Aug 26, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons Flashback 2... James Dallas Egbert III

As I mentioned in a previous post, once upon a time there was a lot of controversy surrounding Dungeons and Dragons. James Dallas Egbert III was at the center of one such story about a young, brilliant teen lost in steam tunnels during a "real life" game of D&D (and yes, this was the inspiration for the novel and movie "Mazes and Monsters").

While I was a young boy at the time, I have no memories of when the disappearance of James Dallas Egbert III happened. Years later, before I started playing D&D, I read The Dungeon Master, a book about the incident from the private detective the family hired to investigate James' disappearance.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of his disappearance. For the full story, check out this link from GeekSix.com

Aug 25, 2009

Blackwater Keep: Lair of the Jarak-Sinn (part 2)

After leaving Blackwater Keep, the party journeyed into the Blackwater Swamp in search of Marzena and the soldiers kidnapped earlier by the jarak-sinn.


In the swamp, the trails were hard to follow, but Hunter found enough tracks to keep the party moving in the general direction. The party sloshed through dirty water and damp high-ground for most of the day. As they looked for a camping location for the night, they came upon a stream. At first glance it appeared to be a safe place for rest and get fresh water, but looking around they noticed a bunch of small woodland creatures, all petrified into stone; they promptly found another place to camp.

The night was damp, and as darkness descended, all manner of strange noise rose from the swamplands. Luckily for them, noise was the only thing they had to contend with. The next morning, the group continued their journey into the forest and arrived at the site of a huge cluster of inter-grown mangaroo trees by mid-day (the cluster of roots and branches were a few hundred feet in diameter). In order to avoid a lantern or other light source, Hunter started to scout down the central hallway. After making it about 40-50 feet inside, Hunter heard the sounds of several creatures moving in his direction. He beat a hasty retreat and the party outside, on alert the whole time he was scouting was prepared to attack what ever emerged from the tree.

A few moments later a patrol of jarak-sinn emerged from their lair. The party waited just long enough for the lizardfolk move further into the swamp before unleashing their attack. With a well planned strike the patrol was defeated in short order and before any of the jarak-sinn could get word back to their lair.

After hiding the bodies, the party re-entered the tree-lair. At a cross way in the tree, there was a small alcove ahead and paths at each side. Inside the alcove was a small clay pot adorned with symbols that Adow believed were to whatever god or spirit the jarak-sinn worshipped. Inside the pot were a few spears and clubs, all with similar decoration and the same symbols as the clay pot.

As the party explored down one of the pathways, they entered a large room with a dome ceiling. On various perches around the room were several hideous looking half-bird half-woman creatures. A pair of them immediately began crooning. Something about the tone or melody transfixed Hunter, Theo, Jes.

harpyAdow recognized these creatures as harpies. In an attempt to stop the song that was fascinating his friends, Adow unleashed missiles of magical energy on one of the singing creatures. Meanwhile, the last harpy flew in close to rake the mage with her sharp claws. Ignoring the pain caused by the one harpy, Adow continued casting spells on the singing harpy, until that creature was too hurt to continue. After it stopped singing, Hunter and Theo snapped out of the enchantment and began attacking the other harpies in the room.

Hunter used his bow to eliminate one of the harpies in mid flight, while Adow and Theo concentrated on the one still enchanting Jes. Moments later, all the harpy bodies laid scattered around their aerie.

After the battle, Jes noticed a shinny bauble weaved into the structure of the aerie. Climbing up to take a closer look, he found it be a very expensive looking necklace. Meanwhile, down the hall, the party heard the sound of footsteps, the sound getting louder as something (or several somethings) made their way closer and closer...

Aug 21, 2009

Dragonlance Comics (Issue 23) - Landfall! Continues

Winging it!

landfall part 2This issue starts off with Riva, Griffin, and Skrum arriving as prisoners in Kristophan, the capital city of the League of Minotaurs. On the outskirts of the city, Tyche, one of the minotaur soldiers loyal to the traitorous General Axantheas, kills a human soldier to frame the prisoners who Tyche intends to kill as "they were trying to escape".

Riva reaches for the dead solders polearm and uses it to knock Tyche to the ground and allowing them to make a real escape. As they run down streets and through buildings, Skrum reveals that he still has the real dragonring, and what he had previously handed over to the soldiers was an old bracelet he had.

Skrum uses the ring to summon a dragon. Unknown to Skrum, a red dragon appears attacking the chasing soldiers and allowing the three to escape. At first Riva hesitates, not wanting to ally herself with such an evil creature until league soldiers are right on her.

As soon as the dragon takes flight, Riva forces Skrum to land and send the dragon on it's own.

Elsewhere, a cleric of Erestem (as Takhisis is known on Taladas) sees the flying beast and takes it as an omen that Erestem still favors General Axantheas (a fact that the general never doubted anyway).

Meanwhile, Griffin wonders if the power of the dragonring is too much for anyone to wield, a fact Riva agrees with. As the three make their way though quite streets and back alleys, they are accosted by an elf maid clad in tiger skins. At first the elf uses a fiery illusion to disarm Griffin, but as Riva sees through the trick and begins to attack, the elf calls on the help of her brother, Maraghiz.

The elf male emerges from the shadows of the nearby alley, revealing to all that he is blind. This infirmary is no hindrance, as Maraghiz promptly summons insects to keep the party at bay. He announces that there should be no fight, as everyone is on the same side.

The party stops and is prepared to listen to the two elves. They reveal that they were sent to find the paladin (Riva) by the Tiger Quoyai, the totem spirit of their clan.

Maraghiz tells the tale of how he received visions of from the Tiger Quoyai, while the current clan shaman did not. The clan shaman had Maraghiz blinded for these visions and exiled him and Sulai, his sister from the clan. As they journeyed the land, the spirit guided them to Kristophan to find Riva and charging them with nurturing and defending good from the evil that had so gripped Taladas.

Just then a group of red dragons fly over the city, promising more trouble for this party.

Oh, the last page of the comic actually features a letters page. I can't recall the last time this comic did one. Usually they appeared letter's page every month, not just when the comic had a random page to fill.

Commentary

Overall I found the issue to be inconsistent in both the writing and art. On the writing side, I thought the plot was a little too thin. Basically all that really happens is the group escapes and meets two elves. There's a few more little details, like Skrum's possessiveness of the dragonring and the elves charge to find and aid Riva, but that's it. With a plot that thin, I would have liked to see more character development, especially around the new characters of Griffin and Skrum. Also, any fans of the original Dragonlance trilogy should recognize the backstory of the tiger clan elves as a swipe on Goldmoon and Riverwind.

Art-wise things are a bit better. I liked the splash page featuring the city of Kristophan and Ron Randall's dragons are very well done (in all the issues he worked on). I liked the background detail in the city, it helped make the settling seem live and bustling, while the league soldiers' uniforms are consistent with what was established in the Taladas roleplaying game.

Now for a couple of things I didn't like with the art. First, Griffin's skin tone changes from page to page, from a very light brown (as though he's well tanned from all this traveling as a soldier) to a dark pink color. Pick a skin tone Randy Elliott, and stick with it. Similarly, a red dragon shouldn't be an ALL red dragon. The claws and horns can be a different colors (I've seen Dragonlance art depict the claws and horns off-white or black).

Lastly, and most importantly, are the depictions of tiger clan elves. Their outfits are so ridiculous. They should be similar pieced together bits of animal hide (tiger in this case), but they look like something right out of a Victoria Secret catalog. Sulai, the female elf is basically wearing the cloth equivalent of the "chainmail bikini" along with a half jacket and cape. Everything is orange and stripes and edged in white fur. And Maraghiz, her elf brother, doesn't fair too much better. And the worst part is during the flashback sequence with the other Tiger Clan elves, Sulai and Maraghiz are the only ones wearing such silly outfits.

Hopefully the next issue will have more plot, and maybe even a way to get the two elves out of their goofy looking outfits.

Aug 19, 2009

The Guild: The Music Video: "Do You Want to Date My Avatar"

I know I talked about The Guild a long time ago. In short, it's one of the funniest web shows out there featuring a bunch of W0W-like players playing their game and also some of their real life exploits. I highly recommend you go watch the first season while the new second season episodes are starting to appear on YouTube.

Along with the new episodes, The Guild also released a song and music video. The song is called "Do You Wanna Date My Avatar" and video is equally funny. Check it out here and then go over to iTunes or Amazon and buy the song and/or video. Proceeds will help finance the third season.

Aug 17, 2009

GenCon: After the Fact

Ok, so GenCon 09 has come and gone, and once again I wasn't there (boo). My last convention was the year 3.0 came out, back when the convention was in Milwaukee, and the Safe House was still a restaurant to visit at least once during the trip.

I've been following blog posts and tweets from various people and once again, it sounds like everyone had a good time this year (PS, if you're at a game convention and don't have a good time, you may want to rethink your choice of hobbies).

By far the largest amount of posts were the various product announcements from WotC. Everyone went into the convention wanting to know what the new setting for 2010 would be, since no previous WotC communication went beyond announcing Forgotten Realms (2008) and Eberron (2009). Even though I am an ardent fan of the Dragonlance setting, I felt it was too soon to update that setting to 4e (and since the 3.5 update was handled by a 3rd party, Margaret Weis Productions, WotC doesn't see big revenue from Dragonlance as a roleplaying setting). So it was no surprise for me when it turned out that DarkSun is the next campaign setting.

DarkSun never really received a 3.0 or 3.5 update (except for a few articles in Dragon and Dungeon magazines), was always a fan-favorite setting, and is very different from Forgotten Realms and Eberron (good for keeping cannibalization down between settings).

Other interesting announcements from WotC at the con:

  • Castle Ravenloft - the boardgame. I'm surprised to see one of the best D&D modules of all time be reduced to a board game, but I'll be interested to see how it turns out. Certainly the fortune telling aspect will be kept (or classic D&D gamers will take up their own pitchforks and torches and storm the WotC castle at next year's GenCon)
  • Racial Splat Books. Thirty-two page books focusing on a particular race. If priced correctly, these might be interesting.
  • Focused Locations. The 32 page books format is not just for players. DMs will get the same treatment for encounter locations, hopefully fleshed out enough for long-term roleplaying (such as a base of operations) or for a quick crawl. Along with a fold out map, I'll certainly check these out too.
Lastly, there have been some chatter about the D&D giveaways, especially the backpack that they gave out for folks who signed up for DDI at the con. I'm sure you'll be seeing those on Ebay soon enough.

Hopefully next year I'll be on site for the announcements, games, and other activities, and I hope you'll be there too!

If you went to the con or read about it online like I did, what did you find most interesting? Leave a comment.

Aug 12, 2009

Advertising D&D

If you're TSR/WotC/Hasbro, how would you advertise your game to the world?

Well, apparently back in the day, all you needed was a little commercial like this...



For better quality, click this link to this version the commercial.

PS. And we wonder where the D&D/geek stereotype started? I'm sure it wasn't this commercial, but it certainly didn't help

Aug 6, 2009

When D&D and LEGO Meet

As you can tell from a previous post showing off my LEGO centaur, I'm as much a fan of LEGO bricks as I am of D&D.

There are many ways to use LEGO in your Dungeons and Dragons game. And thanks to a number of LEGO sites for AFOLs (Adult Fans Of LEGO, hey, they have their own lingo too!), it's not hard to find great ideas and get the pieces you need in an easy, cost effective manner.

The top LEGO site out there is LUGNET.com. This site has an extensive forum broken down by theme (Pirates, Castle, Vikings, and many other) and topics. This can be a great site for getting advice on building large or small projects and seeing pictures of fan creations, (also known as MOCs or My Own Creations).

Another great site is Brickshelf. This is kind of like Flickr for the LEGO crowd. Here you can find a massive amount of images featuring large and small projects on any subject AFOLs can think of, from Lord of the Rings custom figures and dioramas to actual wedding cake toppers made out of the little bricks. This is a great site for inspiration. As I mentioned in my post on the centaur, some of the design came form other sources... those sources were primarily other images from Brickshelf.

The last important site to mention is Bricklink (since LEGO is a trademark the company strictly enforces, "Brick" has come to be the common synonym for LEGO bricks). Bricklink is a collection of various aftermarket resellers of LEGO throughout the world. You can search for individual pieces or complete sets. Do you want the LEGO whip piece that was created for the Indiana Jones sets? There are currently 283 different stores selling it. Are you looking for the Train Rescue set from the Spider-Man 2 set? There are currently 8 stores selling this.

The way I incorporate LEGO into my game is to add a few pieces of "set decoration". For a forest combat, maybe I'll use some tree trunks and trees along with a few rocks to give the terrain map some dimension.

For a dungeon, I can add treasure chests, individual weapons, coins, more coins, or even a few strange items (and tell me if this piece doesn't scream Hand of Vecna?)

Lastly, while you can't find every D&D creature, you can find a lot of "critters" like spiders, rats, bats, birds, and scorpions and even a few more iconic creatures like dwarves, orcs, dragons, other dragons, and even a pretty good looking earth elemental.

With a little planning and a few dollars, you can start to build up a collection of LEGO pieces that can add more visual flair to you games in many ways.

If you currently use LEGO in your games, let us know what you're using.

Aug 3, 2009

D&D Advice from the Pros

One of the best article series in the old (print) edition of Dungeon magazine was the Dugeoncraft articles. At various times, different professionals in the RPG industry (including Monte Cook) wrote the column. While I haven't found many of these articles online, it seems all of Ray Winninger's columns have been collected.

The series starts asking the most basic question "Should I be a DM?" and then going into all the details that anyone answering "Yes" to that first question should consider.

Click here for the full list of articles: http://www.darkshire.net/jhkim/rpg/dnd/dungeoncraft/
Or click here for the zip file of all the articles: http://dnd.castellan.net/random_adventure/dungeoncraft.zip