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Archive for October 18th, 2010

I dont know what else these two pictures have in common, other than a snapshot of a certain time period, decades apart, but both taken with my new smartphone. I have been reading that all of America is obsessed with their smartphones, and that it is changing even the way we think. As far as I am concerned every step towards a better future is a good thing, which to me would be cameras for eyes and an wireless internet link directly in our brain for the search engine as well as cloud data storage. I also think we should be able to simpy point our device at any printer and have it beam the print-job directly into the queue. Eventually I would like the ability to defecate pdf documents in recyclable format (wear gloves while handling.)

That brings us to our first picture, a city map I drew in the 80s. The map is drawn on the back of a movie poster for “Satisfaction” which I may have gotten out of a magazine or what-not. I do remember seeing the movie, if for no other reason than the main actress played Malorie, sister of Alex P. Keaton in one of the iconic shows of the era, Family Ties. I loved that show, well except for the episodes with the drunk brother-in-law. Oh and pretty much any of them featuring Meredith Baxter Birney. Everyone else was great though, even the dad whats-is-name.

The Ultimate in Old School

What really stands out for this map are the blank squares. These areas of back alleys, secret markets, and cultic enclaves would be added thru the use of city geomorphs. This was something I discovered after using the Lankhmar setting and incorporated into my own city design. It left some areas secret and/or changing, as well as unknowable to the players prior to entering. The city, I cant remember its name, but it is the capital of All-Mon, a land the characters left Greyhawk to discover and eventually save.

Next we have a picture I took at my local Target (pronounced as the French do) last weekend. The last time I saw a D&D product in a department store, the store was called Woolworths (precursor to Walmart which didnt yet exist) and it was a cartoon action figure! I mean, wha-ha-hat! D&D here displayed in all its Redbox glory (tucked away amongst the collectible cards.)

Redbox at Target!

I mean seriously, dungeons and dragons at Target! What will they think of next! Note the PHB Mini boxes next to the Redbox. This is the “Save $11″ that they are talking about on the sticker.You know, there was a time (a long long time ago) when I thought all the worlds ills could be solved through dungeons and dragons. Today I am more jaded and cynical, but I do believe dungeons and dragons could be enjoyed by all kinds of people. I have played with mothers and fathers of friends, children, and people of all different backgrounds. It is such a fun game to play because it is exactly what you make of it, no more and no less, and what better time to spend hanging out and having a good time, then for free in the comfort of a home, making jokes, eating good food, drinking good drink, and oh also, killing things and looting corpses. Dungeons and Dragons for world peace!

Actually a pretty good case could be made for computer or console gaming as a superior form of social activity. It does have the advantage of remaining in ones own home (which I enjoy as host) but I still like actually being around people sometimes, or I should say I like being around people I actually like, and so far pretty much every one I have ever played dungeons and dragons with, I have liked.

A final old school addition, this third picture (and fourth) down below is an extra tidbit of old-schoolery posted for posterity if nothing else. We discovered a pad of these early in our dungeons and dragons careers (the very early 80s) even before switching to Advanced, if you know what I mean, but they became, through the use of mimeographs and copies, our default character sheet for years. All hail the Armory Character Record Sheet.

THE character record Sheet Page the First

and the reverse

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We last saw the party divided by a sandfall. While one half of the group braved the tunnels under Nazerak to find the abducted White Rose, the other half of the group had to take the long way around. Hex, Kindrock, and Navarra turned back from the cascading sand and retreated out of the myconid market garden the way they came in. As they exited the chamber back into the hallway that leads to the slave pens under the Sabratha, they felt a gust of wind, and Old Ocham the one-eyed elf peddler poked his wizened head through the door.

“Danger!” he shouts, pulling himself the rest of the way into the hall. “Betrayed, we are! An army has descended upon the arena, and hold everyone within, while they hunt for the murderers of the templar Insadoruous. They are troops of the Sorcerer king Gagnasdiak…” his voice trails off as he sees the overflowing pouches of gold, each coin stamped with the face of an ancient elven king. This hidden cache is the reason Ocham signed his tribe on for the expedition, and his eyes grow wide with lust for the gold, but Kindrock is quick to put him in his place. He asks them to follow him while he leads them through a series of tunnels that will connect with the Belgoi chambers, hopefully in time to help save the White Rose and their companions.

Eventually they come to an intersection, one turn slopes upwards towards the surface, while the other continues on into darkness. Ocham pulls out a cloth-wrapped bell, and reveals it to be one of the engraved brass bells of the belgoi. “Ring this when you come to a ward and it will unlock the path forward. Here I leave you, fare well!” With one longing glance at his peoiple’s gold, he turns and heads up the ascending pathway. The wizard examines the bell, and it gives off a glow of magic, but its uses are unknown to her. They move forward and come to a solid wall of bronze blocking further progress down the hall. Navarra rings the bell, and a long, low tolling sounds as the bronze plate slides back to reveal a many chambered gallery extending into the distance. There is a thin film or force field where the bronze door was, but they throw a stone through the doorway without noticeable resistance or effect.

In the Chamber of the Belgoi

Meanwhile in the chamber of the Belgoi, the heroes were hard pressed in the battle against the belgoi. The witch Cryzlyx is felled, but Mother Superior still stands, and worse, the cleric Ria has somehow wound up in the jaws of the giant feymire crocodile. Suddenly there is a tolling sound and the chamber seems to shake. A strip of ceiling against the back wall breaks free and starts slowly descending into the chamber. It is some kind of cat-walk, but it is too high to see if anyone or anything is on it. Felipe and Poppy both leapt into the water and begin a 3-way underwater croc battle, while Thokk and Sharia held off the Mother Superior.

The Belgoi matron turned her ire on Thokk and called him a very bad boy, she would be disappointed if he were her son, she then slaps him across the face with her bell, bringing stinging tears to his eyes as she berates him. Then she slashes his face with her nails and a long dagger-like nail breaks off in his eye, causing ongoing damage.

Back in the hallway, Navarra and Hex examine the field while Kindrock waits impatiently. They realize that on the other side is a realm of madness that they must navigate as they make their way through the galleries. They take the plunge and step through. Eaach of them is in their own private nightmare. Hex feels the weight of the vast emptiness pressing down on him as he crosses a room with a great woven tapestry on the wall depicting Gagnazeraks conquests. By the time he crosses the room he is driven to his knees by the weight, and eventually, crawling and pressed to the floor he comes to a bronze door blocking the way. Navarra is nex to go and she enters a chamber with a statue of Gagnazerak, lord of time and space. The air becomes roiling clouds of poisonous gas, but she perseveres and does not let the madness overcome her, as she crosses the room and stands before another bronze door. She rings the bell and it opens, revealing another gallery beyond. The madness deepens beyond this gate.

Back in the Belgoi chamber, the catwalk has descended to a level 20 feet above the floor, and there is a strange creature on the far end. He is man-sized, and covered in dirty white fur. Two tall ears rise to either side of the tuft of fur on top of his head, and his two front teeth are over-sized and hang over his lower lip. He has two belts crossed over his chest, and stands before a long black metal tube supported on a tripod. The black tube has a jet of steam coming out of one side, and looks to be in ill repair. Nonetheless he swings the tube until it is pointing at Sharia, and a flower of plasma energy blooms from the end of the tube as it launches a ray of super-heated plasma at the paladin. She is blasted by the weapon and nearly slain, and the ground around her erupts in steaming cracked and red-hot stone.

At that moment, a second bell tolls, and Ria, still in the jaws of the gigantic crocodile, sees his yellow eye roll in terror as it starts backpedalling. Poppy and Felipe, swimming around the croc, see a large black hole suddenly appear in the floor of the pool, and water starts draining through the hole quickly, creating a suction effect that draws everyone towards it. It looks like a teleportation circle has opened, and is drawing all the fresh water through. As the croc tries to back away, Ria manages to finally lurch free of the things jaws, but finds herself drifting towards the hole.

Elsewhere beneath the city, the three lagging heroes step through the doorway into the deeper madness and each of them must contend with their own nioghtmares turned real as they struggle to reach the plain wooden door at the far end of the gallery. At long last they reach the door and step through to find a battle in full swing. They look down on a scene of battle, as half their lost party can be seen struggling in the water with a mighty crocodile, while the rest battle a wicked old undead hag on dry land.

They are at the beginning of a catwalk that extends out across the room, over the water, and at the far end of it, a hopping mad giant rabbit-man aims his flame spitting rifle their way. His blast goes wild, melting the door behind them before the plasma canon itself explodes, showering the feral rabbit with super-heated plasma. Yhe shrieks in pain, before hex launches himself across the catwalk in a charge.

Just then, The White Rose looks up to see her newest champions enter, and shouts “ Do not let the key escape!” pointing at the white rabbit. Navarra dashes forward and sees that the bunny man, besides the bandoliers with hand grenades (that she obciously doesn’t recognize) strapped across his fuzzy chest, he also wears a chain around his neck with a large bronze key dangling from it. Hex strikes the rabbit, sending him sliding off the cartwalk and into the deep pool beneath, but Navarra is there standing above the bunny, and as his head slips under the surface, her mage hand is right there, clasping the chain that holds the key. With an amazing bit of arcana, she pulls the ring from his neck.

Thokk and Sharia take a beating from the Matron, while Felipe and Poppy struggle with the crocodile, thrashing in the quickly draining water. The cleric clambers out of the pool and calls on the aid of her ghostly angels. First one, then two, appear to stand silent sentinel near her allies, healing them. Suddenly with a howl, Kindrocks mighty axe goes winging its way across the length of the room to bite savagely into the feymire crocodiles back. With a flash and a pop, the crocodile suddenly disappears to reappear wet and dripping on the narrow catwalk in front of Kindrock. The heavy beast immediately breaks through the walkway to fall twenty feet to the ground beneath, incurring even more damage. The crocodile is thoroughly confused and its yellow eyes roll crazily in its sockets, as it peers around for this new enemy.

Just then another splash is heard and the rabbit comes hurtling up and out of the water thirty feet into the air, his katana raised above his head. He comes crashing down onto the catwalk right in front of Navarra, but she deftly avoids the wild swing of his masterwork blade. Hex pushes him off the catwalk again, and the rabbit first throws a grenade at the sword wielding warlock, then throws a grenade at the group clustered around Mother Superior. A well placed magic missile drops the belgoi matron, and Hex eventually slaughters the mutant rabbit warrior, leaving the rest of the party in a great circle beating on the crocodile within. He goes down, but it is a struggle to penetrate that hide.

The battle winds down, the croc is skinned, and a chest of treasure is opened, revealing a bounty of magic. The White Rose tells them that the portal in the bottom of the now empty pool leads directly to the inner gardens of the Palace of the Sorceror king Gagnazerak in the city-state of Tyr. She points out that the key the rabbit wears will unlock a secret door into the palace, and from their they must merely find their way to the treasure chamber of Gagnazerak, and once there, they will find a portal to other times and places. Using the large ruby crystal ball found in the belgoi treasure, the party can activate the portal ,and thus go home.
She does warn however,that to navigate the planar portal, one must first escape the tomb of Horrors, which blocks the portal from being used.

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