Friday, March 30, 2018

Monster Mythology: The Tarrasque

Tiamat was always a vicious and immature tyrant. She never took responsibility for anything, especially her failures. It led to divisiveness within her own family and slowly, over eons, even within the ranks of the chromatic dragons that worshipped her.

She had many grand promises about her victory upon the Prime Material Plane of Faërun and once again, failed to deliver.

But this time, many chromatics, especially the elders had been whispering about what should be done if she failed them all yet again. Especially, with the sacrifices their own kind had made in her most recent schemes.

A subtle and resourceful cabal was formed, they chose no name for it, so it would be harder to trace their actions and they began to seek a new God for their kind. 

Art by Jason Engle

Many of the elders told of the exploits of Tiamat and Bahamut's eldest brother, Vorel. He was a mighty and cunning indigo dragon, his only flaws were his love for his younger brother, Bahamut, and being born without wings. Flaws that Tiamat had exploited to murder him.

Their tales of his exploits, of his prowess, of his brilliance spread like a fever amongst the conspirators of the cabal. A plan began to form. That plan would require the Wand of Orcus and it would be necessary to use it upon her in her home in the Abyss, the Dragonspawn Pits of Azharul.

And what better way to find the Wand than to use Adventurers, the very bane of Tiamat and her chromatics?

The cabal planned long and well and they succeeded. Tiamat lay dead in the Abyss and they had found the remains of long dead Vorel, his skull and his left arm.

And so they elders used their considerable magic to raise him from the dead.

While the elders of the cabal had told of Vorel's exploits and planned for Tiamat's demise, none of them had considered what, if any, side affects there would be to the necromancy they used to bring Vorel back from the dead.

After all, Vorel, the Indigo Dragon, had been dead for many, many eons. Perhaps he had found a form of peace? Perhaps he had become a part of the very Multiverse? Perhaps there wasn't much of his mind left when they raised his body?

The elders immediately knew something was wrong as Vorel's howl  of rage could be heard for miles and like a bolt of deadly lightning he was upon Nicovaren the Black, tearing through the ancient's neck and ripping out his heart. Before Lenavossalorn the Blue could even take flight, Vorel had gouged out her eyes, torn off her wings and gutted her from stem to stern. 

None of the conspirators who raised long dead Vorel survived that long and bloody day. Their actions released a fearsome beast upon Faërun that day. Vorel now roamed the land, destroying anything he crosses. But most know him by the name the Giants had given him, Tarrasque.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018


Over at Tenkar's Tavern, there is a post about the Gatekeeping (keeping others out of RPGs due to rules lawyering or other undesirable and stereotypical behaviors) and comments about Retroclones.

Apparently what started the post were these quotes: 

"we might actually have had to play with our original D&D books instead of derivative pdf files of minor edits to the original game. The horror!" 

"hard for new players? Most of us learned to play it in middle school!

First, I'm 45, I would have been in middle school from 1983 to 1986. I didn't know about DnD until our local B. Dalton's put up a display of ADnD hardcovers in about 1981. There was nowhere locally to buy RPG books until the store I now work for, Comic Book World, added an RPG section in 1985.

Unfortunately, no one I knew played DnD of any edition. I moved to Indiana for High School and only one kid in my entire school liked comics, besides myself and no one played RPGs.

I started playing my sophomore year of College.

Now, when I started this blog, DnD 4 was dead. Pathfinder was new and growing and the OSR had become a thing.

You could not legally get older editions of DnD PDFs legally. I would argue that the OSR and the problems of DnD 4, helped WotC to make a more "classic" stance with DnD 5.

I will tell anyone that even though I had played and GM'd RPGs for over 20 years, that it was the OSR that made me understand the strange resolution systems, importance of magic items, the empowerment of the DM, and really the intentions of the designers of early DnD. 

If you were in middle-school in the later 70s and early 80s and you found an edition of DnD you love, then good for you.

I had to wait until DnD 5E to find that edition, but in the meantime, those "house-ruled PDFs" taught me to love those earlier editions.

I am ashamed to admit that I have wasted some of my life being that prick who wants to be superior. I admit that I was bullied as a young person extensively and when I found my social niche with gamers, I bullied people and emulated the behaviors I faced. I know that I am at least 50% responsible for any conflict that I am in.

But, somewhere along the way I stopped caring about all of that crap and realized that an RPG session should be a group of people, comfortable with the game they are playing, rolling dice and having fun. That's it. Age, religion, ethnicity, economic background, education level, disability--NONE of that matters at the table. If everyone is comfortable and having fun, you all move past are daily grinds and for a few hours, at least, share a story and your imagination with other people.

The only gatekeeping that needs to be done, is making sure the gate is wide open and it won't close on anyone.

So play DnD or any RPG however you like, as long as everyone is comfortable and having fun.

Sadly, this is merely yet another tempest in a teapot.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Blood War: Spells for D&D 5th Edition

These spells originally appeared in Fiendish Code I: Hordes of the Abyss.

Art by By Michelonisophia

For Sorcerer, Warlock, Wizard

DURATION 10 Minutes; Requires Concentration
SCHOOL Transmutation

Bat-like wings grow from your back. You gain a flying speed of 60 feet for the duration. When the spell ends, you fall if you are still aloft, unless you can stop the fall.
*Requires a bat's wing.

For Cleric

RANGE/AREA 90 ft (15 ft radius sphere)
DURATION 1 Minutes; Requires Concentration
SCHOOL Conjuration

You create a 15-foot-radius sphere of acidic, green slime centered on a point you choose within range. The slime spreads around corners. It lasts for the duration.

When a creature enters the spell's area for the first time on a turn or starts its turn there, that creature must make a Dexterity saving throw. The creature takes 7d6 acid damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. 

At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 6th level or higher, the damage increases by 1d8 for each slot level above 5th.
*Requires stagnant water.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

D&D 5th Edition: Another Optional Initiative System

This is idea for an alternative initiative for 5th Edition and grew out of Mike Mearls' Greyhawk Initiative. For a previous attempt, see here.

Initiative goes from Highest to lowest roll and a d20 is replaced with the following system:

You roll initiative every round.

If you are casting a spell this round, roll a d6 + Dex Mod.

If you are making a weapon attack this round, roll 1d10 + Dex Mod.

If you have levels in the Fighter class roll 1d12 + Dex or Str Mod.

If you have levels in Rogue you add your Int Mod and your Dex Mod to the roll.

If you are making a ranged attack this round you have Advantage on Initiative, so you roll 2 of the appropriate dice and take the highest.

If you are moving this round you have Disadvantage on Initiative, so you roll 2 of the appropriate dice and take the lowest.

For simplicity, the DM can roll d8+ Number of enemies.

The highest number goes first.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Counter Culture: Looking at the Pathfinder 2E Announcement

I've been working at my store for 19 years. I've been through the launches of DnD 3, 3.5, 4, 4 Essentials, 5 and Pathfinder.

This announcement for Pathfinder 2nd Edition, as a retailer, has been a bit odd for me.

First, there isn't any buzz in my store about it. There is amongst my group, as I ponder if I will try it (I pondered trying Starfinder but it was more system than I want right now).  Heck, there was more buzz about Starfinder, in fact. Now, that is completely shocking because Paizo has always cultivated a better direct to consumer program than any other RPG publisher. But that also meant, even at it's height of sales when Wizards of the Coast abandoned 4E and we were waiting for Next, it's sales were not anything significant for us, as DnD always had been. But it's also not as shocking because WotC wisely decided not to do a 5.5 and those unsure of it playing other games are now more willing to dive in. And new players are diving in every day, right now. Meanwhile, I'm lucky to turn (sell) a Pathfinder Pocket Core book every two months.

To complicate things, it seems that Erik Mona is bristling with comparisons to 5E, while he and his teams are making statements that remind me of 4E. If I were Erik, I'd look at the fact that their success is built upon WotC walking away from a customer base AND the fact that almost four years into it's life cycle the Player's Handbook is STILL #4 on Amazon. I would want to catch that lightning. That doesn't mean I would make 5.5, but I wouldn't necessarily distance myself either.

In fact, if I were in charge of Pathfinder, now would be the time I would take an older Adventure Path and convert it to 5E. Yes, WotC screwed them on the OGL portion of 4E and yes they were smart enough to capitalize on those who didn't want to leave 3.5 behind, but when Green Ronin is selling their Critical Role books like they are, why wouldn't you try a campaign out?

This is merely my gut feeling, but I think Paizo has as good a chance of having their 2nd Edition be received the way DnD 4E as they do of having a hit. Understand, at the retail level, Starfinder did great for everyone on it's first printing. But there is been very little momentum on additional supplements or it's second printing for my stores.

And please understand, I don't wish Paizo ill, I learned about eight years ago they wouldn't drive RPG sales for me the way WotC and DnD do. You see when DnD is successful, the whole industry is successful. Other systems and DnD "competitors" like Pathfinder or 13th Age NEED DnD to be huge, so that the iconoclasts and grognards out there have something to rebel against it. That's why the OSR was good for DnD.

I'm watching all of this and waiting to see how it turns out.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

D&D 5th Edition: Cloudwrought

Cloudwrought is an elemental node aligned to air and earth and currently held by the Stonehand Clan of Gargoyles, led by a priest named Granite.

It was formed over 1000 years ago and is made up of petrified lightning. It's presence is believed to contribute to the constant presence of thunderstorms and why some of the locals out of nearby Stormhaven refer to it as "tornado alley" along the High Rode that runs through it.

Because of the node's potency, any spell cast within 2 miles of it requires a roll on the following table:

Roll a D10
1 The spell fails, but the spells slot is not lost.
2 - 4 The spell is cast normally.
5 If the spell does damage it is changed to lightning damage.
6 If the spell does damage it is changed to bludgeoning damage.
7 The caster gains a +1 bonus to AC for 1 minute.
8 The target(s) of the spell gain a +2 to their Saving Throw, if the spell has one.
9 The spell is cast normally, but the caster takes 1d8 thunder damage.
10 The spell is cast normally and the caster gains 10 temporary hit points.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Paizo Just Announced Pathfinder 2nd Edition

I can't say I'm shocked. I'm sure they tested some major ideas with Starfinder, and here it is, Pathfinder 2E is a thing.

I was never a big Pathfinder 1E fan, because I wasn't a big DnD 3.X fan. I preferred the OSR to DnD 3 or 4 and then 5E was pretty much what I would have designed in an edition.

From the announcement, it seems to take quite a bit from DnD 5E, not that that is a bad thing.

3 Modes of Play.


Proficiency Bonus.

No mention of Bounded Accuracy.

I dug the idea of using different Skills for initiative, if nothing I else I might swipe it.

I do hope Monster Design is truly easier, because designing monsters in Pathfinder, was in my opinion, a mess.

The 3 action thing is interesting, I wonder if it will replace iterative attacks for Fighters and such?

My concern is that Pathfinder, like the foundation it was built upon will continue with multiple, fiddly modifiers. I've gotten pretty spoiled by Advantage/Disadvantage. And while I've looked through Starfinder, it didn't move that far from it's inspiration, in my opinion. And I can tell you at the store, it sold great right after Gen Con, but the second print run has not done anything since coming in. But that is just my two stores.

And then there is the Third Party Support, will this be a boon or a bane?

I worry that by moving away from their stated mission of bringing DnD 3.X back to the audience felt jilted by 4E that they are going to lose more players than transfer over or give it a try. DnD 5E is a juggernaut and this could be a bad move.

I also wonder if the Powers That Be at Paizo would look at converting an older Adventure Path to 5E and testing the waters?

I will download the playtest and probably give it a spin and I'll certainly stay informed. I'm not saying Pathfinder 2E couldn't beat out DnD 5E for me, but it's got a long mountain to climb.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

My Dad

It's been a long and busy few weeks.

On February 10, I moved my Mom and Dad into our house so Dad could enter Home Hospice.

On February 19th, at approximately 7pm, my Dad passed away.

I will cherish those nine days. He had told my Mom, two nights before he passed that he was ready to die. The pain was just too great.

I'm extremely blessed that I got 45 years with both of my parents and can't imagine how much harder this would have been if I were younger.

My Dad's name was Gary.  When I was younger, I would have told you we had nothing in common because I was blind to so many of the traits he gave me and the foundation he toiled to lay for me.

Now, I know that I get my love of history, politics, and cinema from him. And he loved cowboys as much I love DnD. 

More importantly, whatever success I have as a man, a husband, and as a father, I owe to the example he set in the 47 years he was married to my Mom.

I know things have been slow on here and I don't know exactly what my output will be, but Cross Planes won't end. Right now, there are still things to work out for my Mom and things for me to work through.

Thundarr the Movie

As a life-long comics fan and a retailer with a quarter century of experience, I was today years old when I discovered that Buzz Dixon and ...