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My four your old is deep into dragons right now, with a large collection of dragon toys and several imaginary dragon friends. From my perspective (being a proud parent) she seems to come up with wonderfully interesting an imaginative stories around her dragons. Generally I think children are a wellspring of great ideas (at least, until institutions undermines their sense of creativity).

This is her Pine Dragon. A creature that lives in the giant, swaying northwest pines prominent in our neighborhood.

Pine Dragon

Pine Dragon

Habitat

Prefers evergreen forests by the sea (likes to comb beaches consuming driftwood) and a mild climate. Loves fog and rainy days and smaller islands.

Food

Will occasionally dive for seafood that’s deeper in the waters, catching shark and octopi, but brings them back to the beach to consume. Also eats other seafood (fish, hermit crabs, jellyfish) and pinecones and tree bark.

Physique

Their necks and tails are extremely long to reach seafood. They like to wrap their extremely long necks and tails around the giant, swaying pines for sleeping (the rocking of the tree soothes them and puts them to sleep). They are mostly green but can have purple and black hues. Their talons are golden, their bellies yellow. Females are more colorful.

They have no wings but are fast runners and great jumpers and can stay underwater for long stretches of time.

Wood fires their breath. They can swallow a bunch of deadfall to fire up something fierce, but even a pinecone would help. They like the hang out on beaches and nibble on freshly caught seafood. They will sometimes build fire pits like humans do and then curl up near them.

Habits

They have a weakness for popcorn and apples, and love the smell of these.

They sleep in the trees – building eagle like ness for their small young, and then wrap their long tails in the high branches, the trees swaying in the wind, soothing them and rocking them to sleep.

They will collect lost treasures or jewels, but focus on small, shiny trinkets like seaglass, colorful beads and marbles. They put these in their nests with their eggs, in the highest of treetops. Their green eggs are small (smaller than bird sized) and they start off as really tiny dragons.

They will be awake for weeks at a time, and then sleep for weeks at a time. Really old ones may sleep for ages in their trees, the bark slowly overtaking and growing over and around them. They stay warm and still in their tress during the winter / snowfall, and rest in their shade during the hottest summers.

Dragon toy collection

A few of my daughter’s dragons

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Lyric the Deceiver Aerialist

“He who travels lightest travels fastest and bestest.”- Lyric the Deceiver Aerialist

Most rogues are familiar with caltrops and marbles that have become sourcebook staples, but a devious player can carry all sorts of tiny tricks and traps to spring in an instant on the unsuspecting. This article speaks to an array of simple, easy to carry tricks and pocket traps.

“Humor goes into the making of a poem as flour flies into the faces of the annoying.” – Lyric

We’ll start with powdered chalk which is useful for the climber and commonly carried by adventurers for pinpointing invisible creatures. But powdered chalk, along with flour, soot, charcoal dust or similar materials is also a good momentary blinder – useful for distracting marks or making a quick getaway.

CR 1: Powder in the Face:

  • Touch trigger (consider this a ranged touch attack)
  • No reset
  • DC 10 Fortitude or be blinded for 1 round

The powder ante can be upped by throwing loose raw pepper into enemy’s faces.

CR 1: Pepper in the Face:

  • Touch trigger (consider this a ranged touch attack)
  • No reset
  • DC 12 Fortitude or be incapacitated for 1d2 rounds, sneezing

“He who has the pepper… may season his targets as he lifts.” – Lyric

Pepper also has other useful variants. Concentrated Pepper is made in part from ground chills and cayenne pepper, and against humans it stings the eyes and constricts the throat.  A successful ranged touch attack can blind an opponent.

CR 1: Concentrated Pepper:Dust Blow

  • Touch trigger in melee (consider this a ranged touch attack)
  • DC 15 Fortitude to resist. Blinded for 1d4 rounds.
  • DC 20 to Craft (alchemy)

Combat Pepper is designed specifically to fell a man, and is similar to modern pepper sprays only in a dry form. It creates a very painful burning sensation with continuous tearing, uncontrolled coughing, choking, nausea and disorientation. All this causes temporary blindness and instant breathing problems.

CR 2: Combat Pepper:

  • Touch trigger in melee (consider this a ranged touch attack)
  • DC 15 Fortitude to resist. Blinded and prone for 1d4 rounds, takes 1d4 damage
  • DC 25 to Craft (alchemy)

Dog Pepper is made from spices keen nosed tracking dogs are particularly susceptible to. Dog pepper can be used as a ranged touch attack or just left behind on the trail for tracking dogs to succumb to.

CR 1: Face – Dog Pepper:

  • Touch trigger in melee (consider this a ranged touch attack), or location trigger
  • Dogs (or similar creatures) DC 15 Fortitude to resist. Those who succumb are hysterical for 1d4 rounds trying to remove the powder and unable to track by scent for 1d2 hours.
  • DC 15 to Craft (alchemy)

A spring-Loaded wrist sheath (normally around a 5gp investment, see various equipment guides) can be altered to hold peppers or powders (DC 10 to rig) and used as a swift action to surprise an opponent. Powders can also be hidden in a hollow pommel or coin purse. They store well, just don’t get them wet.

 

Wrist Sheath

Wrist Sheath

“…its 2013, and you just bought a print magazine.”

So begins the launch of Gygax magazine and the relaunch of TSR. I finally received my fedex’ed mag and sat down by the fireplace this weekend for an old-school page flipping magazine experience.Gygax Magazine

And the crew has really delivered on that. They’ve captured and faithfully reproduced the experience from the font, tone, look, and even feel of the pages. There is plenty of nostalgia captured, and the read is a wish-fantasy of time-travel fulfilled back to when, as the writers claim, things were simpler. Back to a time when imagination filled our hours instead of computers or touchpads or what’s online.

I loved the whole experience and will certainly continue to purchase issues. Highlights for me include:

  • Cory Doctorow’s DMing for your toddler was an article I can relate to being the parent of a four year old. It was great how the rules he presented were “kinetic” since I think one of the major detriments of our hobby is that it is quite sedentary, and also how the hobby can be used to teach basic math and other skills. I pulled an unstated point from the read of how imagination and story creation matters more than mechanics with children, and how simple rules can suffice for endless entertainment.
  • I loved Tim Kask’s pontifications on why it’s still all about the story.
  • It wouldn’t be old-school without Lenard Lakofka (aka Leomund) presenting a new table charting something or other and a collection of random thoughts. The brief synopsis of what he’s been doing (and struggling with) was a nice touch. His take on damage versus to hit was great crunch, although the modern game designer in me is now questioning why we need different rolls for damage and hit anyways.
  • The setting presented (Gnatdamp) was high quality and well written with plenty of strong material for visualizing the locale and great hooks built in for adventuring. I can easily see myself using this in an existing or new campaign.
  • Wolfgang Baur’s Kobold popping up again (as he says of kobolds they pop up where they aren’t necaessarily expected).
  • And of course the comics – What’s new with Phil and Dixie and was especially fun and The Order of the Stick pleasantly broke down that 4th wall. The comics were worth the price of admission.

There was some disappGygax Magazine Unboxingointment. I was expecting Jeff Dee art in all its glory instead of the small, poorly printed frame that looked like a V&V Madcap (is that the right name? My memory fails me) cutting room floor piece.

Also, Although Gnatdamp was great and the Kobold’s Cavern contained useful material for campaigning, most of the magazine was devoted to discourse on the hobby as a subject, not necessarily useful things a gamer could use in daily play. A third of the articles were about the state of the hobby, and although these were great reads and perhaps necessary to place the magazine’s context in today’s world, and I don’t want them to disappear entirely, I look forward to seeing more material one can use in campaigns.

I’m sensing overall an anti-technological tone. That perhaps video games and an online, conected world are a waste of time and responsible for destroying imaginative play (or at least DnD’s market share). I’ve said before that this tone may be off-putting to a younger generation necessary for the hobby’s survival.

The final disappointment is that the mag is only available quarterly. If only the market would support this as monthly, but for now the new TSR has gained at least one subscriber.

gary gygax

This little item received some forum accolades but alas did not make it to Paizo’s RPGSuperstar later rounds.

Grifter’s Feint:

  • Aura Faint Conjuration/Illusion/Divination
  • CL 7th
  • Slot hands
  • 29,200 g
  • Weight 1 lb

Description:Grifters_Feint1

A worn set of cards in a plain black wooden case. The deck has all the benefits of a high-quality set of cards and provides +2 to Profession: Gambling or +2 to Profession: Fortune Teller or similar profession checks that rely upon a deck of cards. In addition the owner will always know the face of any of these cards (suit, color and number or equivalent) as long as he can see the backs of them.

By concentrating for 1 round the owner can have the deck appear as any known set of normal cards appropriate to the campaign (normally playing cards or fortune telling cards). The cards can be elaborately or sparsely illustrated, and can appear to be made of any common materials normally associated with cards (usually waxed vellum, thick paper or wood). Whatever the guise the cards will always appear well used.

Once per day as a standard action a single card from the deck can be thrown to the ground, exploding into a puff of harmless smoke and allowing the thrower to dimension door up to 400 feet away. The card regenerates inside the case within 24 hours.

Once per day as a standard action a handful of cards can be thrown into the air in a flashy display. The cards will sparkle and burst like small fireworks lasting 1d4+1 rounds. This display is equivalent to a mind-effecting gaze attack with a 30 foot radius. Those who witness the show are dazed for the duration (Will DC 16 negates). The cards burn up as part of this effect but regenerate inside their carrying case within 24 hours.

Construction:

Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, Rainbow Pattern, Dimension Door, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance; 14,600 gp

Any doubts to there being an old school tabletop renaissance should have been quashed this week, first with WOTC’s re-release of the DnD back-catalog, and then with the unboxing of the new Gygax Magazine. Disclaimer – I’m an old-school fanatic myself and I’m typing this while waiting in front of my mailbox patiently awaiting the first issue of Gygax magazine like a crushing schoolgirl. Yes, I know its Sunday.

gygax-magazine-banner

And from what was unveiled during the live unboxing yesterday Gygax magazine truly is old school. Editorial is owned by Tim Kask, the original editor of Dragon magazine, and much of the art (corralled by Jim Wampler) is commissioned from old-school talent like Jeff Dee and Rich Burlew (order of the stick). The magazine is a venture from Luke & Ernie Gygax (Gary Gygax’s sons) – although not all of the Gygax’s are behind this latest use of the Gygax name.

From the glimpses of the online unveiling the magazine has that old school feel. The layout and font are copied from the original Dragon magazine format, and some of the topical areas are carried over. Instead of Dragon’s Leomunds Tiny Hut there is a Leomunds Secure Shelter, for instance. There’s an ecology article (the banshee, possibly a tribute to Susie the Banshee who is their public relations person)  and there’s the familiar running comics at the end of the mag: Phil Foglio’s What’s New With Phil and Dixie, Jim Wampler’s Marvin the Mage, and Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick.

Gygax_magazine_stack

Despite the old school focus there is a lot of new school talent in the first issue. Kobold Quarterly is now defunct, but Wolfgang Baur appears to edit a regular area of the mag called Kobold Cavern. Cory Doctorow has an article focused on bringing in young gamers (DMing for your Toddler) and there’s an article titled DnD Past, Now and Next  by Michael Tresca.

Although the team talked about being focused on the hobby both as it was and the community that it is today, I worry about some of the commentary and attitude being off-putting for newer generations. There’s a complete lack of video or electronic gaming focus, and there did seem to be a prevailing attitude that the whole thing is a waste of time (except for virtual tabletops). On one hand it’s incredibly refreshing to get it straight (“Tim don’t do twitter – Tim has a dumb phone”), but time will see if the magazine will really appeal to the newer generations so vital to the hobby’s survival.

Despite some cross promotion shenanigans (Roll20 was announced as the official Gygax Magazine online thingee, promotional product prizes, all of the magazine advertisers brought up during discussion) the group does seem invested in the community. They are not coming out with a new system (saying plenty of that is going around already) but instead want to focus on content. There will be no reviews, or letters to the editors, which they say belong on the web now instead of in a physical magazine. Instead the focus is feature articles and game related content.

Some other key points made during the event:

  • Its a quarterly publication
  • Digital versions will be made available on Feb 7th
  • They are still working on submission guidelines (next 10-12 days)
  • Focused on material for current, existing game systems (DnD and all sorts of variants including pathfinder)
  • Looks like a new setting and new adventures in that setting
  • Will not be focusing on reviews unless it’s timely (reading between the commentary it seemed to be “unless we can get an exclusive”)
  • Missing from issue one but promised for later: more focus on board games, historical miniatures, Call of Cthulhu, and Chainmail naval rules
  • Only 5000 for the first original print run (hints of this run being collectible)
  • If all goes well, issue two will be in your local hobby store

The best part of the live event, though, was the online commentary and live responses:

  • Sorry, I cast darkness on Jim & Tim – Ryan Thompson (when the live video dropped)
  • Any plans to let JJ Abrams direct? – Eric Reiter
  • Sound Interesting So Any Info On The Xbox 720 or PS4? – Elijah Ramos
  • Could i get Ernie to throw up a peace sign, for the ladies. – Ollie Haldon
  • …There are a plethora of advertisers… – Luke Gygax
    +500xp for using the word Plethora – Lloyd Metcalf
    Of course he used the word ‘plethora’, he’s a Gygax. – Michael Mornard
  • Has Wil Wheaton got his Gygax mag copy yet? – Lloyd Metcalf
    I Don’t know what Wil Wheaton’s got in his hands. – Tim Kask

More when I get the actual issue. Grognard was able to attend the live event and has some nice photos. Oh, and you can watch the recorded event and order the magazine here. I think Gary himself would be pleased.

gygax_FUTURAMA_Gary_gygax_simpsons

Continuation of part 1 here, our best and worst of 2012 in RPG stuff. Enjoy and a have a happy New Year!

Computer Games

Best RPG Computer Game: The Walking Dead

Here we have IP done right. Using Telltale as a studio was a risk for the franchise in and of itself, and then they took several risks with the game (episodic releases, point and click, storytelling over-all-else) but managed to pull off a wonderful, poignant and emotional experience that shines brightly over all the other first person shooting crud that seems to dominate the market.

telltales-the-walking-dead-on-disc-december-4

Worst RPG Computer Game: The Game of Thrones RPG

Fantasy is finally cool again, but Martin’s books, and the terrific HBO series, deserve better than this mediocre effort. Shoddy gameplay, unpolished presentation, and meh graphics at best.

Biggest RPG Game Disappointment: Diablo III

On the one hand, Diablo III was a decent, fun to play action-RPG, but DRM and over-design drained the joy out of it, and even with a decade of polish it’s half the game Torchlight 2 is.

Honorable Mention: Knights of Pen&Paper

An indie turn-based retro style pixel-art RPG where you control the playing characters and the dungeon master in a simulation of a traditional pen and paper RPG.

Knights_of_pen_&_paper

Science Fiction and Fantasy

Best Fantasy Book: Throne of the Crescent Moon (Saladin Ahmed)

Detail, humor, and one thousand and one nights inspired – the book is simply great storytelling in that classic swashbuckling sense as you follow a charismatic thief that leads a revolt in a magical and political city.

Best Sci-fi Book: Pirate Cinema (Cory Doctorow)

Still not tired of brilliant, passionate kids taking on the oppressive system in a dystopian near future. Keep these coming, Doctorow.

cory_doctorow_pirate_cinema

Best debut: vN (Madeline Ashby)

Some love and hate from critics but this is a great first novel and a wonderfully dark story about a rogue artificial woman becoming dangerous.

Biggest Sci-Fi Loss: Ray Bradbury

We lost some great storytellers (Harry Harrison) and story makers (Neil Armstrong) but the passing of Ray Bradbury (Dandelion Wine, Something Wicked this Way Comes, Fahrenheit 451) is one of the year’s biggest blows. A muse for Steven Spielberg, Neil Gaiman, and Steven King, Ray’s storytelling gift has expanded minds for nearly a century now, and although he resisted the label of science fiction writer he is credited as the one most responsible for bringing sci-fi into the literary mainstream.

Stupidest Comic Book Death: Spider man #700.

In an obviously not-permanent brain mind meld switch the body of Spider Man is now housing Dr. Octopus, Peter Parker has died in Dr. Octopi’s body and fans everywhere sigh their collective sighs.

Amazing-e1356793834433

Best Sci-Fiction Becomes Reality: NASA’s Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive

What can be cooler than FTL made possible by donuts?

300px-Star_Trek_Warp_Field

Most Amazing Robot Monster: DARPA’s Running Cheetah

DARPA’s Maximum Mobility Program revved up their Cheetah Robot this year. The previous iteration ran at a speed of 18 mph, but the new version clocked upwards of 28.8 mph. Finally, what we’ve always needed – robots that can outrun humans.

Movies

Biggest Movie Winner: Decent Geek Movies

Great geek movies are everywhere nowadays. Go Avengers! Go Hobbit! Go Batman!

Biggest Movie Loser: Nostalgic Franchise Reboots

Promethius (Ugh), Dark Shadows (Huh?), Men in Black III (Really?) and Total Recall (Yawn)

Best CGI Character: The Hulk

Puny God. ‘Nuff said.

Most disappointing CGI Character: The Hobbit’s Goblin King

The very definition of CGI overacting.

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY

Best CGI actor in a CGI Scene: The Hobbit’s Golum

The Riddle Me This interchange was perhaps the best CGI scene ever produced in film (don’t see it in 48p though)

Golum

Golum is basically amazing

Movie Weapon of the Year: Bows

Let’s get Hawkeye, Katniss and Merida together in a hunting super hero party. Really. With these guys.

Finally, Monster of the Year goes to: Giant Spiders

Not only have spiders been effective hunters for over 100 million years but new, undiscovered species keep propping up (like this one that builds web dopplegangers). This year giant spiders were sighted both in Germany and in Seattle under the Space Needle – hats off and a happy new year to our giant, hairy, eight legged brethren.

giant_space_needle_spide-2000-px-949x768

Here’s our best and worst of 2012 in RPGs. Enjoy and a have a happy New Year!

Tabletop RPGs

Best Adventure: Streets of Zobeck

Burglary, mad science, demons – really, it’s all covered in these 7 awesome adventures for the anti-hero.

midgard_zobeck_map

Best Setting: Midgard

Wolfgang Baur’s home campaign brought to life over the years but most substantially with this year’s RPG campaign guide of the same name. Seemingly inspired by old school campaign guides and real world mythology (Norse, fey) there’s great depth and world variety here especially with the pantheon (love how Midgard handles clerical domains), status rules, dragon kings, Leylines, unique takes on races – really, what isn’t there to love?

midgard_cover

Best Supplement: Gamemastery Chase Cards

Another great example of Paizo innovation, these cards help expand on something that’s normally poorly documented in RPG rules (surprising considering chases are common happenstance in play). These cards help make the chase scenes more dramatic, more  interesting for players, and easier for game masters to run. Well done.

Best Tabletop RPG Innovation: Google Hangouts

Networking and play seem to be growing online due to this not so recent tech – it will be interesting to see if this continues to grow or fatigue out.

Best RPG Kickstarter: Monte Cook’s Numenera

Funding new IP that traditional publishers would skirt past is exactly what Kickstarter is for, and Numenera is a perfect example of the fans and a creator coming together like peanut butter and chocolate. It blew past it’s initial 20k goal hitting half a mil and many stretch goals, and without Kickstarter fans may not have the chance to see this upcoming campaign setting in all its glory.

Best RPG Hobby Mashup: Crochet and RPGs

This:

crochet-Goblin

And this:

crochet_dwarf_beard

Quite possibly the best mashup of all time.

Best Beta: DnDNext

Love it or hate (and there’s many on both sides) Mike Mearls is certainly getting buzz aplenty and players invested in the latest iteration of the classic game.

Best RPG Craiglist Ad: The Infamous DnD Bachelor Party Ad

Requirements from the actual ad:

  • Dungeon Master experience in Dungeons and Dragons (preferably in 3rd or 3.5 Editions)
  • Must be able to provide a picture including the face and body…
  • It is preferable that cup size be at least C or greater.
  • If books are needed it must be stated ahead of time however it would be preferable if the DM had her own.

“I ensure you that nothing else is expect of you other than an exciting adventure.”- Uh huh. Catch the original here:

Board Games

Best Board game of the Year: Lords of Waterdeep

Finally an approachable Waterdeep, a Waterdeep even the geekiest among us can share with glee with friends who didn’t spend their adolescent nose deep in a Forgotten Realms module.  A simple, strategic and competitive game with high quality components and  great art that even your non-geek friends will like playing. Thank you WotC.

Lords_of_waterdeep_board_game

Biggest Board Game disappointment: The Lord of the Rings: Nazgul

All the  potential (a co-op game where you can play as Nazguls, I mean come on) and all the power and popularity of the biggest RPG franchise behind it. Sadly it seems more money was put into licensing than the game art, components, rule writing or into playtesting this awkward  co-op cube pulling experience – and it’s by no means the worse LOTR game ever printed.

pic1208956_md

part 2 coming shortly…