Thursday, August 27, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Blackrazor

For Throwback Thursday I thought it would be cool to look at the original iteration of Blackrazor. Inspired by Elric’s Stormbringer this is a sword any old school gamer knows well. In S2 White Plume Mountain the nefarious wizard Keraptis was the thieving owner of three priceless artifact weapons named Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor. As to not spoil anything for the uninitiated I will not delve into any further aspect of the story.

Here are the statistics as presented in my 1980 printing of White Plume Mountain:

Blackrazor (1E)

Chaotic neutral sword  +3.
Intelligence  17
Ego 16
Purpose: to suck souls. 

It is a black sword that shines like a piece of night sky filled with stars, and it is sheathed in a black scabbard decorated with pieces of cut obsidian. 

On a killing stroke, Blackrazor temporarily adds the number of levels of the dead foe to its bearer's levels (in terms of fighting ability). The bearer also temporarily gains the full hit points of the victim. All subsequent damage to the sword's wielder is removed from the added hit points first. The extra levels and  hit points last a number of turns equal to the number of levels received.  The souls of all entities killed by Blackrazor  are sucked out and devoured;  those killed by the black  sword cannot be raised. For every three days  the  sword remains "unfed",  its ego increases by one point, until it can compel its bearer to kill a human or humanoid being. Upon feeding, its ego returns to 16.

The DM will note that Blackrazor is a negative-energy entity that exists by absorbing positive life energy levels from those it kills. However, if it even strikes a negative-energy being like an undead (except for ghouls and ghosts),it will work in reverse, transferring one level and corresponding hit points from the wielder to the creature attacked. lt will do this each time that it strikes. Under these conditions, the wielder can actually die and have his soul sucked out by his own sword. If the wielder survives, he will need a restoration spell or twice the usual number of levels received from positive "kills" to replace the lost levels. Those killed for replacement must be of the same race as the sword-wielder. 

Blackrazor (and you, the DM) may very well keep this little drawback a secret until the first time the sword bites into a wight or a vampire. The DM must remember that Blackrazor exists solely to feel power and souls coursing through itself, and sometimes it may not be too picky about where the energy is coming from.

In addition to the above, the sword has the following powers: 

Speech and telepathy (common and whatever tongues its wielder knows, which it learns telepathically)
Detects living creatures (souls), 60' radius
Haste spell (bearer only, 10 rounds}, once per day
100% magic  resistance to  charm  and  fear  (exact  per­centage  chance of resistance will depend on the level of the opponent casting such a spell)

For the 5th edition of Dungeons & Dragons the sword was presented with the below iteration on page 216 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. What do you think of this version compared to the original?

Blackrazor (5E)

Weapon (greatsword), legendary (requires attunement by a creature of non-lawful alignment)

Hidden in the dungeon of White Plume Mountain, Blackrazor shines like a piece of night sky filled with stars. Its black scabbard is decorated  with pieces of cut obsidian.

You gain a +3 bonus to attack and damage rolls mad.­ with this magic weapon. It has the following  additional properties.

Devour Soul
Whenever you use it to reduce a creature to 0 hit points the sword slays the creature and devours its soul, unless it is a construct or an undead. A creature whose soul has been devoured by Blackrazor can be restored to life only by a wish spell.

When it devours a soul, Blackrazor grants you temporary hit points equal to the slain creature's hit point maximum. These hit points fade after 24 hours. As long as these temporary hit points last and you keep Blackrazor in hand. you have advantage on attack rolls, saving throws, and ability checks. If you hit an undead with this weapon, you take 1d10 necrotic damage and the target regains 1d10 hit points If this necrotic damage reduces you to 0 hit points, Black razor devours your soul.

Soul Hunter
While you hold the weapon you are aware of the presence of Tiny or larger creatures within 60 feet of you that aren't constructs or undead. You also can't  be charmed  or frightened. Blackrazor can cast the haste spell on you once per day. It decides when to cast the spell and  maintains concentration on it so that you don't have to.

Blackrazor is a sentient chaotic neutral weapon with an Intelligence of 17, a Wisdom of 10, and a Charisma of 19. It has hearing and darkvision out to a range of 120 feet.

The weapon can speak, read. and understand Common, and can communicate with its wielder telepathically. Its voice is deep and echoing. While you are attuned  to it, Blackrazor also understands every language you know.

Blackrazor speaks with an imperious tone, as though accustomed to being obeyed. The sword's purpose is to consume souls. It doesn't care whose souls it eats, including the wielder's. The sword believes that all matter and energy sprang  from a void of negative energy and will one day return  to it. Blackrazor is meant to hurry that process along. 

Despite its nihilism, Black razor feels a strange kinship to Wave and Whelm, two other weapons  locked away under White Plume Mountain. It wants the three weapons to be united again and wielded together in combat, even though it violently disagrees with Whelm and finds Wave tedious. Blackrazor's hunger for souls  must be regularly fed. If the sword goes three days or more without consuming a soul, a conflict between it and its wielder occurs at the next sunset.

ChimericalDragonfly's awesome version on Etsy

Monday, August 24, 2015

Zombie Monday

After a week of vacation my first day back to work does not have enough coffee in the world. I actually feel like a zombie as the vacation hangover slowly leaves my system. That being said, perhaps the way I feel has something to do with the zombie theme of this past weekend?

Last night many viewers tuned in to watch the first episode of Fear the Walking Dead. For those unaware the new show is a companion series to the very popular Walking Dead. The first season will be focusing on the start of the zombie apocalypse from the perspective of a dysfunctional family. The former will surely add a layer of complication for the characters. I personally enjoyed episode one even though many viewers have commented it was very slow.

The only caveat would be the reaction of some of the characters upon seeing their first zombie. They seemed as numb as a seasoned zombie slaying veteran rather than in shock. This oversight did not bother me enough to not continue watching the show but it was strange. I’m sure the characters have seen bizarre things in their lives but a shambling corpse that just won’t die? I’m sorry but the average person would not stand there gawking but would run for their lives.

A while back I purchased End of the World: Zombie Apocalypse and hope to finally play it soon. One of the scenarios presented in the book deals with the initial outbreak. I really think that would be a terrifying time to set a campaign in as society crumbles around the player characters. Panicked people, martial law, complete chaos, and the grid going down would happen really fast I would imagine. I’m looking forward to some inspiration from Fear the Walking Dead for my own games

In preparation for the first episode we spent Sunday in the Game Tavern playing one of my favorite cooperative board games Zombicide. Back in November of last year I shared some pictures of my storage solution for all the miniatures. In addition I included some custom character cards I created based on the Walking Dead cast.  I decided to create a few more and wanted to share them with all the fans out there. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Vote for the Game Tavern

Last year when we conceptualized the Game Tavern we wanted to build a cozy place to have many tabletop adventures in. Ever since we were kids playing D&D in my old garage we dreamed of having a space dedicated to entertaining and gaming. 

In February the space was finally completed so we took some pictures and shared them with the world. The feedback and excitement was contagious and many gamers hopefully have been inspired to build something similar.

We decided to enter the Game Tavern in the Geekie Awards because we wanted that inspiration to reach an even bigger audience. The Geekie Awards® is an award show by geeks for geeks™, aimed at putting the true geek culture in the spotlight as a collection of valid, respected, award-winning genres for storytelling and creation. We are excited to announce that the judges voted the Game Tavern a 2015 nominee! 

The Game Tavern is competing with four other amazing entries in the Toys & Craft category. Public voting has now gone live and will be used to determine who wins the coveted “Geekie” trophy (pictured here). We are asking for the gaming communities help in spreading the word and giving us your daily votes! We believe the Game Tavern is representative of the gaming community as a whole. It’s just a cool place to play games and make memories with friends.

While visiting the Geekie Awards voting site please cast votes in all the categories. My mind is  boggled when looking over the incredible work of the contestants. On behalf of the event and all its participants thank you for your support as it’s very much appreciated.

Click here to vote daily for the Game Tavern!!

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Game Convention Blues

Today, today I have the game con blues
today, today I have the game con blues 

Sounds like a B.B. King song, eh?

This past weekend marked the 4th year of our friends and family convention called Ultracon. For this year’s theme the players all were villains and part of a mercenary company named the Grim Legion. They were tasked with hunting down various targets in a dangerous archipelago over the course of the weekend. I along with three other members of the DM Team ran the event which consisted of nine blocks of play. Each lasted four hours and we swapped DMs and players in-between adventure blocks.

This is a special event because we custom design it for our gaming circle. Each of the seventeen characters were created with extra special care and detailed backgrounds. The story is part of a continuing saga from previous Ultracons and is developed over six months. It really amounts to a campaign themed RPG extravaganza spanning two days.

The amount of work which goes into the event is really quite incredible. Every year I feel overwhelmed and think to myself I will never do this again. But even as I write this ideas are churning through my head for Ultracon 5. There is just something really great about gaming and sharing a story together. But more importantly spending time surrounded by awesome friends and family is my favorite part of the event.

There are some really unbelievably crafty people that come to Ultracon every year. One of the couples came to the event with custom beer mugs for everyone and decorated cupcakes. Another player crafted an entire case of Dredgehammer and several bottles of amazing mead for everyone to partake in. Other players were so into their character they purchased props to enhance their role-play experience. One in particular was playing a Norse skald and came to the event with a drum to play.

Our sign in book this year was actually tied to the story. The Immortudictum is a terrible and forbidden text and even those that truly believe it to exist suggest it is purely imaginary. The substance of the volume pertains almost wholly with the afterlife and necromancy. One of the DM team members created the grimoire complete with faux rust and leather. In terms of props it was a real standout!

The game convention blues grabbed ahold me post event. All day my mind drifted back to the weekend and all the great times I had rolling dice, laughing with friends and escaping for a little while. That to me is what makes the RPG pastime so wonderful. All things may have to come to an end but we can certainly plan for the next gathering. There are more days of high adventure ahead!

What you do to cure your game convention blues?

Loot bags for Ultracon 4
Cupcakes of Awesome +5

So cute on a bed of tasty treasure!
Grim Legion mugs!

A player's custom folder!

The Immortudictum
Used as a DM & Player sign in book
Custom designed by

Sweet Leaf Wæs Hal Mead
Sweet Leaf Hive Juice

Ultracon 4 Dredgehammer

Monday, August 3, 2015

Marmoreal Tomb Kickstarter

Whenever I’m afforded the chance I like to point other tabletop gamers to Kickstarters that I have personally backed. Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter is one such project. Already funded the Kickstarter is now working on stretch goals. For the uninitiated Ernest is the oldest son of the late Gary Gygax who is one of the creators of my favorite game Dungeons & Dragons.

We were first afforded a preview of the material back when Gygax Magazine issue #3 was released. Even then I found myself taking a walk down memory lane looking at the writing style and accompanying artwork. While some people are not fans of the famous Gygaxian prose I’m hoping that style is a continued theme of the Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter. For me it’s just a nostalgia thing since as a young DM I poured over texts filled with it.

So what is this campaign starter all about? Well for background it all started in 1978 when Ernest was working as a clerk in the original Dungeon Hobby shop. What followed was a huge mega dungeon themed sandbox that challenged players in the store. The Marmoreal Tomb will be using material from this vintage home brewed setting.

If you are a student of RPG history this is a really cool product to eventually own. Helping Ernest on the project is his partner Benoist Poire who admittedly is one of my favorite mappers. There is just a wonderful organic feel to his creations and they are just part and parcel to this project.

So what does Marmoreal mean? Well it’s a great old word meaning “marble-like”. Interestingly in our own world grave headstones were once crafted from marble. The problem with marble however was erosion and soon names and etchings became undecipherable. So the Marmoreal Tomb is clever name and who knows what runes once existed that are no longer legible.

The adventure is being designed to capture the feel of the material that many of us grew up with. Although presented to be played with 1E compatible rules, 5E and Pathfinder conversions will be available with stretch goals. That being said, although I’m thrilled about the former it would not have been a roadblock for me in backing this project. As always I'm personally looking for environment and never concerned with the rules.

Many of the old time gamers are advancing in age and the chance to own a new project created by one of them is a real treat. The Gygax family has contributed so much to our hobby from Gary’s original work, to Gygax magazine, Garycon and now this really cool project. So take a walk down memory lane with the new old school and check out Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.'s Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter!