Sunday, May 25, 2008

Bluebells in Bloom

My CyberNinja and I took a road trip to the Smallville ranch last weekend. We delivered a gently used PC with flat screen monitor to the folks as an upgrade to their computer running Windows 98 with 28 Kb of RAM (yikes). We installed Skype and dazzled them with a test call (complete with video) to Beth in Montana. The future is here. Thanks, Cory!

After the Ninja set up the computer, we headed out for a hike at the New Haven Potholes.

The Potholes is an outdoor classroom covering 170 acres and containing examples of three basic habitat types: marsh, forest, and prairie. This is the south marsh.

These are plum blossoms.

But the highlight was the bluebells. There were literally millions in bloom in the forest.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Ghalstaff, Sorcerer of Light!

Okay, take a good look at this in-action picture of yesterday's D&D session and tell me what's different about it...

That's right, those little plastic tactical action figures are being moved around the laminated map of a haunted graveyard using 4th edition D&D rules!

My friendly local game store got a store copy of the first adventure for 4th edition D&D: Keep on the Shadowfell (no, not the Borderlands), which isn't available until June 7th for us regular folk. As I run my weekly game there on Monday nights, the owner offered to let me borrow it and playtest it for my D&D group. We of course took her up on the offer and decided to take the fight to some Kobold Wyrmpriests.

How does it play? Well...its freaking different than 3.5, that's for sure. Let's highlight some glaring differences we encountered:

- Magic missiles are cast at-will, don't automatically hit, and do 2d4+4 points of damage.

- Everybody can basically cast cure light wounds on themselves at least once per combat.

- Halflings are as fast as humans, and a foot taller than they used to be.

- A Kobold 'minion' has 1 hit point, but a lvl 1 Kobold has 36 hit points and can breath fire.

- Miniatures are absolutely essential to play the game, as everything is measured in "squares." (no more "5 foot steps" or "15-ft flaming cone" or distances on anything, but "5-square burst").

- Bards no longer exist and Gnomes are now monsters, but Half-daemons and Dragonpeople are 1st-level playable races alongside Elves and Humans.

- Fighters can cast "Cleave" at-will, but can only "Brute-Strike" once per day, and neither do what you think they do.

All-in-all we were not as impressed as we wanted to be, probably because the combat was so confusing. It was like the first time you play a Fantasy Flight boardgame, where you think you know what's going on, but realize four hours in that you don't know how combat really works (I'm looking at you, WoW and Arkham Horror!).

4th edition D&D might eventually be fun, but we've all decided to continue delving the depths of The Wizard Thraxdar's Hidden Library of Death using the 3.5 rules for now.

Good news, though, Wizard's of the Coast has officially announced they're going to GenCon this year (what a surprise)!

Saturday, May 10, 2008


You know what's great about having a weekly DnD game at the friendly local game store with guys and gals who aren't you're best buds?

You can be a ruthless DM and not even care. You can keep it 4-realsies DM-style pullin' no punches, and actually feel good about it.

Anyway, check this: In last week's adventure the players were toolin' around the second level of the dreaded dungeon of Thraxdar, and they came across an out-of-the-way door barred from the outside. Like good adventurers they opened the door to peek inside, and saw a huge treasure chest in there alongside a hobbit-sized lizard-skin chicken thing with a long tail eating a crunchy-looking dire badger carcass. The paladin immediately recognized the description as a cockatrice, and informed the party that a cockatrice could turn you to stone with its gaze attack. With that esoteric monster knowledge in mind, they decided that they had enough information to protect themselves and go after the treasure, and the paladin said he would go in and fight the cockatrice.

The problem is that in 3.x DnD it is a basilisk that can turn you to stone (or kill you) with its gaze attack, but the cockatrice turns you to stone with its bite attack. So imagine the poker face I had to endure while the 2nd-level paladin waltzed in to fight the dreaded lizard-bird blindfolded.

This is why everybody makes three characters in my campaign.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Twas a good day

Saturday was one of the jammin'est ever for me this week. Allow me to brag for a moment...

First, woke up at the crack of nine-thirty to play a few games of tactical combat Dawn of War over the interwebernets with ol' Brando. My Necrons weren't at their best against the tenacious Dark Angels, but they harvested some souls of the damned at least before being phased out back to their home dimension, and thats all you can really ask for when you're a metallic death robot from the future.

Then, yesterday was FREE COMIC BOOK DAY (1st Saturday of May), and Dr. Girlfriend and I strolled on down to Westfield Comics and picked up a load of free Hellboy, Avengers, and other comics as well as the 3rd volume of the Conan Graphic Novels and a Warhammer Graphic Novel, Forge of War.

As I returned home waiting on the doorstep for me was my purchases from Noble Night Games, who are having a huge sale on rpg and miniature stuff (they extended it through Monday, for you gamers out there)! Included in my purchase are the critical hit and critical fumble decks (that I'll be giving them a go for Monday's game) from Gamemastery, as well as some cthulhoid novels, and some planetary flash-gordonesque adventure novels I had heard good things about from the Evil DM.
Finally, we loaded up our exoskeletons and went to see Ironman! I never was a huge Ironman comic fan, I tolerated his presence in the Avenger team, but I didn't really see the excitement one could get for a technologically advanced super suit vs. the powers of the Xmen or Spiderman. And Tony Stark was never as interesting a billionaire industrialist as Bruce Wayne, so Ironman always got a 'meh' from me. However, Robert Downey Jr. played an awesome Tony Stark, and even though every robot battle scene in the movie had already been shown in the trailers (all 1.5 minutes of it), RD Jr. carried the non-robot bashing 99% of the movie really well and I highly recommend it. Furthermore it had one of the better cameos of Stan Lee in it. Also, big fans of S.H.I.E.L.D. might want to stick around through the credits for a special guest appearance.

Geekery abounds.