Monday, February 17, 2014

The Day The Earth Caught Fire Vs. Fail Safe

* = This is from last week, so it is a bit out of date, but I spent time on it dammit!  So here it is.

It has been a bit since I’ve busted out a classic blog, but honestly things have been mega busy. The world has been turning really quickly, and between all the games I’m getting to run and play, spending time with my amazing Wife and incredible Friends, and surviving the place that pays me I’ve had very little time to collect my thoughts and commit them to the interwebs. Then there has been the run of Podcasts that we’ve been hammering out. I’m not sure if anyone is really listening to them, but they are a great time to do, and a nice project that goes hand in hand with this very blog. So if you haven’t given any of the three Podcasts a go, then go give them a try.

Anywho, let’s get on with it!

We had a 4th Group D&D session last Saturday and while I truly felt it was a ‘B-‘ session it ended up as an an ‘A+’ with the ending. First off let me give you a tiny peek behind the curtain with my ‘notes’ prior to session;

Notes for 4th – 2/8/14

- Bandits on the Road
o Large Orog, Human Psion, & 8 Ape Men – This group is Neutral, and are basically highway men. They will negotiate if combat isn’t pushed. If the PC’s open up with BIG firepower early they will run and regroup. They won’t fight till the death, with the exception of the Orog, unless cornered.
 Psion uses push effects, plays dead with 10 Hit Points left, DC 25 Perception to notice
 Orog has reach 2 with Club, low AC, HIGH hit points, fights to the death, has one final interrupt attack burst 3 upon reaching 0 hit points – The Club is a +2 Club, 4,5,6 Recharge on a Burst 2 knock Prone attack.
 Ape Men have 50% chance of fleeing if Psion drops. The four that attacks at a distance are Minions, the four upfront are not.
 The Psion has an Amulet Of Focus that gives a passive +2 to Perception & Insight, and a Daily of eliminate one ongoing effect.

- Ghost at the Shrine
o A Ghost is tied to the shrine, if the PC’s make a small sacrifice (at least 10 GP) it will info drop. The shrine will give the PC’s one extra surge for 24 hours. The Ghost was a Tax Collector who was killed by Kagi Oni’s goblins, and he was cursed to solicit all who pass this shrine. If the PC’s fail to sacrifice, or attempt to use the shrine, the Ghost attacks. The sky towards town has started to blacken in a storm like way, and black lightening is flashing against the light of the day in these clouds.
 Possession attacks, keening wail, hard to hit, not many hit points, but regenerates after hitting 0 hit points in 2 rounds.
 There is a bag of 5,000 gold hidden in the shrine DC 25 Thievery to find it, and a DC 18 reveals a Ritual about Abyssal Portals. An Arcane DC 15 reveals it can both open and close portals, but the cost is high; A cherished item, and the power of the elements.

- Assassins!
o 1 Ettin Ninja, 1 Master Ninja, 3 Black Hands, & 5 Red Hands (Minions) – These baddies lie in wait in a mock ambush. The Master is beside an overturned cart begging in disguise, he is being ‘robbed’ by the 3 Black hands. In the woods on side is the Ettin, on the other side the Red Hands. When the PC’s get close they ambush. The lightening is now striking in the village, there is a rumbling of what sounds like thunder and moans together, and a soft rain is beginning to fall, and the rain is stained black.
 The Red Hands will plink from afar with shurikens
 The Ettin will attack Jake
 The Black Hands work on THE Karl, and use their ability, dance of death, to remain mobile
 The Master Ninja goes after Marky informing him that, “You have many enemies ‘Old’ Man, and your interference has come to an end!

- At the Village’s Outskirts
o 1 Wing Mage, Kenku Ambushers – Kagi Oni needs more time, but he has very little troops left, so he has gathered some local Kenku thugs and imbued them with Shadow. Put a counter on the board, as the sky is darkening unnaturally, even more so, and a keening of people crying for ‘Mercy’ is going out louder and louder. The counter should be at 12. At 8 everyone takes 5 DMG, at 6 everyone loses a Healing Surge, at 3 everyone is at a -1 ATT.
 The Wing Mage casts ‘Beneath A Blackened Sky’, causing the front of path of the slums to be shrouded completely in darkness. He then will periodically cast out into the darkness at random, 1,2,3,4 no target 5 or 6 target, Hellfire Burst.
 The Kenku Ambushers will stay mobile and attack at a distance if they can, moving in and out of the slum buildings.

- Into The Shadows
o 25 Shambling Townspeople, 3 Dretch, & 1 Abyssal Eviscerator – Put a counter on the board, it is now black out and range is reduced to 5 for those attacks that require Line of Sight, and the cries of ‘Mercy’ are now just a thundering cry so -2 to Perception & Insight. The counter should be at 8. At 6 everyone takes 10 DMG, at 6 everyone loses a Healing Surge and is at a -1 to ATT, at 3 everyone takes 10 more DMG, is knocked Prone, & loses another Healing Surge. At 3 Kagi Oni has almost completed his spell, at Zero he does.
 The Shambling Townspeople try to grab, and hold. If 5 get a hold of a PC, they pull them prone.
 The Dretch spread out and try to take out Kedrin & Mike
 The Eviscerator attacks Cassandra, THE Karl, & Jake. It uses double attacks to hit two PC’s per round.

- Kagi Oni, Revealed…
o If at any of the previous 2 Encounters the counter hit Zero then Kagi Oni has ripped a hole into the Abyss and Demons are now flooding out. Assuming he has not been able to complete any of the previous countdowns set the Counter at 6. At 5 Shadows erupt from the Portal sight 9 Vs. WILL 5 DMG, Blind Save Ends. At 4 a wave of cold emanates from the portal, burst 5 9 Vs. REF 5 DMG, Slowed Save Ends. At 3 Necrotic energy rolls out in a black mist 10 Vs. FORT 10 DMG, Lose one Healing Surge. At 2 Kagi Oni flies into the portal. At 1 a wave of Shadow energy pours out 12 Vs. FORT 15 DMG. At 0 Kagi Oni emerges at full health with an army of Demons behind him. Game Over!
 Kagi Oni attacks that he sees as the biggest threat, but leaves the caster to the Ghosts.
 Endless Goblin Ghosts with low ATT scores attack the PC’s with their Possession ability in a burst 5 from the Portal, but no farther. They attack at a 4 Vs. WILL, but only three can attack per round.
 The Ritual to close the portal takes 4 rounds uninterrupted by combat, in a burst 3 proximity to the portal, for the caster; it requires the sacrifice of a Magic Item, and the Power of the Elements (the elemental statues the PC’s found the first session).
 The PC’s don’t have to beat Oni, just close the portal, make sure that if they make a DC 17 Perception they can notice that he is drawing power directly from the Portal. If they close it he is destroyed, as he is part of the Portal. The villagers, well at least 50% of the villagers awaken, another 25% are now just shambling shells, and the remaining 25% are dead.

As you can see I go with a pretty fast and loose format, and not everything made the cut of the final adventure. I cut out the ‘Endless Goblin Ghosts’, the PC’s were SUPER smart and avoided the Abyssal Eviscerator, & there were some other minor adjustments that I had to make on the fly. Whenever I do this type of prep right up it is just a ‘rough draft’ so I can get the Monsters built and start trying to figure out what I want to do next. The biggest error of the session though was that I dropped that damn Ritual Book in as the ‘Macguffin’ to use in the end game of the adventure thinking that Mike would have Ritual Casting, because Mike ALWAYS has Ritual Casting. He didn’t. SO I had to give away the spoil of it and just give him the damn feat. I also felt like some of the back and forth with players at the beginning between myself and players really detracted from the game and kept us all from getting the plot moving. Luckily the Encounters were strong enough to get things going and I really felt like they were challenging and fun, which is a mix I sometimes have a hard time achieving. The big thing was the final Encounter came down to the last few turns with Jake needing a Crit to stop Kagi Oni and getting it. There were cheers and high fives all around. THAT is the type of things that makes running well worthwhile. That’s the rub of running, the adventure and the way I was presenting it was ok, but it was lacking. However, the way the players finished the end game, the excitement, the vibe the fostered, and the joy in an eleven year old when he vanquishes his foe, WHICH is what makes a game memorable. THAT is what makes a game a, “…remember that time we killed Kagi Oni and Jake hit that incredible Crit!?” type of game. Sessions like that are the reasons I play, and more importantly the reason I run. Thank you to all involved for making it beyond memorable.

1st Group is up on Saturday and it sounds as if we might be one player down, permanently. We talked about the situation on the Insecurity Blanket at length. I get the player’s point of view, but at the same time I don’t completely get the lack of creative flexibility or the need to put the rest of the game off the rails by walking away. Perhaps that I have never been that emotionally invested in a character, or that I view D&D as a way to tell a tale with and through a group or any other number of points of view I’m just missing I’m sure. I don’t fault the person; frankly I don’t have any right to. We are all entitled to our opinions and our vision in all creative endeavors. If he isn’t fulfilled anymore in this one it is better that he sees it now and gets out rather than just being unhappy and hanging on. Who knows maybe that character will show up in another time or place, like Gamma World…

I now have a few days to re-work not just the adventure planned, but also what I want to do from here. There is a lot of re-building of the meta-plot to be done, as well as on a micro level the Encounters need to be rethought from the ground up. It also now puts Zack’s new character in a position where it is basically unplayable now, which means more re-thinking. I think the thing that truly sucks is the twist that has led to this really seemed like a fantastic one on paper. I really thought it beyond inspired on Zack’s part, but it didn’t resonate with the player. In fact it seems to have offended him.

I’m realizing that D&D is a nebulous thing. It doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. The amount of personal and creative investment is on such a sliding scale that it makes it difficult for everyone to feel the same way about events. Couple this with the fact that it is a social game at heart and sometimes socially things don’t vibe the best makes for a sort of creative powder keg. Zack and I talked at length on the Antagonist Relations Podcast about how it isn’t easy to DM, and I’m realizing that more and more. A certain sense of fun can be sapped out of things so swiftly.

When the game works it truly is that magical combination of personalities working in conjunction to tell stories that treat them all equally rather than one or two above all others. Even in an eight person party everyone needs their beats. It also relies upon the tenant that everyone involved can be creatively flexible when things go in drastically different directions either through player of DM decisions. I try to never be so married to an idea or direction that takes away the autonomy and direction of the players, and I always hope that they can do the same.

In the end this is just another learning situation for me. I’m putting it on the mental shelf along with not allowing people who are actively game saboteurs in groups, or nipping issues in the bud before they escalate beyond everyone’s control, or being more in tune with the agreed up on vibe of a campaign, and so many more lessons. I’m always getting better at the ‘herding cats’ that is running games, and all this will do is give me an opportunity to grow and better the games I run from this new lesson. Until then I have a lot of prep changes to make.


Magic Mike shared with me John Ringo’s ‘Under A Graveyard Sky’ (*** out of 5).
I am a Zombie guy. I thoroughly enjoy a good end of the world overrun with the dead consuming the living. This is a Zombie Apocalypse through the eyes of a former military man and his doomsday ‘prepper’ family as they flee to the high seas as the virus overruns the United States. I liked the action a lot in this book, as it is nasty, brutal, and up close. I also enjoyed the viral theory and how well it was explained by the author. The ‘science’ behind the virus and its delivery were really interesting and somewhat terrifying. However, I didn’t really care much for the main two characters, or their hard right, gun loving, violence solves everything philosophy. There was so much of that, especially from the 13 year old daughter who comes off like Rambo with a pony tail, at which point it almost became a caricature of itself. It lost any of the cache of believability that it had built in the beginning of the book. The father and daughter are sort of the worst of what we see in survivors in these types of tales, because you feel like they haven’t just been preparing for something like this, but that they are enjoying it. There is an utter lack of humanity that really is the antithesis of the things I enjoy in a tale like that. It isn’t bad, in fact as an action book it is pretty fantastic, and the taking of ships and clearing them of zombies is really creepy and well done. I just found that I am not a fan of Mr. Ringo’s work.

Speaking of the Zombie Apocalypse I finally sat down, steeled myself and watched World War Z (*** out of 5).
As a fanatic about the book I had avoided the movie like the plague, pun intended. So I went in with the attitude that this just happened to be a movie with the same name as a book I love, and has absolutely nothing to do with said book. By doing that I enjoyed the flick. I really enjoyed it. Every time my feelings or thoughts about it in comparison to the book started to bleed in, I literally paused the film, walked away, and came back a few moments later. When utterly and completely cutting it away from the source I found something fun, large in scope, and well done. At the same time, I’d be remiss if I didn’t compare it now with the book. Comparing it to the book leaves all the good feelings I have towards it turning to ash in my mouth. Even with the decent action, the acting, and the vibe the movie can elicit it isn’t anywhere near the book, at all. So if you like fast Zombies and movies that are well done then I’d give this one a go.

Last but not least I also watched Man Of Steel (*** ½ out of 5) finally.
A lot of folks didn’t care for this flick, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy it. I’m a John Byrne ‘Man Of Steel’ guy, and beyond that I’ve never been a Superman purist. So seeing a Superman who is forced to take a step to stop the unstoppable was jarring, but for me in the context of the tale worked. I thoroughly enjoyed the scenes on Krypton where Jor-El and Zod had a complex and contentious relationship. Jor-El came off like the Doc Savage of Krypton in a way which really was fun. I found that Henry Cavill was perfect as both Clark Kent in the world trying to find himself and then as Superman. There was a humanizing look he had, where he looked uncertain in most things that really made Superman an empathetic character for me. Amy Adams was stellar as Lois Lane. It was the perfect way to make Lois a force as a reporter for her to figure out who Superman was, well prior to him becoming Superman. Couple that with just her fearless nature and I found that I really dug her in that part. Last but not least the movie doesn’t work without Michael Shannon as General Zod. Zod is a man who has internal conflicts but is so beyond driven to a cause that he’ll do anything to complete his version of the future. My biggest issue was the final segment of the movie as the destruction gets to such a level that it would make a Kaiju movie blush. It makes sense as your dealing with two characters that are that powerful, but it loses something in the translation, because all my Nerdy brain could think of was, “…who’s going to pay for all that damage?” Or why didn’t Superman try and take Zod to somewhere less populated for that final go ‘round? It isn’t a perfect film, but to me it was damn fine effort. We’ll see what Snyder and company can do with the sequel and the inclusion of Batman.

Hrm…Let’s wrap this up with some….


- CHIKARA is back!

- Since the last blog I’ve had a chance to play two new board games. First up is King Of Tokyo (**** out of 5).
I dig Kaiju, and this game gets the experience right. It plays really quick, has a frenetic pace and is filled with the right amount of ‘screw your neighbor’, random dice rolling, and some great card mechanics that it plays differently every game. For us we played three games and each on came down to the final dice roll. That is in a LOT of ways something I’m looking for in every game I play, a chance to see the game come down to one turn where victory hangs in the balance.

The second game is The Pathfinder Card Game (**** out of 5).
We had the chance to sit down and give it a go last night with four players; myself, The Genius, James & his Mighty Beard, and the Cassie. It was a bit of a slog to get started as none of us had played and the instructions are good, but a bit daunting with so few examples of play in the instructions. Once you get going though it is a damn fine game, it plays quick, and has a sense of urgency that really sneaks up on you. We lost as we didn’t effectively split the party and search to the best of our ability, that and our card draws were really awful. The game is a challenge, a fantastic one, and I can’t wait to get back into it as soon as possible.

- Backed into a guy this morning in a parking lot, did not damage to either vehicle. He laughed at my ‘plastic’ car.

- I have an interview next week. I’m not so sure how I feel about any of this anymore. On the one hand I have to get out of here, sooner rather than later, but do I want to jump right back into the same field, will it just be more of the same; “Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss”. This last seven years has cut some of the righteous crusader out of me with a scalpel made of callousness and money. I want to be excited about this opportunity, but today I just can’t seem to muster it. I wonder if I am too dumb to get the simplistic joy out of things like my brother does. We constantly joke that I love my job, but don’t like who I do it for, and he hates his job but loves who he works for. I’m beginning to wonder which is better. All I know is I need to figure it out soon.

- Wouldn’t it be nice to just win the lottery tonight?

- Gamma World is finally on the calendar for 3/1/14. I’m really excited and feel like I have a good base idea, I just need to refine. I’m starting to do a better job of proactively prepping so the follow through is relatively easy. I’m starting to think of flooded streets, fast zombies, militant roaches, secret agendas regarding dormant reactors, talking monkeys, ‘Hobo Law’, the rotting body of a Kaiju locked in a death embrace with a giant robot frozen in a moment of time, like a large, tight dungeon that it dying to be explored, and so much more!

- I think I want to do another Insecurity Blanket Podcast next week.

- We talked about ‘reskinning’ 4E into a Wrestling game last night. The more I think about it the more I’m thinking we should make it card driven game, more like the Pathfinder Card Game. It would be a really interesting challenge to see if with that many big brained wrestling and gaming nerds if we could come up with a working game.

- I crave fondue or beer cheese soup as soon as possible.

- If the weather holds up I think I might grill again on Sunday prior to Apocalypse World. We are out of grilled meats in our fridge, and it has been too long since I had a good fire going in the grill. The winter seems determined to cling to its unnatural length, but I think it might Cassandra and both feel better if we grilled this weekend. It would be a nice hint of spring to come.

- I might get back to Reign Of Winter previews, but currently since I’m not buying minis my heart isn’t in it.

It may not seem like it all the time, but I recognize that I am one of the luckiest human beings alive. I wake up every day and know that; to know that, to believe it, and to live it has been an amazing adjustment. Not sure why I felt the need to voice that, but I did.

“Has your child completed his or her suspicious activity booklet?
Don't let this summer go to waste.
The enemy is preparing their children, are you?
Time to show them who's boss.
Moloch demands fresh blood to maintain the appetite of his mechanical heart.
Will you sacrifice your first born like Abraham would his Isaac?
Will you sacrifice your first born like Abraham would his Isaac?

Tell me why, Dick Cheney, underneath my bed?
Hell no, that ain't cool!
Tendin' to the lips of a shrunken head.
No sir, that ain't cool.
Come on now take one for the team.
Stick it to the man, stick it to the man.
Raise the dagger high above Isaac
drive it down as hard as you can.
Shiny Master Cadillackness, halos suit you well.
All goes exactly as planned, so many tomorrows to sell.
Shiny Master Cadillackness, halos suit you well.
Stand fast, upset the system, so many tomorrows to sell.
Mother, mother, don't want to work on the farm no more.
Father, father, don't want to wear your uniform.
Mary, Mary, keep me safe and comforted.
Father, Father, raise that dagger up above your head.

Shiny Master Cadillackness, halos suit you well.
All goes exactly as planned so many tomorrows to sell.
Shiny Master Cadillackness, halos suit you well.
Stand fast, upset the system, so many tomorrows to sell.

Shiny Master Cadillackness, halos suit you well.
All goes exactly as planned, so many tomorrows to sell.
Shiny Master Cadillackness, halos suit you well.
Stand fast, upset the system, so many tomorrows to sell.

All you ready to prove your love to the Lord?
I said are you willing to prove your love to the Lord?
As Abraham handed down his first born on a stone.
Do you wonder what is right and what is wrong?

Shiny Master Cadillackness
Shiny Master Cadillackness
Shiny Master Cadillackness
Shiny Master Cadillackness”

* = True Story...

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