Saying Goodbye to a Good Girl

I’ve had quite a few dogs in my life, and I’ve loved every one of them with all my heart and soul. Josie still stands out. She was unbelievably sweet. Meek and mild, but ridiculously vivacious. Josie was a rescue. We actually went down to the place interested in a different dog that we’d seen online, and as we walked through the door saw that dog being adopted.

“We’re not leaving without a dog,” my wife informed me … and I agreed.

It had been about 6 months since our last dog had passed away. Kopper was 8 years old when he passed, after having gone through more trouble than any dog should ever have – he had a twisted leg, went blind at age 2, had to have his tail amputated due to a large growth … Kopper was a mess, but we loved him. After having to put him down, I didn’t know if I could go through it again. Six months later, I knew I needed the pitter-patter of dog feet around the house, and so off we went.

With our chosen dog out of the running, we started looking through their online guide. While doing that, my wife noticed Josie sitting in the rescue office. She had obviously just been passed by by somebody else, and was on her way back to the kennels.

“That’s Josie,” my wife said, “I remember her. I want Josie.”

So we met Josie, who ignored us while she was excitedly looking at the other animals up for adoption, and decided somehow that she was the one. Well – look at those pictures – how could we pass this sweet girl by.

Josie was only 2 when we adopted her. At 4-1/2, she contracted a rare and untreatable cancer. Three days ago, we had to put her down. She’d had 6 more weeks of walks and love (and for Josie, walks were almost the same thing as love) after her diagnosis, but was finally stuggling to breath, and was unable to eat. I sat on the floor of the examining room of our family vet and comforted her while she breathed her last. It was as hard as anything I’ve ever done.

So now I’m writing this, because Josie deserves a eulogy. She was a precious little gift from God, and we’ll miss her terribly.

Hug your pets, your kids, your spouses, your parents and siblings an everyone you love every time you see them. Hug them, and love them, and value them, folks. That’s what makes life worth living.

Death and You-Know-What

Here’s an idea for a dungeon encounter to frighten, or at least annoy the players.

Coming towards them down a corridor, the adventurers see a robed, skeletal figure holding a scythe, reaching out to them. If they flee, they soon see the figure again, coming down a different corridor towards them. The creature can be avoided at top speed, but it always comes back. Missiles and spells thrown at it do nothing. It does not speak, but its eyes do glow a glaring gold.

When the creature finally catches up to the adventurers, they discover that the figure is not Death, but rather his cousin, Taxes. The figure demands a percentage of their treasure, hands them a receipt, and then goes quietly back into the shadows.

The 90s Syndicate

It was 1987, and I was super excited in the cereal aisle at the grocery store. This was not uncommon in childhood, of course – it just took an awesome prize in a box of sugar goodness – but I was a teenager in ’87 and the excitement was due to an ad for something called Star Trek: The Next Generation on the back of a cereal box. This was my introduction to the show, and I remember telling my dad – the source of my Star Trek love – about how cool it looked, with a new ship, new crew … and that there was going to be a klingon on the Enterprise!

Back in the 80’s, syndicated TV was mostly the domain of game shows like Wheel of Fortune until Star Trek: The Next Generation showed up. I remember that it was a big story when The Next Generation managed to beat Wheel of Fortune’s ratings. Fast forward 30+ years, and though I’m sorry to say the show doesn’t do much for me these days, I am thankful for the syndicated TV goodness it helped spawn.

The syndicated shows of the 90’s almost never had as much budget as they needed, but they were all cool and creative. Because of the time in which they were made, they have a distinct look that I suspect really triggers good vibes for many Gen-X’ers.

Here are a few of my favorites – check them out if they’re new to you, or renew an old friendship if you remember them from way back when:

The Flash (1990-1991)

Not syndicated, but I sorta wish it had been after it was cancelled. We’ve been watching these lately, having scored a super cheap DVD set of the complete series at Zia Records, and I must say I’m enjoying them. The show was far from perfect, but it had some great moments and I genuinely like the people in it. The sad thing about Flash is that it only made it to TV because of the success of 1989’s Batman, and as a result ended up with a Danny Elfwood score and an awkward aesthetic borrowed from Batman and Dick Tracy. The style just seems out of place to me, and though it doesn’t ruin the shows, it doesn’t help them either. On the other hand, it’s full of absolutely beautiful mid-century cars, so that’s pretty cool. The Flash costume was a little jarring as well, but c’est la vie.

We were watching some of the new Flash episodes, but gradually got out of them when they did the stupid time travel bit for the umpteenth time. I really loved see Shipp reprise his role in the series, though.

Oh – and who doesn’t love Amanda Pays? So smart and cool – on Flash as well as Max Headroom. She did a fun guest appearance on Psych as a date for Corbin Bernsen’s character on the series, which is another family favorite.

I think my favorite Flash episode is “Beat the Clock”, which has a pre-What’s Love Got to Do With It Angela Bassett, and good performances by Ken Foree and Thomas Mikal Ford.

Highlander: The Series (1992-1997)

In my normal backwards way, I discovered this show way before I saw the movie … and if I’m honest, when I finally saw the movie I preferred Adrian Paul to Christopher Lambert as the immortal. I think it was that darn overcoat they had him wearing in the movie – looked like it belonged on Harpo Marx. I did enjoy introducing my daughter to the Kurgan, though, and then revealing he was the voice of Mr. Krabs.

Being a history-buff, I loved all the past lives of Duncan McLeod. I think I enjoyed the stuff set in the past more than that set in the modern day. I remember being super-jazzed to see Roland Gift from Fine Young Cannibals and Roger Daltry in some episodes. Highlander really had some legs, but I didn’t stick with it all the way to the end … by 1997 I was married and about a year away from having a kid, so life sort of got in the way. Still, the awesome opening will always stick with me. God bless Freddie Mercury!

Friday the 13th: The Series (1987-1990)

Okay – this series sort of screws up my premise that Next Generation led the way with cool syndicated shows, since it was also first-run syndication and showed up at about the same time. Oh well – it’s my story and I’m sticking to it, facts or no facts!

I don’t have a long-term relationship with the horror genre. I was never into the Friday the 13th movies, or really any contemporary horror movies in my youth. I didn’t grow up with that stuff, so all the blood and guts and shock horror really freaked me out. Classic Universal horror movies I could do … but Leatherface, Jason, Freddie, Michael Myers, flesh-eating zombies, etc. – no sir. Not my cup of tea.

That’s why I don’t know how I ended up watching Friday the 13th: The Series. It has almost nothing to do with the movies – I might remember there being some tiny thread connecting them, but I’m not sure. The premise – which would work beautifully for a horror RPG campaign, is as follows:

Lewis Vendredi made a deal with the devil to sell cursed antiques. But he broke the pact, and it cost him his soul. Now, his niece Micki, and her cousin Ryan have inherited the store… and with it, the curse. Now they must get everything back, and the real terror begins.

It now occurs to me why I started watching it – Louise Robey as Micki. She was pretty darn cute. Still, it was the show’s concept that got me to stick with the show. Each week, a new evil artifact was introduced and off the two leads went, trying to bring it back to the shop to end the curse. It was much more in the vein of Outer Limits than gory 80’s horror movies. I remember it fondly, and should really check back into it.

She-Wolf of London / Love & Curses (1990-1991)

Originally titled She Wolf of London, I caught one or two of the later episodes when it was renamed Love & Curses , and always wanted to see more. A bunch of them are posted on YouTube (how do they not get fined a billion bucks a year for aiding and abetting copyright violations?), but I’m happy to say I picked up the entire series on DVD last week for $12 – sweet price, even I end up not liking them much.

In this series, a woman named Randi Wallace (played by Kate Hodge) who travels to England to study the occult is attacked by a werewolf on the moors and becomes a lycanthrope. Her companion, Professor Ian Matheson (played by Neil Dickson), helps her deal with her curse while they run around encountering all sorts of supernatural evils and stuff. I love good, old fashioned episodic TV with fun characters.

Love & Curses could be a good set-up for a campaign as well, with one PC having a werewolf curse (or something similar) and the others having to survive dangerous adventures AND their dangerous friend.

And yeah, I had a thing for Kate Hodge as well …

So what 80’s/90’s syndicated stuff do you remember loving? Let me know in the comments – remember, sharing is caring!

Daddy-o Appreciation Day

Hey all you cats and kittens – just a quick note today in between Father’s Day festivities (my dad and fam was over yesterday, wife’s dad and fam today) to wish all the dads and their loved ones out there a happy day.

In case you have some time today for fine cinema, enjoy this little gem from MST3K (ah, the old Comedy Central days – MST3K, Kids in the Hall) … Daddy-O:

Fun side note – a guy I worked with at the Video Park was friends with Dick Contino’s son. It’s a small world afterall!

For GRIT & VIGOR fans out there, here are some game stats for good old Daddy-O (or just about any other similar character from an old misunderstood-teenager b-movie)

Daddy-O

Grease-Monkey

AL NG, LVL 3, HP 14, AC 12, ATK +1, SV F12 R10 W12

Str 12 Int 11 Wis 13 Dex 16 Con 12 Cha 14

Special: Fearless (+2 save vs. fear), temporarily increase physical ability score (+1 for 3 rd), use wrenches as maces in combat, maximum performance from motor vehicles, +10% to motor vehicle’s top speed, apply combat feats to vehicles, +1 to attack and +1 damage to constructs

Knacks: Communicate, Mechanics, Perform

Skills: Appraise Value (Cars), Drive Car, Endure, Mechanics, Ride Bike, Search

Feats: Fancy Driving, Leadership, Stuntman

Weapons: None

Family Game Night Reviews

Because setting yourself up for failure is fun, I’m going to take a shot at getting a post up each weekend in 2020. They might not all be strictly gaming related … but what the heck – it’s my blog and I suppose I can do what I want with it!

To kick 2020 off, I’ll do some “timely” game reviews. I had some time off this Christmas season, so the family had time for a couple family game nights. We had a few games recently purchased and un-played, so we gave them a twirl.

First up is Charlie’s Angels, published in 1977 by Milton Bradley. I’m a total sucker for any board game involving a 1970’s or 1980’s TV property (well, almost all of them), so when we saw this baby priced $20 in an antique shop, it was a shoo-in.

I instantly called Sabrina when we got the game home, but we soon discovered that each player takes control of their own team of Angels for the game, so no fighting over the individual Angels is required. The game concept is kinda cool. You have a board that is a sort of a modified grid. Onto this grid you place the Villain. The Villain moves one space on each player’s turn, the direction of the move chosen by the player in question. The player then rolls two dice and can move one of his or her angels each with each dice. If you can’t move the entire number on the dice with an Angel, you give up your move.

The goal is to trap the Villain – sort of a Charlie’s Angels checkmate. Each Angel that is in on the trapping is worth one point for their player. You play three games, total the points, and determine the winner. There are some cards that can be helpful … or harmful … so you take a risk pulling one. You also have to think a bit about how you want to move the Villain – you don’t want to be left out of the capture, so sometimes you’re really on the Villain’s side in the game. We had a good time with Charlie’s Angels, with the game ending in a three-way tie – not a bad ending for a family game.

One issue – I noted that the rules did not specifically disallow moving back on your path on your turn. They probably should have, because this seemed to make the game too easy, and it just didn’t feel right.

Next up was a funny little dice game – really a packaged version of old dice rules – called Skunk. Simple concept – you have two dice to roll. The dice replace the “1” with a skunk. On their turn, a player takes the dice and can roll them as often as they like, totaling the points rolled. If they roll a skunk, they get no points for this turn and have to pay a penalty (1 chip, or 2 if you rolled a skunk and a “2”). If you roll two skunks, you lose all the points you’ve acquired and pay a 4 chip penalty. To win, a player must get his total above 100 – she can go as high above 100 as she dares. Once a player goes over 100, the other players have to try to beat them on their next turn. The chips in the pot do to the winner of each round.

The game is really all about risk – how daring are you, and how lucky?

In our first game, I managed to zero-out midway through. When my daughter went over 100, I needed something like 60 points to beat her. I started rolling, got hot, and actually won the game. On our third game, I decided to do exactly that each turn, figuring I might eventually get hot again … and wound up rolling a skunk every time on my first or second roll.

We had a fun time with Skunk, and since up to 8 people can play it would probably make a fun party game. To make it more “grown up” you could turn it into a drinking game, with a drink taken on every skunk or double skunk. I suppose you could also play Strip Skunk … but then again, maybe not.

Finally, we have Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Game, published in 2000, also by Milton Bradley. We bought this one for my daughter for Christmas, and she was raring to play it. It took a while to read the rules, but they weren’t too complicated and we had a good time playing it.

I took control of the bad guys, while my wife had to play Oz and Xander and my daughter got Buffy and Willow. The game is fun, pretty fast paced, and pretty easy to figure out. Evil sure looked like it was going to win this one – in short order, two of the goodies were out of the game and Evil had all the magic items. In the end, though, Buffy and Willow knocked off the evil minions and then teamed up on the Evil vampire and snuffed him out. Fortunately for them, the main villain doesn’t automatically get to move every turn. My guy spent three turns in a row not moving while they beat the crap out of him. C’est la vie.

So there you have it – three fun games for the family. All were purchased in antique stores for low prices and all were well worth it.

Mom

A couple years ago, I lost my mother to a brain tumor. It came out of nowhere, and it was shocking and horrible. I spent a couple months after she died knowing I had not fully dealt with the loss, but also not realizing that the knot in my stomach that barely allowed me to eat and sleep was caused by those emotions. It’s funny how one can overlook the obvious. I finally, one day, stopped at the cemetery where she is buried. I was alone, and was finally able to break down and cry. Boy – what a cry. And after the cry, the knot was gone and I was finally on the path to dealing with my loss. I wasn’t done – there have been other cries, and much thinking about my own mortality and how it may affect my loved ones – but I was at least dealing with it.

I know this is technically a day late, but …

Mom – I love you and miss you! You put much good in me with your love and teaching and joking and, yes, your punishing when I needed it. And by golly, when I was a bored and lonely teenage nerd, you even played D&D with me. What more love can any mother have for her son?

Faux Fiends

Illustration by
Arthur H Young

A while back I started a project of converting old monsters for B&T, but changing the names and descriptions so I could just make them open content. I’m not done yet, mostly because I’m planning to illustrate the monsters with nothing but public domain stuff to keep the project “cost effective”, or, as I would put it, cheap.

Since I’m always looking for ways to keep this blog alive, I figured posting a few of these monsters would be a good idea. To keep things interesting, I’ll also post a few old classics from the blog and NOD magazine updated to the new B&T.

Ampe
Type: Monster
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 16
Attack: Fists (1d4)
Move: 30′
Save: 14
Intelligence: Low
Alignment: Neutral (N)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 600/7

SD—Immune (electricity)

Ampes are annoying dungeon monsters that hook up with parties (whether they like it or not) and follow them around, getting in the way and making an inordinate amount of noise. They fight to defend themselves, but not the party they are following. They are shaggy humanoids with pointed faces. Ampes are always hungry and thirsty, and they have a terrible lust for treasure, being able to detect precious metals and gems up to 100′ away. If fed or given drink, it becomes wonderfully loyal to its benefactor, but this loyalty ends if the ampe is not given at least 30% of any coins and/or gems its benefactor finds.

Ampes store up great amounts of static electricity in their bodies, and can generate 50 points of electricity damage each day through their touch. It need not inflict all 50 points of damage with a single touch. If it drains all of this power, it immediately falls asleep for one hour, during which time is regenerates up to 25 points of static charge; recharging completely requires another 7 hours of sleep.

Ampes can weave their own hair into nets, which they carry around their waists like belts.

Cyborg
Type: Monster
Size: Medium
Hit Dice: 4
Armor Class: 16
Attack: Bite (1d8) and hook (1d6 + trip) or claw (1d6 + constrict) or ray gun (see below)
Move: 30′
Save: 15
Intelligence: Average
Alignment: Chaotic (CE)
No. Appearing: 1d4
XP/CL: 400/5

These cybernetic outlaws know no fear. They are equipped with metal jaws that can bite through nearly anything (+2 to sunder attacks) and mechanical arms with exchangeable attachments: Ray gun, hook or claw. Cyborgs can store unused weapons on their belts; it takes a full round to exchange one attachment for another.

Dune Devil
Type: Elemental (Earth)
Size: Large
Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 17 [+1]
Attack: Shriek (60′/2d6 sonic)
Move: 30′
Save: 14; MR 30%
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Chaotic (NE)
No. Appearing: 1
XP/CL: 1,800/8

Dune devils are gangling monsters who stalk blazing deserts at high sun, feasting on the good and letting the wicked alone. Although they are called “devils”, they are no relation to the actual devils of Hell. Dune devils are brought to the material plane by magical summons. They are peerless trackers (90%). The monster attacks with a shriek. By pressing its lips against a creature, it can kill them instantly (save to negate).

 

Support the Illustrated Bestiary of Fantastic Creatures

Got an email yesterday from Casey Sorrow, who is starting a Kickstarter to finance his An Illustrated Bestiary of Fantastic Creatures. Casey produces some amazing art, and the book promises to be game rules-neutral. That being said, it sure has an old school feel to me. Throw some bucks his way, so the mighty Casey doesn’t strike out! (Yes, I deserve whatever punishment the universe summons up for that one.)

You can find the Kickstarter HERE

You can find Casey’s website HERE

Thieves, Giants and She-Devils [Mystery Men!]

In the last article in this series, I laid out the basics of using Mystery Men! for a Swords and Sorcery-style campaign, the likes of which you’ve probably read in Conan or Red Sonja comics.

This article continues this with some thoughts on the idea of thieves.

MM! uses three classes. The adventurer is your standard super hero type, with a set array of powers. The sorcerer can have some set powers, but also devotes their XP into a sorcery pool that allows them to use ad hoc powers during a game (i.e. cast spells). The third class, the scientist, puts XP into a science pool that allows them to invent devices (i.e. powers) at the beginning of a game session, making them more flexible than the adventurer, but less flexible than the sorcerer.

By all rights, sneaky thieves should be portrayed as adventurers in an MM!SS game. They probably won’t spend as many XP on boosting their ability scores as the typical barbarian, and therein lies the problem. Since barbarians and thieves are both adventurers, and thieves will probably be higher in level, it is likely that they’ll end up as better warriors than the barbarians. What to do?

How about we introduce a new class called … The Thief!

The thief (or reaver, pirate, tomb robber, assassin … whatever you like) uses the scientist’s hit dice and attack progression, and can put XP in a “thievery pool”. The thievery pool allows them to apply a +1 bonus to any of the traditional thief tasks (pick pockets, open locks, find/remove traps, climb walls, hear noises, move silently, hide in shadows) by spending 500 XP of their thief pool on the roll. Spend 1,000 XP, get a +2 bonus. Spend 3,000 XP, get a +6 bonus.

In addition, thieves can backstab (after successfully hiding in shadows), adding 1d6 to their damage for every 1,000 XP of their thief pool they spend (up to an extra 10d6, or 6d6 if they’re throwing the dagger into someone’s back). Finally, thieves can spend 5,000 XP to avoid certain death (i.e. no save required, automatically avoid a death trap or a killing blow).

RED SONJA
It’s easy to forget that Red Sonja as we know her was an invention of Roy Thomas and, to a lesser extent, Esteban Maroto, rather than one of REH’s creations. With her chainmail (it always looked like scale mail to me) bikini and powers imbued on her by the goddess Scathach, she was a far cry from the 16th century pistol-packin’ mama REH called Red Sonya of Rogatino. It’s almost like the difference between an old school D&D character and a Mystery Men! Sword and Sorcery character. Thus …

RED SONJA, Adventurer 10 (She-Devil, Swordswoman)
STR 7 (+3) | DEX 11 (+5) | CON 5 (+2) | INT 3 (+1) | WIL 7 (+3) | CHA 12 (+6)
HP 73 | DC 23 | ATK +8 (+11 melee, +13 ranged) | SPD 2 | XP 16,330

Ability Boosts: Str +4, Dex +8, Con +2, Will +4, Cha +9

Powers: Catfall, Invulnerability I, Weapon Master (Longsword)

Gear: Longsword (Potent Attack; 1d8+5, can hit ethereal and incorporeal creatures), chainmail bikini, dagger (1d4 +4)

AGAINST THE GIANTS
I’ve decided to send a few of my regular players “Against the Giants” (i.e. through the classic series of AD&D modules of the same name) on Google+ to test out this little experiment in MM! fantasy gaming. Naturally, that means I need to apply some statistics to those giants.

HILL GIANT
LVL 12 (42 hp) | PH 8 (+4) | MN 3 (+2) | DC 20 | SPD 2 | XP 1200
ATK Club (3d8) or fists (2d4) or rock (3d6)

FIRE GIANT
LVL 15 (53 hp) | PH 9 (+5) | MN 4 (+2) | DC 23 | SPD 2 | XP 1800
ATK Greatsword (4d6) or fists (2d4) or flaming rock (3d6 + 2d6 fire)
POW Darkvision, immune to fire, vulnerable to cold

FROST GIANT
LVL 14 (49 hp) | PH 8 (+4) | MN 4 (+2) | DC 21 | SPD 2 | XP 1700
ATK Greataxe (4d6) or fists (2d4) or rock (3d6)
POW Darkvision, immune to cold, vulnerable to fire

OGRE
LVL 4 (14 hp) | PH 5 (+3) | MN 2 (+1) | DC 16 | SPD 2 | XP 700
ATK Club (2d8) or javelin (1d8)
POW Darkvision

TROLL
LVL 6 (21 hp) | PH 7 (+4) | MN 2 (+1) | DC 16 | SPD 2 | XP 1500
ATK Claws (2d6) and bite (1d6)
POW Darkvision, regenerate

Fantasy Cuisine – Get It While It’s Haute

When the emperor sits down at his table, surrounded by the assembled kings, nobles and merchant princes of his domain, his servants do not serve dishes assembled for their succulence, but rather for their expense. In the world of emperors and kings, one entertains to show his guests just where they stand in relation to the throne – i.e. beneath it. Of course, the table setting is part of the overall effect – plates and utensils of porcelain, silver and gold – but the dishes, composed of rare and wondrous ingredients is just as important if not more so. Thus – the patented Nodian Random Haute Cuisine Generator. With a mere handful of dice, you can cover the tables of nobles, kings and emperor’s alike with meals fit for a gourmet (or gourmand).

The true origin of these tables was in a document I use while stocking my random hex crawls. I call it “The Thesaurus”, and it began as just that – a thesaurus of color words so I didn’t have describe everything red as “red”. It soon expanded to land forms, people and then food and clothing. There are just too many excellent words out there not to attempt to use them all, you know. Having this little storehouse of knowledge, I came up with this as a way to present at least the edible part of it. You can use these tables to concoct strange fantasy recipes (either to serve players as guests, or to send players after on kingly quests) or just use them when trying to stock your own world’s and dungeons.

The process is simple. First, choose a style of dish or roll it randomly on that first table. The style of dish show you how many rolls you must make on the different ingredient tables to discover just what is needed to bring the inventive gourmand’s imagined recipe to fruition.

Once you have determined the style of dish and the ingredients, it is up to you, as Referee, to describe the dish. A few samples are included at the bottom of the page. So grab some dice and get cooking!

Oh – and before I forget, two websites were invaluable in teaching me a bit about medieval cooking: Medieval Cookery and Gode Cookery.

* Indicates that cheese is called for in the recipe, rather than milk

DRINK 

 

EGGS

FRUIT

GRAIN

MEAT

MILK

OIL

SPICES and HERBS



SWEETENER


VEGETABLES

Sample Dishes

The Emperor Norton is hosting a garden party for the luminaries of Brobdinag and Laputa, and his cook has worked up the following dishes to show off. The first is a thick soup of cuttlefish, komatsuna and horse gram spiced with long peppers. This will be preceded by an aspic made with duck eggs with pyrolisk and ackee suspended in it and a chickpea frytour made with cottonseed oil and spiced with Szechuan peppers. Yummy!