Quick Unboxing of the Game of Thrones Kickstarter – A Song of Fire and Ice

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The box, stacked full of Red Wedding goodness

The best part of a Kickstarter is when the rewards arrive.  Today my CMON Kickstarter set for A Song of Fire and Ice arrived.  I have always wanted to take part in a CMON Kickstarter campaign because of their reputation, and I have to say, I am impressed so far.

I will not be prying open every box yet, but wanted to give you a glimpse of the game components that are out – especially with Gen Con right around the corner.  I will be painting minis through Christmas, that much is for sure, but so far I was wowed with what I received.

I won’t bore you with text, but let you savor over the photos.  More to come as I begin painting.

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All good men…most don’t make it through Season 4 in the series
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A view of the back of the box
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Kind of looking forward to doing the Battle of the Bastards at some point
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Sure, they look tough…then a dragon comes in and they get crispy.
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I will have to learn to paint horses…

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The Half-Man! 
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The big box starter set.  
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The back of the big box
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The box of the bonus minis, alternate sculpts,etc.  Gotta love that iron throne from the novels.  
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Talk about a big impressive mini.  I can’t wait to pit these forces against the Imperial Stormtroopers I painted last weekend.  Oh, that would be SO wrong…

Obviously more to come.  Enjoy!

#CMON

 

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 26

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Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. Parts 1-19 charted the first part of the campaign, part 20 began the next phase of the saga: Tempora. 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 up for several hours, we set out down the dark roadway to the underbelly of the mountains. Less than an hour into our trek, a massive portcullis dropped down, blocking the road and driving through Arius’s body as it slammed into the ground, pinning the paladin to the floor. The wrought iron gate sent up a cloud of rust into the air as it thudded into place.  Bor was on the far side, now appearing trapped.  Despite being a brute of a man, he looked oddly vulnerable there alone.  Blood oozed from Arius’s wounds where the portcullis had pinned his torso, though the paladin did not complain much.

It took all of us to lift the gate, mostly with Bor’s and my brute strength and using a javelin for a lever. Each member of the party slid under the gate.  We moved a few heads down the road and the gate clanged back up.  “We must have stepped off of the trigger,” I said as the gate disappeared into the slot on the ceiling over the road.

Another 200 heads down, we saw a small indentation on the right side of the roadway, a niche really.  There was some wood there, rotting, along with some shards of moldy cloth.  A small hole five heads from the floor trickled water down into the hole.  Under the wood was clearly a hole in the floor.

“I think someone should look into that,” Arius said.

“I think someone else should look into it,” I replied.

The paladin frowned at me then went over, carefully peering down the hole.  “It’s some sort of sewer,” he called over to us. It made sense.  This was a long road into Tempora.  There had to be places like this where travelers could relieve themselves.

“What’s down there?” Brandon called.

“I don’t want to know what is down there,” Arius replied.  “You are welcome to use this if you want.  I have no desire knowing what is down in this old sewer.”  I agreed with the paladin.  While there could be something long lost in that hole, we were not looking for treasure, but for the missing warriors of the Order of the Fang.

We moved on, walking down the roadway for nearly an hour.  Then, to our surprise, she appeared again, the ghastly woman appeared before us again.  Cloaked in green, holding a golden censor oozing smoke, the older woman materialized out of nowhere in the middle of the roadway.

“You still have not heeded my words,” she intoned in a low voice.

“Why does that sound like a threat?” “I mean here’s a old human woman running around on an ancient dwarven highway.  Something isn’t right here.” Althalus said.  I had to agree with the warlock on this matter.

“What do you think she’s up to?” Arius said, stroking his goatee.

“You should turn around now,” she said firmly, clearly listening into our chatter.

This was, at one time, a major roadway.  Something about this female did not make sense.

“What should we be fearing?” Arius asked of her.

“Your doom.”

“Are you going to give us any useful information, or are you simply going to continue to waste our time,” Althalus snapped at her. “If we turn around, the bone dragons will eat us.”

“This is not my concern,” she said impassively.

“What is ahead that should be our concern?” the warlock pressed.

“This road has not been used in centuries.  Turn around and live.”

I puffed out my chest.  “This road has been used recently, and we are following their tracks,” I told her.

“Leave now, and you go with your lives.”  Her words were a firm tone, strangely confident…which made me nervous. “Continue down this road and you will die.”

“Good luck trying,” Brandon said.  I snapped my head over to him.  We did not need an escalation of words at this point.  Whoever this older woman was, she was using magic to teleport.  Who knows what else she might do?  Brandon clearly was misreading my expression.  Rather than stop, he strode up to her.  “We do not fear you.”  You are speaking for yourself ranger…  It was then I noticed two things.  The color of her robe was familiar – it was the same green as Lexa Lyoncroft!  And behind her, at her head, was the hilt of a sword.  It was almost identical to Lyoncroft’s.  Was she a fellow Sister of the Sword?

“You should,” she said far too calmly. Her words were followed with a brilliant flash of light.  Brandon was thrown back ten heads…and she had disappeared.  I was blinded by the white light of the blast and a crack light lightning bolt hitting near us.  I felt the hairs on my head rise for a moment.  There was that circular pattern on the floor again, shimmering just for a moment before it disappeared.

“I am getting tired of her party tricks,” Althalus said as the ranger regathered his wits.

“Brandon is stunned,” I said, helping the ranger back to his feet.  I had hoped he had learned his lesson.

“That does not involve me,” the warlock said.  I motioned for him to join me.  Was there residue where the blast had taken place?  We looked, there was none to be found.  This indeed was, as I had feared, powerful arcane.

“Did you see that sword and her robe?  It’s like Lyoncroft’s” I said.  Bor nodded, he had seen it as well.  “It could be deception on her part,” I added.

“Oh great,” Althalus said. “There’s more than one of them running around.”  Once we were comfortable that she was not going to return we continued on.  Another hour or so passed when we came to three large obstructions in the roadway.  Brandon moved forward.  “The road looks like it ends up here!”  We all came close enough to see that the roadway stopped its gentle slope downward.  Instead it seemed to level off and open up a vast chamber beyond.  Water filled the lowest part of the road, forming a pond that filled the entire roadway.

The end of the road could mean one thing for us, we had finally found the long lost dwarven city of Tempora.  To get there, we would have to navigate these waters though, and it seemed that they were at least waist deep, if not more.

Bor poked at the three piles of debris that seemed to be between us and the water.  “These are wagons, turned over.  Someone tipped these over to make some sort of barricade,” he called back to us.  Arius went to one and found the same thing.  None of us moved around the large oaken wagons.  There could be anything there.  My first thought went to goblins and how they had tried to ambush us earlier, pretending to be a ghost.

Arius picked up a rock and tossed it over the overturned carts to see if that stirred any activity.  The rattle of the stone stirred no activity.

We flanked the wagons and saw nothing but stones that had been piled up to essentially keep them in place.  We saw arrowheads and spear points stuck in the wagons, evidence of some battle long ago.

I motioned to the water and we approached it.  Some seventy-heads distant, in the middle of the small lake was an island rising up, stone and wooden bits.  The air smelled of moisture, musty, dank.  From where we stood, we saw the roadway making a stark right turn before opening up to a large chamber beyond.  Bor spoke up.  “I hear running water in the distance.”

Althalus stepped up to the water’s edge.  “I am not wearing much in the way of metal, I could swim it.”

“I’m not sure…” I said, eyeing the island a short distance away. There was no way around this dank water, but the thought of going in made me nervous.

“Perhaps you could turn yourself into a bear and we could ride you across,” Brandon said to me.

“Or a large otter,” added our warlock.

“Or a wolverine,” Arius chided.

“I’m not transforming into a bear to be a boat or canoe for your travel,” I replied.  Turning into a creature of woods was part of my divination as a druid.  I would not have them mock it thusly.  “Go out there,” I said to Althalus.  Dimintrios, his loyal mute shadow, waded in behind him without a moment’s hesitation.

We stood along the edge of the water as the warlock entered.  Brandon furiously pointed to water.  “There’s something out there!” he called.  I looked.  Yes, two distinct ripples in the pond, as if something large were swimming under the surface.

The figures converged on our comrades, breaking the surface. From the island, another pair rushed down to the water.  They looked like a cross of men and crocodiles.  I had heard of such species, lizardmen!  Armed with sleek halberds, the pair on the island struck at our party in the water.  We stood and watched as horror as a streak of blood sprayed the air from their hits.  The two in the water rose and attacked as well.  I saw Dimitrious drop limp into the cold water and not rise back up.

Brandon hit one with his crossbow and Arius threw his javelin, spiking the weapon deep into the shoulder hide of the creature. He hissed loudly, I’m sure some sort of curse in his foul language.  I fired my bow as well hitting one of the monstrosities in, what I assumed was his rib cage.

Bor dashed into the water like a charging elephant, throwing his hand axe but missing entirely, splashing the water as it sank.

Dimitrious bobbed in the water as Althalus unleashed his eldritch green energy, hitting one of those in the water.  The body of the creature flops in the water then went still…apparently killed.

Brandon fired another bolt into a lizardman.

Lizardmen

One of the creatures on the island hit Althalus, hurting him, but bursting into flames as the warlock’s defenses kicked in.  The lights from the flames reflected off the dark waters, casting odd shadows.

I fired again, hitting the creature on the land, as did Bor, whose axe flew in and hit the one still in the water.  There was a splash in the water, joined by a missed javelin thrown by Arius.  I moved in and cast a healing word on Dimitrious, enough to stir him to consciousness.

A oozing of greenish blood rose from the water as the lizardman broke the surface and hissed.  He sprung on the still dazed monk, once more knocking him unconscious.  The remaining lizardman on the island knocked out Althalus as well.

Bor closed in swinging, hitting one of the creatures.  I closed my eyes slightly and concentrated on healing Althalus, enough to allow him to rise – his face dripping with blood from a nasty gash. Bor swung again, his glowing warhammer clearly missing any victims, adding to the flames on the island.

Our paladin tossed his javelin and missed as well, it was as if the fates were working against us. One of the lizardmen sprung at Bor and missed, the other leapt at our warlock and missed entirely, landing on his opposite side and spinning to face him.

Brandon’s crossbow bolt killed one lizardman, the bolt plunging into his throat and toppling backwards at the water’s edge.  I switched to my short bow and fired, leaving the arrow stuck in his arm and eliciting another sinister hiss from him, his tongue lapping in the air.

Althalus fired his arcane blast at the remaining foe, knocking him back and into Bor.  He rose again, silhouetted by the flames of his dead comrade on the island.

Brandon fired again, hitting him in the eye.  There was a spray of dark green blood, and he collapsed into the pond.  We were all breathing heavily, the crackle of the flames drowning out the distant rush of water in the distance.

I healed Dimitrious again, and he gave me a thankful nod in response.  We moved up toward the island which had been home to them.  There were low mud and wood huts there.  I looked past the island, into the opening beyond.  The road rose slightly out of the water.  There were shadows of rubble in the distance…Tempora perhaps?  I was excited at the premise of reaching the city.

Brandon crawled in a hut and emerged with a small leather pouch.  There were three black marbles and a silver dagger.

Althalus entered the other hut and emerged with a small chest – which he poked with a dagger.  “What are you doing?” Brandon asked.

“Checking for mimics,” the warlock replied.  There was no response from the chest and I suppressed a chuckle.  The warlock pried it open and a puff of gas rose from the open chest and it hits him in the face.  He shook his head, fighting the sleep spell, rubbing the powder from his eyes.  There was a small potion in a glass vial, and a scroll in the chest.

“You know, I can detect traps,” I said after the fact.

“Why didn’t you use it?” Althalus asked.

“You were the one in a hurry to just open the chest,” I replied.  Brandon returned his hut to continue searching as Althalus held up the vial.  “A potion of healing,” he said.

“What of the scroll?” I queried.

“I can only make out the word, ‘fire’ on it,” he said.

The paladin moved to another nesting area poked at it, emerging with a gold broach with a diamond on it.  “It is beautiful,” he said, pocketing it.  We all started looking around the hut/nests.  Brandon emerges with a black leather bound book, thick, with mold on the cover in some spots and on the edges.  Althalus perked up.  “Hello…”

“What is it, how to cook kobolds?” I asked wittily.

“I’ll be taking that,” the warlock said.

“No,” Arius said.  “Hell no.”

“This looks pretty sweet,” Brandon said.

Magic Book

“Open the book,” Althalus said.

“Don’t open the book,” the paladin countered.

“We can study it later,” Brandon offered, clearly not wanting to be in the middle.

“Human skin isn’t generally dark,” Althalus said.  “Open the book.”

“When we get out of here I will attempt to detect magic – we will see if the book is of use.”

I wandered towards the opening while Althalus still mumbled that the book should be his to hold.  No one was excited about our brooding warlock holding a potentially dangerous tome.

We waded out into the water into the vastness of Tempora.  The mountain we were in was hallow.  A massive mound of debris littered the edges of the hollowed shell, where once there had been a great city – now only ruins lay everywhere – making navigation a difficult and arduous climb.  Molds grew on the rubble all around us.  In the distance we could see Tempora’s Falls, the Tears of Tempora, the waterfall that ran under the massive statue of a dwarven king.  Now all that remained there was his tall legs, larger than two men, the rest of the statue had chains wrapped around it and lay broken at the edge of the riverbed.  The falls ran between the legs and downward, the source of the rushing water we heard.  Pottery, furniture, broken walls, fragments of tapestries, all of the flotsam of life lay in mounds everywhere before us.

Above us there was a tiny source of light, enough for us to see an incredible chandelier hanging from the peak of the mountain.  The light at one point must have hit it and reflected off the crystals, probably providing light for the entire city.  Now it hung by one of the five chains, covered in dust and massive spiderwebs, some of which hung down 50 heads or more over the ruins of this once thriving city.

What fate had befallen these people?  What evil had come and destroyed this place?  Is it still here?

“Incredible,” I muttered looking out on the ruins of Tempora.  I suggested we move along the walls of the hollowed out mountain, hoping the walls would provide us some cover.  Althalus seemed to stay close to Brandon and the book.  “You know, I could carry that for you.”

“You are not going to let this go are you?”  I asked the warlock.

“Shouldn’t we open it and find out what it is?

“Fine.  Everyone put their treasure out they have found, I will cast detect magic, and we will see if it is magical.”  The party found a piece of stone and laid them out — a ring, the silver dagger, an amulet, and the black-bound book.  The diamond neckless was magic as was the dagger.  The book, the book gave off an aura, red and black, dark and twisted.  It was of necromantic and warlock magics – powerful, black.  I saw runes on the book as well.  Wards…possibly death.

I told the party that only that the objects were magical.

“Okay,” the paladin Arius said, “I’ll open it.”

“Let Althalus open it,” I said.

The paladin held out the book before the warlock.  He was practically salivating.  “I’m pretty sure it is warded,” I told them.

“We should rest, regain our strength, then open it.  So we found a secluded spot and bound our wounds, trying to rest.  Finally, as soon as we awoke, Althalus was once more contemplating the book.  We all surrounded him and the ominous book.  He set it on a stone and cast several incantations on it, no doubt to see if he could define any more than I had.

He paused.  There is a glyph of warding on the book,’ he said.  We all took several steps back. Brandon drew his bow, unsure of whether to aim at the book, or the warlock.

“That does not sound good,” Arius said, his hand drifting to his sword pommel.

The warlock used his quarterstaff to pry open the ebony leather cover.  There was a booming noise and a dazzling blast of light.  Althalus reeled back, blood ran from a cut on his brow.  He leaned over the book and looked at it.

“Demons and Devils – Summoning and Control,” he said with awe.  “It was written for warlocks and necromancers.  It is priceless!”

“He should not have that book,” Brandon said, stating what most were thinking.  I tended to be more neutral about such things.  Just how much damage could he cause us?

“Look,” the warlock said.  “I don’t think that summoning a demon is probably a good idea.”

I looked at him with an astonished expression on my face that I could not hide.  “You don’t know?”

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

https://blainepardoe.wordpress.com/2018/07/08/the-chronicling-of-our-dd-campaign-tempora-part-25/

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The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 25

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Commissioned artwork, Arius the paladin – player-Kevin Rivenburg

Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. Parts 1-19 charted the first part of the campaign, part 20 began the next phase of the saga: Tempora. 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…

We moved forward some fifty-heads and saw a shimmering light start to come into focus in the middle of the underground roadway.  In the middle of the light, Bor, who had taken point whispered back that it was female – and older woman, bathed an eerie glow.  She carried a golden censor in one hand, wafting smoke slightly.  We moved forward cautiously.

“Hello!” called out Bor.  The mysterious woman did not respond.  I wondered if she was some sort of ghost or an illusion set forth to deceive us.

I stepped forward and called, “Hello,” as well.  She did not seem to respond to my voice any more than Bor’s.

“I think there’s some magic in play here,” Theren said.

I glared back at him.  Really.  Normal people do not appear out of nowhere and glow.

“Let us move closer,” I suggested.  “Not attack, let us appear friendly.”

We noticed two things.  Her head turned to follow us as we fanned out across the roadway.  On her back was the hilt of a sword, a massive sword, slung there.

“Hello,” Althalus called out to her as we got nearer.

“Why are you here?” she asked.  Her voice was not that of an aged women, but someone much younger.

“We are travelers,” Theren said.  I looked over at the druid and cringed.  Yes, he was correct, but we were traveling on a long hidden underground road to a lost Dwarven city in search of dozens of missing paladins.  Saying we were ‘travelers’ seemed like a gross over-simplification.

Theren sensed my doubt and turned to her again.  “We seek to pass.”

“It would be best,” she said in a low tone, “to turn around.  You are treading on dangerous ground.”

“Of that,” the druid replied, “we are aware.”

“We have to proceed,” Althalus added.

The shimmering female bowed her head and shook it slowly.  At her feet, a circle of blueish light appeared, swirling and twisting.  Before we could respond to her further, she sank down into the circle of light, disappearing.

“Well,” our warlock said, “that was a waste of our time.”  Althalus always spoke his mind, be it right or wrong.  We moved up to where she had been and saw the dust had been disturbed.  This was no illusion.  Something, or someone had been there.

We trudged on.  Several hundred feet further we came across a roughly made wall, apparently chiseled from the rock faces.  The wall blocked most of the roadway, and was only two or three heads of height.  As we approached a formless apparition rose from behind the wall, to almost six-heads height. It glowed green and had a human shape but flowing, like a wisp.  Now this, this was a ghost.  My hand fell to my trusted sword.  An eerie moan filled the air from the direction of the figure.

The moan became a wailing and we readied ourselves for a fight.

“Hello,” Theren called.

“Leave now…” the high-pitched moaning voice said.  The image moved back and forth along the wall.  “Drop your weapons and gold and flee…”

I was not afraid of this apparition since it seemed to be staying relatively in place.  “I say we move around the edge of the wall.  I will not be intimidated by a formless figure.”  Bor nodded that he could join me.  I intoned a silent prayer as we moved.

We rounded the end of the wall and saw several goblins on the other side, one holding a stick with a sheet on it, the other holding a lantern behind it, with some green glass lens.  “I told them to flee…” one of them chortled, until he saw us standing there.

One spun, pointing a rod or wand of some sort at us.  There was brilliant burst of light and a crack as the lightning bolt shot forth, hitting Bor squarely in the chest.  “Ouch!” he wailed, smoke drifting from the hole in his armor as he pulled forth Skullringer and rushed the pair of goblins. How he survived the lightning bolt, I cannot say.

A pair of crossbow bolts flew at Bor, one missing and shattering on the wall, the other sinking the bolt into our warrior’s shoulder.  Skullringer, glowing blue, swinging and crushing the skull of one goblin, spraying the air with tiny bits of goblin brain and greenish blood.  The heavy crossbow thudded the stone floor.

A counter-swing of Skullringer hit the other goblin in his torso in his tiny ribs, and continued on through.  His spine exited his body on the end of the magical glowing warhammer, splattering about the floor.  There was a look of astonishment on the goblin’s face as his spine departed his body. Another goblin moved out of the shadows, sword in hand, but Althalus dealt with him with an eldritch blast.  The emerald energy beam hit the creature, tossing him back into the wall as it burned through his body.  The smoking hole, bore clean through, left a streak on the wall as the corpse slid down into a pile of smoldering greenish goo.

Brandon leapt over the wall and landed, ready for battle, but there was nothing left to fight – making me wonder if we should call him, “Brandon the Late.”  We saw the sheet on a stick and the lantern that they used to create the illusion of the ghost.  It must have taken two of them to handle the large crossbow, and from the looks of it, it was not a goblin weapon but one of dwarven-make.  It took the heavy crossbow and bolts while Althalus examined the rod that had fired the lightning bolt.  “What do you make of it?” I asked.

“I appears to be magical,” he said flatly.  “It is polished.  There is a metallic strip on it, about the length of a finger.  Somehow that must be used to trigger it.”  Theren eyed the warlock suspiciously.  “As one practitioner of the arcane to another, be wary of where you point that.”

We found some coins and put those in Bor’s pack – some gold and silver of old mintage.

Brandon looked at the smashed remains of the goblins.  “Why do we keep running into goblins?”

“Because,” Althalus said wryly, “they are adorable and cheap to hire.” He prodded one of the dead bodies with his foot, just to make sure it was dead.  Brandon scooped up the green-lensed lantern and hung it from his staff.

We gathered ourselves and began down the tunnel anew.  Another 200 heads down the roadway, we came across a gallery of sorts, lining one wall.  It was carved deep into the stone and had a low stone abutment in front of it, providing cover for anyone standing there.  There were steps at the far end, but they were crumbled. From that thirty-foot gallery, a small group of bowmen could riddle anyone coming down the tunnel.

Opposite from the gallery was a closed door.  Brandon moved toward the door under the green glow of his new lantern, and pulled at the door.  I stood behind him.  The creak echoed down the hallway as the rusty hinges protested.  From the room beyond, a small group of five goblins rushed out, armed with scimitars, focused on Brandon.

“Fall back!” the ranger called, almost stumbling into me as he attempted to do so.

One dug his sword into Brandon, cutting his deep in his midriff.  “They killed Barry!” one of the goblins howled.  “Kill them!”  They must have heard us dispatch their compatriots.

I swung my sword and missed entirely, hitting the door near its hinge.  I immediately dropped prone.  I knew Theren and Althalus were behind me and needed a shot at the doorway.

Brandon dropped as well, more from the gushing wound in his stomach.  “Stay down!” I barked to him.  The last thing we needed was him rising into the magic blasts from behind us.

As if on cue, the air around the goblins erupted in a cloud of swirling daggers and I heard the mumbling of Althalus.  Blood, brains (few of those) and a mist of red and green goo erupted from the space where the goblins had been concentrated.  Several of them were instantly shredded in the magical assault. I felt the bloody mist of green and heard the churning of the blades devouring the hapless creatures.  Theren unleashed an arrow, hitting one.  The survivors moved to the sides in the room beyond, to avoid any other shots. They closed the door behind them in their retreat.

Althalus ignored the goblins and turned his attention to the gallery.  It was a good move, the last thing we wanted was to be hit from behind, at least I presumed that was what was in the warlock’s dark heart.  Dimintrious joined him.  He leapt over the low wall that provided cover, apparently unafraid of what might be there.  “What do you see?”

“Some heavy crossbows. Bits of armor and bones.  Probably a dozen long-dead dwarves.  Two large beetle carcasses were there, very large – two-to-three heads in size.”  He was clearly rooting around while we faced the goblin threat.

I turned back to the door and switched to my new heavy crossbow, pulling it back and dropping a bolt onto the groove.  Bor moved in near the door as I rose.

“What do you hear?” I asked.

Bor grinned.  “They are arguing about coming out here.”  He chuckled.  “They are upset over what we did to ‘Doug.’”

What a stupid name for a goblin.  Bor dropped a few copper pieces on the floor, hoping they would hear the coins hit the stone.  Theren moved up next to the burly fighter.  “Hold my tankard of ale,” he joked.  “I’ve got this.”  He nodded to Bor who flung open the door.

Theren rushed in and began to waver.  I had seen this before.  His accursed magic…the druid was transforming to some creature of the wood…in this case, a big black bear!  There was a squeal from two of the goblins as he transformed before them and roared.  “Holy crap – who brought the bear!”  “Kill the bear!  Kill the bear!”

Theren-the-bear and swiped one of them with a massive claw, biting at another one of the green-skinned creatures.  One was so badly mauled, green blood flowed onto the stone floor.

Two moved to hit the bear with their swords, one tearing into his flesh.  Brandon fired through the open door, missing everyone in the room.  I took more time with my aim, firing and burying my bolt into the body of one of the goblins that had shifted to the doorway.

Bor’s shimmering warhammer hit the same goblin, throwing him a good ten heads into the wall, killing him.  I reloaded my crossbow as Theren savagely slashed at one in the neck, nearly ripping his head off and tossing his lifeless body across the room.  The last goblin drove his sword into the bear, but that only seemed to serve to piss off the bear.  Theren opened his massive jaws and bit the head of the creature, tossing him about violently, crushing his skull in the process.  I looked about the room and saw green blood mixed in with our own.  It was a scene of carnage and chaos, especially from the magical cloud of daggers that had churned up at least one goblin, splattering him everywhere.

There was another door in the room which we all eyed cautiously.  This room was a barracks of some sort, probably from Tempora’s defenses.  The beds there, eight of them, were dwarven and most were crumbling apart with age and held together with crude hemp ropes.  Stone carvings on the walls of the barracks showed heroic dwarves in battle.  Scrawled in crude paint was the writings of the goblins above and around them.  One had written, “Stubby Dick,” over a dwarf holding a massive axe.  The other was painted with the name, “Wet Willie” The goblins had also painted on exaggerated female body parts on the carvings of the heroes.

The beds had no pattern to them.  I moved to check them. Brandon pointed to the shields, small bucklers.  “Is that some sort of lizard skin on them?”  Theren transformed back to human shape and move in next to him.  “Yes, but what kind of lizard?”

As I poked in the beds with my sword, I found a small silver jewelry box, inset with several stones in it.  There was also a small amulet, this one smeared with blood.  I handed the bloody amulet to Brandon who held it near his lantern.  “This bears the mark of the Order of the Fang, the paladins we are searching for!”

I focused on the silver box.  It was clearly of dwarven make.  I clasped the lid and pried it open.  I felt a prick to my thumb.  Suddenly my eyesight was blurred.  Poison!  Curses.  I healed myself before the toxin could harm me more.  A part of me cursed myself for being so sloppy with my opening.  A dozen pieces of platinum were inside.  I handed those to Bor to carry and kept the jewelry box for myself.

I noticed for a moment that Althalus and Dimitrious were still in gallery, rooting around in the dead bodies there.  I didn’t see what triggered it, but I saw the warlock rise over the half-wall and begin throwing up.  The liquid hit the floor like a bucket of fresh oatmeal.  He moaned horribly, vomiting violently.  I wanted to laugh.  Clearly his poking around was not going very well.

We turned our attention to the other door in the room.  We checked it and felt air flow from the other side under it. Althalus staggered over toward us, his beard riddled with his last meal. “I found this, he held up a gold ring.  It was intricately carved with a dragon and had dwarvish runes on it.

Bor took it as we moved around the door. There was no point in being subtle.  If there was anyone beyond this door, they had to have heard our battle.  “This says, ‘Ulster – Beloved husband and protector of the Faith.’  It must have been a wedding band.”  Althalus took it back, studying it carefully before putting it in his pocket.

Brandon drew his short sword.  “I’ll go through.  Third time is bound to be charm.”  The ranger pulled the door open.  A five head wide hallway was behind and led to a door at the end.  Theren put his hand on the ranger’s shoulder.  “This hallway is narrow.  I suggest you open that far door and pull back so that we can do what we do best.”  The ranger nodded in agreement.

On the other side was a room lit by a few low torches, forty-by-thirty heads in size.  There was a massive hearth, fire still burning in it. The stench of rotting flesh came from a wolf that was hanging from a ceiling hook.  Flies hovered around the body.  There was stew of some sort on the hearth, and a shelf with jars of what we assumed was food.  A half-loaf of moldy bread sat on a hearty table.  Vents were cut into the ceiling, clearly the work of the dwarves that had built this room. The goblins had appropriate the mess for their own twisted diets.

“I wonder if this stew is good,” Brandon said, opening the lid to the pot and smelling it.

Goblins made it,” I said.  “Feel free to eat it.” The ranger returned the lid without taking a taste.

“We should hold up here and rest,” Theren said.  It seemed like a good idea.  Our battles had taken some toll.  We barred the door to the roadway to the mess and set up watches. The goblin beds were short, but more comfortable than sleeping on the floor.  Our quest to find the missing paladins was taking us deeper into the mountains – and as we went, the terrors became more dangerous. I prayed that we would find them soon, lest we become lost in these catacombs and trapped here with them.

Then again, we had no proof that they were even still alive…

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

#dungeonsanddragons

#DandD

#DnD

Writing BattleTech – Addressing Some Questions

 

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Remember the good old days?  

I just finished the first draft of a novella for BattleTech this week.  You can’t hear the audible sigh of relief, but it was uttered.  This one involves Wolf’s Dragoons, which is always thin ice with the fans.  Oh, they love the Dragoons, because of the outstanding work done by other authors (especially Robert Charrette).  I can only tell the story, lay the foundation for stuff to come, and hope that the fans will be forgiving.

Some questions came in from fans, so I thought I would answer them in a blog post.  They are random, just like my thinking.

1. Do you fight the battles out using BattleTech rules before you write them? Well, sort of.  Bear in mind, the fiction doesn’t always match up with rules play.  For example:  I had a scene where I had a Warrior provide cover with his ‘Mech for another ‘Mech.  When you look at the scale of the hex in the game and the actual size of the ‘Mech…that would be tricky.  In fiction, I was able to make it work easily.  Yes, there are rules for this stuff, but I don’t let the rules govern a good story.

I do not put ‘Mechs on a map, fight a battle, then document it.  Why?  Because I believe that the characters, not the battle, need to drive the story.  BattleTech is all about cool characters in desperate situations.

I DO track damage, I even print out damage sheets, but bear in mind, in real life, shots don’t hit cleanly like they do in the game.  You can have a laser hit an upper thigh and torso in “real life” but in the game, the shot is allocated to a specific location.  I don’t feel really bound by all of that.  I do make sure I don’t dump 50 points of damage into a Stinger’s leg and he walks it off.  That was some of what I hated back in the early stages of the Dark Ages novels.  I am aware of the rules and apply them, as appropriate.

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I told them to paint them Clan Wolverine.  Instead they painted them Wolverine – the Marvel character.  Love these ‘Mechs.  

2. How much freedom do you have with the story? A lot, but it has to fit in the universe.  In this case, the novella will need to come out next year.  Why?  I can’t spill the beans early on where the universe is going, but this novella fits into that perfectly…mostly because I have sat in on the meetings where we have mapped out the next phases of “stuff.”

In this case, I pitched this idea a while ago.  I became a bit obsessed with it…I have to admit.  It was something we have never seen before and it fits into the bigger picture of where things are going.

The universe is changing, all for the better.  There’s a big story arc in play (one I have had the honor of helping put together.)  We have a lot of cool meetings to document what is coming, what order things happen, etc. This is the second or third time I’ve gotten to do this for the BattleTech universe, and I love it.  Lots of twists and turns.  Even in the upcoming novella, The Anvil, there are some seeds planted that will have huge impacts downstream in the timeline.

While I have a lot of leeway, the editor and the BattleTech gods all weigh in and provide healthy feedback to the story, the flow, and even some hints at the battles.  I don’t always agree with them, but it IS a shared universe.  I don’t own it, I just get to play there.

3. So what is with the inclusion of names of fans in the fiction? I started this with Forever Faithful.  It seemed like a cool thing to do, include fans of the game in the universe as characters or places.  When I wrote The Anvil, I did it again, mining the BattleTech International fan page on Facebook.  For this book, (Title: I won’t reveal because it gives away a lot) I put up a post and got 600+ volunteers to have their names included.

Now, I don’t do special requests.  In fact, I usually don’t use those folks because they are already too big a pain.  “My character pilots an Awesome, and has a scar on the side of his right cheek, and has red hair and has the call sign ‘Gimpy’ so please include all of that in your book…”  Um, no.  Hell no.  I’m looking for names, not your half-baked character. This is my dance laddies, and I will call the tunes.

I used to have to search phone books for good names or browse the web. For the time being, I’m inviting the fans to be a part of BattleTech.  Don’t email me anything – that’s a fast track to being excluded.  Follow the Facebook group and watch for my posts.  You can follow me on Facebook as well.  Easy-peasy.

I temper this with the following:  Just because you are in a novel doesn’t mean you are an awesome heroic character.  You could be a douchebag, or a street, or a river, or a throw-away character that gets a freaking head shot with a gauss rifle at the start of the battle and becomes a gooey paste.  Be careful what you ask for.

If I don’t pick you, don’t be pissed.  Not every name pops with me as a good fit. It might not seem fair, but such is life. PS.  Whining about not being chosen is a quick way to never being chosen.

Someone actually accused me of doing this to sell books. Think about that. These are BattleTech fans.  They will buy the stuff anyway.  I don’t need to encourage them.  Duh.

4. Why is The Anvil coming out before Forever Faithful? One, I don’t set production schedules.  Two, John has some good reasons, which I’m not allowed to talk about, for sequencing the stuff.  He’s the editor and my role is to obey.  Third, there are other factors in play.  Forever Faithful was written over a year ago and has long been out of edit, so there’s nothing wrong with the book.  I have the stunning artwork from the cover as a wallpaper on my PC.

5. What’s next from you? I am working on a true crime book with my daughter and a BattleTech novel of immense proportion that is due next year.  I like writing BattleTech but that’s not my primary area of focus in recent years.  True crime, especially my work on cold cases, now that’s a passion.  I have to admit though,  I am enjoying climbing back in the cockpit again though…

Review of Gaslands – Post-Apocalyptic Vehicular Combat Miniatures Game

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I am an old school gamer and played Car Wars back in the day.  Car Wars more or less faded into obscurity over the years, but the demand for a car combat game was still out there.  Osprey Publishing has answered this call with Gaslands, a Matchbox meets Mad Max cars shooting and crashing game.  (That’s not the official title, but humor me.)

A few things about the game.  One, the background is irrelevant and the book doesn’t bore us with a lot here.  Let’s be honest, we just want to drive and blow things up.  The things we can’t blow up, we want to drive into.  Fortunately, that is the core premise of Gaslands.

Gaslands, as a game, is what Wings of Glory is to WWI aviation combat.  If you are looking for a fast game that is easy to learn, without complex rules, then Gaslands is great.  What I really like is that the game is designed for you to take Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars and modify them for gameplay.  My grandson is eight and he enjoys this game – so the concepts are pretty simple to master.

I will say that the writing is not perfect with Gaslands.  There are some important concepts that are vague in how they are presented and require re-reading sometimes to make sure you fully get them.  On flipping, for example, I can’t tell for sure by the way it written if your vehicle is out of play if it flips or if it is pulling off some Dukes of Hazzard maneuver.  The lack of an index makes it tricky at times to find what you are looking for.

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My grandson’s performance car drifts in front of my heavily armed truck. 

Movement is done via templates.  You roll dice, optionally, when you perform maneuvers. The results can be that you skid, slide, or have the ability to up or downshift.  Weapons range from pistols to rocket launchers and oil slicks.  If you pick a particularly aggressive template, you can pick up hazard tokens.  The dice rolls are in your favor, you can shed hazard tokens.

Combat and collisions are straight forward resolved with dice rolling.  This isn’t about tracking each dent and scratch location on your car, this is about wrecking them.

The gameplay centers around hazard tokens.  When you gather six or more, you can lose control of your vehicle, even flip.  The more reckless and fast you drive, the more you accumulate. Driving recklessly, if done creatively, is the key to many games of Gaslands.  Skidding, for example, is a great way to shift your vehicle into a better positon.

The rules allow for big rigs, crews, and general chaos.  There is plenty of room here for adding in your own RPG elements and expanding the rules for driving and shooting skills.  Gaslands, as it stands is a good fast game that can be blown out any way you desire.

Gaslands
Time to raid your kids toybox for minis.  

You don’t need the customer dice, tokens, or templates – but they do help (especially the dice).  Shapeways has the dice if you want them 3D printed, or you can order them from the Gaslands website – https://gaslands.com/   I got the whole kit and kaboodle for around $50 US, a tad pricy for what you get – but still a pretty low entry point for the game.  Not sure you want to jump in with both feet?  You can order the book alone (which has copy-able templates, tokens, etc.) for around $15.00.  YouTube has some videos which helped with my interpretation of some of the more challenging rules.

My rating on this is four and a half out of five stars.  Pick it out and raid your kids old cars to trick out some rides.

My List of Gen Con Survival Tips – Updated for 2018

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Thursday morning, 9:50am, just so you get the idea about the whole crowd thing. 

Yes, it is that time of the year again – time for my unsolicited updated list of Gen Con tips survival.  These are to be treated as tongue and cheek – intended with a hint of a sense of humor.  If you’re offended, well, suck it up…this was intended to be useful and hopefully funny.

This year I am bringing my grandson Trenton and my wife.  For my wife, it will be a shock.  She attended Gen Con back in the day in Milwaukee.  I would try and prepare her for the sheer mass of people, but where would the fun be in that?

So, here’s my annual tips – updated where appropriate.

#1:  Plan in advance.  Go online, figure out what you want to do.  DO NOT try and figure all of this out while you are at the counter buying tickets.  This is like that person standing at line at Starbucks for 15 minutes, getting up there and going, “Hmm…I’m not sure what I want…”  Don’t be that guy.  Everybody hates that guy.

#2  Getting into the city.  Indianapolis is easy to navigate, but this year, I-65 (one of the main roads in) will be under construction.  Allow yourself some extra time.  It is hairiest to drive into the city on Thursday and Friday because of the locals who work there. The good news is that rush hour in Indianapolis is not horrible. The locals think it is, but it isn’t (I live outside of Washington DC.)

#3  Parking.  Okay, this is tricky.  Thursday and Friday, you have to compete with the locals for parking spaces.  Many lots fill up by 10:30am.  In other words, be prepared to walk some distance on those days.  I have a secret place or two for parking – which I won’t reveal.  The key is, get there early before the garages fill up.

#4:  Pack as if you are going to be at the convention center for 16 hours straight…because you are.  Slip in some snacks because let’s face it, convention food is expensive and sucks.  Bring pencils, pack your lucky dice (you know the ones!) graph paper, phone charger, a small tape measure (for miniatures games), aspirin, you know – typical geek gamer survival gear.  Think over seriously if you need to bring all of your rules books and game manuals.  Chances are the guys running the game are going to have a copy there.  Don’t over pack.  You don’t need to bring your PC with you, I’m almost positive.  Keep it simple, keep it light.  Pack what you need but remember, you’re not setting out to climb Mt. Everest (or Mt. Doom, your choice.)

#5:  Be prepared for the rush to the main hall when it opens.  Yes, when the balloon goes up and they open the doors to the sales floor, it is a geek equivalent to the running of the bulls in Spain (albeit a little safer).  Don’t fight the masses, ride it in.  Also – DON’T RUN.  The convention folks really hate people that run.  To answer your question now:  Yes, it’s that crowded every year.  You can’t get in without a badge, have it out and visible.  The Stormtrooper Door Guards will stop you dead in your tracks, meaning you are subject to being trampled by the crowd surge.  Also, nothing sucks more than being in a crowd of 2000 only to find out you have turn around and run back to the hotel room through a sea of angry and exited geeks.

#6:  Cosplay is part of the experience and is encouraged.  If you are going to do it, don’t design a costume that is going to injure passersby.  Think it over.  No one is more of a douche-bag than a guy that has designed a costume that is hard to get around or trips/blinds people when you pass.

#7:  If you’re going to be one of those people who stop in the middle of a crowd to take a picture of the booth-babe wearing a chain mail bikini, do it quickly and don’t clog up the corridor.  She’s not going to go back to your hotel room with her because you’re taking her photo and you don’t need a photo to prove to your buddies back at the office that there were indeed females at the convention.  Okay, that last point – I may be wrong.

#8:  Bathe and use deodorant.  This shouldn’t have to be a tip, it should be common sense.  Based on my own experience moving through the crowd, I had to include it.  Look, you paid for a hotel room right?  Go back at some point and at least use the shower.  Foot powder, toothpaste, and clean clothing (a fresh set for every day) shouldn’t require mentioning – yet here I am doing it.  Why?  Because people don’t do it!

#9:  While you have no adult supervision and can do what you want, be respectful of others.  In other words, bringing your leftover Taco Bell burrito from dinner to that 8am gaming session and eating it during the set-up is just wrong.  You do know that their meat isn’t real meat, right?

#10:  For your meals eat outside of the convention center.  First, convention food sucks and is expensive.  My memory is that a single, room-temperature, piece of convention cardboard pizza runs around $425.  I don’t blame the folks in Indianapolis for this, it sucked when the convention was in Milwaukee too.  It is something of a tradition to stand in line at the nearby Steak N Shake for 20 minutes at least once during the con for me, but that’s just me.  I also like the brisk walk to the attached mall.  They have a food court, variety, better prices, and it’s a hoot watching the locals interact with the convention attendees.

Go only five blocks away and there are a lot of eating places.  Gamers hate leaving the convention site, even for an hour for food, so if you are willing to walk, downtown has a LOT of eating options and the further you walk, the smaller the crowds.  I recommend taking the stroll.  Ten minutes of walking gives you a few minutes of peace and quiet.

The Food Trucks are your best friends.   I only discovered where these vendors parked five years ago and found their offers to be a much better alternative to eating on-site at the con.  Let’s face it, everything is better than the food in the convention center.  While we’re on it…

#11:  Don’t frighten the locals.  Look, Indianapolis really seems to like having Gen Con in town – well, at least they like our money.  Don’t try and frighten that family on the sidewalk with your Orc costume waving a sword and cursing in Orkish.  A lot of locals come down town to look at the cosplay folks – don’t add to their stereotype images of us.  Not cool dude.

#12:  While I totally appreciate Cosplayers, sometimes the costumes are confusing as all hell.  Don’t be insulted if people ask you, “who are you trying to be?”  Corollary:  Taking any other costume and tossing on a Deadpool mask is not as innovative as you like to think it is.  (We call these folks “Douce-pools”)  An unspoken rule at Gen Con is that you will see a lot of costumes based on whatever hit movie just released.  Always anticipate a lot of Joker’s and Harley Quinn’s.

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#13:  There is always someone that knows the rules better than you.  He’s arrogant, overweight, and wearing a black tee-shirt (then again, who isn’t?)  Nothing kills a game faster than two guys trying to prove who is smarter about the rules regarding the splatter effect of a Mark IV plasma rifle in zero-G.  We get it, you read and memorized the rule book.  Stop ruining game play for everyone just to demonstrate your incredible powers of memorization…please.   We refer to these individuals as Rules Douches, or the more French- La Rules Douchebag.

#14:  Don’t just sit around.  Go and check out the miniatures games, or some of the big events like the Live Dungeon.  You didn’t shell out all of that money to sit and read a catalog you picked up did you?  The convention won’t come to you – you need to move.

#15:  Do some prep work if you are planning on buying some specific products.  Some companies are bringing limited quantities of games to the con for each day, or a certain day.  If you aren’t in line at the right time, you’re hosed.  The short version of this:  Make up your mind on what you are going to purchase and do it.  If you wait too long that newly released product can/will sell out.  Check the web sites and Twitter feeds of your favorite companies to see if that new product will be available and when.

#16:  Wear comfortable shoes.  Preferably shoes that do not have a predetermined aroma (see Tip Six.)

#17:  Go back to your hotel at night and get some sleep.  The convention is not designed as an endurance test.  You’ll need the energy.  All night gaming is great, if you’re young, but even then you need some sleep.

#18:  Attend the auction.  You’ll be able to tell your wife/mother/cat/significant other than that shelves and containers of games you have ARE of value.  You’ll be surprised at what games people collect and what they will pay for one.  It’s also kind of fun to see last year’s hot products being sold for a pittance of what people paid for them a year ago.

#19:  Play the demo games.  Look, games cost money – a LOT of money.  I sit in on demos, watch tournaments, etc. to figure out where I’m going to spend my cash.  I recommend you do the same.  Try some things you’ve never played before.  Think of this as a chance to test-drive new games and systems.

#20:  Don’t insult your favorite writer or game designer intentionally.  These guys work hard to produce your fun.  Don’t be “that guy” that shows up to tell someone how horrible a product they wrote in 1992 was, or how they made a mistake in an out-of-print 1989 book.  We get it, you can read.  If you’ve traveled all of this way to show off your knowledge, you’re a decade or two off.  If you meet writers, authors, artists, designers – be cool and respectful.  As a writer in the industry, I welcome comments from fans…but there is a limit to critique that I will endure, and I am not alone.  As a corollary – there is a limit to the number of things you want autographed.

#21:  Go early to the con.  Get out of bed and get to the convention early.  There’s a lot going on and the lines are significantly shorter.  I hit the MechWarrior pods usually at 8-9am when the convention hall is empty-ish.  They are a tradition I am addicted to.

#22:  WIN.  Savor your victories.  Cherish the lament of your foes as they are crushed under the weight of your killer die rolls and strategy!  Don’t rub it in, but enjoy it.  Serious dude, don’t rub it in when you win.  You didn’t travel all of this way to lose did you?  Hell no!  In other words, have fun!

#23:  Don’t wear costumes that are designed to deliberately upset people.

#24:  Wear something other than a black tee shirt.  At Gen Con, black tee shirts are like camouflaged ghillie suit for snipers.  Everyone is wearing a black tee shirt.  Someone someday will earn a PhD studying why gamers are drawn to black tee shirts.  In the meantime, I recommend wearing something else (something clean), in a color other than black.  Corollary:  Reading the hilarious tee shirts is one of the more phone things about the Con.

#25:  Don’t abuse your demo time in any booth.  Okay, in the main showroom, the vendors often offer short demos on their products.  These are a major part of the experience.  Don’t abuse the privilege.  I saw one guy camped out a table last year for four hours.  There were a lot of people wanting to sit in, but this guy had decided to turn a demo into a full-fledged campaign.

#26:  Remember the Gen Con food groups.  Caffeine, Chocolate, Salty Snacks, Caffeine, Pointless Carbs.  Beef Jerky, while not a formal food group, is also permissible but please be discreet when eating it – no one looks cool tearing into a piece of jerky.  Yes, Caffeine is listed twice because it is that important.

#27:  If you want to do free events plan on a wait or get there early.  A good example of this is the Paint and Take event Reaper puts on.  It’s cool to get a free mini you paint there, but everyone wants to do it and there’s usually a line.  See #30 below.

#28:  If you want the Convention giveaways – go to those booths first thing when the doors open.  A lot of these vendors run out in the first 20 minutes.

#29:  Con-Crud – prepare for it.  Con Crud is not a new module release of Pandemic – it’s the social plague that hits thousands when they return from Gen Con on the following Monday.  Use hand sanitizer (you have to bring your own on this).  Load up on vitamins and other legal medications aimed at reducing colds, flu, or whatever it is that morphs into Con-Crud.

#30:  Meet the celebrities.  I’m not just talking about the “name” celebrities.  This is a chance for you to track down that favorite author or artist and shake their hand.  I make a point at every Gen Con to network and meet people (and re-meet people I met years before).  Mingle and be social.

#31:  “Language” I’m noticing more and more kids at the Con which is great.  If you feel the need to curse, make sure only the adults are around.

#32:  Take advantage of the crowds to do things you want to do.  Look, at 10am, everyone is lined up to get into the main hall.  That’s the perfect time to do things that otherwise have long lines.  For me, that is when I hit Paint and Take.  Understand the masses, don’t always be part of the masses.

#33:  If you are in a wheelchair, it is not a weapon to clear the crowds.  I got hit by someone in a wheelchair last year just standing still.  He just plowed into my ankle because he wanted to get through.  I’m understanding, but not that understanding.

#34:  You will get a book of freebie coupons.  If you plan on redeeming them, you need to do it first thing in the main hall.  Some of that stuff disappears in a matter of minutes.

#35:  Play some things you never have before.

There you have it guys – GAME ON!

#GenCon

The Chronicling of our D&D Campaign: Tempora – Part 24

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Welcome to the novelization of my current D&D campaign, told through the perspective of the characters. Parts 1-19 charted the first part of the campaign, part 20 began the next phase of the saga: Tempora. 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!

Brandon…

“We don’t know for sure that the trap is disarmed,” Theren said. “Just because it went ‘click’ does not mean that you shut it off.

“I’ll check it out,” I said.  I stepped out ten-heads distance and nothing happened.  I went further, even bouncing up and down slightly, but the floor did not drop, nor did the flames come down.  The stones were still hot from the inferno that had nearly consumed Theren.

When I got to the other side of the hot stones, the band of heroes that I found myself attached to had assembled.

“You know,” Arius said.  “We have not been making a map as we go.”

“It is a straight line – we are on a road,” I offered.

“We might need to know our way out at some point,” the paladin pressed.  I didn’t like the use of the word, “might.” He was hinting what we were all thinking.  If we found the missing paladins, we had to overpower whoever had captured them, and find our way out.  This was not going to be easy.

“It is okay,” I assured my new friends.  “I have some skills in keeping a mental map.”  I tapped my head with my finger but it did not seem to instill the confidence I had hoped for.

Arius cast a twisted grin.  “Great.  Make sure we keep the ranger alive then or we’re trapped here.”  I like to think I was bringing more to the party than that…but I was content with the nods of agreement from the others.

We trudged on downward into the mountain.  Hundreds of feet passed.  Bor, the hulking fighter at the front of our party, his warhammer shimmering blue, stopped after a half-mile or so.  “Hold here.  There are some arrow slits on either side of the roadway with a door to each just past them.”

“They have to be abandoned,” I offered.

“The slits are low, probably for dwarves,” Bor said.

“I wonder if this is a trap of some sort.” Theren said. “They might fire arrows if we walk in front of them.”  That was a thought that was unappealing.  The last trap had almost roasted our druid.  He still smelled of smoke with a hint of bacon.

The druid had us all halt.  “I’ll crawl up under the slit.  You all hold back.”  Oddly we were all quite comfortable with that approach.

On his hands and knees he slithered under the arrow slit on the right side of the tunnel then made his way to the door just beyond it.  The knob turned with a squeal of rusted and protesting metal as he twisted it around.  The creaking of the hinges seemed to echo far too distant for my take.  Bor seemed like he wanted to join Theren, but did not want to further split the party.  Inevitably, he stayed behind with us.

Theren shuffled in the small antechamber for a few minutes, then emerged and returned to us with something in his arms, something black and almost shimmering.  It was a skull, black, almost polished to a reflective glare.  It was shaped like no creature I had ever seen wandering the woods or vales of the land.  In the skull were ebbed three crossbow bolts, silver tipped and stuck deep into the glossy surface.

Althalus, our warlock and resident expert on skulls immediately began to look it over with keen interest.  Whatever it was, it made me nervous.  The silver tipped bolts told me that it had belonged to an unnatural creature, a spawn of the nethervoid.  That usually meant powerful magic and danger to those near it.

“I’m keeping it,” the warlock said greedily. After dusting it off, Althalus put it on top of his quarterstaff.  It looked menacing – possibly even to us. I have to admit, it worried me, but I too carried a skull in my pack.  Mine was white and bleached with age.  His…his was something eerie, like out of a nightmare.

I turned my attention to the other opposing arrow slit.  I went over and duplicated the crawl under it that Theren had made.  The handle on the door past the slit on my side had rusted over and did not turn at first.  It took a surge of strength to get it to pop open.  Unlike Theren’s door, mine suddenly swung open and a Dwarven skeleton lurched out at me, wielding an axe!

The axe hit across my chest, severing my armor and slicing my skin enough to make me recoil.

Theren’s voice called me, “Get out of the way Brandon!” I swung at the skeleton but his rusted plate only rattled from my attack.  The skeletons seemed to grin at me under its helmet.  I stepped to the side.

Bor jumped beside me, swinging down with Skullringer.  The blue-blur of the warhammer hit the stout skeleton, doing no real damage other than scoring his old plate armor.  An arrow whizzed past my ear, missing both me and the skeleton.  A burst of brilliant emerald magic energy, no doubt from Althalus, hit the undead monstrosity.  The force of the hit was so hard that he was knocked back into his tiny alcove.   The hole in his armor glowed where the magic had punched through, but the angry dead-Dwarf only lunged back towards Bor and myself.

Arius lunched past Bor with his sword, hitting the skeleton square and true. There was a sickening metallic grinding sound as the sword punctured the once proud plate mail.  The undead creature staggered a half-step back.

Arius swung again, hitting him, driving him back further into the room.  There was a crash of armor and bone in the room, then his skeletal head came rolling out of the door.  I picked it up.  “The deed is done,” our paladin said proudly, sheathing his blade.

Before the other could join us, I moved in on top of the skeleton to see if there was anything of value on his remains.  I found a sliver necklace around its broken neck, one of exceptional value from what I could tell.  There was an old rather unremarkable battle axe as well.   In a small pouch on his belt, I found a small green glass vial with a tattered piece of paper attached to it.  I scanned the letters but they were gibberish to me.

“What do you make of this?” I held it in front of Arius.

“Chanel perhaps?” he then chuckled.

“I don’t get it.”

“An old joke.  It is a wizard that makes oils and balms that could make a pile of manure smell like roses,” the paladin said, still amused with his comment.

“Why would anyone want to make manure smell like roses?”

“It is just a legend,” was all I got in response.

“Let me look at it,” our warlock said.  He studied the writing for a moment.  “It is written in the old tongue, archaic.  It says, ‘remove curse.’”  As if to make his point, he took out his quill and wrote on it in common tongue, “remove curse.” “Just so we don’t forget.”

As we rested for a few minutes, I was surprised to see Althalus take out the ebony black skull with the arrows.  He fidgeted with the silver tipped crossbow bolts in it, removing the shafts but leaving the silver tips in the skull.  Each time he pried one loose we all gasped a little bit, wondering what would happen if he dislodged it.  I for one did not want to know.

“Why are you doing that?” our paladin asked.

“It makes it easier to carry – less risk,” the warlock replied.

The paladin closed his eyes and held his hand over the skull and concentrated. “This is evil, dark evil.  It is the skull of a devil.  What kind, I cannot say.”

“Excellent!” Althalus squealed. “I’ll bring it with us.  It makes up for that demon skull I was forced to give up.”

“Your obsession with demonic skulls is a bit disturbing,” Arius said, eyeing our comrade carefully as he put the skull in his pack as opposed to the staff he had put it on.  “I am not comfortable at all with that thing coming with us.”

“It’s just as skull,” I said.

“I wasn’t referring to the skull,” Arius said grimly, glaring momentarily at Althalus.

We continued on, downward into the long tunnel.  We walked for many minutes and came across a trench-like pit carved into the floor, crossing the entire tunnel.  Bor leaned over slightly.  “It’s deep, I cannot see the bottom.  There’s a mechanism on the other side.  This must be for drainage or defense of some kind.”

Looking upward as we closed on the pit I could see that the ceiling above it was cracked – thick openings and deep over the trench.  On the far side, some seven heads across, we could see a heavy oak plank.  Someone had used it to make a bridge, and had taken it with them.  From the footsteps I saw in the dust, I knew it must have been where the missing paladins had been taken.

Dimitrious stepped forward and dropped his torch into the pit, it disappeared entirely after a fall of only 20 heads.  I watched it disappear.  “That is odd.  It just disappeared.”

“Perhaps someone should jump across,” Arius said.  Clearly he was not volunteering. “Perhaps we could construct something, perhaps a rudimentary lathe?”  Everyone looked at the paladin and he grinned.

I saw the gap more as a challenge than an obstacle as did Bor.  He took his armor off and with a running start, jumped across, landing on bended knee as the others squabbled over the best way across.  He slid the board across forming a bridge.  I crossed it next with no issue whatsoever.  Theren joined us on the other side.

Althalus did not walk across, but came on all fours, slowly, which proved to be his downfall.  Halfway across I heard a slurping sound from the massive crack over the pit. A massive semi-transparent cube of a creature dropped down on him, taking him and the bridge and engulfing him entirely. The green oozing creature had things in it but it barely fit in the narrow trench. It oozed down slowly, with our warlock in the middle of it, his cheeks puffed out as he held his breath.

Arius was in pain, but his arcane spell made it so that if he took damage, he caused fire damage. There was a flash of flames everywhere, the tiny pockets of air feeding the flames.  The gelatinous creature was apparently flammable and it ignited on its own.  At this point we all move in and looked over at the scene unfolding…our friend, on fire, in a thick oozing mass, sliding into a pit.

The only good news was that the pit was treated with some sort of illusionary spell to make it seem much deeper.  It was only twenty-heads deep and the warlock and his flaming friend were only slowly sliding down.  The smell of the burning gelatinous creature rose, stinging our nostrils with a smell I have never heard before.

We were stunned, but not Bor.  He swung his deadly glowing warhammer at it, gouging a deep furrow in the oozing beast.  Dimitrious did the same with his staff, with a similar affect.  It was hard for us to know if we were doing any real damage…but the flames erupted up the sides as it burned and somewhere in the middle of this was our warlock.

I jabbed my staff into the goo and it sank deep, almost reaching Althalus.  As my staff emerged it caught the flames and came out on fire.  Theren swung his enchanted staff sending a spray of the greenish substance flying into the air.  Flames lapped up along the side of pit.

Althalus started to swim in the green goo, getting close to the edge, but not getting free.  Dimitrious sliced a big piece of the cube out with his staff.  The warlock stopped moving entirely and we realized that he may be near death. I couldn’t help but wonder what might happen to that devil’s skull that he had on him.  This has the potential to become much worse.

Our party, realizing that Althalus was about to die, leaned over the edge and swung wildly as the cube slid down.  Theren kill it finally with his staff.  Suddenly the creature lost all of its form, turning to a green flaming goo twenty heads down, burning.

“I feel so funky,” the warlock said as he gained his senses.

“I’ll jump down,” Arius said.

“Hold it,” Theren said, lowering a rope.  “Let him climb out.”

The ooze covered warlock grabbed the rope and got up about half-way out of the pit, then lost his grip and fell, letting out a low moan. Finally, after several minutes, he climbed out.  We were exhausted and the air still stung from the acidic smell of the burning creature.  I looked over the edge of the pit once the fires died down and saw a shield with a reflective surface of some sort and a suit of chainmail. Arius did as well.  “That shield looks interesting.  Hold the rope, I’m going down,” the paladin said.  He got halfway down the rope but lost his grip on the goo that Althalus had left on the rope, falling down.

“What is it?” I called down.

“This chainmail is light, good quality,” he said, putting it in his pack. The shield that he held was domed with a reflective surface almost like that of a mirror, but this one had a razor-like edge around its rounded edge.  The paladin tried to climb out, but once more slipped and fell back down.  “Damn this accursed pit!” he spat as he slowly made his way to the surface.

We were all winded and watched as our warlock tried to scrape off the bits of goo, charred and otherwise, from him.  “Perhaps,” I suggested, “This would be a good time for us to get some rest.”

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

Character Background Material

My New Campaign

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