RIP Hunter

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Caveat Emptor: a Larp product review

I have been doing a lot of looking at really great EU style LARPs and decided to do some internet research into getting my first Latex LARP weapon. I knew they were more expensive than the traditional boffers that I had been using since 1995 but as much as you suspend your disbelief, it is still a foam tube and not really sword-like in shape.

On Amazon, I only found one item billed as a "Full Contact Foam Sword," but it was at a great price compared to the other weapons I had sourced previously. I attempted to find some reviews of the item (labeled Exotath by Kit Rae, who had designed the "wall hanger" 440 steel version). Unfortunately, I was only able to find one Youtube review by a gentleman that was new to the sport of LARP combat. Eventually, I was able to determine that this was the first attempt of Kit Rae to make a foam version and as a result most of the retailers that had this item in stock had merely ordered the catalog of live steel blades as per normal and were not sure how to get rid of this foam thing. This was a good thing for me as I was able to order it at 1/2 the MSRP. I ordered it on Friday, it shipped on Monday and was here for Thursday. So far so good.

It appears that they molded this off the live steel version directly, and design-wise it is breathtaking. The detail is all well formed and distinct, and the coloring and shading are very effective at giving you the impression of metal. It handles very well, although the balance is a bit further forward than boffer weapons due to the large cross guard and foregrip. The seam is done well and only really noticeable on the handle, which is why I figure most companies wrap the handles in suede. The weapon is a bit heavier than a new style boffer but still very light compared to the weapons we used 15 years ago when I started. At 3' 8" this one handed sword is great for fast swings and blocks, the blade is excellent in composition, having the right amount of flex but not excessive whip. The main problem is that as the blade tapers down to the tip it follows the line of the live steel blade and gets very thin; this results in it being very dense and not having a lot of give. Basic physics tells us that if you apply force to a wedge the force at the point would be significantly more than if it was applied evenly, after all. It should be noted that the thrusting tip was very good and had a lot of flex, the core stopping about 2 inches before the blade point. Unfortunately, after taking it to a Realms practice and conferring with other players the consensus was that while it was a safe weapon it was not ideal for LARP combat and would result in more painful hits than necessary in a "lightest touch system". While I would have no problem using the sword safely, I would not relish fighting against it due to the extremely unpleasant sting and bruising that would result.

I guess you get what you pay for. To be fair I gambled on a good intentioned first attempt and with the 100% satisfaction guarantee from United Cutlery, all I should lose is a little time, and some very reasonable shipping costs.

In Summation;

Gorgeous piece, great for Feasts, Ren Faires or Conventions
Well designed in all areas except the striking surface
Seems extremely durable (obviously this is just an impression as I won't be putting it though significant paces)

Not listed on any known LARP Approved weapons list I could find
Not designed for lightest touch LARP combat

If you are buying for a good looking prop, at the $40 price range it is not likely to be beat. If you are buying for a good, safe workhorse of a LARP combat weapon this should be avoided like a Toys R Us Nerf sword.

I enjoyed my time with the Kit Rae Exotath but she is going back in the morning, and after the couple weeks it will take to get my money back I will be looking to order a different Latex LARP weapon, but I will need to do a bit more research to make sure I get a good product and not just a good price.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Squad logo

{courtesy of Ms. E}

There's a wolverine, of course, and black clouds to symbolize the Day of Mourning. (Coincidentally, clouds in heraldry symbolize mystery or obscured truth.) There's also a scaling ladder and tower, which symbolize being fearless in attacking, and being on guard against enemies both spiritual and corporeal. The bend (diagonal line across the shield) symbolizes military victory and honors. The colors - gold, meant to show elevation of the mind, silver for sincerity, red for military strength, and black for constancy - show off the different personalities of our party well, I think. Finally, I found this nifty, steam-punk-y graphic art that I layered in the background in place of the traditional mantle (scroll work).

Ah, and of course, the motto - 'Fragosus Viam Ducent' - which is Latin for 'Crash leads the way.'

Monday, July 26, 2010

Patchwork Wolverines yearbook photos

Doctor Tesla Volks





Brainstorming for the future

Since our game has been on hold, I have been thinking about that I would want to run should I decide to dip a toe back into DMing. It is freeing to know that you don't have a deadline and can really let your imagination stretch a bit.

Setting wise, I really am falling in love with Eberron, but might need to retcon some of the Drow lore. I have no problem with the Eberron Canon of them being more tribal and surface dwelling, but thankfully Pg.197 of the Eberron Campaign Guide discusses a possibility of a split having taken place between the worshipers of the SpiderQueen and the Xen'drik drow worshiping Vulkoor the Scorpion God.

The Underdark version of Drow would be a nice surprise for the party as the character's will have not encountered this breed previously but you know PCs. They can't help but get a goosebump or 2 when their metagame senses start to tingle. I would love to introduce them to their first Drow via roumor and innuendo of townsfolk. Something like this.

Rumors: check results…

dc 10 should tell them that there is a vigilante in the woods

dc 15 should tell them that it is a ranged weapon user, aka bowman in the woods killing bandits

dc 20 the vigilante is thin, wears a dark cloak and has dark skin

dc 25 is accompanied by a dark large cat like creature

Hopefully, they will get the impression that you have some sort of Robin Hood or Drizzt out there, I suppose you could lead them as far down that road as you wanted too...especially if their characters start asking leading questions that would lead them to assume it was everyone's favorite good aligned Drow ranger.

Npc idea: Drow Ranger w/Displacer beast companion

Shadows the party.

When she decides to confront the party, they must roll to notice her,

Then to notice her pet…seeing only her will show a rustling behind her but not the Displacer beast.

I am not wanting her to be evil per sea but certainly she will not be on the pc's side nor good aligned despite the townsfolk's creative imagining.

Next idea comes with the party being sent out to investigate a haunting that has been plaguing a farming community in the Nightwood between the borders of The Mourning and Karrnath. The Farmers complain of there fields being trampled and hearing the sounds of a great battle during the night. They are too afraid to investigate in the pitch black dark but in the light of day they find discarded weapons, scraps of armor and cloth, footprints, piles of ash and puddles of blood but never any bodies. The party will eventually discover that this area is the subject of a nocturnal turf war between some Vampires from Karrnath and some Drow from the Underdark of Khyber.

next week we start back into our game, and I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

On vacation, back on the 30th of July

"GET OFF MY LAWN!!!" "Run, old man B.Holder is home!"

sorry for the delay, team has been on vacation, bbqing, generally hanging out with old friends, getting a little air and sun. Twitpics posted on twitter on Friday nights from 6ish to 11ish

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Never Split the Party!

Jumping into the story in the middle, we had just retrieved an artifact for Lady Elaydren d'Cannith from the bowels of the valves below Sharn. In doing so we managed to curry her favor; she informed us that we could check a message drop occasionally to see if she required our services in the future. After researching a map at Morgrave University, we made our weekly check at the message drop only to find that the scribe had been assaulted and a missive intended for us had been intercepted by some as-yet-unknown third party. We made haste to attempt to contact the Lady, only to be dive bombed by a courier owl. The scroll the owl dropped gave us directions to a hurried meeting at our usual inn. Upon arrival she provided us with an adventuring pack containing all the pertinent intel and equipment we would need for our new expedition and begged us to leave directly. Intending to do exactly as we had been instructed, our plans were nevertheless immediately interrupted by yet another Warforged-lead brute squad. Having been harried by Warforged at every turn and given the impression that these were agents of the fabled Lord of Blades, we worked quickly to dispatch them and make good our escape on the Lightning Rail. Our arrival in Sterngate was quick; we set out with a caravan as bodyguards, but the driver who hired us left out few details - namely, what exactly we would be expected to deal with. We took the job because it ostensibly afforded us some safety in numbers and a quick 25GP per member. We figured it would be a standard job, maybe some dangerous wildlife or band of brigands, but we were in for quite a surprise.

Upon entering a rocky mountain pass, we were stunned to see two large carrion crawlers and three masses of crawling hands....dismembered, animated crawling masses of corpse hands. This was unsettling to say the least. From the high banks, a squeaky voice called down "Kill them, kill them all my pets!" We had wandered into a trap set by a crafty necromancer; one that our ranger, Rithik, named j'Den Var (as he sang a version of "Rocky Mountain High"). Our bad luck started very early when we lost much of our initiative to the monstrous horde before us. Swarms are nasty to start with, these especially; if one starts next to you, it gets an attack. On it's turn it attacks everyone adjacent to it. If it hits, it afflicts you with immobilization, no save, until the end of its next turn. basically, if it gets next you and hits will attack you twice a round and keep you locked down next to it. Nasty, to be sure, but you still can beat it down, right? Well...swarms only take half damage from non-area of effect attacks (although they take extra damage if you do hit them with AoE effects). Unfortunately, we had some serious issues with this, as our druid is the only one of us with AoE abilities (apart from my Thunderwave Wand), and she needed to be on top of them to hit them. Couple this with the fact that her powers are not "at will"s but encounter and daily use abilities, and we were in some serious trouble, with the druid as our only hope to handle the three swarms (which had bloodied our ranger on the first round). Hindsight being what it always is, the mistakes made by all of us are obvious - perhaps the biggest being positioning ourselves in two groups, with more then 5 squares between the Artificer, Ranger and Druid combating the swarms and the Fighter and Avenger dealing with the crawlers and the necromancer. The crawlers' poison and the necromancer's debuffs kept 2 of them locked down away from us, and my Artificer was having to use every bit of healing he could scrape up, including running up to the fallen and administering Potions of Healing to keep them in the fight.

We might even have seen the ultimate end of this coming; prior to leaving Sharn, we found ourselves flush with funds and were debating what magic items we might want to procure while in the City of Towers, not knowing when the next time we would have access to so many vendors would be. Someone made a comment that perhaps we should keep some of the funds to the side, in case we need to get someone a resurrection. I commented instantly that you never question the streak and you don't jinx us with bad mojo. It was foretold. It was Prophesy. As soon as we let our tactics slip, step one foot out of line...break one of the cardinal rules for even a second...someone was destined to break our streak.
Might as well be the newbie, right?

The fight was eventually won, but not before most of the party had been up and down like Weeble Wobbles and thankfully j'Den Var was well equipped. When we pulled into Darguun, we bee lined to the nearest temple to get our Druid back among the breathing. I made sure to stay clear of the caravan driver, knowing that if he walked up to me to hand me 25GP after failing to inform us of the situation that caused our Druid friend to meet the bad end of a raw deal, I would punch him square in his nose, John Wayne style...Pilgrim.

For a first character death, it was not overly traumatic, given that she was only level 3 and only was dead for about 15 minutes of play time. It does, however, teach the lesson and remind those of us that should know better:

You Never Split the Party.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

42nd Airbourne Patchwork Wolverines

42nd Airborne
Patchwork Wolverines

Unit was assigned to take in the orphans of other decimated units and use their eclectic skills and backgrounds to infiltrate, assess and exterminate in the area around the borders of Cyre.

Became known as the Patchwork Wolverines; although it is an unusual collection of misfits of all race, national origin and skill backgrounds, they quickly developed a stellar record of accomplishing any mission with which it was tasked.

Outfitted with one commandeered merchant shipping zeppelin to ease its transport in to infested areas, the team would often improvise, adapt and overcome the obstacles of being tasked with little Intel and almost no resources.

Team members:
Ritik :Half-Orc Ranger
Shadow :Longtooth Druid
Hirien : Elven Avenger
Crash : Warforged Fighter
Dr T. Volks: Deva Artificer

Doctor Tesla Volks:
Having sought knowledge for the span of 3 previous lives he has grown tired of war. Although he would rather retire to his academic studies and his dream to sail the skies and see the world and its wonders, he is unable to turn a blind eye to the suffering of the people of Eberron; the refugees, the orphans, the elderly. Preferring to solve his problems with research and knowledge rather than cold steel and bad intentions, he spent much of his war time learning skills to aid the effort while minimizing the blood on his hands. He was a 2nd grade helmsman, 3rd level engineer’s assistant, chief medical officer, and cook’s assistant as the need arose. When deployed he would always attempt to gather as much Intel about the situation using his eclectic tools and skills as possible, often confounding his squad mates by tasting, smelling or prodding some mound of dirt, tree or rock and making a proclamation with astounding accuracy.
When pressed into combat, his primary thoughts are to preserve the life of his companions and assist them medically and with arcane infusions of shared power. Sadly, sometimes a person is set on killing or being killed, and be it for flag, or faith….it’s you or them.

Dr. Volks is festooned with all manner of arcane, mechanical, astrological, and scientific instruments; sundials, Shepard’s watches, scroll cases, astrolabes, vials, meters, thermometers and a dozen or so different versions of tuning forks. He wears a set of brass goggles with several lenses and attachments usually slung around his neck or the brim of his top hat when not in use.
He has a dapper set of gentlemen’s clothes and doctor’s smock which is covered with pouches and gear strapped for ease of access. He wears a long brown leather duster decorated with his war time unit patch and about 5 small job badges but no battle markers or medals, it has several deep pockets and large bags strapped around his shoulders.

Armed with a large brass spanner wrench (Morningstar), a repeating crossbow, and he uses one of his tuning fork implements as a wand.

Eberron: Pulp, Noir, Steampunk...what's not to like?

After a few weeks of the Playtest version of DarkSun that our DM (ted) picked up at PAX-East, one of our players and his wife had Twins and we decided to shift our weekly game over to Eberron until his "daddy schedule" levels out and the official book comes out later this year. Having skipped most of 3rd ED and all of 3.5, I missed out on the phenomenal run that Eberron had. For those of you that might not know, the Eberron campaign setting is basically the dream that all DM's have when they make a world and populate it with countries, gods, and all the minutiae that breathes life into a universe. Much like an author, you set the objects in motion but with a campaign setting, you give up control of your stage and your puppets to a new group of puppet masters. Keith Baker was one of the more than 11,000 entries that competed in Wizards of the Coast's Fantasy Setting Search, not only did it win and get published but it then won the Origins Award for Best Roleplaying Game Supplement of 2004. Baker has written on the history and factions involved in Eberron but stands steadfast that the canon of the setting ends 4 years after the Day of Mourning. This strikes me as particularly unselfish of him. Eberron has several story arcs that spread well over 30 novels, comics and anthologies, all of which Baker has allowed to remain separate from his world. This is in polar opposition to settings like Forgotten Realms, where established lore characters are so overwhelming in scale that the PCs are second class citizens by comparison or Dragonlance where the PCs can barely hope to be witnesses to the established story line by playing the canon characters.

I have really be enjoying the setting and the new edition now that I have a half dozen sessions under my belt.

My new PC is a Deva Artificer, I specifically did not "munchkin" him out for combat, instead nudging his stats and skill to make him more of a thinker; part inventor, part detective. I was inspired by an episode of the Critical Hit podcast to have him do his magic and investagations by observing vibrations, as such the best implement for the job seemed to be a tuning fork, or a lot of tuning forks steampunked up for all manner of situations. I picked the name Doctor Tesla Volks, the last name is a cool but throwaway PC name, the first was in honor of the most prototypical Artificer I could think of. The title of Doctor is twofold, as a leader class he is responsible for keeping the part in fighing form but as an immortal that "regenerates" upon death and fights with sonic weaponry he reminds me of a D & D version of a TimeLord. Not THE Doctor but certainly one of his kith and kin.

any interested parties can view images of our game via twitter, Pictures are sent to TwitPic during the games on Sundays between approx. 6 to 11 PM EST.

or at our listing at Pen and Paper Games.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cracking the Spine: first thoughts on pages 1-60

Very brief first thoughts on the first 60 pages.

After flipping though the book a bit, I could understand some of the comparisons to MMORPGs, one of the original criticisms I had read was that 4th ed had become the equivalent of playing a video game Rpg vs a traditional pen and paper Rpg. A PC now seems to gain notable character upgrades on even levels much like the leveling curve in World of Warcraft.

Use of grid maps and figures seems to be almost mandatory since the 3rd Ed. This seems to move away from the cinematic role playing element at first but given that Gary Gygax designed the original version to focus on a single character per player vs the old larger scale war games.

Class roles: clearly the ideas of a tank, healer and dps are not new but were never really focused on the way they are in this edition, expanding it to include crowd control and Area of Effect attacks. Parties must be set up a lot like WoW instancing groups.

Powers: Abilities with cooldowns instead of the old spell pool or having to state what spells you are specifically memorizing for the day. I am sure this is deeper, I just haven't read that far yet.

Alignments: From 9 very good almost all encompassing personality concepts down to 5. All 5 seem to be attempting to shoehorn you into being a good, lawful, both or apathetic type of character. Why? What was wrong with the old way? The only thought is too many Munchkins playing Chaotic Neutral for the "I'll do what I want, whenever I want" factor. I still don't understand why Chaos = Evil in as such that it is too potent to let the PCs play that alignment.

Deities: The set of standard gods vs the ones that are usually setting specific seems to fit pretty well. After all pallys and clerics will need someone to call too. Again, no expanded outlines on any gods devoted to evil or chaos.

Leveling Tiers: 3 tiers, seems very cinematic, the rising scope of powers and abilities lends it self to an epic trilogy, pretty well.

Races: being an old school player, I am used to the Lord of the Rings races being the standard. However, playing the bad guys be they, drow, orcs, or any other creature in the Monster Manual has always ended up being included in one supplement or another. The inclusion of Dragon Born and Tieflings is sure to stimulate some interest beyond the vanilla, and I know that the trend of adding classes and races continues in the 2nd and 3rd volumes of the Players Handbook. Interestingly to me, they have removed all stat minuses from all the races. The inclusion of a specific racial ability helps make tuning a specific character concept a lot more enticing.

Power Sources: not sure what the point is yet, hasn't been explained this early in the book.

Paragon Paths: similar to MMO speccs, a way to greater tune your abilities to a firm concept. Might be somewhat limiting compared to the wide open possibilities of the previous editions. However, the specific paths may give a big power boost in the desired direction.

Powers: seem better organized and easier to know exactly what you can and can't do, when and how often.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Administrative note

Blog posts relating to sessions may run as long as the intro, but alot of the observations and musings will be much shorter and more frequent.
For example: Alot of people have compared 4th Ed to MMO's, I am just starting on the book but I can see it a little.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Level One: bring on the kobolds

I was about 8 years old when I first got the D&D red box, and by the time I graduated from high school I was playing RPGs about 4-5 nights of the week. Different groups, different games, houses and shops. Yeah, I was a geek, but hey, I had no interest in drugs or alcohol, televised sports, or going clubbing. Instead, I had a social group of between 30-50 friends and another 25 associated folks in the scene. It was a pretty good peer group to associate with, people coming from all walks of life; all ages, social, economic and racial backgrounds. One day, while playing a homebrew Ranma 1/2 inspired game I met some boff LARPers. I eventually ended up losing much of my weekends to Live Action Role Playing or LARPing (think Role Models LAIRE, but with better sites and less budget for costuming) on the geek scale it was sort of a lateral move, perhaps even a level or three down since you have to own and wear some funky stuff. At least with LARPing, you are getting out in the fresh air and getting some exercise. The group I was with was pretty tight so we would still pen-and-paper RP during the week, but as the years stretched by and I had more and more ex-girlfriends around the game it started to get old. World of Warcraft was already 2 years old by then, and most all of my friends had already fallen under its sway. I had avoided it, having once lost a summer to Everquest and not wanting to repeat the process. Eventually, I stopped LARPing and was only RPing with my roommate and a group of girls at a local liberal arts college. When I was offered a chance to roll a toon in WoW by one of my girlfriend's pals, I gave it a shot. Within the next week, I had my WoW account and was slowly on my way down the MMO path. Now I assure you the first guild I was with was great, very active and social. Good people; fun to talk to, very supportive, but not quite the same as interacting with people offline. On top of that, a social guild that does not raid gets a bit old. So I left my old guildies in search of "Phat L00tz" and ended up in another good and social guild that did at least some raiding. After getting myself "epiced" up, the guild hit a stumbling block and started to fall apart. Without the social interaction aspect my interest in the game began to dwindle, until I eventually stopped completely. After a year off WoW and the release of another expansion, I returned and still play, but in a very limited way; a few hours here and there, no raiding. On a leap of faith, I sent a Facebook message to a friend of mine that I had known since high school but had fallen out of contact with, and he offered to let me join his weekly game. This blog is intended to track my thoughts on reconnecting with that aspect of my life.