Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Smite or Treat

I just wanted to show everyone the original paper cut artwork entitled Smite or Treat. This scene is what graces the cover of Tales from the Game Tavern issue one. As part of a promotion the artist, Ike Horton will be graciously donating the original for a raffle. Every physical copy of the Tales from the Game Tavern issue one sold directly from ultanya.com will count as a raffle ticket. As previously mentioned our tentative plans are to announce the winner in November.

Ike’s comments on the piece are as follows:
SMITE OR TREAT all finished but the signature. This the closest to a traditional cut paper piece as I've done. All the black silhouette parts are cut from single piece of Watercolor paper and painted a satin Mars Black. The darker crater color of the moon was painted directly on the background with Yellow Ochre with a wash of Cadmium Yellow Medium and the lighter is Watercolor paper painted with Cadmium Yellow Medium. The background is various washes of Cadmium Orange and Cadmium Red Medium mixtures.

I actually own several paper cut pieces crafted by Ike and I can tell you pictures do them no justice. Very often the three dimensional aspects are not captured by a camera. Additionally the intricate cutting involved cannot be fully appreciated until you see the work in person. If you are looking for a wonderful piece of Halloween d├ęcor Smite or Treat would be a good addition. Ike also does commissions so if you get a chance check out his Facebook page and give it a like. 


Monday, September 21, 2015

Tales from the Game Tavern

This new zine will be filled each issue with system agnostic role playing game material. The hope is this will appeal to a larger audience since there is virtually nothing to convert. When applicable, statistics and examples will be provided with common RPG terminology. My goal is to share with the community the types of material that are commonplace in the Game Tavern. The publication is designed to have the vibe of a classic zine while keeping to a theme with every issue.

Tales from the Game Tavern is a fun creative outlet for me and as such will not adhere to a strict publishing schedule. My hope is that I will be able to release a new issue every two months but that may be ambitious. Depending on the feedback I receive from the community subscriptions may become available down the road. In terms of submissions I’m not actively looking for them now but will listen to any pitch sent to me. This includes artwork or system agnostic gaming material.

The first issue totals 28 pages and is aptly themed Halloween for the Autumn release. Inside you will find the following content:

  • Flesh Golem Redux: The Brides of Frankenstein think you’re cute!
  • Haunted Armor: Four pieces of protection with a tainted past.
  • Tavern Ghosts: Are they just local stories or true hauntings?
  • Grody the Ghoul: A low level seasonal adventure and hex crawl.
  • Alien Abduction: Tables for creating an encounter of the 3rd kind!
  • Malignant Scourge: Add a zombie apocalypse to your campaign.
  • Game Tavern Ghoulash: A tavern favorite to cook on your own game night!
There will be a print run of 200 physical issues. The silhouette cover art for issue #1 was designed by Ike Horton Arts. As part of a promotion for the debut issue the original art will be raffled off. Each physical copy directly purchased will count as one (1) ticket for the raffle. Tentative date to announce the winner is November 1st, 2015. PDF copies purchased at RPGNow will not count as tickets.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Aleena

Aleena was the first character death witnessed as I learned how to play the game with the Red Box. A now infamous wizard named Bargle fells her with a well-placed magic missile. That unforgettable moment was part of the solo adventure and went as follows:

Aleena can’t find Bargle, and is starting to look worried. Suddenly, the sound of a spell comes from a far corner of the room! The cleric turns and runs in that direction, waving her mace and shouting. The black-robed magic-user appears in the same corner as the spell noise, with a glowing arrow floating in the air beside him. He points at Aleena; the arrow shoots out, and hits her! She wails and falls with a sigh, collapsing in the middle of the room. The glowing arrow disappears.

As a young player in 1983 this actually made quite an impression on me. After frantically trying to see if there was another potential outcome I realized it was cast in stone. As a fledgling dungeon master it was almost like a moment of clarity with how to proceed in the years ahead. Although I could never be accused of being a killer DM, there have been plenty of character deaths in my sessions over the years. In fact in my current campaign we have seen the demise of two characters over the past year.

British author Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in 1916 is quoted with saying “Murder your darlings” which since become “kill your darlings” in another quote by William Faulkner. What does this mean? My interpretation is that everything in a story or campaign is indeed disposable. It does not matter if it’s a favorite NPC, PC, place or thing. Since in a role playing game our darlings are often tied to dice rolls everyone needs to be objective when a change occurs.

Anyone who is a fan of George R.R. Martin is very familiar with this concept of killing off your darlings. That being said, a role playing game at its very essence is about the characters. A character death you always hope will have meaning if you are involved in a serious campaign. But as the old adage goes as one door closes often another opens. A perfect example is my wife’s favorite character, a pirate named Anjelica the Red. She would have never been created if not for her prior character meeting an untimely demise at the hands (or tentacles) of a mind flayer.

Being an avid blog reader I’m often surprised to see suggestions on how to basically DM with kid gloves on. Character death needs to be something that can occur in any campaign or the credibility of danger is gone. Role playing games at the very essence are essentially cooperative story telling exercises. If the protagonists know they are invincible that makes for a very boring story in my opinion. I think the idea of character death as a minor inconvenience can be attributed to video gaming. Younger players especially are so used to resurrecting over and over that character death becomes a joke.

As a dungeon master if you are afraid to let a player character die you are doing it wrong. I’m sure my last statement may draw the ire of some gamers but I stand by it. Surely it should never be the goal of the DM to intentionally kill a player character. Again cooperative story telling does not include a “versus” anywhere in its make-up. I know how hard it is to get everyone together for a game night and I honestly dislike when a favorite character dies. But in the end it usually helps to move the story forward in ways none of us were even aware of at the time.

What are your feelings on player character death?

Friday, September 11, 2015

The 140 Character Ziggurat

On Wednesday just for fun I sent the following tweet:

The community responded and below you will find ideas in unedited form. If I missed anyone I do apologize. The fun thing about this little experiment is the sheer variety that came from it. Keep in mind that on Twitter you are limited to 140 characters. So if you would like to add more material or use our little sunken ziggurat by all means please do. Just remember danger is everywhere so you may want to bring a few torch bearers and a 10’ pole!

@FailedGM: The cistern holds a hungry narwhal.

@Dungeon_Junk: You find a well-decorated room full of shelves containing valuable scrolls. They are all ruined due to the damp.

@Dungeon_Junk: In the armoury you discovered the legendary scimitar Godsbane. It's turned almost completely to rust.

@theAdjunctDM as the party enters the sanctuary, their torchlight reveals a portion of a massive, golden statue of a Yuan-Ti.

@theAngryGm The Sunken Antechamber: Swamp water fills this chamber to the knee. Most don't see the stairs under the water... Until they fall.

@seanbonney: Low ceiling honeycombed with overhead shafts. Most filled with trip-wire released bones and armor. A few with skeleton warriors.

@fiddleback: The Room of Hours. Upon entering this large sand filled room (difficult terrain), PCs are under the influence of a slow spell.

@jencilmonkey Huge clockwork gears grind inexorably, partially submerged in the sand, skeletons impaled on the cogs' sharpened teeth

@dmdandanfieldng The floor in the hall is under 6cm of water mixed with oil from a ruptured flame trap. Any spark will ignite the oil

@karakdamnaz You find a fountain spraying a rainbow hued liquid. Non-lawful PCs that drink heal 3d8+5 hit points.

@karakdamnaz A sloping room with deep water at the far end blocking exit. Dessicated frogs litter the floor. The water is an illusion, DC 28.

@medicmsh  The vines coil & twine towards the light far overhead. Their carnivorous rootlets, however, coil & twine towards the nearest PC...

@bengrunzel The submerged gear room can drain water in one level, but a hydra-troll is stuck in the gears.

@spaceseeker19  Room with doors on 6 sides rotates forward each time it's entered, changing its location & dropping PCs to far wall.

@haelyn78  u find an altar of an ancient deity. Sacrifice an uncommon magic item gives u adv in the next 5 checks to locate traps/doors

@Aetherium83  Hall of Ancestors. A long passage w/ countless lines and symbols etched in blood identifying the lineages of the tribes.

@ThemDave  carapaced bugs scuttle down a southern hallway using ceilings as floor. Perhaps they lead to water, perhaps they flee in terror.

@galev_ph  The hallway gets more and more thickly covered in sticky webs towards the end.

@Iron_Fox off of the main foyer is an incongruous ball pit.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Speed of Light

Another time another place
A hollow universe in space
I took a trip to see the sights
That will be blacker than the night

The new Iron Maiden album Book of Souls has some great thematic stuff to draw inspiration from. Add in new imagery of Eddie the head and it just all meshes so well with old school gaming vibe. Just a look at full track listing and any of these songs could be the name of some old school module:

Disc 1
1. If Eternity Should Fail
2. Speed Of Light
3. The Great Unknown
4. The Red And The Black
5. When The River Runs Deep
6. The Book Of Souls

Disc 2
7. Death Or Glory
8. Shadows Of The Valley
9. Tears Of A Clown
10. The Man Of Sorrows
11. Empire Of The Clouds

According to their website The Book Of Souls is the band’s 16th studio album since their eponymous debut in 1980 charted at #4 in the UK, in a career achieving sales of over 90 million albums worldwide. Their previous album, 2010’s The Final Frontier was Maiden’s most successful chart-wise to date, reaching Number One in 28 countries and was their highest chart debut in the U.S reaching #4 in the Billboard 200.

In a previous post I detailed how metal has been a foundation for the gritty side of my imagination as a Dungeon Master. I’m sure as most old school gamers can attest metal and RPGs walk the same path for a couple reasons. Besides dealing with thematically similar material they both had popularity spikes in the 1980s. In my older post I created a magic sword to use in any campaign named Death Metal. I have decided to follow-up with a new creation inspired by Book of Souls fittingly named Speed of Light.

Speed of Light

Speed of Light is crafted from a crystal shard which legend holds fell from the sky in a great ball of fire and energy. The knowledge of who was able to fashion the shard into a weapon has been lost to time. The long jagged shard is secured into a magic handle and cross guard. When held the weapon pulses faintly in the wielders hand until used in combat. At that very instance the shard vibrates so fast it literally becomes a beam of hazy blue light.
By tasyne.deviantart.com

Speed of Light constantly exists in multiple times and dimensions when used during combat. As it cuts opponents they are stricken with glimpses of these strange alien sights and sounds. Targets struck by the weapon are unable to comprehend the otherworldly cosmic visions because they have no real context and become paralyzed for 1d4 rounds. A saving throw should only be allowed if the victim is damaged again by any source.

Speed of Light has a +2 enchantment bonus and should be considered neutral in terms of alignment. The wielder of Speed of Light gains an additional attack every round.

Unfortunately such power comes at a cost. Every time the wielder uses Speed of Light in combat there is a cumulative 10% chance it simply vanishes and appears in another time or place.

The first recorded use of the weapon exists on a royal tapestry of some antiquity. Speed of Light was responsible for the death of a great king because it left his side during a terrible battle. Some suggest the king dropped the sword or that it was wrestled from his hand. History and arcane scholars however are not convinced and believe the weapon has a paranormal or planar quality to it. Whenever the weapon makes an appearance if not secreted away many will come looking for it. Even though its power is fleeting for a short time it has the ability to turn the tide of any battle.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Purple Ooze

I was enjoying vacation relaxing on the beach during H.P. Lovecraft’s birthday last August 20th. Of course while basking in the sun and staring out over the endless expanse of waves my mind started to wander. I can certainly be counted among those Dungeon Masters influenced by his work. I kept thinking about sea creatures when my daydreaming was interrupted by a purple beach ball that landed nearby. The rich lavender tones stood out in stark contrast against the pale sand.

In ancient times the color purple was prized as most clothing was lackluster. A certain dye called Tyrian purple was harvested from sea snails and worth its weight in gold. That is when I had my light bulb moment and decided to create a new ooze to make the rest quiver. The current D&D storyline is Rage of Demons which includes one of my favorites known as Juiblex (JOO-ee-blex). I thought this would be a perfect time to add another monster to the Faceless Lord’s cadre.  Presented below in 5th edition stats is a creature that will make you sunbath with one eye open on the beach.

Purple Ooze

This creature is an eldritch amalgamation of a giant sea snail and gray ooze. Giant sea snails are popular sources of purple dye because of the secretions they yield. Although land dwellers milk the gland of the snail for its dye the mucus also has a powerful sedation element. Legend holds that Juiblex recognized this infatuation with the color purple as an opportunity for malevolent intent. Humans considered purple a color of nobility and station. Soon however they would associate it with a grotesque mockery from the deep realms beyond their comprehension.

Purple ooze is a large quivering mass of translucent veiny membrane. The creature is extremely predatory and usually hunts beaches with regular humanoid traffic. Purple ooze has no discernible anatomy but does grow hundreds of small tentacles around its circumference. These are used similar to a cat’s whiskers and provide the ooze with sensory information. Although it does not communicate with any sort of language those which have survived a purple ooze attack tell a different story. Victims are left mentally scarred with terrible nightmares of reality warping around them. The one memory they all share is the sloshing gurgle calling out their name over and over.

Large ooze, chaotic evil
Armor Class 12
Hit Points 142 (15d10+60)
Speed 20ft., swim 40ft., climb 20ft.
STR 16 (+3)
DEX 14 (+2)
CON 18 (+4)
INT 12 (+1)
WIS 11 (+0)
CHR 11 (+0)
Damage Resistances acid, cold, fire
Condition Immunities blinded, poisoned, paralyzed, charmed, deafened, exhaustion, frightened, prone
Senses blindsight 60ft. (blind beyond this radius)

Languages – 
Challenge 7 (2,900 XP)
Amorphous. The ooze can move through a space as narrow as 1 inch wide without squeezing.
Magic Resistance. The purple ooze has advantage on saving throws against spells and other magical effects.

Pseudopod. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 11 (2d6 + 4) bludgeoning damage plus 7 (2d6) acid damage, and if the target is wearing non magical metal armor, its armor is partly corroded and takes a permanent and cumulative -1 penalty to the AC it offers. The armor is destroyed if the penalty reduces its AC to 10.
Gurgle of the Deep (Recharge 5-6). The purple ooze magically emits a psychic cacophony in a 30-foot cube centered on itself. Each creature in that area must succeed on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw or take 22 (4d8 + 4) psychic damage and be stunned for 1 minute. A creature can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success. 
Note: Any player character stricken by the gurgle of the deep should have a lingering fear of the color purple and the sea. Moreover they should be ailed with recurring dreams of cosmic horror and being consumed by a sloshing wet blanket of slime. Nothing short of a Remove Curse should help them cure this terrible condition.

Juiblex as originally presented in the AD&D Monster Manual