Sep 18, 2009

Dragonlance Comics (Issue 25) - The Dragonring Saga

Death in the Burning Sea

dragon ring part 2This issue starts off with each of the party members riding a different dragon, while Riva and Maraghiz lament about how they should have foreseen Erestem's influence on Skrum through the ring.

They then arrive at a location near a lava flow where Skrum commands the dragons to drop off the party members off in a nearby valley. Once Skrum dismounts, all the dragons fly away. He tells everyone that he has brought them here to meet the goddess.

Rising up from the pool, a gigantic lava-form of Erestem appears. She taunts Riva about their previous meeting (in issue #3). Meanwhile, Sulai casts an ice storm spell on Erestem. Skurm laughs at the elf mage's attempt, saying that "a little hail won't extinguish Erestem's flame!"

What Skurm didn't realize was that Sulai's real intention of the spell was not to harm the goddess, but to use the mixture of flame and ice to create enough steam for the party to escape unseen.

Under cover of the fog, the party makes their retreat, soon finding a step path leading them up out of the valley. As they make their way to the top, they are met by Skurm, once again atop a green dragon, and the Dragonring firmly in grasp. While Riva distracts Skrum, Griffin tackles him off the dragon, knocks him out with one punch and tries to pry the ring from his fingers.

Before Griffin can get the ring, General Axantheas shows up atop his red dragon claiming the ring as his, and willing to cut off the gnomes hand to get it (as his own hand had been cut off before).

Then suddenly, out of the sky, Riva's dragon, Ktarrh, arrives (with a saddle and full complement of lances attached) in time to attack the red and send it retreating into the sky. Riva quickly hops onto Ktarrh and gives chance. The general and Riva trade attacks and even Erestem (in her gigantic lava form) rises up to attack the solamnic knight.

Meanwhile, down below, the Maraghiz worked on dispelling the evil hold Erestem had on Skrum, while Griffin grabbed the dragonring from the gnome.

With the ring in hand, Griffin summoned a blue dragon and rode the beast toward General Axantheas, all the while taunting the minotaur. The general threw a spear that ended up knocking Griffin off the blue dragon and falling toward the huge lava pit. Not wanting to lose his ring, Axantheas chased after it.

After Griffin flung the ring away from himself, Axantheas chased after it atop his red dragon. He realized too late that he couldn't get the ring in time. He pleaded to Erestem to let him have the ring back, but the goddess of evil ignored his plea, allowing the red dragon to fly the minotaur general straight into the lava, and certain destruction.

Meanwhile, Riva and Ktarrh rescued Griffin before he too fell into the lava.

Back on land, everyone (including the gnome, Skrum) pledged to band together and turn back the tide of evil that had such a grip on Taladas.

The last caption of the last page ends with: "A new beginning"

Commentary

For the most part I didn't really care for this issue. The opening was weak; how did everyone get on separate dragons, and why do they NOT look like prisoners? I don't really understand the point of the lava flow meeting place... since Erestem is so powerful on this continent, she should be able to appear anywhere (like she does on Ansalon). Also having Ktarrh literally coming out of nowhere, complete with saddle and weapons at the exact moment he's needed just shows the weak structure of this issue. While I did like the way the general was defeated, I didn't like the "Saturday morning cartoon" ending with Skrum being completely cured and ready to join "Team Riva". I would have liked to see some after-effect of being tainted by the ultimate goddess of evil in this world.

Lastly, I didn't like that the evil cabal, seen in the last issue, doesn't make an appearance, leaving me to feel that they will not be seen again and therefore making those pages in the previous issue worthless and disposable.

As for the art, that's a different story. While I still don't like the elves outfits, and Griffin's skin tone keeps shifting from tan to strange-red, there was much more I liked.

The molten lava (aka the Burning Sea) was well drawn, with a dymanic quality that showed it was always bubbling and shifting. I didn't like that the party is just a few feet away and no one is the slightest bit hot from the lava (a little sweat would have worked here). I also liked the fire avatar of Erestem, and the arerial comabat between Riva and Axantheas was well drawn, even more so when Griffin and the blue dragon joined the fight.

Overall this was an uneven end to this arc, something we've seen before too many times. While the last line reads "A new beginning", the storytelling and art seem to indicate that the new beginning will be a whole lot like what came before.

See you in 2 weeks!

Sep 17, 2009

Dungeons and Dragons: The Soda

I've seen plenty of D&D licensed merch, from comics, to toys, to the Saturday morning cartoons, and even an AD&D beach towel (BTW, if you know of anyone selling said beach towel, contact me, I'm desperately looking for one) but this latest announcement from Jones Soda is most unexpected one I could find.

After looking at the drink titles, I started thinking about a second series of bopttles, but all in a Dragonlance theme, like maybe:

  • Draconian Brew
  • Ansalonian Ginger Ale
  • Toade Sweat (sorry, I just saw Tropic Thunder again, and can't get Booty Sweat out of my mind)
  • Fizban's Fruitpunch
  • Solamnic Soda
and of...
  • Raistlin's Tea
Any ones I've missed? Please leave a comment.

Sep 16, 2009

Blackwater Keep: Sleeping on the Job (part 3)

The battle with the jarak-sinn who had confronted the party right after the Harpy attack, didn't last long. While the party defeated most of the attackers, one had managed to get away, escaping deeper into the lair of the jarak-sinn.

Between the two recent fights, everyone was a little bloody and bruised and decided to take refuge in the nearby alcove in the tree-lair, considering it an easily defensible position.

The first few hours were uneventful and the party starting thinking the night might go by without incident, that was not to be... The jarak-sinn, noticing that the most recent patrol hadn't returned and several other tribesmen had gone missing, started to worry about intruders.

DM Note: (Behind the Scenes) Incidentally, the one lizardfolk who had gotten away died before being able to tell the others what exactly had happened, but the dead body was clearly an indication that it wasn't good.
Later that night, Jes and Hunter, while on watch, heard the faint sounds of movement down one of the twisting, turning passages. They waited silently, until the lizardfolk rounded a curve and saw them in the hall. Hunter loosed several arrows while the swampfolk closed in, and Jes was ready to strike the first one he could reach. As the commotion in the hall continued, Theo awoke from all the noise, leaving only Adow asleep.

As Theo joined the battle, another group of jarak-sinn approached from the corridor behind the party. Hunter moved to face these new attackers unleashing arrows, followed up with a bit of magic to try to entangle the lizardfolk in the various branches and roots that line the walls of their lair.

Soon many of the jarak-sinn had fallen under the party's attacks, leaving only one of the larger attackers still standing. It quickly rushed into the safehold the party had been resting in, and with sharp claws poised above the neck of the sleeping mage, threatened in crude common, "you move [and] he dies!"

Sep 11, 2009

DM Tools: Inspiration

In previous posts, I've mentioned some of the tools I use as a DM (Post-it Notes, and Heromachine), but one of the fundamental tools is inspiration, or more importantly, where to get inspiration.

Madonna once sang that "you can dance for inspiration", though anyone seeing me dance might only be inspired to think "that poor man is having a seizure... right there on the dance floor!" So, other than Madge's advice, where do I find inspiration as a DM? A lot of different sources, actually, and hopefully a few you haven't thought of yourself.

I think anything can be a source of inspiration, from an automobile, to a sudoku puzzle, and for everything from a character name (Katera-- as in Cadillac Catera), to a method of random dungeon generation. The real trick for the DM is keeping their DM hat on (in the background) as they go about daily life. Here are some of the sources that routinely inspire me.

  • By far and wide the best resource I've found is the History Channel (and History International). Many of the programs can provide any number of adventure ideas. Programs looking at Nostradamus or Edgar Cayce can provide details and backstory for a villain, sage, or PC. Programs on Pirates or Sailors/Explorers can help flesh out a module or campaign, and shows like Secret Passage can provide details on dungeon passages.
  • Music isn't as obvious a source for inspiration, but listen to the lyrics of a song like "Wrapped Around Your Finger" by The Police... that's the beginning of a module in under 6 minutes!
  • Another source is in great literature... I've created modules based on "Romeo and Juliet", and "Othello". Even Dungeon magazine did modules around "MacBeth" and "The Tempest" (I think).
  • Lastly, keep your eye out for strange or interesting news... The following are two news items I read (one over a year ago). Each inspired me to want to use elements or details in my own campaign.
If you have a unique or unusual source for inspiration, please leave a comment...

Sep 4, 2009

Dragonlance Comics (Issue 24) - Dragonring!

Ring of Evil

dragon ring part 1This issue starts out with General Axantheas holding a meeting. Around the table are humanoids of different races and genders (including a traag draconian and a hobgoblin). Behind the general is a statue of Erestem (aka Takhisis). The mintour proclaims this small group to be the greatest champions of evil on Taladas, each representing one of the Erestem's five heads.

There is infighting within the group, and Axantheas even kills one of the other "heads", believing him to be a spy for the rival nation of Thenol.

Elsewhere, Riva starts the morning in prayer to Paladine. Afterward the rest of the party convince her that the best way to stop the general and Esterem, is to reveal their plot to the emperor of the League of Minotaurs.

Later they unleash an attack on the emperor's entourage in an attempt to get a private audience with the leader. After fighting the emperor's minions, he steps out of his carriage in full battle gear. As he listens to the party, he laughs off their warning; the emperor is fully aware of who is plotting against him and is not worried about the general or the goddess Erestem.

After the brief parley, minotaur archers surround the party. Just then Skrum uses the dragonring in a last-chance effort to summon dragons to aid them.

Dragons of various colors (though all evil) arrive and begin attacking the minotaurs. Since they failed to get the emperor to confront General Axantheas, Griffin recommends now using the dragons to destroy the emperor. While Riva and the rest of the group debate the change in objective, Skrum declares that he's now in charge, wielding the dragonring in the name of Erestem.

Commentary

Overall I liked this issue. I thought it was well paced, with great art and plenty of action.

I would have liked to see the secret cabal meeting in the beginning of the issue take more focus this issue. Setting up this secret organization allows for plenty of story ideas. Likewise, I would have liked to set the man from Thenol live longer than just one line before he's killed. There could be a whole subplot around this character and if he is in fact betraying the other members. Hopefully we'll see stories concerting the others in future issues.

Art-wise Ron Randall did a great job. His dragons have plenty of detail (if still uni-colored) and he does a great job of setting up pages and panels with the huge beasts in unique posses.

On of the interesting things I've noticed over the run of this book is just how hard it is to fit dragons and humans in the same panel. In many cases, he uses splash pages or spreads to get both "in frame" with plenty of detail on lumbering beasts as well as detail on the humanoids around them. Great job overall!

I'm not sure why they changed the name from Landfall to Dragonring, as I see this directly related to those issues. Maybe this marks the end of the anthology format of the book and all future issues will be set with these characters an in this location. While I still cringe at the outfits the tiger elves wear, I do like the idea of a consistent group of characters in an ongoing story (like how I run my D&D games).

Hopefully the next issue will be just as good as this one.

One last note... issue 24 marks the end of the second year for this comic, and while overall, the best I can say about the issues is they are "uneven", hopefully some of these changes will result in an overall better book. We shall see...

Sep 2, 2009

When D&D Meets Matel Electronics

If you are like me, and were born in the late sixties or seventies, you probably grew up with one or more of those fabulously simple Mattel hand held games that were nothing more than red blips on a screen (I'll spare everyone my curmudgeonly sounding argument about how we were so imaginative that even red blips could keep us entertained for hours back then while kids today blah, blah, blah).

If you've never seen these before check this YouTube playlist of these games "in action". As you'll see there were versions for baseball, football, basketball, and a whole bunch of others.

ANYWAY... somewhere around that time, Mattel and TSR (before they got bought out by WotC, before WotC got bought out by Hasbro) got together and must have thought that red blips were too much for the D&D community, and came up with a 2 player game featuring only four miniatures--a single treasure chest, one figure for each player and one for the puniest looking dragons, I've ever seen--until that D&D mini for the blue dragon wyrmling came out, not to mention... I'll stop ranting now, just check out this commercial and ask yourself, would you play this game?



One last thing... why do these commercials always have creepy adults in them (like the DM in this commercial I previously posted).