Check it out for yourself here.
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Monday, November 29, 2010
It looks like I’m about to find out.
Since a good portion of the Watchfires & Thrones crew had other business on December 12th, we decided to take that weekend off. But I’ve had a hankering to try something different if only to shake up any growing complacency on the referee front. I’ve therefore decided to take advantage of the lull in regular sessions and shift gears a bit. Thus, the “Out of the Box” Project was born. Inspired by a post Sham did some years ago, one that hit me right in the crazy-go-bananas bone, I put together this:
I’ve sent the word out through the Meet-up group, hung a flyer at the FLGS, and told the owner of my intentions. Now we’ll just see if anyone shows up. If it goes as good as I hope, it could even become that secondary campaign I’ve been threatening for months now.
To prep for it, I’m expanding the wilderness map from B2 to include a little place called The Haunted Keep and Quasqueton. The other tower and gatehouse of the Haunted Keep have been stocked and both the lower levels of that place and the entirety of the Cave of the Unknown are being prepared. That brings the total number of available dungeons sites to four when you include the good ol’ Caves of Chaos. Plenty of place to explore before 4th level arrives and the Expert Rules are introduced.
The background of the setting is being sewn together from some of the information presented in B1 and B2, but I’m not going too far beyond the idea that “The lands of Law are here. The lands of Chaos are there, but they’d really like to have all this land too. Somebody go do something about that, will you?” Hawkmoon is whispering quite loudly in my ear, too. We’ll see what happens with that.
Friday, November 26, 2010
I’ve posted a rough diagram of something below. As you can plainly see, my artistic talents are limited to the written word (and there are those that would debate even that claim), so I would be very interested to see what someone with some talent could do with the below sketch.
Normally, I’d say send me an email if you’re interested it cleaning this doodle up, but, for my latest crazy idea, I think the more variations on this theme, the better. Therefore, I’m open to as many takes on the sketch as people are willing to submit. It actually works to the idea’s and the upcoming post’s benefit to have plenty of options.
If you are so interested, please take the attached drawing and run with it. You can recreate it as is, take the rough idea and elaborate on it, or just use it for the most meager bit of inspiration. Work in any medium you wish. When you’re happy with it, send me either a copy of your creation or a link to where I might view it. I will post your picture here in conjunction with the article giving you full credit for your work. If it takes a bit for you to finish up, and you do so after the post appears, please send it to me anyhow and I’ll post follow-ups to the original from time to time.
I’m not out to make any money on this idea and the article the illustrations accompany will be posted here for all to see. I can only give you the opportunity for your work to be seen by a fair number of individuals in return for your efforts.
I think my idea has some merit and I’m hoping others will jump on the idea and embrace it once it’s revealed. Please help me with your own talents. You can contact me at poleandrope (at) gmail (dot) com to submit your work or make other inquiries.
Thank you very much in advance.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Friends of Starship WardenPlease click the link above and consider donating a few dollars to help out Jim.
The above is a site I set up this morning to try to help Jim financially. I have also established a bank account with the Associated Bank of Elkhorn called the Bail out the Warden Fund. Monies collected through this PP account will go directly into that bank account which has been set up with an EIN as a Misc. Non Profit with the IRS.
Physically, Jim is still having his good days as well as his bad. He is now waiting for the teams of specialists at the Mayo Clinic to come up with a more complete diagnosis as well as a plan of treatment.
Please feel free to spread the link wherever you feel it may do some good.
Friday, November 19, 2010
In the same aisle that I found the pre-cut 2” cubes that formed the base of my gelatinous cube, I also discovered a bin full of wooden doll heads. Although mostly spherical, they were flattened at their bottoms to better allow them to be affixed to a doll’s body. I, however, saw this feature to mean they wouldn’t roll away if I put one down on a battle mat. That got me thinking about what spherical monsters I could use these to represent. Then I remembered an old issue of White Dwarf, number #7 to be precise (although #6 would have been more appropriate). In that issue’s “Fiend Factory” was this:
It was a little more difficult than that, mind you. I had problems with the thing getting away from me during painting, as I had it sitting atop a pencil that was supported in a hollow candlestick. It picked up a little grit in its adventures across the concrete floor, which is why you can see a bit of schmutz on its surface. Had I to do it again (and I did buy two doll heads just in case), I’d probably find a way to clamp this down better during painting.
Drollo and Eryl knew not what they faced, but they suspected it meant them ill.
Thursday, November 18, 2010
My question(s) then to you, gentle reader, is this: For those of you who have used the silver standard in your games, how have you gone about doing so and what was your experience with it? How did you handle monster treasure? Did you bother keeping electrum or platinum in the game? Is there anything else I should know? Any input would be gratefully appreciated.
Monday, November 15, 2010
One project began so long ago that my Watchfires & Thrones game was still occurring in its original pulp sword & sorcery setting—the one I was building as I went. For that setting’s megadungeon, I had an interesting creature in mind and I wanted to do something special for when the PCs finally encountered it. This idea led me to the following creation: a cheap, do-it-yourself Gelatinous Cube (or perhaps a close cousin of such a creature). While there are Gelatinous Cube minis on the market they tend to be a bit pricey for a critter you’re not bound to use regularly on the battle mat. Plus, in making one yourself, you have options that the professional manufacturers probably never even considered.
The idea started when I was exploring my local art supply/crafts shop. Down the aisle where they keep the woodworking stuff, I came across a small bin filled with wooden blocks of various sizes, including a 2” cube. Seeing as that’s just the right size for a gelatinous cube, I bought one (paying $0.99 for it) and took it back to my workbench.
Breaking out a tub of joint compound, I slathered the cube with a generous layer of spackle, going for a goopy, “I’m frosting a birthday cake”-style thickness and texture. The key was to put just enough on so that it no longer appeared to be a square block, but not too much so that it would crack and shatter if I dropped it while moving it around the battle mat. It took a couple of days to get five sides covered, as I had to ensure the compound had dried on two or more sides so I could hold it while I did the other half. You could speed the process up by temporarily mounting the cub to a dowel with some putty. Once the cube was dry and looked appropriately uneven and viscous, I covered it with a layer of white primer (you can use your own favorite color) and got down to painting it.
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Just four years prior to the release of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, a little movie called Mad Max 2 (aka The Road Warrior) set the standard for all post-apocalyptic movies with a budget of $2 million dollars (US). The movie went on to earn eleven times that amount at the box office in the US alone. It’s therefore no surprise that the sequel saw its budget inflated to three times its predecessor’s and had a whole lot more people interested in the success of the film. In Hollywood, that’s usually a recipe for a disaster and Thunderdome can’t quite escape that morass unscathed.
Before we get down to the nitty gritty, here’s the thumbnail recap:
Max, last seen standing alone on a desolate stretch of highway, is still wandering the wasteland. With the last of the V-8 Interceptors a smoldering ruin, Max has traded in horsepower for camel-power to haul his wreck of a truck across the desert. That is, until he’s cold-cocked by the landing gear of a Transavia PL-12 and finds his camels and vehicle heading off into the desert without him. Luckily, Max has replaced his dog with a monkey, who tosses Max his boots and bosun’s whistle—which will come in handy later. Everything’s better with monkeys.
Hot on the trail of his hijacked vehicle, Max makes his way to Bartertown, a sort of Los Vegas/Mos Eisley/flea market that represents the return of civilized life to the wasteland. When Max finds his camels up for sale, he makes a stink that attracts the attention of Bartertown’s head honcho, Tina Turner (Aunty Entity, really, but I think the movie is improved by pretending Tina, finding her singing career dead after the apocalypse, becomes a semi-benevolent despot). Aunty has a problem: a certain “George and Lennie” duo named Master-Blaster that effectively runs Bartertown via a stranglehold on the settlement’s methane supply (energy consumption and control being a recurring theme throughout the Mad Max series). If Max kills Blaster, he’ll, like a country-western song played backwards, get his weapons back, his truck back, his camels back, etc. Max takes the deal, showing exactly how far his morality has crumbled since his days as a police officer prior to civilization’s collapse.
Through an arranged conflict, Max finds himself in the Thunderdome, which is the film’s greatest contribution to Western culture so I need not elaborate. During the fight, Max discovers that Master, hulking brute that he is, is mentally disabled and has a child’s intellect. When Max refuses the kill Blaster, Aunty, sensing that her administration is about to have some uncomfortable questions lobbed at it, gets Maxgate swept under the rug by strapping him to a horse, planting an oversized Carnival head on him, and sending him out into the desert.
Normally, this would be a death sentence, but Max is discovered by the band of ridiculously-named, adolescent hunters-and-gatherers. The movie then picks up an aviation theme and runs with it, which is appropriate because this part of the plot almost causes the whole film to crash and burn.
It turns out that these kids were all survivors of a plane crash that occurred not long after the fall of civilization. Organized by the messianic figure of Captain Walker, a small group of adults and children fled the cities aboard a jet liner only to go down in the wasteland. The adults, probably as annoyed by the kids as I was, decide to abandon them to go find help. They wisely never come back for them, leaving the children to grow up, go all Blue Lagoon, and wait for Captain Walker to return to take them to “Tomorrow-morrow Land,” that magical place where steel-eyed airline pilots live in luxury with their Vegas showgirl wives.
The kids mistake Max for Walker in a most contrived plot development, but Max sets them straight quick after realizing he’s about six seconds away from wandering into Daddy Daycare territory. Some of the kids say “Screw you, old man,” and decide to head off to Bartertown, which they mistake for the Land of Pilots and Showgirls. Max, perhaps seeking redemption or just trying to avoid spending the rest of his life with these mouth-breathers, heads back to Bartertown to save the Kids Who Went. The Kids Who Stayed are thankfully never seen again.
It will surprise nobody to discover that the kids quickly find themselves in hot water (or at least warm pig shit) and Max has to rescue them. In the process, Max blows up Bartertown before escaping with the kids, a convict named Pig-Killer, and the previously mentioned Master, who, like so many of his race (see Yoda), is a mental genius yet unable to speak using coherent sentence structure.
A train-and-car chase erupts when Aunty sets off in pursuit of Max and her escaped brain trust. Luckily, Max runs into the same father-and-son team that stole his camels at the start of the movie and everybody but Max escapes in the airplane, leaving Max to face Aunty Entity –who chuckles and leaves. The film ends with the kids who left now established in the ruins of Sydney with a new civilization growing around them.
You’ve probably guessed that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is not my favorite of the series. It is a film that doesn’t seem to know what it’s supposed to be about or who its audience is. Digging around a bit to get the behind the scene story makes it clear that Thunderdome was following a wildly spinning compass from the very start.
Thunderdome began life not as a Mad Max film, but instead about a group of children living in the wild without parental figures. When the screenwriters began tossing ideas of who might find these kids around, Max’s name dropped into the mix and the film was reworked as a Mad Max vehicle. And since Mad Max 2 had been a hot property, this film found American financing sniffing around it and offering up gobs of cash, which is why you get Tina Turner shoehorned into the largely Aussie cast. A bigger budget also calls for a wider audience, so the film was shot with a PG rating in mind.
On a tragic note, Byron Kennedy, producer of the first two Mad Max films and a friend of director George Miller, died in a helicopter crash prior to shooting. Miller lost interest in the project in the wake of Kennedy’s death and a co-director was hired to take some of the weight off his shoulders. This second director, George Ogilvie, handled most of direction so that Miller could concentrate on the action sequences.
To further burden the movie, the children actors are not especially memorable or gifted one. Many eyes glaze over once they show up in the film, which brings the movie to a screeching halt just as things get going. This, however, is not the strangest decision regarding actors in the film.
For years, I never could understand the relationship dynamic between the character played by Bruce Spence and Max. They had formed a partnership if not friendship during the events of Mad Max 2, but events in the film separated them by the end. I always assumed that the hijacking of Max’s truck at the start of the film was a random accident, as it must be hard to identify a robed figure sitting atop a buckboard while clinging precariously to the wing of a moving aircraft. I figured that it was this perceived betrayal that leaves Max and the pilot at odds near the climax of the film. But then, to my surprise, I learned that Bruce Spence is not playing the same character in both films.
The decision to have Spence play two pilots in the wasteland and do nothing to differentiate them other than change aircraft and give one character an actual name (which is never mentioned on screen) boggles the mind. You can’t blame poor Spence for the situation and one wonders if even he was informed that he was indeed playing another character before the film finished shooting. I think this is another sign of the film’s lack of specific direction.
I will give a hearty round of applause to Tina, however. She’s got charisma and presence, and she holds her own on the screen in a role that she appears to be having a lot of fun with.
Phew. I guess my issues with this one go deeper than I imagined. Now that I’ve vented them, let’s look at what there is to steal for a Gamma World campaign. There’s not a whole lot, but the stuff worth taking is all 100% pure cinematic beef.
Top of the list is Thunderdome, no questions asked. Whether as wasteland justice, Cryptic Alliance initiation, or an alternative to jugging, the apocalypse will forever remain incomplete without a Thunderdome or at least a similar form of public execution/sports entertainment. One of its ilk will be incorporated somehow into campaign.
Next is Bartertown itself. While the trend in later editions of Gamma World was to bump up the tech levels and baseline civilization development at the start of the game, I’m old school apocalypse and the idea of a grungy, rad counter clicking settlement with a bar and grill called the “Atomic Café” hits all my right buttons. There will be Bartertown, albeit under a different moniker. I’m on the fence about the pig shit power plants though. Maybe big honking mutant pigs instead…
Third and final thing to steal:
Cow F’ing Car: Don’t cruise the wasteland without it!
I was going to cover The Quiet Earth in a future installment of Radioactive Theatre, but some time has elapsed since I watched it for this series and my impressions of the film have grown a bit dim. Although an entertaining film, I’m not certain if I want to go back there again so soon just to cover it here. From what I remember, there is not a lot worth stealing for an outright Gamma World game. I may instead do a big budget Hollywood double feature next month and cover both The Road and The Book of Eli. I need to think on it.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Some folks remember that way back in June, I had a moment of inspiration and a new book idea exploded from out of nowhere. Several people kindly stepped forward to assist me on that project and I’ve gotten most of their contributed elements now. All that remains is some of the maps and for me to finish writing the damned thing. The draft is about half-way done and still needs some heavy beating with blunt objects to form it into the shape I want, but this is going to be my final project for 2010 and I expect to be putting all my energies into this one. It wants to be a bigger book than I initially imagined and I’m currently torn between giving it a little freedom and reining it in hard. In either case, I think some people will enjoy it while others maybe not so much. That’s why I’m doing it in-house rather than shopping around to see if some publisher has interest. If it face-plants on release, the suck stops here.
Without going too much into a book that’s still under construction, I’m going to be shooting for more of a high fantasy feel with this one instead of the grittier pulp vibe that’s been the backbone of the OSR. My design goal is, stated loosely, “What if Dragonlance was done more as a sandbox for starting characters instead of a railroad that led to the Big World-Ending Evil?” Now you see why I say some will like it and others will loathe it. I’ve got some ideas I think are nifty to bolt onto the Basic D&D/Labyrinth Lord framework without turning it completely into another beast, but it will ultimately be you folks who determine if I did it right or not.
I’m going to take a day or two of “creative palette cleaning” by scrubbing my brain with sci-fi, but then it’s back to high fantasy. I’m hoping that the book will be out in time for the holidays or to at least take advantage of the money you get for returning that crappy gift from Aunt Sheila. If you’ve already contributed art to the book, have no fear—the project is moving forward and you haven’t been forgotten. I’ll be contacting those folks again in a few weeks as I get closer to the finish line. I’ll likely be looking for someone to help slash the book to ribbons with an editorial pen since it’s too big and I’m too close to the material to do so myself.
A new Radiation Theatre will be up tomorrow, but here’s a short recommendation for another film. If you’re running or will be running a Metamorphosis Alpha game, I’d suggest checking out Pandorum. This is especially true if you’re starting the game using the alternate “We’re All Clones” beginning or are going for a darker, nastier feel to the campaign instead of wild and zany. The film is not high cinema, but it does feature folks running around an adrift spaceship while being chased by weird, murderous creatures without a clue of what went wrong. No robots, unfortunately.
The second in a series of supplemental material for Stonehell Dungeon, this twenty-page PDF is an anthology of three adventuring sites located in and around the ancient prison suitable for exploration by low-level characters. Included are “Modnar’s Cellar,” the undercroft of a ruined tower owned by a magic-user with a strange agenda, “The Nest of Otrogg,” a cave system once occupied by a loathsome cult, and “The Sanctuary of Chthonia,” a secret sub-level located inside Stonehell Dungeon and overseen by an undead witch. It also introduces two new spells, eight new monsters, two new magical items, and a pair of minor deities for your Labyrinth Lord™ game. This supplement contains three maps but no other interior illustrations.
Suitable for use by characters of levels 1-4, the adventures found within will provide several sessions worth of entertainment and their stand-alone nature makes them easy to insert in any campaign regardless of whether you're using the Stonehell megadungeon in you world. And, at the low price of $2.99, that's less than you'd pay for that party-sized bag of chips for your game table.
Click here to buy your copy today or visit the Lulu storefront for more Stonehell Dungeon game products.
Monday, November 8, 2010
Jim’s latest trip to the Mayo Clinic was not good; one piece of bad news after another.
His irrepressibly optimistic side is very much in evidence, and trying to brave it out. Another battery of tests with another flock of specialists is still to come; in three to four weeks time they will all compare notes and diagnoses and recommend a medicinal regimen that we all hope and pray will see him out of this.
The medicines are very powerful and have many nasty potential side effects, so it is still a rather perilous circumstance he still finds himself in. While he is starting to replace some of the weight he so precipitously and dramatically lost, his stamina and energy levels are still AWOL.
I am trying to coordinate an effort to ease some of his financial burden with several individuals. I am getting legal advice as to how we might do this without increasing Jim’s obligation to the IRS. For the present, please do not make any direct donations to his PP acct. I will share details on that just as soon as I can. Keep the faith.
From the Dragonfoot thread regarding Jim Ward's health struggles and the efforts to help cover his growing medical expenses:
I just called Jim Ward a few minutes ago and was lucky enough to get an update on his condition. He is still pretty crook, and feeling very weak, and will remain so for some time yet.So for those of you who would prefer to make a donation directly to Jim,
For those of you who have asked - I spoke to him about donations, and he has a paypal account: TEMPORARILY REMOVED.
He appreciates everything that people have been doing to help him out, and despite his current circumstances seems pretty cheerful, even if he is completely knackered.
Craig J. Brain
It was and remains my intention to limit these supplemental releases to a strictly PDF format. Since each would be relatively short in pages and word count, it didn’t make much sense to go the printed route. It also would keep them cheap to produce and I could then pass the savings along to you, the potential consumer. Each supplement would be available on my Lulu storefront for no or low cost.
The very first of these supplements, The Bandit Caves, was released in conjunction with Stonehell Dungeon: Down Night-Haunted Halls. It was and is a free PDF file that details the lair of a bandit gang who has unfinished business within the dungeon. From the feedback I’ve received, people seem to enjoy it and have a lot of fun customizing the bandits and their aims for their own campaigns. My own players just got around to tangling with those outlaws the other week and barely escaped with their lives.
It has been nearly a year since that first supplement was released, and I didn’t want 2010 to end without some new Stonehell material seeing the light of day, especially since it was my original intention to have the sequel out by the end of this year. I mentioned previously that my workload for this year has made that an impossibility, and you’ll have to wait until 2011 to see the final book. In light of these events, I’m pleased to announce that the second Stonehell Dungeon Supplement will be available tomorrow.
Entitled Buried Secrets, this 20 page supplement is an anthology of adventuring sites located in and around Stonehell Dungeon. They include a monster-inhabited cellar beneath a ruined tower that was home to a magic-user with a most unusual agenda; a cave system that was once the sanctuary of a loathsome cult dedicated to the King of Pests; and lastly, the very first sub-level for Stonehell Dungeon, a somewhat safe haven for the PCs to rest – provided they don’t upset the ancient mistress of the place.
Stonehell Dungeon Supplement Two: Buried Secrets is a direct result of my own group’s exploits in my home campaign. Each of the adventuring sites included in the anthology was first explored by them, often with hilarious and lethal results. Now, through the means of the Stonehell Supplement series, you too can tread where they did. Even if you’re not using Stonehell Dungeon in your own campaign, the sites can be used as stand-alone adventures suitable for most any fantasy world.
Now, a word of warning or at least full disclosure: The Stonehell Supplements are not slick, professional products, nor were they ever intended to be. They are my own cleaned up and edited notes laid out in a clear, easy-to-read format – the same one used in the main Stonehell books. And since my only budget for these is time, they suffer from a severe lack of commissioned artwork, using clip art or public domain pieces for their covers and lacking any interior illustrations at all. If it’s any consolation, I try to make the best use of that extra space by cramming in as much fun stuff as I can. Supplement Two is no exception to this. I wanted to make that perfectly clear so that nobody feels duped. Also, the format of the supplement is somewhat different from the first Stonehell book. The first two locations are detailed in a more traditional dungeon notes method rather than the modified One-Page Dungeon method used in Stonehell Dungeon. The last location, which is a sub-level of the dungeon proper, does use that abbreviated format and can be printed out and inserted inside the book for easy reference during play.
Buried Secrets is the first supplement that comes with a price tag, namely a $2.99 one. For that low price, you get the three adventuring sites (Modnar’s Cellar, The Nest of Otrogg, and The Sanctuary of Chthonia), two new spells, eight new monsters, two new magical items, and a pair of minor deities. All that for less than the cost of a bag of Tostitos chips, and it’s guaranteed to last longer, too.
If this sounds like something you’d like to add to your gaming collection, be sure to swing by here tomorrow when the official announcement is posted and the storefront link provided.
Friday, November 5, 2010
At Dragonsfoot, Tim Kask says Jim Ward is very sick.I have a handful of RPG design heroes, ones whose work continues to inspire, thrill, and entertain me long after it first saw print. James Ward is one of those heroes and this news saddens me greatly. I hope that he recovers from his illness and continues to produce more of his always inspiring work. I’ll be picking up a few MA goodies next week to do what I can to help Jim and his family take care of medical expenses.
So as not to be the bearer of only bad news, Craig Brain is proposing a tribute product to help raise money for Jim's medical expenses - completing one's collection of MA stuff at RPGNow is also a great way to do so.
Here’s a video that has more information on what you can do to help.