Jun 25, 2009

Famous Players

In addition to me and you, it turns out there are a number of other famous people who admit to playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Check out this link for some of those people: 20 Celebrities Who Play Dungeons & Dragons

Jun 22, 2009

Ultimate Dragonlance Fan

Hey, looks like WotC is running a contest to find the "Ultimate Dragonlance Fan", so if you think you got what it takes, head over the the official page to get your entry form.

Top prize includes a free trip to GenCon this year and an autographed copy of the new Weis and Hickman book, Dragons of the Hourglass Mage.

You have till July 15 to send the entry in. And good luck, but not too much, since I'll be entering too!!

Jun 19, 2009

Dragonlance Comics (Issue 19) - A Winter's Knight Continues

Season of the Witch

Winter's Night part 3This issue starts with Riva and companions reaching her destination. This turns out to be an empty mesa, but Riva doesn't seem bothered with this. Instead she uses the time to continue telling more tales of Wistan Dawnbringer.

Wistan's tale picks up three years after his adventure in the Silvanesti lands. During that time, lands important to the Knights of Solomnia have been plunged into an eternal winter. The knights recently learned that this was the work of the black-robed wizard Ravenna and now march on her lair.

As they approach a particularly steep hill, Alben, Lord Sigmun's son, goes on foot to scout ahead. Just over the rise, the young knight is attacked engulfed in the freezing breath of a white dragon. The other knights quickly attack and drive away the dragon, but it's too late to save the young knight.

Meanwhile as they gather fire wood, Shaya and Riva talk about the pain Lord Sigmun must have felt over sending his own son to his death. Shaya asks if Riva had any children. The old knight starts to respond, but then simple says "yes, a son".

As Wistan's story continues, the knights confront Ravenna and a pair of polar bears under her control. At first she rains down an ice storm on the knights, and then sends the bears to attack. The knights fight hard against the bears, but the beasts decimate their ranks, including taking the life of Lord Sigmun. Wistan is able to wound Ravenna enough that the mage and her polar companions retreat, while the knights are too weak to give chase.

Afterward many of the knights want to retreat and gather more reinforcements before confronting Ravenna again. Wistan on the other hand wants to push on and face her while she's still weak. In the end only two other knights accompany Wistan after Ravenna, while the remaining knights head back.

After Riva finishes this part of her tale, Shaya sees dragons flying toward them. Riva calms the girl as these dragons are good dragons, ridden by Knights of Solomnia. Riva tells Garrin, one of the knights, that her mission was a success. As she reveals strange writing on the cloth she's been wearing as a head band, she reveals this to be "the secret of the draconians undoing".

Commentary

This was another good issue in this series. The Riva portion was not very eventful, except for her mentioning that she has (or had) a son. It clearly seemed like a sad subject for her to talk about. Her rendevous with the other knights clearly showed that this older lady was still in high regard amoung her male (and younger) counterparts. I also thought it clever that the headband she's been wearing thoughout all these issues was more than just a decoration.

The Wistan portion on the other hand took up much of the issue. I liked the characterization of Wistan and Sigmun, while Ravenna seemed a little cliche, the typical "mad wizard". I would like to know what her plan/goal is and why she's been intersecting with the knights all these years.

In terms of art, this issue was a big hit... The detail on the white dragon was very well done. Likewise the polar bears attacking the knights looked realistic and imposing, especially when reared up on hind legs swinging massive paws. I also liked the details on the knights, like seeing them in winter gear, and seeing Wistan's long hair and moustache (trademark symbols of the knights) really helped set the stage and call attention to how much time has past since the previous story of Wistan.

For the Riva section, I didn't find the art that special, maybe since very little happended, though I do admit the look on her face, more than words, captured her sadness when talking about her son.

Overall, I really liked this issue (the Wistan part more than the Riva part) and look forward to the concluding chapter.

Jun 17, 2009

Return to Brightstone Keep

Having finally recovered the Gem of Amara, the party returned to Dun Eamon for supplies and a chance to plan their next move...

Inside the Grey Citadel, Hunter, Theo, Jes, and Adow were contacted by Caledon, a local druid and friend of Greybear. He reported that the local druids were watching the area around Brightstone Keep and there had been an increase in activity around the mine. The druids currently believed that the followers of the Black Scourge had retrieved as many as eight or nine of the ten bones needed to allow the Scourge to return to the prime material plane.

Everyone then packed up with fresh supplies for the journey back to the keep. En route, the party met up with the druids actually monitoring the area. They were reunited with Greybear, who informed them of recent events.

Many of the local hobgoblin and gnoll tribes had aligned themselves with this cult, and the main entrance to the mine was well guarded by these minions. Something they recently discovered, was that there was a seldom used second entrance that appeared to connect with the mine. It seems this alternate route was used only for the most clandestine meetings. While the entrance way was very well hidden, the druids were able to eventually find it.

Greybear and the party believed the best plan was for the druids to create a distraction at the front of the mine, while Hunter, Theo, Adow, and Jes sneeked in from the alternate route to get to the inner sanctum of the cult.

After making their way down a rocky slop the party was confronted by a group of slig guards. With their long polearms, the sligs put up a bit of a fight, but they were soon taken care of. The party then moved into the underground room that served as the sligs barracks. They avoided the various traps that had been set (sligs are notorious for trapping their lairs) and soon found the real enterance further into the mine.


Next the party found themselves just outside a larger set of caverns. Squeaking, coming from a ceiling covered in darkness, served as perch to unseen creatures. As the group moved further into the area, they could see into the next cavern. Two natural columns divided the cave opening into three smaller openings, while in the back of the cave, there was a huge monolith of ice, like a small mountain inside the cavern.

As the group entered the area, an arrow shot out of the darkness just missing Hunter. Meanwhile a pair of draconians emerges around one side of the ice pillar to attack the party while another pair came around the other side. Ignoring the shooter from it's dark perch against the side way, the party concentrated on the attacking draconians. In short order the draconians were crumbling to dust around the party.

Climbing up to the perch, they found the shooter gone, a crude, quick note promising swift revenge at a later date, and a makeshift latter leading to a simple trapdoor in the ceiling. Through the trapdoor, the party found themselves in a small room just off from the main chamber where the Black Scourge was still imprisoned in the guardian sigil.


Pacing the imprisoning square anxiously, eager to break out of it's cage, the ghostly image seemed more solid now that eight bone shards had been returned to the Scourge. Down the halls of the former mine, the sound of sword against sword rang out in testimony to the battle going on between the minions of the Black Scourge and the druids.

The air in the room felt as if it were electrified when the Gem of Amara was freed from the leather satchel it was carried in. The Scourge stopped it's pacing and stared, eyes fixed in their direction.

As Adow began to recite the words that Greybear had told him, the Gem began glowing, and trails of shimmering light spilled out snaking around the room. As the light swirled, it mixed with the gray and black shadows. Where light would fill one corner the darkness would overtake another. The shone brighter and the darkness pulsed as if the two basic forces were fighting for control in this one spot. Swirling around and chasing each other the darkness and the light formed a small whirlwind here.

Meanwhile the ghostly claws and wings of mist tried to propel the Black Scourge free from it's prison. As the whirlwind grew in strength, dirt and debris were pulled into it's vortex obscuring everything around the party.

Adow stopped chanting the words that invoked the power of the gem, and the gem, for it's part flared in white, blinding brilliance for one very long second, and then exploded.

As the wind died down and the room became visible again, the party could see that the Black Scourge was gone... no bones or ghostly images remained, and the protection sigil was like was shattered and broken. Bruised and bloodied, with not even the smallest shard of the Gem of Amara to be found, everyone gathered up their things and began to head out of the mine.

With the destruction of their dragon-god, the alliance of goblin and kobold, hobgoblin and gnoll broke down with everyone running for themselves. They scattered deeper into the mines or into the surrounding hills and mountains, while the druids did what they could to secure the keep and this mine.

Outside the party regrouped with the druids and celebrated this unique victory. Later that night as Hunter and Theo, Adow and Jes made camp each noticed a sharp stabbing pain. For some it was in the arm, others in a foot, or a shoulderblade, and looking closer, the source of the pain seemed to come from something that looked like the fragment of a bone embedded in their flesh, dark black and grey with shimmering light swirling around it...

Jun 16, 2009

DDO F.R.E.E

It was recently announced that the Dungeons and Dragons Online MMORPG is trying out a free version. It doesn't cost anything to play, but certain character upgrades will cost.

While it's an interesting take on the game model, sadly, it feels more like a last ditch effort to get bodies in the game... I mean you can't really call it "massively multi-player" if there are only a few folks on at any one time. It also doesn't help that overall opinion of the original version of DDO was totally unenthusiastic. Maybe this new version will be better...

As soon as I can get some free time, I'll check it out... oh wait, there's no Mac version. Guess that ends that (and poorly too)

Jun 12, 2009

Get More D&D This Weekend

Now's the time to do your part to help stimulate the economy... this weekend (June 12th - 14th, 2009) WotC and participating retailers are giving away free stuff with all purchases over $15.

$15... that's like half of a source book, a box of minis, or a few booster packs of MtG cards. Now I like D&D, but I like free stuff even more!

Looks like it's time for me to pick up a few items to fill out my collection.

Jun 10, 2009

When Dungeon Tiles Leave the Dungeon

First off, I'm a big fan of anything that really helps portray a scene to the players... from minis and maps, to props and pictures, I try to do whatever I can to showcase an adventure. Needless to say, I'm a big fan of the Dungeon Tile sets (I used the Lost Caverns of the Underdark set to create the mines at Brightstone Keep).

On one hand they help show what an area actually looks like and on the other they can help track what's going on during a battle (when used with some kind of minis, such as those from the Dangerous Delves set).

I just read about some new tiles that are a little more above ground than the typical sets (though these new set are not the first to go topside).

The first is a special set that's not for sale. It is only for DMs as part of the RPGA DM Rewards program. This year the set is a sheet of tiles that can be used to create a ship, with one side being the top and the flip side being below decks. I know I'll be checking eBay to see what these are going for...

The other is the latest full set of tiles. This new set, DU4 Arcane Towers, is just what you think it is, various tiles, including rounded ones, to help build everything from a wizard's lab to a library, to a solders' outpost. The sample images on the WotC site are tempting... I could see myself wanting to pick up a couple copies of this set since in case I end up needing a lot of a certain tile, and since WotC doesn't seem to reprint any of the sets when they go out of stock (good luck trying to find a copy of the original set--called just "Dungeon Tiles").

So do you use Dungeon Tiles in your games, do you have a favorite set, or something you want to see in an upcoming set? Leave a comment...

Jun 5, 2009

Dragonlance Comics (Issue 18) - A Winter's Knight Continues

Mission of Mercy

Winter's Night part 2This issue opens up with Darial and Shaya riding a cart into town when they are stopped by a group of draconian guards. The guards are wondering why they are arriving into town so late at night.

Darial makes up a story that Shaya is sick and needs a healer. The draconains, finished tormenting the travelers, sends them on their way.

A little while later, in the house of the town healer, Riva receives a foul smelling potion. In moments, the poison is purged from her body and the knight is up and about. The healer warns that Riva still needs time to heal and takes the three of them through a secret passage into a room, hidden from draconian guards.

While sharing a feast, Darial asks how Riva became a night. There's a one page montage of moments from the first arc of the comic: Lord Soth, Riva fighting Takhisis, fighting with Kitiara, Riva in an embrace with Vandar, and kneeing in front of Vandar's body.

Rather than tell her story, she continues talking about Winston Dawnbringer...

Wistan, under the training of Lord Sigmun, is almost ready to enter the knighthood as a knight of the crown (the lowest of the knightly orders), but Wistan expresses his desire to be a knight of the sword, like Lord Sigmun. Sigmun sets Wistan on a quest, one that, if Wistan completes, will prove his worthiness to be a sword knight.

The quest is for Wistan and Solith, the grandnephew of Silvanos (king of the silvanesti elves), to journey into Silvanesti lands under the control of ogres and a black mage named Ravenna, and rescue Vyratha, Solith's sister, who, through some means Solith doesn't discuss, is giving information useful in planning attacks against the elves.

The lands under the control of Ravenna have been twisted into a mockery of the peaceful, serene lands they once where. In this realms, the knight and elf are attacked by a group of savage ogres. In one particularly nasty fight, an ogre disarms Wistan and tries to attack the knight with his own sword. Wistan blocks every attack with his shield and ends up using the sharp end of that same shield to spear the hapless ogre.

A short distance later, they find Vyratha, only she has been transformed by dark magic into one of the twisted hideous trees that dot this landscape. Solith, not knowing any way to save his sister is set to destroy her tree form and thereby grant her some peace. But Wistan is not so ready to watch her murdered and fights with Solith to consider another solution.

Wistan deduces that the fruit blossoming from her tree form is how the ogres are getting their information to plan attacks. In that case, maybe the fruit also contains the knowledge of freeing Vyratha from her transformation. After taking a bite, Wistan learns of a nearby flower blossom that can free her.

As he heads in the direction of the flower needed to free the elf woman, Wistan hears (and then sees) his dead mother calling to him. Wistan moves closer to what he desperately wants to believe is his mother, all the while Solith is trying to convince the knight that it is merely an illusion. When Wistan is close enough, the plant (that was the source of the illusion) attacks Wistan.

The knight regains enough of his senses to realize that his mother is long since dead and strikes down this illusionary version with his sword. Afterward, both the elf and the knight hear more voices, but ignore all the calls, knowing full well they are merely illusions. Soon the retrieve the needed flower blossoms and when the flower's scent is released before Vyratha, she is transformed back into her elven form.

Wistan feels a cold wind blowing all around and comments that winter is coming early that year.

Before Riva can continue her story, a fiery explosion engulfs the safe room in flames. Riva leads Darial and Shaya out a secret passage and into a back alley, onto a pair of horses and out of the town. It seems Riva possesses certain information about the draconians that they are trying retrieve from her before she can make use of it.

Commentary

If you've been following my reviews of the series, you know I haven't been a fan of many of the issues. This, on the other hand, is one of those really good issues that hints at the potential this series could have had.

First off, I thought the pacing of the story flowed smoothly. I didn't feel like any panels or pages were wasted space. Not a lot happened in the Riva section, but as a framing sequence for another story about Wistan, this was better done that the last issue. Also the revelation at the end of the issue actually makes Riva's section just as important as the tales of Wistan.

Speaking of the Wistan section, that story was also very exciting. Wistan's mission wasn't terribly original ("rescue the princess"), but the twists were fun and exciting, if not too suprising.

As for the artwork, Ron Randall did a great job this time... all my previous complaints seemed to have been addressed this time around. The draconains in the opening spread were well detailed and very menacing, the backgrounds of the twisted forest had plenty of detail, and the depiction of Vyatha in tree form was shocking and saddening.

I thought the fight sequence with the plant creature was exciting, as was the fight with the ogres. The details of the Solith fighting an ogre was the kind of background elements I wanted to see in issue #17.

Lastly, the artwork for the one page montage of Riva's events in the first four issues is a wonderful piece of art and something I wish I owned.

There were some negatives: the healer is never given a name, the ogres look too much like cavemen instead of what I've seen in various D&D game manuals, and I wish the importance of Riva's part of this arc was hinted at last issue instead of this one.

But overall, I think this may be one of the best single issues of the comic so far. I eagerly look forward to the next part of this story.

Jun 2, 2009

Dungeon Tiles Mapper

One of my favorite tools as a DM is the Dungeon Tiles Mapper (DTM). This handy app was previously featured on the WotC website, but the creator retained ownership of the product. Since that time, it was revised into a 2.0.0 version and has now found a new home and is the focus of a Yahoo Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/dungeon_tiles/). In addition to hosting the latest version, the group also houses additional tile sets for the app, and a lively discussion board.

While I've been working with the tool for some time (my maps for the mines at Brightstone Keep were created using the DTM), there has been a consistent issue with the product (known as "sticky tiles"). I've recently focus my professional talents as a web developer to solve this issue and posted an update to fix this issue.

If you use DTM, please consider joining the Yahoo Group, as well as adding this update to your version of DTM. If you are new to the DTM, now is a good time to check it out.