Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Night Drive-In Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger

With a trip to the movies costing somewhere north of the national debt of Paraguay, I figure not as many people are spending money on going to the theater. When The Sound of Music hit our burg, my mother took me to see it eight times. Now this was a college student who lived a hundred miles away and had to drive an hour and a half to come see me. She could only do this on the weekends and for eight weeks straight, I saw The Sound of Music. Mom could afford to make that drive and take both of us to see a movie. Sometimes she even convinced my older brother to come along. Most people can't afford to see the same movie over and over again at the theaters. By today's prices my mom would have had to take out a payday loan to take us to see Julie Andrews. To my shame I remember begging my mother not to go to the movie one more time. I really should have taken it like a man and suffered through more hours of chick-flick.

You'd think I would be grateful to see her after so many weeks but I think I was going a little bonkers. To my knowledge, I am the only straight male who can still sing along with the damn movie. Anyway, we are not going to discuss The Sound of Music.

For our first Sunday Drive-in, I will cover one of the classic Harryhausen movies, Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. This is the third in the Series of Harryhausen Sinbad movies with The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and The Golden Voyage of Sinbad being number one and two. I saw this movie at the drive in as a double feature.

This movie features Patrick Wayne (son of John Wayne) as the hero Sinbad and Jane Seymour as the love interest. Margaret Whiting hams it up nicely as the evil sorceress. The movie is competent enough, not Harryhausen's best effort by any means but that still puts it solidly ahead of most of the competition. The wonders and monsters are pretty well rendered and when the tiger makes its appearance it was pretty good for a teenage boy.

The movie has many ideas that have been directly swiped for many D&D campaigns. Sorceress's, magic that goes awry, curses on a royal family, and a quest to put things right. Along with monsters that were well rendered for the time it was a treat for a kid taking a break from chasing girls and playing D&D. It's worth the time to watch it streaming on netflix or on a $1.oo night at the local video store.

Grab the movie, put a blanket on the floor, pop some popcorn or grab a bag of of nacho flavor Doritos and a six pack of real coke in glass bottles. Now, close your eyes and follow along; it's a clear summer night in July, 1977. You and your date have just sneaked into the 'Old Chief' drive-in and are snuggling on 'make out hill' to see the latest creature feature. The credits are rolling and kids are running back to their cars from the playground by the big screen under a glorious starry sky.

Sure, the sound is distant and scratchy and the lot attendants come around every so often to make sure nobody's watching for free but dodging their flashlights is half the fun. Who knows what'll happen later that night?

Still Not Feeling Good

Caution: My family ought to be Quarantined. I am getting the feeling that we all ought to be kept from the public. My daughter had to be hospitalized again last night. She is back home now but we have been up since six am yesterday morning.

Coming up. Sunday Matinee.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Munchkin Birthday

Today is my munchkin's birthday she is four and like all cute little munchkin lasses the apple of granddad's eye. I am working on some of my own campaign to give folks some flavor of the world I have built. But this is probably it for today.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Illness in Family

We've had some illness in the family. We hope that it is on the wane so we can get back to what's important. AD&D wait!, no that's family.

So until we can do that we'll post some great links we've found.

First is 'Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor'

These are both excellent examples of why I like my women warriors to look like women warriors. I know that RPG's are just make believe but please don't ask me to suspend my disbelief on things I know are just stupid. For instance, it's bad enough there is no acknowledgement of human dimorphism in RPGs. In nearly all RPGs women are just as strong as men, just as fast, just as dexterous, etc. This is not like the real world. In fact, it is harder to believe that not only do we have Mary-Sue Player as the baddest-ass of bad-asses in the world but the other two female players in the group just happen also to be statistical freaks. I don't mean 1-in-100 freaks but one-in-tens of thousands freaks. I have seen where half of all the absolute bad-asses on the planet are in one PC group of girls. Not just girls but girls that look like anime pixel bunnies. No, if I have to swallow what everything tells me is biologically and statistically impossible, at least let me see the women look like warriors. Oh, and not be lesbian, seriously, nothing wrong with someone's orientation, but why does every guy who plays a girl play her like Anne Heche with a sword? If you want to do that go cosplay or cyber on second life or something. Don't bring your fetishes into my playtime. Please just stop.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Problems with the New Game

The game went swimmingly for all and the players had a grand time. But there were a few problems. Nothing that made the game less enjoyable but they did hamper play and immersion.

First we had no hard copies of our game. I was surprised to find how much of a difference that made. We had enough computers, ebooks, etc for all players and the GM to be working off electronic copies but that is not the same as having a paper and ink version. I think giving away all my books, supplements, boxed games to the neighbor boy might have been a mistake. Especially in light of the price tag some of these game resources command on eBay.

Second, we had no dice. And by no dice I mean no dice. Not just a shortage of d4's or being forced to roll the same d10 twice to get a percentage, there was nothing. So we went with eDice, namely the D&D dice roller. It was both responsive, quick and easier than actual dice and yet it was not the same. Not even close.

None of the players complained but for me it was not the same, no pausing for a funny quip or that moment of prayer for a particular roll, no rattle of dice, no laughter as we chased a die across the floor and into the dog's water dish. I was surprised at how attached I was to my little talismans even after decades of not using them.

And finally, we didn't have any hard copies of the charts. Again, this is something that I thought would be a non-issue but that I actually found to be both time consuming and disconcerting. It was like reaching for a stick shift and finding you're driving an automatic.

Well that's all for now.

New Campaign

Yesterday was no posting as we were actually playing RPGs. Using OSRIC our intrepid adventurers started on their quest in 'Shadowvale, Labyrinth of Despair'. Providing an escort for a sage and Father representing their employers, the Holy Church, the four players made it from Nova Venita to the ill-omened Shadowvale and the mysterious underground maze. The vale is a known haunt of werewolves, various undead, and treasure hunters both authorized and unauthorized.

Puzzled by a small altar possibly containing either a Christian offering of Bread and Wine and a single golden rose, (or perhaps it was a mockery?) The party elected to check the cracks and openings near the entry for a way to bypass the whole problem. The mage's familiar (a nice little toad), was raised to the level of the cracks where he was immediately struck by the strong pervasive smell of carnivorous bats, lots of them. Stephen the toad also noted that the holes were too small for anyone to transverse, so back to the mage's pouch went the toad and back to the altar went our adventurers.

Our Paladin, who might as well have been named 'Pretty Stupid' (INT 6) obediently grasped the rose when asked to by the sage (who assured him it was perfectly safe). BTW our Paladin is a long time roleplayer who knows better than to make INT his 'dump stat'. With no obvious effects from the rose, the party elected to move on again. Our 'expert treasure hunters' and 'scouts' found and disarmed a trap then missed the trap triggered by the first trap's disarming. Our paladin got singed but nobody was majorly hurt.

After exploring a few seemingly innocuous rooms, the party stood on a narrow ledge with a short drop to the room below and opened a door. The room was full of bats, thousands of bats. The paladin (again!) and the lantern bearing, gear carrying hireling, Luke went over the edge to stone carved steps below. The lantern was shattered, nobody was hurt but before the party could regroup the noise attracted orcs, lots of orcs. Through fortuitous series of roles, and some bad luck on the part of the orcs a whole passel of them got fried in a nasty webby, oily, barbeque with 'Burning Hands' ignition. Burning, squealing, flammable orcs provided the only light for our humans until the dwarven thief got the back up lantern going.

That's where we ended for the day, fleeing orcs, a scorched and bruised party. We'll see where they go from here next week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Creating Characters

I had two people create characters for my campaign. We have a paladin a member of the Holy Order of the Knights of St Michael and St Christopher and a elven fighter/magic user. They will start out at third level. Our elven fighter/magic user is a first time player and I have always found that starting at level 1 is fine for some new folks but not others.

Tomorrow we'll see how they do.

High Strangeness

Tower of the Archmage is hosting a posting about critters. Strange Animals to be specific and it is asking for a link to posts left in comments.

Here's my entry, the Monkey Spider.

Monkey spiders are small pestiferous creatures found in areas frequented by those who work with or store magical materials especially scrolls. Monkey spiders also known as shrew spiders, skitterpaws and scroll shredders, are neither monkeys nor spiders. Monkey spiders are tiny monotremes an inch to two inches long. The six-legged Monkey spiders also have a tiny prehensile tail they use as a seventh grasping limb. Monkey Spiders have a head like a tiny vicious monkey with overlarge red eyes, bare ragged ears, and a set of needle sharp teeth. The monkey spider has a thin body with hair that bristles out giving them a round appearance. The hair on their bodies is poisonous. It is sharp pointed and brittle and will break off in the mouths of predators or in human skin if incautiously handled. All of the monkey spider's paws have an opposable thumb and the first and third sets of paws also have suckers on their fingers that help with gripping to slick surfaces like walls and ceilings. The monkey spider has a disconcerting range of vocalizations most are too high frequency for a human to hear however they also are talented mimics. The monkey spider stays in contact through their vocalizations that sound like half-heard scraps of conversation. When they are angry or afraid they shriek maniacal laughter.

They can move on anything from two to six limbs. They are usually slow creepers except when they are startled by noise or light then they skitter for dark corners and cracks. The monkey spider is despised and feared by all purveyors of magical items especially scrolls because of their diet and reproductive habits.

Monkey spiders lay their eggs in the creases and folds of magical paper, cloth, wood, and leather. Once the eggs hatch, the young eat the magical material. They also like to mark their territory by defecating on metallic magical items. Their feces are highly corrosive and within a short time they can reduce a magic ring to corroded wreck and cause enough damage to a magic sword that the services of a blacksmith and an enchanter are required to repair it. If they hatch within magical clothing, bags, bedrolls, scrolls, or anything near people. The monkey spiders will not come out during periods of activity but will wait until people are sleeping to emerge from their hiding places and begin chewing.

If there are no magical items to eat or mark. The monkey spider will eat non-magical materials and become parasitic blood suckers. The monkey spider is cunning enough to avoid feeding on active victims. Their saliva is a mild anesthetic, and anticoagulant. Monkey spiders especially crave the blood of magic users including druids and clerics, rangers, and paladins. They also love the blood of magical creatures.

Monkey spiders are the bane of flesh golems, piercers, shriekers, and other such dungeon dwelling critters. Almost worse than their destructive habits and blood drinking is the effect their chittering calls have on the dreams of those sleeping nearby. The first signs of a monkey spider infestation is often the deeply disturbed dreams of their unsuspecting hosts.

Besides the damage they pose to magical items and a good night's sleep, the monkey spiders carry disease. Typhus, trench fever, even varieties of the plague are carried by the little critters or their own parasites. Anyone in contact with the creatures must first save vs poison if they do get stuck by their toxic hair then save vs disease. The longer a host is in contact with the creatures the more severe and likely the chance of infection will be. Rumors of infestations spreading leprosy, small pox, typhoid fever, and other magical diseases have been noted.

Note: Their bite is not poisonous and there is magical and pharmacological uses for their saliva so some alchemists or magic users keep monkey spider 'farms' or pay for captured or dead specimens.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Game Setting Part 1

I will be using the OSRIC system to run an 'advanced' game in my own setting. This setting is based on an alternate history, world myth, Beowulf, and the stories my great-grandmother used to tell me. The adventures will be influenced by Shakespeare, Kipling, RE Howard, Tolkien, and historical events.

Some of the character races in OSRIC will be changed to fit the setting. Major religions will be outlined for clerics and paladins and some new creatures will be added of course. The monetary system will be changed. Sorry to you old school types who think that coinage systems work that way. Let's just say there will be a major revaluing of the currency weights, measures, and relative values. A single dungeon horde in the OSRIC-verse would contain more gold than has been mined in the history of the world.

My goal is to run the game over G+ if I cannot find anyone local to play with.

Your First Time! Playing D&D That is* What got you started?

What got you started in roleplaying? For me, it was a simple Christmas wish. Nineteen Seventy-seven came rolling in and I was listening to The Doors, Lynyrd Skynyrd, playing football and basketball with my friends, riding my bike, fishing, and generally having a typical teenage summer. Too young to (legally) drive a car, too old to want to be seen on my bike everywhere I wound up riding the new (to my county) bus when I wanted to go to Seattle.

My grandmother moved to a small but nice apartment just East of Greenwood Avenue in Seattle. It was an okay neighborhood, there was a cheap locally owned theater that played decent movies, a bowling alley just a couple of blocks east, a small mom & pop corner store not too far away and on Greenwood Avenue, American Eagles.

American Eagles was a military hobby place with plenty of fully paintable, fully toxic lead figures, paints, and obscure German influenced games that required an investment equivalent to the sovereign debt of a small Caribbean island to truly play.

I was busy completing my first set of miniatures, a set of Polish Hussars with the eagles wings and the ultra long lances, not one but two swords and leopard skin saddle covers. They were the pride of my small collection and required hours of migraine inducing squinting in the dim light and toxic fumes of our small garage to paint and prepare them. One day looking for the proper set of Cossacks, I noticed a new game based on Tolkien's work called 'The Battle of the Five Armies', it was from TSR, a company I was vaguely aware of as producing something but couldn't really put my finger on it. However, the Hobbit was without doubt one of my favorite books and playing a board game based on the climax was too much for me to resist.

I asked my parents for the game for Christmas and promptly forgot about it. Come Christmas Eve in Grand Coulee Washington looking down at the Christmas lights in town below us I opened what I thought was The Battle of the Five Armies.

To my surprise, I was holding a boxed game called, Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set. The owners of American Eagle recommended the D&D game as a better value and better game.

This proved to be true in all respects. After opening the obligatory socks, books, and weird stuff that parents think a fourteen year old boy wants, I settled into the couch with the gift from my great-grandmother (a box of homemade chocolate chip cookies) and opened up the new game.

I spent a few seconds looking over the odd dice and trying to figure out how to count the 4 sided dice then opened the book. The book was a light blue and white copy of the same artwork as on the cover.

The book was nothing short of a revelation. All the playing 'war', 'cops and robbers', 'Star Trek' and God help us, 'Dark Shadows' with the kids in the neighborhood were seen in a new light and a new light dawned. I came to an epiphany. I felt like Saul on the road to Damascus.

Seeing simple, easily explained, and better yet, sophisticated rules for the kind of imaginative roleplay I had abandon just a few years before as childish filled me with a sense of expectation I hadn't had in years.*

I spent the rest of the Christmas vacation putting together a quick adventure and running my family through it. My mother was genuinely interested as was my brother my father was a real trouper and feigned interest for my sake. The adventure went so well I was reluctant to end it. My mother was a fighter, my brother a cleric, and my father a dwarf.

I know that the adventure took more than one session to finish and by the end of the vacation I was hooked. Only girls brought the same visceral level of desire. My previous dreams for a car faded like ground mist on a sunny morning. Nothing material compared to the lure of the game. I approached the duties of GM with the same seriousness I did as my duties as an Altar boy.

Within a year I had bought my first AD&D book, the Players Manuel. By then it wasn't even a matter of saving money for a car. Money first was to be saved for the full set of AD&D books then for my car. Girls went from a full time hobby to something I tried to pursue in my free time. Fortunately most of the girls I knew were willing to try the game at least once and many became full time players. I spent far too many hours in dark windowless rooms reeking of b.o., stale Doritos, spilled soda, and the inevitable teenage flatulence, hunched over strangely shaped talismans, rolling odd dice for divination and and scrying cryptic writings to determine the outcome of titanic battles and arcane workings. No wonder so many of the outside observers thought there was something satanic about the game.

Seeing, hearing, and most of all smelling, that dim nerd-cave would have convinced the most stalwart atheist that something horrific was about to erupt from the bowels of Hell. What would any rational person do confronted with that level of adolescent fervor? As a parent and grandparent now, I see what worried some parents.

Only my dedication to martial arts kept me from becoming a total couch potato. I ceased to play football because we only played football when it was too rainy to play basketball or baseball. If it was too rainy to play basketball or baseball it became D&D time. Even at my martial arts practice I would work on D&D adventures during breaks with the other teenage boys (and a couple girls). My gaming group got thoroughly tired of me nitpicking the 'monk' character class, 'no martial arts does not teach you to fall 100' without taking damage. A hundred inches maybe, not 100'.

Within a couple years I got that car, had a succession of pretty girls watching drive-in movies in the front (and sometimes the back seat), opened my own martial arts school, and eventually got married to the prettiest girl that I ever saw.

I never forgot that Christmas Eve in Grand Coulee and opening that box, my first adventure I ran, or the friends I made along the way.

What was your first time? What are your favorite memories? Did your parents play RPGs with you? Did you play RPGs with your kids? Let me know.

*anything that did not involve girls. Girls were still pretty damn visceral!

Old School Roleplaying

This is my first attempt at a blog about roleplaying. I will be posting about all the roleplaying news, views and updates that I find interesting. Your mileage may vary. My focus will be on old school roleplaying. Retro systems and retro-clones that bring the flavor and simple enjoyment of the game that Gygax, Arneson, et al brought to so many of us in the seventies.