So I recently ran across the Good Bad Flicks movie review channel on YouTube, and specifically found their review for the original D&D Movie.
I found the review to be very generous, in fact, I don't think I've ever read a review that includes so many positive things about the film without being just a total "rah-rah" puff piece. Also, the review has some nice background information about the making of the movie, mostly at the end of the video, that I hadn't heard before.
At less than 30 min, it's worth taking a look at. Here's the YouTube link:
Dungeons and Dragons Movie Review - Good Bad Flicks
Nov 21, 2013
So I recently ran across the Good Bad Flicks movie review channel on YouTube, and specifically found their review for the original D&D Movie.
Oct 31, 2013
When thinking about Dungeons and Dragons, especially so close to Halloween, I naturally think less of epic campaigns and warriors defeating great evil, and more of the classic things and got bump in the night.
In the early days of D&D, few probably thought of the game through such a radical re-imagining--sure there were the classic creatures like werewolfs, mummies, and vampires, along with a plethora of other undead filling up the various monster manuals.
I6 (the module code for Ravenloft), would go on to be a classic. It spawned a sequel module Ravenloft II: The House on Gryphon Hill, as well as being the inspiration for an entire setting, the "Demiplane of Dread", also under the Ravenloft name (which included books, comics, game products, and computer games). The original module itself has been reprinted and updated several times and was the basis for the successful D&D board game, Castle Ravenloft.
Oh, and a little Dragonlance trivia: Strahd has two brothers, Sergei, and another named... Sturm, the same name Tracy would later use for the tragic knight, Sturm Brightblade.So this Halloween, after all the trick-or-treaters are home with their bags of candy, I'll be kicking back in a comfy chair to spend some time re-reading this classic piece of gaming history... with all the light on.
Oct 24, 2013
If you followed my previous posts about the upcoming Dungeons and Dragons Kre-o line (here and here), you know I am eagerly looking forward to their release next year. So you can image how glad I was to see preview images of some of the sets and details and prices on those products.
Unfortunately, after looking over the images and product descriptions in greater detail, I'm a little less enthused than I once was.
If you want to see more of the pictures and read the product information for yourself, check out the post here on battlegrip.com (the link will open in a new window, so you can look at the images and following along with my comments here).
First, a couple of things I like about the sets.
- Variety of sets for different budgets. They have simple figure packs as low as 2.99, up to sets running as high as 24.99, so there's something for everyone.
- For the minifigs (or Kreons as Kre-o calls them), there are a good variety of armors, helms, and weapons across the line. All the warriors and orcs are not the same.
- The green discs the figures stand on look like they might be approximately 1 inch, which would make them great for use on a traditional battle map.
- Blind Bags. Kre-o is referring to their random Kreon bags as "Blind Bags". There are two versions. One offers 36 different figures (way too many), and the other, just 10 figures (about right). Also, the bags only include one figure. I would have liked to see two figures per bag, one "good guy" and one "bad" for instant use right out of the bag.
The Kre-o Cityville line does include two figs per blind bag in just this configuration.
- The sets are cluttered with cards and firing catapults turning what could have been a storytelling imagination play set in to a simple build and break game. For younger kids this may be a great hit, but for fans of D&D, which skews older, it comes off childish. If that was the case, why bother with the D&D brand?
- While there is variety in the warrior and orc figures, unfortunately, that's all you get, variations on human warriors, and variations on orcs; no elves or dwarves, or goblins.
- And while we're speaking of orcs, in my opinion, they look more like feral zombies with their light grey skin tone. How about a little green?
- The buildings in all the sets, from the top of the line to the most basic, are too simplistic. Again, this is due to the sets focusing on the build and break game and not as vehicle for imaginative play and storytelling.
- The sets appear under the Dungeons and Dragons brand name, but there are no Dungons, nor Dragons in any of the sets. Again, why bother with the license name, when the sets don't even superficially live up to the name.
- And lastly, of all the sets, only the Warriors sets seem to have anything related to the D&D IP, with "accessories to build iconic DUNGEONS & DRAGONS story vignettes". At $4.99 a pack of 30 pieces, I'm not expecting to see Drizzt vs Icingdeath or Sturm on the High Clerist Tower, and if you're not leveraging these great story scenes, I ask again, why bother using the D&D brand name?
Oct 17, 2013
After Jes climbs into the water, which is up toward his shoulders. He starts making his way toward the submerged chest, but before he reaches the object, a hideous water naga rises to confront him.
Theo, in an attempt to protect the party on the shore, pours oil on the water and sets it on fire. Three other naga rise from the water depths of the lake, but none of them move to attack. The naga soon reveal that they are the protectors of the "greatest treasure of the Stone Hammer clan."
The party tries to ask the creatures some questions, but the naga provide no further information. As the fire spreads across the lake, Jes is forced to retreat back to dry land. The naga swirl around the submerged chest before diving under water for safety as pockets of flaming oil spread all around the lake's surface.
The party waits a moment to see if the creature has any semblance of life, but Adow, the mage, was quickly able to determine that this golem was too poorly made to be able to hold any magic enchantment. The party left the room, and headed down another one of the long winding passageways which lead to a different chamber.
This chamber held the scattered icons of Reorx, the god for who this chamber had originally been a shrine to. Now the god of the forge had been cast aside in favor of other power, of dark magics. Where once this room would have held the tools and symbols of the creator god, now it held jars filled with cloudy liquid, small lizard-like body parts in suspension. The floor was rechristened with a summoning circle that looked to be of recent design. What exact purpose it was for, Adow could not determine.
Adow, who was also in the room, but far enough away to not affect the magic mirror tried aiding his companions, but the swirl of battle made it difficult to know who was the right version to attack. In short order, one of the Theo's lay dad on the floor as Jes and Adow worked to destroy the mirror. Soon it burst and the room was filled with a shower of silvered glass shards. Afterward, the clones of Hunter and Jes were gone and the party awaited whatever had been approaching the room from down the lone hallway.
The party waiting, staring at the door for someone or something to enter...
Oct 10, 2013
There are a couple of movies coming out (hopefully) soon that look to be of interest to the gaming crowds. And no, I don't mean the Dungeons and Dragons movie that Hasbro is trying to put together at Universal once they deal with this lawsuit and that lawsuit. In case you haven't heard, they are...
- Zero Charisma - This movie is opening in limited release in THEATERS, actual theaters I tell you! It tells the tale of local popular DM (actually GM, they avoid D&D specific trademarks) who suddenly finds his sway over his gaming group challenged by the arrival of a new player to his group. This dark comedy looks like it will trod familiar geek tropes like living in the basement and lack of romantic relationships. We'll see if rises above the obvious to provide something interesting for movie goers.
Zero Charisma opens in limited release in the US starting tomorrow (Friday Oct 11), and is already available as a VOD selection depending on your cable provider.
- Knights of Badassdom - Here's a strange one, not the movie's premise. The premise is about a group of LARPers who unknowing release a real evil on the world and try to deal with the consequences.
No, what I find so strange is this--let's take a bunch of well-known actors from a variety of high profile projects, like Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), Summer Glau (Firefly and Sarah Connor Chronicles), Ryan Kwanten (True Blood), Danny Pudi (Community), Steve Zahn, and Jimmi Simpson (Psyche), make a big genre movie about LARPers and real Demons, hold a big panel at San Diego Comic-Con, and then get so tangled up in legal issues that the movie's release gets pushed out more than 2 years after it was made.
The latest information was that this film was to be released sometime in 2013, but as the months tick away, that's looking more and more unlikely. Ridiculous! No one makes money with this film while it sits on the shelf.
UPDATE: Some more movie reviews of Zero Charisma:
Sep 19, 2013
As a notoriously slow reader, and with plenty of time during my daily commutes to and from work, I picked this book up from Audible.com which not only offered the book in Unabridged format, but also indicated that the book was read, in part, by the author himself.
I'm only about a quarter of the way through the book, but I'm really enjoying. The book starts off a bit clunky, with the first part focusing on the author's gaming group and the characters each plays. There's also a heavy bit of rules detail, that as a long time D&D player, I didn't need to sit through. If this was a printed or e-book, I would have probably skimmed through those parts.
Likewise, there is a great deal of what I can only think of as "flavor text", literary translations of gaming sessions. This is where the second voice actor comes in. He reads those passages with all the exaggerated histrionic performance of the disembodied DM from the old Dragonstrike video. This too, I could do a bit less with. While I understand how the rules info is needed for the uninitiated, I think these "dramatic' cut scenes do the game and the hobby a disservice. These scenes are presented with such over the top drama as to be cringe worthy.
But this is not to say that this is a bad book. Once you get over the basics, and get around those cut scenes, the book takes on the history of the game, as well as the author's own history of D&D and various other games. Here the book is a great learning lesson, I had no idea of the details of how Arneson and Gygax developed the game, the details behind their own individual Greyhawk and Blackmoor campaigns. Also, hearing about the author's own past characters, or creating his own character sheets brought back delight at my own similar experiences.
I can't help listen to this book as a gamer, as a long time player of D&D, and as a geek. Outsiders listening or reading it may certainly have a different experience depending on how little or how much they can relate to, but for me, this is part history, and part memory lane. I look forward the the rest of the book, and you may well too. I heartily recommend it for anyone who's playing the game now, or played the game in the past and still has fond memories of it.
Sep 12, 2013
Stumbled on a great artist, Stefani Rennee, who has in his portfolio, wonderful renditions of Eric and Sheila from the 80's Dungeons and Dragons cartoon. Check it out from the link above.
I was a fan of the series as a kid, and I admit that I kinda liked Hank the Ranger the best (let's be honest, he had one of the few offensive weapons in the group), when I re-watched the series a few years ago, when I bought the DVDs, I realized that Eric is probably the most realized of all the characters.
I hope Stephani adds portraits for the other characters in the same style. I could easily imagine a one-shot game night where the players take on revised versions of those classic characters, and use the new artwork for reference.
Sep 3, 2013
If you read my previous post, you already know about the upcoming Dungeons and Dragons Kre-0 sets that were announced at this year's San Diego Comic-Con.
Just recently I found, on the Kastors Korner blog, images of more of the minifigs that will be appearing in the new sets. Just click on the link above and scroll down toward the bottom of the page to see the photo gallery.
I was excited when I first heard about these sets, now even more so!
Aug 29, 2013
In all that time I can honestly say that I've never had the "Full Gen Con Experience". And honestly, it's a myth (hence the title for this post).
While the convention technically goes on for four days, five if you count all the Day Zero things--more of which seem to crop up every year--there is really just too much going on at any given time to take it all in.
In all the years I've attended, I've only seen the costume parade once, stumbled in to the anime room once, and never played a game of MTG. I rarely attend the "Paint and Take" any more, though I love to look at all the contest entries, and I probably spend way too much time in the Vendor's Hall.
But this is just my experience. Many other people can tell stories of near round the clock D&D, or all night Werewolf LARPs, or countless German-language board games. That's really the beauty of Gen Con. You get to customize the con to your tastes. The down side is you can't do it all, nor are you meant to. Pick what you like the most (and sample a few new things, if your adventurous), and build the Gen Con experience you want. And don't worry about what you missed.
It may be the best four days in gaming, but my four days are probably different from yours, which are different from the next guys.
Hope to see you all there next year.
Aug 28, 2013
While a large appeal of the con is the chance to play all sorts of games, shopping in the vendor's room is just as big a drawl. With the chance to see up close and demo games you might not have known about, get a copy of an early release of a game (I'm looking at you Pathfinder card game fans), or get that sought after mini, or TCG card, not to mention all manner of costume accessories or home furnishings, it's easy to see why the room is always crowded.
This year I didn't have a real shopping list going in to the vendor's room, but I still found myself in there nearly every day. Thursday's visit was to pick up the few must have items (gifts for friends and family). I tried to get in to the Fantasy Flight Games (FFG) booth to see what they had on site, but the wait line was too long (as in stretching around their booth and through various walk ways). Being a Lego fan, I of course found the only Lego dealer in the room and checked out those offerings (and picking up a neat little custom minifig for my collection). Friday and Saturday was mostly just walking around with friends and eying up a few places I wanted to check back with on Sun. Since Sun was also the drive home day, the vendor's room visit was more a surgical strike. Go in, see what was left from the few places I had already scouted out, and hit the road.
My biggest surprise was how easy it was to navigate through the room. Even with people in full costume (I'm looking at you lady with the wings sticking out two feet on each side), and people stopping in the middle of a cross-way to Twitter or Facebook, it was still a relatively easy travel. Good job Gen Con planners!
One of the things I didn't get to do was attend the Night with D&D event. I was already registered for another event at the same time, and by the time I tried to drop that event in favor for the D&D one, the Night was sold out. From what Twitter activity I've seen from the event, it looked like a lot of fun.
As much fun as I had playing the event, and as much fun as I have with my weekly game, running at a con, with little prep, was a wonderful seat-of-your-pants experience. I didn't have any minis so I used dice for the PCs and colored beads for the NPCs, giving the table a real old-school vibe. I also had to improv when the rogue PC wanted to run across some roof tops to go after one of the archers. I ended up running a quick roof top fight and almost had the dying archer pull the halfling rogue off the roof, but making the Dex check avoided that scenario.
The guys at the table were all great, and mostly new to Next, so I had fun also educating them about Next and some of the neat new mechanics (Advantage/Disadvantage and Dying rules). Oh, and that Lego purchase I made earlier. That little minifig put in an appearance when I needed the big bad for the end of the module, a colored bead just wasn't going to do it.
I had so much fun, and got some neat swag for running the table, that I will definitely be signing up to run more events next year. And this time, I'll bring minis!
Aug 22, 2013
I had originally planned to write each day of Gen Con as it happened, at the end of the day. Unfortunately my schedule left me with little time at the end of each day to do a proper recap. Here now is the first in a series of posts about my Gen Con experiences. Check back for more posts about my con experience.
Note: I just read a posting that seemed to indicate that Gen Con attendance was 49 thousand unique visitors, up over 20% from last year. Kudos to the Gen Con staff and planners, while there were more people this year, it didn't feel as congested in the hallways or the vendor's room as it had in the past.
mentioned before, one of my goals at Gen Con is to try new games, to step outside my comfort zone. This year, I actually did that a couple of times.
Over the course of four days, detectives can start to narrow down where the lair and try to position themselves in such a way to capture or trap Jack.
I thought the game was very easy to pick up, and my particular team was skilled (lucky) enough to actually catch Jack during the last evening. There are a number of optional rules that can be used once players start to get the hang of the game. This is certainly one I would recommend and happily play again.
In this game, you take the role of an investigator going around Arkham to gather clues, and equipment (including weapons, tomes, and spells) to use against the various horrors that start springing up. I liked this game as well, though even after playing a full game that lasted about 3.5 hours, I still feel like I need to re-read the instructions and look for "how-to-play" videos on YouTube.
Lastly I played the Murder in Baldur's Gate adventure. This was apparently the same adventure that was part of the D&D Game Day, and serves as a kind of prequel to the upcoming Encounters season, also called Murder in Baldur's Gate. I really had fun with this adventure, though I thought it ended a bit too soon, the final encounter here is only relevant if you continue on to the weekly Encounters program. The adventure, which was slotted for four hours, only took our group 90+ minutes to complete, and I can't see how it could have been expected to run any longer than 2 hours.
Next time, I'll comment on some of the other things I did at the con, including one of my biggest personal accomplishments.
Aug 16, 2013
Yesterday was the first official day of the convention, and what a whirlwind day it was.
Things started out with me having to get up early so I could un-register for some events I didn't want.
I was planning to take care of the events on Wed, especially with GenCon touting it's "24 hr a day service" at the Badges and Events booths. Unfortunately the 24 hr/day doesn't start until 7am on the morning of the first official day of the con, otherwise, they close at 9pm. If I had known that, I would have taken care of the event issues right away. And I can't fault GC for this, it was noted that Wed had limited hours, I just didn't see it.
Anyway, everything got taken care of and I headed off to my first event, this year's version of the D&D Dungeon Delve. This time around, there wasn't really a dungeon, and little delving going on. Instead -- oh wait, I don't want to ruin it.
Suffice to say, I had an ok time. I found myself knowing some of the rules better than the DM at our table. Also I wasn't really a fan of how the story line included multiple tables playing parallel adventures. This meant that while we were doing something in X location, the table next to us was at location Y. This allowed for a "pod leader" to provide flavor text to the several tables at once at the beginning and near the end. This might have been great, except for the fact that the acoustics in the hall made it difficult to hear this person some of the time. Likewise, one of the other new wrinkles was that only one of the collected tables actually fought the big bad at the end (in this case a dragon). For the rest of the tables we basically just "re-fought" the previous battle, which wasn't terribly creative or fun. Also there were times when our table was l forced to weight as the others caught up.
I like the idea of the cooperative tables, but the execution left something to be desired.
Next up, after a dizzying turn in the dealers room, it was off to a game of Toon. This is a wonderful game, if you haven't played, owing more to improve theater, than a structured game. Somehow, for this game, it works. And while Toon is all about making silly, it's also a wonderful test of skills for a DM, to be able to keep up with truly random thoughts and players, and somehow keep things on track toward telling a complete story
Lastly, to finish up the day, I meet up with some friends for drinks and games. I don't see them often, but once there, we felt like no time had passed as we were talking, having fun, and rolling dice.
That may be one of my favorite parts of the con, catching up with old friends. If you go to the con, try meeting some people, you may end up staying in touch and having your own reunion moments the following year.
Aug 15, 2013
So I'm now in Indy getting ready for the 2013 GenCon convention. Today is basically day 0, the convention hasn't really started, but on the other hand, it kind of has.
Like last year, I drove out to the con, and had a great time with my car buddy Brad. It was a great chance to catch up on what we've been up to, what our respective families have been doing, and of course, talking about all things geek.
Once we arrived and dropped off our gear, we headed over to the convention to get our badges. The line was super long, but moved much faster than we could have expected. In less that 15 minutes we both had passes and event tickets in hand.
Next up, time to get the swag bag. Oh, wait there's no swag bag this year? Bummer, but the coupon book looked better than it had been in previous years, so maybe that will make up for it, especially since most of the swag I would ditch before leaving the state at the end of the week.
One other little thing I noticed. In the past few years, the badges would have really nice lanyards, usually advertising a given product. This year, for whatever reason, the lanyards are just generic elastic string. Fortunately, I have my D&D lanyard from a few years ago, so I'll have to hold my 4-Day badge.
After getting badges/tickets, it was time to head out for some dinner. We had planned to go to Scotty's Brewhouse, but when the staff told us it was a 2 hour wait for a table for two (putting our seating time around 10pm), we had to move on. Across the street in fact to the Irish pub, where I had the chance to enjoy some Newcastle Brown Ale, fried pickles and a sandwich.
We walked around the con on the way back to the hotel and started getting ready for the next day.
For me, it might be some D&D Delve, then some Toons, and maybe a few seminars. We'll see how tomorrow turns out.
Welcome to GenCon!
Aug 8, 2013
As I get ready for GenCon 2013, I find that this year, unlike most others, I'm not heading off to Indianapolis with a list of must-get items.
Now part of this is certainly due to the fact that this year Dungeons and Dragons is between editions, so there's no hot off the presses source book or box set for my favorite RPG, but it's not just the lack of D&D product that's reduced my shopping list to near nothing.
I'm starting to wonder, is Kickstarter is to blame. Is it killing off, or at least diminishing, the excitement of the GenCon vendor's room? In the past I would circle around the Reaper Miniatures booth, or gaze longingly at the various Dwarven Forge setups. But thanks to Kickstarter, if I took part in the Reaper Bones KS from a while ago, or the Dwarven Forge Game Tiles KS from earlier this year, I'd have little reason to visit either location.
Same for Larry Elmore, an artist I've admired since I read my first Dragonlance book, and who's booth I usually visit. This year, I'm just waiting for The Complete Elmore Artbook to come back from the printer and get shipped out to my eager and awaiting eyes and hands.
Likewise, I've supported a number of smaller items, like the Clashing Blades card deck and Foamy Dice, that I would probably have been keen to see and maybe pickup at the con. Now, I just sit back and wait for their respective packages to start arriving in the mail.
I wonder if this is the new face of our hobby, where the GenCon Vendor's room isn't the launch pad for so many new products, maybe just a few offerings from established companies, like WotC, Paizo, or FFG?
Jul 24, 2013
Ok folks, it's time for another round of Dungeons and Dragons video clips, courtesy of YouTube.
First up, we have a clip that is supposedly from a 700 Club promo video. Needless to say, it offers a VERY unrealistic version of D&D.
If the clip isn't funny enough, check out the comments on the YouTube page.
Now to help cleanse your pallet a bit, here something a little more realistic, this time from PBS.
Wait, D&D is just about story telling, and hanging out with friends? Inconceivable!
Jul 18, 2013
As I've mentioned before in previous posts, I'm a big fan of Lego, even using them in my Dungeons and Dragons games in various ways.
(I'll save any discussion of the quality of Lego versus the knock-off brands for other sites and blogs.)
Kre-o has recently released a number of sets based on license agreements, including G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Battleship (in line with the recent movie). Not surprisingly, all these products, as well as Dungeons & Dragons, share one common element, Hasbro. As the parent company it must have been an easy decision to award the toy brick building licenses to its own in-house brand Kre-o, as opposed to working with the leading, and much better recognized, Lego.
On one hand I'm glad to see D&D getting the Lego treatment, even if it isn't from the official Lego brand. Likewise, I hope the recent Kre-o Cityville Invasion apps hint at the future of digital/brink cross treatment for this brand as well. Lastly, the promo art for the agreement, looks an awful lot like the cover to the Forgotten Realms novel, The Thousand Orcs, possibly hinting at access to setting specific IP, like the Realms, and Dragonlance.
How cool will it be if there's sets featuring Elminster, the Circle of Eight, or the Heroes of the Lance. I eagerly look forward to see what sets are shown at San Diego Comic-Con this week.
UPDATE: The only images I've seen so far from Comic-con are of the booth statue of Drizzt, seen here: http://news.toyark.com/2013/07/18/sdcc-2013-kre-o-display-94331#images
UPDATE 2: Some images of minifigures, including a very familiar dark elf, and what looks like a tiefling. Not sure who the yellow and black robed mage is. See for youself here: http://news.toyark.com/2013/07/19/sdcc-2013-dungeons-and-dragons-kre-o-96219
Jul 11, 2013
It's been a while since I wrote up a game session post. You may want to refresh yourself with the current story line by checking out these past posts.
dragon sage, and securing passage to the rumored island where the Black Scourge once made it's lair, the party set off...
The ship's captain was heading for trade on several islands around the Maelstrom, putting the ship close to the Elian Wilds. The island, home to several jungle barbarian tribes wasn't one of the stops on the trading tour, so the party had to swim ashore on their own. If the party was alive in three week's time when the ship passed by again, they would be picked up, otherwise, there was a small trading outpost on the far side of the island where they could get passage back to the main land.
The party heading to the island consisted of:
- Theo (kender thief)
- Hunter (half-elven ranger)
- Adow (human mage)
- Jessriel (human monk)
Once the party made it to shore, after about a week on the ship, they set up a small camp near the base of the mountain that seemed to match the description in the kender tale Marzena mentioned.
Under cover of darkness, Hunter and Theo sneak in to the cave entrance and saw it open to a huge chamber. Not feeling comfortable to go too far into the cavern, they returned to the party and told them what they found.
The next day, the entire party entered the cave. as they entered the main chamber, Theo feel through the huge illusionary floor. The fall was steep, about 60 feet, but the kender survived. Jes, with a safety rope attached, descended the cavern to it's actual floor. There, he and Theo noticed what looked to be a passage that had been covered by collapsed rock, rock that was then super heated to melted together to form one massive barrier.
Heading back up the rope to the rest of the party, Jes noticed another passage way. This one was about 15 feet from the floor and lead down a dark corridor in this underground lair. The monk was able to make his way to the entrance and scout a little distance ahead. Soon the rest of the party joined him in the passageway.
At one end, the hall gave way to a small natural cavern. The darkness was overwhelming, and the party was taken by surprise by the black inky flying shape that flew out at them. It wasn't the large bat some had thought, but an aberration known to some as the cloaker. The unearthly moaning from the creature was unsettling, but the party remained steadfast in there resolve to destroy the creature. Adow unleashed his potent magic missiles, while the ranger used his equally impressive bow skills. Theo and Jes added their skills to the attacks that final lead to the creatures death.
Near the other end of the hallway, they confront a door, with a cryptic inscription upon it. The verse turned out to be a riddle, which if solved would provide the means of opening the otherwise impenetrable door. Jes, a monk with a vow of poverty, knew right away that the one "thing" that was "wiser than the gods and worse than the devil" was simply "nothing". That lead the way for them to enter what turned out to be a very special prison chamber.
Inside the chamber holds a twisted half-man dragon creature. Not the draconians of recent renown, this poor creature had many of the features of the man he used to be, along with leathery wings and scales where flesh had been. The poor man, Darsov, as he had introduced himself, was a cleric of Gilean, who had kidnapped and forced to help the denizens of this mountain lair by translating ancient documents. One in particular, about the "heaven's opening up before gods near and far" seemed to be particularly intriguing to his captors, most of whom where humans, but a few that seemed to be minotaur in appearance.
The cult of the Black Scourge that inhabited this place subjected the cleric to horrific rituals intent on transforming him into enough of a dragon to be able to translate the oldest scrolls, those written in the lost language of the dragons. Unfortunately the spells and bindings also striped Darsov of most of his sanity, as the party soon learned. With great effort they were able to coax the broken cleric out of his prison/library and take him out of this mountain.
With the party back at their nearby base camp, they spent the night planning their next assault into the dragon mountain.
Jul 3, 2013
On Death of Pain - Part 2This issue picks up just after the end of #33. It starts with the healer giving us an update on Griffin, who was gravely wounded, and needed the care of the healer Tykel. While Griffin is responding well to the herbs that the healer is using, Skrum and Riva ask her to continue with the story of Miisia and the Blackgem.
After a little dialog from Tykel (catching us up on the events of issue 33), we jump into the story with Lord Bylarr simultaneously threatening and trying to inspire his troops to press on. Lord Bylarr also dumps a lot of backstory on us explaining that while he has the Blackgem, he wants to destroy Marsval Solarzz, and that he needs to bring the gem to the same location Marsval was intending to go anyway. Seems to active the power, you also need to bring it to the one place were it can be destroyed (wow, that's an original idea).
Marsval and Miisia travel through a snow covered mountain where they encounter some tribal elves. The elves are escorting one of their aged clan leaders to a ceremonial place to die.
Guess where that place just so happens to be.
Miisia touches the old elf, seemingly healing him of the sickness that has been ravaging his body. This act earns Marsval and Miisia the friendship of the elves, who agree to allow these two to accompany them to the same place they were already headed.
Along the pathway they encounter a manifestation of the evil of the mountain, brandish their weapons, and walk on through. Finally they arrive at what the elves referrer to as The Temple of the Masters of Light and Dark, a place dedicated to the balance of power between good and evil, but long since corrupted to the side of darkness.
Luckily Lord Bylarr arrives just in time to confront his enemy and reveal that the Blackgem is a kind of key to tapping into the power of the Temple, depending on the intentions of the bearer of the gem.
Lord Bylarr uses the gem to call forth a sentient stone elemental and through the elemental then enchants all his cohorts to attack the elves and Marsval. Miisia, who is not caught up in the fight makes her way to the stone creature and then attempts to heal it of the evil infused within. This caused a chain reaction purging the elemental of it's evil taint. The temple then attempted to re-infused the elemental by drawing on the evil within Lord Bylarr, which Miisia purged as well and which also ended up killing Lord Bylarr.
The sentient elemental, now cleaned of the evil that was within is willing to grant Miisia a reward for her service. Here, instead of asking to be free of the healing "curse" as she had seen it, not realizes that her "gift" is what saved the day here, and throughout all of Taladas.
Back in the present, as Griffin starts to awaken, Tykel comments on the power of destiny while looking at Riva. The female knight wonders if the old healer knows about her secret mission on behalf of Paladine and if she might some day be as lucky or sure as Miisia.
CommentarySo here, after 34 issues, we come to the finale of the TSR/DC Dragonlance comics run, and what a mess it is. As much as I liked the first part of this story, this issue was such a let down.
The story here just seemed too contrived. The same place Marsval was heading to secure the gem's safety is the same place Lord Bylarr needs to go to unleash it's power. Along the way Miisia runs into some elves that quickly join up with them. Encounter the "manifestations of evil" was almost pointless. And speaking of pointless, Marsval literally doesn't do a single thing in this issue other than carry Miisia from point A to point B and make a speech about needing to try and stop Lord Bylarr, without actually knowing how they are going to do that. Oh, and in the final battle, Marsval runs into the fighting fray weaponless. Everyone else has a sword, or spear, but Marsval only has clenched fists.
On top of the mess of plot that is actually shown, there are a truckload of plot holes that can't be overlooked, including the most obvious--if Miisia healed Kyyy (the dying elf, and not a keyboard typo), why do the elves continue to take him to where he is to die? (because the story needed cannon fodder for the final battle) I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
The art doesn't fare much better. The "manifestations of evil" encountered along the way look silly, like something out of a child's drawing. Here would have been a good place to have a combat with shadows or any number of D&D creatures, rather than another scene of the party moving through the mountain. Likewise, the stone elemental, doesn't look like anything I've ever seen, and in fact both the evil and cleansed versions come off more like a superhero villain than any D&D creature.
PostscriptThis would turn out to be the last original Dragonlance comic for some time. From what I had read, TSR ended it's license with DC with the plan to launch their own comic book division and continue many of the DC books, including the Forgotten Realms books and this one, in house. Internal issues at TSR lead to this idea being abandoned, which was a real shame for the FR books, which were far superior to the Dragonlance effort, which I feel never had a strong idea of what it wanted to be, and then never had a strong D&D fantasy-based writer like the FR book had in Jeff Grubb.
The Dragonlance comic was a great idea, but one that was never executed to it's full potential.
Jun 25, 2013
Just a little reminder. If you are thinking about GenCon, the pre-reg deadline is fast approaching, this Saturday the 29th to be exact.
One of the benefits of pre-reg is getting to save a few bucks on the cost of admission. This year, the cost savings is $10. And of course you need to register for a badge before you can book a hotel room, or sign up for any events.
And this year there are plenty of events to check out, from a bunch of new D&D Next games, to the usual slate of board, card, and other rpg games. GenCon is one of the best places to try new games, or reconnect with classics that you might not have played in a while.
Anyway, if you're interested, now is definitely the time to head over to the GenCon site and see what interests you. I'm sure you'll find plenty of somethings.
See you at the con...
Jun 21, 2013
If you are using the new D&D Next rules in your game (like I currently am), there are a number of resources you should be aware of to keep up to date with the latest thinking of this still-evolving game.
One resource that I seem to keep "rediscovering" is the The Tome Show. While I've been a fan of this podcast for a while for their D&D 4e coverage, I'm glad to see they are just as thorough in their coverage of D&D Next. This podcast covers a pretty wide swath in the D&D game space, with episodes covering the latest 4e book release, other episodes around their monthly book club, and some episodes featuring several DMs discussing their own ongoing games. For the D&D Next fan, The Tome Show is covering all the latest releases around the D&D Next rules, as well highlighting columns and online articles you may have missed. Their monthly news desk shows are a great way to make sure you aren't missing any details.
The next few resources are all from WotC employees involved in the new rules.
Probably the most important page you can read is Mike Mearls weekly Legends and Lore column.
As the senior manager of the team crafting the new rules, Mike is in a unique position to see his vision of the game form the core of the new rules. His column is a great way to learn what he's thinking, giving insight into areas not yet covered in the rules, or where existing rules are evolving.
Another page to check out is Rodney Thompson's weekly D&D Next Q&A blog posts. Here Rodney addresses three questions he's previously pre-selected and answers them based on the new rules and the work in progress that he has visibility into.
Lastly, I would highly recommend reading James Wyatt's weekly Wandering Monsters column. While not specially focusing on monsters in D&D Next rules, his column does attempt to abstract the core concepts of various monster types. These concept designs are meant to influence everything from D&D branded video games, D&D branded t-shirts, and I suspect D&D Next creature design.
If you are using the D&D Next rules, I highly recommend checking out some or all of these resources that not only can help keep you up to date on the game, but can also aid you in your next session.
Jun 14, 2013
There seems to be a lot of Murder going on in Baldur's Gate, and it's a little confusing to this partial resident of the Realms.
I mean, there's a GenCon event called Murder in Baldur's Gate, then there's the next D&D Encounters season to be called Murder in Baldur's Gate, and on top of that there's a listing on Amazon.com call, what else, Murder in Baldur's Gate.
Are these all the same thing? If I play the GenCon game, is that going to be the same as the Encounters season, which is the same as what I can buy on Amazon?
Or worse, is the GenCon game a teaser for Encounters? After the four hour GenCon event, I hope it doesn't end with a big...
And is the Amazon product just a "for sale" version of the Encounters season? So unless you have a Delorean, with a working Flux Capacitor and Mr Fusion, I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
In other news
GenCon 2013 is shaping up to look a lot different this year than previously, and for one big reason.
WotC has decided to NOT have a booth in the exhibit hall this year! For people who haven't been to GenCon, you might not realize how big a deal this is. The exhibit hall is one of the premier visits during any trip GenCon; you can easily spend an entire day in there and not see the whole thing.
And one of the most recognizable spots in the hall has always been the TSR/WotC castle, a multi-level structure that can be seen from anywhere in the exhibit hall.
On one hand I think it might be short sighted for them not be in the hall selling any number of products they have available, like their Dungeon Command game that they rolled out last year, or all of the earlier edition repeats, or novels.
On the other hand, the thinking seems to be that if they spend less this year on hall space, they can double down next year when the final version D&D Next will probably be released.
I really need to get a working time machine!
Jun 7, 2013
Recently, I've been having an issue running my weekly or even biweekly Dungeons and Dragons game. With five players, it's been difficult scheduling everyone for a convenient time. And even then, work or life was often rearing its head leaving us short at the game table.
Then one of my most consistent players had to drop out of the group, leaving us with 4 players and myself. It was definitely time to turn on the recruiting drive.
There are a number of different things you can try. I'll list out what I did and what seemed to be the most successful for me.
One of the things I did NOT do, was post a sign up at my local game store. It's 2013 folks, and since I do most of the session scheduling via email, I wanted someone at least tech-comfortable, if not tech-savvy. Other folks my have better results recruiting from a game store post, but I was trying to cast a much wider net for players, and just a few small posts at a few stores in the area wasn't going to cut it.
Since I run my game in the Dragonlance setting, I thought going to Dragonlance fan sites and forums might yield a few potentials. Sadly, I've tried this route several times, and never reached a single player. When going to fan sites and fan forums, look at the focus of the site/forum. If most of the focus is on discussing fiction related to the setting, or game rules, it's probably not worthwhile.
What has worked. Sites that focus on recruiting, or social meetups. I got a number of great players over the years from the EN World forum Gamers Seeking Gamers thread. If you're looking, definitely set up a post there and subscribe to the thread so you get email updates when anyone posts to it.
Another site that has been very fruitful in finding new players is Pen & Paper games. That site also has a Seeking Players form thread, as well as allowing you to search for players based on their profile and geographic location.
Lastly Meetup.com has been wonderful. In my area (just outside if DC), there are a half dozen groups dedicated to RPGs. Join a few, and look over their forums, and meetup threads. And don't be afraid contacting someone who might not be looking exactly for your type of game. I was able to find some folks in the area looking for a 3.5 or Pathfinder game into my D&D Next game by just reaching out and telling them a little about the new system and my game. Likewise, I recruited a player who I thought might be living a little further than he might want to travel, but after talking, it turned out he was available and OK with the distance.
In short, if you're the DM, and you're looking for new players, you need to take a very active role is recruiting. Post online or in-store, and follow up when someone reaches out. You may get more misses than hits, but if you work at it, you can find players out there to bring to your game table.
May 31, 2013
On Death of PainThis issue begins what would be the last TSR/DC Dragonlance arc. For the final 2 issues we have a new team, with writer Paul Kupperberg (brother of Alan Kupperberg who provided art for issues 29) and artist Grant Miehm.
The story starts off with Riva and friends--we're back to the "Riva on Taladas" setting that had be the basis for about the last year's worth of stories, not counting issues 30-32--looking for shelter after a run-in with a minotaur patrol from the League of Minotaurs. Their companion, Griffin, is greatly hurt, and Riva sets off by herself to find help.
In a nearby village, covered in the aftermath of a minotaur attack (seemingly separate from the attack that wounded Griffin). Riva comes across an old woman named Tykel who is a priestess of the cult of Mislaxa (the name for Mishakal the goddess of healing on Taladas) and who is willing to help her and her friends.
After starting to tend to Griffin, Tykel begins to tell the story of the patron saint of the cult, a young woman named Miisia Genyei.
Miisia lived around the time of the Cataclysm and grew up as part of a tribe of humans content to live a quite existence as goat herders in the Ilquar mountains of Taladas. But her peaceful existence was shattered when her father and several other clansmen came across the remains of a battle and found a wounded man still alive. The father brought this man, Marsval Solarzz, to his house, intending for his wife to treat the man with herbs, but when Miisia touched his brow with a cloth, she unknowingly healed the man by drawing his pain and injuries into herself.
Meanwhile, Lord Bylarr is presented with the Blackgem, which was retrieved off the body of Marsval. As Lord Bylarr takes the talisman, he senses through the magic of the gem that Marsval is still alive.
Elsewhere, Marsval tells his tale to Miisia, her family, and the other clansmen. It seems that some time ago the Blackgem was taken from Darkhold, the kingdom Lord Bylarr rules, to protect humanity and given to the Solarzz family for safekeeping. At his father's urging, Marsval was taking the gem through the Ilquar Mountains to an even safer place when his party was attacked by Lord Bylarr's men.
Marsval then credits Miisia's power as saving him from certain death. Unable to deal with her new found abilities, Miisia runs off into the night. Marsval quickly follows after her and offers to help rid her of this 'curse'.
While they are away, Lord Bylarr's men arrive and sack the village, killing everyone and setting fire to the buildings. Feeling the pain of the dying clansmen, Miisia collapses in Marsval's arms.
Marsval carries the young girl away from the ruins of her village, intent on avenging her family and defeating Lord Bylarr.
CommentaryI find myself conflicted with my thoughts over this penultimate issue of the series. There are plenty of things I like about it--the art is great, the writing solid--but at the same time there are larger concerns that leaving me with an overall disappointed feeling toward the issue.
First up is the writing. Paul Kupperberg was a long time DC comic writer, having penned over 600 issues for their various super hero titles, and that is probably why he got this fill-in assignment. I haven't found any evidence of him working in fantasy (in general) or Dragonlance (in particular) outside these two issues. That said, he does a good job of fitting his story within the established Taladas setting. Clearly someone gave him a copy of the Time of the Dragon boxset (the de facto bible on the Taladas setting, even to this day), and he made good use of it. The framing sequence is okay, but the story really starts to pick up when Tykel begins the tale of Miisia.
That part of the story flows nicely, and with only 17 pages left in the issue, basically introduces us to the main characters (Marsval, Miisia, and Lord Bylarr), the MacGuffin (the Blackgem) and by issue's end sets the stage for the next issue. I just wish that Miisia had been more fleshed out by the end of the issue. The same could be said for Lord Bylarr, but by now, I'm used to simplistic villains in this book. While we do get enough of Marsval's story to make him an interesting character, he's not supposed to be the focus of the story.
As the art goes, Grant Miehm, also new to the fantasy genre, does quite well here. The layouts have a nice dynamic quality, with plenty of detail in the backgrounds. All the characters, most of whom don't even have names, all have unique appearances. The few battle scenes are exciting and detailed, if a bit short. If there's any complaint about the art, it would be that Lord Bylarr is just a bad guy in a shadowed helm, and looks a bit like Warduke from the old D&D Cartoon.
Here's an image of Warduke side by side wiht Lord Bylarr for comparison.
For all of it's positives, after 33 issues, I still don't feel like I'm getting the Dragonlance comic I wanted (and sadly wouldn't get until the much later, non-Dragonlance IDW Dungeons and Dragons comic). If Riva is on Taladas to complete a goal, then get on with that story, instead of an issue where she doesn't appear at all (issue 28), a throwback arc to her time in Ansalon (running from issue 30 to 32), and now a fill-in story where she's not even relevant. At least with the Winter's Knight arc (running from issue 17 to 20), her framing sequences told a relevant story in parallel to the legend she told.
Next up is the final issue... after which we'll set our sights on another Dragonlance comic series.
May 24, 2013
If you're anything like me, then you probably have a bunch of games that you've purchased in the past, intending to run, but never quite getting around to.
I have a bunch of games like this, and being the pack rat that I am, most (ok, all) are still in my possession. So, when I finalized my plans for GenCon this year, and realized that I would be in Indy with friends, some I haven't seen for awhile, I had an epiphany! I would dust off one of these never-played games and run a quick session during our time at the con.
Overall the original game never got great reviews, and while the few supplements that actually saw light of day were of dubious quality, the game still holds a soft spot for me (mostly from liking the original Highlander film, and the later TV series).
If all goes well, I go back and look over some of the other "bucket list" games I have and pull another one out at another time.
Currently the top games in my bucket list includes:
- ReichStar - What-if the German's won WW2 and now centuries later, the Third Reich was an intergalactic power.
- Deadlands - Horror meets the old west
- Noir - Pulp noir roleplaying
May 3, 2013
As I start getting ready for GenCon 2013, I find myself thinking about last year's event, and since I didn't write a blog post about it at the time, here's...
My Woefully Past Due Gen Con 2012 ReportGenCon 2012 was probably my tenth GenCon overall, and my third in a row. While there's no point touching on any of the announcements or products available at the show, I do want to highlight a few things that really helped make this one of the most memorable visits ever.
Trying New ThingsEvery convention I typically sign up for a few D&D games, and 2012 was no different, playing in a few 4e events as well some D&D Next. In addition to this staple of the RPG field, I always try to sign up for something outside my comfort zone. In the past, it was trying new card games like 7th Sea or Death Angel, RPGs like Brave New World or Star Wars (back in the West End days), or board games like City of Thieves. In 2012, I was hoping to try out the new Marvel RPG game, but all the slots were sold out. In the end I went way out of my comfort zone and did a cardstock modeling class.
As someone who never thought he had the patience or skill, I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I've been making cardstock buildings consistently since GenCon and now have enough for a small village, or parts of a large town. It doesn't hurt that I'm planning on running a few city-based adventures in the near future.
Make Travel Part of the FunUnless you live in the immediate area, going to GenCon usually involves some degree of travel. For 2012, I was going to the convention with some hometown friends and for a number of reasons, not the least of which was cost savings, we choose to drive out to Indianapolis instead of flying.
When you plan your travel, make sure to get the party started as soon as you can. That might include having a few quick and ready games for waiting at the airport or having some fun movies or audio books for the drive.
In fact a friend of mine routinely listens to the Lord of the Rings on audio during the drive to and from Indianapolis. And if your looking for audio books to check out, visit the new list of classic D&D audio books now on Audible.com
Bring FriendsI've done GenCon now both as part of a group and as a solo act, and while there were benefits to being on my own, the convention is 1000 times more fun when you share it with friends. With the new online friends tools available on the GenCon site, it's easier than ever to book your events and pick up an extra ticket or two for a friend.
In 2012 I ended up sharing at least half my events with the guys I traveled out with, and I'm hoping to do it again this year.
While it's great sharing various events with friends, don't pass up the opportunity to meet some new people. One of the great things about GenCon is we're all there to indulge our passion for games of all kinds and you probably have more in common than not with anyone you run in to at the convention. Take the time make a new friend or two, you wont be disappointed.
Apr 25, 2013
As I ramp back up to writing this blog on a regular weekly basis, here's a few other news items I meant to comment on a while ago.
In recent months, while many players eagerly await the release of "D&D Next", Wizards of the Coast has found numerous other ways to keep our interest in D&D going, including releases guaranteed to appease our eyes and ears.
Recently Wizards has released a number of classic novels in audio book format on Audible.com. Previously only a select number of books (mostly those from the most well known Wizards authors like R. A. Salvatore or Margaret Wies and Tracy Hickman) were released in audio book format, and even then, mostly in abridged format. Now, thanks to the last releases, all in unabridged format, D&D fans can fill their ears with the works of the above mentioned authors, as well as many other books set in the D&D worlds of Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, Dark Sun, Eberron, Ravenloft, and more.
Just check out the D&D book page on Audible.com for more information.
Around the same time that I heard about the Audible releases, I was even more pleasantly surprised to learn that after years of NOT releasing any products in PDF format, that D&D in all it's various editions was back on the digital market. In the past, Wizards had it's entire back catalog of product as well as new 4e releases available for purchase, but after rampant pirating, Wizards pulled all product of the virtual shelves, citing a need for better DRM tools.
The recent re-releases, on a dedicated RPGnow site called Dungeons and Dragons Classics all feature Watermark technology, so while there are no limits to how many machines the document can be on, or printing restrictions, the watermark does at least identify the purchaser, and therefore someone who is liable should the document be shared illegally.
With prices ranging from $4.99 (for Basic and 1e) up to $17.99 (for more recent 4e products), this is a great way to get access to an old sourcebook or module without having to pay collector prices.
Apr 19, 2013
As I've mentioned once or twice before, I'm a big fan of the Dwarven Forge terrain. Unfortunately, like many, the cost of Dwarven Forge is typically outside my budget, limiting my collection to a few basic sets.
That's why, when I heard of Dwarven Forge's Kickstarter project I had to check it out and ended up backing the project in the first day.
Like any Kickstarter project, there are a number of backer levels, from as little as $1 all the way up to $3500, but the $120 level is the minimum level needed to earn the various stretch goals that continue to be unlocked every few days.
Originally the project was looking to raise $50K, a goal reached in just the first few hours of the first day of backing. Now with about 10 days left to go, the project has raised almost $800K, unlocking all manner of stretch goals. Originally the stretch goals were additional pieces (more walls, floors, doors, etc), but after listening to the backers on the Kickstarter forum, they started adding unique pieces and optional add-ons.
With the current stretch goals, the $120 level contains about 125 pieces (higher levels offer an even greater piece per cost value), all of which are compatible with existing Dwarven Forge products. The equivalent set on the Dwarven Forge website runs $109 for 41 pieces. Clearly the best value for a Dwarven Forge set ever offered. Hopefully, based on the success of this project, Dwarven Forge will run future Kickstarter projects for their caverns style or sci-fi sets.
If you haven't checked out the project yet, click on the link above for product details and maybe consider backing this worthwhile project.
UPDATE: Since the original post, the KS campaign has passed the $1 million mark, unlocking even more bonus pieces, and some exciting add-ons, including accessories and large floor tiles. With just 5 days left, it's certainly worth looking at before the campaign ends!