Sunday, November 11, 2007

Danger in the Wilderness: Steal This Hook

From Wizards

Wolf at the Door -- Forgotten Realms

Thesk straddles the western end of the Golden Way, the trade road that connects far-off Kara-Tur with the main part of Faerûn. Because of this, Thesk is a very wealthy nation and handles a lot of trade. "I want you to go to Two Stars," says the woman seated across from you. "I have a certain property coming in on a caravan from Shou Lung, and I would like to have it 'diverted' from the Golden Way before it reaches Telflamm and gets taxed. All you have to do is meet with a merchant named Beavom Tastald and give him this, and he will give my package into your keeping. Take it south on the Cold Road into Nethentir and meet the Spry Jewel of the Sea. The captain will take it off your hands."

Assuming they agree, the PCs find themselves traveling the Golden Way toward Two Stars in very wintry weather. It is unseasonably cold, so much so that trade has been slowed on the Golden Way through Thesk and Rashemen. The farmers curse the weather because crops have been ruined (assuming you place this adventure in a season other than winter). And to top off everything, reports of monsters in the wilderness increase as one travels eastward from Phsant.

About a day's journey from Two Stars, the PCs come across the remains of six people and two large wolflike creatures. The people have been eaten to the bone, their possessions lie scattered around and hidden underneath the snow; to their credit, they apparently took down two of the wolves before succumbing to the rest of the pack.

In Two Stars, the PCs find that the caravan they are waiting for has been delayed, or at least that it has not arrived yet. While they wait, they may encounter the following possibilities:

d100 Adventure Directions

00-50 At the Crossroads Tavern, a member of the Gallidy family sees the PCs and tries to hire them to determine where the monsters are coming from. Monsters are bad for business.

51-80 Beavom Tastald notes the PCs' interest in the delayed caravan, and he offers to pay them to travel the Golden Way and find it, or at least discover what happened to it. This leads the PCs into Rashemen, where they are attacked by winter wolves.

81-00 A farmer in Two Stars, or encountered along the road, could ask the PCs to find a missing relative (who has been mauled by winter wolves).

d100 Story Elements

Choose or randomly generate story elements from the table below, or make up your own.

00-40 Winter wolves from the Sunrise Mountains in Rashemen have expanded their range into Thesk because of the unusually strong winter storms. Packs of them ravage the countryside and eat farmer and merchant alike. If the winter subsides, the wolves would retreat to their normal range.

41-55 The storms center in northern Rashemen and are not natural. Wizards are causing them, and the spread of winter wolves is an accidental side effect.

56-70 Winter wolves are not the only monsters to spread into Thesk. Remorhazes, cold worms, frost giants, and other fell creatures pose dangers to the residents of Thesk and Rashemen.

71-95 The caravan carrying the package the PCs are to pick up has been attacked by ravaging winter monsters, and the package has been taken by frost giants into the Sunrise Mountains.

96-00 The winter has brought a trio of white dragons out of the northern Sunrise Mountains, and they have taken to attacking Mulsantir on a regular basis. The PCs could be asked to solve this problem too, and the dragons might be in league with the wizards causing the storms.

Campaign Adaptation

Frostburn is probably your best friend for this adventure, since it involves an area that has become a frostfell area.

Eberron: The Talenta Plains and eastern Karrnath are good for this adventure, since the winter wolves probably live in the mountains of the Mror Holds. Winter in the Talenta Plains could be a cause of considerable problems with the dinosaurs.

Greyhawk: The Duchy of Tenh is a natural place for this adventure, but Geoff or the March of Sterich could work too. The wolves (and weather) could even spread as far as the Hold of the Sea Princes.

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Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

From Dragonlance Movie Site

We're happy to (finally) be able to present the first trailer, shown at GenCon and DragonCon earlier this year. This has been designated a "rough cut" -- the final trailer should be available in the next month or so.

Paramount also provided this statement to accompany the release:

"Dragonlance fans -- We’re sorry that it has taken this long to get a trailer out. We had been waiting in hopes that we could show you the final trailer but unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances (i.e. key talent issues etc) we have not been able to cut the final trailer together and get 100% approval. Ever since we showed this piece at GenCon and DragonCon there has been a huge demand to see the trailer so we figured it’d be best to show you the rough version instead of having everyone wait even longer. We appreciate your patience. Enjoy!"

Without further adieu...

Official Release Date:

"Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight" will be released on DVD on 15 January 2008!

Pre-order Now

Interview with Shelly Mazzanoble, Author of Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress

From Cerise Magazine

By Robyn Fleming
After reading her book last month, I contacted Shelly Mazzanoble, author of Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress: A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Game and employee of Wizards of the Coast, to ask if she might like to do an interview for Cerise. Happily, her answer was yes. I hope you all will enjoy reading what she has to say as much as I did.

Robyn Fleming: Before I ask you anything else, I have to know – how’s Astrid? Still alive and well?

Shelly Mazzanoble: Yes! Astrid is relaxing on a much-deserved hiatus. In fact, she plans on retiring from this whole adventure business to take up teaching sorcery at the local charm school.

RF: So how did Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress come about? Did you think you’d be writing a book about it when you first started playing D&D?

SM: If someone told me two years ago that I would write a book about D&D I would have thought it the most preposterous thing I had ever heard. I’m still surprised I wrote a book–let alone a book about D&D. I keep thinking back to that fateful day when Teddy asked me to join the group. What if I had said no?

I was a theater major in college so roleplaying isn’t completely foreign to me and I’ve worked at Wizards long enough to have a basic understanding of what D&D is but even so, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed my first few sessions. I wrote an essay for an editor I had worked with at The Seattle Times about “my secret life as a dragon slayer.” Although she was amused, the editor had a hard time grasping the whole “I’ve got a Balenciaga mace and I’m not afraid to use it” story angle. I showed it to some people at work who unbeknownst to me where already exploring ways to reach out to women—gamers and non-gamers. Someone thought my essay could be expanded upon so I wrote up a proposal for a “How to” book written for the woman who has no concept of roleplaying games or the fact you could actually role a fifteen on a single die. Realizing that so much of D&D’s core comes to most women so naturally—storytelling, socializing, even roleplaying—I wanted to highlight that aspect. I tried to write the book that would have helped me learn. A lot of people are turned off by D&D because they think it’s too complicated but it’s really not. I firmly believed that if more women knew what D&D was really about, they’d be inclined to give the old d20 a spin.

RF: What was it like to work on the book? Did you find it very different from your past writing experiences?

SM: One very big difference was that I was writing a book actually scheduled to be published. What a luxury! But I have to say it’s a very odd experience to be writing a book that will be published by the company you work for. It definitely had its advantages like I got to weigh in on selecting the illustrator for the cover and interior art and the marketing team are actually people I play D&D with. Talk about metagaming. How about “Astrid’s going to fireball you in your sleep if she doesn’t get an ad campaign!”

But there is also such as thing as too much information. It’s a fine line between co-worker and ubiquitous, annoying author and one I’m sure I crossed often.

RF: There’s a lot of focus on making D&D more appealing to “girly-girl” types in Confessions – can you explain a little bit about why you think this is important?

SM: My intention was to appeal to all women who have the slightest interest in D&D—girly-girls, girls who like video games but who had never heard of D&D, my friends . . . my mom! I am a girly-girl so that part of me can’t help but seep through. But that’s also just one part of who I am. I volunteer for women’s organizations and animal shelters. I’m a homeowner. I enjoy rearranging my 401K plan almost as much as I do my closets. Almost.

Learning D&D can be information overload so I wanted to outline the basics in an entertaining, less daunting way. I figured comparing daily spells to M&M intake is more entertaining than explaining the game theory behind it.

Sure I said those things in my game about having a designer haversack and getting our food rations at Costco but that was all very tongue in cheek. I know there wasn’t a Cheesecake Factory back in the Middle Ages. Come on! They couldn’t possibly have had enough variety of cheesecake to warrant one.

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Saturday, November 3, 2007

Dread Gazebo

From Dread Gazebo

Part of BlackHammer's adventure in RPG Humour

The Dread Gazebo has earned its place in the canon of gaming legend, along with Phil Foglio's Phil & Dixie strips and Gary Gygax's dice probability charts. So here it is, reprinted with permission (the exact words used were, "use it with my blessing, live long and prosper.")

The Tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo
by Richard Aronson []

In the early seventies, Ed Whitchurch ran "his game", and one of the participants was Eric Sorenson. Eric plays something like a computer. When he games, he methodically considers each possibility before choosing his preferred option. If given time, he will invariably pick the optimal solution. It has been known to take weeks. He is otherwise, in all respects, a superior gamer. Eric was playing a Neutral Paladin in Ed's game. He was on some lord's lands when the following exchange occurred:

ED: You see a well groomed garden. In the middle, on a small hill, you see a gazebo.
ERIC: A gazebo? What color is it?

ED: [pause] It's white, Eric.
ERIC: How far away is it?

ED: About 50 yards.
ERIC: How big is it?

ED: [pause] It's about 30 ft across, 15 ft high, with a pointed top.
ERIC: I use my sword to detect good on it.

ED: It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo.
ERIC: [pause] I call out to it.

ED: It won't answer. It's a gazebo.
ERIC: [pause] I sheathe my sword and draw my bow and arrows. Does it respond in any way?

ED: No, Eric, it's a gazebo!
ERIC: I shoot it with my bow. [roll to hit] What happened?

ED: There is now a gazebo with an arrow sticking out of it.
ERIC: [pause] Wasn't it wounded?

ERIC: [whimper] But that was a +3 arrow!

ED: It's a gazebo, Eric, a GAZEBO! If you really want to try to destroy it, you could try to chop it with an axe, I suppose, or you could try to burn it, but I don't know why anybody would even try. It's a @#$%!! gazebo!
ERIC: [long pause. He has no axe or fire spells.] I run away.

ED: [thoroughly frustrated] It's too late. You've awakened the gazebo. It catches you and eats you.
ERIC: [reaching for his dice] Maybe I'll roll up a fire-using mage so I can avenge my Paladin.

At this point, the increasingly amused fellow party members restored a modicum of order by explaining to Eric what a gazebo is. Thus ends the tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo. It could have been worse; at least the gazebo wasn't on a grassy gnoll. Thus ends the tale of Eric and the Dread Gazebo. A little vocabulary is a dangerous thing.

The above is Copyright © 1989 by Richard Aronson. Reprinted with permission. The author grants permission to reprint as long as all copyright notices remain with the text.

"Eric and the Gazebo" was written and copyrighted by me in 1986. It was based on an event at a role-playing game, but the addition of several jokes moves it out of journalism, or at least into Docuhumor. Some of the people at the game retold the event, each with their own spin, but I was the one who told it to Lee Gold, editor of the fanzine "Alarums and Excursions," who insisted I print it up for her. After reprinting in several amateur publications, it leapt to "The Mensa Bulletin." I then foolishly allowed a reader to reprint it on the internet (who knew from internet in 1989). For many years his was the only interent reprint which even mentioned that there was a copyright on it (thanks, James Chu). Eventually I became a professional game designer for Sierra On-Line and the late lamented "ImagiNation Network" and after having been accused of stealing my own story at a gaming convention I have spend several hours every year protecting my copyright, especially since I incorporated E&tG into a chapter of my as yet unpublished novel. "
Richard Aronson, Feb 15, 2000

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Friday, November 2, 2007

Looking Back at D&D Miniatures


Miniatures in the Ancient Times of Role-Playing

by James M. Ward

The year 1974 was one of my luckiest times, because I met Gary Gygax and he kindly asked me over to his house to learn D&D. As a complete stranger, I was warmly welcomed. I sat on his side porch and Brian Blume, Gary's partner in the company, taught me how to roll up a character. I rolled a good Intelligence and Dexterity and made my first, magical character. We sat and played, without using any miniatures, yet I simply can't describe how much fun I had, and continued to have, as the weeks and months went by.

Miniatures filled Gary's house. He liked to play miniature games as well as role-playing ones, and all time periods were represented from ancients to WWII. The medieval wargame rules Chainmail had been published, and the fantasy version was being written and playtested. Miniatures for fantasy games weren't being made in 1974. Scruby wouldn't start his fantasy figures at 30mm until 1975. Ral Partha was just a gleam in Chuck Crane's and Jack Hesselbrock's eyes and wouldn't start until 1975 as well. Grenadier was also a start-up company in that year. All of these companies would end up making wonderful fantasy figures.

I'm not sure which came first, playing with figures in the Boot Hill western RPG or playing with figures in the D&D game. I do, however, have a distinct memory of miniatures in both games. In the D&D game, Gary put out the first bugbear figure. Naturally, as enthusiastic gamers, we all wanted to get in and strike at the monster. Before miniature figures, all six of us would have just swung away. Now that we had figures for our characters and the foes we faced, we realized the difficulty of fighting in close quarters. Our figures showed there wasn't room for all of those warrior and cleric bodies to crowd into the action. Imagine our horror and disgust when only three of us were able to chop at the bugbear. Suddenly, we had to think about tactics. The need to know who did the most damage changed how we played the game.

As a side note, in that early time (1974-75) when there were no commercially-available figures for wizards, dwarves, elves, and halflings, there were plenty of human warriors from historical games. It was possible to approximate dwarves and halflings with 15mm human figures. What there were, however, was lots of fun, plastic Western figures. We had cavalry, Indians, townsfolk, sheriffs, and Texas Rangers. I was just learning how to paint miniatures in those days, and it sure was enjoyable working on my player characters and other figures that I needed for the Boot Hill campaign. I was Don Diego Ward with two sirviente (servant ladies) following me all the time. No one knew until the bullets started flying that those two ladies were greased lightning shots who carried pistols in their clutch purses.

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