Diary of a Gamer: 8/31/2009

Posted by Labyrinthian in

For the last two weeks our characters have been stranded in a small keep besieged by a band of 100 Orcs. Our characters, being heroes for the most part, did our best to prepare the keeps defenses and command the small garrison of troops.

The orcs had a catapult they were using to damage the keep's defenses so we rode out with Tojamo the mage who used his magic to destroy the siege engine while we fought the orcs. After our surprise attack we rode back the keep and recommenced hiding and hoping the orcs would go away. Instead they blew their warhorns and summoned reinforcements. We sent out a running to sneak though their defenses hoping to summon some reinforcements of our own.

But the reinforments did not have time to arrive before the orcs attempted to storm the keep from all sides. It looked as if we would be able to keep them at bay at first, but our lack of many power meant some sections of the wall had to be manned by women and children. Their lack of skill in warefare (and low HP totals) meant that they were completly unable to hold the wall against the orcs. In addition, the orcs had an ogre ally who battered down one of the gates enough for two orcs at a time to get through.

In short, all hell broke lose.

I was fighting on the section of wall with the women and was quickly swarmed by orc after orc. I almost died in a battle with the leader. Fortunetly I was dealing enough damage to knock back the enemies, sending them tumbling back over the wall. Even more fortunate was the fact that our reinforcements finally showed up and tipped the scale of battle in our favor.

We finished off the last of the enemies, healed up, and collected our reward before moving on. Personally I couldn't wait to be well away from that place.

Cartographer's Corner: Two Towns

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

I created two more town maps for use in my upcoming Caliburn basic campaign. The first is a nearby town protected by a lesser Baron, Samuel Balan. It is the largest town in the northern part of the region known as the North Valley. It is has shops, an inn, blacksmiths, and a large town square where merchents from the area come to sell and trade. Here is the map...

The second town map I did was for the small village of Ashvale, the town where the PCs begin. The town itself spang up in the shadow of a small keep that was built long ago to protect the valley from northern raiders. It is a small village that doesn't boast a single shop, inn, or trading area. Most of the people that live there are farmers or hunters who make their living in the forest northwest of the village. The castle is owned by Sir William Kegan, a sworn Knight of the Baron Balan of Lakecrest. Here is the map...

Finally, I made a regional map to show where all these places were in relation to one another. I did it in photoshop rather than in Campaign Cartographer, though I may do a CC version and compare the two to see which is better. For now I like this one, and it only took about 15 minutes to make.

So I'm done with maps for now, and I don't even hate them... which is new for me.

Hero Machine

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

I've always wanted to do character portraits, both as a player and a GM, but as you all know I am artistically challenged (to put it politely). For a long time I would make do without pictures or else make do with other people's art that I found online. But before my most recent game I found Heromachine, and it solved a lot of my problems.

Heromachine is an online application that allows you to create portraits of all kinds of characters. Male, Female, Dwarf, Ogre, Monster, Angel, Sci Fi portraits, or Fantasy portraits, Heromachine can do it all. It is simple and straightforward, but its wealth of options more than make up for its simplicity. I used the program to design all the villains from my Legacy of New Lago campaign, here is an example of a collage of several of them.

Anyone can use Heromachine and it doesn't take long. Head on over and check it out!

Clever Gnomes

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Those of you who frequent the blog know one of my favorite Gaming Blogs is Gnome Stew. Recently one of their writers, Martin Ralya, had a great post about the Myth of the Never Ending Game. It is a really great piece, and a topic my group has been discussing a lot as of late. Obviously I agree with the writer and feel that games should have a memorable ending that provide closure.

While you are over at the Stew checking that out check out DNAPhil's Gen Con recap. He has his initial reactions to Hackmaster Basic and a way to follow his progress though the book in preparation for his full review. Enjoy!

Cartographer's Corner: World Map Test

Posted by Labyrinthian

Here is another map I made using that Pasis photoshop syle I mentioned before. I used the same template for this map as the previous one, so it took very little time (under an hour). This was kind of a world map test for me. I wanted to do a rough draft of what the world map would look like for my upcoming campaign. It didn't come out terribly given the fast pace at which I did it, but I think I'm really going to have to make a lot of changes before I get to the finished version. I'm going to have to take a long look at things like climate and weather patterns. Anyway here is the map.

Catrographer's Corner: Stanford Crossing

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At the request of one of our readers I took a break from using Campaign Cartographer to make maps and gave Photoshop a try. I've seen maps that some people can do with Photoshop and it has always amazed me, but using the program to make quality maps isn't easy. Here is my first attempt using the Pasis style. You can view an amazing map of Westeros that someone did using the same style over at the Cartographers Guild.

I really like this style, and I plan on using it again. As for the map itself, it is shows the town of Stanford Crossing which lies in the shadow of Angor Mountain. Don't judge too harshly, it's my first attempt!

ENnie Award Results

Posted by Labyrinthian

The ENnie Award Results are in! And the winners are...

GM's Corner: Going Overboard

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I've haven't been very good about posting as of late. My lack of posts is due to lack of time as of late. As I mentioned in a previous post my gaming group and I are going on a camping trip soon and I've been picked to run the game during the trip. I want this trip to be great, and for that the game will have to be great.

Despite that even I can tell I'm going overboard.

Here are some quick facts...

  • The game is a Hackmaster Basic Campaign (The first HMB game I will run)
  • The game is set to go from level 1 to level 5 over the course of the weekend.
  • I am planning on running a Simplified version of a game I have been designing called Caliburn.
  • Those of you up on your Arthurian mythology will probably have surmised this based on the game's name, but for those of you who aren't, this is an Arthurian inspired campaign. The original inspiration was actually the computer game Spirit of Excalibur, which I loved when I was a kid.
  • I want this game to be a "grim & gritty" kind of game. Kind of a Thomas Malory world that has fallen from grace and has been reduced to something that more resembles GRRM's war torn Westeros.
  • I want to keep house rules to a minimum, but I'm not counting providing my own campaign setting, including my own deities, as house rules.
  • My main goal is for everyone to have fun.
The last one is one I'm working hard not to lose sight of. Anytime a GM loses sight of that goal (the ultimate goal of any good GM in my opinion) disaster may ensue. Yet, like I said I can already feel myself going overboard on campaign design. The problem is that this setting was originally intended for a full length game, and I don't want to cut anything out. For that reason I think I'm going to end up overwhelming players with the amount of background information available.

For example, the last few days I have been working on the various religions available for those who wish to play clerics. At the moment the religion section is over 10 pages long. At first I had intended to only include one major religion, but soon found myself adding more and more options to make sure someone could find something they liked.

The first religion, called Seraphism, is a blend of Judeo–Christian ideals with the polytheistic element of Hinduism. In short, they worship seven Archangels in order to better understand the One God. So I set about creating the seven Archangels and figured I was done. But then I realized that I didn't really give players an alternative to this one religion. What if, for example, someone wanted to play an evil character? All seven Archangels were good... So I needed to include their opposites, The seven Demons that are worshiped in secret cabals around the world. Then I though I was done, but then I realized I still didn't give people an option outside the religion of this single religion, which even the Demons were a part of in their own way. The game's religious turmoil is going to center mostly around the conflict between the old religion (The Druidic religion) and the new religion (Serpahism). Yet Kenzerco has not yet released any information for Druids, so that just wouldn't be an option.


So I created the world's third major religion which is centered around worshipping gods similar to the Greek and Norse pantheons. The gods would be constellations in the night sky, and would be worshiped by people all over the world, though each region would have their own names for the gods. As the north men (think Viking Norsemen) would be the closest group to worship these gods I decided to go with their names only for the basic version of the game. With this religion I would have 12 more options to add to what I had already. Yeah, I know. I told you I was going overboard.

I figured it was important to have a picture of what the night sky might look like and what these constellations were composed of. This is not as easy as it would be for anyone with some artistic talent, but after reviewing what the real world constellations looked like I figured I couldn't do any worse! For those unfamiliar take a look. Anyway here is what I ended up with...

So overall, not too bad. I'll post the game information for the deities when I finish. That's right I'm still not done. I'm sorry guys, but I promise I'll stop being so lax when it comes to posting.

Just as soon as I write 45 pages on the knights of the realm.

Just kidding.

Uh... probably.

Diary of a Gamer 8/20/2009

Posted by Labyrinthian in

Right at the beginning of last week's game the GM informed us that we would be in the city for some time prior to the start of the adventure and would have plenty of time to take care of any business we might have. I immediately made inquiries into purchasing some chain mail armor. It took some haggling, but eventually I was able to purchase a set, albeit for a bit more than it was worth. My group made some other acquisitions as well, with both clerics upgrading their armor, and the group pitching in to buy the Elf a Longbow that he claimed he was very skilled in using. As it turns out we never got to witness his alleged prowess... more on that in a bit.

The adventure we played was an old one from Dragon magazine, but I'm not sure which issue or the name of the adventure. It basically consisted of someone holding some very powerful fireball spells in stasis inside of rubies and hiding them all over the city. The person then sent us a note explaining that there were seven scattered though and we must figure out the riddles which served as clues to the seven hiding places or many innocent people would die. It sounded a whole lot like Die Hard with a Vengeance to me.

We began following the riddles that were to serve as our clues to each of the seven gems. We found them all, save one, with about 20 minutes of time to spare. It was a timed adventure so when I say 20 minutes I mean 20 minutes of real time. The final clue led us to a candy maker's shop. We searched the basement and thought we had found the last gem, but it turned out to be a fake. It did open up an underwater tunnel, however, so we sent the Elf in to investigate.

We tied a rope to him and sent him down, but he eventually had to untie himself to reach the end of the tunnel. What happened to him after that is a little hazy for me. My character wasn't there, and I tend to zone out when that happens, basically because I don't want to know anything my character doesn't know. I don't want to be tempted to act on any information I might pick up, I'm not fond of metagaming. The basic gist of it was that Kaliban (we all just call him "The Elf") faced the final riddle on his own and actually did quite well. He solved it in enough time to return to the street carrying the gem. When it started to glow and grow hot it was obvious what was about to happen. The table went silent and then suddenly burst out with screams of "THROW IT!!!" After clarifying his options with the GM, Christian (who plays Kaliban) picked up his dice and prepared to meet his fate.

As it turned out his fate was to critically fumble.

Even given the disaster he might have survived if not for his hit point total. He was at full hit points, but unfortunately old Kaliban maxed out at a not-so-stellar 14HP. Alas, the poor Elf was dead.

The rest of us were faced with trying to figure out what happened and with investigating another explosion a few blocks away. The second explosion turned out to be at the prison, where a jail break was in progress. It seems the criminal we had arrested the week previous, and one of his confederates, were in the process of finishing off the last of the prison guards and making a break for it.

Finally, a fight!

I moved straight to engage to leader who seemed to be both more skilled and better armed. I took a few hits, but nothing major. My shiny new set of Chainmail protected me well enough and we were able to dispatch both criminals without any more party members dying. We collected our reward and called it for the evening.

Oh and Christian finished his new character. Another Elf... I wonder what we'll call this one.

Fireside Gaming

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

I didn't get to go to Gen Con this year. In fact, I never get to go, which sucks. Maybe next year will be my year, but for this year I'm taking another gaming related trip.

My whole gaming group and I are going on a camping trip. We'll be spending the weekend gaming and attending King Richard's Faire. We are getting to the campground on Friday, gaming that night, all day Saturday, and attending the faire on Sunday. What we were going to play during the trip took some deciding.

Essentially the choice of games came down to D&D 3.5, Pathfinder, and Hackmaster Basic. Bryan (who plays Lyell in our current game) volunteered to run any of the three systems. I offered to run a HMB game. It took awhile but eventually the group decided on me and HMB. So it looks like I'll be running my first ever Hackmaster game. Am I nervous? A little.

The game I'll be running is an introduction to a campaign I've been working on off and on for a while. It is called Caliburn and was originally inspired by the classic PC game Spirit of Excalibur. The setting isn't finished so I'll be running a kind of Caliburn Basic to go along with Hackmaster Basic, kind of fitting really.

The group just made the decision on Thursday so I haven't had a lot of time to figure out what the general plot of the game is going to be. The good news is that I have about a month to get everything ready, which should be plenty of time. I'll probably post about my progress leading up to the trip and then a review of how it went and my impressions of running a game in the system.

First things first... I have to read the GM section of the HMB manual!

D&D's 2010 Campaign Setting

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Wizards of the Coast has said that every year they will support a different campaign setting, and they have recently announced the setting for 2010. I don't play 4E for many reasons but I was interested to see what setting they would support. To be honest I thought it would be Dragonlance, but it wasn't.

It was Dark Sun.

Surprised? Me too.

Here is what the cover art looks like...

I don't have much experience with Dark Sun, but it seems like an interesting setting. It never seemed very main stream to me which is why it was surprising to me when I heard the news. In addition to that the dark gritty feel of the setting just doesn't seem to fit with fourth edition.

Click the banner below to read WotC's official announcement.

Pathfinder: A First Look

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One of the members of my group, James, pre-ordered the Pathfinder book and got it in the mail yesterday. We usually get dinner before the game so as we muched down some subs at Blimpie we looked over some of the book.

My first impression was that it looked great. The book is huge (over five hundred pages) is well bound, hardcover, the cover art looks great, and the interior art and page design look excellent as well. We didn't have a whole lot of time to look over rules at this point, we usually use diner time to catch up so we didn't get any hard look at the rules until we arrived at Josh's house where we play.

At first everything seemed normal. I didn't participate in playtesting for the game, and I don't keep up with the message boards over at Paizo. So if they leaked certain information, like Clerics no longer getting heavy armor proficiency, I was unaware. Needless to say there were a few surprises of that sort in the book. Other than those things, the books looks great. I won't get a chance to actually play the game for a few months, but I'm looking forward to it.

For those of you who do not yet have the book here is a preview!

You can head over here and order the book (it's going to be on back order for a while), or buy the PDF for only $9.99. On that page they also have some pages of the book that you can take a look at. Also, Paizo is providing players with a Conversion Guide to aid the transition from 3.5 to Pathfinder. This is all the more impressive when you consider that their competitors (and in my quest to stay neutral I'm not naming any names here) refused to do the same thing. The Conversion Guide is absolutely free, but heavy traffic has made both the Core Book and the conversion guide difficult to download since it came out yesterday. The conversion guide, and Pathfinder's forward from Monte Cook, show that Paizo is really keeping their fans in mind.

Pathfinder PDF Delayed

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The Pathfinder core book PDF has been delayed a few hours by Paizo. The product which was supposed to originally be available at 1:00pm EST has been pushed back to 3:00pm EST. This is no doubt to prepare their website for the massive barrage of Internet traffic that will befall them as soon as the product becomes available.

To help decreased traffic Paizo has disabled their message boards, and asks that anyone who can wait until Friday to purchase their book does so. How big will PDF sales be? That is an excellent question that I can't wait to find out the answer to.

PDFs have become very popular with the roleplaying community, particularly in the last few years. Many gamers were outraged when Wizard of the Coast announced that they would cease selling any and all PDFs of their products. Their decision hit sites like DriveThuRPG, who specialize in PDF sales, hard. Paizo has gone in the other direction by making their Pathfinder Core book available on PDF though out development. Both the Alpha and Beta were available on PDF for free and the core game will be available on PDF shortly for $9.99. The demand from the gaming community is obviously there and Paizo is filling it wholeheartedly.

Diary of a Gamer 8/12/2009

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

Ah, level 2 at last! As this is my first Hackmaster Basic character this was also my first experience with leveling up in HMB. It was an easy process that only took a minute.

As Gorman is a second level fighter he received a +1 Attack Bonus. That was great, because my +3 attack bonus was causing a lot of misses. Gorman's damage bonus is +5, but it hardly matters when he keeps missing. Increased hit points upon leveling up is no guarantee in HMB. Every other level you gain a another hit die (d10 for fighters) and you do not get any bonus from your CON (CON only affects you HP at 1st level when you get your entire CON score added to you HP). At levels where you do not gain a new hit die you re-roll your old hit die and if you roll higher then the new higher number replaces the old one. If on both rolls you roll lower than half the max on your HD (i.e. 5 on a D10 for fighters) then you automatically get that number instead.

Sound complicated? It kind of is. It's also kind of difficult to explain. I love most of the rules for HMB but I'll admit that the HP rule is one rule I don't like and really hope they change when they go to advance.

At 1st level with Gorman I rolled a 6 on my HP roll so I got to re-roll that 6 and hope for something higher. Unfortunately, I rolled a 5 and gained no hit points. Oh well, thems the breaks. I really hope I roll well at the next level. Gorman's 33 hit points were impressive at 1st level, but much less impressive at level 2.

To finish off the leveling process I received another 15 Building Point (BP). Those of you who have been keeping up with my Diary know that Gorman has 2 skills, both of which he got for free. His BP was spent on weapon specialization in the trusty Battle Axe. This strategy has worked like a charm thus far and I saw no reason to change it. So I took the 15BP I got at level 2 and the 5 BP I carried over and bought 2 second tier specializations. As I said earlier my attack bonus was too low so I bought the tier two attack bonus to bring my overall bonus to +5 with the battle axe. That cost 10 BP so I still had 10 BP to purchase another second tier bonus. The two left available to me were Speed and Damage. My damage bonus is high enough, and opponents with faster and lighter weapons represent the bulk of opposition thus far. So I spent my final BP on tier two speed bringing my weapon speed down to 9, and that concluded the leveling process.

From there it was straight to the adventure. We hit the road at the beginning of the night and after some time on the trail we entered a small, almost abandon town in the middle of nowhere. Once there we learned about an escaped criminal hiding somewhere in the area. Being as we are lawful types and followers of the true we set to work trying to find the scoundrel. Of course it didn't hurt that we were low on funds and there was a reward offered.

We tracked the crook and his gang to a cave. Exploring the cave took a while. It took much longer than it would have because none of us were able to find the secret passage to where they were hiding until our third search of the cave. The secret passage led to a zip line which carried people over the underground river that separated the passage we were in from the crook's underground safe house.

Bryan's halfling, Lyle decided to go across first. Being a thief he is generally sneaky and thought to scope things out for us. That didn't work out for us and he stumbled across the gang playing cards. They went after him drawing cold steel while he shouted for us to come help. Stalling for time Lyle even tried to hide in the river, but was swept away by the current.

Being the front line fighter I was first across. There were five of them with shields and scimitars, against me one dwarf. I'll be honest if there was a place to run to I might have done it, but short of jumping in the river and getting swept to god knows where there was no option but to fight like a man.... or in this case, Dwarf. Things got pretty hairy fast, my shield was saving my hide, but a fourth attacker was able to get to me which meant only a d12 defense and no shield. I took a few wounds in the early going but was able to take one of them out with a massive non-critical hit (thank you penetration!). Before everyone's weapon speed came back up James' cleric McDougal came across. With the two of us battling the odds seemed much better. The fight was very close, especially when MacDougal went down, but in the end we won.

I had accumulated half a dozen wounds and wanted nothing more than to spend a few days healing up. Fortunately we did not have to battle the gang's leader as he was already quite wounded himself so we tied him up and brought him back to town where we turned him over to the authorities. They gave us a fat 500 silver piece reward for our efforts and invited us to travel with them to a near by city.

Goodbye Studded Leather, Hello Chainmail!

Another Hackmaster Basic Resource

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

Here is another useful Hackmaster Basic file. It is an Excel Character sheet that can make character creation even faster. Use it with Topher's character creation guide for maximum effect!

Thanks goes out to Chris for supplying it!

Cartographer's Corner: Tutorial

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

I forgot to add this excellent set of tutorial videos I found on Youtube. The gentleman who does them does an excellent job of explaining to beginners the necessary steps to create a basic map in Campaign Cartographer.

Here is the first in the overland mapping series. Enjoy!

Cartographer's Corner: Rivercross

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

I have no artistic talent. I wish I did, but I don't. I game with many people that do, and when I see them do amazing things I really wish I could as well, but I can't. Unfortunately this extends to map making. Christian who I game with regularly comes out with amazing color maps when he runs games. Those maps really serve to enhance the gaming experience by getting everyone on the same page by presenting a lot of specific information and presenting it in a way that is visually appealing. For a long time that was something I have been unable to do. Mapping is a necessity to a certain extent so I have provided some maps, but while they might have been accurate and specific they most certainly were not visually appealing.

So I did what many do when faced with a seemingly insurmountable problem in modern age, I turned to technology. For the modern gamer who is similarly artistically challenged there are several options for mapping.

The first one I tried was Dundjinni. The program was fairly affordable at $39.95 and the example maps looked great. I really enjoyed the program at first, and did a couple of maps with it. There are a lot of symbol expansion packs both by the makers of the program and by the people that use it. But I found the software ill fitted for doing large scale maps such as I needed for continents and worlds so I decided to look around for a different program.

Here are the maps that I made using Dundjinni. The first one is a camp, the second a cathedral. Click on the image to view the full size. Please feel free to right click and select save as to save the image and use it in your own game.

The next software I decided to get was Campaign Cartographer. Now I had heard the reputation of CC as being very powerful but very difficult to use. As it turns out it is also very expensive. Fortunetly I was able to pick up a copy of the old CC2 software used. I knew it wouldn't be as good as the recently released CC3, but if it was too hard to use it probably wasn't going to be for me anyway.

As adverstised CC was very difficult to use. The interface can be somewhat overwhelming at first, but I was please to find that the program's potency was not exagerated. It took me a while, but finally I was able to produce my first map. Here it is, try not to laugh.

Like I said, it was my first map.

CC has many different parts to it and one was called City Designer. I thought I'd give that one a try next. Here is the town I made with that, and I was more pleased with how it came out than with the previous map.

CC is a great program and I keep finding more and more great features the more I use it. At its most basic it helps out artistically challenged people like me, and at its full potential it produces professional looking maps to rival anything put out by any gaming company out there. There is an amazing community that has developed over at the Cartographer's Guild. Those guys really know what they are doing and are happy to help people new to CC and other mapping programs. Those guys do some really amazing work.

As for me I am hoping my maps continue to get better. I'll be posting more maps regularly under the Cartographer's Corner heading so keep an eye out.

Pathfinder Sold Out Part 2

Posted by Labyrinthian in ,

Just some followup on the news that Paizo's Pathfinder game sold out in pre-orders. I have been looking around to try to find some hard numbers on their sales, but so far Paizo isn't saying anything. So how much of a success are we expecting? I'd be shocked to learn that their first run was anything under 10,000 copies based on the publishers words. Erik Mona called the first run a, "Hugely ambitious print run." Regardless of how many copies they sold it's obvious that the game has exceeded Paizo's expectation which is a good sign for them and for the hobby. It should also serve to boost their PDF sales, which I don't think will stop people from ordering a hard copy when it becomes available.

Despite Pathfinder's recent success I'm going to take this opportunity to bring some of you back down to earth. I've gotten some emails from readers asking me if I think Pathfinder will outsell 4E. Paizo's numbers, whatever they turn out to be, will not be near WotC numbers. Pathfinder is just getting started, you can't expect it to instantly have a fanbase on par with the most popular RPG of all time.

That having been said, Pathfinder obviously has a lot of potential. People are paying afternoon and Paizo has an opportunity to develop a large fan base. As for the rest? Only time will tell...

Gamer Movie Review: Über Goober

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

Film: Über Goober (Documentary)
Year: 2004
Production Company: Scum Crew Pictures
Director: Steve Metze

Just as the film Trekkies was a documentary that examined Star Trek subculture, so too does Uber Goober examine gamer subculture. It even goes so far as to break gamers up into three main groups; Wargamers who play tactical miniature games like Warhammer, Roleplayers who play games like Dungeons and Dragons, and finally those who LARP (Live action roleplay) and act out their game like those who play Vampire the Masquerade.

Here is the summary from Uber Goober's Website...

Über Goober focuses on the often-misunderstood, sometimes-controversial, and always-kind-of-geeky world of Gamers. Metze examines several different groups including historical miniature gamers, role-players, and those known simply as "LARPers" (Live Action Role Players). The film also explores opposition from religious groups, negative media portrayals ranging from sit-coms to post-Columbine news coverage, and some of the meanest 'man-on-the-street' interviews ever committed to video. Meet the Gamers, learn their exotic language, see their bizarre rituals, gasp at their semi-authentic costumes, and thrill to the painting techniques on their miniatures!

I liked this movie. It's ambitions are in line with its budget and production capability. The makers of the film didn't try to do too much or attempt to illicit specific responses from those they interviewed as you sometimes see in documentary films. Rather they got their subjects going on a topic they are passionate about, Gaming, and let them talk about it and what it means to them.

Nearly all gamers will see some part of themselves in one of the people interviewed in this film. For me it was the cop who refused to be revealed on camera. He, like myself, is what is called a "Closet Gamer." We game, but we typically don't admit it to people. His tale about his wife finding his Dragon Magazine collection and telling her that he, "Only bought it for the articles" was probably my favorite part of the whole film. I have been dating my fiance for 10 years (we are getting married on our 11th anniversary). Just to show you how much of a closet gamer I am I didn't tell her that I gamed until... wait for it... 6 months ago. Yeah, I know... that's bad. But this guy on the film was much the same, and therein lies the greatest part of the film, gamers can relate to these people.

In addition to the very good documentary the DVD has some very entertaining special features, including a guided tour around the town where TSR started by the late great Gary Gygax. The DVD can be purchased here and is certainly worth the fifteen dollar price tag.

Like the Gamers this film is a great window into gamer subculture for those who are not part of it. So if you also haven't told you girlfriend what it is you are really doing on Thursday nights maybe this will help clear things up.

Overall Rating: 7/10 - A great documentary that will have you laughing at it... and maybe a little at yourself as well.

Pathfinder Sold Out!

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

Paizo has just released word that its Pathfinder Core Rulebook has sold out. That's right, sold out. Ten days before it's release and all that remains are the copies that they set aside for Gencon. According to their press release they originally believed the number of copies they had printed would last until the end of the year. Boy were they wrong.

My group plans on playing a Pathfinder game once we finish our Hackmaster Basic game. Fortunately one of our members pre-ordered the book months ago. The rest of us will have to make due with the PDF that Paizo is supplying for the very reasonable price of $9.99.

It seems Pathfinder may far exceed expectations, despite those expectations being quite high. We'll just have to wait and see...

Hackmaster Basic Player Aids

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

Continuing our support of Hackmaster Basic here are some great aids for players.

The Official Character Sheet - This is the official character sheet by Kenzerco. It has everything you need.

PDF Character Sheet - This is an editable version of the above character sheet.

Character Creation Worksheet - This was made by Topher from the Kenzerco Hackmaster Boards. I don't know him personally but I don't think if anyone outside the creators of the game are as knowledgeable when it comes to all things Hackmaster. This worksheet is amazing and really speeds character creation. If it is your first time making a character do yourself a favor and print out a copy.

Character Class Cheat Sheet - This sheet sumarizes everything you need to know when selecting a class from what free skills you get to what hit die you get to roll. Very handy at character creation.

Dice Cradle Reference Sheet - This is the reference sheet I keep in my Dice Cradle. Along with the copy of Gary Gygax's signature there is a list of special combat moves and a summary of what each does. It really helps... especially at 2am.

Hackmaster Skill List - This is a list of all the skills in HMB, what their associated ability is, whether they are universal or not, and their BP cost.

Hackmaster Basic Index - This index was originally intended to be in the back of the book, but it didn't make it in. Print it out and keep it in the back of your book to save yourself some time.

Anatomy of a Campaign: Legacy of New Lago - Part 3

Posted by Labyrinthian in , ,

When deciding which modules I wanted to add to my campaign I began with Dungeon's list of the top 30 modules of all time. Here is the list in its entirety...

  1. GDQ1-7: Queen of the Spiders: Compiling the giants G series, the drow D series, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits
  2. I6: Ravenloft
  3. S1: Tomb of Horrors
  4. T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil
  5. S3: Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
  6. I3-5: The Desert of Desolation
  7. B2: The Keep on the Borderlands
  8. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil
  9. S2: White Plume Mountain
  10. Return to the Tomb of Horrors
  11. The Gates of Firestorm Peak
  12. The Forge of Fury
  13. I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City
  14. Planescape: Dead Gods
  15. X2: Castle Amber
  16. X1: The Isle of Dread
  17. Forgotten Realms: Ruins of Undermountain
  18. C1: The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
  19. N1: Against the Cult of the Reptile God
  20. A1-4: Scourge of the Slave Lords
  21. Judges Guild: Dark Tower
  22. S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth
  23. WG4: The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun
  24. Forgotten Realms: City of the Spider Queen
  25. DL1: Dragons of Despair
  26. WGR6: City of Skulls
  27. U1: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh
  28. B4: The Lost City
  29. L2: The Assassin's Knot
  30. C2: The Ghost Tower of Inverness
After looking at the list some of the names jumped out at me. Classics that I had head of, but had never played in or run before. They were...

G Series: Against the Giants
I6: Ravenloft
S1: Tomb of Horrors
T1-4: The Temple of Elemental Evil
B2: The Keep on the Borderlands
S2: White Plume Mountain

Going back to the basic idea that I wanted this to be an episodic campaign where the party gathers items of great power, I knew that I had to choose the modules that such items in them already.

The first module to jump out at me was White Plume Mountain. For those of you unfamiliar with the adventure let me give you the general plot. An ancient wizard who many had believed to have been a myth has stolen three powerful artifacts; Wave, Whelm, and Blackrazor. The party follow the only clue left by the offending mage, a letter which leads them to the volcanic White Plume Mountain. Once there they must pass through some great traps and battle some strange creatures to recover the items. Basically this module was absolutely perfect. It was even updated to 3.5 by WotC in 2005. Its lead villain, Keraptis, even got me starting to think about my big villain... more on that later.

The next module I decided on was Keep on the Borderlands. Somehow this became #7 on the list, but just about every gamer I've ever talked who played it rated KotBL as the best or second best module they had ever played. I could think of no better way to begin the game than this adventure, but it needed some tweaking. Not because there was anything wrong with it, but rather because it didn't fit the formula of the game. Some quick changes took care of this and it fit seamlessly into the game. Just to show you how good it is Kenzerco made their own version of the adventure called Little Keep on the Borderlands for Hackmaster 4th Edition.

Of all the modules on the list the one that I most wanted to run was Ravenloft. I had never played it, nor ran it, but everyone raved about it. Those who said the Keep was the second best module all set Ravenloft was number one, and I was determined to find out if it was true. Ravenloft has also been converted to 3.5 and even expanded to be an entire campaign. I stuck to the Old School 1st edition Ravenloft adventure for the most part, but did use the 3.5 book for stat conversions.The adventure was very easy to adapt to the campaign format. I simply had the players sent there seeking the symbol of Ravenkind. Though the adventure did not quite go as expected I will say it was a lot of fun to play. Strahd is a classic villain, perhaps the greatest in D&D. His character also left his mark on my BBEG (Big Bad Evil Guy)

These adventures were a lot of fun to run and I highly recommend integrating them into your game if they fit. Here are the letters I used as props in during the adventure. You should have seen the players faces when they read the first letter from Ravenloft!

Speaking of that letter from Ravenloft check out this amazing video done by a guy running Expedition to Castle Ravenloft (The 3.5 adventure/campaign).

So that's it for now. In part 4 we'll look at the dreaded BBEG.