Monday, January 30, 2012

Carrion Crown: Through the Shudderwood to Ascanor Lodge Part 3





So....werewolves DO live in the Shudderwood. And apparently they are embroiled in a conflict as to which pack will lead the rest. Of course the 'Scooby Gang' are caught up in this mess. And yes, the dwarf is Velma. We finally get into the lodge too and more hi jinks ensue. Also this is where the players may have broken the module and altered the course of the AP for the future books. Where you ask? Well that is a secret....like Julian's.



The Players

Matt
- Thredorik Trapspringer (male dwarven rogue 7 / uncouth / peeping tom)
Jess  -  Nisha  (female tiefling fighter(weapon master kit) 7 / combat monster....literally / professed her serious 'like' to Zuri)
Charles - Zuri (male aasimar wizard 7 / varisian wanderer/ harrow reader / admitted his 'like' to Nisha and that she scares him)
Charles - Dragos ( Zuri's raven familiar / smart ass / found out about gold leaf pastries in Caliphas/ LOVES pastries and shinies)
Me - Julian Du Marc ( male human cleric of Pharasma 7 / NPC/PC / stoic / has a secret)
Me again - DM (DM / rules dude / story mover-along-er / still bribed by pie or hot cocoa/ bribes of hot cocoa and cookies were offered by Jess and Charles........not Matt......not forgetting that snub)


Duristan waves us through the gates to Asconor Lodge and his help take all of our horses to be stabled for the evening. Duristan bids us a goodnight and hurries off to his room. All the normies who survived from the werewolf attack are visibly shaken. Belik the porter of the lodge is also looking shaken as he greets us at the door with hot cups of coffee and a very meek and humble apology for his earlier behavior. He tells us that we do have rooms and he acted in error on behalf of the lodge without the prior knowledge of the arrangement between Count Caromarc and the proprietor of the lodge. Speaking of which Belik asks if we would be willing to meet with Estovian Lozarov the head keeper of the lodge. The party accept the offer, finish their warm drinks and follow Belik to the reference library in the lodge.


Estovian apologized for the earlier events of the day, noting that the porter wasn't aware that he owed Count Caromarc a favor and this was the repayment. After apologizing again, he says that the lodges resources are at their disposal including the reference library. Estovian excuses himself and darts up the staircase in the back of the library up to his private office.
They head out where Belik was waiting for them where he escorts the to their rooms. Nisha and Zuri in one, Thredorik and Julian in the other. They turn in for the night.


The next day at breakfast the party meet some of the other lodge guests. Cilas Graydon the Margrave of Sturnidae a disposed former general of a evil regent. He couldn't follow orders to commit atrocities and rebelled. Corvin Tergsvor a nobleman in hiding and total ass hat. The Markiza Welgory and her much younger "boy toy" who is doing work on behalf of her ailing husband. And finally Madame Ivanja the varisian harrow reader and Madam of the not so secret brothel in the north tower at the lodge. Ivanja took a liking to Zuri and Nisha started to plot murder....by crushing her breakfast roll into a tiny, inedible ball. We then decided who is doing what today. Zuri is researching In the library, Thredorik is checking out the lodge grounds and investigating the out buildings and Julian and Nisha will look into the bloodied lodge invite they found in the web weavers lair.


Zuri's all day researching didn't yield any new information but he does note that this library does have records about the Whispering Way cult and that is impressive. He will return tomorrow. Julian and Nisha find out that the invitation was for a Echtmoor Dravin the guest, and good friend, of Silas Graydon. Later on the day Silas does find out about this and approaches the party. We explain everything and give Silas his friends personal possessions and he thanks and rewards us. Thredorik checks out the grounds, searches through the porter's home and finally makes his way to the north tower where he discovers its 'secret'. He meets Madame Ivanja who offers to make him an 'appointment' later in the evening but doesn't know any other info about the goings on in the area.


We all meet up for dinner and discuss the days findings and plan for the next day. After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast Zuri, Thredorik and Julian head to the research library to continue searching about. Nisha decides to wait outside the library as research isn't her thing. We also ask Estovian if he can point us in the direction of any reference books about the local werewolf tribes. He shows us a stack of adventurer journals and said they may be some help. He then excused himself and went about his business within the lodge. Thredorik noticed something amiss with one of the journals and upon a more thorough inspection found a few dog eared pages as well as a hand written note about researching something called the 'Halo of Dreams' in the upstairs library. He placed the note back in where he needed it to be so it looked undisturbed and Zuri, Julian and Thredorik surmised that perhapse more info will be found in Estovians private office upstairs in the back of the library. We alert Nisha to our plan of snooping about while he is away and have Dragos help keep an eye out for Estovian if he is returning.


Thredorik handily unlocks the office door and we do notice that this is a records room with a small library collection as well. A very high 'perception' check from Thredorik and 10 minutes of searching later and we find all we need. We first see Estovian likes the old ways of having a ruling monarchy and all his propaganda letters show this. We also find an old journal that belonged to a priest of Desna called the 'Halo of Dreams' that talks about a holy artifact of Desna known as 'The Dusk Moth' and how it was built into a temple called The Stairs of the Moon. And finally we find Estovian's journal that details his dealings with the Mordrinacht werewolves but also The Whispering Way cult and how he arranged a meeting for them within the past few days. Also inculded in this is the rough location of 'The Stairs' and notes this is where the werewolf tribes host their moots. It also mentions how the cultists visited Madame Ivanja as well before departing. Zuri and Julian agree we can't let Estovian know we discovered what is going on and have Thredorik put everything back the way it was found. ** DM note: for this I gave Thredorik a 'slight of hand' skill check and he rolled a ridiculously high number. This became my DC for Estovian to notice if anything was amiss in his office.**


We left the office, Thredorik relocked the door and wiped off the knob to remove fingerprints (by using Zuri's shirt) and we gathered Nisha and Dragos and went back to our rooms to plan. We agreed we need to visit Madame Ivanja to question her and Thredorik kept pushing Zuri to do it. Nisha didn't look too happy about that. We also agree we need to get to 'The Stairs of the Moon' as well as this pack moot will be taking place and we might catch The Whispering Way cultists who killed Professor Lorimar there. Estovian's journal gave a vague description of the area the temple is in but we don't know who in the lodge has seen it (and we don't want to alert Estovian to our findings). So we start to do some more Scooby investigating around the lodge. Starting with the lodge's master hunter Delgros.


Delgros was in the midst of sharing stories to the lodge patrons and after they dispursed he wanted to know what we wanted. After a quick question if he knew about the 'Stairs' he said he never seen them before and recommened we ask some of the other lodge staff before departing. We tried to speak with Madame Ivanja as well but she was 'busy with appointments' and to come back tomorrow by her well armed guards outside her tower. So we decided to speak with Silas Graydon as he was willing to offer any help to us in light of assisting him with his missing friend. After dinner we approached Silas in the great hall and asked to speak to him. He asked if we needed to speak in private and we followed him back to his chambers. When we got into the room he was talking about general pleasantries loudly while rolling up a heavy blanket and placing it at the crack at the base of the door. The he partially closed the flue in the fireplace because, as Thredorik noticed on our first day there, all the chimneys are connected and you can hear people speaking by the fireplaces from anywhere in the lodge. We ask him about the area and he noted his military experience and retrieved some topographical maps of the area and using the description helped to determine it is to the south west of the lodge approximately 8 miles away. We thanked him and he told us to keep him abreast of the situations here and he will keep an ear out for any rumblings around the lodge.

We returned to our rooms and apparently Zuri and Nisha began to have a 'discussion' of some kind about how much she dislikes that 'varisian whore' aka Madame Ivanja. Apparently the dwarf is blessed with Superman level hearing and trys to spy on this but is busted by Zuri. Thredorik goes downstairs into the lodge to get a snack and plan on how he can peep on this disagreement. However this fight ends as Nisha, who is failing to find the words, plants a long kiss on Zuri then tries to leave. Obviously he stops her and they talk it out. Both like each other but never knew how to breach it. Things have changed. Speaking of changing, while the discussion was on, Julian got dressed nicely and quietly left his room by around 10pm. Unfortunately Thredorik spotted him leaving the lodge proper and followed behind to see Julian going into Madame Ivanja's tower. Now Thredorik decides to be a letch and spy on this going on by using his grappling hook in the rear of the tower to climb up to a window. When he reaches the window he seeing Julian going into one of the rooms and the door closes behind. Thredorik then jimmys open the window and climbs in and listens at the door to hear a woman speaking in a foreign language. So Thredorik goes one floor down to the lounge area and waits for Julian who finally makes an appearance at around 2am. Julian is suprised by the appearance of El Sleazo waiting for him and he leaves the tower. Thredorik realizes if he goes out the front door the guard will get him so he goes back out the window and heads back to the lodge where Julian was waiting for him at the doors. 'Not a word.' is the only thing Julian says to the dwarf before heading inside. And this is where we broke for the night.


Now this was kind of a pain in the ass for me to run. I chose to go the AP route because all the information and flow of the story is laid out in a neat package that doesn't require the DM to write out copious notes about NPC's and such. This section of book three is also called 'a railroad' in the book by the author but is in no way laid out as such. All the NPC's are front loaded into the beginning of the lodge entry instead of being placed at appropriate spots during the 'events' at the lodge that triggers their meets. I guess it was going for a more organic feel but when railroading its not going to be organic. It moves at a specific pace. This book does a bad job of placing out info to the DM. And that was my failing: I assumed that I didn't have to do more work to run this AP than needed. For the first two books it wasn't a problem but the author of book three has made my life hell. I ran an AP to get away from campaign notes and adventure design, I didn't subscribe to Paizo's AP's so I could keep doing it. But that is my failing. I didn't prepare more. I didn't have a firmer grasp of the info and I had to wing it at a few points only to have their locations (the information I missed) pointed out by a player a few minutes later. I'm owning this. This is my fault. Apparently I need to do more work again. No 'fun' was lost so I still feel I did ok. I will try to correct this for our next game on Feb. 4th.

Now back to the player pointing out information to me I missed. I know this was done as a help only and wasn't meant as anything but.....but after the game ended and I started thinking about it I was bothered by the fact a player had access to the module I was running while they were playing it. I don't like that at all. And I'm going on record saying that I won't allow this in the future either. So to any of my players out there be it Carrion Crown, Runelords or any future players I may have that read this....don't bring any copies of modules to the game (physical or electronic). If you want to help out and show were I missed something wait until the end of the session. Same goes for rules disputes wait until the end of the game and we will go over it. I just don't want players to have access to the story and stats I'm using while I'm running it for you. That is not fair to me, not fair to the other players either and could be concidered cheating. I know it wasn't in this situation however but it bothered me none the less.


And this concludes all of the happenings of the last Carrion Crown game. Sorry it took so long but one gets burned out writing about varisian whores and peeping dwarfs after awhile.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Carrion Crown: Through the Shudderwood to Ascanor Lodge Part 2




So the heroes reached the Ascanor Lodge after a five day travel through the Shudderwood. They were greeted by some very friendly and well armed guards...not really. The intrepid adventurers were told to 'piss off you dirty serfs'. After some more haggling and presenting the letter from Count Caromarc the guards relented and summoned the lodge's porter. What happened then you ask?


The Players

Matt
- Thredorik Trapspringer (male dwarven rogue 7 / uncouth / peeping tom)
Jess  -  Nisha  (female tiefling fighter(weapon master kit) 7 / combat monster....literally / professed her serious 'like' to Zuri)
Charles - Zuri (male aasimar wizard 7 / varisian wanderer/ harrow reader / admitted his 'like' to Nisha and that she scares him)
Charles - Dragos ( Zuri's raven familiar / smart ass / found out about gold leaf pastries in Caliphas/ LOVES pastries and shinies)
Me - Julian Du Marc ( male human cleric of Pharasma 7 / NPC/PC / stoic / has a secret)
Me again - DM (DM / rules dude / story mover-along-er / still bribed by pie or hot cocoa/ bribes of hot cocoa and cookies were offered by Jess and Charles........not Matt......not forgetting that snub)



The lodge's porter, while in front of the party, proceeds to examine the Count's letter with extreme scrutiny. Checking the seal, examining the paper, making sure the ink is dry and any/everything in his little halfling powers as porter to prove this was a forgery. Naturally he failed. So in response he does the mature thing....he tells us that we do not have a reservation at the lodge and will not gain admittance and we should leave now. And porter Belik of Courtlaud turns on his heels and walks off. The party tries to reason with him and then the fireworks begin! Belik turns on his heels and begins to insult their state and appearance, belittling Nisha for being less than a woman as well. I believe he called her a 'thing'. Zuri becomes visibly angry and begins to argue back and defend Nisha's honor as a crowd of patrons at the lodge begin to gather at the gate to watch the show. Thredorik tries to work up to the gate and unlock it to get to Belik but is met by the six armed guards all of which have their hands on their blades.


During all of this commotion a gruff, almost feral looking hunter pushed through the crowd of nobles and leaves the gates while being followed by a younger nobleman and his hired help. This hunter, Delgros Kroitzcer, is the lodges master hunter and leads nobles on expiditions for 'big game'. This time his 'client', Duristan Silvio Ariesir, is very impatient and over excited about this hunt. Duristan notices the group of heroes and calls to them to 'fall in line for a hunt'. After he is met with apathy and Julian telling him to 'get bent', he realizes that these are not normal hirelings but full fledged adventurers and Duristan immediately apologizes and formally introduces himself and politely asks if they would be of assistance in a hunt he has organized. The prize: werewolves. Duristan goes on about the need for seasoned adventurers on this and upon seeing their dismissal at the gates on the lodge, makes an offer of inviting them as his personal guests and paying for their lodging for as long as they stay. All the while Duristan was verbally bashing Belik the porter the entire time.


After a quick discussion, and realization they are getting nowhere with the porter, they accept Duristan's offer and join him on his werewolf hunt. While riding out they get caught up on the events that during one of Delgros's hunts early this morning for a great stag in the area that group was beset upon by large, furry, fanged beasts that drove off the other nobles and broke up the hunt. Which prevented Delgros from claiming the stag's carcass. During this ride out to the encounter site Duristan was flirting Nisha up and down a blue streak. Being that he was greatly 'impressed' with a warrior woman is an understatement. Zuri, Thredorik and Julian decided to stay out of this flatter fest and have a conversation in a different language so to not be understood. Julian stated his concerns that Duristan seemed brash and his plans seemed hasty. This bothered him as he felt his rash behavior will get people killed. Also it was noted Julian felt that Duristan's boasting of killing three werewolves was out of luck alone and not skill.


When they arrived at the sight Delgros exclaimed that the stag's carcass is gone and the huntsman, the noble, the lackeys and the heroes start looking around for it. Nisha makes an impressive 'survival' check and finds a trail of blood and matted down foliage which leads them to the carcass and the three dire boars who were feeding on it. Combat ensues, three large slabs of wild bacon created, more investigation continues. Julian does a 'heal' check on the wounds the carcass has and notes the arrow marks, the tusk marks from the boars and another set of very sharp teeth that he can't identify. There are also other footprints around that do not resemble the boars by the carcass. This excites Duristan and he insists they set up camp here and wait for the werewolves. Delgros dislikes that idea greatly exclaiming there are no werewolves out here and that intelligent people will return to the lodge with him. Duristan reminds the party of their arrangement and they stay with him at the camp. Drinking mead by campfire ensues. Duristan asks to hear all about our adventures. Henchmen on patrol around the campsite.


Late into the night when the booze was out and the dwarf was totally tanked we hear a muffled cry from the woods and then another scream. We then notice only two of the six henchmen have made it back to camp. Gathering up our weapons, and drunken dwarf, we head off towards the sound. Nisha leads the way with great axe at the ready and we come across a horrible scene. A twisted and mangled bloodied body of a henchman and another grasped within the jaws of a large, feral werewolf. The beast dropped the body and demanded to know why we are within the woods! Zuri, being the diplomatic one, tried to give an explanation but the monster cut his explanation short and accused us of aligning ourselves with a Mathus Mordrinacht and the Silverhide tribe. We were threatened that no Silverhide will sit on the Highthrone and continued support of such will have the other tribes waging a bloody war on the lodge and all within. At this point another werewolf appears from the wood next to its companion and we are told to run back to the lodge like good little sheep.


We hold our ground for a moment and try to speak but we are cut off by snarling and one of the werewolves howl into the darkness. Then we start to hear all the others replay back and soon the stillness of the wood is eclipsed by numerous werewolves howling a warning....you are NOT alone here! We head back to camp, collect Duristan and his two remaining men and make haste back to Ascanor Lodge where Duristan gets us through the gates.


And now this is where I feel I started to falter with my DMing and some bits of the story get muddled and I have to retrofit a few tidbits. But that will be covered in part three. Damn the party sure did a hell of alot of stuff this past game!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Carrion Crown: Through the Shudderwood to Ascanor Lodge Part 1





My Carrion Crown PFRPG AP resumed from its holiday hiatus to kick off book three, 'Broken Moon', and so far the party did quite well with the mystery at hand. So much so they could have even broken the module and changed the course of the story itself. Fear not, its not a 'divide by zero' level error where the entire cosmos implodes and Michael Bay wins a 'Best Director' Oscar. But it *can* cause a ripple effect through the remaining books. In a good way for the players as well. I bet they are surprised as hell to read that! Wether or not that module breaking even occurs is dependant on their actions next game on Feburary 4th.


The Players

Matt
- Thredorik Trapspringer (male dwarven rogue 7 / uncouth / peeping tom)
Jess  -  Nisha  (female tiefling fighter(weapon master kit) 7 / combat monster....literally / professed her serious 'like' to Zuri)
Charles - Zuri (male aasimar wizard 7 / varisian wanderer/ harrow reader / admitted his 'like' to Nisha and that she scares him)
Charles - Dragos ( Zuri's raven familiar / smart ass / found out about gold leaf pastries in Caliphas/ LOVES pastries and shinies)
Me - Julian Du Marc ( male human cleric of Pharasma 7 / NPC/PC / stoic / has a secret)
Me again - DM (DM / rules dude / story mover-along-er / still bribed by pie or hot cocoa/ bribes of hot cocoa and cookies were offered by Jess and Charles........not Matt......I'll remember that)

We left off with our adventurers reaching the forgotten hunting trail through the Shudderwood that Count Caromarc suggested they travel on to catch up to the agents of the Whispering Way cult. The Shudderwood is a region of dense, tall pine trees that allow little sunlight through. Dead pine needles cover the ground and not much grows here. Its also a home to a few werewolf packs that are embroiled in a power struggle for leadership in the wood. But we'll touch on that later.


The first day of travel through the wood was uneventful except that by 5pm it was pitch black and soundless. We set up camp and took watch. Julian volunteered for first watch. Around midnight Julian noticed something moving up in the trees above the campsite. I rolled really REALLY high on his perception check and the beasties rolled really REALLY poorly on stealth. Julian lightly woke up Thredorik, Nisha and Zuri to let them know of this. With their dark vision and a decent roll by Thredorik on a knowledge check they knew they were dealing with four ettercaps. The ettercaps leaped down from the trees and surrounded the ready adventurers. Combat ensued. Ettercaps died left and right with one actually escaping into the woods.


Quickly we chased it down and a 'magic missile' and 'acid splash' later and the monster went down....in front of a partially collapsed tower in a clearing in the woods. Suspecting that this was its lair we kept our guard up. Zuri and Thredorik started to hear a soft song being sung within the tower and wanted to investigate. They made a perception check to hear the song and failed the will save to not be compelled to follow the music. And off into the tower they go! Julian and Nisha following close by and looking worried. As soon as Zuri stepped through the collapsed wall into the tower the music stopped and he and Thredorik both snapped out of the haze. Zuri noticed the webbing through out the interior and the six large cocoons hanging from the ceiling. Thredorik noticed they were covered in thin strands of webbing and the large hole in the ground about twenty feet up. And then the ground shook and a large monstrous human female/spider/maggot hybrid erupted out of the hole with a keening screech and began to assault the party.

Combat ensues. Thredorik makes a 'knowledge: dungeoneering' check and realizes its a Web Weaver. An abomination that is revered by ettercaps as almost a goddess. And boy was she pissed off and hungry looking too! She spits a sticky web stream at Zuri snagging him and dragging him towards her. Nisha charges in to engage and instead receives an AOO that ends up paralyzing her via the fluids on the beasts claws. Thredorik tumbles in to assist by flanking, Julian hangs back to healing burst as needed. Zuri on his turn casts 'burning hands' and the flames burn the beast while burning away the webbing he is stuck to. Nisha comes around and starts hacking into the beast with Thredorik's help. The Weaver then grabs Zuri and drops him into her nest in the ground where he lands in a wet and gooey mass. Its probably poo.


Eventually the party gets the upper hand from the physical assault on the surface and the 'lightling bolt' Zuri cast from underneath. They search the lair, find some loot and a corpse of a noble with a blood stained letter with wax seal on it. We decided to not open it as it looks similar to the writ we received from Count Caromarc for entrance into the only habitable area of the Shudderwood, the Ascanor Lodge. A large hunting lodge for the wealthy of Ustalav. Julian insists to give the nobleman a proper burial before turning to sleep at camp.


The next three days go by with out incident. On the fourth day of travel we come across a gristly sight in the wood. A human man strung up in a tree by his wrists, his feet tied down to stakes in the ground. He also has some kind of purple flowers stuffed into his mouth and a solid silver hunting knife driven into his chest. Thredorik goes to investigate and before he gets to the body he notices a trip wire hidden in the pine needles. This trap he found will release a barrage of crossbow bolts from crossbows mounted in the trees directly in front of the body. He easily disables the trap and can reset it without problems. We check out the body and nothing seems wrong with him except that he's dead with a silver hunting knife plunged into his heart. We also can't identify the flowers in his mouth. Julian takes a few petals to get identified later. We decided that this display was a warning of some kind and decided to leave it be. Before we go Zuri, while checking out the crossbow bolts, sees some kind of alchemical salve spread on the tips but the effect has expired so he can't identify what it is. We move on and after a few more hours we set camp for the night.

The next day we travel for about an hour before the trail reaches a main road that leads us to the gates of the lodge. The lodge was only minutes from where we reached the main road. The woods were so dense that we couldn't see the lodge from where we were camping the night before. We ride up to the main gates, the only entrance to the grounds as a ten foot wall surrounds the grounds and its numerous buildings within. Ascanor Lodge is the size of many mansions combined together and has numerous out buildings all of which are done in a rustic log cabin look. A very expensive log cabin for very wealthy nobles and former royals. At the gates six guards stop us and tell us to leave as we don't look like we belong here (read: poor and dirty commoners). We produce Count Caromarc's writ for access and they take it to the lodge's porter to verify. This is where things get interesting.


But we'll get to that in part two. The lodge is a large scale mystery with numerous named NPC's and alot of writing needs to be done to do it justice. I also need more space to add some anecdotes about how I was screwing up while running this part and player reactions to events that unfolded.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Kingdoms of Amalur:Reckoning first impressions.

Today in between contacting my representatives about dropping SOPA/PIPA and trying to get others on faceypage to do the same I downloaded the demo to EA's new RPG for the X360/PS3/PC. Naturally I went with the X360 version.

So my initial impression is its a mash up of Dragon Age:Origins and Fable 3 with the graphics and color palette of World of Warcraft. These are all meant as compliments. The story of how your character has broken the threads of fate by being brought back to life and now is without one (fate) and can forge their own is kind of neat. This is going on during a confrontation between the mortal races and the immortal fey. Obviously you will have something to do with this war.


The game plays as an action game, like Fable 3, with it's quick change of weapons and spells, movement in and out of combat and the like. Leveling reminds me more of the Dragon Age style with using points gained to pick up abilities in one of three areas; basically strength,skill or magic. It works fast and it's easy to understand. You can also use the character creator to make your own avatar in the demo. It's not bad but it's nowhere as complex and robust as Skyrim or even Saints Row The Third.


Music was big and epic, sound effects were strong and voice acting wasn't bad. The graphics are not as cartoony as WoW's but they are somewhat cartoony and the color palette is bright and vibrant even in dungeon settings. It's real easy on my eyes.


The most important part of this was I enjoyed playing it and now this game is on my radar. If my wife enjoys this game too, and she loved Fable and Dragon Age franchises, then we'll probably get this. I'd say check this out if you want a break from playing Skyrim since before Thanksgiving.

More 5th Edition rumblings from Monte.

I know some of this came out on Monday but that is a holiday so I was goofing off. Tuesday I was busy becoming the Genkibowl VII Champion in Saints Row: The Third. Priorities people!


Anyhow at Monte's newest Legends and Lore article he chats up a bit more about where this project is heading and I'll be damned if my one rambling from a week ago isn't the direction. It seems like its going to be a bizzaro rule set that will allow flexablilty between Basic D&D players all the way through current editions. It seems like you'll get to pick and choose how simple or complex you want your game/character/experience to be.


My gut reaction is telling me is to 'kill it with fire', but until I actually sit down and try it out I will reserve judgement (hopefully in the playtest). I'll give them credit this is a bold step on how to present D&D. I will also note that I feel this is the curtain call for the brand if it fails. I don't think Hasbro is going to give them a 6th Edition if this misses the mark. For people that play or have played D&D in the past this next year will be pretty interesting.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Communication Breakdown: Being Hip VS Being a Hipster

Earlier today I ended up insulting a friend of mine after a video post he made on that faceypage thing. Lesson number one is to be more careful about what I write on the Internet because tone and intent are hard to judge through a text block. I was just joking around.


I also started to consider that what I call a "hipster" could be extremely different than what my friends think. So I would like to take some time to talk about that and try to clear up any confusion just in case I open my trap and go piss off somebody again.


So what does 'being hip' mean anyways? Well according to Dictionary.com it is the following:

hip

Slang . adjective
1. familiar with or informed about the latest ideas, styles, developments, etc.: My parents aren't exactly hip, you know.
2. considered aware of or attuned to what is expected, especially with a casual or knowing air; cool: The guy was not at all hip—a total nerd.
3. in agreement or willing to cooperate; going along: noun
4. Also, hip·ness. the condition or state of being hip.

Being well informed about latest ideas, developments, etc. Also noted was cool. I know people like this in life. Heck, one of the guys I may have insulted in accident *IS* this very definition. He's hip.
So what about 'being a hipster'?

Go to Urban Dictionary and you will find multiple 'definitions' of varying degrees of love/loathe towards the topic. There is an assortment of definitions from positive ones like:

"The term "hipster" is cross-applied from the 1930s Beatniks. The modern hipster is a composite of individuals with a certain bohemian life situation and lifestyle. He or she rejects "mainstream" culture and embraces and contributes to independent culture, and prides him/herself on this. The modern hipster image has been proliferated through the internet, publications such as Vice Magazine, and sightings in the music, fashion, and art world. The image of the hipster is constantly changing, but several aspects have stayed constant over time. Lives in a young, artsy neighborhood of a major city such as Wicker Park in Chicago, Greenwich Village in Manhattan, or Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Usually has some degree of monetary conformability, although sometimes only because of their parents, due to cost of living in these areas. Works (or wants to work) in music, art, or fashion. Has "elitist" music taste and listens to nu-rave (i.e. The Klaxons, Cut Copy, Hercules and Love Affair), minimalist techno, independent rap (i.e. Spank Rock, Talib Kweli, Aesop Rock), nerdcore (i.e. YT Cracker, MC Lars, MC Chris), Elephant 6 (i.e. of Montreal, Neutral Milk Hotel, Apples in Stereo), garage rock, and punk rock in addition to all manners of independent rock. Favorite band is very likely Bright Eyes, The Arcade Fire, The Arctic Monkeys, The Libertines, The Strokes, or something of that nature. Also watches independent and foreign films and reads independent books, magazines, and periodicals. Is a fan of modern art and may also be an amateur artist. Dresses in a progressive but retro fashion that is often changing. Popular items include leggings, mini-skirts, leg warmers, '60s dresses, headbands, chunky jewelry, and large shirts and sweaters for girls and skinny suits and ties, tight jeans and cords, t-shirts with ironic sayings and images, cardigans, plaid and buffalo check shirts, colorful hoodies, and tight windbreakers for guys. Both genders frequently wear dirty Vans and Converses, flamboyant Nikes, large plastic frame glasses, and neon wayfarer sunglasses and are sometimes pierced and tattooed. Shops at Urban Outfitters, American Apparel, and thrift stores. Likes to hang out at fashionable coffee shops, indie rock shows, and hipster dance clubs. Does food shopping at stores like Whole Foods and is often vegan or vegetarian. Eats chic ethnic food and prefers organic and Fair Trade fruits and vegetables. Favorite beer is Pabst Blue Ribbon. Takes up many causes and is often socially minded. Enjoys irony in all facets of life, from fashion (wears mismatching outfits and unpopular vintage clothing often emblazoned with ironic sayings) to sports (plays in dodgeball tournaments at McCarren Park Pool). May ride a fixed-gear bicycle or a hybrid car. Networks through Myspace, Facebook, and/or Twitter. Usually rejects the term "hipster" and argues if called one."

To the least favorable ones such as:
"Aged indie kids, Hipsters still maintain the air of snobbery, still shop at salvation army, and still have a completely astonishing array of knowledge when it comes to obscure music, pop-culture non-sequiturs, and political sneers. Absolutely a blast to be friends with, hell to be enemies of, hipsters are the most bi-polar of all the stereotypes when it comes to how they treat you. Can be recognized by books like "The Clockwork Orange", "Everything is Illuminated", or obscure philosophy books, by authors akin to  Dostoevsky."

Or this:

"Someone who listens to bands you've never heard of, wears ironic tee-shirts, and believes they are better than you."

Its the last one that is the reason I despise the term 'hipster' all together. And while there are the more positive and endearing 'hip' people out there (please PLEASE just call yourselves hip from now on) the ones that revel in the idea of being better than everyone else and using their sense of irony to fuel cruel jokes on unsuspecting people need the boot to the head. And those are the ones that dwell around the area where I live.

What do I mean by using their sense of irony to fuel cruel jokes? Well in the most extreme cases this repugnant form of hipster will inject him/herself into some kind of social situation that is deemed 'uncool' by them but they'll be there because its ironic. However they take the next step in this sick indulgence by fakely immersing themselves in this social structure, making themselves seem part of this, which allow the people who usually do this because they genuinely enjoy it to relax and become comfortable. At that point their defenses are down and the hipsters delight in watching these poor folk make asses out of themselves. Its a joke that nobody else is aware of. Its cruel and twisted. If you want to insult me and what I do have the stones just to say it to my face or in public. Hiding out amongst us as the proverbial 'wolf in sheep's clothing' is just pathetic. Hell even 'Candid Camera' let people in on the joke eventually. And dear god have I dated myself with that reference....

These are the hipsters. Self righteous, pompous, too cool for thou douche bags that are as far removed from being educated and enlightened as humanly possible. These vile creatures do roam in small packs, usually dress like the 80's just threw up on them, claim independence but buy all their clothes at Hot Topic, Urban Outfitters and where ever else the herd grazes at. Also like to play ironic jokes on the unsuspecting.
Now back to the hip. For your reference here is some photos of people I think are hip.

Anthony Bourdain

Frank

Hunter S.

Jamie and Adam

The Original Not Ready for Prime Time Players

Warren Ellis

 Fuck You! The Fonz IS cool!!

Chefs, TV personalities, musicians, TV characters, writers and even Warren Ellis are 'hip'. On many degrees they hold that definition.

Now for easier identification here are what the hipsters look like that are the antithesis of being hip. They have gone full on douche.






So if I do tend to rip on Hipsters in the future this is what I have been referring to. The hipster of my disdain isn't the educated, open minded, cool individual that I enjoy associating with. Those people are just hip. Hipsters are the opposite hiding behind a faux sense of 'better than thou' and trying to find irony at any level just so they can come off as cool. Its not cool. It sucks.  

And to my friends reading this that I may have offended I hope you see that our definitions of the word 'hipster' are two very different animals and I wasn't trying to offend. Next time I'll be more careful about what I write on faceyspace. Its a learning experience. And besides learning and self growth are both hip, right?                                              





Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Council of Thieves: Welcome to Westcrown





Saturday continued my descent into playing more actively as Jim took over the reigns from me and started the 'The Council of Thieves' AP for Pathfinder. This is the game that will take over for the 'Rise of the Runelords' game for the time being. As usual I will chronicle what happened and add my own thoughts on the game, good or bad. Luckily it was good. Now let's introduce the heroes from the game.



The Players:

Jess - Naustia ( half elf Oracle of Life 1/ haunted curse/ out of her element)
Brian - Semkirk ( human Wizard 1/Orthomancer/insane/hairless/ONLY wears a kilt)
Matt - Capt. Maxmillian Wintrish (human Cavalier 1/minor drunk/omni-sexual)
Mike - Morris Seadrake (half orc Ranger 1/two weapon specialist/friends call him Morrey)
Bruce - D'in a Lorn ( half elf Rogue 1/information collector/friends call him Din)
Me - Arghen (half orc Paladin of Cayden Cailean 1/bartender in Westcrown/friendly & humble)
Jim - DM (our DM/does DM things/rolls dice to hurt our PC's/enjoys his job...)


The session began with Din getting a message from another townie asking to meet her to discuss a matter of importance, urgency and secrecy. Naturally the rogue liked all three of those and went to check out this meeting. When there he was introduced to a fellow townie in a new light as one who is trying to start a secret revolution against the corruption and tyranny in the area. That the local citizens of Westcrown are suffering under the boot heel of the Thrice Damned Throne that rules over Cheliax and how she and others like her want to help those suffering and restore Westcrown to its former glory and prosperity.



Din was then given a list of other people that her husband was checking out as potential allies which, coincidentally, are the other PC's. And Din begins to meet with us over the next few days to invite us to this meeting and to do some reconnaissance on each of us as well.



For me this intro was pretty clunky and didn't flow very well. One big reason was while most of us are already vested in Westcrown as locals Jess's character (and maybe even Brian's character too) was traveling through and doesn't have any connection to us at all. If I would have done it I would have started this off in a tavern (cliche I know) where we all would have been at to either eat, drink or get room for the night. A group of HellKnight recruits would have been harassing some local folks and the 'heroes' are given a chance to stand up to the bullies and beat their asses in public. Not only would that bring us together a bit easier but now gives all of us credentials as possible allies to this uprising and reason for the non-local PC's to be asked to join. It's a minor nitpick but I felt our meeting just felt forced. I think it was some DM rust at play and the rest of the night was much better and smoother once that rust got shook out.



So we all get invited to meet at this new tavern that is opening in town for a private dinner and to discuss what all this secrecy is about. Arghen arrives extra early, when the delivery wagons arrive to introduce himself and inquire about work as a bartender. Why not since I have 'profession:bartender' as a skill. He shows some good faith by helping unload the wagons and helping set up of the dinner even though he is a guest. Din arrives at an early time as well to see Arghen beat him there but he hides back to check on activity around the building and to see when the others arrive and greet them. We all sit down and discuss what is going on locally and our new patron, who's name escapes me now, decides we are a good fit and brings us on board when we agree to help. She is looking nervous though and after a few 'sense motive' checks a few of us know she's on edge. Arghen asks her politely why she's looking out towards the windows and she tells us she's worried as her husband, and leader of this, hasn't arrived yet. I get up to close the shutters on the windows and put the bar on the door as a precaution and some extra security.



After dinner concludes there is a pounding on the door. Arghen goes and answers it and a child, out of breath, staggers in to tell us her husband was captured by the local HellKnight garrison and will be taken away to be executed for treason and they are sending a detachment of HellKnights to capture all of us. Our patron leads us to a secret passage into the sewers so we all can escape. She quickly warns us about some of the dangers in the sewers, goblins and the errant shadow beast, but as long as we follow a particular symbol she marked the walls with when they first came across this passage we can find our way out. She takes the kid and will make a distraction for any following HellKnights so we can escape.



The sewer passageways are only 5 feet high in most spots so we are all stooped over and it makes movement difficult. There are some larger areas down there that open up so we can stand and fight. Luckily we come across one and within are three HellKnight initiates who are lost but are still searching for us. We get the drop on them and Arghen approaches to offer them a chance to walk away but they instead threaten us and attack. Combat ensues and now there are dead HellKnights at our feet.


Moving along we encountered some zombies in a cramped tunnel that was hiding out in the 'poo water' in the sewer. Now almost all of us are hunched over and two handed weapons (like Arghen's great axe) are useless here. Of course I could just drop into the poo water for extra room. Nope, I decide to punch the zombie nearest to me. I actually got two good hits on it as well. Morrey jumped into the poo water, so did Capt. Max. Morrey failed a Dex check and stepped on something in the water and fell prone in it. Ewww.
Mouth full of poo water ensued. Combat continued. Zombies re-dead-ed. We move on upwind from Morrey and Max.


Finally we reach another larger chamber where we hear some approaching HellKnights coming from our rear. We take up defensible positions and prepare to engage as needed. Arghen stepped up to the entry way with Max at his left, Morrey behind him, Din off to the right with bow ready and Naustia and Semkirk in the rear ready to give magical assistance.


While I'm talking about magical assistance I need to clarify what it means when I said Semkirk was an Orthomancer in the player introduction. He's a dentist/wizard. A scholar of molar and arcane. Basically he's a total loon. His spell effects also have a very dental theme about them too. For example when he casts 'Magic Missle' the unerring bolt of force resembles a small mouth of snapping teeth streaking at its target. 'Ray of Frost' was renamed 'Frost-Bite' for similar reasons. This is my friend Brian.


*face palm*


Well Arghen (me) issued a notice to surrender and avoid any further bloodshed as we have the three HellKnights outnumbered and have the advantage of terrain. This group had a lieutenant who decided calling Arghen a 'filthy half breed' and charging to attack was the better option. Combat commenced. Arghen already readied an action to attack the first opponent who got in front of him so the leader was the target. Arghen called out to Cayden Cailean to smite his foe and power attacked straight into this armored opponent splitting him like an over ripened melon with his great axe. The then looked up at the other two and offered a surrender option to them. One took it, the other charged into combat. Max stepped out and kept the attacker at bay with his hammer and shield fighting stance while whittling him down to unconscious.


While this was happening Naustia was scanning the surroundings and noticed a large group of six goblins approaching from another passageway. She yelled this out and Morrey, Din, Semkirk and she began to fight the swarm of the grimy devils. When Arghen knew Max had the HellKnight under control he stepped up to assist the others. And boy were those goblins a pain in the ass! Being small meant their armor class got bonuses and it made hitting them difficult. Except for Semkirk and his magic toothy missiles. Eventually the goblins were put down and the two surviving HellKnights were stripped of their weapons and armor and Arghen told them to "Take this as a new beginning for their lives. A gift of freedom shouldn't be squandered, it should be embraced. Be something greater than what you were. Now run."


The heroes eventually made it out of the sewers and into a hideout for the rebels in Westcrown where we got cleaned up, fed and caught up on what was going to happen to our patron's husband. We now knew the HellKnights were going to transport him to their citadel for interrogation then execution tomorrow during the day. We know the route to the citadel and plan an ambush to rescue him with the help of the rebels. All we needed to do was borrow a wagon from them they wouldn't mind us 'breaking'.


So the next morning we ride out from Westcrown early to set up. The carriage and escorts will be coming through around mid-day so we have time. First we disable our wagon so it looks like a breakdown. Naustia asks Arghen what is the religion the knights follow and he tells them Asmodeus like most in Cheliax. She reaches into her pouch and pulls out a wooden holy symbol of Asmodeus and says she will fake being a cleric on the way to the citadel. Morrey takes a hiding spot under the bridge we chose as our ambush spot, Din hides out along some large stones by the waters edge while Semkirk and Arghen hide in the grove of trees.


Mid-day arrives and the carriage comes thundering up the road to the bridge to see Max and Naustia calling for help. The HellKnights, in their arrogance, only offer threats and demands to move the wagon. Max tried to convince them that they were on their way to have his lady (Naustia) take holy orders at the citadel but their commanding officer rebuked that saying no such orders are being performed. As our ruse was starting to break the rebels swarmed up from the south to draw attention. The four knights on horseback rode off after them into some freshly placed caltrops that caused the horses to buck their riders off into the ground.


Morrey took this as his cue and came up from under the bridge, scimitar in hand, and sliced through the reigns of one of the wagon's horses loosening it. Semkirk fired off a flare spell into the face of one of the six carriage knights disorienting them, Max approached ready for combat while Din snuck up behind one of the rear carriage guards and knocked him out with a sneak attack with his sap. Arghen left the treeline, great axe in hand and motioned to the commander to 'bring it'. Combat ensues.


The commander gets down from the carriage and throws insults at Arghen and Arghen calls for divine aid then charges the commander. During the charge Jim asked me to roll perception and I rolled high enough to see this guy was very afraid as he had the sweats and was trembling. I swing with all my might with the great axe and flip the blade so the flat strikes only. Now with the penalty for striking for non lethal damage is -4 on the roll, plus a +2 bonus for charging, +1 bonus for the smite and -1 for power attack. I rolled high enough that I hit his AC (18) dead on. I successfully dealt him 23 points of non lethal damage rendering the commander unconscious. When that happened I played a plot twist card giving me a +20 bonus to a diplomacy check where I asked the three knights that watched me do that to surrender. I roll and the total comes out to 39 on the check. They break on their next turn and haul ass out of there. Max and Morrey subdue the last of the ones showing resistance on their turn. Arghen searches the commander for keys to the holding cell in the carriage and gives them to Din to get out the prisoner. After the rescue we get his belongings back from the storage compartment on the carriage and get out of the area.


We get back to the hideout and while the rest of the party goes inside with our newly rescued contact Arghen, Max and Naustia return the horses to the stables nearby where we come across the bellows of a pompous ass of a man yelling at the stable master about his lack of horses he requested. Arghen interjects in a friendly manner that his horses are now ready for him. Mr. Blowhard drops the 'half breed' comment liberally and Arghen smiles and begins to brush down the horses. Mr. Blowhard then catches notice of Naustia and begins to hit on her with the tenacity of a malnourished rust monster attacking a few copper coins. After flirting with her hardcore he gives her two tickets to the local opera house where he is one of the performers. We give Naustia credit for not vomiting after he rode off on a horse.


We go into the house to then acquaint ourselves with the person we saved. He thanks up profusely and lets us know he his a cleric and will be happy to lend any help to us if we need it. After a few days we meet back up and we have some new info about some other disruptions in town that could put the citizens in danger. Bandits on the main road, a minor shadow beast around town and some goblins taking up residence in the ruins as well under the banner of a 'goblin king'. We decided to stop the goblins as they tend to reproduce quickly and can be a menace. We are also informed that some of the townies are starting to buzz about the rescue of one of the local sons from the HellKnights and how it was done without any deaths. People are starting to notice there can be change. Cayden Cailean is pleased....well Arghen believes so anyways.


We strike out for the goblin lair the next day and come across a few of the nasties riding goblin dogs at the entance to the lair. Combat ensues, we take our lumps as they are yet again hard as hell to hit. Healing ensues and we continue in. Its a rather small area they are using so we come across the leader and his two goblin servants rather quickly. And their leader is no goblin....its a were-rat. We set up a plan and Morrey and Arghen will charge in quickly to attack fast while the Max follows for tactical support. The rest are going to keep the goblin helpers busy. But first a prayer to Cayden Cailean to smite this evil creature, then a power attack charge and 20 points of damage later its hurting. Now Morrey goes at the same time as Arghen due to preparing our tactics and he swings and *CRITICAL HIT*! Morrey takes a card from the critical hit deck and he decapitates the were-rat! The goblins freak out and start attacking wildly and the party puts them down quickly. We check out the area, find their loot stash, loot and go home. End of session.


I will say it was alot of fun for me and the wife playing this. Heck it was just fun being on the other side of the screen next to my friends rather than behind the wall of cardboard tracking lots of stats. That's this coming sunday when the Carrion Crown group meets up. But its still fun. So kudos to Jim for running a fun game and I'm looking forward to our next game in february.


*** In both The Runelords and Carrion Crown and now Council of Thieves I mention that we use the Critical Hit Deck, Plot Twist Card Deck, Critical Fumble Deck and Condition Cards. Instead of me describing them go to Paizo's website and read up on them yourself. They add an extra element of thrill to the game and give it some more flavor in my humble opinion.





Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Legos! Slave 1 edition

Today I decided to tackle the other massive Lego model my wife got me for Christmas. I looked at this as a treat for myself since its the ship to one of my all time favorite Star Wars characters: Boba Fett.

The model itself has less parts than my other model, The Queen Anne's Revenge, but damn was it more complex. I actually cursed at Legos today. I never curse at Legos. Solicitors, telemarketers, neighbors, children, nature and lots of other things but not Legos.

In the end it was a satisfying build full of moving parts and complex smaller pieces. One complaint, hence the cursing, was building the base as it is made up of numerous parts that come apart when building the model up. Other than that it still kept me entertained for a few hours. Now I need somewhere to display this and the ship....and I need more Legos.









I'm Lego Boba Fett and I approve of this Slave 1

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Housekeeping!

Finally got inspired and went back and tagged the older posts to make searching easier.

That is all. Carry on.

So what is Monte saying about his new project at WotC?

He said this last night.

What I found interesting was this quote: "It's meant to be a set of rules that unites all the previous editions, and the players of those editions."

So what does Monte mean by this? Is he trying to create some bizarre hodgepodge rule set using advice from fans to keep everyone happy? Or is he trying to create a unique conversion system that will allow players from all rule sets to keep using what they want, when they want it, with minimal conversion and all new supplements can be adapted to said rules du jour?

The hell if I know. With luck I will get into this play test that they offered. I want to see what is going on and I want to give my feedback. WotC has all but lost my money with a rules set I just don't want in high fantasy and revisions to known worlds that made them feel alien and unwelcoming.* Should I discuss what was done to the Forgotten Realms? Hell there is nothing being done with Greyhawk or a number of other worlds created, while not all were gold, there was some cool stuff there and it sits molding. Instead we got a very well written set of rules (for a board game) with settings and materials devoid of its roots except for its name.

So I'm going to keep an eye on this and if anything pops up I'll make sure to share.


*Except Eberron. It was so new that all they did was add the new stuff but not mess with the setting or topography of the world. If there were changes they seemed so minor compared to the sodomizing of the Realms.

Monday, January 9, 2012

And the winner for Informed Parent of the Year 2012 goes to....


....that dumb ass lady we saw at the mall yesterday who bought Grand Theft Auto 4 for the PS3 for her kid who wasn't older than 8 YEARS OLD!

The reason for the rating is right on the damn box!!! Read! READ!!!!

The ESRB rated this game 'M' which means 17yrs old and older for "Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity and Use of Drugs and Alcohol."  (Go here for the PDF of the full statement).


This just baffles me on levels I can't grasp. The game is clearly labeled. The store clerks around my area at all GameStops, Best Buy, Target, etc.. check ID on every game sold with a 'M' rating. At some point it no longer becomes the responsibilty of the retailers to keep games with questionable content for minors out of the hands of those same kids. It becomes the parents job.



 Definition of 'Parent' by Dictionary.com is:


1. a father or a mother.
2. an ancestor, precursor, or progenitor.
3. a source, origin, or cause.
4. a protector or guardian.
5. Biology . any organism that produces or generates another.


 
Numbers 1 & 4 are the most important. Please start acting like parents to your kids and less like 'friends', its a disservice to them and when you realize your dumb mistake you blame the industry that created the media that was not intended for your kid instead of your damn self for buying it for them.
8 years old and playing GTA 4. The stupid.....it hurts so much....


 
**steps off soap box**

Its Official! D&D 5th Edition has been announced and will hit in 2013!

And the crowd goes....meh.

I started seeing this at Grognardia this morning and went right to Wizards of the Coast for the formal announcement from Mike Mearls. So its happening but its no big surprise with all the Legends and Lore articles that Monte Cook and Mearls have been doing with their polls at the bottom chock full of loaded questions.

Now I don't mind when a company asks for my input on their products when it comes to my expectations but don't just deny ignore the fact you're putting out a new rules set earlier than expected due to poor reception from fans. In fact I think I will sign up to be part of the beta testing so I can see first hand how they will fuck this up yet again try to make players of all the various editions happy.*

Also here is the story ran in the New York Times about this hullabaloo.

By the way did anyone else see Mearls mention on the WotC site about how D&D Experience is moving to GenCon in 2013 as well? Now I can't wait to go to this to watch the insanity of it all.

But what do you, my fellow adventurers, think of this? Leave comments below and lets start discussing!




*Yeah, I'm not a fan of 4th Ed D&D rules. It doesn't work for the D&D setting in my humble opinion. However for a different game all together, Gamma World for example, its beautiful. The rules just have never felt right for me for a high fantasy game setting. Too mechanical and without any organic growth like prior editions allowed.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Eclipse Phase: Exploring the future one sleeve at a time.



Today the wife and I got to participate in the introduction game for Eclipse Phase run by one David Cooper. Now for today's session we were playing as pre-generated characters in the module ' Ego Hunter'. Basically it is a 'who done it/race against time' that has one person's five betas trying to discover the where abouts of their alpha and solve why they awoke from resleeving in so much trouble.

It also has a monkey in it.

First a bit of terminology (forgive me if I'm not verbatim I'm just paraphrasing here).

An 'alpha' is the prime version of a trans humanist person.
A 'beta' is a part of an 'alpha', kind of like a specialized clone of a person, with a predetermined skill set, that allows the 'alpha' to be able to do multiple tasks at once. The process of creating 'betas' is known as 'forking'.
'Sleeving' is the process where you download a person's personality, memories, etc into a new host body or 'sleeve'.

So there was five beta's waking up in a sleeving facility. Jess (the wife), Morgan, Austin, Patrick and myself. We also had another person waking up with us (played by Donna) who apparently wasn't a forked beta of our alpha. She did know me, per our story lines, so we at least were somewhat connected to her. After waking up and realizing we have not been merged back into our alpha (since we are basically fragments of a personality) we start the process to figure out what had happened.

An initial problem with this set up is that five of us are playing the same character. Sure we're in different sleeves (Austin was a monkey....er...chimp) but we are all of the same person. So our mannerisms, vocabulary, quirks should match up some what. Other personality behaviors can manifest the longer we remain away from being reintegrated into the alpha. So I tried to pay attention to how others were handling this and I started with being a bit abrupt as I figured a scientist doesn't like having his time wasted.
Jumping ahead, by the time we finished we were all unique personalities. But I digress.

Just to get to what has happened I'm going to give you the short short version. Our alpha got mixed up on Mars by coming across a xenofungus that could be used as a biological weapon. Our alpha got infected by this and eventually died from it. In the meantime we had to piece together what happened by investigating leads that we individually received via email, searching our alpha's home and re-activating the muse program (think Siri on iPhone) to get more info. This lead to the discovery of said xenofungus, a traitor in our midst in the form of an NPC who came to see us upon waking, dealing with a local Triad kingpin and his goons who our alpha owed money to, finding out from one of the betas that two of the betas are thinking of selling this fungus to the Triad to clear their debt and leave the rest of us, going to a air processing center for the domed cities on Mars and finding the remains of our alpha (totally encased in this fungus and dead), and destroying the fungus with the help of agricultural nano machines.

Oh and my friend who woke with us (Donna's character) was an agent of Firewall (a group who looks for these extra terrestrial threats and stops them). And we turned over evidence that beta's 4 and 5 were conspiring domestic terrorism by selling the fungus to the Triad. They got arrested by the authorities. Mojo Jojo (beta 4) went to jail. He was a bad monkey anyways.

I will admit it was a bit rocky at the beginning as folk were trying to get used to these rules and had alot of questions. Sometimes starting any new game is like herding cats. This didn't seem any different and gladly it tightened up in the second half of the game and we all were having alot of fun.

Now we just have to figure out when we will do this again, what type of characters we want to play as well. For type of game David has a good idea that I like cooperative games for the players. I want to work as a cohesive team. Jess and Donna both mirrored that statement and I feel that is the direction we will go. As to what David is going to do to us....er.....run for us that's up to him. He's already seen my idea for an Eclipse Phase game so he knows I like action, conspiracy and horror elements. Either way it will be fun.

So I want to thank the Stroudsburg Area Gaming Association for hosting this. I want to thank Donna, Morgan, Austin and Patrick for being fun to play with. Lastly I want to thank David for running this for us.
As more games are played I will keep adding my take on it to this blog.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Critical Brain Fart Ahoy!

As I sit here and think of what possible things I can post on the inter web for nobody to read/care about I started to realise that I had nothing. Zip. Diddly-squat. Zero. I realised I am suffering from 'brain fart-itis'.

Its a real condition that occurs when one is bored off their ass for a prolonged period of time and haven't been able to game in a dogs age....or since before Christmas.

Side effects include: loss of sleep, crankiness, growing a red beard, yelling at neighborhood kids, crying into one's pillow for no reason, public displays of nudity, watching The View, house work, desire to play Gnome Wars, desire to visit parents and explosive rapid fire farting.

Now a cure is on the horizon for me. Actual sweet life giving gaming is approaching. This weekend is the Eclipse Phase game I've mentioned before. Next weekend is the first session of the Council of Thieves Pathfinder AP run by Jim. I also want to arrange a Carrion Crown AP game this month as well to kick off book three. I will comment on all, naturally, and will get back into the swing of things. I do have video game reviews to write but I want to focus on table top games for a while more before I bombard this blog with video game reviews.

I will also take suggestions from the readers for topics or just general talk backs. Just leave a comment on this post if you please.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

An interesting look at the D&D brand....and I go off on a ficticious rant about the future of the industry.

Over at Discourse And Dragons they highlighted three articles via The Escapist website about the Past, Present and Future of D&D. I found it to be an interesting read and it touched on the different editions, the 'edition wars', Hasbro & WotC....and that either the tabletop pen & paper rpg is dead or we are on the brink of a new golden age.

*** Enter Crazy Rant Mode ***

I'm fearing the official 'D&D' brand is going the way of the dinosaur. Eventually the proprietary materials will be swallowed up into the Magic: The Gathering brand where mind flayers and beholders will live on in card form only.

Paizo and Pathfinder have approximately 3 years before they over saturate their market (I'm already feeling that) and they release Pathfinder 2: Electric Bugaloo Edition or Ultimate Pathfinder which is a total overhaul of the original rule set and it pisses off long time Pathfinder fans which starts an edition war within their ranks. Or they will just dump everything into this MMO they want to do and get devoured by Blizzard and EA for encroaching into WoW and TOR territory.

Posthuman Studios will still be awesome and find a nice niche in the tabletop community. I think these are the guys and gals that will break out of the traditional table top model and use technology and some forward thinking to turn their game into something really unique.

Chaosium will still be scaring the shit out of players with the Call of Cthulhu brand. Steve Jackson Games will keep veering into casual games with more Munchkin and dice games (Steve will still be rolling around in piles of money...and plush tentacles).

Catalyst Game Labs will still be doing Shadowrun and Battletech. With luck Cosmic Patrol and Leviathans will take off as well. A possible 5th Ed of Shadowrun may be on the horizon in the next 5 years to streamline the rules a bit more and reduce the sheer volume of dice needed to roll.

Frog God Games, Green Ronin and other small-ish publishers will still keep cranking out stuff they want to do and keep fans happy. I see them continuing this for a long time.

And self published games using a version of the old OGL will be put out there on a regular basis keeping the old grognards and fans of other rules sets happy for years to come. All on PDF or another electronic format no less.

With that I'm retreating back into my hiding spot in my house so I can clutch my dice and reminisce about the good old days.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Cleaning out the attic: random thoughts for 2012 gaming.

Everyone around the start of the new year has lists of resolutions that they break shortly after making them, lists of things they want to accomplish but never do, et cetera and so on. I'm just putting down some things pertaining to tabletop gaming that I've realized over time and would like to see through 2012.

1) While preparing for our annual New Years party we stumbled upon my skeleton notes for the Eberron campaign that I ran intermittently from 2005. I looked them over, smiled at my ideas and realized that I'll never get to run that setting ever again. And I'm quite alright with that. In fact its a learning moment and I'm proud that I realized it.

I remember how the heroes in the last game saved the day and was transported home. I left some clues that other things are awry in Khorvaire while they were away but it resolved on a happy note for the adventurers. And I'm going to keep it as that. Its done. I'm done telling stories there. I did it because nobody else would tell stories there for me to play. And when that happens I become the DM just so I can be in that world, even if I'm not a hero there. *I will also note that only one person offered to set a game in Eberron and due to the rules set chosen I said 'Hell No! Eberron is mine! Get off my lawn!'.*

Besides I 'beat the dead horse' before with my Forgotten Realms game that went into epic 3.0 play and it got tedious and, quite frankly, was just awful to run and was no fun either. While some of the players may disagree with me it just wasn't worth continuing for me. Without fun there is no point in playing, right? It is a game after all and that game (Realms) is in terminal limbo and I've *never* wanted to go back there. The lesson I learned with the Realms game is to know when to end the story. I got that now and I won't let Eberron, which I love dearly, end up like my Realms game. I applaud it's creator, Keith Baker, who created a toy box for my creativity to thrive in and I love my time there. I just don't want to run it anymore. Its time to be a hero instead.

2) I also realized I just want to become a player again. I'm going to finish both Rise of the Runelords and Carrion Crown AP's because I am having fun doing both and I owe it to the wonderful crews I have that play in them. After they are done I'm going to retire my DM screen for awhile again. I'd like to play some more and let someone else step up and tell their stories. Its not a permanent retirement but its going to be a needed extended one after years of running games. For those wondering its not the dreaded 'DM Burnout' as I don't want to throw out all my books and quit playing. I just feel its time to step back for awhile and let the creative juices replenish again.

A step in this direction is the Eclipse Phase game my wife and I will be trying out starting next sunday. I'm looking forward to this but I'm going in with trepidation as it appeared some minor in-fighting between people who will be playing (and know each other) began on the message board we belong to for this game and....well....it was not needed. It also puts into doubt how this group will work together both out of game and within. I will give it the college try and see how it goes. I really like this setting. If I'm not having fun though I will depart from the group gracefully.

Ideally there are two people who I would love to run a game for me. Bruce, Charles, if you guys get an itch to tell a tale let me know. I'll be ready with dice in hand.

3) Eric at Gaming With The Gnomies has a great monthly article called 'The Apathy of New Releases' based off of what is being solicited in Game Trader for retail. My realization is that there really isn't alot of product I want to get my mitts on this year. I'm going to keep my Pathfinder AP subscription because I want the Skull & Shackles AP (PIRATES!) and The Shattered Star AP which is the sequel to Rise of the Runelords. After that I'm probably going to cancel it. I have enough AP's to keep me running and playing for the next ten years.

I will pick up the collected hardcover release of Frog God Games mega dungeon adventure, Rappan Athuk, because I love their work and they are quickly becoming my go to RPG supplement guys.

Paizo's big book releases, Bestiary 3 / Advanced Race Guide / Ultimate Equipment, don't really inspire me at all. I'll look through the Race Guide but I don't think its needed. Ultimate Equipment , the GenCon 2012 book, looks like alot of extra crap that will eventually clog up the game. If you can't find it in the core rule book, or better yet create what you need with the item creation rules, then you probably don't need it and  another book full of stuff that you might only use less than 1% of...ever. Bully I say!

I always will support Posthuman Studios and the Eclipse Phase brand and fortunately they don't release alot of books in a year but I haven't heard of anything new on the horizon yet. I bet we'll get a good hardcover out of them and their stuff is always worth the price.

Cthulhu Tech, another sci-fi game I liked, has all but disappeared and I've all but lost interest in it now. Scratch that off my list.

I want to check out Privateer Press's re-release for Iron Kingdoms. I missed the 3.0 D&D compatible books and now that they're out of print its nearly impossible to get them cheaply. But if looks like ass I will pass.

And if Pagan Publishing releases a new Delta Green hardcover this year its mine. I am the eternal fan of that setting. (Again....thanks Bob!)

I don't even consider WotC's D&D 4E for purchase. Its not my game of choice. And this is a teeny tiny list of stuff compared to what I've purchased in the past. Either I'm getting older or I'm just not as easily impressed anymore. Apathy indeed.


4) I'm going to play alot of Munchkin Axe Cop this year. There is no way around that. I can't wait.

So far this is all I have for gaming on my plate for 2012. Either this will be a bare bones year or it will pick up as the year goes on. Only time can tell.