Sunday, January 30, 2011

Help Me Protect My Intellectual Property

I have only once before overtly made an appeal for donations on the blog, but I must unfortunately report that I find myself in need of formally registering my copyrights with the government. Unfortunately, this necessity comes at a point in my life where money is tight, and I reluctantly reach out to you, my readers, to chip in.

In order to adequately protect my copyright to such works that I have made freely available such as Castle of the Mad Archmage and the two (soon to be three) books of Adventures Dark and Deep, I must submit forms to the US Copyright office, and they require certain fees. Without doing so, I might find myself in the unfortunate situation of having to prove that a given work is, in fact, my own, and that could potentially involve hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, this has happened already; someone has tried to sell my work under his name, for profit, and the incident has convinced me that I must thus register my works with the US Copyright Office, in order to protect my work and make claims of such protection easier in the courts.

So I find myself in the unenviable place of asking for donations; not to make better products, professional layout, boxed sets, pay for artwork, or any of the things I *want* to pay for. I find myself asking for donations to protect my work from wholly unscrupulous pirates who want to profit from my work without so much as an attribution. It happened once, and I need to prevent it from happening again.

I despise you, J.H., for making this necessary.

The donation button is in the upper-right corner of your screen. I will greatly appreciate anything you can give. It will go to help protect those things I have already written, as well as those that I will be writing in the future.

I am not happy about having to ask you, but I thank you in advance for whatever you can give to help.

UPDATE: The offending file has been removed, and I have information on how to get hold of the individual responsible for possible legal action. Thank you to everyone who has been so generous with your donations; I have collected enough to cover the cost of the copyright filings, although the trademark filings, being much more expensive, are still on the wish-list. Thank you, everyone!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Monster Manual as a Work in Progress

It's interesting to note some of the odd things that turn up in a careful reading of the Monster Manual. Remember that this was the first of the AD&D books to be written, and some curious textual artifacts are still contained within it.

For example, in describing the Wand of Orcus, the Monster Manual states, "Other powers of this device as rumored amongst mortals are dealt with in another book." Could it be that the title of the Dungeon Masters Guide was not yet firmly established when the Monster Manual went to press? Impossible, as it was mentioned elsewhere. Did this just fall through the cracks?

Another, when describing the many and varied powers of the demon prince Yeenoghu; "magic missile (3/day, 6 missiles/cast), each doing 2-8 points of damage and having a +2 to hit;". +2 to hit? For a magic missile? Again, is it possible that the property of the magic missile to always hit its target was not yet firmly established?

There are many others, of course; spell names that are subtly different (detect invisible objects or detect invisible, as opposed to detect invisibility, etc.). Some are simply curious names that are never really explained, although I can, I think, figure out what raise dead fully does.

None of this detracts from my love of the original, of course; quite the opposite. It's interesting to remember that there was a time when Advanced Dungeons and Dragons was still not yet fully published, and I like the fact that even one of its core books reflects upon the whole as a work in progress.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Realms of Crawling Chaos on Sale Now!

Well, I get home from work and what should await me in my inbox, but this:

Realms of Crawling Chaos


Realms of Crawling Chaos
Purchase Realms of Crawling Chaos with 15% off with coupon code OPENBOOK305.

Hurry ... offer ends Monday.

I've got to say, I was waiting for one of Lulu's various sales to pick up this outstanding-looking supplement. Now I won't have to wait!

Also, there is a two-part review over at Hill Cantons that makes me want it even more!

In Memoriam STS-51-L


Francis "Dick" Scobee
Ellison Onizuka
Christa McAuliffe
Gregory Jarvis
Judith Resnik
Michael J. Smith
Ronald McNair

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Court Rules that Dungeons and Dragons Threatens Prison Security

Okay, this is about the stupidest thing I've heard in a couple of months. A DM is somehow the equivalent of a gang leader? This is insane.
If you're an orc or a wizard, you'd better keep your nose clean.

A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit weighed in Wednesday on a matter of grievous import to the nation's prisons: Dungeons & Dragons. And the Court's ruling was bad news for naughty nerds nationwide, concluding that the innocent-seeming board game was inviting trouble.

The case brought before the Appeals Court argued that D&D inhibited prison security, because "cooperative games can mimic the organization of gangs and lead to the actual development thereof." And therefore Kevin T. Singer, a long-time dungeon-explorer sentenced to life in prison in 2002 for bludgeoning and stabbing his sister’s boyfriend, was denied access to his magical staffs and pieces of gold.

According to the published ruling, Captain Bruce Muraski, who serves as disruptive group coordinator for the Waupun Correctional Institute in Wisconsin, elaborated that "during D&D games, one player is denoted the 'Dungeon Master.' The Dungeon Master is tasked with giving directions to other players, which Muraski testified mimics the organization of a gang."

In other words, the case didn't hang on whether the dice were loaded or the game's books were cooked or seditious. It argued that limiting the use of board games would deter gang activity. The argument had more nuances than a 12-sided die; for all the legal details, check the Geeks Are Sexy blog.

It's a blow to role-players everywhere -- criminal role-players that is. Law-abiding citizens are safe. So heed this warning and rob no more, or you'll find you've slain your last halfling.
Go to the Geeks Are Sexy blog entry for the whole skinny on this. But this is just such an ignorant ruling as to boggle the mind.

Travel Broadens the Mind

It's been too long since I did a Greyhawk-centric post, and I thought I would cover a topic not often seen in Greyhawkiana (or most other fantasy settings, as far as I'm aware). It's all well and good to know where the magical fountains of X are, or the prophecy-uttering statue of Y, but I think it's just as important (and arguably more realistic, depending on the level of magic in one's campaign) to know a little something about the more mundane features that might draw travelers.

I posted on something tangentially related to this over a year ago, when I suggested that visiting different sites and viewing the sights in the Flanaess might earn experience points. Farther back, I outlined what I considered to be some of the more significant religious locales therein. While both of those can certainly be applied here (getting experience points for seeing or experiencing some of the wonders contained herein) I just thought it was a neat idea.

Again, I am taken with the idea of "The Grand Tour" which was undertaken by young English gentlemen (and later by such of other nationalities as well), where the centers of civilization in Europe were visited, often under the guidance of someone experienced in such matters, who acted not only as guide but tutor as well. One would view the various art galleries of the famous museums, visit the sites of battles mentioned in Livy, and learn fencing from masters in exotic locales such as Paris. I find the concept interesting, and humbly present for you just a few examples from the World of Greyhawk...
  • Innspa has famous hot springs and baths, some with purported healing properties. Over the years, the entire economy has taken to revolving around the springs and their associated inns and spas. It is a vacation spot for the well-heeled of the entire north-eastern Flanaess.
  • Rauxes has, in addition to its fabulous and famous Oeridian architecture, exemplified by its soaring cathedrals and palaces, its famous Night Gardens, filled with plants that bloom only at night.
  • Rel Mord is noted for two separate museums; the Brick Palace, noted for its collection of Oeridian full-body friezes; and the Royal Museum, which features the largest collection of paintings east of the Nyr Dyv.
  • Rel Mord's Royal Library is also one of the finest in the Flanaess, hosting over fifty thousand volumes.
  • Rel Astra is home to a queer form of fighting which uses only short sticks, which, with training, can be used to disarm and even cripple opponents. The fighting masters of this art can be persuaded to teach students, for a price.
  • Eastfair features a fabulous market fair every spring, said to attract merchants from all over North Province and the entire Thillronian Penninsula.
  • Radigast City has scores of brilliant mosaics set into the streets at odd intervals, depicting various scenes from mythology and history, originally designed by the famed artist Joru Thillpot, and maintained at the city's expense. 
  • Rookroost has a museum that boasts the largest collection of coins and other instruments of currency in the Flanaess.
  • Molag has a Museum of Torture, in which, it is rumored, live demonstrations of the exhibits are a regular occurrence.
  • Chendl is famed for its sculpture gardens, including masterpieces by Yvin Patro, Jerrold Chargas, and Rogar.
  • Schwartzenbruin is noted for its singular style of music, which is rarely performed outside of Perrenland, and which is seen as a great tourist attraction. It is a type of vocal performance done a capella, based on the cattle calls of the herdsmen in the hills and mountains called "jodeln."
  • Gryrax has a pair of enormous statues flanking the entrance to its harbor; "Vigilance" and "Liberty."
  • The entire town of Westkeep is built entirely on stilts, with platforms surrounding each building connected by elaborate bridges, because of the intruding marshlands of the Hool Marshes.
  • Veluna City boast the tallest tower in the entire Flanaess, graced with sculptures of angels and devas that wind around the outside into the clouds. It is currently used as the city mint.
  • Niole Dra is a center of sculpture, with no fewer than three distinct "schools" of sculpture being represented. Proponents of each constantly strive to outdo the others, with the backing of important patrons from amongst the aristocracy of Keoland.
  • In the central square of Loftwick there is an enormous meteor the size of a small house. It is said to have mystical properties, but this is a local superstition unsupported by magical investigation.
  • Enstad is famed for its public gardens, which are specifically designed so that the scents vary with the passing of each hour, as different flower species' pollen alights on the air and mixes with the others.
  • Gradsul has, according to the whims of fashion, become the center of a new style of dress that entails wide ruffs at the neck. To have such a ruff made in Gryrax itself is counted as a coup among the fashion mavens of the south-central Flanaess.
  • Mentrey is home to the three most acclaimed painters of the age. Portraits by them hang in capitals across the Flanaess. Works by their apprentices go for astronomical sums; works by the masters themselves are literally priceless. This has made Mentrey something of a hub among the artistic world of the eastern Flanaess.
  • Both Cryllor and Flen are centers of nature walks through the Good Hills. The natural beauty of the trails and paths, combined with the very safe environs, make for excellent hiking.

Games Workshop Earnings Down

One of the really nice things (were I of a more cynical turn of mind, I might be tempted to say the only nice thing) about Games Workshop is that they make public their earnings statements. I believe that's because they're publicly traded, but I couldn't swear to it. Perhaps one of my players will be able to answer that question.

Anyway, ICv2 has a very nice article up on the recent GW earnings statement and other related news relating to the company. Apparently their sales were down 4% from last year, due mostly in reductions from their company-owned stores. I've never been inside one, so I can't tell you from personal experience what they're like, but this was telling:

While overall sales declined in North America and Northern Europe, sales through independent retailers in those territories actually grew.

They changed their staffing in their stores, apparently, making at least some of them single-man operations in order to cut costs. Yikes! You're stuck in the store all day by yourself, unable to so much as go to the bathroom without locking the front door, and heaven help your weekly sales figures if you have to take a sick day or stay home for the plumber to fix a pipe.

I've worked in a retail games store myself (The Compleat Strategist in Boston), and I can't even imagine what running that as a one-man-show would be like. It seems like GW is being penny-wise and pound-foolish, and those sales figures are bearing it out. There are other factors at work, of course, and you can only really discern trends in the long-term, but from a common sense perspective this turn does make a certain amount of sense.

Of course, they could save money by making true 25mm figures instead of 28mm (or even larger!), but I digress.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

GenCon and PaizoCon Registration News

The following two announcements both wound up in my inbox today, coincidentally, so I thought I'd share for those who might not be on the right mailing lists. First, PaizoCon registration opened today:
PaizoCon has become one of my most anticipated events of the year! Up to 500 of our most devoted community members can hang out with the Paizo staff, gaming, debating, telling stories and just having a great time! PaizoCon gets bigger and better each year, and I can't wait to unveil all the cool surprises we have in store for you this time around!

Officially sponsored and run by Paizo Publishing, LLC, PaizoCon 2011 brings together dozens of hobby gaming's veteran authors, artists, publishers, and designers, and gives YOU the opportunity to meet, greet, and game with some of the best and brightest that the hobby gaming industry has to offer.
PaizoCon 2011 is three days of gaming, panels, workshops, and (most importantly) fun! Rub shoulders with your favorite Paizo Publishing employees and freelancers, and game with your favorite people from the paizo.com online community. Only 500 PaizoCon 2011 3-Day Badges are available, so order yours soon!

Saturday night at PaizoCon, we'll also be hosting the Paizo Preview Banquet. Attendees will preview Ultimate Combat, the Jade Regent Adventure Path, and a Super Secret New Product, as well as seeing other Paizo products for the first time outside the Paizo offices. Additionally, a member of the Paizo staff, a PaizoCon 2011 Guest of Honor, or another hobby industry luminary will be seated at each table in the room, giving attendees the opportunity to chat with industry professionals. Throughout the banquet, there will be games and quizzes, with each table acting as a team. There will be prizes and—of course—food! Due to the limited size of the room, only 200 banquet tickets will be sold, so don't delay!
And next, GenCon pre-registration opens tomorrow. Coincidence? I think not...
Gen Con Pre-Registration opens on January 23rd


 
Our “Release Your Inner Gamer” theme this year can be seen all over our www.gencon.com. Follow the “Register Now” logo to reach our registration site, and from there you can check out all sorts of great information. While you’re looking around, make sure you click “Sign In | Sign Up” at the top of the page and “Get a Badge” for Gen Con Indy 2011!

 
It’s the time many of you have been waiting for… Badge Pre-Registration opens this Sunday, January 23, at 12:00 Noon (Eastern)!

Simply go to www.gencon.com and click on the “Register Now” logo. Log into your account (or create an account if you don’t have one yet) and make sure your contact information is correct. If you plan to purchase badges for your friends or family members, be sure to add them to your “Friends List”. Just click on your name to access your Account Details and Friends List. They will need to accept the Friend Request before you can purchase them a badge.

 
If you’re interested in becoming a “Very Important Gamer”, you’ll need to be quick! Our 2010 VIGs have already snatched up half of the VIG Packages by renewing for 2011. The package is still only $500 and includes a VIG Pack, access to the VIG Lounge, complimentary beverages, a separate hotel block and much more! Check out our website for more information on VIG Benefits.

 
To everyone who has emailed us or is considering volunteering for Gen Con Indy 2011, thank you for your patience! Our Volunteer Applications are not online yet but should be available at the end of February or early March. This is later than usual because we’re doing some development work on a new way of signing up, so stay tuned for more information.



Gen Con attendee housing will open at 12 noon EST on Tuesday January 25. You will need a valid housing code, issued when you purchase a show badge, in order to book housing inside the Gen Con block.
Gen Con asks all users booking housing online to refrain from opening multiple browser windows to the reservations portal on opening day. We believe the newly expanded downtown room inventory and real-time reservations process and inventory control systems will make it unnecessary for users to deploy multiple windows to successfully book one or more rooms meeting their criteria.

Please be courteous to your fellow attendees by launching a single browser window and booking room reservations one at a time.



Growing every year, Wednesday was hopping in 2010, with almost 60 different games and hundreds of early-bird gamers getting their game on before the convention even began.

Wednesday events are all free, run by fans for fans. It’s a chance to hang out with friends and get a few games in before the chaos of the Best Four Days In Gaming really gets underway.
If you’re working in a booth all weekend or plan our your whole schedule months in advance, Wednesday is when you can kick back, relax with your fellow gamers and maybe even find something new and interesting to jump into.

Tickets are available if you want to reserve a spot in a Wednesday game, but they’re not required and remember – all events are free, so it’s the perfect chance to try out something new and meet your fellow die-hard Gen Con-goers at the forum party!

 
As we mentioned before, the newly-opened, high-end JW Marriott is going to be packed with RPGs in 2011. Several prominent gaming groups, including Catalyst Game Labs, GameBase7, Arc Dream Publishing and MU Skulls will be based in the JW. In 2010, those groups combined ran more than 700 events for 4,000 gamers, so 2011 will be quite the inauguration of the brand-new hotel.

Gen Con will be at the JW in full force this year. Will you?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Greyhawk Session 13

Or, "The one that lives up to its number."

Present tonight were Theric, paladin of Pholtus; Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Kabliska, human mystic; Ardo, human cleric of Pelor; and Mongo, half-orc fighter. The evening began merrily enough, with a lot of banter amongst us. I want to say that one of the highlights of the game, for me at least, are the constant asides, jokes, catching up with each other, talking about movies and books and television shows and British comedy... Considering that I only knew two of the players going into the game (the rest having been unknown respondents to the meetup.com event), the fact that we have such excellent chemistry amongst ourselves is a wondrous, and wonderful, thing. I don't just have players, I have new friends.

They made their usual way through the dungeon, via the territory of the hobgoblins, giving their usual gift of animals for food, and the implied promise of a share of the loot (and an explicit arrangement with the denizens nearer to the surface). The party continued their explorations of the corridors to the southeast of the hobgoblins, pushing through to a four-way intersection they discovered at some point in the previous session. One of the passages in the intersection led to a dead end, and the unanimous decision was "send in the elf" to explore it. Alas, as soon as he got near the end of the dead-end, a portcullis fell behind him with a loud clang.

Mongo, with his impressive strength, was able to lift up the portcullis, freeing the elf, who was naturally somewhat reticent to go back down and do any more searching. After a minute or two, the general bickering was interrupted by the arrival of a pair of giant beetles from one of the other corridors in the intersection, perhaps attracted by the sound of the falling portcullis like the ringing of a dinner bell. The paladin and half-orc stood firm, believing they would be able to handle the creatures handily, after the elf peppered one of them with a barrage of daggers.

Unfortunately, in addition to doing some mighty damage with their mandibles, one of the beetles let loose with an enormously loud explosion, followed by the release of a corrosive gas. The half-orc was stunned by the sound of the blast (as well as the cleric), and both he and the paladin were grievously injured by the effects of the acidic gas cloud. The members of the party who could still hear after the beetle's blast did some quick thinking and decided to use the portcullis trap as a weapon, hustling most of the party in the dead-end corridor to lure the beetles in, then setting off the trap again to drop the iron gate on top of them.

The ploy worked, one of the beetles was smashed, the other wounded severely but still alive, and let loose with another of the explosive gas discharges. The paladin went down to negative hit points, and the half-orc was not doing so well either! The beetle was dispatched, the paladins' wounds were bound and magical healing brought him up to mobility, but now the party was faced with a different dilemma. All of them except the mystic and the cleric were now trapped behind the portcullis gate! A series of very unfortunate die rolls later, and they were still trapped behind the gate!

While the elf mountebank was able to wriggle under the portcullis, which was slightly above the floor due to the presence of the two beetle carcasses, the rest of the group were not able to do so. Reluctantly, those who could retraced their steps back to the lair of the hobgoblins, with whom the party had hitherto established such a good relationship. Groth, the leader of the hobgoblins, expressed his sympathies at the loss of half the party, but the situation was soon explained to him. Three of his warriors accompanied the party back to help lift the portcullis, with the admonition (spoken in front of the party, of course) "and if they want to show their appreciation, don't forget to bring it back to me here."

The hobgoblin warriors managed to lift the gate and free the trapped members of the party, and were rewarded with nearly 100 g.p. worth of platinum and gold coins, with which they quickly disappeared into the dungeons, in the general direction of the hobgoblin lair. Healing was done to bring the wounded back up to some semblance of normalcy, and they decided to press on and explore "just one more corridor." They chose the T-intersection to the south of the portcullis trap, but not before the elf wrote in the portcullis corridor (in orcish) "Look for the stone switch at the end of the passage." (The reason for that was to lure the orcs, who are known to be enemies of the hobgoblins, into the passage.)

The T led to a pair of corridors that seemed to dead-end, one of which had "something" on the far wall, which was unclear because it was at the very end of their light. Once more, the paladin and the half-orc decided to take the point, and set off down the corridor while the others watched.

It turns out that the "something" on the far end of the corridor was wicked spikes, and once the two went down ten or twelve feet, the entire corridor dropped down, going from horizontal to vertical in but a trice, dropping the two 20' onto the now-waiting spikes. Ouch! (I believe I might have been the only one laughing hysterically at that point.) More damage was taken, and now the party was left with the problem of how to bring their two... er... heaviest members up what was essentially a 20' pit. They decided to remove their armor to make themselves lighter, send that up first, and then follow it. A great plan, except...

Just as they were starting to bring up the half-orc, and while the paladin was in the very midst of putting his armor back on, another of the beetles rounded the corner and engaged the elf mountebank. All of the others were either holding the rope to pull up the half-orc or unable to join the fight because they were struggling to put their armor back on. With great pluck, the mountebank hurled his last remaining barrage of daggers (he not remembering to pick up his daggers from the first encounter, and the elf's player not being able to use his verbal patter skills against the GM; "I didn't say I did, but I would have" did not, alas, fly). He did some damage with his daggers, but was brought to 0 hit points after the creature bit and let loose with another explosive gas discharge.

By this time, the others had managed to get the half-orc up to the corridor, and he charged and engaged the beast. It was finally dispatched by the mystic and her mace. She recovered her rope and bound the wounds of the mountebank (in that order), and they finally ended up leaving the dungeon (the FLGS in which we play had to close a little early that night).

The party ended up getting not much explored, explored, many wounds were received, and they were 90 g.p. poorer for having to pay the hobgoblins for assistance in getting out alive. But as always, the company made the night.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Pioneers of Television: Science Fiction

"Pioneers of Television" is a great PBS show that goes over the early history of television, showcasing different types and genres of shows; late night, sitcoms, etc. Tonight they're starting their second season, with the theme being science fiction. It should be most entertaining; lots of original Star Trek actors, as well as other early sci-fi shows like Lost in Space, Twilight Zone, etc. I hope they go into some of the very old shows, like Captain Video and Space Patrol, because that's an era I know very little about.

If you're an aficionado of the genre, or of early television in general, I highly recommend this series. As they say in the biz, check your local listings.

Some previews:


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Prediction Concerning the Recent News Out of WotC

Doubtless everyone has seen the news that Wizards of the Coast has canceled three fairly highly-anticipated books, as well as canceling their entire line of miniatures. I find the specific books that were canceled to be telling: Class Compendium: Heroes of Sword and Spell, Mordenkainen’s Magnificent Emporium, and Hero Builder’s Handbook. All three are books of singular items, either magic items, skills, spells, etc.

Just the sort of thing that would go perfect on collectible cards. Like the line of Fortune Cards they recently announced with new and exciting powers to be used at the gaming table.

So, my prediction on the news is thus; the material that was originally going to be presented in those three books will be used as the core of a beefed-up line of collectible cards, with commons, uncommons, rares, etc. that can be used as gaming accessories, but which will not be available in any other format. They will be presented as a "purely optional" accessory, but one which will be required at "official" events, and eventually will be regarded as a standard part of the game. Thus, in order to have a kick-ass character, you'll need to spend all kinds of money buying cards to have the full range of possible spells, abilities, etc. available. As Wizards themselves said in their announcement:

"we plan to deliver just as much great content for players this year through other formats"

Greyhawk Sessions 11 & 12

Now that the players are exploring previously-presented areas of the Castle of the Mad Archmage, I can resume my campaign journals! (Although elements from the surface ruins and The Storage Rooms will be redacted.) We are, at this point, pretty well converted over to Adventures Dark and Deep, so fully in playtest mode.

Present last time were Theric, paladin of Pholtus; Abo Thistlestrike, human mage; Ardo, human cleric of Pelor; and Sir Faust Ensign, human Cavalier. They made their way to the third level of the dungeon after making a deal with some of the denizens of Level 1, and found themselves almost immediately in the lair of a number of hobgoblins, separated by a metal gate. However, rather than bending the bars and storming into the place, they called out, in a friendly tone, to the humanoids, and (fortunate that one of them spoke goblin) successfully parleyed with them, turning a potentially nasty encounter into a potential ally. They were polite to the hobgoblins and non-threatening, who were in turn at least puzzled by the uncharacteristic behavior of the newcomers. In the end, the hobgoblins (of the "Flesh Render" tribe) accorded the party safe passage through their domains.

The party ended up exploring some of the passages beyond the hobgoblin lair (encountering a few hobgoblin sentries, and using the hobgoblin leader's name as a password), and found a chamber with a pair of large toads with a reddish hue. The paladin and cavalier rushed into the room, only to be fried by a pair of fireballs exhaled by the toads. The mage snuck in while the warriors engaged in combat, entered a room beyond the toads, and scooped up a few coins from the large pile he found within. The toads' breath weapons were too much for the party, though, who retreated to the city for rest and recuperation.

Once fully recovered, they followed their previous path back to the toads, this time also gifting the hobgoblins with a goat purchased just for that purpose to secure their friendship (which most definitely helped do so). They made it back to the toads, but this time entered slowly and quietly so as not to startle the creatures, going into the further chamber and loading up with silver and gold coins. Taking 15 sacks of coins through the hobgoblin lair was a tricky proposition, for even their new-found friends might be tempted by such wealth. So they struck upon an excellent gambit; they gave the hobgoblins a portion of the loot, and a promise that more would be forthcoming (this is a similar arrangement to one they had made with some of the inhabitants of level 1). With both food and wealth not only promised but actually received from the party, the hobgoblins were turned from neutral to friendly at a stroke. An excellent example of turning a potential disaster into an ongoing opportunity.

-----

Last night we gamed once more, and present this time were Theric, paladin of Pholtus; Abo Thistlestrike, human mage; Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Kabliska, human mystic; Ardo, human cleric of Pelor; and Sir Faust Ensign, human Cavalier. The elf used his mountebank abilities and disguised himself as a human, just in case the hobgoblins were provoked by one of his race (elves and hobgoblins having a long history of animosity).

Once more the route through the territory of the Flesh Renders was made, with another offering of an animal and friendly conversation, with the party attempting to get some information as to what might be beyond the hobgoblins' area. They did point out that a rival tribe of humanoids, the Bloody Axe orcs, were located to the southwest, and the hobgoblins would be very grateful if the party took some of them out. So the party made for the southwest, generally.

The first chamber they encountered was a trap, although they didn't know it at first. As soon as they opened the door, a loud voice said "MAKE A HOLE!", causing all of the party to duck and take cover, but nothing seemed to be coming at them. The paladin and cavalier entered the room, causing the door to immediately shut behind them. Within the chamber was nothing but a table, on which there was a saw. After only a minute or two of debate, they sawed the table in half and then put the halves together, making a "whole", which they then put up against the door, enabling them to step through. Honestly, I thought that would be a lot tougher.

They then engaged in some more exploration, eventually stumbling on a trio of skeletal figures with tattered robes. The creatures were dispatched, but not before the cavalier suffered a wound that seemed to be poisoned or diseased or something. As the creatures were guarding two large chests of treasure, the party decided to return to the surface with their loot, again paying the hobgoblins a tithe. By this time, the hobgoblins know a good thing when they see it, and are happy enough to get free food and loot for nothing more than not attacking a well-armed and capable party of adventurers.

Back at the Cock and Bottle, the paladin used his powers to cure disease on the cavalier. Sure enough, the wound's heat and reddening dissipated forthwith. They all returned to the dungeons the next day.

This time, exploring the corridors further in the same direction, they came upon a trio of ghouls in an open room, who charged at them. The cleric turned the creatures, who fled back into more passages, and the party turned their attention to a large chest of gold in the chamber whence the ghouls had come, making great pains to set guards at the two passages, but not at the door in the room. Alas, once the effects of the clerical turning wore off, that is exactly where the ghouls stormed back into the place, taking some of the party by surprise.

In the ensuing battle, the cavalier was paralyzed, and the mystic was reduced to negative hit points (which she countered thanks to her pain management skills) but the ghouls were finally dispatched. The chest contained a thousand gold pieces and an oddly-shaped piece of wood, approximately 2' on a side, straight on one side and with very irregular indentations on the other sides. This they kept for further examination, and they scooped up the gold and returned to the city as we ended the session, making sure to give their hobgoblin allies a tenth-share for their continued good will.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit Now Available!

Right on schedule, the Adventures Dark and Deep Game Masters Toolkit is now available for your downloading pleasure, here:

http://www.adventuresdarkanddeep.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=37

As the year goes on, I plan to flesh out a few sections here and there, but on the whole it's pretty much as I envisioned it. As usual, if you have feedback, please go over to the Adventures Dark and Deep forums to comment.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Games I Love: Ogre/GEV (Steve Jackson Games)

This is actually a post I've been meaning to make for a while now, but James' post today at Grognardia on the same subject spurred me to action. Ogre/GEV is one of my all-time favorite games, and I spent untold hours playing both solo and with others.

The original Ogre was one of the Steve Jackson micro-games, and was designed with a very specific philosophy in mind:
"The original idea was to 'think small.' Something that could be played on a legal-sized map, with a total supply of 50-100 counters, that could be learned in an hour or so and would take about the same time to play. ... The limitations of the small format provided that wrinkle. Thinking about writing a scenario using maybe 30 counters and just a few hexes, it hit me: give one side one counter. One big counter. After that, it started to fall into place."
- Steve Jackson, The Ogre Book, p. 5 (emphasis in the original)
The rest, as they say, is history. For those not "in the know", an Ogre is a cybernetic tank (and has its literary roots in Keith Laumer's Bolos) of vast size and firepower, able to take on several companies of "ordinary" armor and mobile infantry in a fair fight. Armed with tactical nuclear weapons, anti-personnel weapons, and armor plating meters thick, the Ogre is one tough mother.

The game itself is simple; one player, the Ogre, is attempting to reach the command post of the other player, who has a variety of tanks, hovercraft, howitzers, and infantry at his disposal. It is remarkably well-balanced for such a seemingly imbalanced game, which I regard as one of the hallmarks of a "keeper" in the wargame annals. Tactics really matter, as do choice of units for the non-Ogre player. Will the Ogre make a bee-line for the command post, ignoring the units just out of range? Or will he divert from his primary objective to "just take out a few of those hovercraft?" Will the non-Ogre units attack the treads or weapons? Placement of units is crucial as well; you can spend a zillion points on howitzers, but if the Ogre skirts just outside of their range, you might as well have bought rocks.

Soon enough, a companion game was released; GEV, which, although it contained new types of Ogres and was explicitly in the "Ogreverse" placed a lot more emphasis on the non-Ogres; it was now very possible (and quite enjoyable) to play scenarios where heavy tanks and hovercraft squared off against one another, with nary a cybernetic Continental Siege Machine to be found. Other expansions followed, adding various tweaks to units (light tanks, personnel carriers, etc.) and new types of weapons (cruise missiles, and the laser towers to shoot them down). The new expansions contained new maps, too, which fit together, making it possible to play an enormous multi-person scenario with a half-dozen Ogres on each side, plus supporting units, all engaged in an enormous slug fest. While such things did stray from the original simplicity of Ogre, that didn't make them any less of a hoot to play.

The Ogre book should also be mentioned; it was a book of essays on the design of the game, new scenarios and units, commentary on strategy, and fiction. The best part was that about half of it was written by just regular players, culled I believe from the pages of The Space Gamer magazine (about which I really need to write a post all by itself sometime).

Miniatures followed as well, first produced by Martian Miniatures back in the 1980's (which had those terrifically oddball advertisements in Dragon magazine that were upside-down-- they did come from Mars, after all!), then Ral Partha (another company that deserves a post unto itself), and later (and through today, I believe) by Steve Jackson Games itself. Miniatures rules, as an adaptation of the hex-and-counter rules, were written, and they are just as fun to play. I have a boatload of the Ogre/GEV miniatures myself, and I regret that I don't play it as often as I would like, even if it's just a solo game.

It's not a perfect game, of course. Some people feel that the cut-apart-yourself counters are too flimsy (a complaint I do not happen to share). There was the clunker pair of "Deluxe" games, with blown-up maps and die-cut counters, that added nothing to the original, but were in turn not compatible with all the stuff that had gone before, as the counters and maps were the wrong size. But aside from a couple of flubs, I found the steady stream of expansions; the Ogre Reinforcement Pack (more counters and maps, allowing for larger scenarios), Ogre Battlefields, Shockwave, 2 scenario books, and even a crossover GURPS Ogre book, all well worth the money (which, at the time, was not much, although the miniatures could get into money, as all miniatures games tend to do!). There's even a sub-line of Ogrethulhu miniatures; Ogres that rolled through R'leyh and fared the worse for the experience. There was also a computer game, which I hear is good, although I never played it myself.

Steve Jackson is coming out with a new edition of the classic game, rumored to have three-dimensional cardboard Ogres. No word on a release date as far as I'm aware, but Ogre/GEV is so versatile, so easy to pick up (even with the expansions), and so fun that it easily counts as one of the Games I Love.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Greyhawk Session #5

This was an oddly disjointed session... The beginning was spent with housekeeping and following up some of the hanging threads regarding the activities of the cult of Wastri, and then the party decided to spend the rest of the evening tooling around Level 1 of the dungeons of the Mad Archmage, and even then events conspired to bifurcate the dungeon exploration portion of the evening. Mighty Titans Hobbies And Games was, as usual, an outstanding local to play. (Although I have got to stop getting food from the pizzeria next door... ugh.)

Present were Ehrandar Dawngreeter, the elf mountebank, Nalania the cleric of Rudd, Jhocamo the dwarf fighter (now with namey goodness!), Mongo the half-orc fighter, and Sorfindel the "scout". I should once more sing the praises of Rob, one of the players, who gifted me with a half-dozen old Avalon Hill and TSR board wargames to add to the ever-regrowing collection! Thanks again, Rob. He also brought a few of his primed 15mm Old Glory figures, which already look better than my supposedly complete ones.

The night began with city guard Captain Vordalon awaiting the party after their return from the ruins, quite peeved about the lack of anything of interest at the warehouse to which the party directed him as possibly being connected with the string of murders connected to the golden frog. There was apparently nothing in the warehouse but wares... The good captain left in a snit, clearly annoyed with the party, and possibly suspecting them of holding out information.

Sorfindel attempted to poke around in the shop of the now-dead jeweler who had purchased the golden frog from the party, but unfortunately he was foiled by bars on the windows and a recalcitrant door. Later, Ehrandar used his contacts with the Beggar's Union to get an introduction to the Thieves' Guild, which presented its terms for working within the city, which would possibly lead to full membership, once his skills were properly evaluated.

With that, the party departed for the ruins of the Castle of the Mad Archmage, descending down the great spiral staircase in the central keep. Stopping on the first level (although the stairs themselves continued to descend), the party found themselves in a large frescoed hall. One panel had images of the gods of the Oeridian pantheon, each with their eyes gouged out. Another had a vast herd of horses, over which was scrawled "Cardefal died here pulling on a lever. Beware!" Still another showed an underwater scene; a battle between beings with legs like fish, and on the other side sharks led by scaled humanoids with gills and crests. The final scene was the oddest; it showed images of each of the faces of the party members, but the fresco itself was worn and faded with age. The dwarf, Jhocamo, chipped away one of the tesserae and kept it.

The party then left the chamber, and, having negotiated an open pit, found themselves in a chamber with a large pile of trash. Inspecting the pile disturbed a number of giant centipedes, who swarmed over the party with great speed. The dwarf was bitten more than once and survived, but alas Nalania fell to the creatures' venom, and went to visit Rudd in person. The party had suffered their first casualty.

Somewhat deflated, the party returned to town, bearing the body of the cleric, which was returned to a shrine of Rudd (her patron deity) for proper interment. Most of the party made donations of platinum to the shrine in memoriam. Val, who was playing the slain cleric, promptly started rolling dice for a new character. Soon, she had a gnome bard (she will be play testing the new bard class from Adventures Dark and Deep™) named Vellis.

The party's spirits did not stay low for long, as a boisterous fellow dressed in green and yellow motley and bearing a marotte-- one Karo Ledbetter-- soon came looking for Ehrandar, making no secret of the fact that he was there to find out whether the Guild's offer was acceptable, and making a general fool of himself in the process. It was, and there was much rejoicing (including a brief dance upon a table). As he left, the jester flamboyantly tossed Ehrandara token that was, apparently, a credential to practice thievery within the city. Jhocamo and Mongo proceeded to drink to the memory of the dear departed cleric, and mutually collapsed after the fourth round of spirits.

The next morning, with their new-found gnome bard companion, the party returned to the dungeons. Investigating a lighted section of the halls, they came upon a couple of dwarven guards, who proceeded to take the party to the halls of Lord Bari Bloodaxe, who (with his lieutenant Hilding Ironhelm) offers explorers the opportunity to use the three gated stairways leading from the hall, which, they are assured, lead to sections of the dungeons that are positively dripping with treasure. The price is a simple 25% of all coins and gems recovered, plus they receive access to healing spells from dwarven clerics for a modest additional fee. Such a deal! Jhocamo, being of their kind, took the lead and seemed well-disposed towards the enterprising dwarves, but in the end the party decided to try on their own. They were wished well, and assured that, once they were done puttering around in the upper levels where all the treasure had already been looted, the deal would remain open to them.

The party explored more of the passages on the first level, but our time was up and we needed to call it a night. The death of the cleric naturally weighed on the group, and as I say the session seemed, at least to me, a bit disjointed; some frog-cult stuff, some thieves' guild stuff, and two separate expeditions to the dungeons. But I still had a lot of fun, and it seems to me that some of the plot threads that the party have been pulling on might just be coming loose...

Greyhawk Session #6

This time out we had a straight-out dungeon crawl session, much more focused than last time. The party is getting a feel for the realities of the dungeon itself; traps, often combined with deadly monsters, and seemingly random wacky stuff thrown in for inscrutable (at least for now) purposes.

Present were Ehrandar Dawngreeter, the elf mountebank, Mongo the half-orc fighter, Vellis the gnome bard, Theric the paladin of Pholtus, and Abo Thistlestrike the human magic-user. Once again, the player of Ehrandar gifted me with several old Avalon Hill games (Battle of the Bulge, Bismark, and Anzio, none of which I had previously owned) and a custom painted and based figure; one of the 15mm rangers he had purchased from Old Glory 15s (pictures to be forthcoming). Amazingly, the monsters seemed to avoid his character in combat... (just kidding!)

Wasting no time, the party returned to the first level of the dungeons, via the great spiral staircase found behind the large bronze doors in the central keep of the castle, and noted that not only did the gray hawk mark their entrance over the drawbridge (which continues to be "just a drawbridge"-- my scheme to lull them into a false sense of security is working perfectly) but the mosaic room was once more altered to show the faces of those who entered the dungeons this time.

They decided to strike east from the mosaic room (north had led them to the dwarves who guarded the entrances to deeper levels in the last session), and soon found a series of 10' x 10' rooms, which they designated the "maze of doors". The doors proved not only difficult to open (well, not so difficult for Mongo with his 18/83 strength, perhaps) but inclined to shut on their own behind them. They decided that they bore an insufficient supply of iron spikes with which to keep open the potential whole lotta doors, and retreated back to the room of mosaics.

Going west brought them to more corridors, and south led them straight into their first real trap. A loud *POP* accompanied a blinding flash. Literally. Four of the six party members were rendered blind by the flash of light, and Ehrandar and Abo soon heard sounds of rustling from one of the side corridors. An enormous snake could be seen approaching, and with most of the party still incapacitated from the blinding trap, it was up to the two of them to protect the rest. Abo laid a line of oil while Ehrandar hurled forth a barrage of daggers (mountebanks getting a bonus to their rate of fire with hurled weapons, as part of their prestidigitation ability). The bard struck up a tune of inspiration while Abo unfortunately flubbed setting the oil on fire, and Ehrandar struck the beast with a couple of daggers. It retaliated by sinking its fangs into his thigh, but the wound bled freely and the venom didn't take any toll. However, the bite itself was enough to make Ehrandar choose the better part of valor, and the still-blind Mongo took his place, trusting to his keen ears to guide his strokes.

Unfortunately, his ears weren't so keen, as he missed the snake on his first try and hit the mountebank instead! (Having heard its hissing, but not realizing that the head was at the time embedded in the elf's flesh.) The mage finally managed to pick up the torch and light the oil, while the snake got in another shot, this time on the half-orc. This time the venom found its mark, and the half-orc found himself incredibly weakened; down a point of strength and constitution. A few more hits were scored against the swift-moving snake, and it was finally taken down by the mage's magic missile spell. Blinded, poisoned, and battered, the party decided to retreat, but not before sending two of their less damaged companions to the dwarves. Alas, there was no cure blindness or neutralize poison to be had, but for a mere 1,500 g.p. they would be happy to supply such, if the party could but wait another day. They demurred, returning to the city.

Taking the time to rest and heal (the blindness disappeared after an hour and a half, and Mongo's weakness from the snake venom seemed to abate after a day), the party returned to the dungeons. They returned right back to the area of the blinding trap, this time exploring some side passages (after determining that the carcass of the snake was gone). They found a room, lit by some enchantment, with a number of rose bushes in large flowerpots, which they gave a cursory search and then decided to ignore. They also found another trap in a corridor, this time a shower of thick honey which coated all but the bard and the hireling, rendering their movement slower, their initiative penalized, and most of them incapable of letting go of small objects. Within a minute or two, two enormous flies accosted the party, presumably attracted by the honey. The flies inflicted pretty heinous damage on several members of the party before being forced to retreat. The party, now knocked down by both the snake yesterday and the flies today, decided to return once more to the city of Greyhawk, find a bathhouse, and recover from their explorations.

Four days later (aided by the healing touch of the paladin), the party was back up to full strength and willing to make another foray into the depths. However, when they awoke on the fourth day, each found a small terracotta frog in their rooms in the inn. Clearly the frog cult of Wastri the Hopping Prophet hadn't forgotten them. Most of the party members hurled the statuettes from their room or smashed them in the streets. The bard and Mongo kept theirs, however, bringing them into the dungeon with them.

This time the party struck north from the room of mosaics, heading into an area that had not been previously explored. One room contained a sloth of brown bears in a torchlit room, which the party immediately left alone, tossing in a packet of rations and closing the door. Further exploration uncovered a well appointed but mouldering sitting room, and an octagonal room with a pool in its center. Mongo tossed his terracotta frog statue into the liquid, to no reaction.

Alas, at that point the store was closing, so we had to wrap things up. One thing of note, however; all of the party members (save the bard, who still had her original) found another terracotta frog on their person that evening. Clearly something is afoot.

Monday, January 10, 2011

More Dungeon Crawl Classics News

Well, I'm not sure if this is news to anyone else, but ICV2 is reporting that Goodman Games will be releasing its upcoming Dungeon Crawl Classics game as an open beta test sometime in the middle of this year. If that got reported last week in the hullabaloo about the pre-order being available, it got missed by these tired old eyes. This is a game I'm really looking forward to seeing.

Best of luck with the playtest, guys!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Moving Away From Retro-Clones

The recent announcement that Goodman Games's Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is now available for pre-order (see also here and here) has led me (and a few others, it seems) to ruminate on the future of retro-clones and the OSR in general.

Let me state at the outset that I think DCC sounds like a really neat game, and I'm personally very much looking forward to owning a copy. In fact, if it wasn't for my own ADD game, I might consider it a candidate for a standard go-to game myself.

It does make me believe, however, that the era of the retro-clones has pretty much run its course. By this I do not mean that people will stop playing games like OSRIC, Labyrinth Lord, LotFP RPG, or Swords & Wizardry. Far from it. But I mean that we are much less likely to see any new retro-clones (aka simluacrum games), for the simple reason that all the likely candidates have pretty much been done already. While the 2E fans are finally represented by Myth and Magic and For Gold & Glory, it seems that these are going to be closing the door on true simulacra. I'm in agreement with the camp that says that there probably isn't any need for yet-another-retelling of the 0E rules.

Instead, I think you're going to see a flourishing of "concept games" like DCC, Dragons at Dawn, Mazes and MinotaursAstonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, and my own Adventures Dark and Deep.

That is, games which don't just take the old rules and re-state them and/or reorganize them, but which either take the underlying concepts and take them in a new direction (DCC, M&M, AS&SoH) or attempt recreations of versions of the game which were either lost to the sands of time (DaD) or which never actually existed but could have (ADD, the Holmes Treasury, AD&D 3rd Edition, etc.). In the latter category, I think potential exists for something like the long-lost "Kalibruhn" supplement to see print, and there are doubtless others that afficinados of particular editions and related games have been pining for for years. 

In the former category, the options are much more open of course, and there's where I fully expect to see the next big burst of creativity and activity. These are games which take the spirit of the original and run with it in new directions. We've already started to see it in the games mentioned above, plus games like Stars Without Number. I'm very much looking forward to this "next era" of the OSR, which I think will bring us a lot of material both solid and imaginative. The one thing I lament is that it will most likely not be as easily cross-compatible as the various simulacra are, but if I can have a surfeit of new games with the old school aesthetic, that's a price I'm willing to pay.

UPDATE: See? I thought there were 2E clones out there! Changed the text to include them.

New cantrip: Flourish

One of the things that's tucked away in the Players Manual for ADD is a new cantrip called Flourish. This was actually created in response to one of the players in my own campaign who wanted to jazz up how his character's magic missiles looked. Essentially, it allows superficial customization of spells, with a minimal impact on their utility in combat. So, without further ado, I give you...

Flourish

Mage cantrip (alteration)
Requires: incantation, gestures
Casting time: see below

The flourish cantrip is one of the few cantrips than can be cast in the same round as a regular spell, for that is its purpose. The cantrip is cast immediately before the spell in question, requiring 6 seconds (1 segment) per level of the spell it is to affect (thus it takes 6 seconds (1 segment) to add a flourish to a 1st level spell, 12 seconds (2 segments) to add a flourish to a 2nd level spell, etc.). Flourish then allows the caster to change the visible effect of the spell in question in some subtle way; a fireball might be purple, magic missiles may have the appearance of golden bees, a grasping hand could look like a dragon’s claw, etc. Under no circumstances can flourish be used to change the actual effect of a spell. Mages and sub-classes of mage will be able to recognize a flourish.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Everything You Think You Know About the Dark Ages is Wrong

Over at Religion Dispatches Quarterly there is an absolutely riveting review of a new book by Nancie Marie Brown, entitled The Abacus and the Cross: The Story of the Pope Who Brought the Light of Science to the Dark Ages. I can't wait to read the book now, but the review itself is quite interesting in and of itself. Some highlights:
A professor at a cathedral school for most of his career, Gerbert of Aurillac was the first Christian known to teach math using the nine Arabic numerals and zero. He devised an abacus, or counting board, that mimics the algorithms we use today for adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. It has been called the first counting device in Europe to function digitally—even the first computer. In a chronology of computer history, Gerbert’s abacus is one of only four innovations mentioned between 3000 B.C. and the invention of the slide rule in 1622.
In the caliph’s library in Cordoba were at least 40,000 books (some said as many 400,000); Gerbert’s French monastery owned less than 400. Many of the caliph’s books came from Baghdad, known for its House of Wisdom, where for 200 years works of mathematics, astronomy, physics, and medicine had been translated from Greek and Persian and Hindu and further developed by Islamic scholars under their caliph’s patronage. In the world Gerbert knew, Arabic was the language of science.
Juste relaxed. He began flipping through the pages, pointing to letters, running his finger along a line, thumbing pages back and forth—for all the hoopla, he didn’t treat “the earliest proof of the transmission of Arabic science to the West” as a sacred object. It was a book.
Even the most mystical of the chroniclers of the time, Ralph the Bald, the one who recorded all the signs and wonders presaging the Apocalypse and attributed every act and event to the will of God—even Ralph knew the earth was round. Describing the imperial insignia, he said it was “made in the form of a golden apple set around in a square with all the most precious jewels and surmounted by a golden cross. So it was like this bulky earth, which is reputed to be shaped like a globe.”
I love the idea that certain centers of learning are so famed and wide-spread that scholars flock to them, regardless of faith or politics. I imagine the royal libraries at Niole Dra or Rauxes, or even Rel Mord, might make similar claims to fame. I might even highlight the idea of scholars as pilgrims, alongside purely religious devotees. "Whither are you bound, sir?" "Why, the royal library at Nile Dra. My companions and I are hoping to consult some rare tomes for a new work of our own on the creation of mountain ranges."

And speaking of tomes, it could very well add some color to say that such-and-such a book originated in the Imperial Library at Rauxes, and that one is a rare example of the annotated edition published at Irongate.

I'm also very intrigued by the author's next work, briefly touched on at the end of the review. Being very familiar with the work of Snorri Sturluson, and his influence on Tolkein, it looks like I'll have another book to add to the wish list.
And yet the ideas that make Tolkien popular—the ideas picked up by his imitators—are not all original. Many are the work of Snorri Sturluson. Without Snorri, modern fantasies would include no tall, beautiful, immortal elves; no evil dark elves or orcs; no dwarves making weapons in their halls of stone; no peaceful farmers who metamorphose at night into bears; no giant eagles who carry men about or people who fly when they don a feather cloak; no riddling dragons; no wandering wizards who talk to birds. The millions of readers and gamers worldwide who enjoy these fantasy elements have no idea they owe a debt of gratitude to medieval Iceland. They have no idea who Snorri Sturluson is. It’s time they learned.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Why No Greyhawk Campaign Updates?

For those who have come to expect the bi-weekly recountings of the mishaps suffered by my players in my own Greyhawk campaign, I wanted to give a brief update. The group hasn't stopped playing; we're still on schedule, and now that the holidays are behind us, we'll be playing this upcoming Friday, as a matter of fact.

The problem is that the players are tooling around in areas of the Castle of the Mad Archmage that have not been released as free pdf's. For reasons which I must for now keep close to the vest, I don't want to give any hints as to what is in those hitherto-undisclosed levels. All will be revealed in the fullness of time, I assure you.

Once the players get to areas of the Castle that were released in the pdf, or when more things happen in the City of Greyhawk itself, I'll be sure to make a suitable campaign journal entry.