A Beast A Day Keeps… Something, I don’t know…

March 4, 2015

This is  just a quicky,

While researching various creatures for Pathfinder, I kept finding The Daily Bestiary.  After the third or so time he came up in a Google search, I figured… what the hell. I’m updating again, people are apparently reading me again (And I thank you!) so why not?

This guy’s pretty neat. The main gimmick is, he diligently goes through the Pathfinder Bestiaries, in alphabetical order, and explains some details about the creature in question, then gives three adventure hooks.

For every monster.

Even ridiculous shit like the Immense Tortoise.

The thing I’ve discovered is, the best adventure hooks seem to always be stolen from a movie… But that’s not such a bad thing. If anything, it teaches us that ideas can come from anywhere. I probably will start making posts on what I call “gaming theory” or “shop” soon, and I’ll explain such things in due time.

He also once did some posts on the best 3.5e books for Pathfinder DMs. Yeah click on that and go to “next day” a few times to find them all. His list is obviously biased… But part of what convinced me I need to read this guy is, so many of the books he’s listed are some of my favorites. (Also I own over half of them. Many are exactly as good as he describes. Yes, even Serpent Kingdoms. Surprised me too.)

He’s pretty good, overall.

And he’s better at updating than I am, so there’s that.

The Bloodstone Disaster, Part 4: The Final Insult

March 2, 2015

Attempts to get Yoni to improve had failed, as I’ve said before. We wanted to put an end to this, and given we were on the final leg of the final chapter, it was best to just have done with it. … That was mostly my group’s input. I myself was largely along for the ride.

If you’re wondering what the adventure was like? Well, look at the Wikipedia article. This entire thing had “TPK” written all over it, really…

The Abyss was a messy place, with dozens of portals, and only one of them was right. Luckily, we got it on the second try. The first try had us entering the realm of Kali, though luckily, since Yoni didn’t have stats for her, she just wound up chasing us back through the portal.

The trip down the Styx, though… Yoni rolled for random encounters, taking the concept of a 10% chance of an encounter per minute rather literally, and, since the trip would take an hour of in game time… Rolled sixty times.

We only got two encounters, though. Another lucky break, though a lot of that was waiting for Yoni to finish rolling…

Orcus’ realm was a nightmarish maze, where, even with Yoni showing us the maps, there was no easy way to determine which passages lead where. I give this adventure credit for that, as very few written sources truly encompass what a realm of pure chaos and pure evil the Abyss rightly is.

Likewise, Orcus’ palace was a maze of portals and extra-dimensional spaces, that made me remember why I don’t use many mazes. Personal pref there, of course.

It would require a miracle to get through this in one piece.

That night, we had three.

It was before the palace, however, where the first miracle happened.

There were caverns surrounding the palace. A twisting maze of networks, filled with monsters and other horrible things. Yoni put the map before us, certain we couldn’t avoid them all. Steph, who’d been our puzzle solver for most of this debacle, had a route in mind, but something was eating at me. I asked to have a closer look at it… And, remembering my childhood running mazes on paper, promptly found a route through the tunnels that avoided all of the battles in the caves.

Likewise, when we hit the open area, we snuck into the castle- Somehow, the huge fuckoff Red Dragon and the demon lord Pazuzu circling the palace by air didn’t see us as we strolled in through the front door…

More mazes, more nonsense, and finally we reached the throne room of Orcus.

This was when the second miracle happened.

Yoni went to take out his Orcus figure that he’d spent $60 on some years before, in preparation for this exact moment…

… only to find he’d forgotten it, because he wasn’t expecting us to get this far that night.

The battle began in earnest, with Yoni subbing out the Gargantuan Black Dragon for Orcus, as they had the same space profile.

We got in a few hits, and then, I went to the bathroom after my turn.

It was Raul’s turn. Raul was playing a Vampire, a class that… honestly, is rather broken. Raul was loving it, though, and nobody minded the extra muscle.

It was when I was in the bathroom that the third miracle happened.

When I came back from the bathroom, Raul had used an ability on Orcus that inflicted the Dominated status on him, meaning Raul was now in control of Orcus’ actions.

Yoni hadn’t read the stat bock for Orcus enough (I have doubts the ability should have even worked on him), and more, didn’t realize that Dominate, in 4e, only let you use At-Will and Basic attacks.

Raul moved to use Orcus’ Touch of Death. This was a Standard power, normally disallowed by Dominate. Yoni allowed it.

Raul declared that Orcus’ target was to be… Himself.

Orcus rolled to hit himself, succeeded, and, per the effects of the attack, promptly died.

Mopping up his minions, we got the Wand, and the next week, went on to fight Tiamat.

In addition to myself, in attendance were Chris, Raul, Burns, Michelle (Burns’ fiancé), Kyle, Steph (two new faces who’d been with us through Bloodstone) and Yoni’s friend whose name I don’t recall, making eight people.

Tiamat died in two full turns, my sub-optimal Beast Form Druid landing the finishing blow. I felt well pleased that I was the one to put this game out of its misery.

The ending followed, with the seed left behind from the destruction of the Wand being planted in the kingdm of Bloodstone, where it would protect the people as long as their hearts never turned to evil. I wanted it planted in my Druid grove, but Yoni insisted-one last time- that this isn’t how the adventure was written.

Fucking whatever.

Yoni thanked us all, stating that running Bloodstone was something that had been on his “bucket list” for years.

I really don’t know what to say to that… I don’t even know how to end the post at this point. So I’ll just thank you for reading, and I hope to see you soon.

The Bloodstone Disaster, Part 3: What’s my motivation?

March 1, 2015

I’d like to digress for a moment,to touch upon the plot of Bloodstone, and hopefully make clear where many of the issues lied.

From what I recall, the first part, “Bloodstone Pass,” begins with the party arriving in the titular area in the wake of a war that has left many homeless and penniless. Soon, the town is under attack by an army consisting of humans, orcs, giants and other nasty doings, and it’s up to the heroes to save the town. Eventually, they discover where the enemy is camped, and crush them, ending the threat, only to discover that Bloodstone’s real woes began when their mine had been overrun some time before…

In “The Mines of Bloodstone,” the group must enter the mines beneath the town, in order to restore them to production. What starts as a pretty standard cleaning operation quickly turns ugly, when it’s discovered that the Duergar- the dark dwarves were using a passage from the Underdark to overrun the mine. This leads the party deeper, into the massive underground world, including a giant temple, carved in the shape of the head of Orcus, the demon lord of the undead. Eventually, enough threats are stamped out, leading to the mines being restored, and Bloodstone becoming a regional power once more.

Enter “The Bloodstone Wars.” Here’s where my details get fuzzy. I know it involves the group coming under constant attack, for they have become the leaders of Bloodstone in a previous entry, The Grandfather of Assassins, whom they’ve thwarted before, has returned to put an end to their threat, and powerful enemies gather at their borders. Eventually, the heroes discover that the force behind all of the attacks was none other than Orcus himself.

Finally, in “The Throne of Bloodstone,” you must venture through enemy strongholds, fight for access to the Abyss, find Orcus’ home plane, steal the symbol of his power, the deadly Wand of Orcus, and, finally, defeat the dark god Tiamat, using her blood to destroy the Wand. WHY you’re doing any of this is beyond my understanding.

Along the way, there are all sorts of outlandish things: An entire fortress of assassins, massive dragons, cities filled with zombies, a treacherous cruise down the River Styx, mercury pools that summon demons… It’s all the lovely shit that makes me such a fan of RPGs in general, and Dungeons & Dragons in particular. Seriously, the Bloodstone Series has potential.

Which leads into my big problem with how Yoni ran things: All we ever got was a glimpse of this potential. We were being lead on what was effectively a room-by-room tour, with us craning our necks, desperate get a better view of what must surely be a fantastic place.

Instead, as I described previously, “We want to do this!” was met with denial, time and time again. Leading me into the final phases of Bloodstone. After a year of being railroaded, and trying to get Yoni to do a better job, only to find him pretty much unresponsive to criticism time and again, most of us were done, and just wanted to see where it all came tumbling down.

That wound up being “The Throne of Bloodstone.”

This adventure was designed to end campaigns: Deadly encounters, fiendish traps, an inability to heal once you reach the Abyss, and the Abyss itself being a maze of corridors, tunnels and dimensional portals, where the wrong turn meant an almost certain death… And there were almost nothing but wrong turns. Seriously, almost every major demon lord and dark god who was active at the time Bloodstone was printed could show up in this chapter.

It would take a Dungeon Master of great prowess to hammer this thing down into a workable adventure. We didn’t have a DM of great prowess. We had Yoni. He continued his strategy of trying to run the adventures as printed, just with minor changes for 4e stats, and while that worked to some extent in previous entries, it fell completely apart here. The adventure was just not designed to be run this way.

The most egregious event would have to be the fight at the Abyss portal. You were meant to fight an ancient Lich, an undead spellcaster of terrifying power. The problem is, there weren’t any 4e stats for a lich of that power level. Anyone who’s prepared a game for any edition of D&D knows that you can build almost anything, it just takes time and effort. Effort Yoni consistently refused to put in. Instead of building a Lich for us to fight, he attempted to use the highest level lich in print for 4th Edition.

This would be Vecna. Vecna is a god.

Yes, most gods in 4th Edition were statted at Level 35- of a maximum 30 levels- and their stats are usually quite bad. I don’t know how any party is supposed to defeat them. Hell, I don’t even know how most parties were meant to HIT them; Their defenses are too damn high. Vecna was nine levels above us at the time. He would have wiped us out. Yoni eventually lowered its stats by a bit, giving us a fighting chance. Well, it turned into what I termed “dice-rolling exercises,” where we’d spend an hour trying to whittle down the Solo monsters he kept throwing at us.

Oh right, forgot to explain this. See, 4th Edition is a game I generally liked. It was simple to run, fun, had some nice flavor, it just suffered from ludicrsly poor management from Wizards of the Coast. It also suffered from a tier system for monsters, where they were given ranks, such as Minion, Elite, Leader and Solo.

You know. Like in online games.

Solo monsters were meant to challenge an entire party by themselves, they were designed to be huge “boss monster” encounters that were a legitimate threat, the equal to four heroes of the same level as it.

Problem being, they didn’t work.

Most Solos, as designed, had no way of mitigating the absurd number of debuffs and status ailments a 4th Edition party could dish out. Over the last seven years, numerous people online have tried to rework the Solo rank into something that actually, you know, functions. While many of their experiments were interesting, I fear none were terribly successful, and it’s not their fault. The Solo is just that goddamned bad. I eventually stopped using them AS Solo encounters, instead using weaker Solos with some muscle for backup. It was effective, and my group didn’t at all mind. Besides, I’d already seen what would happen: The party would pop all of its stuns, holds, slows, and so on, and debuff the enemy into oblivion. Then, the Solo was often nothing more than a meat shield, and the party just had to chip away at it, like a giant Jawbreaker made out of hit points. That last line sums up most of Yoni’s combats for much of the campaign, not-Vecna fight included.

Eventually, we reached the end. Oh and what an ending it was.

The Bloodstone Disaster, Part 2: The War on Fun

February 28, 2015

A few weeks later, the game began in earnest. As my job often had me closing on Thursdays, I was present for only parts of H1, H2 and H3, not being able to consistently attend until H4, so my reports will be fragmentary.

But I think they’ll be enough. I’ll speak to the players who attended more of this, and see if I’m missing anything too important.

But for now, here’s what I know.

H1, “Bloodstone Pass,” like the others, was written for what I THINK was 1st Edition, but it kind of doesn’t matter. What matters is what it WASN’T written for, and that, obviously, was 4th Edition D&D.

This would require conversion.
Conversion requires effort.
Yoni did not put nearly enough effort into converting the adventures, and we’ll look into this in greater detail once we get to H4, but for now, the big problem with H1.

BattleSystem.

A mass combat system, designed for use in D&D, I know very little about it, save for the fact that module H1, “Bloodstone Pass,” required use of it. Many of the scenarios in question could only be meaningfully resolved through BattleSystem.

This is a problem, and became the first real sign of Yoni’s limitations as a DM.

A smart Dungeon Master would, say, cut out the mass battles completely, finding ways to scale them down to more personalized combats the characters are directly involved in.

A clever DM would find, or create, a system that simulated mass combat while streamlining the experience. Burns, one of my players and one present for this game, had at one point designed such a system.

Yoni did neither of these things. Instead, he first attempted to run BattleSystem under 4e, an endeavor which bored our players to tears. He then attempted to graft on a number of systems to 4e, in particular, a Warhammer Miniatures conversion… One he never bothered to read himself, and expected his players to explain it to him.

It’s a good thing I was working Thursday nights, because, had I been present, it’s around this time that I would have lead a mutiny.

You might be asking yourself, “Wait, why did he have to do ANY of these things? Why use mass combat at all, if the players weren’t feeling it, and the game couldn’t support it?”

And the answer is quite simple, really.

“Because that’s how the adventure was written.”

Yoni’s views on the Bloodstone Series were as follows: They were among the greatest adventures ever written, and, as a result, had to be treated as holy writ; as canon, in the strictest sense of the term, something to be read and pondered over, but never questioned and, Mima forbid, never altered in any meaningful way.

You’re probably already seeing where the logic in refusing to update modules written nearly 30 years and three editions ago might run into some snags. The way I understand it is, most sessions went more of less as follows.

Players: “We want to do this.”
Yoni: “You can’t.”
Players: “Why not?”
Yoni: “Because what’s actually next is this.”

And then, he would point to the book, and proceed to read off whatever “this” was, including things he probably ought not have been reading, as they were primarily DM-only material.

This meant that roughly nine of the eighteen months the campaign took to play out consisted of listening to Yoni droningly reading off canned exposition.

Anyone who ever made a joke about putting “Detect Boxed Text” on your spell list, I have now found the DM that made this choice worthwhile. Myself, I got a Ring of Dull Exposition, which had a constant Detect Boxed Text effect…

This however meant that we had very little agency- Our characters were who we were told they’d be. We did what the DM said we would do. We went places and wandered about on maps, all to a schedule Yoni had put into place before we’d even begun.

So, I suppose the real question is, if we were all so displeased, why did we keep attending? Partially because it was something to do, but also, because at least three of us, myself included, were waiting for the train wreck. We were waiting for the moment that it all went wrong.

That only happened when Yoni’s train reached its last stop, at the corner of Irony and Justice, that dread station known as Inevitability.

The Bloodstone Disaster, Part 1: Return to the Ashes

February 27, 2015

Okay, so.

Let us return to the summer of 2013. It was a warm and mild summer, as I recall, but fires can start even in these conditions.

My Meetup feed had informed me that one such fire was brewing.

You  may recall that Yoni is the only person I ever did my Player Profiles on, some five years ago now. My review of him back then was sardonic but ultimately positive.

Believe me, that’s only because I was trying to ignore an otherwise inescapable fact: That Yoni was That Guy, and I was trying to hold on to an era where we were just having fun, where we were all friends, and the adventure would never end.

I think many of us have made that error…

I don’t want to go into too much  detail, as it would involve revealing personal information, and I’m not sure how much of that I want to divulge. I hope what I write next will reveal enough, honestly.

About a year or so after I wrote the Player Profile for him, Yoni… Well let’s just say he did something that pissed me off. I reacted disproportionately, and declared him persona non grata from the group- I need not have really bothered, since he was out of the state and could only bother us through text, making my actions political in nature.

It was a mistake. Yes, I should have acted, but not in the way that I did… So I told myself at the time, anyway.

That was probably why, when Yoni sent out a blast on numerous D&D-related Meetup groups, that a new 4th Edition D&D group was starting at Clarkson’s Corner- Ironically, the exact physical location where all this began, in 2008, back when that space was called The Phoenix of Westchester- That I felt compelled to attend.

You can imagine Yoni’s shock when he saw me in the room, waiting for him, especially considering how our previous communications had gone.

“I wasn’t expecting you here…” He said with a stammer, the mark of a man who’d opened a box without checking its contents first, and now wondering if there were some way to close it again.

“You weren’t?” My voice was flat, trying to reflect the usual vague disinterest that I have when entering unknown territory, as if I’ve seen it all, and it just bores me now, “If that’s the case, why did you invite me?”

“I didn’t invite you. I alerted the internet.”

It turns out that Yoni had, in fact, invited damn near everyone from at least two groups on Meetup. I say “at least two” because I got two invitations, one for each group. There may have been others.

Already I was flashing back to 2008, to that faithful day when Yoni gathered us all together, and with a monarch’s voice, cried “We need a Dungeon Master; I nominate ‘not me.'” And I had to take the fucking job.

While I don’t regret that one bit, as I made friends due to it, and had many adventures I will hopefully someday share… Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown.

However, I need not have worried about that. It seems that Yoni had a DM this time.

Himself.

And he even had an adventure he sought to run: Modules H1 through H4, known to veterans of the game as “The Bloodstone Series.” He was planning to run these under 4th Edition D&D.

No, I need not have worried about what happened in 2008, for it was now 2013: Five years had passed, and much had changed.

No, it turns out, I should have been worried for a plethora of other reasons, for you know what they say:

The more things change, the more they stay the same…

Opening the Eaves

February 26, 2015

My computer’s been down, see, so I haven’t had much to do. I have an Android tablet a friend so graciously (re) gifted to me at Christmas, and an iPad Mini purchased back in 2012 so I could play Pinball Arcade (I am dead fucking serious… You ever suffer from buyer’s guilt for three years straight…?), so I’ve not been completely despondent.

One of the things I’ve done was look through my old posts here at Long Exile Gaming.

I reviewed music, I made some commentary on gaming, I made impolitic statements about the giant robots in Pathfinder, I wrote apparently the only negative review of Street Fighter: The Storytelling Game on the entire internet (and probably should have written Green Races as positive to balance this out), and snarked to my heart’s content.

Yeah… we had a lot of fun here, didn’t we?

Why don’t we get back to that?

I can’t promise I’ll always have something to write about, and indeed, you can probably expect more Standard Apologies.

But I’m back. And I think we’ll lead off with the only thing you can lead off with: A sign of how much has changed in five short years…

Join me, won’t you?

Non-Standard Apology

January 1, 2012

If to no one else but myself.

Yes, it’s been almost a year since I updated this blog.  To the point where I forgot that WordPress treats carriage returns as double spaces. But that’s besides the point; I mean to say, I would have liked to have updated, but there were a number of factors.

Or excuses. Take your pick.

First was a job change. I got fired mid-late 2010 and found a new job November of that same year.Which started out temp, but turned into a full-time job… With a hell of a daily commute. Nice to be working, though, but it kinda put me into a waking coma for six months.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, it just hasn’t been an eventful year for gaming… If you’re a Dungeons & Dragons fan, anyway. Oh I know Pathfinder’s been making products left and right, and more power to them, I say, but as for D&D? Most eventful thing happened to 4e is Wizards gutting its 2011 release schedule. So there was nothing to buy, nothing to cover, and, really, rather little to interest me. As such, the first part of 2011 didn’t even see D&D, my group played other games. Then one of my players left. We eventually wrangled up a new one, and I’ve been running a D&D game weekly since then, but I can’t always say I’m happy with it; I keep it running to keep it running. My players are enjoying so I suppose that’s the best part.

Third, I know there’s a rich universe of independent games out there, but damned if I have time and money for them all. This group is, by and large, a creature of habit, and so we keep playing D&D because it’s what we know. Oh I OWN Pathfinder, make no mistake, and I have Hero, too, but neither of these have we really dug into. Looking forward to Golden Sky Stories, but if that winds up being anything like Maid RPG, I’ll probably never freaking run it…

In short, if anyone was enjoying my blog when I was updating it, my sincerest apologies go out to you. I don’t know at this point if I’m going to keep updating this or not. I honestly don’t know what to write, and I suppose that was the biggest problem in 2011. Putting this to paper gave me a few ideas, though, so we’ll see if anything comes of it.

I hope you all have a happy new year of gaming. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

Tales from the Long Exile: Duel Masters

February 9, 2011

I don’t know if this counts as “traditional” gaming, considering this story is about a CCG, and, come to think of it, dates back to 2004 or so, meaning it might not even BE in the “Lnng Exile” but I figure… Why not? The payoff’s amusing, trust me.

So, this was during one of my former jobs, wherein I only rarely had weekends off. In fact, I NEVER DID. But I was assigned to a special project in their main office (they should have sent full timers or co-managers, but my store could spare neither. Well, that and you didn’t want to send the full-timers for this…), which meant working Monday through Friday.

Somehow this added up into Austin conning me into playing Duel Masters. I suppose I just really wanted to play something. Even if it was Wizards of the Coast’s knockoff of Yu-Gi-Oh! I suppose it was a better game, due to actually having resource management, but it wasn’t that much more strategic, especially considering the main strategy involved playing the most powerful Evolution monsters (all of them Rare or higher, of course) and crushing your opponent’s shields as quickly as possible. Shields were life, you had five, and getting attacked without being able to block breaks one. Unless you’re dealing with a Double Breaker, but we’ll get back to that.

Anyway, for these six weeks or so, and God it felt like longer, I played in the tournament at Dragon’s Den every Saturday. And I’ll be honest: I wasn’t very good. But then I didn’t spend as much on the game as others and thus, did not have all the cards you really needed. Yeah, much like, you know, every other CCG, the true utility cards were hard to find. (Please see: Battle Spirits and its ridiculous zero-cost and one-cost/cost down one monsters…)

I mean, my first tournament appearance had me going up against the worst player in the store… AND LOSING. Still new to the game, I didn’t have nearly enough defense and thus got stomped badly. I wish I could remember this guy’s name, but I can only recall him as “the seven-year-old.” Because he was seven. And barely understood how to play the game. But he played with such heart. We’ll get right back to that, though.

Now, see, I don’t necessarily “play to win,” as I consider that outlook inimical to fun. Oh you can call “fair play” arbitrary if you like, but technically, all play styles outside of the one intended for any game are arbitrary. That’s the very nature of arbitration. Anyway, as is standard for me, as I so often lose, I instead play for fun. And my “fun” often involves showing my opponents that they’re not as smart as they think they are. The one deck I remember playing was a Nature (green) deck I entitled “Leaping Tornado Horn Doesn’t Suck” and it used the titular monster- which two of the other players were saying “sucked”- as its lynchpin. Did it win? Actually, yes. Oh it didn’t win the tournament, but it didn’t do badly. And perhaps more importantly, it racked up so much attack power that our resident fat kid shrieked in terror. And isn’t that what gaming is really all about?

I could go into Austin’s unfair practices, such as having several players with front loaded decks that didn’t pay to enter the tournament. He called them his “Eliminators,” and it’s exactly what it said on the tin: Their goal was to ensure nobody else won, and thus, that the store never needed to give out prizes. That stank back then, it stinks now, and I’m frankly quite glad I am no longer in any gaming store, so I don’t need to deal with such flagrant underhanded tactics.

At any rate, near the end of my time there, it came to pass that there was a convention that weekend, and many of the regulars went to it. Bringing us down from our usual number of ten-plus to six. Which wasn’t enough to run a proper tournament. So, Austin, not wanting to punish us for showing up, held something with his cobbled-together team play rules. We were, naturally, corralled into teams of three each.

Also naturally, the teams were the three top tier players, squared off against the three bottom tier players. And yes, I was indeed in the latter, and yes, so was the seven-year-old. He was still playing his lopsided Fire deck, but he’d splashed some Light so he had Blockers. It was the best deck I ever saw him play.

It was still utterly ineffectual.

My opponents were the store champion and two others who, as I recall, were higher in the ranks. Two of them, champion included, were running Darkness decks, with heavy creature removal and rush down tactics. They were deadly in single play.

On my team, I and the third player were both running Water decks, and as it turned out, both running Angler Clusters (a cheap 3000 Blocker that becomes a cheap 6000 Blocker if you’re playing mono-Water) and Aqua Lancer (an Evolution monster that was not only a Double Breaker, but Unblockable as well).

Maybe you’re already seeing where this story goes.

The game began in earnest, with my placing myself on the left, and the seven-year-old on the right, across from the Darkness-wielding, attack-happy champion. This might seem mean, but my goal was not so much to win, as it was to make the bastards earn their victory over us, to make it as hard for them as I possibly could. So, yes, I used the kid for a scape goat, an object of ire for both Darkness players, and, near the end of his life, had him take actions to further frustrate the champion. This included forcing the kid to attack, an act both he and the champion regarded as useless, as not only would he just block it, but not actually lose anything, as his deck enabled him to recycle Darkness creatures who die in the field. “I’ll just re-play it,” he said, but the look on his face when he poured over his hand and tried to decide just WHAT it was he was going to play was well worth it.

So yes. I threw a seven-year-old at my opponents. Some of you might consider it lousy. That I was being mean to the kid. That I was wrong to consider him useless and should have made him a more equal part of the game. And I say… It’s not my job to hold his hand. Everyone serves a purpose. And if your purpose is the decoy, so be it.

And he played this part well, for by the time they’d managed to kill him, the Darkness players had both used their good creature removal on him. All of it. To the point where I had to avoid face-palming, as that would have only tipped them off to the fact that they’d fallen into my trap.

Well… I suppose calling it a “trap” is ennobling it a little. Fairer to use one of my favorite quotes:

“Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

Napoleon Bonaparte, if you’re wondering.

Yes, I had a plan in mind. Or rather, now I had a plan in mind, as goes another quote:

“No plan survives contact with the enemy.”

Molkte the Elder, if you’re wondering.

For, seeing how readily they wasted their resources in killing someone who would have run out of steam on his own, they had nothing, and I mean literally nothing to take out my surviving partner and myself with. No, they would have to resort to force… And they had nothing on the field that could crush a 6000 power Blocker. Indeed, few things at the time could.

So we sat there for another few turns, until we got out our Aqua Lancers. The aforementioned Unblockable Double Breakers. So it didn’t matter how many Blockers they had, unless they could eliminate the Lancers, they were dead in the water… So to speak.

And again, at something to the tune of 6000 attack power, they didn’t have anything that could kill the Lancers. As such, in the span of another few rounds, all three of our opponents had fallen, and the team of “losers” had won.

Only time I ever won one of those ridiculous tournaments, too.

And if you’re wondering about the kid? Well, as we were cleaning up and preparing to leave, I sought him out and made sure to thank him for his help, as I told him we would not have been able to win without him… And it was true. Without him to waste the opponent’s time and resources, we never would have been able to secure a victory.

… Even at age seven, I think the kid realized that fact. Realized that I had used him as a decoy. As such, he grumbled at me and shuffled his feet. His father, though, did not approve of this, and insisted he thank me, which he then did.

And it was true, after all. I couldn’t have won without his help. Sure, he didn’t contribute in the way he probably would have liked to. But sometimes, what we want to do and what we have to do are not the same thing. Or, put another way, a win’s a win.

So, I won. And then shortly thereafter, returned to a more comfortable work schedule. And never played Duel Masters again.

And good riddance. That game is horrible

Product Review – Book of the Damned Vol.2: Lords of Chaos

January 28, 2011

WTF!

THERE IS A GARGOYLE DEMON LORD!!!!!

ZOMG! FIVE STARS! RPG SUPPLEMENT OF 2010!

BEST.

BOOK.

EVER.

… Ahem, sorry about that. I still DO need to make that post on Gargoyles, don’t I? I know I do, I just can’t understand why I like them so damn much. But for now, things that actually matter.

Some time ago, Paizo Publishing released Book of the Damned: Princes of Darkness, a book detailing the Nine Hells in the Pathfinder setting of Golarion. I admit, this was a pure impulse buy, based almost solely upon finding a post on Paizo’s store blog that previewed Princes of Darkness, with an entry on Moloch. Who was described as an entity of pure hellfire, barely contained within a suit of rusting black armor.

Anyone who has EVER said that the Devils are boring? Can officially suck it.

So I picked it up, and yeah, it’s good. It’s great, in fact, as the other eight Princes are awesome too, the details on how Hell works are neat, and the new monsters? People, I’m not even running Pathfinder and I want to use some of these things. Simply put, if you run D&D, Pathfinder, whatever, if you’ve EVER loved Devils, get Princes of Darkness. It’s worth it.

Naturally, when a second Book of the Damned was announced, detailing the Abyss and its demons, I wanted it too. The Abyss is an environment as old as Dungeons & Dragons itself, with everyone having a favorite Demon Lord (Juiblex, in my case), and after seeing Paizo’s take on the Hells? Well, who wouldn’t want this book? Sadly, as Christmas was kind of bad, money-wise (well, everything-wise, but this is a WordPress blog, not a Livejournal…), I wasn’t able to get it until this week.

So, is it as good as the first volume? Not exactly, but only because the first was hard to top.

Written by James Jacobs, softcover, full color, 60-odd pages, $19.99 USD MSRP.

Everything that was in Volume 1 is present here: The fiction with its strange, difficult to read text (true low point of the book; no marks deducted, however), the beautiful, high-quality color art for the monsters, and more information in a lean 60 pages than Wizards of the Coast can pack into nearly 200.

That said, this thing is a little more scattered than the first. As the Nine Hells only have, well, nine layers, nine unique realms, that means only nine Princes. The Abyss, however, has more. A lot more. Infinitely more, or 657 more, depending on who you ask. So of course there are not 600 demon lords in this book. That would just be silly. And pretty useless, really.

But this does have well over 40. Obviously, since one of Golarion’s gods, Lamshutu, makes her home in the Abyss, she is detailed here, with two pages of info, which is more than any other single lord gets, most of them getting about half a page. There’s a lot in those half-pages, however.

I mean, you have your usual ones, you know, madness, pain, torture, apes, stuff like that. But then it gets weird. Things like Aldinach, the lord of scorpions, sand, and thirst, who is worshiped in the vast deserts of Golarion. She herself IS a massive scorpion, with claws of horribly sharp crystal. Then we have Flauros, lord of salamanders, fire and volcanoes, who appears as a massive reptilian monstrosity made from molten lava. Jezelda is the being worshiped by the werewolves as a god, though, sadly, her interest is only in werewolves. Still, that’s pretty cool. And yes, there is Xoveron, the lord of ruins, gluttony, and gargoyles, whose form is a gargoyle bearing four arms, four heads, and twenty horns. Bad ass. I am using this thing. Somehow. Some way.

But the one who stands out most in my mind is Nugral, the demon lord of the sun. Yes, you read that right: He’s an evil sun god. His worshipers do not fear the light of day, and bring a whole new meaning to the whole “Light is Not Good” trope…

Like I said: It’s weird. But that’s a good thing… Especially in dealing with demons.

Then we have a few demon lords fans of D&D will no doubt recognise. Pazuzu, Orcus, Kostiche and Dagon return, among others, all in styles similar to ones they used in 3.5e, and that’s not very strange. I mean, they are mythological figures and thus public domain.

But then we have ones I assumed were owned by Wizards: Juiblex. Socothbenoth. Possibly others. Now I know Paizo isn’t stupid (They’re not Fast Forward Entertainment, after all, dear GOD no), so there must be a reason they can use these things. Either way, I’m not unhappy to see them, I just thought it was strange.

One thing I would like to point out is that the Demon Lords section begins with a note on doing battle with them: Simply put, Pathfinder says “You can’t,” as they are effectively Demigods in power, well beyond the scope of the usual game. In light of Dungeon & Dragons 4th Edition’s heavy focus on battling Demon Lords or gods once you hit level 30, to say nothing of Paizo’s love of battling both, Demon Lords and Gods (as you fight one of each in the Paizo Adventure Paths published in Dungeon Magazine) this seems somewhat strange. I couldn’t tell you why they did this, but I suppose it does not matter. Just something I thought I’d mention.

From there, details on demonic cults, notes on various forms of demons and their roles, and several new types of demons… And in comparison to the section on demon lords, these chapters are pretty lean. I suppose after giving enough information for years of campaigns, one does not need to do much more, but again, it seems somewhat sparse.

Still, that’s A LOT of info to cram into 60 pages, and at $20, it’s a solid purchase, especially for Pathfinder players, and Abyss fans of any edition of D&D.

… AND IT HAS A GARGOYLE DEMON LORD! THAT IS FREAKING AWESOME!

… ahem, sorry…

2010 in review

January 2, 2011

And now for something totally the same.

The following was actually auto-generated by WordPress, but gave me the option of posting it to my own blog if I felt like sharing. And I do. See, this was… Well, it was an expiriment. I think it worked, really. Sure it was mostly reviews, but I feel a good review can be entertaining. I’m glad many of you out there in Internet Land seem to agree. I’m pretty happy with what I accomplished this year, delays and other stuff exempted for a moment, and part of what makes it worth it is knowing people read and enjoy my blog. I would like to take a moment to thank Erik Mona, Paizo Publishing, Goodman Games, Neuroglyph Games, everyone else who linked my blog, everyone who read my blog, and everyone who came here searching for “I met you on a Thursday.” I have no idea why, but it’s been in my “top search queries” list since I posted it in March. I suppose I owe you for that, haha.

Oh and I’d like to issue a hearty “No Thanks” to the spambots, who probably accounted for part of my hits this year. Though your incoherent posts now and then made you amusing, you did little more than waste my time…

Anyway, here’s the results!

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,000 times in 2010. That’s about 5 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 50 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 98 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 141mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was December 18th with 218 views. The most popular post that day was Product Review: Green Races.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, theweem.com, underthepale.livejournal.com, neuroglyphgames.com, and spub.storeblogs.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for i met you on a thursday, long exile gaming, critter cache lovecraftian bestiary, dungeon magazine annual, and dungeon magazine annual review.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Product Review: Green Races December 2010
4 comments

2

Product Review – Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual Miniatures: Lords of Madness (DDM4) October 2010

3

Product Review – Dungeon Magazine Annual 1 May 2010

4

I met you on a Thursday… March 2010

5

Product Review – Critter Cache 6: Lovecraftian Bestiary March 2010


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