October 30th, 2007

sunset samurai

by the power of greyhawk!

expedition to the ruins of castle greyhawk by jason bulmahn, james jacobs, & erik mona.

i'm not really a pre-fab adventure kind of guy. i mean, i've ran in my fair share of them (like, every earthdawn module ever, almost) but as for running them? no. i'm kind of a control freak, & i've kind of got my own thing. i don't even run precreated settings, as a rule. the only time i'll bend that rule is for big time nostalgia modules, & then i'll do it on my own terms. i kept trying to run harlequin when i was "dungeon mastering" shadowrun, but i'd run it only periodically: my schedule was one cyber-punk themed adventure, one magical themed adventure, one harlequin segment. anyhow, i never got very far into it, but it is about as deep as i've gone into an adventure module. just so you know my biases before we get started.

...castle greyhawk is pretty fucking great. there, i said it! it has nostalgia in spades, but it doesn't trump the story. in fact, i'd say it is the exact fucking opposite of ...castle ravenloft, which i thought was pretty crummy. one big difference: everybody has a reason for being there, & you can figure it out! you know, so-&-so climbed up through the underdark, whosit was summoned by a bad draw on a deck of many things, whatsisface was part of an earlier occupation that signed up under the new management...it all fits, & not in some crazy ass way like it did in ravenloft, where it was, at best, some confusing mishmash ("this guy is the lich of a paladin who was possessed by a shadowfiend who was summoned by strahd but also strahd didn't know the spell worked & the paladin also was a reincarnated gnoll so..."). more importantly, the dungeon is full of puzzles. normally dnd rewards you for showing up & killing things. yawn. greyhawk rewards you for all kinds of clever shit. you know, if you figure out the right answer to the riddle, get a +1 bonus to your intelligence, forever. i've always been won over by rewards like that: it encourages your characters to be bold & interesting. & sure, there are some silly bits (dungeonland) but it is a nice break in tone, & an homage to the early days of the hobby. i vote to rule it "okay." speaking of homage, you know what? okay, redeeming robilar because his one-time player was annoyed at what happened to him when he became an npc? is just about the nicest thing. charming, guys, really charming.

i do have one problem: where is melf's green arrow?! melf drew a green arrow on the floor pointing to the secret layers of the dungeon! it is a big deal! i looked for that green arrow & i couldn't find it. it made a mordicai sad. on the plus side, the simulacrum spell is one of my favorites (though i normally change it to transmutation & call it homunculus). so i guess we'll call it a wash? what is my end opinion on the book? well, sadly, i wouldn't use it. but, & it is a pretty big but, the reason i wouldn't use it is that there is just so much to do here. you could run this game, this classic, totally not lame, totally sentimental dungeoncrawl, for a long, long time. there is stuff to do in town. there is stuff for the dm to customize. there are about a million side quests. there are npcs to ally with, to oppose, to swear vendetta against, to do anything with. you could make a campaign out of your own little band of adventures taking up with mordenkainan et al. left off. so yeah, i wouldn't run it, but only because i have my own ambitions for a campaign, right? which, dammit, now i've screwed myself by reading it, & can't play in any expedition to castle greyhawk games. fuck! schrödinger's module gets me again!
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mano negra

(no subject)

expediction to the demonweb pits by wolfgang baur & gwendolyn f.m. kestrel.

i read this, & never reviewed it? i guess. so i'm coming to the table with recollections more than anything else. first: i liked the handouts at the back of the book. i sure did, but i wonder how they are meant to be used? cut out? i've never even considered cutting things out of my book; i don't even tear at perforated edges! i wonder if other people do. anyhow; it is the weakness of going away from boxed sets, & for the record, i think going away from boxed sets is necessary & smart. i would kind of like it if there could be some way of including handouts...but now i'm just musing. i thought this adventure had it's ups & downs. the story is kind of fun, & i thought using aspects to let mid level characters interact with some of the big bads of the game was just great. on the flip side, too many opportunities for roleplaying seemed to be shoehorned into fights. like, why does the demon council turn into a brawl in two rounds? anyhow, i could see a good dm moding this into a good game, but i can see it needing those modifications.

expedition to castle ravenloft by bruce r. cordell & james wyatt.

you know, i normally like these guys! so it sort of surprises me how much vitriol i have for this module. okay, i got my biases out of the way first thing with the greyhawk review, so i should do the same here: i played through this module. or, part of the way through, before we all threw in the towel & said fuck it. & you know what? my character is the only one who didn't die. twice. that is, everyone else went through two characters. hey, a whole castle full of save or die effects! fuck you! fuck you ravenloft! fuck all you idiots in the town "we're living in constant fear! but i'm still going to screw you on prices!" how about this: give me all your stuff. right now. dick. i will say two good things about it: one, the constant mindfog is terrifying. i like that touch. two, i liked the random encounter with the vampire berserker who just runs at you. i mean, if i was basically invulnerable, like he is, i'd do that to. anyhow, this fucking thing made no sense otherwise, & even after we quit & i read the book, it still didn't. there are like, liches living in the castle, witches, necromancers, demons...& most of them don't have anything to do with each other! they just sit in their room waiting to kill player characters! oh, you know, the witches of lysaga hill. we only talked to madame-insulting-gypsy-stereotypes but they were okay. hags are kind of fun, & i thought they were used pretty well. over-all, though, i found it unplayable, as a player, & jammed packed with...essentially random fights. oh, & you have to make search checks in every room. i hate that. oh, & for the record? my character was a dwarf ninja/paladin in silent moves full-plate. i wore a hilarious iron diving bell helmet, & had a trident. it was really cool.
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chomping pearls

highest level historical blank.

barbarian: vercingetorix.
bard: marco polo.
cleric: moses (sorry jesus, no templates).
druid: myrddin wyllt (apparently historically viable?)
fighter: miyamoto musashi.
monk: ankō itosu.
paladin: jeanne d'arc (gilles de rais for blackguard).
ranger: davy crockett (figured an american or autralian aborigine, african nomad, or american pioneer).
rogue: edward teach.
sorcerer: grigori yefimovich rasputin.
wizard: king suliman.
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chomping pearls

(no subject)

last night was pretty cute. see, i'm a jerk, & jenny's a brat. it is true! sometimes i get it in my head that i'm going to put my foot down! usually in a mostly-joking capacity, as it was last night. jenny is very set in her territory: she sleeps on her side of the bed, she sits on her side of the couch. seriously, she's very defensive of her spot. which i don't mind, & yesterday i was sitting in "her spot," & i would have swapped, but she was all, "get out!" & i was all "say please!" which went back & forth for a while. until she just laid on top of me & we took a nap. like i said: adorable. then when i got up to go get a drink or whatever, she was all "baby, can i please take your spot?" & it was win-win for the team. how about that, care bears? you fucking punks! think you're cute but you ain't. i'm cute. i'm a sharkmaw of it. anyhow, then we watched how i met your mother, which is really pretty good though this episode was only so-so, i love new york, which is so fucking fantastic & she's so great &c. & oh, heroes, which is such a mediocre let down. it is pretty bad, actually; not just ho-hum but kind of sucky. i mean, didn't every one of these stories happen already? claire & her father...can't trust one another! sylar...is pretending to know doctor suresh for trick people! peter...doesn't understand what is happening to him! suresh...is a fucking idiot with meaningless fifty-cent gibberish! hiro...dosen't know if he can be a hero! THESE ARE THE SAME STORIES YOU USED LAST SEASON. i am fucking bored of it, i am fucking sick of it, i am fucking dissapointed in it. oh, & the cliff hanger? AGAIN, YOU USED THIS SAME PLOT LAST SEASON. i do like the sound effects when sylar looks at a guy, though.
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closeup samurai

the fourth edition (4th ed) pantheon.

so wizards recently talked about their new pantheon. i can see a lot of good meat in that stew, but i have some serious concerns as well, you know? i mean, some of the concerns are just basic doubts, like: i doubt anyone can make corellon larethian interesting. so. boring. there are some huge benefits though, like: bahamut! man, making the platinum dragon the star good guy is a serious step in the right direction. he's got flavor, he's got room to be adapted, he's got legacy cred. he's got everything you might want, & being a paladin of bahamut sounds a million times more appealing than being a paladin of whitebread heironeous, who was only tolerable because hextor was kind of cool. which segues into the downside: no more hextor, & now...bane. see, here is the thing: pantheons don't usually have bad guys. or, you know, evil members. you might have tricksie guys like loki, or kind of unpredictable dicks, but not so much the villain. counter-point: there is plenty of precedent for a "lawful evilish" god. which, you know, i agree with, i guess. having the fascist god isn't a problem with me, especially in your new "a few bright points of civilization against the dark wilds" paradigm. it makes total sense. but even the name "bane" is a little bit "lol lol muahahaha evilz" for my taste, & you know what? i'm pretty "lolz evil" myself. maybe you'll run some hardcore game to try to up bane into the big leagues, but making him the darth vader of the gods is not the best idea, for my money. i mean, i have a particular thing against bane because he featured in the one forgotten realms game i played in, & trying to understand his continuity (mortal, kills a god, becomes mortal again, maybe kills some more gods, gets killed, gets replaced, bursts out of his weirdly named son's head, whatever) was worse than the worst comics have to throw at you. i guess my advice is just make every god one that somebody would have some reason to pray to at some point or another. & if you are dead set on making evil gods? look to the precedent set by the conflict between the titans & the olympians. the old, dead gods make for some solid villainous deities. but cancel this nerull style "bad guyz" style shit, that is all i ask, in advance.
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zombies!

wizard is now a men's magazine?


okay, the last time i looked at a copy of wizard, which is a magazine about comic books (see also, sports night, a show about a sports show), was at the work picnic of carla's that jenny & i crashed. robert had a copy, & i idly flipped through it. whatever; not a deep bond or anything, but i can imagine that if comics & dnd were switched, i might care. then comes today with the big news: wizard is now a "men's magaine". now, i'm not opposed to people finding pictures of scantily clad girls to be hot. i am, however, opposed to the gross frat boy mentality that tends to get dragged along with it. heck, somehow playboy has managed to at least have a token effort at class, & someone told me that the european fhm is maybe good? but this new crop of magazines is just fucking gross & insulting. call me crazy, but shooting at fish in a barrel, aka the lowest rung of the comic book demographic? is supposed to be what the industry is trending away from, right? i mean, maybe i'm fooling myself by reading sites with people who have pretty basic requirements for what is "good" & what is "bad." i mean, maybe i'm jumping the gun? the article with kristen bell seems pretty much above board. then again, there is a feature where you match the boobs to the video game- note, you don't even match the boobs to the character, just the game. the girl they are attached to it totally removed from the equation. real nice touch there, fellas. oh, & wait. slapping "men's magazine" on the cover? what the fuck does that buy you outside of alienation? i'm, frankly, disappointed. you know? i mean, i'm a handsome creature, & the folks i know into the serial cartoon format tend to be pretty decent in the looks department. shouldn't we be the face of what comics is trying to become, & not pimply faced little fat kids? you know, didn't anyone figure out that you can meet your target demographic half way? that if you shoot for a higher bracket, the higher bracket will be interested in you? you stupid jerks, girls actually like comics: stop trying to ruin it for them. because you're wrecking it for me too.
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modern nazgul

planescape monstrous compendium appendices.

monsterous compendium appendix i, ii, & iii
by allen varney, jeff easley, & tony diterlizzi; rich baker, karen s. boomgarden, & tony diterlizzi; monte cook et al.

hey, you might as well just call this all tony diterlizzi eye candy. seriously, tony, come back to your roots! i know spiderwick is doing good for you, but i'd sure like you to give that sepia & watercolour crazy to some current products. apart from that, these are not just serviceable, but interesting products. part of the downside to making your dnd books as usable as possible is that you strip down story, rendering them generic. now, i don't know that i advocate a return to specifics, but as a reader i get a kick out of it. hey, i mentioned diterlizzi's art, yeah? his marut & his ultraloth in appendix i are still kicking around in my head. it was nice to see that a lot of the monsters in some of the various third edition monster manuals are revamps with a pedigree- i'd say that if you wanted to pair the stories in here with the stats in the newer ones, you'd be pretty happy. thing is, some of these guys have such weird powers that you'd be hard pressed to come up with firm rules for them: in other words, yay. i like effects with less tangible consequences. by the time the third book rolls around, it pretty much just goes bonkers- appendix iii focuses on the inner planes, & monte cook's take on that is that the inner planes are just crazy as hell. it doesn't have the diterlizzi touch, though, & unlike with (i think it was) the great modron march, it doesn't have an artist that replaces him by bringing their own thing to the table.
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