Saturday, January 30, 2010

D&D Heroscape Review

A few weeks back the new D&D themed Heroscape set was released.  I reviewed Heroscape Master Set Three - the Battle for the Underdark at Eye of the Vortex.  Check it out!

My fervent hope is that this brings in new blood to both games.  I think the set did a good job of including D&D gameplay elements to get Heroscape players interested in D&D, but I think more could have been done to get D&D players into Heroscape.

Battle Map Doodles

Just some critters I doodled on the battlemap using the dry erase markers.  Not the most forgiving of mediums, but I kind of like the results none the less.  The snake seems to be a little concerned about the battle axe emerging from its tail - "Dude!  What happened to my rattle!  Damn those wizards..."
This beholder seems a little too happy... where's the visine... this might be one of the infamous Beholder Blunt Lords:
And the happy couple together at last:

And there you have it, folks!  Battlemap Doodles!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Orcish Lowlands - Hill Orcs

Much less common than the grey-skinned, stocky orcs that multiply in the great warrens of the lowlands, the nomadic hill orcs are taller, lanky, green-skinned and (don't say this to one's face) possibly related to the hill giants of the highlands.  They can be easily recognized by the floppy wide-brimmed hats they wear to shield their eyes from the daylight, and the striped kilts emblazoned with their clan colors.  Hill Orc warriors share a special bond with the giant dogs that serve as mount and companion; as a young hill orc draws closer to the initiation ceremony that will mark his entrance into the warrior fraternities, a puppy is selected for him by the shaman. For the next year, the young orc must spend all of his time with his dog, training it and building a bond of mutual love and trust strong enough to survive the rigors of battle.

All orcs of an age set are initiated into orchood at the same time, and after the secret ceremony they are sent off naked and unarmed on the backs of their dogs into the lowlands, not to come back until they have survived for one moon on their own.  Some do not make it back, but those who do have forged an unbreakable connection with each other.  Each age set acts as a unit in combat, and it is this organization that makes the hill orcs so effective on the battlefield even though they are not tirelessly drilled and regimented like the grey orcs.

Here is a sheet I used for a hill orc encounter in the orcish lowlands - I statted the orcs up as barbarians (using my super light version of 3.5) and sketched a quick drawing illustrating the characteristic floppy brimmed hat, kilt, polearm and shield that all hill orcs carry.  These orcs are travelling on foot, which is a rarity.


Thanks Eli Arndt for the awesome drawing of a hill orc!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

4e- Dragonborn Book Review

I just got the Player's Handbook Races - Dragonborn book.  Read my full review here - I just started writing for the Eye of the Vortex game site, which I am excited about because I will be getting free stuff to review soon!

I play a dragonborn ranger in my weekly 4e game, and while I have been having fun with her, I knew next to nothing about how dragonborns fit into the default 4e world.  After reading the book, I have to say that in many ways this book feels "old-school" to me.  There is a ton of inspiration crammed into 32 pages, and without fully detailing anything, it creates a sketch of the ancient dragonborn kingdom of Arkhosia, dragonborn family and clan structure and dragonborn religion that made me envision running a game based on uncovering the past glories of the old dragonborn empire.  I guess what I am saying is that it evokes rather than details.

In an odd way, I would almost recommend this book more to someone who didn't play 4e!  To the 4e player, it is going to be a disappointment in terms of the amount of new "crunchy" feats, powers and items, and what it does have in that department is going to show up in D&D Insider anyway.  But taken as a systemless inspiration for a campaign, it is actually pretty good!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Orcish Lowlands - an introduction

A bit of a misnomer, the Orcish Lowlands from my 3e campaign were actually a high plateau that gently sloped up from south to north and from west to east.  They were called the lowlands because of the hilly highlands that rose above them and gradually turned into the jagged northern mountains.  I developed quite a lot of material for the lowlands as I ran two of my players through an extended journey across them.  This is a general introduction to traveling through the area, and future posts will detail specific sites, monsters, plants and encounters to be found in the lowlands.

First Impressions:  Gnarly twisted pines struggle to reach even 10' in height on the high, windswept plateau.  Every tree is bent to the south, mute evidence of the prevailing north winds that knife off the highlands, carrying the true cold of the north country along with them.  Tough, springy heather and colorful yellow and orange lichens fill the spaces between the choking scrubby bushes which abound like a scattering of thorn covered, four-foot throw pillows.  High overhead, the raucous caws of carrion birds remind travelers that should they meet their untimely demise in these harsh environs, their bodies will not have to sit long in decomposition before they rejoin the food chain.

The birds:  Large solid black vultures with bright blue heads and 9' wingspans.  They circle for hours over any large mammals they see, figuring chances are excellent that something will kill them before the day is out.  They are a more or less constant presence; even if not directly overhead, a few are always visible soaring the thermals on the horizon.  Clusters of them denote battles and carrion, and they gather from miles around to form great congregations (6d6 in number).  They will not attack anything that is still moving.

The Weather:  Roll 1d6 to determine predominant wind direction and weather once daily (there are almost always mixed clouds to solid clouds overhead, depending on the wind strength - strong winds scatter the oppressive cloud cover somewhat):
1-3: North wind, bitterly cold, 2d20+3 MPH, 25% chance of snow, 5% chance of rain, temperature: 3d4x4 degrees Fahrenheit, minus 2 degrees windchill per MPH of wind.  If it is raining and below freezing, the rain is freezing rain that coats everything on the ground in ice and makes traveling dangerous and miserable.
4: Westerly wind, 1d12 MPH, 5% chance of snow, 10% chance of rain, 25% chance of fog (1d10x10' visibility), temperature: 7d6+8 degrees Fahrenheit, minus 1 degree windchill per MPH of wind.
5:  Easterly wind, 1d12+4 MPH, 10% chance of snow, 10% chance of rain, temperature: 3d4x4 degrees Fahrenheit, minus 1 degree windchill per MPH of wind.
6: South wind, 1d20 MPH, 20% chance of rain, 20% chance of fog (1d10x10' visibility), 25% chance sunny (!), temperature: 4d6+30 degrees Fahrenheit

Trails:  Many twisting trails cross the landscape, most narrow paths worn down by animals with the occasional well worn orc road, 3' wide and 2-3' deep ruts that wind their way between entrances to the underground warrens.
Roll 1d20 every hour to determine if another trail or animal tracks cross the travelers path; if the results indicate tracks, roll 1d4 to determine direction traveled (1: North, 2: South, 3: East, 4: West) and 1d20 to determine how old the tracks or animal signs are (in days).
1d20 Trail and Track Chart:
1-2: Nothing
3: Deer tracks and droppings
4: Wolf tracks
5: Rabbit signs (droppings and fur tufts)
6: Hill giant trail
7: large reptile tracks
8: Bear trail
9: Large cat tracks (puma sized)
10: bear scat, bent and scratched tree
11: wild boar trail
12: four legged humanoid tracks (wolfen - a sort of were-wolf like creature that only has a man-wolf form)
13-14: Nothing
15-16: Deer trail (regularly traveled by large groups of deer)
17: Dallen (a centaur like creature with a mountain goat body) signs (white fur caught on ochoka bushes, fused-hoof print)
18: Rabbit sign
19-20: Orc trail

Animal trails and tracks normally lead between caves that serve as shelters from the vampire bats that swarm the plateau at night and grazing or hunting grounds that the animals frequent during the day.

Ochoka bushes and Movement Rates:  Resembling a tumbleweed with nasty thorns, travelers soon discover (whenever the wind blows) that a bouncing ochoka bush is not a pleasant mouthful.  Movement is at half normal rate (1/4 when the wind is blowing more than 10 MPH) unless the traveler wishes to take an automatic 6 hits per hour from the thorns of the ever present and painful ochoka bushes (well established and regularly used trails are normally clear of this threat and can be traveled at regular movement rates, 1/2 when the wind is blowing more than 10 MPH).  The thorns are needle thin, about an inch long and detach only if the barb which sits 1/3 of the way up the thorn finds a home to sink into.  Six thorn hits = 1 damage, but each thorn also delivers a minute dose of hallucinogenic poison.  At 6, 12, 18, etc. doses of accumulated poison in the system (it stays in the system for months as it is stored in fat cells), a fortitude save (save vs. poison) is required at DC 12, 15, 18, etc (or at -0, -3, -6, etc. if using Save vs. Poison rules).  When activated by a failed save, the effects of the poison last for 1d6 rounds per point that the save was missed by.  The poison acts to dull the senses, inducing a powerful fatigue and also an overwhelming urge to embrace the ochoka bush.  While under the influence, the ochoka bush is a soft and fuzzy pillow which radiates a soothing light and warmth, while the rest of the landscape seems alien, dark and frightening.  The poison affects balance and movement, making it hard to move away from the bush but extremely easy to move toward it.  Every three rounds that a PC is within 15' of a bush under the influence, a Will save DC20 (or a Wisdom check with a -4 penalty) is required to avoid stumbling into a bush (2d6 thorns attach).  When a victim dies on top of an ochoka bush, their blood triggers the bush to flower.  Within a day, brilliant pink and white blossoms bloom, emitting a sweet scent.  Pods soon emerge where the flowers shrivel away, bursting to shower the body with tiny seeds - new ochoka bushes sprout off the corpse like needles from a pin cushion, growing rapidly as they consume the nutrients in the body until a new generation of ochoka bushes rolls free across the landscape.  Note - the toxins in the bodies of ochoka victims are deadly to the carrion vultures, so they leave the bodies alone while the bush reproduces.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Alternate Divine Magic System

Here is the divine magic system I used in my 3e campaign in .PDF format.  I have never been happy with divine magic (actually, all magic) as written in D&D.  For this campaign I made up a system based on the trance possession religion of the Yoruba of west Africa (probably more familiar to my readers as Santeria and Candomble in the New World).

This was one of the player handouts, so the whole thing is written in the second person. I should mention that this was an EXTREMELY high powered campaign.  These rules make the divine magic user quite powerful, but in the context of the campaign they worked well.  I think the general concept could be easily adapted to a lower power campaign by scaling back the static benefits of each possession.

Here are the allowed weapons and armor for a Yoruba Cleric:

Traditional Yoruba Armor:  frame shield, bone breast plate, (bone breastplate give +1 to AC, shield gives +3 AC if not flanked)


 long spear (oko):6’ haft, 2’ steel blade does 1d8 dmg piercing/critical on 19-20x2, or 1d6 dmg slashing, critical on 20x2, with a spike on the butt end (1d6 piercing or bludgeoning, critical on 20x2): can be used to make two attacks a round, a slashing attack with the front and a stab or bash with the rear: -4/-2 or no penalty if two skill points spent on oko skill (2 attacks at 1d6 dmg).

 long spear with barbs (oko eleti) 1d8 dmg piercing/critical on 19-20x3 (this spear is a little heavier, with barbs protruding angularly from the base of the blade, but in all other respects is identical to the oko.

throwing spear/javelin (esin): 4’ haft, 1 ½’ steel point:1d6 dmg piercing, critical on 20x2, 30’ range increment

sword with single edge and backwards curve (agedengbe): 2-2 ½’ steel blade, hilt of wood bound with leather:2d4 dmg slashing, critical on 18-20x2, x3 if used two-handed, 6 lbs

longsword (ida):3’ steel blade, expanding from the hilt towards the broadest section close to the tip, iron or wood and leather hilt with crossguard: 1d8 dmg slashing, critical on 19-20x2, 3 lbs

curved sword/scimitar (ogbo):3’ curved steel blade, iron hilt with cross guard and pommel: 1d6 dmg slashing, critical on 18-20x2, 3 lbs

dagger (obe): 12” blade, 5 1/2” wood hilt with no guard, hangs in a leather scabbard from the left hip: dmg 1d4 piercing or slashing, critical on 19-20x2, range increment 10’, 1 lb

short bow (orun):4-5’ wood shaft, with a leather grip in the center bound with magical herbs, and a twisted leather string fed through a hole in the top of the shaft and bound frontally to the bottom of the shaft:1d6 dmg piercing, critical on 20x3, range increment 60’, 2 lbs

arrow (ofa): 24-30” canes tipped with steel points and fletched with thin pieces of leather towards the rear of the arrow

quiver (apo): tubular leather holder fitting twenty arrows

Here are examples of the ritual objects used by the Yoruba Cleric:

God Statue/Tapper:

Agogo Bell:

Ashere Dance Rattles:

Clay Bust of Elegua (for Dream Messaging):

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dragon and Knight

This is a drawing I scrawled on some purple paper a while back at my girlfriend's sister's house.  I drew it because her sister loves dragons, so I left the original there and snapped a (very low resolution) picture of it with my cell phone.  I just found the cell phone pic today as I was transferring stuff from my old phone onto my computer, and thought it was worth posting.

I really like the blue face in the hillside behind the dragon; I think this would make a good location in a dream plane in an RPG... which gives me an idea for the next time my Mutant Future players use their Plane Shift mutation!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Daddy Grognard's Fight Club (Droid Post)

I spent all day playing with my new Droid phone - browsing my favorite blogs and even making this post on the little robot!  One of the things I checked out was Daddy Grognard's Saturday Night Fight Club between a remorhaz and a Frost Giant.

I have always loved the remorhaz, so I was not surprised by the fight results!

Just for fun I took a picture of the combatants with the fight post behind them (mostly to test out the Droid's ability to take a pic and upload it to blogger).

Edit - As it turns out, I was unable to select the "Insert Image" tool (actually, only the "Link" tool worked in the toolbar) using the Droid browser.  I did email myself the picture and get on my laptop to finish the post, however.  Looks like if I am going to make any posts with the Droid I will have to use HTML to insert images.

Edit the Second:  And that is totally not a frost giant, it is a frost titan.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Designing a Game - Mice in Mech Suits

I just finished up the beta playtest version of my Mice in Mech Suits mech combat rules - here is the link to download them in .PDF format.  If you download them and use them, or even just read them, please give me feedback.  It was a lot of fun for me to make this game; this was the first time I have made my own game rules since I was probably 12 years old!  I learned a lot, and one of the things was about the importance of playtesting.  I cranked the first version of the rules out in one night and ran some two on two combats with my girlfriend the next day, with each of us controlling two mechs.  It went well, but pointed out some bugs that I patched over in time for the group playtest.

The group playtest showed me a lot more things to fix.  The Bandit Mechs were in general overpowered, as their ability to use ranged weapons that had a several square blast radius was much more useful than the Noble Knight Mech's ability to dish out damage in melee combat - especially considering that many of the ranged weapons are mounted on the chest while the Knight's weapons are mounted on the arm - once you lose that arm, you are screwed!  I made the Noble Knights more effective in combat and increased their unarmed damage so they can still cause some pain with their off arm if their weapon arm gets blown away.  One of the players in the group playtest was running a Worker Mech with the Dig Dug special ability, and he pretty much spent the whole time underground - so I made this ability more limited.  I also tweaked the movement rules a little.  All in all, I think it is pretty solid but I am sure that more playtesting will reveal more flaws.  So go to town, all you mech-heads out there on the internets!

I did include a (pretty weak) random mech generation system, but I want to rework that and also include a super-short pilot generation system to create even more variance on the battlefield.  I will post that as soon as I finish it up.  While thinking about character generation in Mutant Future vs. D&D 4e, I realized that random rolls on a list is a lot more fun for me than picking out the kewlest powers.  I will be taking that lesson to heart when I rework the mech generation rules and make up some pilot generation rules.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Herbs and Magic

One area that seems to be neglected in a lot of fantasy RPGs is the link between herbs and magic.  The history of magic in our world teems with plants, both as magical objects or entities in their own right and as components necessary to creating magic.  Something I was working on a while ago was a Fantasy Herbal based on the Iroquois system of medicine, which is basically a combination of herbal knowledge and ritual practice that imbues magical properties in plants if they are harvested in a particular fashion.  I may try to polish it up and post it on this blog soon.

What I would like to see more of is plants as magic items.  This makes the natural world that surrounds the characters a much more tangible thing - knowing the name, appearance and function of plants in the woods, being excited when you find a particular kind of flower, and knowing the ritual phrase to speak while harvesting it so that it becomes a ward against undead - that is the kind of stuff I am looking for.  It makes seasons much more important, as they will determine what kinds of magical items are available to harvest.  It provides great low level rewards (an herbal in the dungeon library that details uses for 6 plants is basically a recipe for magical items!).  It is a built in adventure hook, requiring questing through the woods - I have the beginnings of a random chart that you roll on that includes both random monster encounters and random plants that you find in the woods, so an expedition to find Achillea Millefolium (yarrow), which can cure paralysis if the correct phrase is spoken while harvesting, an offering of tobacco is laid at the first plant seen, and subsequent plants are harvested in two's or four's, becomes its own little mini adventure.

After doing this for a while, the player's maps will not be filled only with dungeons, cities and castles, but with groves in forests where particular plants can be found.  Maybe part of the reason why I am so into the idea of plants as magical items is because I have a problem with clerical magic (a subject for another post), and don't like the idea of a person in the party who's main roll is to heal everyone else.  If plants provide the magical healing, they are accessible to everyone.  They can be made as common or rare as desired, but it will never feel like the "magic item market" that 3e and 4e have become.  One key to making this system work is that it is not just the plant that is important, but the particular manner it was harvested, the words spoken to it and the intentions that the harvester held.  This means that finding the plant you are looking for in a marketplace is worthless.  You have to go out and do it yourself, and know what you are doing, or the plant will not become the magical item that you desire.

I will be including a LOT of this sort of stuff in my upcoming Empire of the Petal Throne campaign - mycology and herbal knowledge will be very important, and natural products will be the majority of the low level magical items that the players will have access to.  Mushrooms and herbs will take the place of healing potions, minor magical buffs like rings of protection, potions of flight, giant strength, invisibility, etc.  This will involve trial and error or making contacts with knowledgeable locals, as the players will be barbarians newly arrived to Jakalla and ignorant of the local flora, fauna and customs.

A related subject to plants as magical items is plants as spell components.  I have been finishing up an alternate magical system that allows for a magic user to create spells on the spot, without being more powerful than the standard caster types.  One aspect of this is that components related to the desired spell effects make the spell consume less of your magical energy.  Different plants are good for different broad categories of magic, so having a pouch full of different herbs would enable a caster to more easily create desired magical effects.

More on this later - now I must eat before the weekly 4e session!

My d30's arrived! Thanks Emma!

My beautiful and generous fiancee came through and finally delivered the late Christmas present she had promised me - I got a d30 today!  And when I opened the package, it turned out to be two d30's!  I made a half-assed roll on the table top (which is glass and makes a horrible sound when you roll dice on it), cringed at the noise and scooped up the heavy dice.

Shake shake shake (I should just roll these on the wood floor!  Then I can really give them a good roll.)  Shake shake shake, roll...

Double Frickin' 30's.  With Emma as my witness.

I have a feeling my players are in trouble, as I will be making a slight amendment to the d30 houserule - the referee gets TWO rolls per session because I have two d30's, dammit!  And also because there are so many more players than there are me's, and not only is there only one of me, but I play so many different NPCs and villains that it really only seems fair that I get two rolls while each player only gets one.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mech Creation in my Mice in Mech Suit rules

My last post about balance in character creation and the joys of randomness and thrills of the rolling dice has gotten me thinking about my latest project.  As it stands, mech creation in my Mice in Mech Suit game is a matter of choosing the basic type of mech (which grants some statistical differences from the base mech stats), choosing a base movement rate (which determines base AC and HP), and then choosing a basic weapon package, optional weapons, optional defenses, and one special maneuver.  The optional weapons and defenses have trade offs (usually a penalty to movement and associated penalty to AC, but some have penalties to attacks or damage, some require the use of two hands thus limiting other choices, etc.) that more or less balance them out - you can pick as many or as few of them as you like, but if you pick every cool looking one that exists you would find yourself hardly able to move and extremely easy to hit (even if you did have three kinds of forcefields and rockets and grenades and repulsor beams...).

I think I am going to have to introduce an optional random char gen option.  I will probably start by numbering each option in each step of the character creation process, then require some random rolls to see how many options you roll for at each step.  If nothing else it will be a random mech generator that a DM could use to create a horde of unique adversaries without having to expend any brainpower!

I have also been toying around with a the option of a few rolls to determine the prowess and special abilities of the pilot of the mech; in my stand-alone rules, the pilot is more or less totally ignored.  The basic rules are  ready to post in a public beta playtest sort of way, but I will have to think a little bit more about random character generation before I put them out there on the interwebs.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Balancing Act in Character Creation - Lady Luck vs. Point Buy

A primary design goal of 3e and 4e was to achieve game balance - balance between the classes, encounters that balance with the level of the party, saving throws that are balanced vs. a spell's chance to succeed, and the list goes on.  3e may not have succeeded particularly well at balancing the classes or saving throws, but it was a design goal.  4e does a much better job at achieving this aim, and one interesting side effect became apparent to me when I was thinking about a comment that Jeff Rients made on my post about 4e and the ever expanding "core rules".

In reference to my point that the 4e character generator allowed you to make a character in a relatively short time, Jeff said,

"'Quick with a computer' just doesn't light my jets the same way 'quick with dice' does."

4e has not done away entirely with using dice in character creation, but it might as well have.  The 4e Player's Handbook does pay lip service to random stat generation with the 4d6, drop the lowest method.  However, reading the rules, using the character builder and looking at the careful math that has gone into making sure that you will have exactly such and such a chance to hit as long as your primary stat is within this range and your secondary stat is within that range, it becomes apparent that 4e's designers expect you to use one of the point build options presented in the Player's Handbook when making your character.  It is hard to have a truly balanced game when you could roll up a character with a 4 Strength, 6 Constitution, 5 Dexterity, 9 Intelligence, 5 Wisdom and 14 Charisma, for example.

Lest any of my "old school" readers take exception, let me make it clear that I am not advocating for balance in the sense that every character is expected to be as competent as every other character, and I am certainly not advocating for the abandonment of random dice rolls in character creation.  I am just noting that 4e has moved a long way in that direction.

I personally have always loved the moment of letting those dice fly and seeing the new character start to take shape with each toss.  I love getting that high roll on 3d6, and I love trying to make a character work and make sense with those inevitable low rolls.  Heck, I often have more fun when playing a character that "sucks" statistically.

Of course, attributes meant much less in the older versions of D&D than they do now.  In OD&D they were almost meaningless except for the experience bonuses you could get for your prime requisite.  They might be called into play by an individual DM asking for an attribute check or making a ruling on your ability to perform some action, but all in all it didn't really matter if you had a pathetic strength score.  Fast forward to 4e, and you might as well just slit your throat if you were the character with the rolls described above.  You would almost never hit anything in combat, you would be, for all intents and purposes, useless outside of combat (even that 14 Charisma is not a high stat by 4e standards which expect every starting character to have at least an 18 in one or more attributes!) thanks to 4e's reliance on skills and skill challenges and you would be extremely vulnerable thanks to the transformation of Saving Throws into defenses directly tied to your attributes.  This would be particularly painful if the rest of the group used the standard point buy method - you would be a giant millstone around their necks.

I am currently running a Mutant Future game.  Mutant Future might be the antithesis of the 4e trend toward balance - not only is it a "roll 3d6 down the line" kind of game, it is a "roll some random mutations and deal with the freaky results" kind of game.  One character might be able to fly at a ridiculous speed, completely possess another person merely by thinking about it or reflect damage back to its source, while another might take double damage, be twice as slow as normal, or emit an odor that attracts dangerous predators!  Take that, Balance Police!

While I am not sure what exactly my point is, I am sure about one thing - character creation in Mutant Future is WAY more fun than character creation in 4e... dare I say it is funner, because everyone knows that "funner" is more fun than "more fun".  Don't believe me?  Download the free .PDF of Mutant Future and roll up a character, then talk to me about balance!  Who cares about balance, honestly, when you are a sentient, mobile, mutant aloe vera plant or a bipedal porcupine that can shoot frickin' gamma rays from its eyes?

A person present at the table who is not there.

Last night's test run of my Mice in Mech Suit mech combat rules also marked the test run of a sort of play by video conference experiment that will start for real during next week's Mutant Future session.  One of the players has not been able to attend since we switched the game day from Friday to Sunday, as he has a weekly baby sitting gig.  The host for our weekly session has a Playstation 3 with something called the Playstation Eye and so does his brother Jake (the player who has not been able to attend), and last night they set up a television in the corner of the room behind me that displayed Jake and he watched what was going on in the game on a television on his end.  I am going to send Jake a link to a secure dice server and we are going to try having him participate in a session remotely.

I wonder how common this is - I know that a lot of people game remotely, but how many people combine a live table full of people and a remote person?  The Playstation Eye does not have that great of resolution - here is a screen capture from last nights session when we all stuck our heads in the frame to get a group portrait:

I think the audio is going to be the biggest problem, as Jake will have to both be able to hear what is going on around the table and be able to be heard in turn.  During combat it will be easy, as when it is his turn in the initiative order all eyes will turn to him.  When the group is discussing stuff outside of combat it might be a challenge; I did notice that during the general hubbub and commotion of the group talking, he got lost in the shuffle pretty easily.  Still, it is worth a shot and I will post an update on how this went after we try it out for real.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My 2009 RPG year in review.

Happy New Year everyone!

2009 was a year full of epic gaming for me and all the lunatics I roll dice with.  It saw the death of my D&D 3.5 campaign (bits and pieces of which have been posted on this blog and more will be unearthed in the year to come) and the start of my Mutant Future campaign (24 sessions in and rolling strong!).  It saw me get the original Empire of the Petal Throne game from TSR (love it and am planning on running it soon...) and start playing in a 4e group (heresy in some circles, I know, but I have fun with it).  At some point in the spring I discovered Grognardia and got interested in the mythical Old School Renaissance - here we are a few short months later and I have published artwork in Stonehell Dungeon, done maps and monster illustrations for and started several unfinished projects of my own that I hope to publish in the next year.

Of all the things that happened to me (game related) in 2009, I would have to say that my artwork has been the biggest surprise.  I have always enjoyed drawing, but I had not picked up a pen or pencil to tackle a serious illustration or even a doodle for several years when I was inspired by the Ghoul Hound entry on to make an illustration for the ghastly beast.  Turns out I am a pretty good artist when I set my mind to it (I say ever so modestly)!   I hope to do more illustration in the upcoming year, for my own work and for the many friends I have made gaming both locally and out there on the interwebs.

Just last week I accepted an invitation to become a staff writer for the gaming website, which is undergoing a transition from being the home of an online magazine for Magic the Gathering to being a general gaming portal.  I will be writing reviews and articles with an emphasis on the old-school movement, so look for links to those coming soon.

Of course, my real life duties have kept me pretty busy as well; being a loving partner to my fiancee, playing in a band and working full time on top of my addiction to pen and paper RPGs makes me a pretty busy guy.  But who isn't?

I never make New Years resolutions and I am not going to start now, but I wish myself and everyone reading this a happy, healthy and productive 2010.

To close, here are the original drawings (not colored or touched up) that I produced this year for and Stonehell Dungeon:

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