Monday, June 20, 2016

Review: RPG Coasters

One thing common at every gaming table are a variety of beverages. Coasters keep the surface of the table safe from drips and condensation. If you are a gamer then you need cool coasters, right? Well look no further then! RPG Coasters are designed by Alexander Ingram and first started as a Kickstarter in 2015. I learned about these awesome coasters just after the Kickstarter had ended. I reached out to Alex and asked him to contact me when they became available for general sale.

Last week my set arrived and I spent a few days putting them through some tests. To say the coasters are beautiful table accessories would be an understatement. They are crafted using hard maple, black walnut and cherry wood.  My coasters arrived all individually packaged and ready for instant use in the Game Tavern. I was immediately impressed with the intricate design and craftsmanship. I requested a mixture of the three wood types for this review, although Cherry I thought was the standout. Black walnut remains my least favorite, as the darker color makes the design work a tad harder to see.

Each coaster is padded on the bottom with a ring of felt material to ensure your table is not scratched. This first set focuses on RPG character classes although custom orders are available. I decided to create a few custom pieces such as Game Tavern, Grand DM, and my wife’s favorite character Anjelica the Red. Alex has informed me the next coaster themed Kickstarter will probably be for horror, sci-fi and maybe modern games themed!

Available to order with your coasters is a very useful stand. These coaster stands hold the coasters upright so you can see and display the icons. The stand is sized for how many coasters you purchase. You also get to pick from the three wood types which is a nice added touch. The standard sizes in North America for beer coasters are 3.5 inch and 4 inch. RPG Coasters measure about 3.75 inches and therefore will accommodate most drinks. To provide you with a more a visual guide, I decided to test them with some of the drink ware in the Game Tavern.
The tools of the trade!

Standard Mead Horn

Standard Wine Goblet

Standard Whiskey Glass (sorry whiskey not included)

Standard Beer Bottle

Ceramic Beer Tankard

Pint Tankard (oops...where did the coaster go?)

I also used an RPG coaster most of the week to see how they held up to condensation. They are treated with a clear finish and definitely water resistant. I can report that these coasters have a high Armor Class, as no rings were left behind and they did not stick to my glass. Not only are these thematic coasters, but they are really nice pieces of furniture. Aside from their functionality, RPG Coasters are a wonderful conversation piece to add to your gaming area or home bar.

If you need a gift for that gamer that has everything your quest may be over! RPG Coasters would even be a great gift for the regular players of a gaming group. Who would not love to have a coaster customized with their favorite character’s name? Or maybe you want to get that awesome Dungeon Master in your life something epic for their game room?

Well now is the time to consider it. If you use the code ULTANYA at checkout you will receive 15% off your entire order until 7/20/16.

Level up your gaming table with some RPG Coasters!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Unhallowed Garrison, a Weird Civil War scenario.

This past weekend my family and I spent the day at a Civil War reenactment. Many years ago I was involved in Civil War living history in Gettysburg during the summer. I personally love the time period and hope to get back into the hobby now that my children are getting older. Of course while at the reenactment my mind kept wandering to potential gaming scenarios. As a big fan of Black Powder, Black Magic I decided to create one. With the announcement of volume #3 and several articles addressing black powder, I thought it appropriate to post this home-brew scenario I whipped up.

Unhallowed Garrison

This short 0-level funnel for DCC RPG is set during the mid-point of the American Civil War in the year 1863. The players will assume the role of men and women traveling to a remote recruiting garrison. Some are going to volunteer for service and others are delivering supplies. Unfortunately for the PCs all the soldiers in the garrison are now undead. Constructed on top of a vein of demon ore, something was released into the garrison causing this supernatural calamity.

The garrison can be placed anywhere in the States or Dark Territories. For purposes of this adventure the garrison soldiers do not know they are undead. They still perform their daily soldiering duties but with decayed minds. The commander of the garrison is Captain Simon Buckner. The captain is duty bound and was known in life for shooting deserters, something that continues in undeath.

When the PCs arrive at the garrison it will be in the middle of the night. A terrible stench of decay will permeate the area. Although nauseating, odors like this are not uncommon during this time frame. The garrison is small and consists of a palisade surrounding a few buildings. A large sign with an arrow points to the recruiting station. The garrison will appear to be deserted but a flickering light can be seen emanating from the shuttered windows of the recruiting station.

Recruiting Station

Inside the PCs will find Captain Simon Buckner, his back to them, seated at a desk. The reek of death is almost palpable here and flies buzz around the entire room. Once he is addressed the Captain will turn around revealing his emaciated and rotted countenance. The Captain has absorbed the bulk of whatever foul essence was inside the demon ore.  He is now considered a patron level creature, known by his men as The Old Soldier. As such the Captain is immune to mundane attacks, and any attempts by the PCs will be fruitless.

The Captain will demand the PCs sign their recruitment forms and prepare for the company surgeon to perform a medical inspection. At this point the characters should be terrified and running for their lives. When they spill out into the garrison more soldiers in various state of decay will start to appear. The Captain will follow screaming the PCs are deserters and commanding his men to kill them.

On The Run

If the PCs stay and fight it should be a slaughter. The garrison has thirty undead Union soldiers and of course Captain Buckner himself. One takeaway of this adventure is to expose PCs to The Old Soldier so he can be used as a recurring villain in a future games. As most BPBM sessions occur in 1880, legends of The Old Soldier could have been passed down to the next generation. Below please find several encounters to use as the PCs try to escape the garrison soldiers.

1. Undead Infantry Attack. Several of the rotting soldiers pursue the PCs. Although they shamble some and can be outran, their Springfield rifles have a long reach. The undead never tire and will track the PCs all night, able to smell the warm blood coursing through their veins. They will march is close formation; fire volleys when possible, and fix bayonets if melee occurs.

Undead Union Soldier (10). Init -1; Atk Bayonet +1 melee (1d6) or rifle +1 missile (1d12); AC 10; HD 1d6; MV 20’, Act 1d20, SP un-dead; SV Fort +4, Ref -1, Will +2; AL C. Each soldier is armed with a Springfield Model 1861 and 10 miniĆ© bullets.

2. Undead Artillery Battery.  This unit is setup on a low ridge with a clear view of the valley leaving the garrison. It will fire the cannon on the PCs if they are being pursued by any infantry from their company. They are using shrapnel rounds with a bursting charge which consists of 75 iron balls. The cannon has a range of 400 yards and will be fired to explode some 15’ overhead of the PCs. Each time the cannon is fired the PCs must make a DC12 Reflex save to avoid the bursting rounds. Those which fail take 1d30 damage. If the PCs cross the valley and charge the artillery position, the crew will defend the cannon. Anyone with the appropriate background (Artilleryman, Gunsmith, etc.) may be able to operate the cannon with some help.

Undead Union Cannoneer (4). Init -1; Atk knife +0 melee (1d4) or light pistol +1 missile (1d8); AC 10; HD 1d6; MV 20’, Act 1d20, SP un-dead; SV Fort +4, Ref -1, Will +2; AL C. Each cannoneer is armed with a knife, Colt Model 1860 Army, and 12 bullets.

3. Sacred Cabin. A storm will enter the valley causing a down pour of rain and lightning strikes. The weather will hamper the PCs greatly and also risk potential death. Every round the PCs stay traveling in the storm there is a cumulative 5% chance of a lightning strike which causes 4d6 damage. Those looking for shelter will notice some nearby ruins. One of the buildings appears to be an old wooden cabin with a serviceable roof. The inside of the cabin is Spartan with a filthy old mattress, broken desk, and ash filled fireplace. Unfortunately, it was built atop a sacred burial site of a local Indian tribe. The combination of the storm and undead activity in the area has awoken a violent spirit. When the storm passes the PCs will find the remnants of a haunted bivouac site outside.

Angry Ghost. Init +1; Atk lifedrain +2 melee (1d6); AC 12; HD 2d12; MV 30’ fly; Act 1d20; SP un-dead, life drain; SV Fort +1, Ref +1, Will +4; AL C. Life drain: This attack withers the target and replenishes the Angry Ghost’s HP total.

4. Powder Mill. Perched nearby a river is the old Croxton Powder Mill. Several accidental explosions in 1861 closed the mill permanently. The orders for powder far exceeded what the little mill could handle and greed cast safety aside. With the garrison soldiers still in hot pursuit, this large building is a perfect place for the PCs to make their last stand. All walls are constructed from stone and still sturdy. The inside is mostly devoid of anything but enterprising PCs will find barrels of powdered charcoal, sulfur, and saltpeter.

Anyone with the appropriate background could lead the group into making some makeshift powder kegs. Since this is the final encounter let the player’s use their lobby GM roll liberally. Allow the PCs to create 2d30+28 damage points of powder kegs before the garrison soldiers siege the powder mill. They can divide the points up into different increments per keg, with a minimum of 10 points. When they explode anyone in a 30’ radius takes the damage, DC12 Reflex save for half.

Undead Union Soldier (10). Init -1; Atk Bayonet +1 melee (1d6) or rifle +1 missile (1d12); AC 10; HD 1d6; MV 20’, Act 1d20, SP un-dead; SV Fort +4, Ref -1, Will +2; AL C. Each soldier is armed with a Springfield Model 1861 and 10 miniĆ© bullets.

Undead Union Cavalryman (6). Init -1; Atk Sabre +1 melee (1d6) or light pistol +1 missile (1d8); AC 10; HD 1d6; MV 20’, Act 1d20, SP un-dead; SV Fort +4, Ref -1, Will +2; AL C. Each cavalryman is armed with a sabre, Colt Model 1860 Army, and 12 bullets. These undead are mounted on skeletal horses which have a MV of 40’. The latter will collapse into a pile of bones if its rider is destroyed.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Road Trip: The Frazetta Art Museum

This past weekend I completed a quest long in the making with two good friends. For many years the three of us wanted to visit the Frazetta Art Museum in East Stroudsburg, PA. Being Pennsylvania residents this seemed like a no-brainer. However, busy family life often has a way of placing road trips like this on the back burner. Fortunately, we were finally able to coordinate our trip and it was well worth the wait. But before I discuss our visit to the museum it may be best to talk about its namesake.

Frank Frazetta (1928 - 2010) is a legend. I can think of no other fantasy artist in recent history that is more iconic and influential. Anyone who is a fantasy paperback reader from the 1960s on should instantly recognize his amazing work. My favorite piece, Princess of Mars from the Edgar rice Burroughs novel, hangs proudly in my office. My buddy Ike tells a great story of how he found two Conan novels in his Easter basket as a child (coolest Mom ever award?). It was that unique imagery that instantly hooked him to the genre.

Frazetta’s work had its own vibe of fantastical beasts, diabolic sorcerers, curvaceous women, savage warriors, and vivid colors. Interestingly Frazetta, both handsome and muscular, almost appeared to be one of his characters. His amazing illustrations would go on to both grace and influence music and cinema projects. When it comes to role-playing games, more often than not, my mind’s eye definitely was influenced by Frazetta. Especially when you are not using a pseudo medieval backdrop for you campaign world. When looking for inspiration for a brutal realm of sword and sorcery, I can think of no better place then Frazetta.

It was for all these reasons my friends and I wanted to visit the Frazetta Art Museum. The museum resides on the original 67 acres of Mr. Frazetta's private estate, in the heart of the Pocono Mountains. Inside is a wonderful gallery of original works and several item collections from Frazetta’s personal life.

My friends and I left early since we had a little less than two hours of driving to get there. The weather was beautiful, we had some old school metal playing, and the trek felt like a teenage road trip of yore. Just finding the museum however was part of the quest, as there were no signs or indicators once we got close. Our GPS ended in the middle of a tree line, so we found a place to turn around and alas, it was actually the driveway entrance to the property! A narrow, winding path lead us under canopy of trees whose tops were lost above us. Then suddenly a red capped building, complete with iron gates and statues came into view. We had arrived at the Frazetta museum!

We were a tad early and needed to stretch our legs so we decided to walk the property a bit. A large pond extended away from the museum, complete with a small dock. All around majestic trees almost seemed to wall the property in. It was obvious that Frank Frazetta was in part a private man, and the estate around us reflected it. Soon someone appeared in the distance and waved us toward the museum. We would later learn this was Frank Frazetta Jr. after he greeted all three of us inside.

I’ll be honest, I was not sure what to expect when I passed through the iron gates and double wooden doors. I originally envisioned a much more cavernous space. That being said, I would categorize the interior as large, and you need a good hour to take it all in. We perused some of the art for a bit and then Lori Frazetta arrived and gave us a fantastic tour of the collection. Not only was she incredibly personable, but Lori really was a wellspring of information. Learning the history of the various pieces displayed really added to the enjoyment factor of our visit.

Below are some pictures that were taken with permission of Frank Frazetta Jr. and Lori Frazetta. I explained to them I was a blogger and wanted to help the museum get more exposure. You will notice all my shots were taken with a wide view. I did this intentionally since I don’t want to ruin the experience of visiting for anyone. Besides, a close up photo of any of the pieces would do them no justice. You really need to visit the museum and see the wonderful work of Frank Frazetta for yourself.

Frank Jr. and Lori Frazetta were gracious hosts and very passionate about the museum. I could definitely sense their joy in telling stories about the life of Frank Frazetta and sharing his fantastic work. They have several plans to hopefully expand the museum in the future which I would love to see come to fruition.

If I could pick one thing to improve it would be the inclusion of description plaques. It would be nice to see the name of the painting and when it was created.  During our visit there were several pieces I had never seen before. While this was exciting, I instantly wanted to know more about them without having to keep asking questions. Obviously this is a minor point, but one that may also help when there are several visitors at once.

If you live in the Tri-state area, or happen to be visiting, I encourage you to explore the Frazetta Art Museum. In terms of bucket list items this should be one any fantasy art fan should include. Places like this are magical and the continued support of fans is very important. Please re-share this post so other Frazetta fans potentially unaware of the museum can learn about it. For additional information about The Frazetta Art Museum please use the following links:

Frazetta Art Museum

Frazetta Art Museum Facebook

Frazetta Fans Facebook