The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 36 – Respite in Alistair

Taver

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Theren…

Having rested at the priory, we began a trek south, wandering the rolling hills and trees, armed with the knowledge that we were in lands unknown to us. We came across some large hoofed tracks but Brandon was unfamiliar with them.  They were larger than a bull, and deep, which was an indication of weight, and that gave us reason to use caution.

Hours later Brandon came across a humanoid figure in the brush.  He and Althalus called out to it but it refused to move. Arius drew Skullringer and called out, “We don’t want to hurt you, but we will.”  There was no response.

We crept up on the person only to find that it was a stone statue.  Unlike a carved edifice, this one seemed to be a cleric or monk that had been petrified and turned into stone as they tried to flee from some foe.  Given the moss and vines covering it, it had happened long ago.

Gorgons.  We had heard they operated near the Priory.  Their breath could turn a victim to stone.  Unfortunately for us, none of us knew what one looked like.  Just the mention of turning to stone made Althalus edgy.  His run-in with a cockatrice months ago still gave him pain, or so he claimed.  With the Warlock it was always difficult getting a true reading of his feelings.

We decided to move on, setting up camp several miles from the petrified monk.  On our third watch, Brandon woke us up to the sound of a bull snorting in the distance.  We made our way through the darkness to the creature and saw a massive bull-like monstrosity.  I have seen many a bull in my day, but this was much larger, much more sinister.  It was sniffing our tracks, slowly coming up on our camp.

It suddenly seemed to sense our presence.  It huffed and a wisp of green smoke rose from its nostrils.  This was definitely not any kind of bull I have ever seen, its hide seemed to be almost armored. It pawed the ground as if it were going to charge at us and we readied ourselves for battle.

It charged!  Brandon fired an arrow into it, but to little effect.  Arius unleashed his smite, which both injured and angered the beast. Brandon suggested a course of action that caused me to warn him, “If you do something stupid, I will not be healing you.”  He seemed to get the message and changed tactics. The battle was furious and fast.  The Gorgon breathed a blast of greenish smoke at Brandon.  He coughed and struggled and we all realized that he may be turned to stone.  Somehow our ranger managed to avoid the dangerous effects.

I heated the metal hide on the creature, making it sizzle like a steak on a spit. Athalus used his eldritch blasts, savaging the beast even more and pushing the Gorgon back from us with the force of the green beam.  The beast attempted to gore Arius but failed to even shake the paladin’s stance. I used a thorn whip to ensnare the creature.  It was Arius that delivered the final blow.

“Meat’s back on the menu boys,” Althalus said with a broad grin.

The creature had done little damage to us, other than the scare that it might turn any one of us to stone. We came across a road heading south and opted to follow it.  The next day, as we walked, we came upon on a farmer with a cart who offered us a ride.  He was heading to a place called Alistair and from what he said, it was going to be a welcome safe place for us to visit.  We told him where we were from.  Brandon informed them he was on a mission from the Council of Rangers, which surprised me because I thought that was the kind of thing we ought to keep secret.  We regaled the farmer with our backgrounds and where we were heading and he told us we were weeks away from our destination.

Alistair was a small town, circled by a tall imposing wall. It was not some relic of old, the wall was well maintained with trees cleared from before it, allowing for archers to ply their deadly trade if called upon.  The farmer seemed pretty well-liked by the locals we passed.

Alistair
A nice place for hobo murderers to visit…

When we got to the gates, the town guards told us we had to surrender our weapons. They seemed friendly enough and told us no weapons were allowed in town.  There was a list of things that were banned, which we all were carrying.  How Arius had 23 small javelins strapped to his pack was still a mystery and a marvel to me. The guards were cordial and told us that the place to go was the Armed Armadillo Tavern.  We gave the guards a few gold pieces for thanks, which seemed to surprise them since they were only doing their duty.

Brandon wanted to go to the mayor to send a message back to the council of rangers as to our status.  As we walked into the city we passed a small building with blue robed monks tending the yard.  It was the Priory of the Sapphire Eye, the order that Dimitrious hailed from.  Needless to say Althalus wanted to go there. I had my own objectives – gather information and learn all we can. The mention of a creature called an armadillo caught my attention.  The ability to transform one’s self to animal form required a good knowledge of a wide range of creatures.  As such, we decided to split up.

I arrived alone at the Armed Armadillo Tavern.  It was like every tavern I have ever been in, the sting of smoke, tobacco, and long-ago spilled drinks.  The sign was a grinning armor plated rat armed with a short sword.  Inside I was greeted by Falstus Grave who insisted that I sign in at his guest book.  He brought me a complimentary drink and I asked him about any rumors he had heard.  He had a strange tradition of trading a story for a story. I purchased two rooms for us for the night, overpaying to show that I was generous.

I told him we were from White Rock and were heading south.  He told me that some people had been passing through recently.  We played his game of sharing stories.  So I regaled him with the story of the slaying of the Gorgon.  In turn, he told me that Lord Morriset of the Golden Sun States has implemented a draft.  Three boys from the village were sent to train along the coast.

I told him about our encounter with the trolls at the Priory at Talismith.  He repaid my story with a rumor of his own.  “There’s a war brewing!  Word is that some folks have stirred up trouble recently and that someone is building an army to start a war.  There’s been talk of the dead walking the land.  War isn’t good for business!” I feigned a bit of ignorance on the matter.

Arius came into the bar and told me about the visit to the priory.  “They regard Althalus as a ‘seeker.’  Somehow he and Dimitrious are connected, at least that was what the paladin shared.  The priory offered us room and board, and I told him I had already paid at the tavern for rooms. I decided to let Falstus Grave keep the gold, he had been so courteous to us.  Brandon joined us as well and Falstus Grave brought him a pint of our finest ale for several silver coins.  A church priest seemed to have made the horrible scars on Brandon’s face heal over, at least somewhat.

Grave pressed my comrades for stories to share and I explained that he exchanged stories for stories. Brandon told him about how we had slain a vampire in his hometown. In return, Grave told us, “There’s been some raids on the farms recently outside of Alistair.  Someone has come in, killed a family, and stolen from them.  It could be orcs or kobolds.  The town guard has been doubled and patrols at night.”

Arius shared the story of how we had become part of the Minotaur tribe and Grave cocked an eyebrow.  “Minotaur’s, vampires…I call bullshit on your stories.  Prove it!”  Arius and I lifted our shirts and showed him our nipple rings which seemed to convince him.  “My story for you is a recent one.  A man recently came through named Renfrew.  He came and met with the thieves guild.  Said he had business with them.  That can’t be good.  Our guild isn’t as much thieves as assassins.  So, you can figure that out can’t you?  Someone is…” and he dragged his finger across his throat.  That was disturbing.  All of us save Brandon had dealt with the guild before.

Brandon shared the tale of how we rescued the paladins from the lost city of Tempora.  The story that Grave paid back to us was, “There is a band of gnomes off to the west that have started a mining operation of some sort.  Some say gold, some say silver.  Old Ray went out to see what they were up to and hasn’t been seen since.  The town guard refuse to get involved.  I think they are on the payroll of the gnomes.”

By now Althalus joined us as well. He told us about the Oracle of the Black Sands where the priory members go to get information and guidance.  He thought it might be useful for us to visit there. “‘There is an oracle there of our order that can foresee future events,’ that’s what she told me,” he relayed.

When we retired to the priory for the night, Melody, the leader of the order there was shown our map and she had one of her scribes make a copy for their order.  Althalus told her all about how we had gone and recovered it.

Melody told Arius about a paladin who tended the grounds of the local church. Brandon spent the evening writing a message for the High Council of Rangers, having summoned a Gray Rider earlier in the day.  They offered to try and treat his facial injuries when he finished his note. The smell of his mustard plasters wraps was oddly mouth-watering.

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A Modern Day Melody – The Priory of the Sapphire Eye

 

We awoke to filling meals, a rarity for us on our long journey.  The monks were nice.  They drew us bathes, though I imagine that was more for their benefit than our own.  Arius went to meet with the local paladin.

After our meal and bath, I went to the taxidermist in town who happened to have an armadillo in a cage.  He was gracious enough to allow me to study the creature enough to take its form, if the need should ever arise.  A druid’s duty is never fully fulfilled.

I went to the jeweler who made me a symbol for my staff.  I paid him extra for it, ensuring good quality.

Arius returned from the church and told us of Sir Gareth the Black who he met there.  He was a broken paladin who had failed on a quest.  He had been seeking the chalice of St. John, his cup from the last supper. “It is in the Stairs, in the mountains he,” said.  “It was protected by a demon of some sort, a beguiling female.”  Arius said it was a resurrection cup – it can somehow restore life from death.  It is still there.  It seems like something we should have in our possession, let our enemies secure it.  I figure we can sick Althalus on this demon-thing, and we are good to go.” I agreed. The thought of that in Barristen’s hands was frightening.

Later in the day Althalus used his magic to send a mental message to Lexa Lyoncroft as to where we were and that we had secured a map.  She sent him a message back that was disturbing, which he conveyed to us.  “Located a portal.  Barristen hiring assassins.  He has found your home town, sorry for your loss – no survivors.”

Our home town – wiped out.  It was because of us. That bothered me almost as much as word that assassins were being hired, presumably to track us down.  I could only hope that my cousins had somehow survived.

Brandon ignored the loss.  “Did she say anything about me?” He only received a scowl from our Warlock in response.

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Part 34

Part 35

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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Updated – Fans in My BattleTech Fiction

IMG_0292
He’s right behind me, isn’t he?

Everyone keeps asking me the same things, over and over:  “When is the Wolf’s Dragoons novel coming out?  When is that big book “you promised” last year coming out?  (I ‘promised’ nothing you filthy surats!) “Is my character still in book X or did I die in an editing accident?”  This is usually followed with questions about will the books be in hard copy, audio books, translation to foreign languages, and inquiries about the Kickstarter.

Hopefully this post will stop the inquiries.  Oh, who am I kidding?

First off, this is all my mistake.  I own it.  I shouldn’t have been so open with the fan community in the first place. I should have just included fans covertly, under the table. I also should never have presumed that things would have released when they were supposed to. My bad. It won’t happen going forward.  If you ask me the dates on when anything I have written will be coming out I will refuse to answer and likely be snippy with you in the process. I AM TALKING TO YOU BOB.

Allow me to introduce you to some realities as an author:

  • I do not know if anything will be in hard copy. Complaining to me does you zero good. Telling me you want to hold a physical book is not necessary. What you do with your hands is between you and your hands.  I just write this stuff.
  • I don’t know anything about audio books. I can’t stress enough on this point – I really don’t care about audio books. I have a raging ego, but even mine isn’t big enough for me to want to listen to someone read my books out loud.
  • I do not have dates when anything is coming out. I have projected dates but I will not share them.  Don’t ask. Sometimes even my editor is surprised when stuff comes out.
  • I am not affiliated with the Kickstarter. Don’t ask me questions about it.  I don’t know. I like not knowing. I have no idea if Kickstarter exclusives will be available to non-Kickstarter people, but I think the word “exclusive” is a pretty big clue.
  • No, I will not tell you if you appear in the fiction as a Khan, First Lord, Custos of the Fidelis, a MechWarrior, a member of Clan Wolverine, a salty tech, a cook, a drunk, a swamp, a city, some ruins, or anything else. Yes I know, no I will not share. NOT EVEN TO YOU BOB.

So here’s what happened in the last few months.

The books got written and went through edit reviews early last year.  Ta Da!  The Powers That Be realized that the sheer scope of these things in the books was staggering.  So some decisions were made at the writer’s summit last fall about the best way to approach this.  First, we had some changes suggested to the Wolf’s Dragoons novella – which became a short novel.  (Don’t’ ask me to explain the difference, it has to do with word counts, magic, and stuff.)

The big novel I wrote, got broken up into two short novels and the big book (which got bigger), working title, XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX (oh, and by the way, that isn’t the real title, I am just messing with you.)  Those are just the parts I had to write.  There are other novellas by some great writers that tie into all of this too. Let’s just say, we took something big and made it massive.  Some chapters simply are gone, tossed out.  Shit happens. A lot of new material got added, and many things got changed.  The result is a much better product which I think makes up for the wait. 

Before you ask, you do not have to read all of the prequel material to XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX, but it will help your overall entertainment experience.  AND, BOB, BEFORE YOU ASK, I DON’T KNOW IF THEY WILL BE SOLD IN HARD COPY.

In the middle of all of this came the Kickstarter and people purchasing canon characters.  Where practical, I needed to use them.  I am not deliberately pushing fans out of the book to put in canon characters, I AM using whatever constitutes the best character for the story.  For the record, the list of canon characters is a huge blessing for me…though there are some “challenges.” The net result, in XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX there will be my usual cadre of fans and a lot of canon characters from the Kickstarter, some of which are downright awesome!

On top of this, I also volunteered to write stuff for the Kickstarter before the canon characters survey got distributed. That added a layer of complication but in the end, it’s all cool.

You may be wanting to say, “This sounds like a hot mess,” but you would be wrong.  It’s only a hot mess to me (which everyone seems oddly comfortable with.)  Most of the stuff actually makes the books better, and cooler, and there is more there. Honestly, it is a nightmare for me to keep it all straight, but I am (so far).

On top of this, during this “process” John Helfers and I have discussed shortening the character arcs for a few characters.  That’s my way of saying, “We decided to kill off some characters.”  I did get John to agree that some of the chopped chapters (and fan characters) could be published in the magazine sometime down the road.  If he fails to live up to that, they will go in my blog as “The Missing Chapters!”

I am not making a big concerted effort to find homes for characters that got cut. My job is to write a good story with great characters – not turn this into a hodge-podge of fan fiction wet dreams.
On the Wolf’s Dragoons stuff, it is done and through edit.  I have seen and offered comments on the cover art concept.  NO BOB, I DO NOT KNOW WHEN IT WILL BE RELEASED. I have finished the prequel short novels, in draft, but hey, a lot can happen in editing.

All of this is good in the end, more fiction, more fan community involvement and engagement, more BattleTech.

PS. Don’t be Bob.

So, here is the updated list:

The Anvil

Moses Obadiah

Nicholas Tockert

David DiFranco

Eric Belcher

Clifford McKinney

Jeff Sockwell

Daryl Noonan

Jonathon Scott Schofield

Cord Awtry

Ryan James Broadhead

Ben Myers

Troy Lee Cowell

Krzysztof Krecislaw

Chad Parish

Jack Lafreniere

Joshua Bressel

Marcus Odekirk

Robert Ostrowski

Mark Havener

George Tholburn

Erik Helgeson

Winter Guite

Jukka-Emil Vanaja

Christopher Turco

Juan Ochoa Jr.

Steven Molen

Broccán Mac Rónáin

Kenyon Burguess

Dave Alsager

 

Forever Faithful

Benjamin Starkey

Av Paredes

Adam Mckern

Brian Blaney

Trixter Phillips

Alexander JW De Santis

Jamie Rife

Brandon Fisher

Andrew Gardenhire

Todd Farnholtz

Clint Woodall

Clifford McKinney

Adam Thompson

Ray Arrista

James McHenry

Patrick Finnegan

Oliver Kraft

Camille Klein

Shane Jaskowiak

Shawn Bruno

Colin Duffy

James Eyers Mclean Miller

Nathan Pelchat

Josh Ellis

Craig Gulledge

Peter Farland

Eric Eny

James Bixby

Thomas Lagemann

Craig Reed

Mike Lubowitzki

Devin Ramsey

Dustin Ballard

‎Jose Alvarez‎

Aaron Gregory

Bradley Proffitt

Dean Manning

Brian Chiasson

David Shell

Keegan Reid

Sam Snell

Alex Clarke

 

The Short Story – Redemption and Malice – Which, to my surprise, is coming out to the Kickstarter backers any day now: 

Derek King

Gerry S. Xydis

Jack Halloran

 

Rules of Engagement – Released for the Kickstarter

Cymril Tseng, Star Commander of Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-i Adam Cunningham (Kaningamu) of the Draconis Combine

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

 

The Bonds of Battle (To Be Released in the Clan Boxed Set)

Star Commander Cymril Tseng, Clan Ghost Bear

Adam Bear, (Kaningamu), contributed by Gregory Adam Cunningham, formerly of the Draconis Combine, now bondsman to Clan Ghost Bear

Tai-sa David Vivas, of the Draconis Combine

Tabor Heine, contributing for his daughter Charlotte Warrior of Clan Ghost Bear

William James Hamblin, Chu-i Biru Hamblin of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Ayden Ryken, of the Draconis Combine

Chu-i Carrie Shumar, of the Draconis Combine

Sho-ko Mateo Vaux, of the Draconis Combine

Jason Cabral, Cabral, Ghost Bear Warrior

Kashira Jack ‘Reverend’ Benner, Sonkei-suru Benner of the Draconis Combine

 

The Upcoming Wolf’s Dragoons Short Novel (I am not releasing the title because it may contain a spoiler)

Michael Barber

Timothy Byrne

Felipe Cintron

John “Doc” Crouch

Tony Deegan

Jared Donner

Wes Frenz

Jürgen Frey

John Gaisano III

Ed Hatchel

Matthew Hinks

Hannes Hinterberger

Robert BJ Horncastle

Cal Hornstien

Garry Jackson

Alex Kaempen

Kristopher Tyson Koniczek

Andrew Krull

Wayne Ledbetter

Brianne Elizabeth Lyons

Joseph McEachern

Joshua McHugh

Roderick van Noorloos

William C. Pelcham

Lon Porter

Corey Riordan

Nicholas Roche

Andrew Roy

Patrick J. Saul

Sebastian Schröder

Kevin Seibert

Richard Skelton

Andrew Sternglass

Jason Tuttle

Matt Valgardson

Derek Weese

Jason Weiser

Scott Whyte

 

Honor and Glory Short Novel – An Eagle Among Falcons

NO COMMENT OR COMMITMENT AT THIS TIME

 

UPCOMING NOVELLAS AND XXXX XX XXX XXXX XXXXXX 

NO COMMENT OR COMMITMENT AT THIS TIME

 

Snord’s Irregulars – The Inside Story

Rhonda Clean
Every father should buy their daughter a RPG launcher

Opening note:  I am not an employee of Catalyst Game Labs, Topps, WizKids, The SLDF, Wolf’s Dragoons, the CIA (not current), the FBI, or The ComGuards I am not a licensed tiger castrator (despite that title on my business card), the Bounty Hunter (version 84), or a member of Katrina Steiner’s wardrobe staff.  I am also not a semi-pro astronaut, or Victor Steiner-Davion’s court-appointed testicle polisher, Anastasius Focht, a ISF DEST operative, the assassin, or a puppet of The Master.  I’m a freelancer, which means I am a mercenary with a PC, topped with just a dollop of douchebag thrown into a cocktail of chaos.  As such the following commentary is my own. You folks are just here for the ride and to appear in the damages portion of the libel trial that is certain to follow.

Note: Originally I was going to do this as a podcast, but I already have one (true crime – Tantamount) and frankly, I’m busy writing. It is far easier and less time consuming for me to simply be a guest on other people’s fine podcasts.   

Okay, let’s tackle this first shot at BattleTech with some history.  This week’s subject:  Cranston Snord’s Irregulars – or Rhond Snord’s Irregulars – or Snord’s Irregulars.  You pick.

Right on the heels of the first Technical Readout, 3025, I was asked to produce a scenario set for Snord’s Irregulars.   What I was handed was the two page outline for what should be in a scenario pack – remember, we only had two out at that time – The Fox’s Teeth and Tales of the Black Widow.  I had been promised a copy of the Galtor Campaign materials and am still freaking waiting for those to arrive.  Damn FASA…

I was also given what was the only details I had to work with.  Here’s the version:

It had taken Cranston Snord a long time to gather the members of his unique ‘Mech company together.  Each, in addition to being a competent MechWarrior was also an avid collector.  Some collected old books, unique artwork, and one even collected butterflies.  Cranston tried to make sure that each assignment his company accepted from the Lyran Commonwealth took them to fertile collecting grounds.  Only the past reliability of this unit prevented his employer from breaking their contract whenever his unit ran after some rare find instead of fight Steiner enemies.

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From my archives – the original stuff that started it all

A version of this ended up in one of the old FASA catalogs.

Now Cranston’s name came from a BC comic, I got that from Ross Babcock, who I worked for at the time.  BC was reading in the big book common in the comic and the question was, “Who was buried in Grant’s Tomb?”  The answer was, “Cranston Snord.”  That incredibly obscure reference became the basis of one of the more intriguing BattleTech mercenary commands.

I felt perfect for this. I came from a family of antique dealers – starting with my grandfather including my own collections.  I spent my weekends picking antiques with my dad and grandpa. It always struck me as strange that this product was offered to me.  A bit of serendipity…

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The original parameters from FASA for writing scenario sets…

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I didn’t have much to work with but that was common in that era of the game.  You have to remember, this was the heady days of BattleTech.  When we put out a product, it sold 10,000 copies quick.  You always got unreasonable deadlines back then because speed-to-market was vital.

For their background, I thought it would be cool to have them tied to Wolf’s Dragoons. At that time, all FASA would tell me was that “obviously the Dragoons came from the Star League.”  That was it.  The Clans were not designed yet, nor was the Dragoon Compromise.  So I thought it would be fun to have the unit have a link to the Dragoons…that Snord and his unit were so quirky, they were allowed to set out on their own. It would make sense that the Dragoons might have a nostalgia for antiquities.

I think one of the things that made the appeal of the Irregulars so strong after all of these years was that they were good.  Strike that shit…they were great MechWarriors.  They were elite, but with one hell of a quirk. You didn’t want to go up against them because you didn’t know what you’d be facing.  Would it be the polished mercenary, or the amoral looter? I love conundrums like that.  What is life without whimsy?

I created Rhonda Snord so that there was a succession plan in place.  If Cranston died, Rhonda was there to take over.  And back then, we always tried to make sure that females got high billing in the universe.  The fan community fawned over The Black Widow, thanks to the cover art on the scenario pack.  Yeah, like any of us would have stood a chance at picking her up.  Right…

To me, it was all about the story and the characters.  You forget the scenario sets and fluff material that don’t have good stories behind the characters.  People want characters that they can see grow and evolve over time.  With BattleTech, they want to identify with the characters, their Mechs, and their history.  It is one of the things that separates out this franchise from so many others out there.

So, the first scenario pack had to be written in something crazy like 30 days.  This was the era of dot matrix printers and we didn’t submit word processing files, but hard copy printouts.  I was working full time, long hours, and writing at night and on the weekends.  It was a rush job.  I loved the product though.  A lot of fans did too.

Fast forward a few years to the Clan invasion. Sam Lewis called me and asked if there was something I wanted to write.  Back then, I was not doing novels yet, though God knows I was trying.  It hit me that with the secrets of the Dragoons revealed, some of the history of the Irregulars needed to be clarified. So I proposed a sequel scenario pack for the Irregulars, this time with Rhonda in command.  If I remember correctly, I was working on the Wolf Clan Sourcebook at the time.  We really only had fleshed out the invading Clans back then.  A lot of the quirks and personalities of the other Clans were not known at the time.

Doing this allowed me to develop the Clan backgrounds of the unit and to evolve it so that Rhonda was leading the Irregulars.  No longer a bunch of American Pickers in BattleMechs, they were operating under Jamie Wolf’s behest – an additional set of eyes and ears for the Dragoons.  I set up Rhonda with an heir, Natasha Snord, an orphan she had taken under her wing.  Life is cheap, BattleMechs are not.  It always pays to have a backup CO in the wings.

My favorite part of the book was less on the background of the Irregulars and more on the scenarios dealing with Camelot Command.  A textbook mission for the Irregulars, a lost Star League naval base in the Dark Nebula.  It seemed awesome at the time.  Imagine my surprise when it showed up as an entire episode of the ever-criticized cartoon series.  Before any of you ask, no, the writers didn’t say anything to me in advance nor did I have any input on it. I was as surprised to see it as you were.

For a while the Irregulars were untouched, which was fine.  We were exploring other legendary units like the Eridani Light Horse and the Northwind Highlanders.  Everybody was getting a few minutes on the big stage back in those days.

When I was working on the novel, Call of Duty, I thought that it would be a great way to bring the Irregulars into the fiction-side of the universe.  So we see Colonel Rhonda Snord in all her glory here.  We see Cranston too – which is heart-warming.  I know, you may have cringed with him being in a wheelchair a little, but let’s face it…his profession of MechWarrior is one that takes a high toll on human bodies.  For a lot of the book, Tasha Snord is leading the unit, which I thought was great too.

Sidebar:  Some fan proposed that Natasha Snord is a genetic offspring of Natasha Kerensky.  Let me say this, not that I am aware of.  She likely got that name out of Rhonda’s friendship with the Black Widow, not from dipping into her gene pool.  Nice try fanboy!

Also, having Archer Christifori being on-screen with Rhonda Snord, well, that’s a moment of BattleTech history.  It’s not as good as Jamie Wolf and Grayson Death Carlyle fighting Gettysburg with BattleMechs, but it is right up there.  Like the Kell Hounds and Wolf’s Dragoons on Luthien…it is unexpected and neat.  And let’s face it.  As fans, and people forget that the authors are fans, we LOVE to see major characters come together.  Those combos and meetings are special for us.

The rest of this takes a little background to explain because I feel entitled to ramble on.  When Wizkids took over the IP (short of Intellectual Property) they pretty much ignored the existing BattleTech authors.  I was told, ‘We are hiring professional authors to write the material going forward.”  I went to mute so that I could say, “Fuck you,” back to them.  Shit.  Mike Stackpole was writing bestselling Star Wars novels and was a New York Times Bestselling author…and I…was not (yet).  We didn’t get reengaged with the Dark Age material until the last few years…then, mysteriously, the novel-fiction stopped.

There was a reason for all of this.  For legal reasons I am not allowed to say anything about this period in great detail.  Suffice it to say we got a storm of sourcebook material about the Jihad, but no novels.  Most was very well written, but vague, confusing, jumbled, and filled with rumors and innuendos that, I believe, confused the fan base at times. I swear, if one more of you tries to convince me that ComStar was Clan Wolverine, I will go on a killing spree…

Personally, I have a strong dislike of the Jihad Era.  I will do an entire uncontrolled rant on the Jihad at some point in a future episode, complete with alcohol.  I promise.  My biggest gripe centers on the casual manner with which the powers that-be destroyed characters and units that we had spent decades building.  It is bad-form to kill a major character off-screen, at least in my less-than-humble opinion.  Look at the novella The Anvil from last year.  I killed General Jasek Kelswa-Steiner.  Well, actually, Stephanie Chistu did the deed, but I wrote it. He was a major character in the Dark Ages. Oh, and stop your whining, the Dark Ages is a thing despite your ardent denials.  His demise was a heroic death, on screen, in fiction.  His funeral was actually even more epic, in my humble yet highly accurate opinion. That’s how you treat major units or characters that are killed off.  You give them some respect. Most importantly, it is respectful to the fans.

Well, during the Jihad, the powers that be slaughtered a lot of major personalities with seemingly little care about the fan community.  During the Donner Bombing, Rhonda Snord was blown up.  No battle, no epic last-stand, no glory, no honor, no heroics.  Just pop goes the mercenary!  WTF?  The bombing itself was a genius plot ploy, but the loss of Rhonda in that manner ate at me almost as much as the death of Archer Christifori.

I didn’t voice the emotions I felt at the time, that emotional kick to the nut-sack I experienced with Rhonda’s death.  Bitter?  Why yes, I am…thanks for asking.

Well, I’m back now bitches.

Back in the old days, when someone touched your characters or units, you at least got an email informing you about it.  Sometimes you got drafts of the material and a chance to weigh-in.  Authors talked to each other.  Not so much during the Jihad.  “Death by sourcebook” had become the accepted norm.  Throwaway one-liners in fluff material unceremoniously buried decades worth of character development.  It made zero sense to me then.  Of course now I realize that all we had back then was BattleCorps to fictionally tell heroic fucking stories.

So the Irregulars were blown into obscurity.  They do appear again in the Field Manual 3145, but we know little of who they are at that stage.  They are led by Joshua Snord and are fighting for the Federated Suns, or whatever is left of it.  I have sent a jumpship courier to Joshua to set up a meeting and discuss the future of his unit.  Thus far, no reply has been forthcoming.  I’m chalking that up to the fact that the HPG network is down and that the Federated Suns is busy flirting with its own demise.

I have my own ideas percolating as to the unit as they exist in both the Dark Ages and post-Dark Ages era.  But what I am most impressed with is the fan theories of where they came from. Several have suggested that Cranston and the original Irregulars were actually Goliath Scorpion freebirths that were on the Dragoon’s rooster.  Often I am peppered with questions as to if that is true.

Here’s the deal.  I’m just a writer.  Delusional, self-absorbed, egotistical, hot-headed, but at my core, I’m a writer.  I usually don’t comment on fan ideas because the moment that I do, someone takes those random thoughts as canon. If I say I think that the Goliath Scorpion connection sounds fantastic, people will say that is the truth and the truth, as we all know, comes from Catalyst Game Labs.  They require me to say that stuff by the way.

If I were to comment on the idea, I would say it is freaking BRILLIANT.  It not only make sense, it explains a lot about the Irregulars over the years.   Save your whines of retcon for someone who cares!

As a sidebar:  Ray recently asked me, for the Kickstarter, what the paint scheme was for the Irregulars.  It is a “dull green” and I found some obscure reference to brown stripes.  This comes from Call of Duty.  The stuff I have seen from Camo Specs is off and has been for years, but it doesn’t keep me up at night.

At our recent BattleTech summit Ray raised the Irregulars with me, saying he’d like to see where they are and what they are doing in the new era stuff.  I wholeheartedly agreed.  I would like to lay out some of that too.  I’m a big believer that you can’t keep a good merc unit down.  Having a reconstituted Irregulars fighting for a beleaguered Federated Suns, well, that’s the stuff of good stories.  It is fertile ground for writing.  It may even allow us to settle the whole Goliath Scorpion concept once and for all.  I have something in mind, something cool as all hell, I just need to put it down on paper.

It begins something like this.  “Tasha Snord saw the party approach her and Joshua.  They wore masks, insect-like, hiding their faces and the solemn expressions she imagined them having.  The trio stood before her, their black leather armor creaking slightly as they bowed.

“Who are you?”

“We are your trothkin,” the tall female in the center said, her green eyes piercing the mask as she spoke.  “We are your blood and your past, and your strength and your future.  We have traveled far and come bearing gifts.”

“I don’t understand,” she said.

The female removed her mask.  Her tight muscled face was scarred along the right cheek, her smile was taut and firm.  “We are seekers of the Goliath Scorpions, though that name has been lost to us, as has your true history Natasha Snord.  We have come seeking you, the artifacts you have gathered, and to rekindle the flames of what your unit once was.  You were our greatest gamble and success, though you do not even know it.  Together, we will bring you into the future.”

Tasha looked past the warrior and saw five BattleMechs gracefully emerge from the morning fog. The gray fog rolled past their legs as the stood in a perfect formation, looming in the distance.

“My grandfather would be honored…”

Then again, that’s just me, spitballing….

So there you have it…the history behind the history of Cranston’s Snord’s Folly.  That’s it for this episode.  Stop complaining, you got some free fiction to boot.

Oh, please follow my blog if you liked it.

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign Part 35 – Priory at Talismith

Purple Worm

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. For me, it lets me do a little creative writing between more serious projects. Links to the previous posts are at the bottom of this one. Enjoy!

Arius…

Lexa Lyoncroft as an ally – who would have conceived of this?  Yet there we sat with her, mapping out our strategy.  V’sarin, the dragon’s graveyard, sounded forbidding at best.  Yet there we would find the way to return Viktor Barristen to his grave, permanently.  The only catch was that we did not know where V’sarin was to the south, beyond the realms we knew.  The problem we faced was simple, how do we find this place?

Lyoncroft stirred the coals of the fire as she spoke.  “There’s an old monastery some eight days south of here, long abandoned.  It is said they were great map makers.  You may find some clue as to where you go. It is called Talismith.

“I would not recommend you go to your home town.  Barristen knows who you are, he will have his minions looking and waiting for you.  As it is, we must move on as well.  Hiding in a haunted battlefield may not be the best place to conceal one’s self when facing an undead lord.  We will go north and west exploring what you found on that map.”

“Karn had a mapmaker, but I am not sure we should go there.  This monastery may be our best chance,” Althalus said.

“Where should we rendezvous?” I asked.

“At the Rangersmeet at Villineau,” Brandon offered.  “It is safe and we may need their aid before all of this is done.”

She nodded.  “Now, we need to get messages to each other…”

“I have that covered,” Althalus said.  “I have a spell that lets me communicate.”

“What can you tell us about this library?” I asked.

“The Priory at Talismith was, a century ago, a place of great learning with a large library of tomes and manuscripts.  The monks that lived there were a small order but deeply respected in the church.  Around four decades ago the monastery suffered from a plague that wiped out half of the order.  Then a Gorgon moved into the area and killed the remaining monks.

“The church sent in a party to try and rescue the manuscripts, especially the maps said to be stored there.  The party that went in was never heard from again.  Others were sent but none came back.  The Library and monastery were considered lost after that.”

“Gorgons…” Althalus muttered.  “That is useful information…and possibly deadly.  I like this plan, but less so now.”

“We will need allies along the way,” Lyoncroft offered.  “The coming fight will be vicious and cost many souls.”  I gave her a knowing nod.  This was indeed a quest worthy of one of my order.  I muttered a prayer of protection for us all before bedding down that night.

The next day we set out across the Gallesian Fields, finding the road south that we had taken months earlier.  That evening we saw the statue where Theren enchanted his staff.  It was oddly reassuring to see sights we knew. The next day as we moved through the creepy old battlefield we were approached the Bailey Hills where the hangings after the war had taken place.  The next day, on the road, we were approached by a massive Ogre wearing a wine cask that had been split in half and was worn with half on the front, half on the back, with straps to make it a big wooden piece of armor.

“I am thinking this might be Barrel Chest, who Lexa told us about,” Theren said.

“You think?” Althalus snapped back with a wry grin.

“Hail Barrel Chest!” Theren called as he clunked forward towards us.

“Hi friend,” Althalus called as he approached, his massive tree-like club at the ready.  “We are friends of Lexa Lyoncroft.”  The warlock continued to weave a retelling of our arrangement with Lexa, dumbed down so that the Ogre could understand it.  His persuasive capabilities were good.  Barrel Chest sat down to listen, hanging on every word. We were all thankful he had not mentioned Pot Head, his brother whom we had slain. I joined in on the conversation when it looked like Barrel Chest wasn’t entirely following the story.

We conversed with him for several minutes.  He mentioned his missing brother, and we played stupid about Pot Head’s fate.  He finally asked, “Where Lexa?  Where she go?”

“She went northwest,” I said.

He looked downright sad.  “Aw, Barrel Chest upset. Barrel Chest like Lexa.”

“She will be back,” I offered.

“Me go after her.  Lexa true friend of Barrel Chest.”  With those words, he called us “Friends” and left, lumbering off into the Fields.

Two days later we passed the gate that marked the edge of the Gallesian Fields.  As Althalus put it, “The air feels less un-deady now.”  That didn’t mean that the danger had passed, as evidenced the next night.

Theren heard three horses and riders slowly approaching our camp during his watch.  He doused our fire and eventually woke us.  Althalus moved behind a tree as did I.  They slowly came into view, three humans wearing black plate armor.  Armed with lances, they leveled them in our general direction as they came into view.

“Who goes there?” I asked.

“Who’s over there?” came a voice back.

“I asked you first.”

“We have been asked to look for some people.”

“We are people.”

“We are looking for a paladin and a warlock.”

Althalus spoke up, “Non-church magic is illegal.” The irony was not lost on me.

“Why?” I asked.

“We were hired to find them.”  The menacing lance said they wanted more than to just find us. Their leader added, “And apparently we found them.”

They charged, dropping their lances and switching to maces – heading towards where Althalus and I were. Althalus blasted the horse that was rushing him, knocking it back in a blur of brilliant green magic, knocking the rider off of his steed and sending him rolling along the ground.  Brandon fired his bow, hitting another, his arrow protruding from his target’s thigh.  A magical attack on Althalus lit one of the men on unholy fire.

I faced one rider alone.  I used my thunderous and divine smite, making Skullringer shimmer in the darkness as I swung.  I hit his breastplate squarely, passing through his chest and out of his back – through his spine – killing him instantly.  The magical blast threw the horse sideways, breaking its leg as it sprawled out.  The upper torso of the rider landed at Brandon’s feet.  Mercy demanded my last attack was to finish off the wounded horse.  I missed seeing the death of one of the riders that Brandon was tangling with.

“Meat’s back on the menu boys!” called out Althalus with a twisted grin.

Theren’s thornwhip spell, pulling the one rider off his horse and towards the druid. Althalus opened up some God-awful void of darkness centered on the rider, sucking in the air and life around it.  Pure darkness slurped and whispered from the void as it devoured the rider.

“What in the hell is that?” I asked, never having seen anything like that cast before.  The warlock grinned back at me.

When the sphere of darkness ended, we saw the tormented, charred body of the rider that had been trapped in the spell.  Anguish was locked on his face.  Theren found 350 gold pieces and found a small glass sphere in a leather pouch.  One was broken at the feet of the man, but we did not know what it was for.  Theren determined that it was indeed magical.  Althalus learned that it was some sort of communication device.  “I surmise this is broken and used to communicate with someone else.”

That was ominous. Did that rider tip off Barristen with this sphere? Our warlock suggested just getting rid of it entirely.  “I don’t like the idea of holding onto this.”  I dug a small hole and Althalus put it in, burying it.

We rode on for three days heading south, into lands we had never traveled before.  The area was wooded, with rolling hills, low hollows, and the occasional creek. That night we noticed the glow of a fire of some sort, nearly a mile from our campsite, glowing in the west.

The next day we headed that direction, coming across a statue of a monk or some sort of priest.  It looked as if it were frozen mid-running stride.  A bird nest was built on it, and streaks of white bird shit streaked its torso. Moss and vines clung to it.  That conjured images of the Gorgon that were said to be in the area.

We progressed further and came across a large ruins.  Brandon pretty much confirmed that this where the fire was that night.  Outside the ruins, there are statues, covered in moss and vines.  The ruins are of a building that is 300 heads by 150 heads.  There is a tower that has crumbled, but still stands at two stories tall.  It appears at one time that this was a four story structure, but now only parts of the outer walls and rubble remain. Vines and growth seemed to be blanketing some areas of the jumble of broken stones and roof tiles.  This had to be Priory at Talismith.  In the middle of it, there was a camp site of sorts.  There was a large iron pot suspended over the smoking remains of the fire.

Brandon found a track, giant in size, with nasty claws.  He had no idea what had made it, but it was enough to give me pause.  I stopped and uttered a prayer when he told us that it was recent.

There was no easy way to approach the ruins.  We crept up on the rubble single-file, getting close to the fire-site in the middle of the ruins.

Movement popped up around us…a trap!  The creatures were massive, greenish gray skin, lanky with long arms and hideous claws.  Theren and Althalus called out, “Trolls!” and I knew we were in for a battle worthy of God’s trust in me.  Three of the monstrosities closed in on us.

The battle was a flurry of action, all blurred in my mind. A magical sphere of fire that Theren cast moved in on them and I remembered that Trolls had to be burned or they recovered injuries. The rubble hindered our movement as we tried to shift to cover each other.  Althalus’s green magic blast staggered one back, searing some of its grotesque flesh in the process.

Brandon hit one with an arrow that only seemed to irritate the Troll.  I struggled to land a solid blow with Skullringer but bit more air than Troll with both swings of the warhammer. Theren’s sphere of fire seemed to herd them…in my direction.  A magical whip wrapped around one creature, cutting it and spilling sick-green blood.

One of the creatures lunged at me, missing me with a clamping bite, but a claw dug me deeply in the arm. It was close enough for me to smell its rotting breath.

Brandon’s hail of thorns missed entirely. One Troll hit Althalus and burst into flames as a result of hitting the Warlock.  I hit the Troll on me, furrowing its flesh with Skullringer.  The ball of fire that Theren was moving and the burning Troll were a bit of a distraction that I opted to ignore.  Althalus blasted one Troll back into the rubble but another Troll slashed him up with both of its claws, splattering his blood on the rocks.

Skullringer caught my Troll in an uppercut, shattering its jaw and skull and tossing its limp body near my feet.  Green blood sizzled on Skullringer as I stood triumphant over my fallen foe.  Theren finished one of the fallen Troll in a withering flame that made its flesh hiss.  I was stunned when one of Theren’s blasts missed the Troll and instead slammed into me by mistake.

One Troll rose, regenerated by unholy means, and viciously clawed at me but I managed to take it down.  Theren’s wave of hands set the Troll ablaze, filling the air with the stench of charred rotting flesh stung at my nostrils.

Althalus’s magical blast on the last Troll knocked it back slightly, but it rushed forward and bit and slashed at the warlock.  The hit made the Troll burst into hellish flames as a result of contacting our comrade.  I sprung at that one as well, knocking the smoldering Troll with my warhammer, shattering its ribs in the process with a crackling noise.  Chaos owned the day!

Brandon hit him as well, but the Troll proved highly resistant.  Althalus’s next blast sent the now-dead Troll back into the burning sphere, destroying it.

We were exhausted and fell back to the Troll’s camp and began poking around their belongings. Rotted sacks filled with ill-gotten booty.  We found small bars of gold and silver, a few thousand copper pieces, and some rough-cut gems.  Digging deeper, we found a planking covering some sort of tunnel downward. I doubt the Trolls even knew they were camped on top of some sort of doorway.

Althalus found a sword, wedged in next to the planking that covered the hatch down. The blade near the hilt was twisted around twice, something we had never seen before.  Theren determined it was a Gnomish blade, named Quaker in their tongue.  From what Althalus was able to discern, if the blade struck true, it emits a spell called Thunderous Wave.  Theren took it for himself as the rest of us took a much needed break.

We opened the doorway under the ruins and found a narrow shaft leading down into the darkness.  Theren, in giant spider form, crawled down to a large domed chamber.  There were paintings on the walls, most cracked and covered with a thin sheen of mold.  When I got there, I saw the painted eyes of monks staring down at me from the fading works.  A thin dank pool of water covered the floor and we splashed in it as we moved.

Althalus cast a spell of a humanoid shape of light to provide us illumination.  The image of the monks painted on the dome at least told me that we were likely near the library. Theren-the-spider moved along the ceiling over us as we opened the door and started down a long hallway.  There were doors along the way but we heard nothing there.  There as a pile of rubble near the end as it curved and went down two wide flights of stairs, but the barrier of broken stone was not natural.  Someone had apparently piled up debris and benches against a pair of large bronze doors, as if they were keeping something there at bay.

We went down a hallway off of the main corridor and found a kitchen area, filled with rot, rust and dust. We went into the pantry area and saw an iron chandelier hanging above us with what looked like ravens on it…until they moved.  Stirges!

Three of the creatures dove on me, all missing, swarming around me. Three more went onto Brandon, latching onto the back of his neck, finding a crack in his armor. “Get it off of me!” he cried out, attempting to swat at the one drawing blood from his neck.

A festival of sword and hammer blows splattered the obnoxious creatures, though we were fortunate that we did not hurt each other in the melee.

We explored some of the bedchambers and found little more than signs of sacking and looting many years before.  Brandon found a sealed marble urn and he left it that way.  In one of the bedchambers, I found two vials but the labels had long ago rotted off. Theren found a golden artifact with the name of the priory intricately carved into it.

After all of our searching, we found ourselves facing the barricaded landing. Old iron candle stands and benches were part of the rubble piled up against the bronze doors. The word, Librarium was on a sign above the door. We came for a map, and obviously this would be the place where we might find one.

It took us a few minutes to clear the barricades and bracing.  I stepped forward and forced open the bronze door.  The room was massive – some 250 heads square, some twenty-five heads high. There was finger’s worth of water puddled on the floor.  Many of the book cases had been crushed, knocked over or fallen in time.  There were two points on the walls where rubble had been pushed into the chamber, but some massive force.  Books, tossed or fallen lay everywhere, but the center of the room seemed oddly cleared of shelving and debris.  A stench filled the air, a mix of mold, feces, and long-rotted flesh.  Tapestries clung to some of the walls still, while others lay rotting in the puddle.

“We’re going to be here for a while,” Althalus said as he looked at the library, stepping in and moving to some of the toppled shelves.  Most of the books that I saw were filled with marriage records or histories of places I had never heard of.  Some fell apart in my hands, so bad was their condition.  I wondered if we could, indeed, find a map of the realm still intact here.

Brandon found a book that was readable – The Tale of Sir Kavely.  A brave a virtuous knight who roamed the lands some 400 years ago.  As one of the early paladins, this book has value to any paladin holy order.  That was a story that I looked forward to reading.

Theren found a copy of Abastor – The Chronicle of the War of the Druids.  This details the Church’s war against the druids.  In scanning it, he saw that it documented evidence that the church may have very well falsified the evidence against the druids in order to purge them. It was fortuitous that our druid had found such a book.

Althalus found a black hide-bound book simply marked, “Devils” From what little he could read, the book detailed the nature of devils, how to trap and kill them, and how to control them.  In his possession, along with the Devil’s skull that I still carried, he was destined to get into trouble at some point in the future. He glossed over the warnings of potential madness from reading the tome.

“I fear you having that book,” I said to the warlock.

“What could go wrong?” he replied.

We did not get to that answer.  There was a rumble and bursting into the library chamber was a massive worm-like creature, purple, its mouth a menacing maw of death and devouring.  I drew Skullringer and rushed forward towards the massive creature.  Althalus waved his hands which made me feel better.  Both of his eldritch blasts missed, which seemed impossible given the size of the beast.

Purple Worm

The stinger hit me in the chest, punching through my shoulder armor plate.  The poison made me go cold and I dropped unconscious.  I heard the sounds of battle but was held prisoner by the pain from my wound and the poison oozing in my bloodstream.

I have no idea how long I was out, but came too in a cold sweat and panic.  I staggered to my feet and noticed that Brandon was missing and that Theren and Althalus were doing what they could to stay away from the great beast.  As I got to my feet, I called out, “How are we doing?”

“This is very not-good,” Althalus replied.  A cloud of lightning hovered over the worm, no doubt the work of our druid.

The purple worm spun to go after Theren.  I drew a javelin and planted it in the side of the creature.  I kept looking for Brandon but could not see him.  I feared that the beast had swallowed him.

Theren unleashed a bolt of flame that seared the hide of the beast.  He then transformed into a giant spider and hopped away.  The worm swung on Althalus and narrowly missed with a bite and an attempt to sting him.

The lightning bolts stabbed at the creature, searing black holes on its hide.  Bolts of flames roared down from the ceiling, hitting the purple worm at almost the same instant.  The worm bit Althalus, spraying blood everywhere, then was swallowed whole.  I now knew where Brandon was!  By God this creature was daunting.  I still struggled against the venom in my body.

The worm spun to face me and I braced myself for the rushing assault.  It suddenly paused and spit out the contents of its guts, dropping Althalus and Brandon onto the wet manuscripts of the library floor. The ranger was pale, near death, and the warlock seemed to be trying to help him.

I swung Skullringer twice, hitting once hard on the maw of the worm, knocking the head to the side for a moment.  It tried to bite me but I whirled and it missed.

Theren’s indoor lightning storm brought it down.  We were exhausted, winded, and injured. Brandon’s face was badly scarred from the stomach acid of the beast.  It would take a special kind of girl to love him from this point forward.  Our party paused and recouped, healing those who needed it.  I was still wobbly on my feet and welcomed the rest.

After we rested, we continued our search for a map.  Althalus found a crucifix and a silver edged mace in the debris. There was an elvish blade with the name “Suresh” on it.

It was I who suggested searching behind the tapestries. Brandon found a secret door behind one and we went into the antechamber.  The room was filled with racks and bone tubes sealed.  The map room!  Those we found open crumbled in our hands.  Brandon came across one ivory tube sealed in wax that had potential.  When we opened it, we found a hand-scrawled map of our realms!

The following are the previous installments. I hope you enjoy the campaign so far. Be sure to follow my blog if you do. 

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7

Part 8

Part 9

Part 10

Part 11

Part 12

Part 13

Part 14

Part 15

Part 16

Part 17

Part 18

Part 19

Part 20

Part 21

Part 22

Part 23

Part 24

Part 25

Part 26

Part 27

Part 28

Part 29

Part 30

Part 31

Part 32

Part 33

Part 34

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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Review of Alien – The RPG – Free League Publishing

alien
Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark…

At Gen Con this year I came across Free League’s booth and they were handing out cards for a pre-purchase of their Alien RPG.  Aliens is one of my favorite movies so I opted in.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but thought it might be fun to see what they could do with a new Aliens RPG (remember, there was one many years ago.)

What shocked me the most was that they delivered, both digitally and hard copy – pretty much on time.  I was also deeply impressed with the physical quality of the materials. If this book were just the text, it would be easily half this size.  The rules clock in at 393 pages.

The artwork is worth the bulk.  The paintings are spectacular and really capture the feel of the Alien universe.

I have not run a game yet, but like the format.  There are two modes of play, Cinematic and Campaign.  Cinematic play is refighting the events on LV-426.  They provide the maps of the colonist outpost and enough material to play out what happened to those poor people.  It is one of those play modes that reminded me of Zombicide, you are going to die…it’s a question of when.  Campaign play is more along the lines of a traditional RPG campaign.

The rules are well-written.  There’s not a lot of depth here in terms of skills and career paths, it is a system that relies heavily on role-playing. I was expecting more of a military slant to things, with some details about tracking ammo etc.  This game really concentrates on action over technical detail.

It is a d6 based system, though there is an option for cards to cover initiative and gear (sold separately).  The game mechanics are pretty simple to master.  Combat is straight forward.  They have a pretty good critical injuries table which I liked.  With modernistic firepower, death can come quick with a poor die roll, at least in my trial runs.

The panic system is neat.  Stress and panic play a big role in the combat system, letting the terror build to where your character is incapacitated with fear.  I like this because it plays perfectly with the Alien universe.  I won’t bore you with the details, but it was good, innovative, and simple.

The game covers the core films, including Prometheus, which was useful.  You have big bad corporations, sleazy company men/women, and tough hombres in the Colonial Marines, even vehicles and spaceships.  I will admit, the space combat system is a bit abstract for my tastes, but that is a personal preference.

The biggest hurdle this game faces is not in the book but in how you overcome the fact that players already know about the aliens.  Part of what makes the game pop is that unknown variable, but let’s be honest, we’ve all seen the films.  I would have hoped for some more rules for creating new creatures for players to face, but there’s plenty of room for GM’s Game-Mothers, to get creative on their own.

Overall, I found the book to be outstanding.  Free League has resurrected the Alien RPG and has taken it into some new and fascinating directions. I’ve enjoying reading it, which is hard to say with some RPG’s out there.  It runs around $49 US, which is hefty, but worth it since it comes with a scenario ready to play.

I can’t resist…pick this up…otherwise it’s, “Game over man!”

Totally Biased Review of BattleTech: Kell Hounds Ascendant by Michael Stackpole

Kell

I know it’s hard to believe, but I am not just a writer of BattleTech, I’m a fan.  So when these three novellas came out in a compendium, I got a copy.  I wasn’t disappointed.  These are tales of the Kell brothers in the formation of the infamous Kell Hounds mercenary unit.

This takes place during the Third Succession War, back when we could conquer a planet with a company of BattleMechs.  Boy, those were the days. Rumors of lostech prevail, pirate raids are a reality, and you had to make every missile count.  ‘Mechs were patched and cobbled together with binder-twine and a prayer.  Politics was less about what the Archon or Chancellor were thinking, but what happened on a local planet-level.  I miss a lot of that era as a fan because it was so simple and fun.  Mike has done an outstanding job of taking us back to those heady days of yesteryear with these stories.  It is as if he adopted a writing style he used back-in-the-day.  The pacing is brisk with subtle twists and turns.

When I was at the writer’s meeting two months ago I spoke with him about the stories and told him what I really liked best was the dialogue between Morgan and Patrick Kell.  The quips, the intricately crafted barbs, they were fun to read.  Mike pointed out to me that before these novellas, fans had never really seen and heard the brothers together.  For long-time fans, it is a special treat.

Each story stands alone and I won’t spoil any plots here.  I love the characters we get air-time with…Prince Ian Davion, Archon Katrina Steiner…and some of the foundational characters in the Kell Hounds.   It’s the little bits I enjoyed, like baby Melissa Steiner crying in the background of a scene.  These materials are perfect if you are going to run the new MechWarrior RPG because they give you some of the intrigue and challenges of starting up a mercenary unit from scratch.

Personally, I liked the first and third stories the best.  The second one deals with religion, and while masterfully done, I always lean away from religion in BattleTech.  Too many years of ComStar do that to you. Too much, “Hocus Pocus HPG Focus…” makes you shy away from true religious-based stories – though Mike does a great job with his.

This is not one of the spine novels, something universe shattering.  Instead these fill wonderful and entertaining gaps in BattleTech history.  They become more important with some of the events yet to come – so go out and buy this compendium!

Gaming Rip-Off – Minuteman Miniatures – Now Called Miniature You

This little saga started at GenCon 2018.  Minuteman Miniatures had a booth where you could get your head scanned and they would provide you custom miniatures with your head/face on them.  Great idea.  I, along with my son and grandson, started the process with our scans.  In December, I ordered our minis to the tune of around $100.00.

I mentally gave them a few months grace period because I presumed there was a backlog. Then I started to email them.  No response.  I called the owner, Michael Elices, and his voicemail box was full.  Not a good sign.  I kept sending emails, every two weeks to both Mike and their support address, but got no response.

Now, a friend of mine did get his miniature – eight months after he ordered it at Gen Con and it looked great.  So this company is not an entire scam.  I am hopeful still that they would refund my money or, better yet, produce the miniatures we ordered.  At this point I would have settled for a simple “we are working on it,” response.  Instead nothing but silence, which is not good.

They have rebranded themselves as Miniature You and are promising an app as of July of this year to allow you to scan your own face and order custom miniatures from them.  I would strongly advise you to not do so.  This company has 21 Better Business Bureau complaints filed against them, all unresolved.  While I am sure their intent is to provide a service to the gaming community, and yes, some people have gotten their miniatures – there are a lot of people out there that have not.   Anyone handing them money for product is doing so with a great deal of risk.

I fully support game companies, especially start-ups.  But for them to not deliver to so many customers, then spend money to create an app to get more money…without fulfilling their orders…well, that’s borderline criminal behavior.

I will be pursuing legal remedies shortly with them.  I wanted to warn gamers out there to beware of this company though.