Thursday, May 31, 2012

Dungeonspiration: NTRPGCON 2012

From 2011: A jovial Jim Ward planning to kill EVERYONE IN THE UNIVERSE. 
Next week, The Boy and I will be on Hajj to the North Texas Role Playing Game Convention.  Our long, arduous trek will involve us driving across the city.  Yes, indeed, it will be fraught with dangers - especially if the cherry Slurpee machine at the 7-11 on the way is busted.

Last year's Con was very inspiring.  I think the highlight for me was when Jim Ward offed my son's character in a game of Metamorphosis Alpha.  Eaten by a giant plant in one gulp.  I mean, can life get much better than that?

This year, a big bag of guests will be attending - Sandy Petersen, Tim Kask, Jennell Jaquays, Erol Otus, James M. Ward, Frank Mentzer, Jason Braun, Steve Marsh, Steve Winter, Dennis Sustare, Jeff Dee, Peter Kerestan, Zeb Cook, and Diesel Laforce.  Things might get a little awkward around Zeb Cook.  I mean, I did curse his name loudly for two decades because of second edition.  But now, I PLAY second edition, and am thoroughly enjoying it.  So I should probably just dine on a big plate of crow in front of him.

The Three Castles RPG Design Award is going to be judged by Dennis Sustare, Robert Kuntz, Sandy Petersen, Steve Marsh, and Zeb Cook this year.  Up for the award are Anomalous Subsurface EnvironmentRealms of Crawling ChaosStars Without Number, and the Tome of Adventure Design.  I think we all know I am rooting for Stars Without Number, so I'll shut up about it.

So, over the four days of the Con, I have some things scheduled:

  • Thursday: Urutsk with Kyrinn!  Yay!  Last year, The Boy faced Urutsk's strangeness head on - causing bouts of hysterical laughter.  I'm looking forward to another visit.
  • Friday: OD&D with Tim Kask!  I'm dead.  I'm sure he kills people who make bad puns.
  • Saturday Morning: Aliens?  Like in the Movie? With Alan Grohe?  I there!
  • Saturday Evening: Petal Throne with Victor Raymond.  Yes, time to introduce The Boy to the sweet smell of MUSTY CINNAMON.
  • Sunday: Quicksilver with Jeff Dee.  Did I mention Jeff Dee?  I've got, like, piles of his Kickstarter artwork on my desk.

That leaves lots of unscheduled time to shop, hob-nob, and crash other games.  The Boy and I are pumped, and I'm sure we will be very exhausted, and very inspired, at the end of it all.

If you are planning on attending, I hope to see you there!

- Ark

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Naming A Champions Superhero Character

Kaye has been working for, what, a week or two on his super hero.  Suddenly this moring we get an email from him.  This is the exchange:

Kaye: Quick! Give me some ideas for Superhero names!
Me: Putrid Pete. Engorged Man. Left Eyeball Lad. Lactating Larry.
Kaye: Yeah, I forgot to mention that he does not have the power to lactate. Good try though.
Me: Okay, well, what powers does he have?  Or should we just go with the obvious and call him MinMaxMan?
Kaye: Well his powers are super strength, flight and energy projection. And he is not totally min/max. He has one weakness.
Me: Well obviously, he should be called Superman.
Kaye: God damn I hate you. I was about to reply about how he is nothing like superman then I looked at his powers I have the urge to rework all his powers again. Are you happy now!
Me: One day I will be able to breath again.  Until them, I am laughing too hard to inhale.

Any email exchange with Kaye is normally a source of hours of amusement. :)

- Ark

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons

Ah.  Hi there.  Good.  I'm glad I got your attention.

Some of you may recognize the image over there as the one created as an April Fool joke back in 2011.  The reason I reposted it is really to just mess with your head.  Calm down everybody.  ;)

I've just finished reading through the D&D Next Playtest files.  I was planning to write a breakdown of my feeling about each and every bit of it.  I've got the notes right here - all my little scribbles and chicken scratching.

I'm not going to post them.  

Why?  Well, First off, I'm not sure exactly what I can say with the NDA - I need to read over that again as well - but honestly, It doesn't matter. No one really cares about all that minutia, anyway.  So, I'll keep to larger, more sweeping observations.

In reading the rules, and taking a peek at other peoples' writings on the matter, I think it goes like this:
  1. If you want to like the rules presented in the D&D Next Playtest, you will, and
  2. If you do not want to like the rules presented in the D&D Next Playtest, you won't.
It's really simple as that.  The ruleset is so basic, and the actual rules that would evoke interest or disgust are so absent from this playtest, that I think your mind will probably try to fill in the blanks with what it is expecting, for better or worse.

I'm not sure whether that is by design, or by accident.

So what do we really have here with the D&D Next playtest?  I see this is an attempt to emulate old school style play using the 'language' of modern role playing games.  There are a few mechanics that offer a different flavor - but none of them are too repulsive.  The whole Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic intrigues the hell out of me.  The en masse move of virtually all saving throws and checks to the Abilities appears to be wonderful.

I could see running the kind of D&D games I like to run with this very ruleset.  I could see sitting down with a bunch of young punk gamers in a book store get-together, playing with them, and not projectile vomiting all over their manuals.

The big thing that worries me is the creeping in of character customization and specialization.  Race - okay.  Class - sure.  Background - umm . . . well . . . hmm.  Theme - umm . . huh?  The character creation rules are absent from the playtest, so this minefield of a subject is just hinted at by the pre-gen character sheets.

Of course, I haven't playtested yet, so all my thoughts are worthless until put into action.  Since one of our GM's games is on hiatus at the moment, I'll be running a playtest starting Wednesday.  Crazy Ass Tim has got the lineup over on his awesome blog.  

One thing I'll remind ya'll is that you must sign the NDA to playtest.  This includes children.  The boy is under 13, so of course he can't sign anything at all legally - but WOTC has provided something for me to sign, which allows his to play and give feedback to them.

If WOTC keeps on going in a good direction with this, I see 5e as something I would play.  Not as my go-to game or anything, but as a game I could sit down with some kids and play without feeling the need for a shower. And really that what I am hoping for - a game that can get the punks and the grognards in the same room together - for at least a little while.  Of course, I am filling in the blanks with my hopes and expectations (and fears) - as we are wont to do with anything in life.

- Ark

P.S. - WOTC, if you are listening right now, why not take this simplified ruleset and publish it as BASIC D&D, then throw the kitchen sink in and publish that as ADVANCED D&D.  Completely foreign and bizarre idea, I know, but it just might work!

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Call to Arms

These are doll arms, not maggots. I think.
Despite the sinking feeling that I've been getting over the past month when reading Mike Mearls' columns, I'm surprised that I'm pleasantly surprised by the contents of the D&D Next Playtest Packet.

I'm torn right now. We've got a hole in our gaming schedule, and I've been prepping to run a Champions game. But Next is staring at me in the face.

Now, I'm already playing a version of D&D I like, a version that I see no need to toss away. So why am I interested in D&D Next?


Okay, this is where I'm coming from. I'd like to be able to plop down with any group of random whippersnappers playing D&D and not get violently ill and projectile vomit all over their ruleset. How does this happen? Well, the easiest way is for WOTC to put out a game that doesn't upset my stomach.

If new players are introduced to a ROLE-PLAYING GAME, rather than a miniatures based skirmish simulation system, well, that's a whole crop of people who will be that much closer to 'getting' old school type play. That makes more people who are prepped to come to my table and play a proper game of D&D.

WOTC really needs feedback to make that happen. They need feedback from grumpy old bastards who can identify the steaming piles and point them out. They need US, the Guardians of Grognosia (or something like that, since the term 'Grognardia' is already taken.)

In the end, WOTC will make whatever game they want to. Will they pour a bunch of crap on this simple ruleset and turn me off? Yeah, probably. But we have the opportunity to steer them, even if it's slightly, into the kind of game we prefer. The very fact that the adventure module in the playtest packet is the CAVES OF CHAOS points to the fact that they are at least listening a little bit.

Is all that worth three or four nights of learning some new old rules, killing orcs, and filling our some questionnaires? Right now, I'm thinking yes.

- Ark

P.S. Of course, I have a track record of being horribly wrong at important times, too. So get out your grain of salt. :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

His Were Pink Too

You know, I really didn't think that I'd get this finished today, what with work being such a pain and me lately obsessing over the mega-picture of Glacia.  But I did it!  Well, not exactly 'on time,' because I shoot for before 7:00 AM CST, but heck - I got the day right at least.

Hey, do you mind doing me a favor?  I know there are a handful of people that actually read this strip on occasion from the stats, but I really don't know who.  If you read it, could you comment below? Just a Hi or a MEEP or UTINI will do.  I'm just curious.


- Ark

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Weird West Miniatures

Stuart Robertson has got a Kicksta^H^H^H^H Indiegogo project going.  He's putting together some minis for his Weird West game, which could lots of other uses.  Reenacting Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter immediately comes to mind.  Check it out and throw him some cash!

[Regretfully, I've been BANNED from giving any more money to projects for a while, so all I can do is be a cheerleaders for cool stuff at this point. 8) ]

- Ark

Monday, May 21, 2012


You know, at the beginning of all this D&D Next stuff, I was mildly optimistic that WOTC's design guru's were on the right path to making a game I might enjoy - you know, old school in a new can.

However, the more I read from Mr. Mearls, the less warm fuzzies I get.

A lot less.

J. Geils comes to mind for some reason:

My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is a Centerfold
Angel is a Centerfold


- Ark

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Glacia's Smiley Farm

This is Glacia, my barbarian character in our 2e game.  I haven't been as productive as I'd like to have been this weekend.  I've got most of the basic line work down, though I still have to do the clothes sketch for the 'PG-13' version.  I've gone through quite a few poses - that's where most of the time has gone - lot's of redraws.  But I think she is shaping up well.

Enjoy - if you like this kind of thing. :)

- Ark

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dungeonspiration: Glacia

Meet Glacia.  Yeah, she's not done yet.  She's ending up to be less cartoony and more comicy-realistic, which is taking me a bit more time to get right.  Glacia is my replacement character for Chartreuse in Crazy-Ass-Tim's 2e campaign.

During the campaign, the party acquired a flying boat that only spellcasters could pilot.  One day the cleric blew his piloting roll, and we ended up in the frozen northern wastes.  While there, we attacked by some Yetis.  We killed one and captured the other, then hauled it aboard the boat and lugged it around with us.  Some of us were wanting to train the Yeti to dance while wearing a top hat and a monocle, and others had even more interesting plans.

Well, Chartruese died on me, so I needed a new character.  We had a distinct lack of tanks (or people who were actually willing to get into the front line,) so I decided to make a fighter.  I wanted a kind of wildling type fighter, so Tim pointed me to some splat books.  After much though, I settled on a Barbarian Ravager, dispite my loud oath to never use, or even touch, a 2e splat book ever ever ever.  Let's just call it scope creep.

Since Chartreuse's death had left me all 'coitus interruptus' in pursuing my Beard and Boobs Badge, I decided to make a lady barbarian.  Glacia is of the Ice People, a tribe of the Frozen Northern Wastes that had intermarried with Yetis generations ago.  That's right, Glacia is a half-Yeti.

Note - these are not the stupid looking gorilla yetis in the Monstrous Manual.  In my mind, at least.  The Yetis all look like Bumble, The Abominable Snow Monster of the North in  Rankin/Bass version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  The half-Yeti offspring have a varied feature set, ranging from almost human to very Yetish.

Glacia is 6'2", pale skinned, has light-blue eyes, and miles and miles of bright white Yeti hair.  Enough hair to make another person, in fact.  And as a ravager, she can't wear armor, so the whole fur bikini thing makes sense finally!  All those poor baby seals.  So sad.

So, some moths ago, Glacia saw a flying kayak steal away with her very hairy half-Yeti brother, and she's been chasing after it ever sense.  Come to find out that it wasn't a giant kayak filled with birds - but the PCs in their flying ship.  But instead of killing all of the PCs, Glacia found out that her hairy brother (who was actually the smartest half-Yeti in the tribe,) actually has been enjoying his adventures as a captive, exploring new lands and learning new things.

Glacia is not really thrilled about cavorting around in a flying ship with an abundance of small, hairy children (i.e., dwarves,) but it's something to do other than brain baby seals to death.  Or eat her fellow tribe members when they die - a socially acceptable and tasty alternative to burial.

On her first outing into a dungeon, things got weird.  She very muchly enjoyed killing the Stone Giants.  The Carrion Crawlers fought unfairly with their tentacles, which she did not like.  The Mummies concerned her, as the concept of the undead horrifies her and is clearly the reason why the proper thing to do is to eat anything that you kill.  But the thing that really confused her was the whole Deck of Many Things that Crazy-Ass Tim rolled up in the loot stash.

She took a card for fun, which let her pick two more.  Suddenly, Glacia's charisma shot up to 18 and she acquired possession of a keep somewhere.  The next card brought into being a 4th level fighter to serve her.

While she's much more charming now, she still insists on coating herself in the blood, juice, or ichor of anything she kills.   And that keep?  She doesn't understand the concept of property that you can't eat, or that kills things so you can eat them, so her Yeti brother will probably have to explain real estate law to her.  But the 4th level fighter?  She very much understands the concept of slavery, so she's got a 4th level one now - whether the fighter agrees of not.  The card said so.

However, she did watch the deck rip the soul right out of the dwarven thief, and just kill poor old Torvalds outright.  (Remember good old Torvalds the useless magician everybody?  Yup.  Toast.  Go read all about poor Torvalds' convoluted and painful death here.)  So Glacia will not be touching any more cards.  Ever.

Glacia, the half-yeti girl has been most inspiring to play.  She wild and crazy and psycho brave - exactly the opposite of cautious and cowardly Chartreuse.  It's kind of nice to completely reverse gears, and helps to inspire whole new avenues of creativity.

- Ark

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Grrr . . .

I'm up waaaay past my bedtime.  Time to put the stylus down. :)


- Ark

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wild Hair Lady WIP

In case anyone is interested, here is a sketch of a picture I've been working on.  I've been experimenting with Autodesk SketchBook Pro, at it is pretty nifty for sketching.  I'm not so sure about using it for anything else, but for sketching, it blows away Photoshop.

In case anyone wonders WTF is going on up there, I sketch in different layers and colors, so I can keep track of newer bits as I experiment with different sizes, shapes, and positions of things.  Eventually, I just take my favorite bits and trace over them in black, then blow everything else away.  This one still has a whole lot of work to do on it before I get to the coloring stage.

So enjoy, or not.  Your choice. :)

- Ark

Friday, May 11, 2012

That Man Is Playing Galaga

The Boy and I went to go see The Avengers today.  I must say, I'm not sure how you could make a more perfect comic book movie.  By letting Joss Whedon do a sequel maybe?  And the lines - wow - just great.  Robert Downey Jr. just lords over the screen.  Galaga.  Really.  Just Galaga, man.


- Ark

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Yeah, That's a Pool on Top of the Tower

The evil wizard Chernobog's Tower must be quite an eyesore for his neighbors.  It's primarily designed to keep his teenage daughter Yazbella locked up and out of trouble.  It's way too high for even Rapunzel.  However, Yazbella did discover the concept of rope at a young age, so the poor evil wizard never had a chance.

I actually finished the strip on time again.  I owe it to the greatly shortened format - only three panels.  The top bit has undergone a change - the indicia, masthead, whatever the right word for it is.  Nicer font, I think, and not as obtrusive - but there if you need it.  Of course, my style continues to - morph?  Evolve?  Mutate?  Something.  Change.  That's the word.

And in case you missed it - I'm keeping Chartreuse in the strip.  I was bummed when she died in the D&D game, but I think I can go on with her alternate reality adventures in bizarro comic world.  After all, it appears she has fans, and we can't let the fans down, can we? :)

- Ark

Friday, May 4, 2012

Come, Come My Child

Come, come my child, come rescue your downed pilot and the glorious and loyal soldiers of the Democratic People's Republic of Glory will spank you until the heavens' turn red with jarhead blood.  Come, come my child, and enjoy your thrashing.

- Ark

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dungeonspiration: RIP Chartreuse

Chartreuse, by Angel Urena

Chartreuse, my 5th level wood elf ranger died last night at approximately 11:45 pm in Crazy-ass Tim's 2nd edition AD&D game.

It's been at least 30 years since I played a character enough to reach such a high level.  Actually, Chartreuse was only 52 XP away from being 6th level.  Dammit.

I played Chartreuse as a ranger with an emphasis on 'range.'  She talked a big talk and rained horrible slurs down upon her foes, but she was allergic to melee something fierce.  If she was 20 yards away from combat, she was too close.  If she could be up in the tree branches, far above the party, she would be there.  She even slept in the trees.  She had a very nice hammock.  Any excuse to be away from potential physical harm was a good one.  I really enjoyed playing her.

Chartreuse Drinking
The only thing that would cause Chartreuse to actually endanger herself was to protect her sister Serendipity.  The campaign began with Chartreuse attempting to find and rescue Serendipity (as well as some other party relatives.)  Regretfully, Serendipity joined the party, so Chartreuse had to be on double duty - protecting her sister while staying out of harms way.  It was a difficult task, however, as Serendipity was such a awful mage/thief that she earned the nickname Seren-derpity.

Early in last night's session, Chartreuse has finally convinced Serendipity to go off and retire from adventuring.  Perhaps it was the new found sense of not having to babysit her sister - perhaps it was just something wrong in the air - but this one night, this one dungeon delve, Chartreuse wasn't as cowardly as she needed to be.

A room had been found containing a pack of beetles and an sadistic ogre assaulting said beetles with a whip.  Torvalds, the suicidal mage, dropped two burning hands spells on the roomular inhabitants, assured that he would clear the place out in a hurry.  Regretfully, the DM didn't have time to mention that these were 11 foot friggin long beetles.  And now, they were angry beetles.  I had decided to start calling them John, Paul, George, and Ringo, because that's the way I roll.

Chartreuse Drunk
As Torvalds was standing in the doorway, the beetles rushed him, knocked him unconscious, and went for the party.  They all picked Chartreuse to attack, because crazy-ass Tim hates me or something.  Who knows why DMs do what they do?  After being knocked down to 2 hit points, Chartreuse used her newly acquired ring of jumping 30 feet the fuck away to jump 30 feet the fuck away, back down the hall, and proceeded to arrow the beetles to death.

Two heals from the cleric gave her a whopping 3 hit points back.  That's when the ogre magi appeared.  Well, she was an invisible ogre magi, so appeared isn't quite the right word.  The hidden ogre magi sent a cone of frost down the hallway. Chartreuse failed the save in a major way and suddenly found herself at -25 hit points.  She turned blue, iced over, and shattered into a million little fragments.  In my mind, at least.


What's even more poignant is that Kaye, who has been trying to purposefully get Torvalds killed, survived with flying colors.  Of course, he had help.  When he was at -9 hp, the cleric maliciously saved his life.  Out of spite.  Really.  Torvalds has actually become one of the more useful and productive members of our party, but that hasn't stopped Kaye from hating to play him.

The End
Now I have this annoying sense of loss from the death of someone who didn't even exist.  It's interesting to see how it feels on the other side of the DM's screen.  okay, interesting isn't the word.  It sucks.  But I guess it doesn't suck bad enough to have some sudden burst of empathy and not want to kill PCs in my own games. :)

One big problem is that I have this alternate reality Chartreuse in my Rather Gamey Comic.  The intention was her to be a major character in the story.  Yeah, she's not the 'real' Chartreuse, so it really shouldn't really matter what happens in the game - but it does.  She's dead.  Right now, I dont' have any interest in having her in the story or even drawing her.  I just want to mourn her and move on.


So here is to the characters that we play and how they inspire us to try on different personalities for other people's amusement - including our own.

Rest in Peace, Chartreuse.

- Ark

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Quote of the Game

Quote of the Game for Saturday's SWN game:

"Can we rewind back to 15 minutes ago?  If this were a computer game, I would have saved right before we entered this derelict battle cruiser and powered it up.  Right before.  Can we rewind?  Then we can go back and turn around and never look at this thing again.  This isn't going to end well.  This isn't going to end well at all."

-Merwyn, playing Captain Goodnight, as a giant mech controlled by a crazy rogue AI blasted them with a plasma cannon on the Engineering Deck, but missed with a natural '1' and accidentally shot full force into the meta-dimensional energy reactor.

- Ark

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

36 Cent War

I've been reading the rules for the Tomorrow's War scifi wargame and am impressed by the combat system.  The design seems to focus on having the game feel like a fluid, interactive battle, rather than a chess match.

As always, table size is one of my biggest concerns.  If I use my 28mm Star Wars figures, the intro game would be on a six by six foot game board.  At 15mm, it plays on a 3x3, which is quite a bit better.  But before I go invest in 15mm pewter, I figured I could do something with copper.  Well, zinc.  Abraham ain't made of the same metal that he used to be.

Merwyn, however, has some very spiffy 15mm scifi grutns and hover tanks, so after my beta testing, I'll go over and play with his toys. :)

- Ark