Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Ironclad Vs. Snake Eyes

* = I love this album cover and I have to figure out a way to work into some sort of RPG.  I mean c'mon it's strange almost energy skeletons wearing old school space suits.  How can anyone not dig that?

I’ve come to the conclusion that the desire for things to remain at a status quo is just not feasible. It’s completely unrealistic for me to expect to better myself through transitions and change and not expect the same of others. I have this intense desire to collect things; this would seem to include people. So when these people evolve into something else, something new I become frustrated and distant. Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t absolve anyone of ‘chumping’ out on things or disappearing from the face of the Earth, it does however help to put some perspective on things.

When I am lucky enough to find people I enjoy being around and we go from the ‘friend’ stage to the ‘Friend’ stage it means that I have invested in this person. I admire them and unfortunately seem to pedestal them to some degree. I think this is perhaps an unfortunate side effect of not thinking to highly of myself. See it’s alright for me to hate on me, it is NOT alright for you to. I have serious personality deficiencies; I’m not that smart, I can be judgmental, mean spirited, angry, and very moody, I tend to perseverate on things, I’m massively egocentric a lot of the time, I don’t have any real talent to speak of, I look like I ate a dwarf, etc. There is a LOT there not to like.

I think this may be why I don’t usually care much for myself. Don’t get me wrong I don’t self-loathe, I’m too egotistical for that. I just don’t always think very highly of myself, SO I tend to get very focused on others and what they think of me. That is not very smart, because with the exception of one person, I’m a peripheral player in the drama of every other person’s life. Everyone is looking for something in life, I am not that thing.

It’s a strange blow to the ego to know that. I can be a lot of things to a lot of people, but everything to only one and that position is filled. So I think what I’m trying to hammer into this massive skull of mine is that it’s ok for friends and Friends to distance themselves, to move on, and to drift in and out of my life. It’s not personal, it’s just life. I don’t have to like it; I just have to learn to live with it. There has to be a lowering of the bar so to speak when it comes to personal expectations. I have to do away with this idealized version of friendship I seem to desperately cling to. It isn’t fair to anyone else and it certainly isn’t fair to me.

I have to applaud when others find what I have so obviously right in front of me with Cassandra; true love and friendship. I can’t bemoan the distance that inevitably occurs, the priority changes, the cancellations, etc. I can’t and I shouldn’t. To see the people you care about be happy should not be cause for frustration because it changes your Friendship; it should be cause for celebration for their happiness. I would want others to do that for me, so I need to ensure I do it for others.

Growing up and being mature is F’Ning hard. I don’t like it, and I’m certainly not good at it. Let’s talk about something else. How about we hit up another week’s worth of Shattered Star previews?
First up is the Grey Maiden(s). I’m not sure about the rarity of this mini, but I’d hope it would be a Common as this is one of the main antagonist forces in Pathfinder, a group of militant female knights who followed the mad whims of an insane queen. I love the pose. It is dynamic, the cape makes it even more so with its flow, and that shield feels like she is about to bash your brains in with it. It’s perfectly colored with the dull silver/grey and that blood red. I am a fan of this mini, so you know it’s a MUST BUY!
Next up is Grey Maiden Commander. Let me first compliment the face, this lady looks like she has had a rough go of it with the HUGE scar on her mug. I like the ornate armor; I even like the fact that she is carrying her helmet. The pose is just ok. I’m not sure why I’m not as fond of it, but for some reason it does not jump out at me in any discernible way. It certainly has the feel of either a PC mini or a ‘Big Bad’. While I like it, I don’t love it and so I’m afraid for me it’s going to most likely be a PASS.

I settled down Sunday morning to finally finish Piers Anthony’s ‘Steppe’ (*** ½ out of 5).
This was a purely fun read. It wasn’t convoluted, there wasn’t a whole lot of social preaching or existential questions, and instead it was just a wonderful piece of fun Science Fiction. Now that being said it wasn’t devoid of the above things. The idea of people losing themselves in a game environment and persona, a culture that has lost certain fundamental skills due to technology, namely effective reading skills, is extremely timely. Couple that with the main character, Alp’s, struggle to find meaning after being plucked from his life on the Steppe and thrust into a future world where his previous existence is but a game with all of its social ramifications has resonance. However unlike something like ‘Sos The Rope’ it doesn’t dwell on it. It’s simply part of the tapestry rather than its entirety. So by now I’m sure you’re asking yourself what the book is about. The basic premises is that a small group of futurist game players ‘timenap’ Alp at the moment of his noble death and are attempting to use him to cheat in a futuristic ‘historical’ game called Steppe since he would have basically lived that history. He escapes them into the game itself and tries to find a life there. He makes staunch allies, enemies, and finds that perhaps the future isn’t as bad as he originally thought. It is a fun, quick, and entertaining read, I recommend it.

So there has been a LOT of gaming lately. I’ve sort of neglected giving all three of you who read this any sort of rundown, so I’m looking to rectify that today with some…


First up was October’s D&D session where the blood thirsty PC’s finally had a night of combat. First however, they cut ties with Sid. Zack had decided to leave the group as he was a bit burned out on 4E, so he gracefully granted me control over the now obviously insane Sid. This allowed me to split him off from the main group so he could go forth and attempt to find ‘The Stairway To The Stars’ without them. After this slight foray into role playing, they made their way into one of High Priest Kevros’ abodes to slay him. It wasn’t as easy as they thought it would be. They first came through the ‘Dungeon’ level where they faced a pack of Iron Defender, basically magic robot dogs, and two very nasty Iron Golems.
It was, in my opinion, the best combat of the night, the poisonous gas that the Iron Golems project makes them a difficult ‘out’ for the PC’s. I did make a monster mistake though; I deployed the Iron Defenders to early. I should have had them appear after the Golem’s attack to harry the PC’s. Putting them out to early just led to the Player’s running through them like a hot knife through butter. Live and learn I guess.

On the second floor they had an encounter with one of Kevros’ Knights, his Imp, and some Cultists. This should have been an easy encounter, but for some reason it was a slog. I think it might have been due to the very cramped quarters, the book cases falling, and just some bad rolling, but suffice to say the Players struggled a bit in dispatching inferior foes. They then ran into a coven of Succubus who were being ‘kept’ by Kevros but seemed to have NO allegiance to him. After some tense moments the PC’s decided to ‘wheel and deal’ rather than get into another fight that they might have been ill prepared for. All the Harem Madame wanted was Kevros’ staff.

The PC’s made their way to Kevros’ chamber room and here is again where I fouled up tactically. There was a mass of female Cultist Minions and I did nothing useful with them. I should have used them as some sort of effect generator rather than Minions. I won’t make that mistake again. The fight was long and hard fought as it was revealed that Kevros was a Treachery Demon, aka a Glabrezu, so once Kevros hit ‘bloodied’ his true form was revealed.  I used the Rise Of The Runelords Treachery Demon mini here and I have to just point out how amazing it looks in hand.  It truly is a fantastic mini.
Anywho, the thing was much like many of the encounters this particular group plays in they saved all their great rolls and best tactics for last. In short they kicked my ass. Granted I did drop two members of the party, but this had the potential for a T.P.K. (Total Party Kill), and overall they really put it on a VASTLY superior enemy. They grabbed Kevros’ Demon head, gave the staff to the Succubus, and then stole away to meet with Ivar Steelhewer. Unfortunately Cordell’s Tiefling stayed loyal to his aunt, the plotting matron Claudette De Souzza, so she was now aware of all of the PC’s as well as Ivar’s plots.

This led to a new deal being struck. If the PC’s kill Claudette De Souzza Ivar will not only give them Isabella and The Book Of Black Flame he will consider them allies to his rule of the Abode Of Order. He then had his troops take the PC’s to the Lair Of The Iron Snake where they would be transported to The Black Vault to see Murgol Firehand, and get who and what they came for. We’re on the verge of a LOT of shit hitting the fan. Murgol wants Ivar dead and charged a few of the PC’s, namely Sid, with this task. Ivar is not only NOT dead, but his position has been solidified. How will he receive these interlopers, and just what is Sid up to now that he’s a ‘Free Agent’? And just how will the Von Karnsteins react to David’s character leaving the ‘Tomb’ and re-inserting himself into the political situations within the sprawling Monastery? All this coupled with Zack returning to the group with a NEW character who I am incredibly excited to see interact with the group could lead to an amazing dynamic. We are speeding towards the end of the Heroic Tier and I’m not sure everyone will make it unscathed.

Next up was last Friday’s DREAD Zombie Game. I’d never run DREAD before and unfortunately it showed. I think Zack did a fantastic job of writing about the ‘do’s and don’ts’ of the game in his own blog Antagonist Relations. The thing is his critique is DEAD on, pun intended. The premise was simple a group of individuals who all live on the same floor of an apartment building in Duluth have to survive the Zombie Apocalypse during the ‘Storm Of The Century’. The beginning was meant to build suspense and all it did was meander. All the players KNEW it was a Zombie game so they acted accordingly. I had the idea to have it be something more akin to ‘Night Of The Creeps’ (**** ½ out of 5), and instead I went with just a run of the mill Zombie game. That was my first mistake. I also should have started it with the National Guardsman in the elevator shaft scene. This would have been followed immediately by the Zombies pushing through the 1st floor barricade, and flooding upstairs. Instead I let the players banter back and forth, which was fun, but really didn’t serve the game enough. I also should have had the players pull from the Jenga tower a lot sooner and much more often. It would have ratcheted up the tension a lot quicker rather than the slow smolder I got. My other HUGE mistake was not utilizing the ‘Surveys’ more successfully. I came up with interesting questions for character creation; however it never really materialized within the game effectively. That is completely on me as the person running the game. I went FAR to ‘big picture’ with my ‘Surveys’ for a game where it didn’t require that at all. My last mistake, as Zack pointed out very eloquently, was giving the Players a ‘5 minute break’ which morphed into a half hour and then was supplemented with another half hour of me being unable to ‘wrangle the cats’ back into the game.
So to recap I had three HUGE missteps in my first attempt to run DREAD. I’m sure you, well those that didn’t play in the game, are thinking “well that sounds like it sucked then”. Oh ye of little faith! It was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. Once we got the Players out into the street I think it picked up significantly. Not to directly disagree with Dave, but I thought the snow storm made it different than any other Urban Zombie Survival scenario. The fact that the PC’s had to trudge through knee deep snow while being stalked by Zombie Hounds and swarmed by a starving Zombie Horde that never tires added to it, coupled with the lack of visibility slowed down the use of guns as well. Now once the PC’s split up into two groups, due to transportation issues, I should have really pushed a larger horde of the Undead on the group that was at the Half-Track. This would have made things much more urgent for that group as well as Zack who was transporting his fellow players to the Half-Track via snowmobile. Which leads me to my MVP of the game, which was Mighty’ Mike playing Dalton.
Yes that’s right Mike basically inserted Patrick Swayze’s character from Roadhouse into my Zombie game, and it was F’Ning BRILLIANT! Not only that but Mike valiantly sacrificed himself to save everyone in a moment worthy of any 80’s action movie. The ending involved moving the Half-Track through the cluttered streets of down town Duluth towards a Naval Destroyer at the Lift Bridge in Canal Park in an effort to escape. In the process we lost some people, and Cordell lost his arm which was sort of funny. I also have to say I loved the ‘broke up’ couple of David and Jen.  Their bizarre passive aggressive in-character bickering added a lot to the game. The other big plus was getting to game with Zack’s girlfriend ‘Lady Christy’ who was a hoot. That’s right I used the word ‘hoot’ and I’m not an owl or an old person. I’m taking it back. Overall it was a good time, but I have some serious work to do if I’m going to be more successful the next time I run a DREAD game.

Sunday David and I traversed into ‘Uptown’ to the residence of Steve Miller, and yes we DID fly like an eagle, to join our friend Jeffery for our first gaming session of the often whispered about WARHAMMER QUEST (***** out of 5)!
That’s right our resident ‘phat balla’ Steve Miller purchased an unpunched copy of the game along with various expansions.   We had all agreed to be one of his two groups playing the game on a monthly basis. Let me first off state that I dig Heroquest (*** ½ out of 5), and an Advanced Heroquest (**** out of 5). They are damn fine games however they are simply an appetizer to the Big Piece Of Chicken that is Warhammer Quest. So after some flim flam of making guys we began our sojourn into the catacombs. Steve was playing Ambrosius the Witch Hunter, David was Rodrick the Wizard, Jeffery was Deitrich the Battle Cleric, and I took Balthazar the Bretonnian Knight. It was a reasonably balanced group with some range from Dave and Steve, healing from Dave and Jeff, and some muscle from Steve and myself. The thing is we were playing with ‘Dark Secrets’, as well as every other dastardly expansion that Steve Miller could purchase with his ‘fat cat cash’. This led to my character having a communicable disease which really hurt me and constantly threatened to infect my fellow players, and made Dave’s WIZARD a cock blocking asshole. Let me clarify, at one point Dave used his ‘Dark Secret’ to basically usurp my leadership. This led to a crap ton of contention between the conniving Rodrick and the loyal, but yet slightly unstable and disease ridden, Balthazar, which in short made things A-M-A-Z-I-N-G-!

We, and by ‘we’ I mean they would injure the foes and then I would SLAY them, ran into Ogres (three friggin’ times), Skeletons, Dark Elves, Hobgoblins, and Goblin nuisance and his pet Cave Squig, and finally the climactic battle in a room chock FULL of Skeletons and Beastmen. Dave was first to drop under the onslaught of the Skeletons both in melee and then the bastards behind them plinking us with arrows, as well as the Beastmen chucking spears at us. I really thought that at that point we were in trouble, but might be able to power through it. Eventually we did! Steve broke out and attacked the ranged troops in melee while Jeff and I did clean up. The problem was without Dave’s healing to back up Jeff’s we found ourselves simply being whittled down by vast superior numbers.  And then the poo really hit the fan. Jeff rolled like ass and three more massive Ogres started towards us. At this point we all but conceded certain death or at least doom. Steve wanted to flee, make the ONE roll to see our fate, and deal with the consequences. Jeff was undecided. And I wanted to stand and fight as befits a TRUE Bretonnian Knight! Not to mention if we did flee, and somehow survived the ONE dice roll to determine our fate, I would have lost all that loot and ‘Honour’ points that I’d accumulated as the party's resident killing machine. I just couldn’t abide that. So eventually I convinced them ‘better to die on our feet than live on our knees’ and we fought with mad abandon.

I really thought we were going to pull it off. The Ogres were coming, but we were mowing through the Skeletons and Beastmen quiet efficiently. Then Steve died. At that moment I knew it was going to take some unbelievably lucky rolls to pull off victory. I proceeded to DESTROY an Ogre single handedly the next turn.  Jeff just kept plugging away like a warrior born while we were being completely surrounded by enemies. Jeff and I suffered from some poor rolls that allowed the two remaining Ogres to survive to just long enough to eventually cost Jeffery his life. I howled in frustration and brutally slew them both. The problem was I had lost almost all my hit points and still had two Skeleton Archers and one Beastman remaining. The Beastman smashed me two rounds in a row and I rolled pitifully. It came down to one turn.  I had only 1 Hit Point remaining.  If the Skeletons missed, which was a forgone conclusion, and I hit the Beastman I could pull out the victory. However I failed to take into account that Steve Miller hates FUN!  H-A-T-E-S IT!  He rolled fantastically and that lone Beastmen brought me low and finished me off. SO DAMN CLOSE!

What to say about a game where we all died horribly? I loved it. I simply adored it. It was a fun day of being loud; playing a great game with good friends, and it came down to the VERY last dice roll. It was combat centric but everyone threw in a tad bit of fun and slightly ridiculous role-playing. Who can ask for more? NO ONE THAT’S WHO! So in one month we meet again, we’ll come up with new characters, there will be new adventures, and we’ll try to not make the same mistakes that cost us so dearly this time. Until then I invite you to join me in mourning the death of those brave and deceased warriors who gave their lives to try and slay the beasts of the catacombs;

Ambrosius the Vengeful, Witch Hunter of the One True Faith (Steve Miller)
Rodrick the Wise, Usurper Of Leadership (Dark Dave)
Sir Balthazar von Merllon, The Leper (Me)
Deitrich the Dominator (Jeffery)

Godspeed you unlucky Adventurers.  Let’s wrap up this monster of a blog with some…


- Did I mention that I’m really pumped about Zack being back in the D&D group? Good, because I am.
- Saturday is our Halloween party. For once our costumes are done, but the house needs decorated. I figure if we do a bit here and there over the next few days it’ll be done in no time. I’m not sure what the turnout will be like, who can ever tell, but I’m determined to have a blast.
- We close on our refinancing on Friday. Is it strange to be excited by this?
- The new Witchcraft album is blowing my friggin’ mind. It has a tiny bit of a TOOL vibe, but filtered through the esthetic of 70’s Metal. It feels very much like Graveyard and The Sword had a love child, or if Maynard from TOOL fronted Black Sabbath in like ’75. Good stuff, I’ll eventually review it once I re-digest it a few times.
- D&D gave me a chance to bust out some of my new Terraclips.  I need at least one more set of each of the three new packs.  I have to admit, even with the limited amount I had to work with that they are fantastic.  The Prison alone was perfect for not only this session, but definitely the next as the Players traverse The Black Vault.  Well worth the money.
- I have some old school horror movies to watch on the DVR, I need to get on that.
- We almost Podcasted today. Then ‘real life’ kicked in.
- The thunderstorm this morning was perfect. I just wish I would have been able to just lie in bed and enjoy it rather than get up and go to the place that pays me. It had been so long since I’d heard the rumble of distant thunder and those flashes of brilliant light. I missed them. Hopefully we’ll get one more good storm before the snow comes.
- I thought about writing regarding the presidential election being so close, but then I remembered I don’t hate myself or you that much.

While not my best ‘work’ I think that it'll do in a pinch, and let’s face it, no one reads this shite anyways…

“I must be careful now in my steps
Years of calculations and the stress
My science is waiting, nearly complete
One glass will last for nearly a week

Let me not get down from walking with no-one
and if I stumble from exhaustion
These buckets are heavy, I fill them with water
I could ask these people, but I shouldn't bother

Oh no, I've stumbled, was I going too fast?
Some get angry, some of them laugh
They told me I wouldn't, but I found an answer
I'm Van Occupanther, I'm Van Occupanther!

Let me not be too consumed with this world
Sometimes I want to go home
and stay out of sight for a long time

Let me not be too consumed with this world
Sometimes I want to go home
and stay out of sight for a long time”

* = Seriously Games Workshop, get off your money grubbin' asses and give the PEOPLE what they crave.  VIVA EL WARHAMMER QUEST!

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