Friday, January 31, 2014

"That skeleton hits HARD!!"

When we last left our brave party of adventurers, they were preparing to leave the basement of the monastery in order to rest and recover from their wounds. They decided, however, to make one last turn before heading out and head down a path they hadn't traveled down yet.

At the bottom of a small flight of stairs was a small room. On the wall of the room was a large bas-relief carved into the stone wall. The sculpture was of a large bone creature. Darius correctly determined that the creature was actually a bone devil. He then noticed some writing carved into the wall underneath the creature. He couldn't figure out the language, but quickly remembered that he had a scroll of comprehend languages. He used the scroll and determined what the saying was. He wrote it down, but after sensing divination magic was very careful not to repeat the phrase in any language.

After determining that the room held no more secrets, the adventurers made their way to the dungeon's exit. On the way, they all heard the slow, steady steps of a creature blocking their path. They turned the corner to find a fully-armored skeleton wielding a greatsword. The battle to get past the skeleton was intense. The group was already tired and hurting from their earlier encounters that day and merely wanted to get out of the dungeon with their lives. The skeleton was keen on stopping the intruders.

The skeleton, with his glowing blue "eyes" lashed out with his greatsword. He sliced a brutal cut into Darius that almost knocked the sage unconscious. As Darius got out of the way, the skeleton turned its attention on the party's ranger, Avelin. Avelin was hit so hard with the skeleton's sword that she was knocked unconscious.

Gormgen, the group's dwarven fighter used a pair of concoctions which enlarged him and increased his strength, at the cost of his already dim intelligence and dispatched the undead protector of the monastery with ease. The group, now badly injured and in desperate need of rest and healing fled the dungeon and made camp for the night just outside the stairs to the basement. Each member of the party had substantial wounds to heal from and was grateful for the time to recover.

Once the night passed, the group made their way back into the basement where they went down a passageway they had skipped on their first time through the dungeon. (At this point, they decided to check out the first half of the dungeon, hoping to get some XP before finishing the second half. It wasn't a bad idea, the CR4 skeletal champion really gave them a run for their money)

The discovered a room that held a small cluster of pale vines which were emitting yellow vapors. The vines were sentient and attacked the group. It sprayed its pollen at Doc Kells, the party alchemist, and entranced her. Due to the entrancement, she moved into the vine's attack range and was attacked physically by the yellow-musk creeper. Fortunately, the rest of the party was able to stop her from being killed by the vines and rising as a zombie.

After the vines were destroyed, a pair of ghouls emerged from their hiding place behind the vines and attacked the party. They were dispatched quickly with only one ghoul managing to hit one of the party members with a single claw attack. Darius found the ghouls' secret hiding place and discovered a small cache of loot, including a large sack of gold and three magical scrolls.

There was another door across the hall, which the group went into and discovered a large pantry full of rotten wooden shelves and broken pottery. While searching the room, Doc Kells discovered bones from humans that had been sawed with a butcher's saw. After collecting the bones, she used her expertise in healing and the human body to determine that the bones were actually from a number of different humans, although she couldn't ascertain why this had happened.

The group now turns their attention down another hallway where surely more terrors and monsters await them... Tune in next week for more tales from the Cloister of the Opal Fist.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Looking Back: Friends Season Three

I raved about season two of Friends. Most of the times I've started the series over, I've skipped season one and gone straight into the second season. As good as season two is when compared to the first season, season three is even better!

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Crown of Command - My thoughts on Talisman

A month ago, I made the trek to The Guardtower, my favorite store in the world, and used our Christmas money to buy a new board game. Holly and I love to play board games. Our favorites are Agricola, Lords of Waterdeep and Dominion, but we also own Powergrid, Settlers of Catan, 7 Wonders and Carcassonne.

My friend Nate is my board game sensei and my primary source of information. He had mentioned that he got a couple of the expansions for Talisman for Christmas from his wife, and that made me want to get the game to play it. He reviews TONS of board games and write a fantastic blog. You can either click his name here in this paragraph, or click on his name on the right to check his blog out. If you do, tell him Large Marge sent you, he'll know what it means.

So, I bought Talisman and we played it on New Years Day with Holly's parents.

It was the longest game of all time.

Seriously, you may think Monopoly takes a while, Monopoly is a quick jog through the park compared to how long this first game of Talisman took us. Okay, it wasn't that long, but it felt like it took forever. Also, you shouldn't play Monopoly, it's not a very good game (I'm being a board game snob now).

After our day-long adventure dodging the Grim Reaper, each other and miscellaneous bad guys while attempting to procure The Crown of Command, each of us decided that the game was awesome and we'd love to play it again.

The mechanics are simple, you power yourself up through a few different ways (fighting bad guys, each other and lucky card draws) in order to be the first player to get to The Crown of Command. Once you get there, you essentially get to kill the other players as they try to reach you in order to stop you from killing them.

It's awesome!

Holly and I played again the next day, and the game was considerably shorter, using a couple of variant rules Nate suggested. It also didn't hurt that we had half as many players.

We're looking forward to getting some more of the expansions for Talisman and playing with some of our other gaming friends! It's definitely being added to our favorites list.

What about you, what are some of your favorite games to play?

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Liberators of Thornkeep - Session Recap

First off, a little background. I moonlight as a freelance game designer. I’ve had five supplements published by Raging Swan Press. Creighton, the publisher over at RSP wrote an advice column for freelance writers and suggested that those who write should keep a blog. Well, that’s good news for me because I already keep a blog! He offered some suggestions that should be on the blog. In light of that, I’ll be adding session recaps from my Thursday night game.

I am the GM for a group of friends, we’re using the Pathfinder Campaign Setting, specifically, the Thornkeep setting that was released as a part of a Kickstarter that I backed for the upcoming Pathfinder Online MMO that is currently in development.

I got the PDF and thought I’d throw a campaign together using that as the setting. It’s worked pretty well, I think. The characters in the campaign are:

Darius the Sage

Mike is playing a Rogue/Wizard named Darius. Darius is the unofficial leader of the group. He’s been working with the local Thieves Guild while attempting to set up a Salon (think French Revolution) where knowledge can be brokered throughout the hold of Thornkeep.

Avelin the Archer

Holly is playing a Ranger/Rogue named Avelin. Avelin is a former bandit attempting to reform and make her way in the world. She is working on maximizing her sneak attack and damage with a bow. Her brother is still in the bandit world.

Doc Kells the Surgeon

Amy is playing an Alchemist healer. She took an archetype of the alchemist that allows her to heal. She uses her bombs liberally, taking out multiple opponents at a time. She also has ties to the Thieves Guild, serving as a healer.

Gormgen the Warrior

The only non-human in the party, Gormgen the Dwarf Fighter/Cleric is being played by Jason. Gormgen is from the Five Kings Mountains, and has made his way to Thornkeep avoiding Dwarf drama from his homeland. He has a large beard, a large appetite and a larger axe.

Where we’ve been

We spent time clearing out The Accursed Halls that have tempted adventurers in the region for as long as anyone can remember. Goblins had infiltrated the ancient halls in search of a long forgotten Goblin treasure. They found the treasure and let the goblins have it. The goblin chief, Graalsk, then tasked the party with helping another group of his goblins in finding another ancient treasure. They made their way to a dilapidated monastery. The last game session ended after the group entered the monastery’s basement. They had fought a pair of cave spiders and the spiders’ prey, a ghoul completely encased in webbing.

January 23, 2013 – Zombies, Skeletons and Ghouls!

Rule #1 of being a GM is that if your party can go the wrong way, they almost inevitably will.

There was a secret door that led to the second half of the dungeon. They weren’t meant to find the door until after they had exhausted their search of the first half of the dungeon. They went through two rooms of the first half of the dungeon then enacted Rule #1.

Into the second half of the dungeon!

The first thing waiting for them in that half of the dungeon was a party of four Ghouls. Ghouls are particularly nasty to third level characters. If you are bitten by one, you take serious damage to abilities and the saves are two consecutive days worth of saves. They also paralyze their targets.

They almost killed the dwarf, but the valiant warriors prevailed over the ghouls. They continued through the funeral chambers of the ancient monks and fought a group of skeletons then a group of zombies.

They’re slowly working out the secrets of the ancient monastery, figuring out what these monks did and how they operated.

The highlight of the night was Darius attempting to avoid a trap that would almost surely have killed him. He wanted to retrieve an item, but was fairly certain the item was trapped. He barely missed being smashed by an extremely heavy rock (Thank heavens for that Rogue reflex save), but the gem he was attempting to reach was crushed into powder in the process.

The truth is, the trap was supposed to be different, but I read the module wrong and it messed up through my interpretation of the trap. I’m a little frustrated, but if I’m being honest, I didn’t expect the group to make it down that wing, so I hadn’t done enough reading of the module.

I’m eager to finish up this dungeon (afraid the bosses are going to be too hard, make have to scale them down a little) and get into the content that I’m creating from scratch. The two modules I’ve used have given me a great jumping off point for the campaign, though.

Thanks for reading, see you next Friday (weather permitting).

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Booger-Eaters, Soap Operas, Beards and YES!! chants

"This is literally just a male version of a soap opera," my wife astutely noted the other day as I was watching WWE. She's right, of course, WWE isn't really about the wrestling, anymore. In fact, they don't even consider themselves to be a wrestling company. They famously changed their name a few years ago from World Wrestling Entertainment to WWE. The men and women who compete in the ring aren't known as wrestlers, they're known as WWE Superstars and Divas.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Monday Nitro and the Worst Night of our Lives

On January 18, 1999, my best friend, Marc, and I, were preparing to enjoy the night at WCW's Monday Nitro, which was in Columbus. We were both big wrestling fans, and we were super excited to go to the show that night, where we had floor seats. We had spent the weekend at a church retreat and gotten back that day.

We were at my house (which was in the ghetto), preparing for the show. How do three teenage boys (our friend Jeremiah was also coming to the show with us) prepare for a wrestling show where they'll have floor seats?

Signs. Lots of signs.

We were making signs for the show.

Marc and I recount this night as one of the worst nights of our collective lives. Here's why.

As we were making the signs, we got into an altercation with some boys from the neighborhood who were looking for my little brother. They came to the place looking for a fight, and I, being the master of calming people down, just poured gasoline on their fire.

At first they wanted to fight me. I masterfully convinced them that they didn't need to fight me, they'd win. Then, they decided they wanted to fight Marc. He wasn't able to convince them they didn't need to fight him. Chaos broke loose.

Jeremiah ran into the bathroom.

I ran into the kitchen.

Marc took a beating.

Another neighbor threw the boys off of Marc and chased them from the house. We called parents and police (in that order). We deadbolted the door and buckled down for our parents to come back (they all had made plans doing other things).

Eventually the police came and asked us why we were so stupid to let the punks in the house.

I genuinely have no idea why I am so stupid and let the punks in the house, but I feel absolutely sure that it was me and not Marc or Jeremiah who did so.

The police officer also asked why I abandoned my friend when he was getting beat up.

I genuinely have no idea why I abandoned my best friend when he was getting beat up.

After all of the chaos from getting jumped in my house died down, we finally made our way to the Schottenstein Center for Monday Nitro! We still had floor seats, so it was going to be AMAZING!!

However, we got to Nitro and realized, when we looked at our tickets, that our friend had mixed the tickets up and given us tickets to Disney on Ice.

We were devastated! Jeremiah had gotten his tickets earlier, so he just went into the show, leaving Marc and I outside like chumps! We were taken into the security office where they decided they were going to let us stay and watch the show, but we didn't get our floor seats. Instead, we sat right next to the entrance in between the lower and middle bowl (the handicapped aisle).

I literally remember nothing about that show. I found it on YouTube, so I'll definitely be watching it.

The reason I tell this story today is because tonight, Marc and I are making our triumphant return to the Squared Circle. We're heading to the Nutter Center tonight for RAW.

I'm super excited to enjoy my first wrestling show (Honestly, I've stricken the first time from my memory as best I can).

This year, we both turn 30, what better way to start the year than by going to WWE together and reliving our teenage years. We had wrestling parties, PPV parties, backyard-trampoline matches (I can tell you with ABSOLUTE ASSURANCE that Bret Hart's Sharpshooter hurts like CRAZY!) and many moments of watching wrestling and/or talking about it non-stop.

Marc and I at my wedding... still JUST. TOO. SWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEET!!!!!!!!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Looking Back: Friends Season Two

Friends was wildly popular from the word "Go." Millions and millions of people tuned in to watch Monica, Rachel, Phoebe, Chandler, Joey and Ross each week. The first season was unquestionably a success, but I've always maintained that Friends hit its stride in season 2.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Second City

When Holly and I got married, we went to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg for our honeymoon. We returned the next year when  Holly was pregnant with Xavier. We haven't taken a vacation since. We spent a day in Washington DC about a year ago, but that was a part of an interview weekend in Baltimore, so I don't count it as a vacation.

It was one of my goals before my birthday to take Holly to a big city on a vacation. We found the time and the finances to go to Chicago the week of Thanksgiving.

I had gone to Chicago for a mission trip with my students in 2012. It was actually the final thing I did as a staff member at High Street. It was bitter and difficult for me, that trip was meant to be a long term investment from me to my students, but it turned out being something different.

I was eager to take my wife to Chicago, I thought she'd like it. We found a great rate for a hotel, but the catch was we had to go the week of Thanksgiving. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo in the Gold Coast neighborhood on the north side of Chicago.

We loved the hotel and the neighborhood. Seriously, we both were just in awe of the beautiful neighborhood as we drove through it.

We enjoyed pizza at Giordano's and had breakfast at a little pancake house and enjoyed dinner at a little Italian place a block away from the hotel.

We visited Navy Pier and shopped along Michigan Avenue. We didn't have any money to spend, but we did splurge on some wonderful popcorn from Garret Popcorn! I had it my last time in Chicago and absolutely loved it!

My major goal in Chicago was to relax and enjoy the company of my wife. We were able to do that and we had a great time.

We'll definitely be returning to Chicago someday, hopefully for a Cubs game! It's the thing I haven't been able to do there, but I really want to!

This was one of the larger and more expensive things to do on my list of 30 things, so I'm glad to have it scratched off. I'm making progress, but it's slow going, slower than I'd like. I'll have to work at a couple other items on the list before the month is up, I'm just not sure which things I'll do first.

Any thoughts?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Looking Back: Friends Season One

On September 22, 1994, six people jumped into the collective hearts of TV-watching Americans. Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey and Phoebe are six of my favorite television characters of all time.

Monday, January 6, 2014

My 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot

This year's new Hall of Famers will be announced the day after tomorrow. In honor of that, I made up my own Hall of Fame ballot. I'm not a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, so my vote carries no weight, whatsoever. It's just my opinion on who should be in the Hall of Fame.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

2013: A Review

2013 was a big year for me and my family. I started the year living with my in-laws and working as a part time cook making nearly minimum wage at a restaurant. I ended the year working full-time as a pastor again, living on a farm!

I've taken some time and thought about ten of my favorite experiences/memories of the year. Here they are, in no particular order.