Sunday, December 16, 2012

Special Olympics Polar Plunge

On February 2nd, I will be jumping into the Atlantic Ocean at Virginia Beach to raise money for the Special Olympics. This if my first time doing that sort of thing, and I don't even want to think about how cold the water is going to be.

If you want to donate $10 (or more or less) to the Special Olympics, so that there is actually some point to me freezing my patootie off,  please visit my fundraising page:

If you are brave and daring, join a team yourself and take a dive! Here is some youtube footage I found from past years:

Yeah... I'm gonna do that!

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Life as a Role Player

I've put up a post on my Main Street Arts blog about role playing games. How I started, getting a job in the industry, and getting my newest campaign started last week.

Stop on by and leave a comment. Let's show the rest of the world what us devil worshipping victims of elaborate intellectual fantasy role playing games actually think!

"R" is for Role Playing Games in my A to Z Challenge!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Amulet of Skuld, Chapter 1

Summary of Saturday's gaming session:


Among the lofty towers of the city of Pitkin, a young alchemist's apprentice explored ancient tomes. But it wasn't transmutation which intrigued him. Rather it was the control of life and death itself. The power to summon forth spirits of the ancient dead and other beings, using discarded mortal remains or enchanted constructs to house such spirits. The power of Necromancy.

Cast out of the alchemists studio, the neophyte of Necromancy found a patron who cared little about the source of power. And to Marcus, Baron of the Merchant's Republic, was revealed the secret location in the Confederacy of Traders of an ancient power; The Amulet of Skald. Marcus conveyed the information of the talisman to Anthony, a spy who had been for several years planted within the Confederacy.

Several months later a young woman named Maria, daughter of a Confederate baron, arrived at the doorstep of Marcus. She revealed her love for Anthony, and her concern for his life. He had located the Amulet, but his treachery was discovered. He now lay in hiding in an abandoned leg of one of the coastal tin mines of the Confederacy. Anthony implored Marcus to send aid before he was discovered, and both is life and the Amulet were forfeit.


The Session:

The Necromancer set out to Carrnach, accompanied by a young thief who had been raised on the streets of Pitkin. They were to find a wizard of power to aid in the recovery of the Amulet. In Carrnach they were directed to the outskirts of the Greenwood, where they found the man they were looking for.

As the three headed for Pitkin, they encountered Marten, an aging ranger and sometime visitor to the wizard's hut. Often Marten and the wizard discussed the troubles of the world. Now the wizard confided in Marten about the amulet, to see what knowledge the ranger might have of it. Troubled, Marten assigned his apprentice to travel with the threesome to Pitkin, while he himself went to the Clan of the Wolf deep within the Greenwood to discuss the matter with the chief druid.

The four travelers, necromancer, thief, wizard and ranger were not long on the road when they were joined by a diminutive knight on foot. This paladin, paragon of virtue, had been retained by an interested party to see that no harm came to the wizard. And so the five set out.

After two days on the road they party was joined by a bard, sent by the chief druid of the Wolf Clan to learn what he could of this ancient artifact.

Deep within the tin mines the adventurers found Anthony, prisoner to a tribe of kobolds. After scattering the kobolds and rescuing Anthony from the crushing embrace of an aquatic wyrm, the group left the mines and advanced towards the place where Anthony had hidden the amulet...

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I finally have a game starting on Saturday

I've got six local players that contacted me through We are playing at a new pizza shop in town that has two party rooms. We'll be in the smaller one.

Gaming and pizza. What more could you want?

Don't be afraid to ask local restaurants or coffee shops that have party rooms if you can book them for gaming!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Inspirational Trees

Found these over at Visual Fun House

The Hamadryad. She is a Dancer, frozen in a pose of ecstasy. Some nights, when the cool mists surround her, her silhouette can be seen against the newly risen full moon as she prances about on the hilltop.

A natural staircase winds around the hollow interior of this elven tree. When investigated during the day, the tree shows no signs of habitation, but as night, a cool bule light glows from the windows, and music wafts through the forest.

An arch formed of a growing tree stands in the midst of a clearing in a forest. On the solstices and equinoxes, it becomes a portal to the faerie realm.

The throne of the King of the Gnomes

Monday, March 5, 2012

Emergent Storytelling

There is a lot of argument in the gaming world about the place for "story" in RPGs. My very first post on this blog concerned plots in RPGs. Lately, I've been thinking about emergent storytelling.

Emergent storytelling, as I see it, is where stories develop over time, with no clear end in sight. Rather than being like a joke that is a setup to a punchline, it is instead a serendipitous rambling, that only in hindsight seems to have some sort of story structure.

I am not a big fan of this type of storytelling. My annoyance with it is not limited to RPGs, but rather tends to be focused on television shows that start out well, only to fall apart after a season or six. I think one of the biggest offenders of this was LOST. One of the biggest mysteries of all was introduced in the pilot... the Smoke Monster. Come to find out, no one on the creative team had any idea what it actually was. The final explanation for it turned out to be less than thrilling.

In television, emergent storytelling happens as a result of real life interfering with the creative process. A pilot is written and filmed, but no one knows if the show will be picked up, or how long it will last. In this day and age, any single episode can wind up being the last, as a show is pre-emptively cancelled. I recently watched The Event on Hulu.. the whole first and only season of it... only to find out that whatever The Event was, we never got to see it.

I am currently in the middle of the 4th season of Battlestar Galactica on Netflix. The episode I just watched was written just prior to the writers strike of 2007/8. The show has been awesome thus far, but I have the feeling that some parts of the story are going to be majorly screwed by the time this is all over. I was reading a bit about the writing of the show, and the notion of the "final five" didn't even occur to the creator until the third season. I ask myself... how rewarding is this payoff going to actually be?

Maybe it is a hopeless dream that a show would be conceived all the way through, start to finish, before the first scene is ever filmed. I realize television series aren't movies. But I do like events in a story to mean something. I am currently hoping there is a reason two planets share the same observable constellations.
But sometimes, in TV and RPGs, the whole is less than the sum of the parts.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Brendan's 20 Questions

Brendan over at Untimately posed these 20 questions that are likely to affect actual play

1) Ability scores generation method?

4d6. Reroll 1's. Discard lowest number (lowest possible score is a 6). I rely on ability scores a lot, and decent scores can be more important than level. They certainly even the playing field at lower levels, making characters much less squishy.

2) How are death and dying handled?

Unconscious or disabled at zero. Dead or dismembered at neg constitution. I use a hit location chart, so a hit to your right forearm that brings you below 0 either breaks your arm (crushing), or severs a muscle or such. The same location hit bringing you below neg con maims the arm (crushes bone, destroys muscle) or severs it. This does not so much "add critical hits" as increases survival. My characters are hard to kill.

3) What about raising the dead?

One of the reasons for making characters so hard to kill is I don't like raise dead. I can justify magically restoring a limb moreso than bringing the dead back to life. There are some magical wells here and there with such power, but for the most part bringing the dead back to life is something that will more closely resemble a horror story. The movie Wakewood had a good take on this, and is probably the closest to anything I've seen about how I envision bringing the dead back, and the results.

4) How are replacement PCs handled?

Start at 1st level or lowest PC level in campaign. Player's choice.

5) Initiative: individual, group, or something else?

Group, each round. Keeps things lively, without being a burden.

6) Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?

No. There are location hits, which can be critical if they drop you below zero.
However, everyone is capable of a double damage backstab, if they can arrange it. That is, all the conditions must be met... surprise, placement. It isn't easy for non-thieves. Ambush is the most likely opportunity, but missile weapons can achieve it also. In my games, it is very important to take out sentries and such. But it involves planning, rather than rolling a 19 or 20.

7) Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?

Lets say you get penalties for not. Since I use a hit location table, a hit to an unarmored head is quite likely to knock you out. It will almost definitely stun you.

8) Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?

Certainly. -4 to hit. If you miss your target, 10% chance it hits another combatant. Roll randomly for friend and foe.

9) Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?

Balanced encounters? What's that?

10) Level-draining monsters: yes or no?

You'll know if and when it happens. Don't discount it.

11) Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?

Certainly. But most will have to do with how much/little damage you take. But yes... there are death poisons and magic. Most work gradually... allowing a window for rescue. (See hating "raise dead" above)

12) How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?

Very. They affect your armor class. Down to the gold piece.

13) What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?

I don't like mid-adventure leveling. I also don't like having to travel back to "civilization" for leveling. A week of rest, with some sparring with your companions, will tend to do.

All magic user spells other than starting spells must be found. Clerics gain access to spells automatically.

14) What do I get experience for?

Monsters per AD&D, more or less (I don't figure them to the hit point). Roleplaying, completing objectives, innovation. Things you think you should get experience for. I'm easily swayed. I don't like giving it for gold. I see gold as a commodity, and don't want to be limited to how much I make available.

15) How are traps (and secret doors) located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?

Combination. There are passive rolls, but there is also an exploration component. The more you do, the better your chance.

16) Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?

Nah. I don't care for retainers much. But if you really want them, you can have them. If you choose a single retainer, he/she will probably be very loyal and under your total control. If you want a handful, they will be mercs, and out for themselves. Morale is a function of loyalty.

17) How do I identify magic items?

Spells will detect magic, but they won't reveal function. They might reveal elemental alignment (fire, water, etc...) or something like that. Best way is to either use it, or bring it to an expert if you can find one.

18) Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?

Fetishes, potions, and charms can be purchased. Weapons and armor can not.

19) Can I create magic items? When and how?

Not generally. You can have them crafted though. Mainly fetishes, potions, and charms.

20) What about splitting the party?

I enjoy running solo adventures. Splitting the party during a session is a pain in the ass. Sometimes separate sessions are required.