Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Review: Kingdoms of Amalur:Reckoning

Rated M  X360 Version

I have played the hell out of this game. I've sunk in close to 60 hours in the world of Amalur and I have loved every blessed minute of it. Its just a fun game. Its a 'plug in and play for some time' fun game. It is nowhere near as deep as Skyrim or other giant RPGs out there but where this game truly shines it does better than most others.


So lets get this out of the way now. Kingdoms of Amalur has a very bland story. It is generic and not very inspired and that is surprising since they had R.A. Salvatore write the story. Granted it got much cooler in the final moments of the game but it drags it ass all the way up to that point. The quests, whether they are main story, faction, side or fetch, are all rather dull too. I did enjoy the The Warsworn story line and the finale to the House of Ballads story too. It seemed the factions got the better deal for writing than the main story. Hopefully this will be addressed in future sequels. And its an EA game....of course they will sequelize it.

What I did like about this game was the sense of scale to everything. The world of Amalur is just this large and vibrant world that just beckons you to keep moving through to find that next new area. I had many a 'damn' moment when I entered a new region and was stunned by the look of it all. From the dense ethereal fey woodlands to the crystalline mountains in the last parts of the game to the grand scale castles and cities...this game looks good. I have always loved the colorful, unrealistic WoW looking graphics and Amalur does this in a grand fashion.

By the same token the sound design and musical score is pretty good too. Gives the game a grand scale feel especially the combat music. The voice acting, however, is rather stiff and forgettable. Still I feel that will be something any sequels forthcoming will address. I really can only see this franchise getting better and bigger.

Now the BEST part of this game is its ultra tight and responsive combat. It is just so refreshing to play an action/RPG with such a great grasp on the combat side of things. You can switch between your primary and secondary weapons on the fly helping to create your own personal combat style based on which weapons you prefer. You can also quickly activate special abilities with a press of the RT and then press what corresponding face button that power is. Its fast. Real fast.

I also like how you level your character up. Each level you put one skill point in a select number of skills (like Detect Hidden or Blacksmithing) which give you benefits to those skills depending on your rank. Then you get three points to distribute to the attributes of either Might (melee), Finesse (range/stealth combat) and Sorcery (magic). As you add points you can customize which powers, passive abilities, weapons and spells you want your character to have. So you can customize how you want to battle the forces of evil in Amalur to which ever way your heart desires.

And if you want to change your load out you can speak to a Fate Weaver and, for a nominal fee, they can undo all your points for you to reissue however you want. And you can do this whenever you feel like it. That is refreshing, the ability to never be locked down into only one way to play your game.

Lastly with combat there is the Fate Shift. When your fate meter is full you can Fate Shift and enter Reckoning mode which slows down combat for your opponents and you deal more damage and when finishing off enemies you enter a quick time event that can double your experience points gained by 100% the norm. Its sweet.

So in conclusion I liked this game greatly and I'm still playing it to finish up some straggler achievements I need to unlock. I can't wait to start over as a new character and play this game completely different than my first play through. Even for its faults Amalur was a fun experience and I would easily recommend it to any one looking for a fast, fun experience.

Quick Movie Review: The Woman In Black

A couple of things I realized watching this movie.

1) Daniel Radcliffe can do more than just Harry Potter.
2) He would make an excellent Edgar Allen Poe if that opportunity presented itself.
3) Never go see a horror movie on a friday night at the theater due to too much talking by the audience.

I liked the visual style of this movie. I loved the look of the haunted mansion the movie takes place in. It just oozes a creepy, macabre atmosphere. I liked the sound design the film used as it helped to establish mood easier than the script writing did. In that area the move was average at best and somewhat predictable.

I really wanted this movie to work too. I think it would have been a better experience if we went to a matinee or saw this at home. From the yelping housewives who then had uncontrollable giggles after each scare to the general rudeness of people through out the theater holding open and noisy conversations it just pulled you out of the experience all together.

So this I can only recommend as a rent. It's not a bad flick but it does fall a bit flat.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

An open letter to George Lucas....

Dear George,

Do you remember this recent interview where you were trying to justify the new recut versions inclusion of 'Greedo shooting first and why it isn't a big deal'? No? Well tell you what why don't you  READ THIS FIRST then come back.

Done? Good.

To elaborate as to why it matters is that you decided to change and alter something that was already established within our culture just so you can keep making money out of it. This is one of the reasons why I cannot and will not ever see the Star Wars films in 3D and that pains me to say it because I love the franchise so dearly.

The other point is that you've stripped away one of the best things about Han Solo. He was a smuggler, a criminal who was only out for his money to pay off Jabba. He didn't care about the Rebel Alliance or The Empire, he cared about money. He was a shoot first type of guy and over the course of the three films he redeems himself and BECOMES A HERO! These movies are not just about the Skywalker family dysfunction, this was also the "hero's journey' for Han Solo! Han didn't have to come back to help SAVE Luke's ass in the Death Star trench from Vader. No he could have taken his million space bucks and paid off Jabba and not gave a shit. But he was changing. He was starting to think of just more than himself and his ship. He didn't have to ride around on Tauntaun in the ice fields of Hoth searching for his friend when he could have been banging Leia back at the base...but he did. He was growing as a character.

We met Han Solo in the Mos Eisley cantina..."a wretched hive of scum and villainy". Hero's don't hang out where the villains do looking for work. Han was selfish and greedy at first and by the end of Return of the Jedi was selfless, a general in the Rebellion and had friends and a woman who loved his ass so much she disguised herself as a bounty hunter to track down where Boba Fett turned his carbonite ass over to Jabba. She risked her own life for him. Heros as a general rule don't try to save villains. Han was a redeemed hero by then. A good guy. One of the best.

And you've been slowly chipping away at that part of the story. Han's redemption. It was one of the best parts of those movies and you are trying to remove that. And by claiming you always intended Greedo and Han to shoot at each other but didn't film it that way just makes me sad. You are trying to rewrite history again. And again it is not for the better. You have wondered why you should keep making movies when your fans keep telling you that you are a horrible person, an evil bastard that is looking for money? Well reread that interview then take a good look in the mirror and you will have your answer.

To paraphrase from another geek love rant about this: when you create something of this scale that gets out into the world, like Star Wars, and it effects the culture of human beings spreading so rapidly it's like a virus and we love it unconditionally.....and then you start changing it for your benefit and wonder why we are mad? It's simple because while you may own the liscence you lost the rights to the stories. They belong to all of us now and we don't like you fucking with them any more.

We do love you George for all you've given us. Truly we love all of your creations but please stop altering them. Even Spielberg admitted it was wrong to alter E.T.

 Learn from that.

Your fan,


LEGOS!!!!!!!! Mini Fig Series 6 is out!

So while shopping at our local French market, Target, I wandered past they toys like always looking for new Nerf weapons and Legos. And there on the end cap was Mini Fig Series 6! Hot damn! I was waiting for this to hit and I'm nice and happy right now to have acquired a few packs to bring home and geek over.

So what did I get?

In PJ's with Teddy Bear!

Complete with wrench, toolbox and greaser hair!

Lego Braveheart! Yes he is painted to look like he is in a kilt.

Lego Braveheart is also packing a SAH-WEET mullet!

"Stick 'em up you sack of horse-bricks!"

Lady Liberty in all her blocky glory!

In addition to these there are some other excellent Legos to fuel my addiction including a classic robot, minotaur, a genie and a leprechaun with pot of gold! I love this hobby of Lego collecting. I also can't wait until June when the Lord of the Rings series starts up and I also cannot wait to get my mitts on the official Lego Minecraft set!

So in conclusion....LEGOS!

Carry on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Movie Review: The Grey

Liam Neeson punches wolves a little....battles nature and human instinct like a boss.

This is the most basic and generic statement I can make about a movie that is so much more on every level. Every trailer that was shown gives you a feeling that this is a action movie that pits Neeson and the other survivors of a terrible plane crash in the Alaskan wilderness against a pack of hungry wolves. Its a shame that this is the way the advertisers went as the movie is really an analysis of the human condition. How we as people deal with tragedy,loss,anger,hopelessness and fear. How we battle those demons. That is the heart of The Grey. Not Liam punching wolves to death.

This movie is more akin to the works of Jack London rather than Michael Bay. Its man versus nature in every sense and nature is a cruel mistress. It is uncaring, unforgiving and knows it will be there long after our existence has ended. After seeing this movie I understand why Jack London wrote about areas of Alaska for his works. Its the deadly beauty of this environment that is appealing to the writer and now to the viewers of The Grey. I give the cast and crew kudos for filming this outdoors for the majority of it as it adds to the realism. You get the harshness of a blizzard, ice building up all over, being immobilized in deep snow. You see the perils of traversing through a forest and treacherous mountain range. You also get the serenity of the slow flowing river with its mirror like surface showing a reflection of the snow capped mountains and pine forest. It was just breathtaking how pretty this movie was at times. The movie is also brutal and graphic equally as well.
Speaking of beauty in this movie I have to talk about Neeson's performance. It is Oscar worthy. Really. After watching this I now know why the studio wants to re-release this in the fall of 2012 to remind the Academy just how damn powerful his performance was. He is a man haunted by his past. He ran away to work in Alaska to escape the pain. After the crash he is intense and seems focused on surviving and saving the people who made it. There is a scene where he talks a person through what it is going to be like to die. This person is bleeding out in the wreckage and they can't save him. It was gripping. What he does just with his eyes and tone of voice is astounding. Later in the movie there is a campfire scene where they are confronting a survivor who is acting up to mask his fear and Liam talks him down. His admittance that he too his terrified was also shocking considering all the heroism he has done up to that point. I then thought back on his acting and it was ALWAYS terror and fear. Its how he managed it that made him look strong and unafraid of their situation. Just brilliant. And while I'm gushing about Neeson if it wasn't for the other cast members being just as great this performance couldn't have happened. You feel for these men trapped out in the wilderness being hunted and you mourn for them as they lose their lives in the struggle. Not just against the wolves but against nature itself and their own human mistakes.

I also have to give Joe Carnahan, the director and one of the screen writers, a hearty standing ovation for what he has done with this. I didn't think he had this kind of emotional movie in his bag of tricks. He managed to direct two very excellent action films, Smokin' Aces and The A-Team, but this is beyond the scope of those movies. He should be nominated for a best director Oscar.

This movie really stuck with me after it ended. I was emotionally exhausted after watching it. It was like watching a few people live, and I mean LIVE, their lives for the first time. It was painful to see them lose those same lives in the process. I wasn't alone as my wife was also emotionally invested in this film. There were moments of horror that shook her and moments of outright sadness that made her cry. She loved every second of that too.

So I'm sure you are thinking....do they survive? I won't tell you. I will tell you to see this movie either in the theater or when you can get it on Netflix. Just watch it. It is good. It is a human drama. It was well worth seeing and its one of the few movies I will call a 'film' versus a flick. Films deserve high praise and so does The Grey. Any movie my wife turns to me and says 'We are OWNING this when it comes out on Blu!' also says its worth seeing multiple times to fully soak in the experience. See this!

And make sure you stay through the credits after for the final scene of the movie....

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Quick Movie Review: Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengence

This is not a AAA Hollywood block buster. No this is one of the BEST bad B movies you will see this year. It is light years better than the original Ghost Rider movie. It looks better in both special effects and cinematography. Heck the camera work is just crazy and you can thank the directorial team behind the 'Crank' movies for this.

Nic Cage is full on loony in this movie. His insane antics are on par with his acting in 'Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans' (which was a excellent movie and no B movie schlock). I really loved how crazy they let this movie become. It felt more like a reboot to the franchise rather than a sequel. I also appreciated how Cage's dialogue had jokes that referred to his other bad films! There was one that referenced 'The Wicker Man' and I damn near fell out of my seat.

If you are on the fence about this it is well worth the rent. If you like Cage and appreciate how he puts in 110% into every performance he does and stays the only believable part of any film he's in...this is a must see on the big screen. Just sit back and let the kinetic lunacy of the master of the Nouveau Shamantic acting style embrace you in pure insane pleasure. So yeah....it was a fun flick. It was also wife approved! God I love her!!!

Also no need for 3D. 2D is just fine.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Council of Thieves: The Bastards of Erebus.

The gaming group met up on Feb. 12th to continue Jim's stab at running and to finish book one of The Council of Thieves AP. So what happened? Did any PCs die? Did Semkirk annoy again? And just who are the titular Bastards of Erebus? Let me just say it they aren't a girl scout troop.

The Players:

Jess - Naustia ( half elf Oracle of Life 3/ haunted curse/ healing machine)
Brian - Semkirk ( human Wizard 3/Orthomancer/insane/hairless/annoys all)
Matt - Capt. Maxmillian Wintrish (human Cavalier 3/minor drunk/killed some stuff)
Mike - Morris Seadrake (half orc Ranger 3/two weapon specialist/his sisters are MIMES!)
Bruce - D'in a Lorn ( half elf Rogue 3/information collector/lives at home with mommy/future Norman Bates)
Me - Arghen (half orc Paladin of Cayden Cailean 3/bartender in Westcrown/got fired up over a kidnapping)
Jim - DM (our DM/does DM things/rolls dice to hurt our PC's/enjoys his job...)

We resume after an in-game two week hiatus. Life goes on for each of us. Arghen (me) bar tends and makes some extra gold for his future purchases to aid in his divine orders. Morrey does his hunting stuff, Din does Din stuff, Semkirk does dentistry....shudder...., Max drinks and Naustia takes in the scenery in town and finds a place to stay.

Naustia also takes up the offer of the two tickets to the opera in Westcrown to see Mr Fancypants Arrogant Poophead perform. She asks Arghen to accompany her but he declines as he is working. Morrey, our other half orc, is more than happy to accompany her. Captain Max is slightly confused as to why he wasn't invited. Its simple actually; she views Morrey and Arghen as 'outsiders' to this society like she is. Captain Max might just be looking for tail. That hasn't been determined by her yet.

So Morrey and Naustia head to the opera house. Both are dressed very finely and are looking to have a good time. The tickets are front row, center. And when Mr Poophead comes out on stage he sees Naustia and tries to impress more....until he glances Morrey and a look of utter distain crosses his face. The performance goes by beautifully. Naustia finds out from Morrey that his kid sisters are trying to become performers so he his versed in opera. Currently they are trying to learn mime. *facepalm* One of the ushers comes up and offers to take Naustia back stage to meet Mr. Poophead (and I'm going to keep calling him that because Jim managed to really portray him as such). Naustia accepts and Morrey follows her back as well despite protests from the opera house usher. Naustia is brought into Poophead's private chambers and Morrey waits outside. Smarminess ensues. Naustia, in her naivete, doesn't get the hint this guy wants to 'Max' her. (Max her....I like that....it sounds slimy....) She turns him down coldly and goes outside to find Morrey having a 'disagreement' with the staff about him having to leave now. He held his ground and made some of them feel emasculated too. Hell when a 6'8" half orc packing a scimitar tells you to get stuffed....well....you're just blowing smoke if you think you're going to take him on...and there is only two of you there. Morrey walks Naustia back to where she's staying and he heads home. The next day Naustia finds a bouquet of dead, wilted roses waiting outside her door. I guess Mr. Poophead doesn't like pretty girls turning him down. *cry*

Later on Arghen sees their benefactor come into the pub and order a drink. He then slips Arghen a note with a time to meet and instructions to let the others know. Arghen shows this to Max (who practically lives in the bar) and Morrey when he comes in later. From there the three find the others to let them know of the meeting tonight. At the meeting the discussions of the gang of tieflings, The Bastards of Erebus, and their attacks on the city and its people are the main topic. Our benefactor had spies locate where within the ruined part of the city they are hiding out in and got some recon on the base too. Its an abandoned church to Erastil and in the bell tower they have a guard posted at all times to keep watch. It is also noted that the Bastards need to be removed permanently as any jail here or in the area has possible allies for them and they will get out. Dead....understood. While this conversation is heating up there is a pounding at the door and Arghen goes to check the door and lets in one of the towns young girls who is all beaten up to a bloody pulp. Arghen takes her face into his hands and expends all four uses of 'lay on hands' to heal her up. He then asks what happened and she sobs out how a three Hellknights nabbed her and her friend as they were walking home as 'conspirators' and were looking to teach them a lesson but she escaped. She begs to save her friend and that they were only taken two blocks down. Before those words finished Arghen was out the door and racing down the street in the direction of the girls cries for help.

The rest of the group eventually caught up to Arghen. About half saw him yelling "LET HER GO!" before he rushed in and cleaved one of the kidnappers in half with his axe. The rest got there as Arghen was launching into another one of the kidnappers. The last one got ganged up on by the entire party with Arghen planting his axe through him and into the wall behind before dropping to his knees to check on the girl on the ground. Naustia calmed the girl and tended to her wounds and took her home. The guys dropped the bodies of the knights into the sewers to dispose of the evidence while Semkirk magically cleaned up the crime scene. God help us if the Hellkinghts decided to investigate the killing of three of their own. Ones just missing could be ones gone AWOL. Three dead Hellknights left in an alley....well that is bad new for Westcrown.

Back at the base we start planning our attack on The Bastards and decided tomorrow late morning is as good as any time. Din and Morrey will take out the one on watch in the tower and Arghen will then lead the assault into the church. After planning concluded Arghen went over to the girl he and his friends rescued to check on her. She was highly upset still and wouldn't look him in the eyes. Arghen lifted her chin up with his hand gently and quietly told her that he 'won't allow anyone else to be hurt in this town again by the bad people as long as he is here'. She asked 'you promise?' and he said 'you have my word' and she latched onto his neck in a gripping hug and began to cry again. Apparently unbeknownst to Arghen, some of his allies are forming opinions as to what Arghen really is. Morrey and Din are convinced he is a priest of Cayden Cailean. Others think he is some other kind of holy warrior or a disposed knight of some kind. Arghen won't tell. He's just the local bartender at one of the local dive bars. In fact, one of the other rebels approached him to ask him about his skills and about a path she wants to pursue. A path dedicated to Iomedae. Arghen smiled and said 'I'll talk to you about anything but within the confines of my area of knowledge....the tavern. I'm just a bartender and concerned citizen nothing more.'

Player note: I want to add that Arghen, me, doesn't want to expose that he is a paladin of a deity that is forbidden within Cheliax due to Cayden's beliefs of freedom. He doesn't want to draw more attention to himself or those helping him than needed. Its a way of trying to protect those who could be caught in the crossfire and keep his allies safe. Maybe at the very end he will formally announce what he is going into whatever last battle there is but that is a LONG way off yet. 

We rest up and head out to the ruined part of Westcrown mid morning. While the rest of us hide Morrey and Din stealthily work their way up onto a rooftop adjacent to the church and with some aid of my plot twist card to give Morrey +10 to his stealth check they stay out of sight of the tower guard. Din and Morrey line up their shots with their bows. Din's goes wide. Morrey hits dead on killing the sentry. Din reflects some light in his mirror letting us know the way is clear. We all move up to the door and wait for Din and Morrey. Semkirk casts 'knock' to unlock the door and we head in. A few tieflings are sitting around playing cards and are thrown off by the incursion. Arghen flatly tells them 'I'm afraid I'm going to have to make you evacuate this church. Your kind doesn't belong on holy ground.'. Combat ensues. Dead tieflings litter the ground and we find a passageway under the church which leads to catacombs beneath this section of town.

We begin exploring the area, encountering more tieflings, dispatching them as we come upon them. We also found a large rot grub that actually gave our party some trouble. The damn thing was bigger than a dog and dished out a fair amount of damage. Eventually we made our way to an area where a large number of quite nasty looking tieflings were gathered. We found this out as Din was scouting ahead and the tieflings, under the spell 'darkness', spotted him and shot him with a few arrows. The big combat ensued!

Arghen challenged the biggest one in the room, man to man and let the others work the other baddies over. Well Arghen took him down in two swings. Jim said he was going to give me a 'fame point' if I did it in one. Turns out after my first attack he had 2 hit points left. Damn. Naustia healed up Din who, with some magical Semkirk aid,  was shooting at baddies with a longbow. Max gave a cavaliers challenge to one of the spell casting tieflings to engage in a duel. Morrey had his swords full with the one he was fighting. And apparently the leader was one room over getting ready. As the tieflings started dropping one called out to him. And a door off to the side opened and out floated a magical mace that made a bee line for Arghen. Couldn't hit for crap but it was annoying. The invisible boss kept taunting Arghen and the others. Morrey had a good idea where he was and moved to attack. Swing and miss but he was close. This torment goes on for awhile until Arghen hears a different voice in his ear 'Hey, you look like you need a drink son!'. On my next turn I take a full round taking a hit off him personal flask and then, as if by divine intervention or a generous DM, I can see the tiefling boss. 'Hey Morrey...step to the right!' Arghen yells, Morrey listens and the tiefling looks confused. Arghen charges but misses (low roll) but doesn't take his eyes off the target and tells the boss that he sees him now! Combat keeps ensuing and the gang known as The Bastards of Erebus become no more. They cease to be. They are an ex-gang. After some accolades are given out by the rebel leaders we break for the night a bit early as we don't have the time to really start book two. Basically we leveled to third level and divided up the loot haul we got from the Bastards. We also returned any stolen property to their rightful owners.

Once again it was a lot of fun to play this game. I am eager to start book two also. It contains a play that we get to read the lines to and act out. We voted on it and people want to actually do this play instead of just the skill checks/combat encounters. Don't worry, we still get those too.

I also want to say that this journal is going to be more Arghen focused as that is my character and I pay more attention to things effecting him (naturally). I will hit on as much stuff the other players do as humanly possible so please don't feel left out if I don't include a lot of your antics. I may have missed them or was busy saving Westcrown to notice!

Carrion Crown: The Battle for the Stairs of the Moon

"I'm heading to the werewolf at the penis door!"

This is what my wife declared during the battle for The Stairs of the Moon. Generally I can handle most absurd comments made by players but this one almost broke me. But how did this comment arrive and what else happens there? And did the players break the module and possibly the entire AP? Let's recap the Scooby Gang and find out.

The Players

- Thredorik Trapspringer (male dwarven rogue 8 / uncouth / pet dwarf)
Jess  -  Nisha  (female tiefling fighter(weapon master kit) 8 / combat monster....literally / made statement about penis door)
Charles - Zuri (male aasimar wizard 8 / varisian wanderer/ harrow reader / contacted Desna)
Charles - Dragos ( Zuri's raven familiar / smart ass / maybe scared of Nisha)
Me - Julian Du Marc ( male human cleric of Pharasma 8 / NPC/PC / stoic / critical hit machine)
Me again - DM (DM / rules dude / story mover-along-er)

So the night of 'somethin'-somethin' ended and in the morning the party met up in Zuri's room to discuss where to go now. We know Estovian is involved with the Whispering Way and the Silverhide werewolves. We know they are all heading to The Stairs of the Moon and we know its location. Finally we also know they met with Madame Ivanja before they left. Debating began. Thredorik suggested pumping Madame Ivanja for information. Zuri was leaning towards meeting with her to talk as well. Nisha seemed less antsy at the potential of meeting the 'varisian whore' again after last nights 'somethin'. Then they asked Julian his thoughts as he was totally quiet up to this point.

He suggested packing up and heading out to the Stairs and avoiding all the other investigations. Julian pointed out we know who is the problem in the lodge, we already know where they are meeting and why, if our further investigations cause more suspicions, do we want to possibly endanger the other guests at the lodge. Besides Zuri and Nisha found the threatening note to 'leave while you can' in their room so lets use that to get out. Estovian probably left it and if we leave he will let his guard down and we will keep the others safe here. The others, after consideration, agreed. We will have breakfast, have the porter get our horses quietly and leave the lodge on 'other business'. At breakfast we also met with Cilas Graydon and Julian, in orcish, told him our plan as well as the location of Estovian's incriminating evidence. Silas thanked us all and told us to stay safe and he will do the same.

The party quietly was in the process of leaving the lodge when Estovian stopped by to wish us well on our journey and that we were welcome back anytime. We thanked him for his gracious hospitality then rode off to the main road. Once past the walls of the lodge, we plotted the course to the Stairs of the Moon. It was a fairly uneventful ride except for the weather changing suddenly to dark and stormy. Eventually we arrived at the Stairs and tied up our horses a way out and went in on foot. Naturally we spotted two werewolves prowling around the base of the temple. **Note: these are natural werewolves who can shape change at will. **  Combat ensues, Nisha charges off after one of them with Thredorik in tow, the other lycanthrope charges Julian and Zuri. That werewolf, thinking he was being smart, moved past Julian so he could be between Zuri and Julian to attack both. This did give Julian an AOO. I rolled....natural 20. I roll to confirm....natural 20. I draw a card from the critical hit deck and it comes up with a 'fort save vs. DC 10 + damage dealt or die'. I attacked with Julian's mithral knife, rolled damage and total DC was 16. I roll for the werewolf. Natural 2 + fort save = dead werewolf. Nisha and Thredorik dispatch the other quickly and without being exposed to lycanthropy.

Moving cautiously into the temple we enter an area filled with tribal fetishes, bones and gore. While investigating this area a cold swirling mist begins to take shape into what looks like a ghostly werewolf. The vilkacis appears and looks pretty pissed off at us. Combat ensues. The vilkacis attempts to possess Thredorik but to no avail. Nisha, Zuri and Julian then pile on the assault with magic great axe, magic missile and channeled holy energy. The vilkacis dissipates and then we explore the area.

Now about the 'penis door' comment. I drew out the lower level on the battle mat for reference and the hallway inside the lower level, where the vilkacis appears, is rather phallic shaped. In fact it looks like a drawing out of an anatomy book detailing a cross section of what penile insertion into a vagina looks like. Good job Paizo! The werewolf Nisha charged was on the side of the temple that had this section in it. And the words will now live in infamy.

Any who, we do some thorough searching and find a recently dead Whispering Way member in one of the chambers off the penis shaped hallway. He had notes on him talking about heading to Feldgrau in the Furrows of Ardeal after the business at the Stairs concluded. We also find a secret 'lab', an ancient one at that, with notes describing the tale of a cleric of Desna who's son got infected with lycanthropy and how he tried (and failed) to cure him. Also talks about the son's spirit eventually became the vilkacis. Julian surmises that Estovian mentioned coming here when he was younger and was accepted by the Mordrinacht tribe by some reason....and that reason is he can call forth the vilkacis....and the wolves look at it as an ancestor spirit. Now we feel relieved we left the lodge so our investigation didn't eventually lead to bloodshed but now we decide to return to dispatch Estovian and bring him to justice and in doing so put the vilkacis to rest. Finally we also locate an ancient scroll with written directions on how to use the Dusk Moth artifact on the top floor to commune with Desna and we decide this is worth holding onto. We move along and head up the stairs.

And we are greeted with arrows being shot at us by a pair of werewolf archers leaning over the railing of the second floor. Matt decides to play a plot twist card in which he states he would like the railing to give way and the archers fall to their deaths. As GM that sounded plausible considering the age of the ruins and so the railing gives way and the wolves plummet onto the stairs head first, breaking their necks and ending the hail of arrows. Creeping up the stairs they notice two more on the far side of the second floor landing. Combat ensues. Werewolves die again. More stairs to climb and eventually we reach another landing which sits under the last floor in the temple....and three more werewolves wait for us and unleash a flurry of attacks to thwart us. More combat ensues....more dead werewolves pile up. And there is one more stairway to lead us to the top. Thredorik creeps up slowly and without a sound (very high stealth check roll to thank for that) and sees there are two more waiting up at the top. Both look significantly different than the others we fought. They looked older, wiser and meaner. We decide that we won't be able to talk to them since the others offered no chance to talk but we won't be going up the stairs. Using the 'wand of spider climbing' we all scale the side of the structure to the top floor. This open aired Stonehenge-esque area is the final part of this journey. We try to quietly get over the side and sneak up on them but we are heard. Combat ensues. Nisha goes after the larger one with the great sword while Thredorik engages the female one. The female one steps back and summons a 'burning sphere' into being where Thredorik is...and he has no problems avoiding it. In fact he has no real problems with dealing with her as his roguish training made him difficult to hit with spell or staff.

Nisha and the big guy just get into an all out slug-fest of who will be the last one standing. Mr.Werewolf didn't have the backup she did with the healing bursts from Julian and spell assistance from Zuri in the form of 'haste'. Eventually both wolves go down and the party can catch their breaths. After some healing and looting of bodies like good adventurers the consensus is to try to activate the Dusk Moth so we can ask for some assistance on the problem at hand. Julian, being the cleric, goes to work cleaning the temple with Zuri's help. Julian then blesses the temple grounds infusing them with holy energies again. At night Zuri attempts to preform the ritual. In game terms a 'use magic device' check is needed with a high difficulty to get the artifact to work. Charles plays one of his plot twist cards giving him a +20 bonus on his next skill check which puts his check roll way over what was needed. The ritual is a success and the party falls into a partial haze/dreamlike state. And we see her. Desna. A goddess in the world of Golarion appears to us and thanks us for restoring her temple back to a sacred site after hundreds of years of neglect. In payment she also gives us a glimpse of our future showing various major battles that we will encounter. ** She grants the players a vision of the future end battles to each of the remaining books in the AP including this one....they are shown in order. Also as an additional boon each of us gain a permanent +1 sacred bonus to either our Wisdom or Charisma scores. Finally to show that we were blessed by the goddess herself our irises have changed to a silvery color from the regular colors they had.**

We awaken the next morning refreshed and reinvigorated and ready to move on. Next stop Feldgrau. Just a few miles out from the Stairs we come across a slaughtered party of humans and we decided to check it out. While examining everything we are called out to from the tree line and a group of what looks like Varisian Szarni (mafia/criminals) slowly approaches. Their leader comes up first, being polite and with palms up, he tells us that his name is Rhakis Szadro and he is the leader of the 'Prince's Wolves', a group of werewolves dedicated to the eradication of the cult of the Whispering Way. Rhakis states he knew of our exploits in the area as word amongst the packs travels fast. He also says they watched our battles at the Stairs of the Moon. He was taken back by how casually we said we didn't have any problems there and was more shocked (and impressed) that we felled both the Mordrinacht and Dorzhanev pack leaders on top of the Stairs too! Truthfully we didn't know who they were and didn't care as it was a kill or be killed scenario there. He then offers a alliance: he will share info on the Whispering Way and lend assistance in stopping them at Feldgrau for us turning over the packlords heart to him so he can assume leadership of the wolves of the Shudderwood to bring some peace to that area. We agree.

He then fills us in that the Whispering Way was followed by the leader of the Demon Wolves, a devil worshipping group in the Shudderwood, and allowing him to assume power would be disastrous. He also talks about the strength of the Way's forces and offers to travel with us. For the next three days we travel to The Furrows in Ardeal. We do stop at a town midway to resupply. On the final day we approached a lone farmhouse just outside Feldgrau where some of us see the images of werewolves hanging from a great tree out front. The Prince's Wolves just see humans. Turns out some of us got hooked by the hallucinogenic spores of a hangman tree. Combat ensues. The evil tree gets turned to splinters. And we stop for the night.

Now remember how I mentioned that the players may have broken the module last posting for this game? Well it happened. According to the normal events of the encounters at the lodge Cilas Graydon, their disposed military ally in the lodge was supposed to die in event six that occurs as Estovian fearing the party is getting too close to his history summons the vilkacis to attack them. Instead the creature inhabits the body of Corvin Tergsvor (the snooty fop) who then rips Cilas to shreds as he was the first victim the vilkacis found. Estovian eventually flees to the Stairs where the party was to have a final encounter with him. Also Duristan was supposed to follow the party to the Stairs and become infected by lycanthropy and was supposed to become an enemy in the final part in Feldgrau. That didn't happen either. I rolled so poorly for Duristan and his two henchies that he never saw the party leave or where they went to.

Here is the break for the AP. While this chapter does have a plan if the party makes leaps of logic and high rolls to move along and keep Cilas alive it really doesn't take into consideration that they saved the life of a man, a military man with supporters and allies through out Ustalav. Cilas took a liking to them for a reason and will now help out however he can. And if the party manages to contact him later for aid then all bets are off. If they explain the situation to him he could get very powerful and influential folk on their (the party's side) quickly. He is like the 'universal key' that can open all sorts of doors for aid later. This can break a game. And I'm not going to punish the players for uncovering this. They have been gaining allies this whole time. They just now have one with quite a bit of pull through out Ustalav. Good job Scooby Gang!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Crafting the Game: Building a TOON Adventure for the Old Crew

Last night amongst a flurry of faceypage posting between friends I was issued a friendly challenge. My friend Bob posted on my wall a video montage from the original version of the movie The Wicker Man where the people were all replaced my The Muppets. The message was could I run a TOON game based off this premise?

Challenge accepted.

This also looks like a perfect time to assemble the "old guard" from the Easton/Phillipsburg area. People started replying to this call to arms at quite a alarming rate. It looks like early April is the go time to run this disasterpiece. Now all we need is a firm date and a location to play. I know my wife and I could host but we don't have a lot of room. Depending on the mob size it could be tight. Those logistics will come together closer to mid march.

Back to the game itself. I give you......

"The Wicker Pig"

General plot summary is as follows:

The "Guild of Interesting Mystery Preventers" is hosting their annual honey ham dinner when they receive a letter from the "Sticky Pig Ham Company" notifying them that their order was cancelled and to recoup the loss they are given a $5 off coupon to Taco Bell.

The members of G.I.M.P. find this odd and decide to investigate this and get their money back. Traveling to an island off the coast of South Jersey known as "La Isla de Los Cerdos Mortales Malvados de la Abeja" where the company resides. There the G.I.M.P.s get embroiled in to the islands citizens and employees festival "The Party Rock Ham Slam". Hijinks ensue. Will they survive? Do they get a refund or the ham?? And why is Michael Bay there???

Well? Does it sound TOON enough for you? I spent most of the day today cleaning the house and when taking breaks writing the full scenario, major events, villains to use and approximately 10 different PC's to be used. Next I need to start stating out the PC's and draw their portraits. It's a burst of inspriation I haven't had for gaming in a very long time. I've actually worked on an original idea. It's been an awesome day!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Quick Movie Review: Chronicle

Chronicle is quite possibly the closest thing you will ever see to a live action version of 'Akira' especially in the movie's final act. I mean this as a complete compliment and other 'professional' movies reviewers seem to agree.

It is also the most enjoyable 'found footage' movie I've ever watched. It is well written, the characters are believable, the story is compelling, the action is exhilarating and frightening at the same time. This movie is also a grand example of how to show the origins of a super villain.....and the birth of a superhero.

I was hoping the movie would be fun to watch but I was not expecting this....quite possibly one of the best movies I'll see all year. Chronicle....yeah it was that good.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

D&D 5E Stuff

Should we even be calling this 5E? WotC wants people to call it D&D Next like it is some kind of soft drink.

Anyhow, D&D Experience out in Indiana went through at the end of January and I was lazy in trying to compile a somewhat comprehensive list of blogs and other accounts of what the hell was going on there.

So I'm doing the next best thing: EN Worlds D&D 5E So Far Compiled Info Dump

They have abbreviated transcripts from the seminars held as well as as much possible info about the new D&D without breaking the NDA. I found this info interesting.

So check it out as it gets updated as more info comes in.