adovaz!

06 August 2015

Pazio Greatness

I know that many of you have a hard-spot in your heart against Paizo. Say what you will about the complexities in their game system, the gunpowder, the power creep...all of that. I understand the issues that many of you have, even if I don't necessarily share all your concerns.

But their customer service is incredible. Over the years, I've been NOTHING but impressed by the speed, efficiency, and caring about their customers that they exhibit.

Well, I have another example for you today. I placed an order last night at 5:15 p.m., Mountain Time. By this morning at 11:00 a.m. Mountain Time, I had confirmation that the package had already left the warehouse. I should have my loot by the first of the week.

That's impressive. I mean, really impressive. Kudos to Paizo.

04 August 2015


I love me some horror. Movies, books, comics...you name it (unless it's a gore-vehicle, torture porn, satanic worship or possession, or voodoo) and i like it.

I have fond memories of watching the local Nightmare theater when I was...oh, let's say pre-school age. I remember sneaking into the basement to watch snippets of Alien that my brother and his date were watching on an early VCR. I read just about anything by King or Koontz that I could get my hands on. Same with Poe. The book fairs in elementary school supplied me with lots of "ghost story" books.

I'm still convinced that there's something in my parents' basement that will grab my hand between the time that I turn off the lights and start up the stairs. (That belief far predates Alien, by the way.) There's also a room in that house in which I will not sleep. Don't ask me why, I won't tell you.

As I mentioned above, I have my limits...again, for reasons I won't go into here. But largely, I love horror. There's only a couple movies that I can say have truly creeped me out. I've only read a few books that have truly scared me. One of those is King's The Shining. I first read it one night with a vicious winter storm raging outside my bedroom window. That lead to a couple of sleepless nights.

Yesterday morning I finished a book that hit that spot. It's being added to the list. That book is Twisted, by Michaelbrent Collings. [Aside & Disclaimer: I consider Michaelbrent to be a friend. However, I've received nothing for my review of this novel except a buttload of goosebumps and some long overnight hours. In fact, now that I think about it, I owe Michaelbrent a good-natured punch in the nose next time I see him. You see, last night I'd just finished my shower and headed downstairs to do some writing. We live in a split-level entry house, with a big picture window overlooking the entry way. As I walked downstairs I could swear--and will swear--that I saw, just for a moment, a white figure--a child--standing outside about 3 feet from the porch, staring up at me through the window. Now, you may say it was a reflection in the glass and a mixture of the stairway light and the porch light and the trees out in the front yard. But I know what I saw; my heart skipped a beat or two and I gasped out loud...and I'm pretty sure it's all Michaelbrent's fault. My wife and kids laughed, but the hair is standing up on my arms and neck just remembering it a few hours later. Not many books or movies have done that to me. End aside.]

Without giving too much away, let me start by saying the book involves the supernatural, the macabre, family relations, deep emotional issues, and complex characters. Oh, and twists. Every time you get comfortably sure you know what's going on, Michaelbrent cranks the steering wheel and yanks up on the emergency break, sending the story--and your suppositions--into a wild spin.

From the back of the book: "The Douglas family just wants to live their lives, and maybe find a bit of happiness. But when the ghost in their home breaks out of a centuries-long sleep, all hope for happiness will die. Because the thing that haunts them is not just evil... It is something much, much worse. Watching them from the shadows. Hungry to start killing once more. And thirsty for the blood of the children, the blood he has so long been denied. The thing that haunts them is not just evil. It is twisted."

I cannot recommend this book strongly enough. Grab a copy. It's available in Kindle e-format, in softcover, and from Audible. 

The book is Twisted. And it certainly is.

03 August 2015

Sick and Tired

I am so freaking sick and tired of being sick and tired.

Backstory (and I’ll try and keep it brief): as some of you know, for the past two years I’ve been suffering from some strange sort of food allergies/sensitivities.  We’ve narrowed it down to where I can basically eat grass and water, but we’re not too sure about grass. Or water. Now, it’s done wonders for my waistline: I’m wearing t-shirts and jeans I last wore nearly 30 years ago. After all, when you’re not eating--and if you do eat it’s immediately and forcefully eliminated for the following 36 hours--your weight can drop fairly quickly. But painfully. Whatever it is has affected my body in other ways: I’m constantly tired, and suddenly so, as if someone had simply “unplugged” me; my depression is aggravated; I have difficulty thinking at all let alone clearly and/or creatively; painful bloating and uncontrollable, vile gassiness.

Short statblock: All this makes me the life of the party and I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the pain, the fatigue, the emotional and mental issues. I’m tired of watching my family eat burgers and pizza, milkshakes and cookies while I’m eating carrots and celery, simple unseasoned ground beef (assuming it has no filler) and the occasional kosher hot dog.

So, sitting here tonight in the midst of an allergy attack and--ahem--“marinating” in my office, it got me thinking. When I game--and I know the rest of my group thinks the same way, so I can only assume we’re not unique--I don’t give much thought to my character’s illness, fatigue, and the like.

In other words, being sick and tired.

You and I get up at 5:00 a.m., maybe work out for an hour sometime during the day, put in a long day at the office or the assembly line with its accordant stress, anxiety, frustration, and back- or mind-breaking labor (physical or mental, respectively). Add in rush hour traffic both ways--or the stress and discomfort (again, physical and mental) of public transit--then you crawl your way in the front door and your toddler climbs up on your lap and either knees you (dad) in the wobblies or head-butts (mom) your sweater puppies. Then there’s the familial stresses and duties expected of you now that you’re home. And it all starts again tomorrow. Five days a week, if we’re lucky. If not, then six or even seven.

Now, I know that the above paragraph is perhaps the biggest reason many of us game. We want to get away from our normal lives. I understand this, I really do. And in this fantasy escape of ours, whatever the flavor or system, why on earth do we want to worry about mundane things. There's a reason we don't play "Houses and Humans." (There's probably several reasons why we don't play it, but that's another story.)  But face it: whether it’s through ability score modifiers, “conditions,” or some other form of RPG abstract health-tracking, characters should feel--and are, by rules as written at least, expected to feel--sick and tired. And this goes beyond simple encumbrance tracking.

Look, like it or not, it makes sense, at least from a ROLE playing standpoint. No matter what any of us do during the day, it’s not likely that we commit deeds on par with the basic tasks of our characters. When was the last time you killed a band of roving kobolds, defended a village from marauding orcs, suffered the slings and arrows of outraged towns guardsmen, or simply ran screaming from the biggest fire-breathing lizard you ever saw? All while wearing armor. And weapons. And adventuring gear. After spending the night on hard ground, half-frozen, and with a rock in your back Right. There. Oh, and you have the runs from a bad tavern meal; you’ve also been saved from near-death a half-dozen times by magic--you have to believe that that puts a little bit of stress on a body. And this is every day of the tenday. Yet we all--and I realize I might be generalizing--we all assume that a healing potion and a good night’s sleep in the woods is going to take care of all those aches and pains.

I mean, if I go camping, I’m on an air mattress and in a nice, cozy tent (if not a trailer). I’m in sweats or pajamas, not armor. And I still get up in the morning with a crick in my neck, a screwed-up back, and the legs of a 90-year-old near-invalid. Forget running from kobolds, I can hardly make it to the breakfast table.

What I’m saying is this: maybe tracking encumbrance or noting conditions, fatigue--or whatever the system equivalent is--maybe it’s a pain in the neck. Maybe it’s that “one more thing” with which you don’t want to hassle. All this might be true. But if you’re in the mood to do a little ROLE playing--or in the mood to force your players to do a little ROLE playing--consider the fact that even semi-super-human demi-demi-gods might get a little muscle-stiff or brain-sore once in a while.

Now, I don’t know the right answer here, I’m just brainstorming. Thinking aloud, as it were. Throw a couple extra conditions on ‘em. Drop an ability score or two. Give ‘em a little extra something to think about when they’re tracking down the big bad. Or running from the big bad. Whichever the case may be. Of course, you’ll have to be judicious: what would be a discomfort to high-level characters obviously could incapacitate low-level characters. Conversely, what would be a discomfort to low-level characters may be nothing more than a mosquito bite (or less) to a high-level character. Scaling the discomfort may not be the right move, as logic dictates the longer you adventure, the more accustomed you become to the rough conditions. On the other hand, the longer you adventure, the older you get, the stiffer your muscles get, and the more fragile your bones get. Then you get into the “aging” rules--something else that a lot of us tend to ignore in our adventures/campaigns.

Just something to think about. Please: let me know where I’m mis-thinking this or what your ideas on the topic might be. Until then, I’m just going to keep muddling along as best I can.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...