Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tik Zak Toe

I was playing Tik Zak Toe last night.  It's basically a way to look at relationships of things in a game.  Go read it.  I'll wait.

Okay.

While Zak initially aimed it at creating adventures, I began to think of another use (ed. or rather, I just checked and he mentioned this use too) - that of charting out relationships between entities in a campaign - kind of a record of adventures already gone by.  The things that go on between players and npcs can get messy and confusing in a long campaign, and the matrix is useful for examining those relationships.

Here is one I worked out last night for the Tales of the Razing Zone campaign I am running:



It's a fun exercise and got my head cleared up about some things, like how the Sorceress had never met Ferrit, but had put a price on his head.  That's good to remember when and if they finally meet.  I screw up things like that in campaigns.  Little details.  It's a neat tool.

- Ark

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Homeschooling

Sometimes the best laid plans of mice and men go awry and you end up with mouse pellets in your mashed potatoes.  We are home schooling the Boy now.  I had hoped things could be worked out at the public school, but despite a lot of effort, nothing changed and the bullying continued.  People can suck.

So the Baby Momma and I were discussing curriculum and teaching tools and got on the subject of math.  My eyes brightened.

"Do you know what they are selling as teaching aides?  It's a product called 'Math Dice.'  They come in all different sizes, like fours and sixes and eights and tens and twelves and twenties.  The student can roll up numbers and use them to create math problems on the fly.  The dice look remarkably like the Boy's D&D dice.  In fact, they are exactly like them!" I grinned and wiggled the empty fake Tupperware sandwich meat holder thingy that happened to be crammed packed with the Boy's dice on the kitchen table.

Baby Momma looked at me as if that was the most insane and nerdiest thing I had ever said.  Not even close.  The conversation moved on.

Later one morning I'm telecommuting at my desk while she and the Boy are in the middle of lessons at the kitchen table.

"It's math time," she said and pulled out a sheet of blank paper.  "I'm going to write down some problems and you can work them out."

She stared at the blank paper, as if taking in the complete and total blankness of it all.  It was very blank.  She looked up at the Boy.

"Go get your dice."

"Woohoo!" he ran off to get them.

I . . . yeah . . . hmm . . . never mind.

:)

- Ark

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

A Pearl By Any Other Shape Still Smells Like Swine

At least I think that's how the saying goes - from Shakespeare on the Mount 2: Electric Boogaloo, wasn't it?

Anyway, this is my latest visual spam.  The brilliant Daddy Grognard suggested that I replace the pearl with a d20, so there you go.  Over there.  The orange thing.  Yeah, that.

Let me know what you think. :)

- Ark

Monday, March 28, 2011

Links To Wisdom - Now In Technicolor

After replying to Carter Soles about color schemes and playing around a while with color, I think I have something that bridges the colors that I saw in my mind's eye with the palette on the Links To Wisdom site itself.

So the now colored logo attempt is now up.  Right over there.  You can't miss it.  Hopefully it evokes some sort of Wisdom.

Critiques welcome.

- Ark

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Links To Wisdom

There is a really nifty project called Links to Wisdom, cataloging all kind of smart stuff in the OSR blogosphere.  I feel left out of this project since I don't know where jack-crap is.  I read cool stuff, but I never remember where I saw it. 

So, I figured that since I happened to have the artistic muse buzzing around me at the moment, I'd try to be useful and do a logo for the site.  I'm a little bit unsure how to entry one for consideration, but I figured that if I just throw it off into the aether, it's probably end up before the right set of eyeballs.  Or, at least someone would hit me with the clue stick.

So here it is.  Feedback is welcome.  Coloring is always a possibility, if desired.  If it's not readily apparent why I drew this image for the Links of Wisdom site, then I have critically failed the roll on my Heraldry skill. :)

- Ark

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I'm Like WALMART Now!

I took Sniderman's advice and brought the Old School Rocks image to CafePress to make a t-shirt out of it.  I really want to wander around NTPRGCON in a t-shirt with the logo on it.  The boy, of course, needs one too.

If anyone else wants one, the CafePress Store is at http://www.cafepress.com/StudioArkhein.  You can also get mugs, backpacks, and clothing for your dog.  Geez. 

Or, if you want to do it yourself, I'll give you a copy of the 600 dpi colored version so you can go use your own t-shirting facilities.  It's YOUR picture, after all.  Honestly - I suck as a capitalist.  My heart just isn't in it. :)

- Ark

Friday, March 25, 2011

Old School Rocks d30 Version

Okay, since Spawn of Endra asked nicely, here is a d30 version of the Old School Rocks! image.  It's purple in honor of the mythical rientsdie. 

Who said I never did anything nice? :)

- Ark

Old School Rocks!

I've had this picture in my head for a couple of months now, and it was finally time to get it out.  It pretty much looks exactly like what I imagined, which is a first.  It's done with a black Sharpie on cheap copier paper and cleaned up/colored with Paint.net. Click on the image to see a wallpaper sized version in case you want to impress your computer.

It's yours.  I give it to the community.  Do with it what you will.  Spindle.  Fold.  Mutilate.  Clean out your ear wax with it.  Roll it up in your pipe and smoke it.  Print it out for hand outs at GenCon.  Put it on t-shirts.  Replace the flag of your local municipality with it.  You know, whatever.  ;)

If you want a 600 dpi non-colored version, just ask.

- Ark

Have Evil, Will Travel

One of my favorite They Might Be Giants songs is 'The Mesopotamians,' a song about a band of ancient Akkadian, Babylonian, Assyrian, and Sumerian emperors who drive around in their Econoline van and play gigs.  If you have somehow missed out on this gem, go watch it here.  There.  Aren't you better person now for having watched it?

I love ideas like that - and they are so fun to implement in a game.  Imagine the looks on the PCs faces when they discover that the bards who have been playing innocuously in the back corner of the local tavern for the last year are actually undead emperors from a bygone era with a desire to make music?  Then the band discovers that the PCs have been looting their tombs!  Talk about awkward.

Themed traveling groups are fun.  During one campaign, I created a traveling circus called Cirque Noir.  This circus was run by evil monsters.  The citizens of the towns and villages that the circus visited never really caught on that the evil monsters were really evil.  They just figured that the monsters were people dressed up in costume and makeup. 

The ring-mistress of the circus was a drow - who also did acrobats and used her drow-y powers to startle and confuse the crowd.  There was a strong-man ogre, a knife-throwing dark-stalker, and lesser demon who did fake magic tricks.  One of my favorites was Manny the Minotaur, who dressed in sparkly sequined clothes and carried an equally sparkly red cape.  Manny was a minotaur matador.  I was very pleased with myself for coming up with the idea, and woud laugh for hours thinking aobut it.  The party immediately began calling him Liberace.

My absolute favorite circus members were the clowns.  These were creepy two foot tall clowns with white skin, red noses, pointed hats, and fangs.  They were not wearing makeup or costumes.  They were undead.  They would throw paralysis pies at people, and squirt them with acid from flowers on their lapels.   

The clowns had a self-propelled carriage that they would travel around in.  The carriage would appear to fit an infinite amount of clowns.  The vehicle was actually a portal to another plane of existence where the undead horror clowns lived. 

The PCs stole the carriage at one point and kept in on their ship.  Later, while traveling in another plane of existence, they found where the clowns lived by accident - in a flop-house above a tavern with a portal on the wall leading back to the carriage.  Talk about awkward.

So, anyway, I enjoy themed traveling groups - and akward situations in RPGs. Feel free to use any of these idea any way you wish.

- Ark

PS - I'm inspired by events to remember the exits in back of me.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

I Never Look At My Blog Stats

I am so confident in my posts that I just don't need to look.  I know I am awesome.  I know my words are golden.  Readers swoon at my insights. I can lift cars with one hand.  My toenail clippings can cut through steel.  I can pound nails into oak planks with my penis.  I never even think of the statistics.

Um, well, on occasion, I take a peek.

By 'take a peek,' I mean that I stare at the numbers and charts until I bore a hole though my flatscreen and then click on the REFRESH link over and over again until the good folks at Blogger have to ban my IP to protect themselves against the Denial of Service attack.

What follows are a few things I've learned.  I don't do this to brag.  I do this to show you how much better your blog is doing compared to mine. :)

The big number is 6,445.  That is the 'Pageviews all time history' stat.  Most of that was generated since January when I began to blog seriously.  I am blown away by that.  That is well over 100 times the hits I've gotten in all other project - combined - since 1994.  Wow.  Thanks for watching.

The post with the most hits is "Moonlighting," a brief little ditty about exposed ass cracks at the FLGS with 255 hits.  However, most of those hits are from images searches of the picture I have in the posting of Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd.  The big search keywords are 'Moonlighting Reunion.'  This comes from Google pages all over the planet - Canada, Australia, France, Korea, Japan, Belgium, Germany, and Russia.  So what it appears like is that people all over the world are DESPERATE to know if David and Maddie will get back together again.

Sorry guys, but no, they won't.  The love is gone.

The second highest page is 'Fish in the Sea,' from people searching for FISH IN THE SEA.  Mostly from France.  WTF?  I don't get that.  Why are the French so interested in knowing about FISH IN THE SEA in ENGLISH!?!?

The biggest game related search is 'Forgotten Realms.'  I bet people are not expecting to stumble into my rants on the subject. :)

Google is how most people get to the site.  Here is the referral breakdown for blogs:

523 jrients.blogspot.com
157 eternalkeep.blogspot.com
121 cyclopeatron.blogspot.com
107 gothridgemanor.blogspot.com
101 daddygrognard.blogspot.com
 93 www.risusmonkey.com
 62 unknownzine.blogspot.com

I just gotta say - the amount of people who use Jeff's Blog as a bookmark list must be STAGGERING.

As far as Locations go, 63% of readers are coming from the US.  Our neighbors to the frigid north comprise 12 percent.  Those crazy tea swilling islanders over in Europe are about eight percent. Germans, whom contributed to about half of my genetic makeup, tied Denmark for two percent.  The other 13 percent are scattered from all over the world, with Brazil and India making huge leaps recently.  WHERE ARE THE IRISH?  Come on guys.  Suck it up and read the blog.

Firefox users are 49% of the users.  I'm not sure what all the rest of ya'll are thinking, but hey - to each there own. :)  Windows is, of course, dominant with 74%.  I am just floored, however, that people are viewing the blog with their iPhones, iPads, Blackberries, and even the Nintendo Wii! 

Okay, enough of this nonsense. I shall actually have an interesting, game related posting soon.  I swear.  I just had to get that out of my system. :)

- Ark

PS - Oh, apparently I am a Maven or something now, per the follower XP table thing..  I always thought that a Maven was a chick.  The things you learn . . .

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Something for you d24 Lovers

Okay, it's not much, but here are two list you can use with your d24s.  I'll be using them in the next Labyrinth Lord game on Saturday.  Yeah, I know 6 more would have made it d30 worthy - but I'm giving a hand to the underdog here.  :)


Common Human Names
d24 Female Male
1 Adela  Aldous 
2 Alison  Alistair 
3 Amelia  Anselm 
4 Ava  Bertrand 
5 Belle Bryce 
6 Bliss  Caine 
7 Cass  Caspar 
8 Clarissa  Cid 
9 Colette  Colin 
10 Constance  Dawson 
11 Courtney  Fuller 
12 Ella Gavin 
13 Emma  Geoffrey 
14 Eve Godfrey 
15 Joan  Kimball 
16 Katelyn  Lance 
17 Katherine  Paul 
18 Latisha  Randall 
19 Morgayne Reynard 
20 Pagan  Sterling 
21 Paige  Tristan 
22 Rachel Tucker 
23 Tristana  Wade 
24 Ysabel  Walker 

Have fun!

- Ark

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Hex on You

I was bumming around Half Price Books this weekend.  In the gaming section, I spied something with my little eye; a mess of tall, skinny, funny shaped boxes in the board games section.

It looked like some variation of scrabble.  Lexigo was the name.  Not exactly my cup of tea, but for some reason I could not avert my gaze. 

The back of the box claimed the game came with 100 hex shaped tiles. 

My mind exploded with possibilities.  I've been having a lot of fun with hex-based wilderness adventures using random land type tables.  The tiles had a blank white side.  I could draw land markings with dry erase on the back of the tiles and build a map right before the player's eyes.

I grabbed the game.  For less than seven dollars, it was a steal.

It even comes with a giant black 'dice bag' for all 100 tiles.

The plastic tiles look good and are nice and heavy.  No cheapo crap plastic here.  The big problem is that when you write on them with either dry erase or wet erase, it doesn't completely erase.  Not great for my original idea.

However, one could easily use a sharpie or acrylic paint to mark what type of land the tile represents.  And heck, you could just prepare all the tiles and draw them randomly from the bag, rather than rolling a die, then drawing the tile.  It would be easier that way.

So I'm excited.  I think this would be a cool doo-dad for wilderness adventurers.  I could even have the players draw the landforms from the bag as they explore.

Another thought struck me.  You could use this bag selection process for important random events as well - having the letters act as indicators.  I worked out percentages based on tile frequency.  Here is an example:

Tile # % Magic Weapon
[blank] 4 4% Callandor
A 8 8% Glamdring
B 2 2% Spear of Lugh
C 2 2% Tizona
D 4 4% Gáe Bulg
E 11 11% Fragarach
F 2 2% Mjolnir
G 3 3% Sting
H 2 2% Narsil
I 9 9% Axe of the Dwarvish Lords 
J 1 1% Clarent
K 1 1% Stormbringer
L 4 4% Hrunting
M 2 2% Grayswandir
N 6 6% Mournblade
O 8 8% Excalibur
P 2 2% Sword of Martin
Q 1 1% Anaklusmos
R 6 6% Joyeuse
S 4 4% Kusanagi
T 6 6% Zulfiqar
U 4 4% Orcrist
V 2 2% Broken Sword of Stubbing
W 2 2% Umbrella
X 1 1% Golf Club
Y 2 2% A Stick
Z 1 1% Air Guitar

So, looks like I'm going to have some type of fun with these tiles, even if it wasn't the original method intended by the creator. :)

- Ark

Friday, March 18, 2011

AAAUUUGGGHH!!!

Some of my earliest memories involve sitting on my mother's bedroom floor with my little sister and tracing the Peanut's characters from comic strips and redrawing them into new scenes.  I've always loved comics - and web comics makes the addiction so much easier - so much more focused into the odd niches that interest me.

Below is a list of comics that I've read religiously for a good long time - comics that have not failed to make me smile.  I know that I am probably missing some very important rpg related comics that I just never have gotten around to.

So, in the interest of sucking more morning work time away from my boss - please send me more.  I showed you mine - now you show me yours.  :)

Scott Kurtz' Player vs. Player - http://www.pvponline.com/

Obsidian's Commissioned - http://www.commissionedcomic.com/

Jeph Jacques' Questionable Content - http://questionablecontent.net/

Randall Munroe's XKCD - http://xkcd.com/

Tycho and Gabe's Penny Arcade - http://www.penny-arcade.com/

Phil Foglio's Girl Genius - http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php

Zach Weiner's Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - http://www.smbc-comics.com/

Ashby, Jones, and Weiner's Snowflakes - http://www.snowflakescomic.com/

- Ark

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Harry Blackstone Copperfield Gandalf Fizban Polgara Merlin Stephens Rincewind Malfoy Mordenkainen Avatar Elminster Majere Dresden

I remember seeing some advertisement for a TV show a while back. The Dresden Files, I believe they called it. My first thought that it was odd to make a show about the firebombing of Dresden. Perhaps I watched too many World War 2 documentaries as a child. It seemed to be about some wizard private eye. How stupid. Almost as stupid as the vampire private eye shows from a while back.

Then, a couple of years later I think, I heard about an rpg based on the the show. That seemed even stupiderer. I quickly filed that in my 'to avoid' mental file. Tossing magic and monsters into the present day in an rpg reminded me too much of the whole White Wolf Wave. Blech.

Just recently I saw a blog with one of those 'NOW READING' blurbs, and on it was some book about this Harry Dresden character. I don't remember which blog. I didn't realize there were books. I wondered if the books came first, but that is about all the thought I gave it.

Then I happen to see the audio book for the first book, Stormfront, by Jim Butcher.  Against my better judgement, I picked it up.

I just finished it.  You know what?  I like it.

Stormfront is a great mix of film noir private eye pulp and arcane sorcery.  There are mob bosses, vampires, prostitutes, vampire prostitutes, evil plots (really evil plots) and talking heads.  It reminds me a lot of an HBO movie from about 20 years ago with Fred Ward in it - a movie I really liked called Cast A Deadly Spell.  If I remember correctly, Ward's character was just a private eye.  Dresden makes a great gumshoe - always on the wrong end of a fist.  But he is a cool wizard was well.

I was really impressed by Butcher's writing style.  It flowed well and was very evocative.  I really liked how Dresden was portrayed as well - a great character.  Some of the writing is pretty schticky - but that is kind of the whole point.

I suppose everyone else in the world has already heard about, read, or seen the Harry Dresden stuff before.  I chose to stay away - and I think it was a good choice since I got to stumble into the book before the TV series.  I don't know how the show is, but I would image, like all adaptations, it's watered down.  But I'm actually interested in seeing it now.

But not before I read the rest of the books.

I do wonder about the rpg.  Was that any good?  The magic, as the first book describes, is pretty dang cool.  It would seem to be a fun genre to romp around in.

So, if you haven't already, go read Stormfront.  It's pretty nifty.

- Ark

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Good Dice Hunting

After learning more about the Order of the d30, I wanted to go get one of those strangely shaped things.   I decided to forgo the online experience and honor my FLGS.  There are two decent gaming stores within comfortable driving distance, so the boy and I set out for adventure.  I call one the stores the 'Grumpy Man Store,' and the other the 'Cool Dude Store.' 

The 'Grumpy Man Store' is run by the Grumpy Man(tm) and his Grumpy Employees.  It is a store with an amazing amount of gaming stuff.  There are shelves and shelves of rpg books from big and small publishers, board games, boxes of ancient games stretching back decades, thousands of minis, and various gaming paraphernalia that boggles the mind.  And that is just one half of it - the other half of the store is devoted to comics and all of action figures and resin busts and other stuff involved in that particular addiction.

I have a habit of pissing off Grumpy Man(tm.)  I do this by asking for things.  It's his own fault.  He does that whole 'how can I help you' bit.  He doesn't really mean it.

"I'd looking for some dice . . "

He points to the dice rack.

" . . . some unusual dice . . ."

The vein in his forehead starts twitching.  I get the feeling that I'm about to experience a Grumpy Man(tm) moment.

" . . . in particular, a 30-sider."

His teeth clench. "What the hell?  No.  I don't have any 30-siders.  I never have had any 30-siders."

"Really?  Are you sure? I mean, you've got a lot of dice here." I ask, trying not to smile.  Am I an asshole if I like to wind up other assholes? Hmm, I shall have to ponder that during meditation.

"I don't have the money to stock weird inventory no one could afford to buy."

"So how much would a die like that cost?" I ask. 

He thinks for a second.  "Four dollars."

I shrug.  "That's not much."

"That's not the point.  You are the first person ever, in the history of this store, to walk up and ask for a thirty sided die.  Ever."

"Oh," I nodded.

He turned to his computer near the cash register and smacked the keyboard around, then wiggled the mouse.  "See," he said, pointing to what may have been a porn site.  "The company that makes those thirty sided dice went out of business years ago."

I try not to laugh.  I used to be really offended by Grumpy Man(tm.)  I did my research.  I know that several companies man 30-siders.  I know he was lying.  I've never quite understood why he hates his customers (or maybe it's just me) so much.  I stopped trying to understand a while ago.  To me, Grumpy Man(tm) is less of a store owner and more of a carnival ride.

"Oh well," I said.  "So . . . do you have any 24-siders?"

After the fun at Grumpy Man Store, (it's an absolutely wonderful place to browse games,) we went to the Cool Dude Store.  The Cool Dude(tm) devotes most of his floor space to gaming tables.  His inventory has been shrinking over the years as he makes space for more and more gamers.  He's just about abandoned aisle shelves, instead bolting everything to the walls.

I walked in and ask for a 30-sider.

"Sorry, I don't carry those," the Cool Dude says.  He whipped out a catalog.  "If you want, I'll order you one though.  They are right here on this page.  What color?"

Give the man a prize.  I ordered one.  Heck, I should have ordered fifty.

I did, however, pick up nifty pack of GameScience dice.  I always want to call the company "Science Diet.'  I'm not sure why.  Anyway, it's a twelve-piece set, so not I can roll d3, d4, d5, d14. d16, and d24 with the rest of the uber-geeks - and I can do it with complete randomity.  I think my nether regions just swelled with gamer excitement.

There is a big problem, however.  The beautiful ruby red gems have no color to the actual numbers.  I'm having flashbacks of 1981 all over again.  I'm wondering - rather than whip out my crayon box (yes, I have a crayon box - mine - no they are not the boy's - he has his own and is not allowed to touch my crayons,) I'm wondering if I could color the numbers in some other way.

So, does anyone out there have experience with 'inking' or whatever, dice?  I figure I might could use acrylics, but I'm also thinking that the acrylics won't hold very well and will chip and fall off.  But then again, I just don't know.  Does anyone have experience with this?

Otherwise, I'll have to write a blog entry about how I screwed up a pack of Science Diet dice.

- Ark

Thursday, March 10, 2011

OSR Hot Elf Chick Artistic Challenge

I'm thinking there should probably be one.  Yanno, some sort of competition.  With fabulous prizes donated by wonderful people.  And rules.  And house rules too.

Maybe not just art, but awards for some actual gaming CONTENT as well.   Or is that asking too much?

- Ark

PS I swear this thing is getting out of hand. ;)

PSS - Hmm, the more I think of it, the more this sounds like a good idea - no, not the 'artistic elf challenge' specifically, but an 'awards show' for OSR content.  We could call them the Elfies. People could rent tuxedo t-shirts.  Some guy would even be there taking pictures with his I-phone.  Talk about Glamor.

Hot Elf Chicks

Hmm, on second thought, I think I might be doing this wrong.

- Ark

PS - Oh yeah - SPOON!

PS - Oh, no, I meant - OSR!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Giant Poop Machine

Sometimes I think that Lulu has the slowest shipping in the universe.  The wait for a Lulu book seems excruciating - and that is after I'm done twiddling my thumbs while they print the damn thing.  Where are they mailing this stuff from?  Abu Dhabi?  Not that I'll pay any extra for faster shipping, but you know, it's something to bitch about on a slow day.

So I finally got my copy of The Dungeon Alphabet.  I actually got two copies.  This was by accident.  God help me if I ever order a car on line.  I'll end up with 7.5 metallic puce Honda Accords.

I really had no idea what to expect from Michael Curtis' book.  Plenty of people raved about it, but I didn't see really any good explanations about what the hell it was.  I really figured it was like a kindergarten alphabet book, with D&D monsters in the shape of letters.  Actually, that picture in my head was enough for me to plunk down the cash.

So, it turns out not to be Sesame Street meets Gary Gygax.  Oh well. (I would still by a Sesame Street Meets Gary Gygax book, though - hint hint.)  But what it is is actually awesome.  It's basically randomized lists for all sorts of things - perfect for the gaming table or just to read through.  I was having my son pick random numbers and reading off the entries.  He loved it.

And the art - it's great.  Most of it is by the D&D artists of old.  Even Erol Otus' giant poop machine picture is fabulous - once you get over the shock of what you are seeing.  The boy, of course, loved that one too.   The look and the feel of the book is just - wow.  It's well worth twice the price - which - um - is what I paid for it.  Ooops.  :)

So go get it.

- Ark

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tales from the Razing Zone - Introduction

The names have been changed to protect to innocent.  Filmed before a live studio audience.

The boy finished his character the day before the game.  I really like to name halflings after vegetables.  Chicory Chives.  Magnolia Honeydew. I don't know why, but it always makes me laugh. The boy, however, had another taxonomy in mind.

"Ferrit," he had decided on.  Not Ferret.  No.  That wold be too pedestrian.  So 'Ferrit' the halfling thief had life blown into him by my son.  He also blew the rest of his cash on a saddle and a white pony named Snowfire.

Ron arrived first on game day.  He had been carefully thinking about his character for a month.  Ron rolled up a no-nonsense dwarven fighter-assassin named Spike - armed with a crossbow.

Tim was late.  He hastily rolled, spitting out two jaw dropping seventeens and a sixteen.  Then he flipped though the Advanced Edition Companion, not really familiar with anything before 2e.  Eventually he put one of the seventeens in Charisma and said, "Elven Fighter."

I scratched my ear.  "Um . . . charisma is kind of a dump stat.  There are not really any . . . skills . . . so to speak, that would use it."

He nodded, a wild glint in his eye.  "But there is some kind of reaction roll, isn't there?"

My palms began to sweat.  Tim can be . . . Tim.  This did not bode well.

"His name shall be 'Imbroglio,'" Tim said with much flourish.

I began to ask him if he knew what that meant.  But, of course, Tim very knew very well what imbroglio meant.  He was Tim, after all.

"Interesting," I nodded. "So it's a party of three demi-humans, starting off in a human controlled area where humans don't take too kindly to non-humans.  Sounds fun," I smiled.

"Imbroglio will have a hat - a black woolen one - like Spock - to hide his ear tips," Tim was still buying his equipment.

I made the requisite mechanical rice-picker joke.  Don't blame me.  It's a part of my DNA.

"Can I get 50 pieces of paper with the same thing printed on them? Tim asked.  I nodded and continued.

"Okay, so the three of you have made it to Audrain Keep, which looks like this," I pointed to the Erol Otus picture on the back cover of B2.  "You know that settlements lock there doors at night and won't let anyone in till morning.  It's evening now, and there is a long merchant caravan awaiting entrance at the gates.  You three are behind the wagons, waiting for your turn.  Since you don't know each other, this is a good time for introductions.  A caravan guard is nearby, keeping an eye on the tail end of the train."

"I look at the others," Ron said.

"I'm on my pony," the boy smiled.

"Oh," said Tim, still writing in his equipment block, "Imbroglio has 50 - or however many he can carry - ten foot poles.  Strapped to his back, maybe."

I thought about that.  I really didn't want to ask why.  "Um . .  okay . . . then you look like that old man on the cover of Zeppelin Four."

Tim's eyes brightened.  "Awesome."

"I am Spike.  I am a huntsman and bounty hunter." Ron had his dwarf introduce himself.

Tim smiled.  "My good friend dwarf, that is great news.  I just happen to be here in the wild to capture some ferocious animals so that I might tame them and use them in my show.  I could greatly use your help."

"Show?"

"Yes!  I run the Amazing Spirit Traveling Extravaganza, where I break these ten foot poles over my head to show the amazing power of my god!"

I hastily tried to explain my religious concept for this world in which there was only one actual lawful god.  Tim waved my explanation off. "It's okay.  Imbroglio hears his god speak to him all the time, but the god doesn't really exits.  Imbroglio is stark raving mad."

"Oh."

"Hi there. I'm a thief!" the boy had Ferrit introduce himself excitedly.

"Hmmm," I smiled, "The caravan guard's ears perk up and he starts walking over."

Tim almost leaped out of his chair "'Fine sir,' I say as I hand him one of the pieces of paper.  'Please accept this pamphlet explaining the wonderful miracles my god has bestowed on this land and . . .'"

"The guard nods, mutters something, and gets away from you as quickly as possible.," I chuckled.

"Young halfling," Ron said to my son in a whisper, "You might not want to announce yourself as a thief so close to armed guards.  They tend to get over-excited.  Maybe 'genetleman adventurer' instead?"

"Okay," my son grinned. "I have a pony and a slingshot."

I saw Tim carefully erase '50 pamplets' on his character sheet and replace it with '49 pamplets.'

This was going to be an interesting session, to say the least.

- Ark

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

The boy, two friends, and I played the first session of our Labyrinth Lord campaign.  It was quite awesome.  It felt really good to be playing again where I had the freedom to . . . be a frikkin DM again.  Honestly, 4e sucked out my soul without me even noticing.  Okay, 4e is just a different style of playing - okay for those who like it - blah blah blah.  But this is MY GAME.  It's good to be back. 

I'll be posting a session report, but for now, here is a rumor table for the players:

Audrain Keep Rumors Table
d20
Rumor and General Gossip
1
A bandit dressed in red has been robbing landowners nearby.
2
A huge bird has been seen flying over the treetops in the evening.
3
A merchant was kidnapped on the road from Audrain Keep to Barton Hill.
4
A powerful witch has been charming innocent young men and luring them to her lair.
5
A vile one armed man stalks the plains to the east, back stabbing the unaware.
6
All merchants from Fultum smell like fish.
7
An invisible mountain lays half a day's ride to the northeast.
8
Dangerous monsters roam the countryside to the west.
9
Drinking from the Pool of Death will allow evil spirits to take control of you.
10
Elves have been seen out in the woods practicing strange magical rights.
11
Gobelyntur and the Razing Zone lie several days to the north.
12
Several fortified villages have mysteriously burning down to the north.
13
Some have seen a man with glowing red eyes in the keep at night.
14
Some say an ancient temple lies at the top of a hill to the south.
15
The Castellan of Audrain Keep slew a huge ogre in his youth.
16
The stables of Aloftgres breed the finest horses around.
17
There is a dwarf out there in the wilderness who throws axes at people.
18
There is an ongoing feud between the Castellan of Audrain Keep and his brother.
19
Three parties of adventurers have disappeared in as many months.
20
Women have been disappearing from the village of Dwergen Doun.

- Ark

Friday, March 4, 2011

Leading the Faithful Into Battle

You-sa Clicken To-sa Embiggen, Okie-Day?
This image has been years in the making.  Procrastination, really, but it sounds awesome, doesn't it?  We've got some Reaper Pirates and some Flintloque Ferach Elf Line Infantry & Irregulars going at it.  All of the background stuff, except the ship, is handcrafted by me.  Yes, I actually took sheets of veneer, sliced it into 'planks,' and assembled crates out of it (not that you can tell.)  And my buddy, FSM, was sculpted out of FIMO and painted with some nice acrylics. This is my first staging - but I'd like to get soemthing better done by the time that International Talk Like A Pirate Day rolls around. :)

- Ark

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Hex on the Borderlands

Okay, so yeah, this is a crappy scan from a crappy print of a crappy scan.  But that isn't the point.  What is the point that the map is serviceable

If you've ever wanted to dove-tail the Wilderness Map from Dungeon Module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands into your campaign, here is your leg up.  The purple sharpie lines form standard 6 mile hexes.

I'm going to be starting up my Labyrinth Lord campaign this weekend, and I'm using the venerable Keep as the starting place.  I have no idea whether I'll use the caves, though.  Probably not.  I'm all into this randomly generated wilderness encounter thing right now - thus the hexification.

So, the theory is you can start with Gygax's Borderlands map and extend it off into any direction with liberal application of dice and terrain tables.  You just need to transfer the puppy to a hex map.  Hexographer is wonderful for such work.
 
Down here is the Keep on the Borderlands Hexographericated.  Isn't it cute.  Okay, no, not all blown up like this.  Looks much better smaller.  Oh well.

You know, Gary never mentioned the name of that road, that I recall, but I hear the locals call it the Reden Rot Road.  They say that  a couple of hexes to the east lies the Lascon Thickets.  Hmm.  I bet some adventure lurks over there.

I guess I should get some hex paper for the players.  Not that they'll use it - but it's a perfect opportunity to say 'I told you so.'  :)

- Ark

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Cyclopeatron is Doing Math Again!

He's making a list and checking it twice.  You know what list I am talking about.  Congratz to Beedo of Dreams of the Lich House.  Go look at it TODAY.  ACT NOW.  OPERATORS ARE STANDING BY.

- Ark

World Skeletons

For me, the core of a fantasy world has always been it's spiritual side.  Players may never know or care anything about it, but in actually building the world it's vital.  The spiritual side of a fantasy world  is the skeleton you hang everything else from.  In my quest to build a universe from D&D/Labyrinth Lord basics, I'll focus on alignment, plannar structure, and deities.

Alignment is an important feature in any Dungeons and Dragons campaign.  Even it's absence from a DM's creation is very telling about that world.  Entire planes of existence were even created along the nine point alignment system.  But it sure has been a pain in the ass.

In thirty years of wrestling with the alignment system, I've come down to a simple thought.  It doesn't mean a great deal to say your character is Lawful Good of Chaotic Neutral or whatever.  It matters what you do.

People are what they do.  Not the other way around.  A frog can sit around and do geometry problems and recite lines from the movie Toxic Avenger, but it's not being a very good frog.  In fact, we probably need an entirely new word for this frog-like entity.  Characters are the same.  They probably shouldn't even bother writing down an alignment.  The DM should just assign one based on past behavior.

In breaking down alignment, good and evil are the simplest part.  There is nothing particularly spiritual about the continuum in itself.  It's really just how beneficial your actions are to the groups of which you are a part.  That group can be an adventuring group, a village, a nation, a race, or all intelligent creatures.  A person can't define themselves as good.  Group members have to do that.  Evil is pursuing self interests that conflict with the group's.  Of course, the definitions are always subjective, depending on who is doing the labeling, and what group they belong to.

I think Law and Chaos are where it gets interesting.  Chaos can be likened to entropy, the universe's inclination to break down into disorder and randomness.  Law can be likened to life itself.  Life is not only organized, it tends to create even more organization.  The Life = Law idea is borne out in the fact that Lawful clerics have turn undead, while Chaotic clerics have create undead.  The undead appear to be a subversion of Law.  Skeletons, ghouls, and zombies rarely build cities or formulate tax codes.  They kill the living without benefiting the living.

I've read bits of James Raggi's LotFP alignment system and love it.  All magic users and elves are chaotic.  It's great.  It's not quite what I am striving for with this world, but man, do I want to use it.  It fits in with my Law/Chaos theories as well.  I'll probably sneak as much as I can in, though.

In D&D and Labyrinth Lord, Law and Chaos stretch off the edges of the page, so to speak, into other planes,  indicating that they are Platonic ideals with their 'source perfection' somewhere beyond the realm of mortals. These places tend to be the planes of the Gods.  

In thinking about the nature of the alignments, I am thinking of breaking away with tradition, well, at least D&D tradition.  It only makes sense to me that Law, it it's purest form, would be purified into a singularity.  There would be one, and only one, Lawful deity.  I have surprised myself by becoming a fantasy monotheist.

The human culture that I envision eventual came to understand that all clerics received the same spells and abilities, whichever god or goddess they were worshipping.  They could hop from one deity to another even, with little issue.  It dawned on the spiritual leaders that there was only one God of Law.  More 'primitive' cultures might have a whole slew of lawful deities, but they were only worshipping aspects, or avatars, of the one true source of Law.

Furthermore, they believed that this Lawful God could not be represented in any suitable visual form, and to attempt to do so was silly - to the point of being dangerous.  The best you could do was to represent this god with geometric shapes or abstract symbols.

Chaos, on the other hand, has a thousand gibbering mouths and a million tiny little hands and feet, all busy disassembling the universe and eating it from the inside out.  There is no one Chaos - it is infinite. 

So, there are some of the bones I am using for this new campaign world I am working on.  Not like the players will ever know - since they will only see the flesh.  They won't even care - but you know, it's not about them. :)

- Ark

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Bullied

I've written this post countless times over the last few days and deleted it an equal amount.  I've posted some information, then removed it, which has probably confused some who have caught snatches of it.  To sum up,

My son has been bullied at school for a while now, and it has taken a very heavy emotional toll on him.  He has a large amount of people surrounding him to help him through this, ranging from family to professionals.  Steps are being taken to make things right.

My son is different in many of the same ways that I am, and many of the ways that I think anyone who sits down and writes a blog abut role playing is different.  Differences get pointed out in painful ways.  It hurts down deep to see my boy have to go through this.

Things are now getting better, but it has been very rough.

I'd like to thank Johnathan Bingham, ze bulette, Telecanter, Mike, Spawn of Endra and Chris Hogan for your support, and I am sorry that your posts were deleted when I deleted the blog entry.  I have them in email and I am keeping them, having reread them many times already.  They mean a lot.

I'd also like to thank Harald over at The Book of Worlds for a very succinct reality check .  The flat of your Viking battle axe upside my temple has cleared my head.  Seriously.  Thanks.

- Ark