Monday, August 31, 2009

AD&D DMG Appendix P: ¿Como se huh?

Never heard of it.

"let's see...Appendix L, M, N, O....."

Until this past weekend, that is.

I was poking around locally last week for some B/X D&D to either join or start if need be, but really had no takers. I then decided to add 1st edition AD&D as a possible option too. That's when I got a bite. The local D&D Meetup around these parts seems to pull in mostly 3.5 and 4e players. I have met up with them at a couple past meetups and played 4e at both of those with other members of the meetup crew.

The bite came from one of the organizers of that meetup. He invited me to join their existing 1st edition AD&D game that gets together somewhat irregularly, which actually is a bonus for me. I'm already committed to one weekly gaming night, and I can't add another strict commitment to my calendar. So an irregular hookup for some 1st ed AD&D sounded very cool to me.

I was informed that the party consisted of 2 rangers (one of them multiclassed as a cleric), a fighter, a thief, and an every-once-in-a-while cleric. They would appreciate another caster, but I could play anything I wanted. I went with magic-user. I don't think I ever played one in 1st edition AD&D, so that would be fun.
I was told to that I could roll up a 5th level character either prior to the session or when I got there. This is where I was directed to Appendix P of the DMG. "Appendix P? WTF is that?"

Well, I haven't played in a true tabletop PnP 1st edition AD&D game since somewhere in the mid '80s. I'd say probably during the 1983-85 timeframe. That campaign was highly homebrewed, mixing in some B/X, some AD&D, and some of whatever our DM wanted. It was a blast back then, but it could possibly cause me some issues jumping into an existing game like this new one.

Now, I do occasionally play in a 2nd edition AD&D game, online using a chatroom with a built-in voice program, with some friends of mine around the country. We all met playing DDO (the D&D MMO) and make use of it's chat/voice/dice functions to play every few months. That game, however is very homebrewed, as the world, races, classes, etc have been customized if not altogether created from scratch in many ways. It's been a ton of fun and I should write a post about it soon as well.

At any rate, the point is I was a little out of touch with 1st ed AD&D, by-the-book.

So, I pulled out the old DMG and looked for Appendix P, whatever that is. If you don't know (you all probably do, but still) it's a quick way of creating a level X character or party. In fact it is officially stated as APPENDIX P: CREATING A PARTY ON THE SPUR OF THE MOMENT. You still roll 4d6, drop the lowest for abilities, arrange as you like, pick a class/race, adjust based on that if able, and then the fun comes in. You get to roll for magic items!

Seeing how my new M-U was 5th level, it is presumed that he may have come across some sweet loot in his 5 levels of smoothness. So I rolled the bones and got tons of cool stuff, right? Wrong. I will say that I felt very blessed to have rolled very good on the Ring of Protection in the armor section, as having succeeded on the initial roll (75% chance) to see if I got one, I also rolled good enough to bump it to a +2. That was a measily %5 chance, IIRC. Yay, me!

But sadly, that's where the yay ends. I did not get bracers (20% shot). No scrolls (75%). No weapons (75% for a +1 dagger). Not even a single freakin' potion (50%). Ah well, +2 Ring of Protection it is.

Now I understand that this method of generating a level X character isn't some massivively amazing finding, but it was something that I missed in all the years of owning a 1st ed DMG, and I think I got mine back in '81. Imagine that. Ok, maybe '82, but that kinda ruins the vibe, right?

Anyway, on to the play session...

The group was very friendly, very helpful, and very open to me jumping into their group, even it might be with very sporadic frequency. My character found employment with them while hanging out in a local tavern. Crazy, right? Skipping right along, off we went on a journey together.

I won't go all into the story, but I will tell you that the first day of adventuring was pretty hilarious. Reason I say that is the only spell-casting the party ever saw me do during that first day (and that's questionable if they actually saw me do it or not) was one shield spell. Ya' see the problem was that I memorized sleep (x2), shield (x2), web (x2), and a fireball. Sounded pretty good to me. Sadly, things didn't quite gel with that spell array. For one, the DM had originally (and admittedly) created this romp with no caster in mind, so many of the baddies were either immune or highly resistant to these selections. We faced zombies (they don't sleep very well), hell hounds (hit dice to high, and the whole flaming thing), a door mimic (again with the high HD, etc), more zombies, a few crab-like creatures with tentacles? (drawing a blank here and at work without my books to help me out - I'll find them and edit the post), more hell hounds, and finally a pair of Bone devils, IIRC (waaaaay to high HD, not to mention magic resistance).

Actually the last few there were in day 2 of the adventuring. Seeing how I was pretty useless with my original selection, I memorized a slightly different batch for that day's work. I went with one sleep ('cause, well, it's still sleep for Pete's sake), one shield (still a bit of a wuss M-U, and the AC bump is nice), one web (again, maybe they'll let me use it at least once, even if it's to help in our escape from the place), but threw in magic missle (x2), one ray of enfeeblement, and one lightning bolt. I was gambling that the fire-based baddies would continue to pop up, and maybe lightning would harm them better, and magic missle would be good for just about anything.

See, I originally went with a more controlling approach to my magic-user, making him lawful neutral and RPing him a little on the "there must be order in this crazy world", "I'll put you where I want you and keep you there", stuff like that. Well, the party was kinda used to a little more of an offensive night out, and they must have had some bad experience with web before, as they really didn't want me to cast that...ha!

They were basically all frontline fighters (save the thief, who tried to do his thieving tasks and then get the heck back - smart man), so firing offensive spells into the mix was very risky. The melee folks dished out a real nice wallop when needed, and actually for most of the encounters they really didn't have much trouble. Fire damage from the hell hounds' breath weapon attack was probably the most trouble early on. The mimic was a little touchy as he grabbed the thief during his find/remove traps and open locks checks on the door. Still, not too bad of a fight for the rest of the thugs in our party. The zombies were a pushover for our cleric/ranger, even though they did come back from turning quite quickly.

Turned, and returned. Screw it, just waste 'em.

There was a clue to the last fight, that I guess my character was supposed to pick up on. Although in this case, it would seem that I the player would have to pick up on it, using some knowledge that I just don't have: a symbol for sulfur. Originally, the party thought it was a directional, as it did look a bit like an arrow pointing which way to go. However, I was later told by the DM that my character recognizes it as a symbol for sulfur. Ok, well we had been discussing salt, and how it might affect certain creatures (undead?), but still none of us had any on us. I recalled some bags and boxes that we had not checked yet in some rooms earlier in the crawl. In the end, we were told that that mark also symbolizes demon or devil. I'm not sure if I was supposed to have known that or surmised it, but if I had we might have known what was luring behind that final doorway. Ah well.

Regardless, I was still having a blast playing with them, even though they were worried that I was bored, as I hadn't really been able to contribute much. The thief actually RP'd some "I'm beginning to wonder if we really did hire a wizard." To which my guy replied "well I have this pointy hat, these robes, and this staff...isn't that the right getup?" (muttering "that costume shop back in town better not have steered me wrong...")

My big, bright shining moment came (or would have came) when we reached the big bad devils. I could be wrong on the type of devil, I just recall the size, the hooked weapon, the wall-of-ice (I'll get to that), I'm thinking they were Bone Devils. Anyway, they had just suggested (possibly part of their fear attack?) our main damage dealer into joining their team or at least siding with them to some degree, and feared our other frontliner (who also happened to be our healer - multiclassed cleric/ranger) into running away. So that left our thief, who doesn't dig the up-close-and-personal, another party member PC who was basically mapping for us as an intern (ha!), and me the wuss magic-user. Well, I got an idea. They were basically lined up for me, one in the doorway and the other back inside the room a bit, with a nice wall right behind him. So I let loose a lightning bolt hoping to hit one, then the next, then the back wall them back through those two again for max damage (60 hp to each of them), of course, right? RIGHT?!?!?

Everyone was geeked for this uber spell to save the day. I rolled those 5d6 down through the old dice boot/tower, and stared down at a whopping 13 damage....ugh. Ah well, 26 hp to each of them with that backlash double strike would still be ok. Certainly they would both fail their saves and had no magic resistance to speak of, right? RIGHT?!?!?!? Well they both saved, both times, and even with half damage, their 40% MR basically said...nope, sorry, try again sir. Sadly that was the only shot I had, with only one level 3 spell in the aresnal.

There went my shining moment. The only good thing to come out of the attempt was that the thief became a believer. He witnessed electricity arch from my fingertips and blast across the room. Ok, so it didn't seem to do anything to the big baddies, at least he felt confident in his hiring procedures, believing me to at least be the magic-user I claimed to be. I think.

At this point our main frontliner shook off the suggestion/fear so she started to engage them, along with the thief. Yes, I said the thief. See, he happened to notice that the fleeing cleric/ranger dropped his nice sunblade when he decided to run away. This looked like a nice choice for a weapon (shortsword, IIRC), so he decided to demo it on these devils. I readied a magic missle (well, 3 missles actually, being 5th level), and was about to let them fly, when the devils threw up a wall of ice on the doorway, blocking me out and our fighter and our thief in. The good guys put the fatal smack down on the baddies, with the thief stealing a 1 hp kill shot on the last one...ha! Awesome, but that's kinda what a thief does...steals. Our intern cartographer had tackled our cleric/ranger to hold him down until he shook the fear effect, and we all began picking away at the wall of ice. Man, sure could use a fireball right about now. Ugh.

In summary, I had a blast! It has been far too long since I've played 1st edition, especially in person, across the table from the rest of the crew. Even though my magic-user was fairly useless this time around, I still had a ton of fun, and I really appreciate the gaming group for allowing me to join them. It turns out that they actually try to meet up more frequently than I can commit to, but they often have issues with that anyway, as others in the group have other RL conflicts too. Hopefully I can join them at least once a month dust off the old books, as well as the old skills, all from back in .... errr ... close enough.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dunwich Detectives, Call of Cthulhu Minions, and other loot: I am sooooo weak!

Oh dear. Oh deaaarrr! I told you I was weak. I knew it would happen. It happened.

When I recently asked for some input on Call of Cthulhu the RPG vs Arkham Horror the board game for a gaming purchase by yours truly, I fully called it. I said that I was very weak, and if I came across some good deals on any of this stuff that I would cave. Well I did, and I did.

I initially held off on the quick impulse buy for the one night alone at home that I was going to have, sans family, and decided to watch The Call of Cthulhu silent film by the HPLHS. That was very cool and was enough for me to make it through without buying anything for that activity. Good deal.

But, two days later on the return trip from the weekend getaway where I met up with my family after the night home alone, I stopped at an LGS on the way home. Well, I guess it's not really an LGS as it's not local to my home. But since it's local to where I was during my trip, we'll leave it at that.

Anyway, when I asked if they had any CoC stuff, they informed me that they had the rulebook but that was it. So I snagged that:

Call of Cthulhu (6th ed)

So that's it, eh? That's all they had? Nope. When I hit the shelves looking for anything else that might catch my eye I found these awesome little dudes:

Dunwich Detectives

...and this collection of brief encounters:

bad flash...bad!

...and these additional supplements:

The Keeper's Companion 2

Secrets of New York

Then I saw the clearance section, which housed these two gems:

Eldritch Horrors & Occult Investigators counter pack

Elric! Gamemaster Screen

I also couldn't make it past the dice section where I noticed the sole 12-pc Gamescience set, which although highly overpriced (IMO) was still worth grabbing as I have always wanted a full 12-pc set of these. I have several 7-pc sets of Gamescience dice, both opaque and gem styles, but I have yet to find locally one of the 12-pc sets. So I snagged it too.

Gamescience 12-pc dice set

Did I mention yet that I was weak?

Now, as of this purchase I have discovered a somewhat-local GS that carries a few of the 12-pc Gamescience sets, but I think I will be strong and roll with this one alone. I will very likely never have a reason to even use any of the additional "5 unique shapes"...but still sometimes you just have to own something, ya'know?

Now back to the fack that I was weak. Ya' see, normally I wouldn't just plop down hard earned cash for supplements and other goodies for a game (CoC) that I don't even know if I will like or not. But in this case I trust the many opinions of the folks that commented on my initial post, and their high ratings, along with the fact that this store had all of this stuff marked down...waaaaay down in some cases. I just bit the bullet and grabbed it all.

If they would have had a copy of Arkham Horror in the clearance section, I'd be posting a pic of that too...ha! Maybe next time, eh?

Anyway, I'm not posting this stuff to be all "naner, naner, naner...look what I got!" Well, maybe a little. But really it's because most of us (if not all of us) geek out on this stuff, and I figured I'd let you in on a few goodies that I'm geekin' on and maybe you'd dig them too.

Also, I'm curious on opinions as to if these supplements are decent for the game or not. If you have any XP with any of the, please chime in on that. It's ok if something I just bought sucks. I'd prefer that it didn't, but again such a good deal was made on the lot, that I'd accept that is it was true. Regardless I looooove the minis (even if CoC doesn't call for them as much as other games), and I was going to snag the main CoC rulebook (6th ed) from another local source in a couple days anyway. I also think the Minions encounter book will be nice for me to use in trying out some CoC locally, if I can muster up a group. It looks perfect for some one-shots to try out the game. The dice set is a keeper for sure, and the counters pack and Elric screen were so cheap they were an automatic grab. I guess the Secrets of NY and the Keeper's Companion supplements are the two that may have been overkill and possible not worth the dough. I just don't see much 1920s CoC stuff around here (more '90s and Now) and that's the era I would prefer to run, if and when I finally do. It just seems right.

Ah well, I'll leave you with some pics of some fun I had dorking around with these Detectives, posing them on what I thought was a somewhat relative backdrop:

Yes, I am a dork. Apparently a very, very weak-willed one.

"! Must...not...spend!"

Friday, August 21, 2009

"The Whisperer in Darkness": another upcoming Lovecraft flick by the HPLHS

Whoooahhh! Now this looks sa-wwweeeeeet!

Not much time to babble on about it here, but just a couple links to get you checking it out, if you haven't already:
If this is all old news to ya'll then, I guess I suck. However, if it's new to anyone, then I suck a little bit less, right?

I only saw it as I hit up the HPLHS site after chatting it up with some of you folks (including: Atom Kid, Christopher B, ATOM and rainswept) in the comments section of my last post.

I hope I'm not totally swiping this from one of your blogs (anyone reading this, really), as I have certainly done that before without truly knowing I did (oops!). I can honestly say that this is the first I have seen of this new movie, and I am now severely geeked!

Anyway, check out that trailer. Check out the pics. Check out the whole deal. IMO, from the looks of what they have so far, this thing is gonna be freakin' sa-weet.

Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"The Call of Cthulhu" (DVD): some silent-movie goodness ...err ...evilness

During my recent indecision in buying the board game Arkham Horror or the RPG Call of Cthulhu, I spent an evening home alone watching this flick, The Call of Cthulhu:

I've had this DVD for at least a year and a half, and very likely since it's release date. I recall buying it from a local Barnes & Noble, taking it home, opening it, and then placing it in a pile (not the pile, but a pile, of many piles) of DVDs to watch...soon.

Ahem. Well, obviously soon came much later than expected.

At any rate, seeing how I was in a bit of a Lovecraft mode last week, I recalled that I had this DVD somewhere in a box, somewhere in the basement. So I started digging. The activity was well worth it, as I unearthed many more gems in the forms of DVDs, magazines, rulebooks, paperbacks, etc. - not all from the horror genre, but still horror/sci-fi/fantasy/roleplaying in all cases. I'll save some of that for a later post.

I had the one night home alone before I headed out of town to meet up with my wife and kids at a retreat/vacation for the remainder of the weekend, so I figured if I couldn't yet play AH or CoC, I would at least immerse myself in some Lovecraftian coolness one way or another.

The film strays some from the original story, from what I recall, but all in all it did not disappoint. It was not a full fledged edge-of-the-seat nailbiter, but it was still fun, and still a bit creepy at times. This may have been assisted by the fact that I was home, alone. So, although this was nothing on the level of of The Omen ("Look at me, Damien! It's all for you."), The Shining, The Exorcist, or even Salem's Lot (I don't care what you say, that levitating dead kid scratching at the bedroom window still freaks me out!), it was fun to turn down the lights, and fire up this bad boy anyway.

A little humor is thrown in at the start with this copyright warning:
"Violators of HPLHS copyrights may have their eyes plucked out by byakhee as they sleep."

The text speech frames were very nice and worked perfectly following the silent mouthing of dialogue performed by the actors. The lighting and makeup really made this all come together.

A few weak spots, IMO, were the dream sequences, but I say that only due to the cheap-looking set designs. I understand it must be difficult to imagine and to try describe on film using props something that is non-Euclidean, so I wasn't too bothered by it. But honestly, I've seen better sets on some Twilight Zone episodes. Ah well. Still, very very cool stuff regardless.

I did like the swamp scenes, which although when seen in the extras portion of the DVD were shown to be fairly basic and simple in design too, came across much better and much more creepy (read: believable) during the final cut of the film.

I really dug many of the props used, including statues, newspaper clippings, notes, etc. I'd love to get my hands on some of that gear.

The stop-motion techniques used for ol' Squidward, himself were a little silly in this sort of a film. But I guess it did provide the throw-back that the film as a whole was going for, and again I understand that with certain budget concerns and various technical limitations that any other method of creating the great Cthulhu on-screen, would most likely have beeen very difficult to pull off. I'm a huge Ray Harryhausen fan, so I probably took it a little too tough on this film in those regards.

I'm not sure if I've seen a silent movie since The Phantom of the Opera, so this was a real treat for me. In a pinch, as a substitute for some solitaire Lovecraftian gaming, this film The Call of Cthulhu filled in very nicely. I truly enjoyed it. Check it out if you get the chance. Just hurry up before those darn stars align again!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Call of Cthulhu RPG and/or Arkham Horror board game: looking for opinions and/or suggestions

I'm not sure how many of you that may read this have experience with either of these two Lovecraftian gaming gems, but I do know that I have none. Absolutely none. So I'm looking for some opinions on them if you have played them and additionally some suggestions on any supplements or expansions to either of them which you would recommend.

Obviously these are two completely different games, requiring different commitments and different game time, etc. I mean one of them is a full blown RPG and the other is a (pretty expensive) board game. Still I've been on a bit of a Lovecraft kick lately, in regards to my reading list, and I've been toying with the idea of getting into one, if not both of these games.

First up: Call of Cthulhu - the RPG

I think I'll partially thank/blame James over at Grognardia for the Call of Cthulhu "calling" I've been hearing lately. Reading through some of his recent Stormbringer RPG posts has linked me back to some of his previous various Chaosium games posts, which include some very high praise for CoC.

Also, many posts by Brunomac over at Temple of Demogorgon have also inspired me with the idea of trying to start or find a game of Call of Cthulhu. So some of the thanks/blame is on you too, bro...ha!

I'm sure that I'm leaving out some other great bloggers here, who I've very likely already read some postings regarding Call of Cthulhu, but my brain is real sketchy today, so please forgive me for any forgetfulness folks. The two recommendations noted above are the ones fresh in my mind, and alone are truly enough to make me want to play the RPG, but I'm open for some more thoughts from anyone reading this. Anyone? Bueller?

Ok, next contestant: Arkham Horror - the board game

I didn't find any relevant posts at the two blogs above regarding this game. Maybe I didn't look hard enough? Maybe neither of them have played the game? Dunno. Without spending the rest of the day reading reviews all over the innerwebbz, I figured I'd try a little fishing here. So, anyone giving this post the once-over ever play Arkham Horror? I know there are several expansions for this one, all costing a ton of dough, IMO. Still, I may have to try it out as an H.P. fix sooner than CoC, as according to ther back of the box, I can play this one solo. Like, really-solo. Like, solitaire-solo. Hmmn.....

My wife and kids will be out of town a day or two soon, and I was thinking I might play some more B/X solitaire, or Tunnels & trolls, but now I'm starting to think a little bit of Arkham Horror, solitaire, alone in my house, by candle-light...or maybe even a lantern. OOoooooooo.....

If only I lived by the sea. I wonder if some of those ambient, ocean sounds on MP3 might work as a substitute. The waves crashing in....the releasing of the Great Old Ones... err.... uhm ok, maybe that's pushing it a bit.

The '81 in me is pulling me towards finding a 1st ed copy of Call of Cthulhu, although the 6th ed is sitting right there on the store shelf...ugh. Not to mention Arkham Horror is ready for me to play solitaire right freakin' now. Well, as soon as I plop down the cash, that is. What do I do? Do I go the distance and try to find/create a CoC RPG gaming group? Or do I just get my fill solo-style (errr....right) and go with Arkham Horror? Or both?!?!?!?

Oh for the love of Wilbur Whateley!

(very cool painting by Skot Olsen)