Sep 29, 2011

Winter is Coming/Winter is Here

If you haven't already heard, the Wombat's Gaming Den of Iniquity blog is in the middle of running a blog festival called "Winter is Coming". The idea is that several different folks wrote up anything game related (from adventures, classes, creatures, etc), for any gaming system, with the common theme of winter.

So, grab your favorite warm beverage and check out the submissions here, or click on the image above.

And be sure to check out my submission, my first ever collection of D&D 4e items here.

Sep 22, 2011

Comics Update

Not since the heyday of the DC Comics/TSR agreement back in the 80s, has there been so much new Dungeons and Dragons comic material, plenty of which you might want to consider taking a look at.

First, IDW has a license to do trade reprints of those old DC/TSR comics. Currently available are volume one of the Dungeons and Dragons comic and the Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms comic, which are both actually set in the FR setting.

Here's a little back story to clear things up. The Dungeons and Dragons comic was originally release as the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons comics (since it was during the days of 1e/2e). This book was set in the city of Waterdeep and followed a diverse group of characters including the paladin Priam Agrivar

The Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms comic was started about a year after the first comic, with Priam leaving the Waterdeep group and meeting up with a new group. The first 2 volumes of the Dungeons and Dragons comic will feature Priam before leaving and joining the FR comic, so it may be a little confusing depending on what order you read the books.

The ideal reading order would be:
* Dungeons and Dragons Vol 1
* Dungeons and Dragons Vol 2 (not yet released)
* Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms Vol 1 (already available)
* Dungeons and Dragons: Forgotten Realms Vol 2 (not yet released)

Hopefully IDW will continue to release trade versions of both books for the remainder of their runs. The Dungeons and Dragons book only ran for 36 issues, and the Forgotten Realms book ran for 25 issues (not including various Annual specials).

In addition to the reprints of the 80s comics, there are a number of other more recent series coming to a trade paperback near you, including:

* Dungeons and Dragons: Dark Sun - Ianto's Tomb
* Dungeons and Dragons Volume 1: Shadowplague Hardcover - this is the new ongoing comic that started about a year ago. In addition to the first story arc, the book also contains the 4e game adaptations of the first two issues.
* Dungeons and Dragons: Legends of Drizzt Omnibus TP Vol 1 - this book collects the comic book adaptations of the Drizzt novels Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn that Devil's Due released starting in 2005.
* Lastly, speaking of every one's favorite Drow ranger, there is currently a new Drizzt comic telling an original story by  R. A. and Geno Salvatore. Issues are still coming out in comic form, but I suspect a trade will shorty after the last issue.

Sep 15, 2011

Dragonlance Comics (Issue 29) - (Untitled)

A Sort of Homecoming

UntitledThis issue starts off with Riva and her friends still on board the ship of Captain Antara. They are (once again) in the middle of a shard storm and trying to get into a harbor cave, but the magic password Captain Antara knew no longer seems to work. To avoid slamming into the heavy doors at the mouth of the cave, the tiger elves Sulia and Maraghiz work their magic to pry the door open.

Once inside they are meet by the local council, including Aris (whom Antara seems to know), and Krey, a mage recently appointed to the council. We quickly see that Krey is a brash youth rigidly following his people's traditions.

Just then, from outside the cave (and just as the raging storm has passed), the local harvest fields are besieged by a swarm of horax (huge bug-like creatures). Riva and her friends spring into action along side other glass folk in an attempt to keep the horax from destroying their food supply.

During the fight, Krey unleashes a fire spell that not only harms the horax, but also starts a brush fire among the community's grain supply for the winter. For his actions, the council sentences Krey to death, in accordance with their code.

While Riva sees Krey's actions as foolish, she doesn't think the young mage deserves death. She tries to convince the council to show mercy, and embrace the teachings of her god Paladine (who is unheard of on the continent of Taladas). Riva learns that instead of death, the council has chosen to exile Krey from the community, just as another shard storm begins.

Riva and her companions rush out to rescue the young mage who would sure perish all alone in the storm. When they return, Riva's dragon Ktarrh, crashes through the gate to get back in. This starts a fight between the glass folk and Riva's companions, with Riva and Captain Antara forced to take sides against each other.

During the fight, Krey lunges at Aris, choking him and saying "Tournament me no longer Aris! Set me free or end it now!" Just then he is hit in the back by an arrow from Tanal, a glass folk archer that Riva saved earlier during the horax attack.

The next day, Riva and Captain Antara make amends as they sail off. The captain comments that Riva's quest to bring knowledge of Paladine to the people's of Taladas may be "a fool's errand".

Commentary

Unlike many of the previous issues, overall the story here wasn't bad, just not well plotted. This issue was written by Charles and Lisa Moore, not regular scribe Ron Randall. The art, by Alan Kupperberg (also not the regular artist), on the other hand was atrocious.

In the opening sequence, with the ship caught in the shard storm (which wasn't that original as we saw a similar situation a few issues earlier), everyone is dressed in storm gear that looks like it came from an REI catalog, instead of belong to warriors and wizards from a fantasy setting.

Later, during the battle with the horax, the various fights lack any intensity, or blood for that matter. Everyone seems to attacking the horax in the most subdued manner possible. Here was definitely a lost chance to set the tense for the second half of the story.

Later we see Riva going to the council, and why she wants to speak with them, but before she makes her case, they basically say "ha, ha, we've already kicked him out". Here was another lost chance to show Riva trying and failing, and then rushing out to get Krey as more an act of her redemption than Krey's.

Lastly, we see this silly fight between the glass folk and Riva's companions. While the stand off between Riva and Captain Antara could have been more interesting, if better developed, the "fight" between Krey and Aris made no sense (why was the mage strangling him when he should have had plenty of spells) other than to provide a plausible justification for Tanal to shoot the mage in the back.

Tying in the fact that Riva saved the archer earlier, only to see that good deed come back in a bad way was a nice touch, but too little in an otherwise bland story.

The preview for the next issue promises the return of the regular writer and artist. While they haven't really inspired me before, maybe this time will be different. Always the optimist with Dragonlance, I keep hoping the book will get better.

Sep 8, 2011

Off the Rails

"I'm going off the rails on a crazy train" - Ozzy Osbourne

As I get ready to prep for tonight's game session, I'm reminded of how much time I try to spend getting ready, and how much of that prep comes into play during an actual session.

More often than not, I read, re-read, and plan out the various encounters I expect the party to get through in a given session (I'm familiar with the whole module, but there's no point focusing on the dragon at the bottom level when they are still cutting teeth on the orcs at the top of the complex).

Needless to say, my party at least, rarely moves in a predictable path. If I expect them to go right, they go left. If I plan for them to go down a level, they decide to head back to town.

Some DMs might find this frustrating, but more often, I find it the most enjoyable part of a session. Now I'm not some kind of sadist who enjoys watching all his prep time washed down the proverbial drain, but there is a part of me that like flying by the seat of my pants, that enjoys making up things on the spot, and taking the game, and sometimes the campaign in a totally unplanned direction.

One thing is important to state. I don't use this as an excuse for not prepping for a session or game. I still think I need to prep work to make myself as familiar as possible about the module and encounters (especially if you run pre-made adventures and not your own hand crafted gems), and given the chance I will try to steer the party in the general direction, but as long as I know the expected flow of a module or encounter, then it's that much easier to improvise a new encounter when the players go in an unexpected direction.

For example, if I know that a series of rooms are the sleeping quarters for several groups of goblins, and they will sound alarms at the first sight of intruders, then when the party polymorphs into goblins in an attempt to sneak into the first location, I can guess there will be guards on post. If I know from the module details that each room only holds a dozen goblins, then I can assume the guards will recognize the party as goblins who aren't familiar. Unless they start making some serious Bluff checks, I'm pretty sure they aren't getting too far into the complex before fighting starts.

So hopefully, if you're like I used to be, the next time the players zag when you expect them to zig, just take a moment (I find it a great time for a soda refill), and start improvising, and hopefully you'll have just as much fun as the players!

Sep 1, 2011

Meeting with the Dragon Sage(s)

Several days after returning to Blackwater Keep, when Marzena was feeling better, the party got to talk with the wizard about the Black Scourge and the bone shards still embedded in their bodies.

Marzena told them what little she knew. It seems there were various mentions of this elder dragon, a piece here, a paragraph there, in various documents and journals she'd come across. Interestingly, one of the most detailed accounts of the Black Scourge came from one of the most unreliable--a kender tale.

Note: 'kender tales' is a krynish euphemism for a story where the veracity of the details is highly suspect.
It seems that Brother Eglin, a librarian at the Temple of Gilean in Flotsam, had been corresponding with Marzena on the subject of dragons, along with all the official documents and papers he could find, he sent along a collection of children's stories, all featuring a young kender girl who gets into one mischief after another. In one fragment of a story, the kender girl finds herself on a jungle island where she encounters a might black dragon. In this tale, the dragon is referred to as a Great Scourge on the island, a clue that this story might be referencing the Black Scourge.

One last thing she mentioned concerned the embedded bone shards. The party would need to confront and defeat the Black Scourge before those shards permanently infected/poisoned the each of them.

The party then proceeded to follow up directly with Brother Eglin. This meant a return to Flotsam, a town they had been away from for several months. When they arrived, the party was shocked to find that the city was in disarray. It seems the light house that had been the focus of construction in Flotsam for the last several years had been destroyed, and town ruler was dead.

In the power vacuum, many city council members were seeking to consolidate their base and seize leadership of the town. Amidst this background the players met Brother Eglin, learned more about the kender tales, in particular what island the story might be referring to. From there, they were able to find a ship captain that was willing to take them near the island.

After further preparations, they were off...