The RPGrrl's Blog

{February 2, 2011}   The G1G Ride Again!

Well, the holidays prettymuch whooped us, as far as having the time and inclination to gather for game.  Not only that, but the last session before Christmas (which doubled as a gift exchange for both the G1G and our Alpha testing group) and the first session back after the holidays (on January 15th) were basically big gab-a-thons where we got absolutely ZERO gaming done.  To their credit, though, the G1G decided, of their own accord, that they wanted to return to a weekly play schedule (rather than every-other-week.)  Every game suffers its setbacks (like unexpected cancellations due to someone’s roomate having a “superior liver” resulting in painful hangovers LOL) but as of Saturday the 29th, all my Grrls were at the table and rarin’ to go.

If you recall, previously, the G1G began a campaign I refer to as “The Count’s Carnival.”  The original intent was that they embrace the idea of collecting monsters and try to win the prize that the Count has offered, but they “went east,” so to say, and decided instead that the collection of monsters was immoral, and the Count must be evil for endorsing it.  They then proceeded to attack and destroy the nearest caravan, which happened to belong to Mommy Fortuna. (Thank-you, Peter S. Beagle, for such a memorable character! Side note: my inclusion of a character named “Mommy Fortuna” resulted in all five of us re-watching — or watching for the very first time! — The Last Unicorn, since two of us owned copies.)

Mommy Fortuna wasn’t with the travelling caravan (no, no!)  There were, however, many Roustabouts.  In the first encounter, the party slew 3 of them rescuing their 4th member from being sold to the Carnies, and in the second they pummelled the a skeleton crew who stood guard over the supper hour.  One of them got away, but the party ignored him and turned their attention to freeing the monsters caged in the carnival carts.  Unbeknownst to them, the majority of the carts contained smuggled people (elves, dwarves, humans, and the like,) magically disguised as monsters, but some of the carts contained the real thing!  In the end, the party freed all the slaves, and slew all the monsters, including my wonderful Solo Mummy, who they destroyed with a single casting of “turn undead” so they could slam the cage closed again, and then they torched the cart!  (This proves I’m a bit of a n00b DM — why didn’t I think of that? — but it makes me proud of my Grrls :-)! )  After all this skirmishing, they were drenched in blood and sweat and smeared with dust, so they opted to return to the inn, take some hot baths, catch some zzz’s, and replace their broken weapons and missing armor.  Instead of a good night’s sleep, though, they were interrupted by a demon-summoning ritual.

That all happened before Christmas.

In our most recent encounter, letting that one Roustabout go at the cage site came back to bite them in the butts, since he gathered up a bunch of his buddies for some payback.

We had a really great time, though we were all a little rusty after such a long hiatus, though KelsE continues to take diligent notes on game events, and draw gorgeous character portraits.

In the end all the Roustabouts fell, cinematic slaughtering was described, much blood was spilt, many ones were rolled, and vast amounts of XP were awarded.

KelsA and KelsE promised to get together and type out the story of the adventure so far.  I’m eager to read it, and will be posting it here when I get it!

Next week we get to level up, which will be interesting as neither I, nor any of the G1G have ever leveled a character using the 4.0 rules.  Wish us luck!


{January 14, 2011}   Monster Vault Review

For Christmas, our 10 year old decided to buy his father a new RPG resource. With a plethora of boxed sets and shiny hardcovers to choose from he selected (and I paid full price for) the D&D Essentials Monster Vault boxed set. My husband was happy to find it under the Christmas tree, and now I’ve managed to get my hands on it to do a review!

When I first spotted the D&D Essentials Monster Vault, I was skeptical. After all, I already owned both the Fourth Edition Monster Manuals 1 and 2. I wondered if this book could possibly offer anything new, or if it would be repeating monster blocks from the other two books.

A read-through of the table of contents does not reveal any new monster names, though it does happily indicate three useful features: an animal appendix, glossary, and index of monsters. The animal appendix contains the pertinent information for various common animals (bears, rats, spiders, wolves), the glossary provides definitions for keywords and states and other terms associated with the monsters and their abilities, and the index is arranged first by monster level, then by monster type (fighting style: skirmisher, controller, brute) and lastly alphabetically within each subgroup.

The book begins with a detailed breakdown and description of the parts of the Fourth Edition monster statistics block. It takes eight pages, but if a reader was uncertain how to interpret a stat block before reviewing that information, they would definitely know how to afterward!

Once the monster section begins, each of the 63 monsters listed in the table of contents is introduced with a section of descriptive text to explain their origins and other useful history that will help a Game Master include them in adventures. (Yes! The authors took the time to rewrite the introductions!) For some monsters there are “quotations” attributed to D&D characters, and additional artwork. Almost every monster stat block has accompanying art in the form of a circular portrait of the sort found on creature tokens for use in grid/tabletop battle play. And yes, there are lots of new monsters. Or, rather, there are many new delineations of monsters. For example, of the five types of basilisk listed, four are not found in the Monster Manuals 1 or 2.

Also included in the box are colour tokens of a sturdy, heavy nature: a whole stack of punch-out sheets, with at least one token for each of the 63 contained in the book, and frequently several of each (with numbers on them, so when your party faces many of the same sort of foe they can each have their own picture token.) On the sheets you will also find generic minion tokens, and some very useful up-size rings. One can place the smaller token of a particular monster into the ring so it then occupies “huge” creature space on the grid map. Besides the tokens, there is also a ready-made adventure (“Cairn of the Winter King”) for a 4th level party, and a large, full colour, folding map to go along with it.

As I said before, I was skeptical at first, but I am pleased to report that the D&D Essentials Monster Vault is a good value, useful tool to add to your Fourth Edition collection. Besides various new permutations of monsters, the collection of tokens will definitely come in handy for GMs whose mini collections still need to be filled in. The only thing that would have made this a more-complete set would have been if the rules were included for scaling monster stat blocks up or down to tailor them to your party. You’ll have to look to your Fourth Edition Dungeon Master’s Guide for those!

(For your reading pleasure, I submit “The Great and Glorious Deeds of Hector, God of Retribution,” an adventure log from a memorable, if ill-fated, adventure played in the fall of 2006.  Forever after, the player who ran Connor was always throwing his sword, hoping to duplicate his success.)

Scroll I

Fizzt-whip… Craaak!  Blackness.  Alone… No… Not alone… Monster!  I cried out to my divine protector.  When I thought all was lost, I perceived his approach.  “No one fear, Hector is here!” he proclaimed, an aura of light framing his majestic face, ancient magic glowing about his chiseled physique.  Effortlessly, he dropped the largest of my attackers, generously leaving the barely living beast to me to finish, before turning to torture the other.  It was to be a magnificent shared kill, until that antisocial degenerate dwarf materialized from nowhere and hogged all the glory.

Who invited her, anyway?

The beneficent Hector fell to distributing the wealth, showering all present and alive with silver and platinum, even his sidekick elven ranger-druid and that dwarf ruffian, permitting me a moment of adoration as his terrifying minotaur minions dragged the felled vermin and remaining spoils into his mystifying pocket in space-time, which he seems to have prudently deemed sufficient for treasure hoarding.

Heedlessly striding ahead, the dwarf pushed through the doorway, and tumbled us into a trigger-happy elf.  I’m inclined to believe the elf had some sense in him, as he did not square off with Hector, and instead fired off a pair of quick shots at the weaker foes before Hector blew him into the next life in one flaming swoop.  I’m not sure if it’s good training or impertinence, but the dwarf looted the body, passing off all items of value to the Great One, who permitted me to acquire his opponent’s humble armor and sword.

For the next three weeks he camped and focussed all his energy and intent on the wondrous crafting of an awe-inspiring suit of animated dragon-bone armor.  I am utterly dumbstruck by his majesty.  One cannot help but be floored at the sight of his beatific countenance: his flesh luminescent and pale, as if at a perpetual fever pitch, a pair of blackly glowing fire-opal-emerald eyes radiating from the roving sockets of the bone-chilling dragon skull to match his own red-caste eyes.

His sidekick spend the time stringing together what turned out to be a bow, which he required the forced aid of both the dwarf and I to complete.  It is not nearly as impressive.

When next we sallied forth, we ventured into the treasure-laden lair of Trogdor, the Burninator.  Trogdor proved impervious to the missile issued from the bow-of-limited-worthiness of Hector’s sidekick, and too swift to fall victim to his attempt at opening a trench below him, while the dwarf futilely pitched pieces of gold in its general direction.  Hector, confident in his abilities, toyed with this formidable opponent by intentionally shooting a bolt of lightening and swinging his stave past him, allowing me time to would the flaming fiend, before utterly destroying (well, exploding) the monster with an effortlessly-cast cone of ice.

When his skeletal minions finished sweeping the body into storage, he strode forward and opened a door that had not been there a moment before, and lead us into a curious nursery.  It was dominated by an eight-foot-tall stuffed Dire Bear (which the dwarf charged) and also housed a six-legged purple cat with glowing red eyes.  When it moved, it seemed blurred, and weapons which should have landed a sound thunking passed harmlessly through its being.  We engaged, and as I rushed past the place it was, all went black.

The next thing I recall is the magnificent sight of Hector, aglow with power, calling me back to the land of the living and filling me with vigor.  I saw nothing of the battle, which was over before I came to, but I’m certain Hector conducted himself admirably and dispatched the feline in record time.

In an adjoining hallway, the dim-witted dwarf met a somewhat surprising end.  She opened a door and… disintegrated.

I am not particularly heartbroken.  Hector took no umbrage at her loss.

To my joy, through the portal stepped a fellow torch-bearer.  I hardly had time to marvel at the fact she had managed to survive the last two months before she fell prone at the feet of the Great One, and became a Sister in the Faith at that moment.

Moments later, our troupe found itself under attack by a levitating goblin with the teeth of a wolf.  It ravaged the sidekick, but Hector riddled it with fireballs.  I was finally able to demonstrate some level of my skill and inflicted enough damage to fell the creature, by the grace of our benefactor.

The druid chose that moment to challenge our Lord’s divinity, and was proven inept, as his most ferocious form was a mere dog, as compared to our Master’s dragon.  Since then, he has been most supportive of the faith, even encouraging tests of faith, some of which Hector has generously permitted.

The temple of doors lead us in circles, most often back to the room of the purple cat, but once back to Trogdor’s lair, before we were set upon by surprise by a pair of basilisk, which turned half our weak-willed team to stone before my god dispatched them both with panache, and whisked me back to the colony of halflings, where I was able to fulfill my dream of building a way-temple to His Glory.  I have high hopes for conversion in this place.

Scroll II

We passed a comfortable week in the halfling town of Cobbler’s Stone, official site of the very first way-temple to His Glory, Hector.  I’m quite satisfied with how it turned out, despite the fact that I am not particularly skilled in construction.  The station is a very recognizable likeness, and I included a halo for good measure.  I am also pleased to report that we’ve converted 26 of the locals to the Noble Faith.

As we were preparing to venture forth again, my benefactor gifted me with the most beautiful headband.  I almost feel… smarter.

Before we could discuss our next direction, the druid dashed headlong through one of the 8 doors surrounding the halfling valley.  Propping the portal open with an unused torch, we followed him into a lovely dimensional island, populated by 60 Votec villagers.  After some discussion , we convinced the leader of Hector’s divinity and lead the entire colony back into Cobbler’s Stone, dancing and rejoicing at the promise of Hector the Glorious leading them home to the Mythic Motherland to rejoin their brethren, not to mention also converting the druid and the wandering fighter!

Oddly, just after the last savage came through the doorway, something that would best be described as a light elemental appeared.  The battle that ensued was dizzying.  The fighter go a few really good shots in before he managed to pitch his great sword out of the fight, and swung ineffectively for the remainder.  The druid did land several “light bruising” hits, whereas my attacks were pleasantly effective.  But Hector was magnificent, as always.  The creature took massive damage every time he smote him with his staff, and darkness seamed its being with each mighty thwack, until it exploded, leaving only a white gem behind.  Hector said it was a stone of light, and one of the sixteen needed to reopen the portal from whence we came.

Of course, as soon as the creature was defeated, the sun leapt below the horizon and, amazingly, another sixty villagers appeared, milling about the settlement.  This crowd was lizardmen, and proved easier to convince to join us.

Today was a good day!

Until the “dark” spirit shard appeared.  We figured it’d show up, but didn’t expect it to be so much tougher than the other. Even the supreme Hector was taken aback, and in one attack it dropped me.

Things are a little fuzzy after that.  I know the sidekick healed me, and we all retreated through the hut-doorway, and Hector formed a great wall of stone to delay the advance of the creature of darkness.  Figuring we had time before it would manage to break through, Hector returned to crafting magical items for his followers.  I focussed my efforts on the newcomers, to draw them into the fold, and our host swelled to 110.

Then I died.  I was later informed that I rose as a vampire, tainted by the negative energy of that dark creature, and under its command.  Apparently, I spider-scaled the stone blockage and attempted to chip through it, so the sidekick opened a passage (which seems stupid, but what else do you expect?)

Of course the creature rushed through, and mayhem ensued.  In this case, “mayhem” involved that half-wit fighter swinging me against the wall a time or two before they beat me into submission and Hector turned me back to The Way.  By that time, the sidekick had shaped stone around the spirit shard and buried it below 16 feet of cave floor so we could take stock of the situation.  We determined the best way to face it down would be b ganging up on it with magical weapons.  My spiritual weapon was a good idea, but not particularly effective.  Actually, the real surprises this time around were in the sneak attack of the newly-arrived ex-torchbearer with the skills of a thief who landed two amazing shots, and Connor the fighter (whom everybody calls “Bob,”) threw his sword as it flew above us — he is always throwing it through combat — and struck the killing blow.

{November 20, 2010}   I Want to Play Everything!

You know what I need? More people. And more days of the week. I want to play more RPGs!

I’m currently at home with my 5-1/2 month old son, but don’t anyone think for a second that means my days are empty! Besides doing housekeeping and cooking and grocery shopping and laundry and taking care of the animals and feeding/changing/playing with my son, I often run out of time to do other things (like feed myself!) Not to mention that I have writing obligations over at BellaOnline and am participating in NaNoWriMo! But beyond all that, this is what the rest of my time looks like:
Monday (evening): Nothing set in stone for this night, yet. It is supposed to be the night for G2G, but I have not received confirmation from the entire party yet, and so we have not gotten together. (This makes me sad, by the way.)
Tuesday (evening): Once a month, I have a board meeting to go to on Tuesdays. Otherwise, it’s a night that I can prepare slightly more elaborate meals.
Wednesday (evening): Once a month I have a board meeting on this night, too. Every week, my husband runs D&D Encounters at the FLGS. More often than not, I stay home, as the baby’s bedtime is around 7pm, and he doesn’t start his game ’til 6:30, but twice already this month I have ended up going. We remain prepared for the possibility that the event will prove popular, and we’ll need to open a second table (which I would run.)
Thursday (evening): previously a night where my husband would come home from work for a rushed dinner, then dash off to teach a 3 hour long class on Photoshop, and I’d stay home with the baby. Now, he still dashes off to teach Photoshop, and I still stay home with the baby, but a couple ladies drop by to play board games for a portion of the evening as well. This week it’ll be Munchkin… which is not a board game, but that’s ok 😉
Friday (evening): the only night that we actively, intentionally try to keep free for family stuff. Funnily enough, that’s the night that the 13 yr old usually wants not to be home with the family *LOL*
Saturday (morning): This time can be claimed by many things, but it is usually a) grocery shopping day, b) work-on-the-new-house day (for example, tomorrow I will be painting at the new house ’til noon), or c) frantic prep for G1G.
Saturday (afternoon): morning activities frequently spill over into early afternoon, especially grocery shopping. If I’m not out of the house, I’m getting last minute things together for game, or making a snack to take with me for the pot-luck table, and then I drive across town to pick up the other game-mom. Our game usually runs from 3-7pm.
Saturday (night): after 7pm, my day is basically cooked. Baby goes to bed, and I spend the rest of the evening catching up on email or twitter or blogging, or (if I feel particularly self-indulgent) reading.
Sunday (morning): not that I ever get to sleep in, because the baby is the most efficient (and frankly, most pleasant) alarm clock I’ve ever had, but this is the day everyone ELSE tries to sleep in. The baby and I spend most of the morning playing, I cook my fancy breakfasts on this day, sometimes I grocery shop if I had to work on the new house on Saturday, sometimes the whole family heads out of the house for Sunday morning Brunch (’cause who doesn’t love a good brunch, right?)
Sunday (afternoon/evening): Sunday is epic gaming day. We have a 10+ player table, where we originally were playing a 4e campaign (run by my husband), but are currently alpha testing a different game, followed by AMC’s The Walking Dead. It’s not a bad arrangement.

So, as you can see, I’m kindof busy. Y’know. Just a little. But you know what? I want more. MORE RPGs!! On Wednesday, when I was at my FLGS for D&D Encounters this week (after the whole family auditioned for an RBC hockey-themed commercial that will be filmed here in Whitehorse — no, we haven’t heard back yet), I told the owner I’d like to collect some more gamers who were specifically interested in trying out new systems. I have a couple of games I have been invited to play-test, and there are so many games I own and really want to play!

Is this a “New GM” thing? Because I’ve just started I want to try everything? Does anyone else have this issue?

I don’t even know what night I’d fit this other group into, but I really hope to find some more players! (and more time!)

Ben over at Troll in the Corner was kind enough to allow me and my group of girls participate in his Aruneus play testing.  A few weeks ago, he posted his first testing challenge on his forum.  I had originally applied to participate with my Game 2 Grrls (as opposed to my Game 1 Grrls, who meet on every other Saturday), but the G2G weren’t able to pull it together in time to participate in the first challenge.  So, last minute, I mentioned the opportunity to slay hoardes of zombies to my G1G group, who leapt at the opportunity to participate!

I was worried that coming up with our team name would be difficult, since we came up with several names that no one liked during our initial discussion (“Velvet Bludgeon” and “Valkyries of Zombie Doom” were among my favourites), but once we moved the conversation to e-mail we settled on a name very quickly.  Among the rejected suggestions were “Corpse Crushing Cuties” and “Lipstick and Machetes.”  Ultimately the team chose “Post Mortem Slayers” or “PMS” for short.

Since character creation is so time consuming and we were up against a significant time constraint, I volunteered to randomly generate their character sheets once they’d selected a race and class.  Did you know there aren’t any random character generators for Pathfinder?  Or, if there are, they are not easily located via Google searches or Twitter enquiries.  If you, dear reader, happen to know of one, please leave the link in the comments!  In the end, we had to do all the character creation by hand, which ate up just over two hours of our 3-1/2 hour game window.  I found the trove tokens 3.75 generator useful, though it still required me to enter all the information, and then generated a pretty sheet for me (that I couldn’t save to PDF and print *pout*)

Once everyone’s characters were created (An Elf Cleric, Human Paladin, Dwarf Fighter, & Human Sorceress), we ran headlong into battle with the hoard as laid out by Ben for the challenge.  The Sorceress, known as “Necessary” wielded a sickle that had the helpful additional power of knocking a foe prone, which came in handy for Coup De Grace attacks.  She was desperate to try out her burning hands, but knew better than to waste one of her only 2 level one spells on the first of 12 waves.  The Dwarf, Cheggers, started out dual wielding axes, but eventually found his maulaxe was wonderfully adept at zombie-skull-crushing if he took the time to intentionally swing at the head.  Of course, it was pretty much neck-in-neck between the Fighter and the Paladin, going by the name “Justified,” when it came to kill count.  The Cleric, Liriel, was marvelously pleased with the effect her channel positive energy ability had during the second wave, and couldn’t wait to fire it off again (though she promised her team mates she wouldn’t use it all up right away.)  The G1G had a fantastic time slaughtering the first two waves, but that’s as far as we got when our Dwarven Fighter’s husband arrived to take her home.

No one wanted to stop, though!  We had just been in the process of discussing how to work it out so we could just go on playing tonight ’til we were done, when he drove up.  So, rather than stop at the beginning of round 3, the whole group unanimously agreed that we have to meet up again on Monday to finish the fight!  Isn’t that wonderful?  My Post Mortem Slayers are so committed to ridding the world of the undead scourge… awwwww.

So, I’ll be back to post more about our Zombie Hoard Challenge after we finish on Monday night!


UPDATE: Sorry to disappoint folks (and especially Ben @Trollitc!) There was a sudden death that effected three of my players, and we were unable to get together Monday to complete our challenge. 😦

{November 9, 2010}   Old-School TSR Ad Makes My Day

At some point during my largely unproductive Monday, someone in my twitter feed retweeted a message from Gold, the series which contained a link to this YouTube video:

An original TSR television commercial!  I love the tag line: “Products of Your Imagination.”  I guess I’ll out myself as not truly oldschool if I admit I have never seen this or any other TSR ad before.

The part of this ad that most interests me, though, is the fact that there are two girls playing at this table.  I love it!  And I’m not talking “token female gamer.”  There are two of them.  Not counting the DM, they’re 50% of the party.  They appear to be playing a cleric and a ranger (if the female cartoon characters are their counterparts.)  Now, I admit, girl-in-braids seems pretty overwhelmed, but girl-in-glasses seems cool as a cucumber.  These two are doing a great job of looking like they’re really into the game.  I take this image to heart: it’s proof that D&D was meant to be enjoyed by both guys and gals.  Always has been.  How it came to fall out of girlie graces, or perhaps how its star rose faster among the male set, will probably require more research.  Still, as a girl gamer struggling against stereotypes, this blast from the past gives me hope.  What this 30 seconds of hilarity (come on, admit it!) says to me is,”Girls are supposed to like and play this game and it’s OK if we do!”  It’s part of the original design.

Girls at your table means D&D is “working as intended.” 🙂

{October 31, 2010}   Happy All Hallow’s Read

Last weekend, Neil Gaiman suggested to his readership that, in honour of Hallowe’en, we begin a new holiday tradition: the gifting of scary books.  He says that there aren’t enough traditions that involve the giving of books, and I, for one, agree!  I’m not the only one, either.  A fan site for All Hallows Read was put up during the week, detailing the “rules” of the exchange, and providing links to articles, suggestions, and resources to help people celebrate this first official year of the new tradition.

I resolved, as soon as I heard about this on Twitter, that I would participate.  I knew I wanted to give away a scary book, but I wasn’t sure how to do it.  In the end, I decided on a multi-media approach.

Firstly, as I am out here in the blogging universe specifically to talk about RPGs, it seemed only absolutely appropriate that I give a Role-Playing Game to my readers.  I wanted to be equitable, so here is a gift for everyone: Psychosis.  This is a Role-Playing game of shifting reality played without character sheets or dice, but using tarot cards as character indicators and also to determine the outcome of challenges.  Full disclosure: I have not played this game, but I intend to; as soon as I manage to unearth my tarot deck.  Also, I did not find this game all on my own: the helpful folks over at the Free RPG Blog added it to their collection.  The link above is theirs.  I’m just pointing you folks to it 🙂

Secondly, I want to share something I love with you: audiobooks.  As a busy human being, I frequently find I don’t have the time to sit down and read a hard-copy book (or even a digital-copy book!)  There have been periods in my life where, if I wanted to get any reading done at all, it was in short snippets while grocery shopping if I thought far enough ahead to bring my iPod and earphones.  I have cultivated a great appreciation of audiobooks for that reason, in part.  (The other part is probably because I’m a rampant audiophile!)  Last spring I stumbled across the absolutely amazing, entirely volunteer efforts of Librivox.  I was instantly in love.  What they do is, through the efforts of volunteer readers and audio editors, they record the chapters of public domain books for the audio-enjoyment of the general public.  Their goal is to record every book available in the public domain.  (That’s pretty lofty!)  I’m even signed up as a volunteer, though I have not worked on any completed projects yet.  (When I do, I’ll link it in this blog, though!)  In the meantime, in honour of All Hallow’s Read, I present to you, precious readers:
The Collected Public Domain Works of H.P. Lovecraft
Ghost Story Collection 6
(chosen ’cause I like Virginia Woolf.  Yes, I admit it.)
Horror Story Collection 5
(chosen, mainly, because it does not contain repeats of any of the Lovecraft stories above, though I encourage you to download the other collections, anyway!)
Download, listen, and enjoy!

Many gifts of horror for my blogosphere friends!  I sincerely hope you enjoy these, and any other goodies you discover along the way while further investigating the Free RPG Blog or Librivox.  Ok, now I feel better.  New tradition duties discharged!  But wait, there’s more!

I’m a sucker for a blog-comment give-away.  I fully admit that I snagged this give-away idea shamelessly from Strange Ink, who is much braver than I.  Once upon a time, I embarked on a quest to read every Stephen King story I could get my hands on.  I was unsuccessful in completing the task, but very successful in learning that I really like his work, and now I at least own most of it, even if I haven’t read it all yet.  I used to consume a novel a day while working on my father’s salmon troller, and picked up anything I could find at the free book exchange bin at dock in Port Hardy (which is where I got my hands on my first Stephen King, Salem’s Lot.)  This is how I came across the most traumatizing horror novel of my young reading career: John Saul’s When the Wind Blows. I still shudder to think about it. I really gave up reading horror when I was 12, because I couldn’t handle the nightmares horror left running through my over-active imagination, and that book was the main catalyst.

So, the contest is this: comment on this post telling me the scariest book you’ve ever read.  I’ll leave this contest open for one week (until November 7th at 11:59pm Pacific Time)  and on Monday the 8th I’ll randomly select a commenter as winner. Edit Nov 8: Contest Closed. Like over at Strange Ink, the winner will receive an agreed-upon scary book (“in print, paperback or e-format, because seriously, I am a writer, not an independently wealthy book collector.”)  I’m also going to send the winner a copy of NewbieDM‘s super-popular RPG Kids game (which can be just as scary as you figure your munchkin can handle, if you want it to be!)  The winner will also get a free copy of my husband’s RPG when it’s available (we’re currently in beta testing.  Feel free to contact me for more info about it!)

Best of luck! and Happy Hallowe’en!

{October 25, 2010}   Going East

My 4th Edition All-Girl Gaming group met on Saturday for our second session.  (We have gotten together three times, but the time in the middle was all visiting and no gaming due to a series of unfortunate events and the fact that we were missing a player.)  This week we were still missing that player, so I decided not to wait any longer, and presented her as an NPC so we could move forward with the adventure.  Her character was serving as an adventure hook, really, as a way to introduce her to the group, since the other three players were all present for the backstory/RP session I blogged about before.

The players all took to that hook with no trouble, behaving almost exactly as I had hoped they would.  They did engage an NPC in combat that I hadn’t anticipated being a part of combat, but I was able to roll with that, and it was really my fault for not getting him clear of the “scene of the crime” faster.

What I didn’t anticipate, though, was their first and emphatic response to the campaign hook I introduced that night.  None of my girls read my blog, and if they do, I don’t mind them knowing this, anyway.  As I introduced the game, I told them that the Count of the region had announced a contest to collect the most impressive caravan of magical creatures, for him to keep as his personal carnival.  The winners would be granted an enormous island on a massive inland lake in the Count’s lands, as their very own.  I thought, surely, this introduction would make it pretty clear that the intention was for the party to collect their own carnival, too, and compete.

Instead, as their characters stood huddled on the dusty edge of Mommy Fortuna’s ring of cages, they whispered to each other about how wrong this all was, how these creatures (kobolds! a cockatrice! a mummy!) shouldn’t be held captive in these cages and put on display like side-show freaks.  They decided that they should free the monsters that Mommy Fortuna had collected, and then travel to the Count’s castle, destroying any other carnival caravans they may find. I was flabberghasted.

This is only my first time as a GM, so I expected rough patches, but this is what my husband (a veteran GM) refers to as “Going East.”  It’s when the GM invests hours and effort designing a carefully constructed game world, maps and locations and quest givers and the like, all hinging on the party taking the adventure hook and proceeding West, but then the party chooses to go East.

I have to admit that I’m not entirely certain how to recover from this.  I mean, yes… I can certainly trundle a caravan or two down the road every now and them for the ladies to liberate, but the purpose was not to have carnivals cropping up every night!  I am going to have to design another unifying arc for this group, I guess, and in the meantime, come up with some adventures/directions to encourage them to travel in the meantime.

I guess you’ll be hearing about it in the future!

{October 22, 2010}   My 15 Games meme

In recent days I have seen more “15 Games in 15 Minutes” posts floating around the RPG Bloggers community than I can count, and I wanted to get in on the action.  So far as I can tell it started out on Facebook, and was, perhaps originally aimed at video games, but I wanted to list RPGs only, so I decided to make a list of 15 RPG one-off games or campaigns that I have played that have stuck with me as a player.  This list was rattled off in the requisite 15 minutes, but the blurbs about each game (so I can explain my list to you) were added outside that time frame.

I should mention that this entire list was played under a grand total of three absolute GM Gods.  I adore them all for introducing me to role-playing and providing such rich games to encourage me to stick with it!

1. Legend of the 5 Rings
I hesitate to admit this, since it sometimes feels like the “real veteran gamers” have been playing since they were 8 years old, and I most certainly have not, but this point refers to my very first ever structured, published with rules RPG.  It happened when I was 17.  (Though, with Shelly Mazzanoble, I would argue that, like most girls, I had been role-playing nearly my entire life, I just didn’t get around to using books to guide it ’til this game.)  I played an orphaned girl who was a member of the Crab Clan.  I remember investing absolutely hours creating this character, with a seriously detailed back story and could even recite little vigniettes from her life to the GM.  She had a “dark secret” that, had it been revealed, would have forced her to take her own life, and to this day the only other person who knows what it was (because he had to know, how else would he have known if it was revealed?) is the GM.  And no, I’m not telling you now!

2. Rifts (40K)
This game was played with my then-boyfriend’s crowd of friends in Victoria, BC.  They all had history together, and I was the new member in the bunch.  I played a male character (a first for me) in a campaign where everyone else was playing characters based on themselves, but the GM never got confused.  (I had to play someone else.  My “self” character was elsewhere. Read on.)  This game was loosely based on Rifts, and it began with a hoard of 40K Space Marines crossing over into our reality and decimating Sooke (where the GM lived at the time.)  Our task was to escape his house and ultimately travel up-island to meet with the other group of real-life gamers playing parallel in this campaign.  Highlights I remember: Richard successfully rolling to find leather pants, while I was absolutely denied the discovery of any gause or first aid supplies of any kind.  My character died just outside of Goldstream park, at an ice cream stand next to the highway at the beginning of the Malahat. (All those place names are real places, folks!)

3. Rifts (StarCraft)
This game was the other half of the campaign described above, except it was played in Ladysmith, BC, with my high school crowd.  We started the game out at my friend Tami’s house, in the heavily-wooded Cedar area, and our task was to somehow travel up the highway and connect with the other real-life gaming group from Victoria.  (We really intended to bring both groups together for a massive meet-up session, probably in Duncan, at some point, but the campaign never made it that far.)  The Zerg had crossed into our reality and infested my home town of Ladysmith!  We had to battle our way past the aliens using only what weapons were actually in Tami’s house.  My “self” character was in this game.  Highlights include: critically failing an attack roll weilding a sledge hammer, which resulted in me overswinging the weapon and breaking three of my own ribs when trying to beat back the aliens coming up the stairwell.  This was also my first experience with in-game chainsaws (but not my last!)

4. White Wolf Mashup
This game was under the second GM God, and was my first experience playing with him.  It was a completely impromptu game, held in darkness, many bodies lounging on the kitchen floor of my house (of all places) by candle light on New Year’s Eve.  We had no books, nor any dice, but the game was brilliant.  Players played alter egos of themselves (pre-existing characters that they were already role-playing online, for example,  mostly, though I did not) based on White Wolf rules for games such as Vampire, The Masquerade (that was, specifically, my friend Tami, playing Sinistress, a character who has endured for more than a decade now), Werewolf (Mike’s character, among others) and Changeling (yeah, I was a fairy; what’s it to ya?)  With no character sheets or stats to dictate our actions, the entire experience was role-play rich, based on vivid mental pictures of our characters and our ability to act out as they would.  “Dice rolls” were completed by stating our desired action and then picking a number, which the GM would then narrate the success or failure of based on how close that number was to a number he had in mind for each action.  I know it sounds like a recipe for disaster, but it was beautiful, really.  Memorable moments include: when Tami’s character Sinistress the vampire, without anything to do in a boss engagement, stated that she “walked over to” another character who was at that moment channelling Gaia, and critically failed at walking, resulting in her not realizing the Gaia energy was diametrically opposed to her Vampire-ness, and damaging herself to the point of entering Torpor.

5.  D&D 3.5 (Townsend)
This was the first game under the 3rd GM God; this is how I met my husband.  I was new to town, and had headed straight to the Friendly Local Gaming Store (Wizards, at the time) to find out if I could be connected to a local group.  Shaun (to whom I owe a great debt) scribbled a name and a number on a piece of paper and said, “This guy is really good.  He might be running a game you can join.”  That guy is now my husband, but at the time, he designed the amazing Townsend Campaign for me, two girl friends I brought with me, one of his guy friends and that friend’s girlfriend.  (I have a long and distinguished history of playing in girl-rich gaming groups!)  The Townsend Campaign was centered on the adventures of the three Townsend siblings: a pair of twin elves (myself and Brian) and their adopted halfling sister (Shannon.)  Memorable moments include “the pink room,” “Splash” the incredibly not-stealthy rogue, sleepless nights drawing the likeness of a golden dragon, and storing the sub-zero HP bodies of my companions in a magical, airless room (much like a bag of holding) so I could get them to a cleric.  I moved out of town before this campaign could come to an end, and Suzuki “The Mantis” Townsend (my monk) was last seen being spirited away on the back of a golden dragon.

6. D&D 3.0
We were playing this game at the same time as the Townsend Campaign, but with a different, less girl-dense, group, and at someone else’s house.  My leaving town meant that I had to be written out of this campaign (which continued after I left, unlike the Townsend Campaign, which ended when I left).  On my final night with this group, my Paladin, burdened by his heavy plate armour (failed his dex check), was crushed to death by the falling corpse of a Chimera which had been slain in the air by another party member.  The druid successfully performed a reincarnation spell to raise his fallen comrade, and my character awoke in the healthy and not-at-all-jam-like form of a Centaur.  Needless to say he had some things to work out, and parted ways with the adventuring party.

7. Changeling: The Dreaming
My first time playing with the actual rule book for Changeling, and my last time playing with the second GM God, this game was solo (just me and the GM), also conducted by candle-light, over a very long night in Portland, Oregon.  Sleep deprived and caffiene spun, we whispered this adventure to eachother until we both passed out.

8. D&D Pathfinder (Redshore)
My return to Whitehorse, evil city of mostly snow, brought me back to the fold of my 3rd and Enduring GM God.  Here I was willingly and immediately incorporated into an already-existing campaign on a continent called Redshore.  My character, once a torch-bearing NPC cleric, was adopted by the party mid dungeon-delve.  This character kept a journal (which I still have) entitled “The Great and True Adventures of Hector, God of Retribution.”  Hector was a member of our party.  I became his cleric and converted NPCs to his worship.  The fighter became his paladin.  Memorable moments include the one (and only!) time Josh threw his sword and struck the killing blow (with a critical hit) on a boss who was otherwise kicking our butts, and the door trap that disintegrated our lazy rogue.

9. D&D Pathfinder (Sasserine)
This game was run just for Josh and me, though Alex participated in one session.  He quit after his character was slain by city guards when he pulled his weapon and attacked someone within view of the guard house.  (It really was the logical thing to happen, the guards coming to arrest him for committing murder within their sight, but he resisted, and was ultimately killed, which he felt was unfair.)  That left just Josh and me (and my character’s gargoyle familiar) to figure out how to escape the quarantined garbage island in the archepelligo of Sasserine.  Memorable moments include intentionally distracting a rooftop courrier who slipped and broke his leg and then taking over his job, holding up a local pawn broker for a gem, and “nobody here but us chickens!”

10. D&D 3.5 (Creature Catchers)
I know I’m not twelve, but this adventure was really enjoyable!  It was based on the idea of collecting magical creatures and battling them, rather than the PCs fighting.  (Yes, that does remind you of something.)  I successfully caught a chameleon, served me well in my battles, and whom I dubbed “Bloodmaw.”  Josh got his butt whooped by a snake during his first attempt to capture a creature.

11. Witchcraft (Nick & Lelani)
This was the most role-play rich game I’d experienced since that night on my kitchen floor.  Our first session included exactly one die roll, which resulted in the incredibly satisfying demise of the bad guy (who had been abducting and ritually sacrificing children) at the business end of a chainsaw.  That session was easily four hours long.  I loved this campaign and these characters so much I almost ache because we never finished the campaign.  Josh quit gaming and left us in the lurch.

12. D&D 4e (Count’s Carnival)
This was another campaign that died on the vine when Josh quit gaming.  The world was magic-limited in that most fantastic creatures were rare and hard to find, most magical races had been hunted or bred out and so were also rare, and it was hard to find magic users at all.  I managed to come up with a plausible back story and was rewarded with the opportunity to play a half-orc who started out with a name, but later came to be known only by his nickname: Thug.  Thug was extremely distrustful of “tricksy magic users.”  His travelling companion held absolute sway over him, and was the only magic user he ever trusted.  The purpose of the campaign was to travel the world to collect a carnival full of fantastic creatures for the Count to keep as his own personal menagerie.  Memorable moments include the completely unscripted fight with an owl-bear (the GM hadn’t intended for us to engage it), and continually knocking said owl-bear unconscious in order to pack it home and cage it up to add it to our collection.  This game was so much fun, my husband has given me permission to ressurrect it for one of the groups I’m GMing.  I’ve taken his concept of a magic-limited world where creatures are rare, and we will be hunting for them to create our own little zoo, but everything else will be of my design.

13. D&D Pathfinder (Orphanage)
This was a rather epic adventure on several scales.  First of all, it occurred in a world entirely of the GM’s design.  Secondly, it was comprised of 4 parallel storylines happening simultaneously, in which each player played one character.  A different player was the leader for each of the four groups.  I played a monk (in a group that ended up with a total of three monks.  Wow, we did some serious damage!), a rogue (who ended up fowling up her task in the boss fight), a cleric (she was my leader character), and an orc barbarian.  We have this great little book that gives rules for playing orcs, and because all the characters were orphans, we were able to justify a full-blooded orc in the mix.  I’d been wanting to play one for years.  This was the return of Thug (though it hadn’t started out to be), who was easily influenced by his leader, Riley (who looked a lot like James Marsders… I’m just saying.)  Josh returned to gaming to play in this campaign, but we never finished because he moved out of town.

14. Pirates of the Spanish Main
Although this was only a one-off game, it sticks with me not because of anything in particular that happened in-game, but because of the prep I put in before game.  I wanted very much to play a girl, but this girl was to be participating in a boys’ world of adventure and become a pirate.  I had to come up with an incredibly detailed and realistic backstory to explain why it was that everyone my character knew at the start of this game was completely under the impression that she was actually a “he.”  She was going to be loads of fun to play.

15. D&D 4e (Return to Redshore)
My husband put so much work into creating Redshore, he wasn’t about to let the campaign setting die.  As has happened in our life more than once, we have somehow managed to acquire a large group of people who want to play RPGs in our social circle, and so we have returned to Redshore.  It’s seven years after the original party adventured here, and this new group has no clue.  This game is current, but will stick with me because it was my introduction to GMing as “co-GM” for the table.


So, that’s my list!

{October 12, 2010}   What monster are you?

I couldn’t help myself. For as long as I’ve been into RPGs I have loved flipping through monster manuals and enjoying the art!

D&D Home PageWhat Monster Are You?D&D Compendium

et cetera