Friday, June 29, 2018

On the End of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

I've just finished Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, and I have mixed feelings.  Sure, after watching these characters for seven seasons, you can't help but get a little choked up watching them all go their separate ways in the final few minutes of the finale.  Even if in some cases (like Odo and Capt. Sisko) it's for silly reasons and played off as a permanent, heartfelt goodbye when it could just as easily be a temporary absence for both.  Still, that final shot with the camera zooming away from the station while Jake and Kira watch the wormhole from the promenade was a fitting end.

Honestly, the whole thing was a bit of a slog, and not anywhere near as good as it's usually hyped up to be.  Sisko was a badass captain—and, man oh man, Avery Brooks sure can give Patrick Stewart a run for his money in the Acting™! department.  And, sure, the Defiant is a cool ship (even if it's no Enterprise).  But I just didn't enjoy watching this series as much as Next Generation.  Sure, it had more ongoing continuity, but not enough to stack it up against modern offerings like Farscape or even Stargate.  And it's left me more than a little reluctant to take the plunge into is primary contemporary competitor, Babylon 5 (not that I've ever managed to make it past the first episode of that show).

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

DM's Bag-o-Tricks: Pipe Cleaner Templates

Here's an old mainstay that dates back to when I was a much younger DM.  I had some time to kill earlier today and figured that I'd put it to good use tying together a new set of spell and breath weapon "area of effect" templates from the kind of colorful pipe cleaner that you can find at any craft store:

They're handy things to have around, particularly if you like tabletop battles, and extra particularly if you like battles involving dragons or magic-users.  The above templates are, starting with the upper left:

The white square in the middle is for 10'×10' effects like web; the red 20'×20' square for bless and dispel magic; the blue 30'×30' for ice storm; the brown 40'×40' square for sleep; and the green 40'×50' rectangle for green dragon breath.

Top right, we have some circular templates—the pink 10' radius for, as you might guess, protection from evil 10' radius and invisibility 10' radius; the brown 15' radius for light and silence 15' radius; the orange 20' radius for good old-fashioned fire ball; and the large black 30' radius for torches and lanterns, continual light, a whole bunch of other miscellaneous spells, and my own house ruled version of turning undead.  The yellow 60' line is, of course, for lightning bolts.

(Side note regarding light: making up these templates just now has reminded me how very easy it is to forget about light sources whenever a combat breaks out in the dungeon.  But even continual light is only a 30' radius; which means that I've been seriously neglecting the degree to which monsters can use darkness to their advantage in a fight.  Well; no more of that, I say!)

Next, cones: we have the 50' cone in green for chimera and hell hound breath, the 60' cone in black for catopblepas/nekrozon and nuckalavee breath, and also black dragon acid; the white 80' cone for white dragon ice, and the red 90' cone for red dragon fire.  And finally, just beneath those, the long, narrow 100' blue line for the laser-like area of blue dragon lightning.

I can't wait to see the looks on my players' faces when I bust these out at the game table this upcoming Saturday.  The party magic-user just made 5th level at the end of the last game session, after all, and he's been itching to sling some elemental attack spells!

Sunday, June 24, 2018

My Barrowmaze Campaign: Month Six

I guess there's still one more Saturday left in June, so there will be one more game session this month, but I'll jump the gun anyway—because the campaign is really starting to take off now.  Three games back, after having slain the great red dragon Moltenclaw and claimed as much of its treasure-hoard they could carry back to town, the players decided to take the rest of the winter off from adventuring and just build up some downtime for training, study, and the odd bit of minor item creation.  (I'm using the Holmes rules for scroll scribing, and something similar for potion brewing.)  I really do appreciate how Barrowmaze structures its dungeon to be explored seasonally, as the dungeon is mostly inaccessible during the winter, when the Barrowmoor floods.  It's an excellent mechanic for pacing out the campaign, and also for leaving long stretches from year to year where the dungeon can be re-stocked if need be.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

I'm Doing Science™ and I'm Still Alive!

Hey, how about that.  I finally got into an MS program, so my study of physics shall continue in the fall.  I'm pretty stoked.

Also, the missus and I have our fifth anniversary tomorrow.  That's pretty great too.

Aujourd'hui, la vie est belle.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

At Last! A Solution to the Wet Erase/Dry Erase Conundrum!

It involves carrying an extra piece of kit to my weekend games, but it works so well that I really can't bring myself to care.

As I've run my Barrowmaze campaign these last few months, I've waffled between different methods for playing out battles on the tabletop.  Chessex Megamat and wet erase markers?  But I hate wet erase anything: it's messy, and one doesn't always have water and paper towels handy.  D&D Adventure Grid and dry erase markers?  Well, it's a step up from the Pathfinder flip-mats that will never, ever lay flat no matter how many times you flatten them, but even WotC's nice and thick new folding grid doesn't quite lay perfectly flat, making it close to perfect but still just off-kilter enough to be annoying.  Plus, it only comes in 1" squares.  Not very flexible, even if the dry erase is super convenient.

Monday, June 11, 2018

My Barrowmaze Campaign: The First Five Months

Last Christmas, I treated myself to a copy of Barrowmaze Complete.  Along with it, I managed to rekindle my interest in running D&D, reassemble the larger part of my old gaming group, and resuming gaming after a hiatus of several months!

Barrowmaze Complete is really quite a beautiful book.  The orange spine immediately evokes memories of the later-period AD&D 1st edition books (Unearthed Arcana, the core books with the Easley covers, and so forth).

And tonally, Barrowmaze is very AD&D in style, funky Erol Otus cover notwithstanding.  The region (the Duchy of Aerik), the villages of Helix and Bogtown, and the dungeon itself are all just dripping with Gygaxian flavor.  Bogtown, especially, is so reminiscent of Nulb that you half expect to see priests of Elemental Evil traipsing through the streets.  It's all very gritty and low-fantasy, very swords-and-sorcery.

In fact, Barrowmaze draws quite a bit on AD&D and even (to a certain extent) expects DMs to use it with Labyrinth Lord and the Advanced Edition Companion.  The campaign includes advanced spells, items, and monsters; and more than a few NPCs are multi-classed or dual-classed or have a sub-class like paladin or ranger.  I worried, at first, that there would be a certain tonal mismatch between Barrowmaze (and its very Gygaxian implied setting) and the straight-up basic D&D that I intended to run.

A Quick Post on Ghosts and Gold

Much of the nonsense that's kept me busy this past month is at last starting to dissipate.  I've applied to another grad program (here's hoping I get in), mostly finished cleaning my apartment after many months of neglect, and I just gave Engines & Empires another once-over for typos.  Probably didn't catch 'em all, but there are always a few every time I go over it.

Between doing that minor revision (which should, hopefully, segue me back into working on Retro Phaze VI again) and continuing to run my Barrowmaze campaign, I've noticed two interesting things about (A) treasure and experience points and (B) the undead, as I've implemented their life-drain ability.