Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deathtrap Vs. Henry Fool

1/20/14

Just so you all know, it isn’t that I don’t have stuff to talk about, I do.  I just don’t feel like this place I’ve constructed as a safe haven for what is going inside my mind is currently a place where I can do that.  Is that weird?  For the longest time I treated this and Podcast(s) as a place to be candid, to vent, to just let those screaming voices in my head have free reign to just say what they needed to.  I think it was because I truly felt like I had so little to lose.  Cassandra and I were/are beyond rock solid and that was all I cared about. 

That has changed.  I have tried to be a better person, a better Friend, and overall to be smarter with what I do and say, in doing so I have ALL these ‘things’ to lose now.  Sometimes I feel like life was simpler when I just didn’t care as much.  Now I have ‘ALL’ the ‘cares’.  All of them.  I’ve traded simplicity for more Happiness than I knew possible or have ever thought I deserved.  In doing so though I’ve also realized that some things in my life are NOT for mass consumption.  Really it is the best trade I’ve ever made.

It feels weird that I’m sort of pseudo-confessing this to the ether, but then again I’m about to talk about a bunch of other weird stuff so I guess my strange internal struggle is just par for the course.  So while I can’t really talk about what is bugging me right now, what has me stressed, or how I’m trying to cope, I can tell you that I am coping.  I can tell you that I am Happy.  And I can tell you that even though reading this might be a bit less entertaining of a personal car wreck it doesn’t mean I’m done writing. 

Anywho.

In order to have something worthwhile to post I decided to look at something that I feel pretty good about, but at the same time feel like it failed in execution.  I’m going to pull back the curtain on my DMing, and show the 10 of you who care to read it just how I put together an adventure.  In addition I’ll leave notes as to just why I think it didn’t work in italics.  Here you go, our first ever installment of…

PEEK BEHIND MY SCREEN!

A Bitter Harvest – 2nd Group Intro Adventure

This was 2nd Group’s first 5E adventure so I really wanted to do something to capture the rip roaring High Seas Adventure vibe.  Instead I watched ‘Bride Of The Gorilla’ & ‘Island Of Lost Souls’ too much and ended up with an adventure with a horror bent.  Also I thought the name was clever.

The Plot is simple, the PC’s arrive bringing supplies from Raven’s Point an island port.  They’ve been sent by a Halfling named Quinn, who claims to be in the ‘Import/Export’ business.  He wants product moved to and from Savin’s Cordon without paying the Collus Shipping Guild its taxes, and figures the PC’s and their fast little ship is perfect for the job.  He’s paying 25GPS apiece to take the gig, and another 75GPS upon delivering the items from Savin’s Cordon.  If they haggle he’ll throw in an extra 25GPS for ‘Hazard Pay’.  He’s never been to Savin’s Cordon nor does he have a lot of info on it, because most of the time the folks he gets to do the ‘Savin Run’ don’t really ever want to do it again.  He does tell the PC’s, “…Stay off the Bog at night, that’s one thing I do know.  A few months back I lost a whole shipment because the idiots ran late and ended up on the Bog at night.  Even the Savin’s damn wagons weren’t salvageable…”  He’s sending a Porter, Reginald a Dwarf who likes his spirits, and 2 Teamsters, ‘Young’ David (is balding, round at the middle, and smells awful) & Harris (is missing his thumb on his left hand and speaks monosyllabically) two hard looking humans in their late 30’s.  These three work for Quinn regularly, but have never done the ‘Savin Run’.  If the PC’s pry a bit they find it out they are only on it due to being caught embezzling booze and selling it on the side, they tell the PC’s, “…it were either the Run or the short Swing…”  Quinn’s having the PC’s move a trunk of ‘Fragile’ items (Alchemy/Wizard Components), 2 cases of top notch Elven Wine, 5 cases of Dwarven Brandy, a barrel of Greek Fire, a sedated primate in a cage, a cask of Black Powder, and a large crate of weapons.  The weapon crate contains a Crossbow +1, a +1 Shield Of Fire Resistance, a +1 Rapier, and a +1 Black Powder Pistol.  If the PC’s are caught smuggling these items it would be three years hard labor on The Troll’s Limb, an archipelago that the Collus Shipping Guild uses as a prison/labor camp.

I don’t know if you can tell or not, but I LOVE building.  I seriously love it.  There is far too much information here, but it really doesn’t matter.  I wanted Quinn to be an on-going NPC, and sort of tried to play up the Porters & Reginald to a decent effect in play that way when I ‘offed’ them there would be some sort of reaction.  Seeing as we only play once a month the PC’s had basically forgotten about them between sessions so when they died they were just another problem to overcome.  That is the cost of playing at the frequency level we do.  I added the magic items and the like to see if the PC’s would steal them.  I like to put temptation out there especially in a group full of Neutral PC’s who tend to skirt that line more towards Evil at times, I’m looking directly at you THE Karl.  And Master Ked 4.0.  And even occasionally, you Cassandra.  The ending sentence was to set a tone when getting across the danger of the run, if they get caught then there are consequences.  Also the Collus Shipping Guild is going to be a campaign long menace or potential ally/employer, depending on the PC’s, and I want them to be in the background until as a living, breathing part of the world.

The PC’s see some Merchant Marine ships on their one day voyage, but are not threatened as they head to Savin’s Cordon.  It is an inhospitable island that sends especially prized rice, cranberries, and excavated items from the reaches of its Snakehead Bog.  There is a landing by an old abandoned Lighthouse where wagons and horses have been left.  Then it’s a trip on the Servant’s Road through the Bog. 

Again this is simply foreshadowing to later events &/or adventures.  It also allowed me to do the sailing montage, or ‘screen wipe’ so I didn’t need to examine the minutia of the journey. 

The Servant’s Road - Halfway on their trip they come to a spot where there are the remains of another two wagons; there are some chunks of rotted human flesh if the PC’s look for a bit.  A DC 13 Investigation or Medicine reveals that these body parts were dead before they were torn apart.  These wagons have been thoroughly devastated on a stretch where the road is very narrow and in danger of being washed out by what has become actual swamp.  This is where the Giant Crocodile (CR 5 – Build Off Giant Croc) will erupt through the water and attempt to get an easy meal, this is DC 14 Perception to avoid surprise.  The Croc goes for the horses first.  It attacks for two rounds and then slinks back into the murky water.  The rest of the way the PC’s should be periodically shot at by some Lizardfolk (CR ½ - Build Off Lizardfolk) from within the woods, but never outright confronted.  If the PC’s rush into the jungle the Lizardfolk flee.  In the Bog there is also a tribe of Lizardfolk, and in some sort of sunken structure, a large violated cairn, a tribe of Troglodytes.  They should hear distant drums, smell smoke tinged with scent of unknown meat, and see odd pictograms carved in the weeping willow trees, which if any of the PC’s can decipher they say “Beware The House Of White Bone Devil” along the sunken, soggy road that indicate something bad ahead. 

Here is where the PC’s first took me off the rails.  I figured they’d run from that damn Giant Croc.  I really did.  However in their Heroism/’Stubbornism’ they looked at it as a HUGE, shiny XP slot machine.  The combat itself was really fun.  I took it easy on them by giving them two free rounds of attacks as the Giant Croc went after the wheels of the cart and the horses.  Once they had thoroughly engaged me I couldn’t flee, and I had to be careful not to kill them.  Really they did a fantastic job playing inventively and working as a team.  I added a small Lizardfolk encounter as well here which added some much needed tension and sped up their ‘repairs’ on the wagons.  Also as you can see SO much more foreshadowing.  I tried desperately to be clever and subtle with this adventure, and I think what I realized is my Players, for the most part, aren’t those types of Players, and maybe I’m just not that good at that DMing skill. 

The Plantation - Since Savin knows that the PC’s don’t know him or his practices he hides his ‘servants’ from their prying eyes.  Upon arrival the supplies, two large carts are unloaded, it is getting towards night, and the PC’s were heavily warned to stay off the bog at night.  Savin offers them and the 3 Porters/Drivers lodging for the night.  The home is beautiful, but feels old, and slightly stale.  The PC’s and their ‘co-workers’ are given a common room on the 2nd of 3 above ground stories.  The NPC’s are as follows;

At this point I was building towards this big reveal, setting more tone, and trying to replace the tensions PC’s should feel when going through ‘enemy controlled territory’ with real dread.

Savin Romero is a Necromancer who has a large plantation in the middle of Snakehead Bog.  The vast majority of his labor force is Undead.  Early in life he studied the Transmutation school with Dr. Korvin before shifting his attention to Necromancy after the loss of his first wife.  He and Dr. Korvin studied together at the University Of Dunnwich.  They both also worked with a Dr. Grubb and Dr. West at the Deraleth Asylum.  All four remain in contact with one another working on something vaguely referred to as ‘The Circle’.  He is a jovial man who appears constantly exhausted.  He does have a tendency to be arrogant and bossy to those beneath him, but dotes on Celeste.  He is very pale and thin.

Whenever I make an NPC for a game that has any resonance I end up writing about a paragraph.  I figure that these shouldn’t be card board cut outs in a 3D world, but rather characters in their own right who have histories, wants, needs, motivations, allies, enemies, etc.  I want my PC’s to have personalities.  I really felt that when I got to role play Savin, two scenes I think, I played up his tired aspect as well as his somewhat fatherly attitude, which again was simply foreshadowing.  That, by the by, didn’t really work, lol.

Savin is married a beautiful Bard named Celeste, who used to be a dancer.  He is 25 years her senior.  If the PC’s dig they find she also is learning some herbalism/botany from Trustin, she seems especially fond of plants with a more dangerous bent, i.e. poisons.  There is an obvious chemistry and attraction between Celeste and Janjak.

Celeste is more of a Plot Device in this adventure, had she lived she may have become more. 

Doctor Landri Korvin is a longtime friend of Savin and now his personal physician.  She is well versed in Transmutation magic, although no longer practices except to maintain her youthful appearance.  This half-elf looks much younger than her age and carries a torch for Celeste, dislikes Janjak’s overbearing nature, and has a Halfling assistant named Trustin.  She is friendly enough if not distant and appears to be carrying a heavy weight on her shoulders, whether that is due to the ailing health of her friend or her unrequited love of Celeste only she knows.

Dr. Korvin ended up being far more important than I originally intended and is now part of the next adventure, due to her negotiations with the PC’s.  She now has excellent motivation as an NPC as she owes her life to the PC’s, but blames them for Celeste’s death.

Trustin is a Gnome herbalist of no small skill, and chafes under the watchful, and in his mind, glory stealing eyes of his mistress.  Secretly he has formed an odd friendship with Janjak.  He also has been teaching Celeste about botany, with focus on the local herbs of the Bog.

Trustin was a Plot Device and Exposition Drop, but the PC’s took the interaction and ran with it.  Or in Master Ked 4.0’s character’s case slept with it.  Trustin was meant to die a horrible death that further pushed the horror that things had escalated.  Instead the PC’s used some tricky casting and my inability to keep things on a strict time table to save him.  He didn’t affect the way the finale of this adventure turned out at all, and better yet he is now an NPC of importance.  Trustin, aka Pookie, is now in a relationship with Ked’s character Fookin and I am intrigued to see how it’ll turn out.

Janjak is Savin’s Overseer on the Plantation and he and Celeste are carrying on a torrid affair.  He oversees ten living men, and the 60 + Zombies/Skeletons that do the majority of work on the plantation.  He’s a beast of a man, almost with a Half-Orcish appearance in build.  He seems quick to answer and petulant, but has animal magnetism about him.  He constantly paws at a necklace with Savin’s family crest on it.

Janjak served a number of purposes.  He was to be extra muscle if needed, a romantic rival if Celeste came into play that way, an exposition drop for further information, and in the end a Moral Quandary.  I feel like I had a decent handle on this NPC and he served his purpose.  I do wish I would have taken more time to have had him build a bit of a rivalry or friendship with one of the PC’s in order to make the inevitable ending mean a bit more. 

Dinner Party Of The Damned - At dinner the shock comes when the food is served by 5 zombies all dressed in human clothing and in decent shape, they all look relatively ‘fresh’.  Savin is a gracious host, but seems to take a bit of glee in making the PC’s uncomfortable.  There is an obvious tension when Janjak arrives with a bustle.  He’s sweaty, bruised, and has a hastily cared for gash on his forehead.  After some scowling from Savin, and some meaningful glances from Celeste Janjak angrily asks if the PC’s are the ‘Hired Guns’ he’s been asking for to handle their Lizard problem.  Savin tries to shut him up about that, but Janjak angrily throws out that none of this would have happened if he couldn’t have just left those Tharump forsaken cairns alone!  At that point Savin stands, and all 5 of the Zombies drop their dishes and stare at JanjakDr. Korvin then steps in and says that Janjak is just injured and needs medical attention, and that an altercation between business associates is fruitless.  They two stare hard at each other before a now very tired looking Savin dismisses Janjak with a gesture.  After they leave, Celeste looks disapprovingly at her husband, he responds with a ‘What!’, and she excuses herself.  At this point Savin looks exhausted.  He looks up at the PC’s with a tired grin.  “Welcome to my humble home…”  He then proceeds to ask the PC’s about Raven’s Point, the journey on the Servant’s Road, and if they had any trouble arriving to the island.  These are just general questions and small talk.  He will answer most of the PC’s questions as long as they are asked in a respectful manner.  Eventually he wants to get down to ‘brass tacks’.  He ensures that the delivery paperwork Quinn required is signed and given to the PC’s.  He then asks the PC’s what it would cost to venture out into the Bog and either deal with his ‘Lizard Problem’ one way or another.  He’s willing to pay no more than 300GPS per PC, but will start at 200GPS.  He’ll chit chat with the PC’s but won’t go into detail about the cairns, just that he made a mistake ten years ago.

Here we get the Reveal!  This didn’t turn out exactly as I wanted in play, but it went relatively well.  The PC’s were so hardline in their stance to not handle the ‘Lizard Problem’ that I had to bribe them with a LOT more GPS than I intended.  It helped me to know that Savin wouldn’t be alive to pay them by the end anyways, plus I felt it gave him an air of a desperate man.  The scene was also set up to give the PC’s a look into the relationship dynamic of the NPC’s, as the potential powder keg that is the love quadrangle was very important to how things were to play out.

The Nightcap - That night Trustin sits down to share a bottle or three with the PC’s.  In the process he’ll gossip about the house, if they get him drunk he’ll reveal additional information, too drunk and he passes out;

I just ‘winged’ the mechanics for the drinking, and hot damn did it go well.  The PC’s had a blast playing out this encounter. 

Savin is in bad health, but he does love Celeste, in his own way.  Most of the time he is tolerable, but when he gets all ‘high and mighty’ it makes sense why Janjak would want to shut him up permanently.  If the PC’s get him drunk enough he reveals that he truly  feels like maybe the whole Plantation would be a much better place if Savin did just pass and Janjak ran things.

I didn’t want the PC’s to go Necromance = EVIL(!), so I tried my best to make sure they understood that Savin simply used his powers as a means to an end; profit.

Doctor Korvin is like a sister to Savin, they’ve known each other for 50 some odd years.  She is the only person Savin fully trusts.  If the PC’s get him drunk enough he reveals that it’s a shame Savin doesn’t realize just how much Korvin pines for his wife.  She keeps a locket with her that inside has some of Celeste’s hair in it.

There was the rub, the pseudo-siblings in love with the same woman.  It also was meant to get across that while Dr. Korvin pines she would never betray the trust or ‘familial’ relationship she had developed with Savin.

Trustin has been in the service of Doctor Korvin for 8 years; he owed money to her family and signed a ten year servitude agreement.  He was brought in to help identify, and accumulate herbs from the area for both Savin & Korvin’s ‘work’.  If the PC’s get him drunk enough he reveals that Korvin is always going back and forth to some room in the basement, that only she and Savin have keys for.  He followed her down there once, and he heard something “Unnatural” from behind that door.  He doesn’t go down into the sub-basement anymore.

I dropped the basement hint here, but no one remembered it or wrote it down.  Playing Trustin up as a somewhat disgruntled, slightly sad, and even desperate servant worked out well.  Well, well enough for he and Fookin to hook up anyways.

Celeste knows way too much to be a student of herbalism, especially about poisons.  That woman has a past of some type or another.  If the PC’s get him drunk enough he reveals that Savin’s health has only gotten worse in the five years since they married and she moved to the Plantation.  He suspects something, but dare not speak it.

Here again we get some foreshadowing of ‘Future Badness’.  Celeste isn’t what she seems, and that is important in the climax, especially when it comes to the Moral Quandary.

Janjak is salt of the earth.  Sure he’s quick with a fist, but he’s just as quick with a pat on the back, a belt of whiskey (the good stuff), and would do anything to get out from underneath the thumb of Savin.  And he loves CelesteTrustin even thinks she might actually love him.  He hit it off with Janjak after the man saved him from being eaten by a Giant Snake.  Two times previously he and Janjak thought about just running for it, but both times Janjak changed his mind last minute.  Then Celeste came and the point became moot.  If the PC’s get him drunk enough he reveals that sometimes Janjak spends a lot of time with Dr. Korvin’s primates and it spooks Trustin a bit as Janjak gets a weird look in his eyes.

Again I wanted to use this to set the table for the betrayal and the murder later.  Janjak & Trustin were supposed to be ‘Best Friends’, which way when the end comes it was to be far more awful.  It didn’t play out that way for a few reasons.  The first is I had to explain it in a heavy handed manner, which sucks.  The second was the PC’s unexpectedly saved Trustin.  The best part about that is there was NO debate about it.  All the PC’s agreed that it had to be done.  To me that meant I had created an NPC worth a damn because the PC’s wasted time and resources in the middle of a crisis to save him without need or prompt.

If They Don’t Take The Job - If the PC’s don’t agree then speed the process up and have Savin die that night, and the Zombies turn on the plantation.  Savin catches Janjak and Celeste in the throes of passion up on the third floor and all hell breaks loose.  Just go to the end and run it basically as is.

It took some convincing, and me really just giving up the proverbial fiscal farm, but I didn’t even need to use this option.  That’s the thing, I try REALLY hard not to ‘Railroad’ the PC’s, so I have to write a bit more in these adventures to give them options that I’ve actually fleshed out a bit.

If They Take The Job - If they do agree the next morning the wagons head out, nervous with no protection and Janjak waits for the PC’s outside.  Get across that there is a LOT of Zombies (CR ¼ - Build Off Zombie) out and gathering rice, getting cranberries out of bogs, and even excavating what looks like an old sunken church.  There are also 4 Giant Skeletons (CR ¼ - Build Off Skeleton, but make adjustments) who seem to be standing at the perimeter of the plantation, all on one knee as if bowing in silent reverence to the plantation house.  Janjak has three dogs with him, one is an Iron Defender Construct that is rusted and has seen better days.  Foreshadow that Janjak is good with a rope as he almost lazily throws the leashes on the dogs, but gently tightens them.  Overall, Janjak is pretty quiet, unless the PC’s can get him talking.  He generally avoids the subject of Celeste, bags on Savin while aimlessly taking what looks like a small very delicate piece of rope and making knots in it, if Trustin is brought up he smile broadly and speaks glowingly about his ‘little friend’, and if asked seems sort of indifferent about Doctor Korvin.  If asked he almost giddily tells the tale of him informing Savin “…not to go digging around the Lizardfolks burial cairns even if we do sorely needed ‘Raw Materials’, but Savin said it wasn’t about that he was after something else.  We lost 10 good men, friends, some like family…We lost them going down into that cairn.  It pissed the ‘Locals’ off something fierce and since things have only gotten worse.  He should have left that damn thing where he found it.”  He turns and looks at the PC’s with a pleading look, “Some things are buried deep for a reason…” He goes on to explain that Savin’s power grew greatly after their excavation, so much so that he raised the 4 Giant Skeletons to keep the more zealous ‘Locals’ from doing too much. 

Janjak fulfills his roll here as an Exposition Drop, as well as some foreshadowing with the whole rope and knots.  I also wanted to foreshadow that if things go bad with that many Zombies and those 4 Giant Skeletons then the PC’s were not in a situation where they could just charge into it ‘guns blazing’.  After all they were going to be at best 3rd level at that point, even at that level they wouldn’t have survived that number of Undead.

The Open Cairn - There is a rustling sound off in the distance, and the dogs all look expectantly.  Janjak lets the dogs go out ahead as they move deeper into the Bog finding more signs of the ‘Locals’.  A loud yelp erupts and the two dogs come bolting back towards the party, one with a pronounced limp.  The Iron Defender is nowhere to be found.  If they follow the tracks the find the remains of the Iron Defender and the entrance to what looks like some type of dug out cave.  To the side are three large rocks that have elaborate carvings in them.  Janjak, looks to be getting his orientation, and states, “We didn’t open this one…Well I didn’t at least…”  He places the little rope he’d been playing with in his pocket, grabs his amulet and mutters something, before unsheathing his sword.  There is an intense smell coming out of the hole.  He asks the PC’s how they would advise proceeding.

We began session 2 with more foreshadowing, and building of mood.  I think that it really worked rather well. 

If They Enter The Cairn - If the PC’s enter play up that there is a lot of refuse, half eaten meat rotting (upon investigation a lot of it Lizardfolk), and a lot of tracks of unknown origin coming in and out of this cave.  This should come off as terrifyingly ominous.  There are periodic noises coming out of the hole, but they sound distant.  This is an entrance to the underground caves/formally burial cairns of a particularly brutish tribe of Troglodytes.  There are three open areas in the cave complex/cairn.  First is the entrance area that is currently an abattoir filled with refuse and half devoured chunks of ‘things’.  Going down 5 feet of roughly hewn muddy steps is what looks like a ransacked burial area.  The primitive sarcophagus has been looted.  The largest in the room though has been moved and behind it is another set of steps going 10 feet further down.  There are the sounds of cracking bones coming from below.  In this hidden tomb the PC’s will fight 4 Lizardfolk Zombies (CR ¼ - Build Off Zombies), 1 Troglodyte Warrior (CR ¼ - Build Off Troglodyte), & 1 Troglodyte Caster (CR 2 – Build Off Cult Fantatic) who uses an amalgamation of Lizardfolk bones as a staff.  If brought to 3 HP’s or lower, if a PC falls, or if the battle appears to be getting away from the PC’s then Janjak calls for a general retreat and flees.  If the PC’s win they find a Lizardfolk chained on an alter who is bleeding out as most of his non-essential innards are laying in a clay bowl beside him still attached, they find human clothes that have obviously been worn recently by these Troglodytes, and what looks like a crude alter to Orcus.  The dying Lizardfolk is surprised to be saved by the PC’s.  He lets the PC’s know he is the last of his tribe, the rest have fallen to the corruption of these Troglodytes or to the blades of the ‘White Bone Devil’s slaves’.  He musters the energy to spit in the general direction of Janjak who looks utterly shocked, and then mutters that he pities his ‘saviors’ for he dies quick and he fears they will die slow.  It begins to mist and then slightly rain.  It is humid and there seems to be no reprieve from the heat.  Visibility is lessened by 10 feet.

This didn’t go at ALL like I thought it was.  First I used an Abandoned Temple map as the entrance, and tried really hard to set up that not only were the PC’s being watched, but that whatever was down beneath the ground was now free and was nasty.  Secondly, I decided to just ‘wing’ the battle.  I used an Underground Cave Complex map, and just decided to throw waves of Troglodytes at the PC’s who thought they were possibly Undead Lizardfolk.  The initial interaction between the PC’s and the Troglodyte who was using Lizardfolk viscera on his drum ended with Tiffany using Draconic to try and communicate with the nasty critter.  Of course this went poorly!  I had no intention of letting the PC’s go without a fight here, a fact I thought they would and did enjoy.  The thing was I mixed tougher Troglodytes into the fray, just using a much higher HP total, and awarded more XP.  I didn’t use a Trog Caster at all, cut out the Orcus connection, as well as the dying Lizardfolk Exposition Drop.  The fight was nasty enough, fun, and invested the PC’s into wanting to see the Trogs killed.

If They Don’t Enter The Cairn - If they don’t explore the cave and head back, they feel the eyes of what may or may not be the Lizardfolk upon them, following them back, but not attacking.  It begins to mist and then slightly rain.  It is humid and there seems to be no reprieve from the heat.  Visibility is lessened by 10 feet.  A soft chant of an unknown language echoes through the bog, and it is unsettling.  Right before the PC’s gets to the cleared area they are attacked by 2 Skeletons (CR ¼ - Build Off Skeletons) and 6 Zombies (CR ¼ - Build Off Zombies).  A well trained eye can discern that these are not the well-kept Undead of Savin, but rather something far more savage and crudely animated. If the PC’s get into the clearing of the plantation the Undead cease their chase and stay just behind the tree line.  The PC’s can look back and see the glints of steel spear tips, smell death and decay wafting in off the humid breeze, and see hateful red eyes staring back at them in droves.  Janjak is irate and thinks that Savin sent them into an ambush; he mutters “I warned him…I WARNED HIM!  He set us up!  I’ll kill him for this, curse or no curse…”  He sprints towards the Plantation House with grim determination. 

This just didn’t come into play at all, but at least I had it set up.

Back To The Plantation - When the PC’s arrive they are stopped by Doctor Korvin who tells them that the house came under attack just over an hour after they left.  She asks the PC’s to accompany her to Coach House to ring the bell and call all the ‘Living Staff’ indoors.  The sky is overcast and slight rain is begging to fall.  The sound of the Zombies working is the only noise.  Upon arriving in the Coach House they find a strange set of cages full of now deceased large primates, all 10 men dead, all of them have been severely mauled and gnawed on, three toed foot prints are fresh in the mud coming out of the wood to the Coach House and back, and the bell has been ripped from the wall.  At that point an ear piercing, blood curdling scream is heard emanating from the Plantation House.  A few seconds pass and then all the Zombies turn and look at the PC’s.  The mangled corpses on the ground start to reach and rise towards the PC’s.  Get across that things have turned deadly quickly.  The plantation house is 200 Feet from the Coach House, and the rain has begun to pick up.  Visibility is now cut in half.  The Zombies are moving slow, but there a LOT of them, and they are converging towards the rough cobblestone between the two ‘houses’.  Make sure the PC’s get there, but the Zombies are coming, en masse.  In the haze of the rain and heat the PC’s should see torches on the edge of the wood and a contingent of Lizardfolk and Troglodytes watching.  The downpour hits in round four after the scream, and four rounds later movement is halved.  So the PC’s have 8 rounds to get inside the Plantation House if they are going to go.

I am horrible with in game time management so the PC’s got back early.  I added an extra building, Dr. Korvin’s research shack, that gave the PC’s another spot to slow down, investigate, gather info, and keep them from the main house until it was time.  This also allowed me to foreshadow the Monkey shenanigans with Dr. Korvin euthanizing some primates.  Eventually we got to a ‘version’ of the Coach House scene and things took off from there.  I used a four round Athletics check coupled with a subsequent Perception check to make the sprint from the Coach House to the Main House eventful.  It worked as PC’s failed rolls, other PC’s had to pick them up, and there was a massive amount of tension as they barred the door from the oncoming horde.

The Nitty Gritty – The adventure then shifts in tone to the PC’s defending the house from the horde that is now under the control of a different entity.  Every round 2 Zombies enter into the house.  Every 10 minutes or so one of the Giant Skeletons does structural damage to the upstairs.

In the end I didn’t use this, instead I went a far more esoteric route and just played it by ear using it for storytelling and tension effects, such as once the upstairs events ended the Zombies began knocking through the front doors.  I then gave the PC’s the opportunities to use Skill checks to rebar the door, which they didn’t, then to escape.  I followed this up with a check at every door, which ensured that with every fail the PC’s got more desperate.  It worked out really well.

On the 2nd floor Savin is dead, he has a bruise on his cheek as if he was struck hard, and Janjak’s necklace in his hand.  A keen eye reveals he wasn’t killed by the blow, but was poisoned.  Across the room there is a spilt goblet; further examination reveals that it is clumsily poisoned with a local plant.  In Savin’s bedroom Celeste is in shock, she just keeps muttering, “A beast inside and out…” over and over again.  She attempts to either hide or scrub her hands.  A thorough examination shows that they are stained slightly with the local poisonous plant residue that was in the thrown goblet.  Janjak has fled, his clothes appear to have been ripped to shreds and lead towards a now off the hinges door into the complex beneath the House.  Korvin gasps when she sees Savin’s dead form.  She instantly drops and wraps her arms around Celeste, trying to comfort her.  It takes a moment but her attitude quickly shifts as Korvin becomes visibly terrified.  “GAWDS, if Savin is dead…Then ‘It’ is awake…Oh Gawds…It’s AWAKE!”  And she sprints toward the basement, leaving Celeste in a heap.

This played out reasonably well.  The details didn’t get across well, but they were there for those paying attention to them.  I liked that the PC’s felt safe enough to grab Korvin before she could run and force information out of her.  If you couple this with the saving of Trustin then you have some interesting monkey wrenches in my plans that I had not foreseen.  In hindsight I should have had Trustin grabbed by Zombies and killed.  Just kidding Ked!

The ‘IT’ is a Troglodyte Wight (CR 3 – Build Off Wight) that Dr. Korvin and Savin had been using as an Arcane Implement to raise and control so many dead.  Now it is awake, and its will is the driving force behind the Zombie force overwhelming the house itself.  He is in the Sub-basement of the house, where a small force of Troglodytes of have dug in and freed him.

I liked the Wight in theory, in practice I rolled atrociously and Edgar dropped a MONSTROUS Turn Undead on me that made the ending a bit less than the epic fight I had envisioned.  I built the room with a lot of covering terrain so I could move out and get my Life Drain off as much as possible, but the PC’s just played it really smart.  So smart in fact that I gave the Wight a spell that allowed him to make a zone of Stench making the PC’s roll at Disadvantage.  It worked ok, but in the end that damn Turn Undead that hit my Wight and two of my supped up Trog Zombies just was too much.  Live and learn…

It appears that Trustin has hung himself, and now has re-animated.  He’s struggling to no avail, just swinging and staring at the PC’s with dead eyes.  A keen eye, DC 11 Investigation, reveals that he didn’t hang himself at all; someone threw a rope around his neck, and then tossed him over the balcony.

Since subtly was not working I just had them find Trustin newly dead, which was a time mistake on my part, and had to lead the PC’s by the nose as to what happened, and really I don’t think they cared too much.

What Lies Below - In the first Basement there are 2 Mastiffs (CR 1/8 – Build Off Mastiff), 2 Apes (CR ½ - Build Off Ape) and the transformed Janjak, who is a massive War Ape (CR 2 – Build Off Orog).  Janjak is dragging a limp and apparently lifeless Korvin.  A DC 10 Medicine reveals she is hurt badly, but not dead.  There are 7 Rooms, 5 of which hold awakened Zombies who are scratching at the doors.  If Celeste is with the PC’s Janjak growls, thumps his chest and gestures for her to be given to him, he even offers the limp form of KorvinCeleste is almost catatonic and muttering, ‘Never wanted a beast, never wanted to kill, never wanted his life, never wanted this life…’ over and over again.  Let the PC’s try to figure out what happened, if they do give them Advantage on the final Encounters for their rolls. 

This was the Moral Quandary that I had waited to drop on the PC’s.  The PC’s didn’t really stop and work together to figure out what happened at this point, instead it was bits and pieces of information being shared while others just prepped for combat.  This is the thing with this type of adventure, you need to get all the PC’s or at least the majority to buy in to the story itself,  and I failed at that.

The REVEAL - So Celeste had been poisoning Savin.  She grew impatient and finally upped the dose enough to kill him.  She quickly blamed it on Trustin, when Janjak arrived the dying Savin attacked him, thinking that he was the one who turned Celeste against him, and in the scuffle removed his amulet.  He started to devolve quickly thereafter.  With Celeste’s blaming of Trustin & Janjak’s rage upon him he too blamed his tiny Gnome friend and killed him with a rope, allowing him to hang slowly and then change.  Celeste had no idea that Janjak was a transmuted Ape and her mind broke.

I had to spell this out.  Two of the PC’s had the idea and the basics of it, but otherwise this fell flat.  When a game goes well it is because the PC’s made it fun, I’m firmly convinced of this.  If I set the table for fun, and it turns out that way then it is because the PC’s made it that way.  Therefor when it falls apart it is on me as well.  It was a nice concept, but my execution and my assumptions about investment, memory, note taking, etc. by my Players was beyond flawed. 

The Coward’s Journey - Janjak and his Apes will leave the PC’s alone IF they give her Celeste.  He’ll then drag her into one of the open rooms, the Mastiffs will sit in front of the door, and the last things the PC’s will hear are Celeste’s screams.  This will cause an alignment shift for all PC’s who allow this to occur.

The thing is the PC’s blew me away here.  At some point, because the PC’s were SO beat up and I put them through such a ringer with no reward in the cave I gave Celeste a belt with six gems on it; three contained poison, one was an antidote, and two were Heal potions.  The PC’s used the Heals after deducing what they were by slamming them down in a hope that blue wouldn’t mean poison, they also wasted the antidote.  This left them with 3 poisons.  They had all, besides LG Edgar, decided to give up Celeste since she had murdered her Husband and tricked her now gorilla lover into killing his best friend.  I was set for the alignment shift, but then Cassandra had the BRILLIANT idea of slipping Celeste one of her own poison capsules giving her an out.  I really felt like they served their own sense of justice, stayed true to their characters, and avoided another combat.  It was a damn fine idea suggested and the plan they used to implement it was perfect.  Kudos to Edgar, Tiffany, THE Karl, Ked, & Cassandra there.

The Hero’s Journey - If they fight the Mastiffs charge first and try to work behind the PC’s in this 10 foot wide hallway.  This then allows for the 2 Apes & Janjak to charge.  Janjak attempts to charge and grab Celeste.  The Mastiffs & Apes fight to the death.

For a while I thought this was how things were going to go down, but the PC’s proved to be FAR more pragmatic and Neutral then I had ever thought.

The Undying Evil - Whatever occurs the Troglodyte Wight (CR 3 – Build Off Wight) still waits through another door and a stairwell down.  There the Troglodyte Wight sits.  It has slain it’s would be worshipers, 3 Troglodyte Warriors, it has defiled Savin’s shrine to the Uwain, God of Death, and it is awaiting what it thinks will be its original captors.  Instead it gets the PC’s.  It is the only thing between the PC’s, and any other survivors, and escape from what is the ever escalating Zombie issue in the house.  The Zombies continue to pour into the house and attempting to find the PC’s.  Once the Wight is killed the Zombies all just stop their manic search and start milling about.  However the ability to go back up is closed off as the house is on fire.  Where the Troglodyte Warriors dug in there is a crude tunnel through the soft mud.  The PC’s come out on the edge of the Plantation land where they can see Zombies milling about in the fields and the Plantation house burning in the distance.  It is a half-day’s journey to the pier, but finally the bog is quiet.  The treasure of this room - Dr. Korvin’s notes make reference repeatedly about ‘The Circle’, a ‘Tablet Of Life’, and a Dr. West & a Dr. Grubb who now live and work on the Isle Of Dawn.

As I stated earlier the battle was good, but not great.  The aftermath was cool as Trustin aligned himself with the PC’s, Dr. Korvin negotiated her safe passage via a contract, and PC’s emerged out into the remains of the Plantation to a scene full of ambling, directionless zombies.  I didn’t go with the Trog bolt hole either, I just basically put in the fact that Savin & Dr. Korvin had an exit to the Couch House, this felt less clunky.  The PC’s got their goods, Dr. Korvin re-animated the dead horses, and the PC’s made it back to their ship with no real issues.  I made sure to let them know that in their slow crawl across the Snakehead Bog that the Lizardfolk were putting every sign of Savin’s Plantation, Undead included, to the torch.  In the end the PC’s accomplished their mission(s), gained an ally, and were transporting Dr. Korvin back to Raven’s Point.

All in all not a bad two sessions, but as I learned last week you can have a ‘bad session’, see 3rd Group’s one combat clusterfuck, which is also insanely fun.  These two sessions were fun, but didn’t really go the way I had hoped.  I feel like I had a genuinely good 'Horror' tale, but in the end  I just didn’t play to their strengths.  If I can continue to 'learn' one rule of DMing it is 'Know Thine Players, And To Their Strengths Of Play Be True'.  That is something that I have to keep working on while I hide behind my DM’s screen.


SOOoooo, that was long.  If you liked it let me know, all 10 of you who read the whole thing, and I’ll occasionally do more of them.  If you have ideas, feedback, suggestions, etc. also leave them in the comments or message me.  I’m always looking at ways to make the games I run more fun for the people I’m lucky enough to play with.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Antagonist Relations Podcast - Episode 10 - A Bad Case Of Hiatus

Zack & the Ginger Giants get together in the Mudd Pit with Lady Christy to talk what they've been playing during the long Podcast hiatus and what they have coming up at their respective table tops.  Ideas are exchanged, tales of Scarlet St. Claire are told, and a potential on air game is proposed!  Antagonist Relations Podcast - Episode 10 - A Bad Case Of Hiatus

The Insecurity Blanket Podcast - Episode 20 - New Year's Tears

It has been awhile so 'awkward' is the order of the day.  I'm not really sure how this one turned out.  Seriously.  It is a strange little chat about Christmas swag, Robot Cults, giving, bridesmaiding, books we are reading, and killing children, but not Russian children.  So basically it is another episode of the Insecurity Blanket Podcast...*sigh*...  The Insecurity Blanket Podcast - Episode 20 - New Year's Tears

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Golem Vs. Sayonara Jupiter

Halloween 2014, The Year Pete Pan took hostages
1/11/15 

Sometimes I just blog out of obligation to keep momentum going, and this is one of those times.  I have just been uninspired and busy of late so this mental safe haven has suffered a bit of neglect.  The reality is the holidays hit me really hard on a lot of levels.  Nothing really bad, they just wore me down in a few ways I wasn't prepared for and now I'm left trying to get my feet back beneath me.  While doing that I haven't really had much to say to the world, let alone to this blog that like ten people read.

Hell I'm not even that excited about that much right now, well I'm excited to do some board gaming with The Casual One today, I'm excited about RPG Friday starting next month although I have no idea what game I'm starting with, I'm excited about Worldwide Wrestling starting next month with a crazy group of players, and of course I'm always excited about the 4 D&D games, but nothing else is currently grabbing me with type of vigor and passion that normally sweeps me away into long winded senseless rants.

I figured I'd drop some strange pictures of what I've had going on lately in here for those of you who don't get to see this strangeness.  So with that in mind, I think I'll keep it simple today and just throw out some...

RANDOM CRAP!


- I finally got in the latest Lucha Underground this morning.
The new Lucha mask is Muy Swanky
I think that Aztec Warfare is better than the best Cinnamon Toast I've ever eaten in my life.  The pace was fantastic, there were so many 'mini' stories being told in the confines of a larger match, and the ending was tight.  If you couple that with the fact that they put the belt on the right guy, they continue to build on a larger narrative, and yet felt like they closed a chapter on this initial run I think you have a great example of what the current 'E' product doesn't or even can't do.  In addition getting teased with a Big Ryk Vs. Mil Muertos true confrontation was a moment worth marking out for.  I for one am still chomping at the bit to find out just who Dario is talking to in those scenes in the bowels of the temple, how Drago & Curano's feud will end, just who is that Asian woman who keeps showing up in the crowd, and what does it mean now that Blue Demon Jr. is back?  So many unanswered questions leaves fans like myself wanting more.  Currently Lucha Underground is the most entertaining wrestling on television, as I don't count NXT and neither PWG or CHIKARA have a television show.  It is just relentlessly entertaining.

- P.O.S. is still ruining my life;


- I really need to get on painting again soon as apparently in 60 to 90 days I'll have Bones II at my doorstep, and then I'll again be drowning in miniatures.  Lately I've been uninspired to just sit down and plow through miniatures, which is sad, because I've got a lot of miniatures I'm interested in painting.  I think next Wed. I'll sit down with the goal with getting three miniatures done in a night.  If I can do that and just get back to enjoying the process then I should get back on track.

- The Love seat & Couch in the basement are going 'bye bye' today.  Now we just need to find new ones that better fit the space.  *sigh*

Even Cultists of Cthulhu must cut down their own Christmas trees with random GIGANTIC dogs.
- We've been watching House Of Cards with the mighty Master Ked 4.0 about once a month in three episode blocks and I have to say I'm digging it immensely.  I generally struggle with shows where I can't find a moral center to wrap my head around and 'root' for, see Game Of Thrones, but this one has me utterly and completely enthralled.  I think maybe we finish the first season I'll go back and give Game Of Thrones a proper go and hope that it connects in a way that will help me get on board with all my other Friend's crazy love of it.

I'm your RPG HOSS.

- Anyone know a good and EASY Super Hero RPG?  I'm at a loss, but really want to run one.

- Movie-A-Thon this coming Friday with nothing on the agenda being set, I might see if I can find a copy of The Babadook, because I've heard it is absolutely engrossing.  Although maybe that is something I'd want to keep and savor alone.  Hrm.  I know I can count on Casual Doug for some crazy ass flicks, and maybe if Mighty Mike makes those two can destroy our collective minds with their own unique cinema collections.

War Machine & L.E.W.G.I. getting photo bombed by Kevin Steen (Kevin Owens)
- I have gray hairs in my goatee; O-L-D-!

- I've got 5 books going right now and all of them are so damn good or at least intriguing that I'm having a hard time giving one priority over another.  It is as if I can't read them all fast enough.  I never thought I'd be that person, but I am a reading fiend.  I find such solace, joy, and imagination fodder in-between every page of ever book I devour.  And don't even get me started on being able to share books with others, because THAT is the best!  

Oh Kevin Steen, ER...Kevin Owens, you were a delight.

- I've got to do some 'hand surgery' on some miniatures this week.  Cultists need weapons, FACT.

- Last night I tricked Cassandra into spending some serious time with the Hero Forge miniature builder.  She took to it like a fish to water.  In fact I know something is seriously good when she tells me, "That thing is a HUGE time suck..."  She made one of her characters, Bargret Orcslayer, and they turned out fantastic.  It is rare to meet someone who gets you, who obsesses like you do, who digs the things you dig, and who not only tolerates but relishes in your madness.  I have that person in Cassandra.  I can't even imagine the amount of time she spent last night agonizing over belt choices.  I can honestly say just when I think I can't love her anymore than I do, she does something like this...
She married this...
- I love fish.

I think that's all I really can manifest out of the ether of nothingness, not to mention it is almost time to BOARD GAME!
L.E.W.G.I ASSEMBLE!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Hours Vs. The Diving Bell & The Butterfly

12/31/14

I told you all I’d been reading pretty steady lately.  This has been some of the reason I have stalled out a bit in book 4 of Harry Potter.  I received a great deal of books for both my birthday and Christmas so I’m going to be kneed deep in reading for a while now, in fact next up is the Brick Bible!  It is a retelling of the Old Testament with LEGO illustrations.  Just glancing through it has made me really excited to actually go back and read the Bible.  And that is a statement I never thought I’d ever actually make.  So without further ado…



WHAT THE CRAP I’VE BEEN READIN’! 


- T. Campbell. Erica Henderson, Phil Kahn, & John Waltrip’s Guilded Age Season 2 (***** out of 5).  
I was a contributor to the Guilded Age Kickstarter seeing as going and reading the Webcomic is one of my rituals Monday through Friday.  I had purchased the first ‘trade paperback’ of Season 1 and have poured through it about a thousand times.  The thing is I’d read 90% of the stories in the ‘Trade’ online, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t enjoyed and re-read those tales about ten times in the last two months.  I know the big twist, and LORDS almighty is it a fantastically AMAZING twist that hits in this Season of the ongoing story, but it hasn’t changed the fact that even with subsequent reading I’m amazed at how wonderful the twist is.  It is a perfect addition to a story that seems on the surface to just be a crazy sword and sorcery tale.  It elevates it into a social commentary, an adventure story, a conspiracy tale, a redemption saga, and its own ‘multiverse’ that continues to spin out peripheral characters that I both like and care about.  Suffice to say Guilded Age is wonderful, and you all should be reading it EVERY F’Ning DAY!

- Chris A. Jackson’s Pirate’s Promise (**** out of 5).  
I thoroughly enjoyed the first of Jackson’s Pathfinder pirate Tales, Pirate’s Honor.  It is something with a bit of novelty, but also something so different and fun that it held my attention with its likable enough characters so I was excited when I saw that the next book in my subscription was a sequel.  Captain Torious Vin and his crew of the good ship Stargazer are enough of an oddball lot that I was intrigued to see what happens next.  The tale was one of intrigue, betrayal, and loss.  Really the book is going in two directions at once with Vin’s navigator and Lunar Naga lover, Celeste, going to the Observatory in the desert to give her an opportunity to gaze at the stars in a new light.  Everything at the Observatory is not what it seems though.  There are mad cultists, Gnolls, and a ‘Keeper’ with a very creepy agenda.  While this is unfolding Captain Vin is enlisted by the duplicitous ‘ally’ Vreva to take on a new, extremely dangerous mission.  It turns out Vreva isn’t just a concubine for Slavers of Okeno, but actually an abolitionist spy.  When her handler is captured, tortured, and killed she is in need of someone she can trust, and she turns to Captain Vin.  Of course this goes completely sideways.  In the first book Vreva wasn’t necessarily the antagonist, but she was a driving force in the conflict, and in many ways a character you loved to hate.  Here she is given a backstory, motivation, and becomes a very layered and interesting character.  This is so well done that unfortunately it takes away from Celeste as a character, because she just comes off sort of paper thin and is completely obscured by Vreva’s arc.  In the process though seeing her lose everything she holds dear and be broken becomes a pretty nasty experience for the reader.  She goes, in my opinion, from secondary character to the main character and the driving factor in the book.  Therein lies my biggest complaints with the book overall.  If there is such an undying love between Vreva and the Inquisitor that developed then how things play out from the reveal to the climax don’t work for me.  I just found it inconsistent.  It is the same thing with Grogul’s, Captain Vin’s bosun, ‘death’.  If you couple that with how Captain Vin avoids any of the horrific torture and potential death during his incarceration it makes the dread Slavers seem beyond incompetent.  These are really the only issues I had with the book, as you can tell with the stars I gave it.  I will say one of the things that Mr. Jackson has done in both novels that makes me really enjoy the crew of the Stargazer is that folks come and go as well as crew die, well with the exception of Grogul apparently.  There is a palpable air of danger in these tales and that is really cool.  Overall, it is a fun fantasy read, with a decidedly pirate bend.  If you enjoy that sort of thing, and let’s be honest if you read my blog you most likely do, give it a read!

- Chris Gethard’s A Bad Idea I’m About To Do (INFINITE *’s out of 5).  
I am a Chris Gethard guy.  From the ideal of ‘Lose Well’, to the brilliant TCGS on YOUTube, to reading his tweets, to ‘friending’ him on ‘Teh Fazebookz’ I am all about ‘Big Poppa Geth’.  I had been reticent to buy and read his book as I was afraid it would lessen my enjoyment of the man’s comedy and brilliance.  I received the book for my birthday and literally absorbed it three readings.  It is beyond amazing.  It has vaulted into my Top Ten Books of ALL TIME(s).  It is simply Gethard telling tales of his life, which is crazy enough, coupled with his bouts with both his anxiety and bi-polar disorder.  If you are unfamiliar with Chris Gethard and his brand of comedy then stop reading, go to YOUTube, and watch at least one episode of TCGS (The Chris Gethard Show).  I’ll wait.  Ok, what did you think?  I KNOW RIGHT!  It is just this insane mix of sketch comedy, interviews, call-in-show, therapy, music acts, and brilliance.  It isn’t for everyone, and you know what I’m ok with that, because it speaks to me.  Gethard doesn’t hide his struggles, his inner geek, his intelligence, his ignorance, or his desire to just entertain.  His book is no different.  It is laugh out loud hilarious at times; it is brutally honest at times, and unrelentingly sad in others.  It is the open wound of someone who just wants you to like them, but isn’t afraid for you to hate them.  I admire Chris Gethard because he does what he loves without apology and he wants you to come along for the ride, and that is amazing.  So if you are looking for a book that will make you think, make you feel, and make you laugh then go find this book and read it immediately, because it is simply fantastic.

- Beau Phillips’ I Killed Pink Floyd’s Pig (*** ½ out of 5).  
This one is interesting just because it is a collection of tales from Mr. Phillips’ time in radio in Seattle and at VH1.  It certainly explores the debauchery and insanity of the late 70’s through the early 90’s Rock scene.  There aren’t a lot of punches pulled when it comes to making sure you as the reader understand that these folks lived like there was no tomorrow.  It is an entertaining read because of that, but it is also a bit monotonous at the same time due to the same reasons.  I also felt that the author made a concerted effort to attempt and paint himself in the best light as often as he could.  In a lot of ways I thought this really detracted from the stories he was relaying.  That being said there are four or five tales that really change the dynamic of the book.  One is about the generosity of Paul McCartney to a dying girl.  To know what the former Beatle would do for this young woman and her family in her final months simply because he could and it was the right thing to do is really quite touching.  If you add into that the idea that his one condition was that it was kept out of the public eye makes you wonder just how often he was doing this sort of philanthropist moonlighting.  In a world where celebrities spend a lot of time telling you about all the ‘good’ things they do it is really refreshing to read a tale where that was the very last thing on the person’s mind.  The other stand out tale has to do with Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey.  It is no secret that the dynamic duo of The Who, who have a history of fighting like cats and dogs.  This particular tale dealt with the author managing to secure interview time with the both of them during a tour right after drummer Keith Moon had died and tensions were high.  Daltrey is late and the author and Townshend end up having a brutally honest and very heartfelt discussion about Moon, Townshend’s own drinking problems, and about how hard it is to lose someone you think of as a brother.  This makes Daltrey’s petulant behavior all the more disgusting when he does arrive, and the eventual ‘revenge’ by Townshend during the concert that night all the more funny and fantastic.  If you take these two tales and add them to the really crappy tale about Heart being in studio and of course the Pink Floyd story that the title of the book comes from and you have a book of stories with some great gems in it for any Rock fan. 


I also plowed through the 2nd & 3rd IDW D&D Trade Paperbacks that I got Cassandra for Christmas.  
Yes, they are still wonderful, and yes you should seek out every comic that John Rogers has penned and bask in his brilliance.  I’m also reading a book on Superhero Law, and staring Simon Pegg’s book as well.  It is a good time to be a voracious reader.

Remember kids that whenever you are making your way from your cold ass car to the place that pays you every two weeks and someone screams at the top of their lungs from the SuperAmerica across the way, "DO YOU THINK THIS IS MUTHERF*&KING GAME?!" that it is going to be a good day...

Monday, December 29, 2014

About A Boy Vs. After The Thin Man

12-29-14

Last night I found myself in the unfortunate throes and grip of a pretty nasty panic attack.  It has been a long time since I’ve found myself in that situation.  For the most part I think I’ve gotten better and better at dealing with my anxiety and developing healthy coping mechanisms for stress.  It is a never ending battle when you have that inside you.  You don’t have the luxury of just assuming you can deal with the rigors life can throw at you, and you can never think that what you have developed to cope with it will always work.  It isn’t that I somehow got less diligent; I think it is just one of those times of year where I find myself a bit overwhelmed.

I have put a lot of expectations on things in my life, it is something that in the last almost two years I’ve been trying to ‘undo’.  I have expectations on who I am, and where I should be in my life.  To be blunt I am not there, nor do I ever think I’ll be there.  I’m almost 40, spend 40 hours a week in a place where I love the work but don’t really care for those that sign the checks, I have no kids and not for a lack of trying, and physically feel broken down.  I have severed a lot of relationships that weren’t healthy for me or others and in doing so I am much better off for it.  
This has helped me to figure out that I don’t need nor should have a lot of expectations of other people who choose to be around me.  It isn’t fair, to them or me.  At the same time I left constantly questioning whether or not I’m a good person, of whether or not I’m worthwhile as a Friend, or if I am just the swirling maelstrom of uncertainty that pushes people away, or maybe who doesn’t deserve those relationships.  I know it is just a manifestation of my own insecurities, my own shaky self-esteem, and my never ending need to tear everything apart down to its tiniest nuances and then dissect it.  It isn’t real.  It is simply a manifestation of me mentally spinning my own wheels at break neck speed.  I over think everything, everyone, and every moment.  I have and continue to try and get better at this.  It is an uphill battle though.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be who I think I should be or if I’ll be who I want to be for other people, all I can do is keeping plugging away.

My relationship with my Family is a strange mess.  My brother and I, who spent so many years actively disliking one another, talk weekly in short bursts.  My mother and I have spoken twice in the last year, and my sister and I don’t speak at all.  You know I sent letters to my Family members with their gifts this year, real and heartfelt messages.  I thought maybe that would inspire a response, an e-mail, a message, whatever.  It did nothing.  In them I wrote that I think I have finally come to terms with being persona non gratis to my Family, but the reality is I don’t think I had till late last night.  My brother and I will keep talking, I am committed to trying to be a good Uncle even hundreds of miles away, but I don’t think I’ll ever find a common ground with my mother or sister.  I used to feign that I didn’t care, I did, I always did, however every day that piece of me gets smaller and smaller.  I don’t know if that means I’m maturing, understanding, and moving forward or if I’m just numb about it and bitter.  I’ve always had this expectation that a Family is close, but the reality is it isn’t.  I have always just wanted that, and it isn’t going to happen.

My Grandma is getting older and will die.  All things do end.  Even the best people are not immortal, unless she is secretly a Highlander and if so she better get to decapitating the Kurgan quickly!  In all seriousness my Grandma is awesome.  She has been super important in my life.  At the same time she can be a bit morbid in her honesty that leaves me put off.  I don’t like talking about my dad, and I certainly haven’t come to a place in my head where I want to think about her inevitable mortality.  She looks at both with such a serene sense of completion that it can be hard for me to deal with.  I need to try and get back in the habit of calling her no matter how it makes me feel, because it makes her happy and that is all that really matters.

We are coming up on the anniversary of my dad’s passing.  Last year I recorded a Podcast about putting that feeling ‘to bed’ and moving forward.  I think I have.  And then Sunday morning hits and I am dumbstruck by how profoundly I miss him and how much it feels like someone reaches into my chest and tears my heart out.  There are times and moments where I hear a song, read something, or see something that reminds me so much of him that I feel that longing to talk to him, to hear him laugh, to listen to him go on and on about something, or just to have him give me some pearl of wisdom that will carry me through when I am knee deep in my own bullshit.  I miss him.  The immediacy of that heartbreak is no longer the devastating pain it once was, but it has been replaced by this sneaky pang of loss that hits me when I least expect it and where I am not strong enough to easily push through it.

These things conspire in that negative corner of my mind to form this Legion Of Negativity.  Those tiny voices in my head who work at telling me I’m ‘shit’, but who I ignore most of the time.  They reach a cacophony of nauseating negativity when my anxiety starts to take off.  I can feel it pounding in my own head, and in that process I can feel that heaviness creep into my neck, my arms, and my chest.  It wears me out.  I can’t breathe, I can’t focus, I’m confused, I’m emotional, and I honestly get scared.  I loathe these losses of control.  It makes me feel helpless, and that is one thing I don’t do well with.

Cassandra thinks that I just pound down my every day feelings and emotions and that I reach a point where there is nowhere else for them to go so they just flood or erupt out of me in this uncontrollable deluge.  In a lot of ways I think she is most likely right.  I try and hold it all together by focusing on others.  I want to be there for others, dealing with or helping with their ‘stuff’ is WAY easier than looking at myself in the mirror.  I like helping others, and the reality is I’m good at it.  I want to be that rock that others lean on, and I am.  I like the idea of being a good example, of at times even being a leader in the people that I call Friends.  It just sucks to know that I’m not as strong, nor do I have it all together as much as I portray.  It stinks to know that I’m no ideal deep down.  I am simply a flawed human being who tries every single day to be a little bit better than I was the day before. 

The reality is this isn’t where I thought I should be or even who I should be.  My anxiety erupts because of these things.  I get inside my own head about them and can’t get out.  It is my own personal Hall Of Personal Failures and I have a season pass.  Then I get my breath, I realize that everyone has degrees of this, that tomorrow will still be there tomorrow, and that I’m actually happy.  Scary as it all sounds, I am happy.  Because besides all the crap that I seem to put in my own way or that life deals to me, I am as happy as or happier than I’ve been my whole life.  I have amazing people in my life who want to be there.  I may not like whom I do the deeds for, but damn if I’m not good at it and actually like it.  And while I may not be who I think I should be or even who I unrealistically imagine I could be, I am me.  All things considered, I’m a pretty ok person.  I’ll take that today.

Ugh, well I didn’t meant to throw that up onto the Interwebs, but it is what is going through my mind.  It generally helps, believe it or not, to sort of fire off this stream of consciousness and work through all the weird crap that permeates my thought process.  That is what this Blog has always been and will always remain…Well that and…
RANDOM CRAP!


- Christmas has come and gone!  I think I did a pretty damn decent job of gift giving this year.  
I hit a few home runs, had a lot of good reactions to gifts, and didn’t really make any drastic gift giving errors.  We still have a few gifts left under the tree to hand out, but overall it was a damn fine giving season.  In the process I also received a TON of crazy swag.  So ‘Thank You’ to The Geneious, Sassie Cassie, LaLa, Lee, Gusto, Char, Sean, Maddy, Joe, Drew, Mom2, & Straw Hat Mafia Dave.  I need to give a special thanks to Master Kedrin 4.0 for being incredible and thoughtful, to THE Karl for giving me one of the single most amazing things I’ve ever been given, and to my lovely and multi-talented wife Cassandra who never ceases to give me things I enjoy but also things that mean more to me than I can explain.  I mean seriously!  Look at that!  It is a Hawkman symbol in stained friggin' glass!  WHA!?  Who even does that?  THE Karl, that's Mutha' F'Nin' WHO!

- I really want to mow some Fondu.

- I knocked out two books over the last few days, with another one over half done, but I’m going to refrain from reviewing them today as my brain just doesn’t have the capacity for it.  I did get a boatload of books for Christmas and my Burfday so I’m going to be reading like madman for a while.

- Guardians Of The Galaxy was just as fun the 2nd time at home as it was in a packed theatre.


You know I think that is all I have today.  I’m calling this one ‘done’…