Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Demon Disappointment

I was really looking forward to last night's game. We'd wrapped up the previous session with the party having barricaded the hallway between the Asylum and the Reptile House, and the hobgoblins having released the demon they'd summoned. It had just rounded the corner, ready to charge the 50' to their front line and lay into them. 

The demon the party faced in Stonehell was based on the manscorpion monster, one I've been dying to use since I first got the RC, and never found a good place to put one in. Now I have... on steroids! And in spite of the cool stuff I wrote above, I just ran it as a manscorpion with the basic template. Didn't feel it needed any additional powers. The beast hits like a ton of bricks, it's fast, and since it's mostly immune to the stuff the hirelings can throw at it, there are only a few characters who can do much directly. I figured that being a pretty basic, if beefy demon, that it would have the usual resistance to fire damage. 

Sadly, a pair of lightning bolts (one failed save, one passed), and a critical hit with a magic arrow were actually enough to take it down before it had the chance to reach melee range. The line of hobgoblin crossbows (12) backed up by a lieutenant and the army priest barely slowed the rest of the party down. 

It's kind of rough having a big bad go down so quickly just because of a couple of bad initiative rolls. I really wanted to see him tear into the line. More importantly, so did the hobgoblin commander. I need to sit down again and figure out what his strategy is going to be.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Defenders

It took me 2 weeks to get around to watching Marvel's The Defenders on Netflix. It's taken another 2 to get around to actually writing about it. That it took me a while to do it says nothing about how much I enjoyed it, because I enjoyed it a LOT!

There are going to be some spoilers in this review.


The Defenders is definitely a case of the sum being greater than the parts, which is impressive given how good (most) of it's parts are. And yes, I'm talking about Iron Fist. Danny Rand was most definitely the weak link in the lineup, and like many other fans, I was so looking forward to the rest of the group slamming him. And they did. He's a very self important character, and having Luke and Jessica there to take him down a notch was not just in keeping with their characters, but also satisfying as a viewer.



At only 8 episodes, it was very tight and went quickly. Other reviews I've read complained that the first two episodes dragged a bit. I didn't feel it. I thought that things moved along at a good clip, though definitely picking up speed as it went.

Being a Marvel Netflix show, there was the requisite hallway fight, but I have to admit, it kinda loses something when there are 4 protagonists fighting in the same hallway. I'm also not sure that the way the fight was cut worked in it's favor. The previous hallway fights were very smooth with the camera work. This one felt choppy.


While not a comedy, there were a few laugh out loud moments, one of which I actually had to pause the show to recover from. It happens when Jessica crashes the party in the restaurant.

I was thrilled with the returning characters outside the core group. Stick, Night Nurse, Foggy, Colleen Wing, Seeing them interacting with each other, and with the protagonists they usually don't interact with is great.

Foggy: Most people call me Foggy
Luke Cage: And you let them?

Then there's The Hand! Madam Gao is of course still wonderful. Sigourney Weaver's character Alexandra is great. I thought they handled her, and the rest of the Hand's leadership really well. Seeing their motivations, their familiarity with each other play out was well done. The return of Electra was woven into the story flawlessly, and she had maybe the most interesting character arc of all. And when she killed... well... *grin* Unexpected!

Definitely well worth the watch, especially if you enjoyed any of the previous offerings. Can't wait to see what happens next.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Neverwhere

It feels a little silly to write a review for a book with over 300,000 ratings and 1500 reviews on Goodreads. It's like trying to come up with an original thought on Hamlet. What can I say that hasn't already been said? Maybe nothing... but let's find out.

I mostly read on the subway now, which could be the most appropriate place to have read Neverwhere. It could only be more appropriate if I was reading it on the London Underground, rather than the NYC subway. But every day, as the subway car departs the lights of the station into the dark tunnels, and through a world only briefly glimpsed, I wonder what's going on in the shadows, in the distant spots of light. Is there a giant albino alligator living somewhere down there? A magical other realm with vampires, rat-speakers, goblin markets, and even stranger things. Neil Gaiman took me into that world, and once again shows how modern fairy tails can be told.

Back in the 90's when I was in high school, I picked up a copy of White Wolf's Changeling. Mostly because I loved the cover, but also because I enjoyed Vampire and Werewolf, and wanted to see how they wove in the Fairy, but it ended up being one of those things where there was just too much going on. Nearly immortal vampires doing their political thing, werewolves doing their thing battling the modern world, and then in the same universe you've got all the fairy and mummy and... too much, and it never fit all together, so I never got to play it. Everyone was way too into their vampires to think about playing fay. And honestly, I didn't really get how to make it work either.

I wish I'd had Neverwhere to show me how it's done. Between Gaiman and de Lint, I really want to start running a modern fairy tale RPG game.

The only complaint I have about the whole thing is the final page... But then Gaiman is more optimistic than I am. I'd have cut the story off just a few lines earlier than he did.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Scenes from Stonehell: Hobgoblin Edition

The guard stood in the mouth of the narrow cave, looking out to the wilderness beyond. The trail hacked open by his century was beginning to fill in with weeds and vines, but it was still easily passable, and open enough that he spotted the marching troops well before they reached the cliff wall. Reinforcements had arrived!

***

"Centurion, welcome to Stonehell."

"How goes the campaign?

"Slower than I'd like. There have been some difficulties that I didn't initially expect. The narrow passages make moving units difficult, and there are too many locations where our enemies can circle back around. Plus there are a surprising number of inhabitants."

"Good slave fodder?"

"Some. The kobolds are useful. But there have been several groups of roving adventurers with powerful magics. They've been depopulating chunks of the dungeon, and now that you're here, we can begin to fortify them."

***

"We lost 2 patrols?" And there's now some cloud of sparkling energy blocking one doorway?"

"The omens are not favorable." The priest warned the commander.

The warlock huffed. "Omens. Bah. You're here to bring the Warrior's favor upon us, not worry like some auntie."

"As are you" the commander growled. "What do you offer?"

"The power of Tezragul, demon of the sands, bringer of death."

"You fool! You would summon that which you cannot control!"

"We would bind it within a mortal vessel, and trap it within a cage of spells and your blessed wards until we're ready to set it free."

***

Trustee Sniv stood in the hobgoblin stairway hall south of the Korners. He never liked leaving his domain, but the newly arrived Hobgoblin commander wanted a meeting. His bodyguards looked woefully inadequate when compared to the meatheads the Commander had with him.

"I'm concerned about the stories of those humans and dwarves stomping through our home."

"Oh, they don't cause any trouble here." Sniv assured the commander.

"And I want to make sure it stays that way." He waved vaguely at his troops "my men need a safe place to relax... to spend their pay."

"The Korners are always available to any and all who don't cause any problems."

"I'm very glad to hear that. We're expanding our holdings, and we'd like to hire you for some construction work."

"What sort of work?" Sniv asked brightly.

"Gate installation, mostly. We have the materials, but your people as so adept at construction..." A heavy sack of coins is dropped into Sniv's greedy claws.

"I think we can handle that."

"Good, and in addition this payment, I'm assigning a few of my troops as guards in the Korners to make sure no one causes any issues."

"I have guards." Sniv's brow furrowed.

"And now you'll have more! This will help make sure that none of my men become over indulgent with that mushroom brew of yours. And just like your guards, they'll only be armed with small clubs, nothing too lethal."

One of the hobgoblin guards grinned at Sniv. "That's... very... generous of you." Sniv replied, gently bouncing the bag in his claws. "I'm sure that the Korners will feel that much safer."

***

The volunteer stood in the circle, stripped nude, his skin carved with runes that oozed dark blood that pooled at his feet. Iron chains cuffed to his wrists were bolted to the 4 pillars supporting the intricately carved ceiling. The priest painted wards of protection, lit candles, and muttered prayers while the warlock grinned with savage pleasure. "Are you ready yet?" he asked impatiently.

With a final brush stroke, he nodded.

"Finally." Chanting in a language none of the other spoke, the warlock sliced open his hand, and pushed the wound against the mouth of the chained host. "Drink." The carved flesh began to glow a dull red, then a fiery orange, burning brighter until it glowed white. The warlock stepped back, and the glowing form screamed. Flesh tore, blood splattered, and when everyone blinked away the blindness from the light, a monster stood on 6 chitinous legs that sprouted from the torso of the scarred hobgoblin. A great scorpion's tail curled over the demon, waiving, and then moving faster than anyone could see shooting out toward the warlock. The stinger stopped mere inches away, right at the edge of the binding circle.

The commander stepped closer, but not too close to the circle. "Now what?"

"Now we wait for the adventurers to make their assault."

"Is it safe?"

"Not even remotely. Best pray that our priest has done his job."

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Demon Rules for RC D&D

I'm sure somewhere out there, someone has written rules for using demons in old school D&D. This is my simple(?) take.

Basic Demon Template:
Demons are immune to sleep and charm spells. NOT hold spells. Silver weapons can cause either half damage (lesser demons) or 1 point of damage (greater demons) on a successful hit. Magic weapons cause full damage. Demons can be turned as undead 2HD stronger than their listed HD. i.e. a 7 HD demon is turned as a 9 HD undead. Demons will often have resistance to certain damage types, usually fire (auto half damage, save for none).

Demonic creatures are unnaturally strong and will gain an additional +1 damage modifier to any physical attack

As for the monsters themselves, stick this template on any other monster, and you've got a demon.



Additional Generic Demonic Powers. Different demons will have different powers.

Force Grab - Ranged attack w/in 30'. Save vs Paralysis or be thrown 2d6' taking 1d6 damage. If thrown against a wall, the demon may maintain the force, pinning the target in place.

Hellfire - Ranged Attack, 30/60/90 causing 1d6+1 damage per 3 HD of the demon

Corrupt - Melee attack, drains 1d3/1d4/1d6 points of Charisma. Damage can be restored with 1 week/point of damage or Greater Restoration (or better) magic.

Unholy Aura - Any lawful or neutral creatures within the aura must save vs spells or suffer a -2 penalty to attacks, AC, and Saving Throws while within the aura and for an additional 1d6 rounds. Aura size varies based on HD of demon.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Escort Missions are the Worst! Part 1

With ReaperCon now weeks away, it's time to actually buckle down and get SOMETHING painted. Since I've got the diorama minis already cleaned, primed, and ready to go, it seemed like a good idea to start there. But because I never do anything the easy way, and my plan calls for some serious OSL (one source light) from a pair of torches... which I think makes it TSL? Maybe DSL? Or would 2SL be better? Anyway, the 2 torches are going to be the only light sources in the dungeon scene, so I need to know where the walls are, where the figures and torches are before I can really start painting anything if I want to get the effect even close to correct. So, first wall and base building.

Step one was figuring out just how big a base I need. The advice I've read is basically "make the base as small as possible and still be able to tell the story." So, okay, big enough to fit the 3 heroes, the pregnant lady, and the monster cobbled together that's seconds from trying to eat the lead figure.


Next was fitting the wall onto the base that will split the group from the monster. Both the base and the wall are made from pink insulation foam. Once I got the wall cut out, I then cut out the doorway. I followed that up with carving in the stonework of the wall, and giving it a little depth by pressing in some of the stones. I'd be a little further along if I hadn't sliced open my index finger.... and I still need to add more texture to the stonework.



And that's where I'm at now. Still to do:
Carve the floor's flagstones
Texture the floor
Attach the wall to the base
Paint the minis
Paint the base
Attach the minis to base

It sounds so easy listed out like that. 6 weeks? Plenty of time...

Sadly that's JUST the diorama. Still hoping to enter something into Painters. Probably not gonna get anything entered into Open or Ordnance at this point.