2023: My Year in Entertainment

This again! As always, if anyone has questions or comments (or concerns, I suppose) I'd love to hear them! Due to medical stuff, a lot of my intake kinda fell off in the fall, so this one is shorter than in the past couple of years.

Werewolf: The Forsaken Chronicler's Guide III: To Transform (White Wolf)
Chronicles of Darkness Gothic Icons (Onyx Path)
Chronicles of Darkness Mirrors: The Infinite Macabre (Onyx Path)
Chronicles of Darkness Ready Made Characters Legacy Security & Courier Service (Onyx Path)
Exalted 1e Quickstart (White Wolf)
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying mini-event Gun Smugglers (Jaysin Jolin)
Pathfinder Adventure Path Council of Thieves Player's Guide (Paizo)
D&D 5e Plane Shift: Dominaria (Wizards of the Coast)
Mythic Solutions (Legendary)
The Phylactery Omnibus (Planet X)
The Phylactery 4 (Planet X)
John Carter of Mars Quickstart Rules and Adventure (Modiphius)
Mythsea: Legends of the Borderlands adventure The Bitter March (UFO/Tabula)
Space 1889 Quickstart (Clockwork)
Vulgar Display of Magic (Planet X)
Pathfinder Planar Adventures (Paizo)
Symbaroum adventure The Promised Land (Free League)
Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2e Quickstart Titanomachy (UFO)
Exalted 2e Dragon Kings homebrew redux (?)
Exalted 3.5 homebrew (?)
50 More Notice Boards: Quests, Contracts, and Bounties (DropTheDie)
Exalted 3e The Art of Sorcery (VioletDreamer)
1,000ish Weird West Plot Hooks (TheCapedCrusader)
Savage Worlds Super Villain Update (Pinnacle)
Werewolf 20th Anniversary Wild West Welcome to Purgatory (High Level)

Champagne & Bullets (1993)
Killer Workout (1987)
Black Adam (2022)
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)
We Have A Ghost (2023)
The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf (2021)
R. I. P. D. 2: Rise of the Damned (2022)
In the Shadow of the Moon (2019)
The Warrior and the Sorceress (1984)
Stripped to Kill (1987)
Deathstalker (1983)
Deathstalker II: Duel of the Titans (1987)
Significant Other (2022)
Lamb (2021)
M3GAN (2022)
X (2022)
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (2023)
The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)
Columbo Goes to the Guillotine (1989)
The Flash (2023)
Enys Men (2022)
No One Will Save You ((2023)
Bad Things (2023)
Skinamarink (2022)
The Dark and the Wicked ((2020)
Gwen (2018)
Infinity Pool (2023)

His Dark Materials, Season 3
The Witcher: Blood Origin, miniseries
Columbo, Seasons 1-7
Servant, Season 2
The Mandalorian, Season 3
Perry Mason (HBO), Season 2
CSI: Vegas, Season 2
Secret Invasion, miniseries
The Witcher, Season 3
Shelter, Season 1
Hellier, Seasons 1 & 2
The Fall of the House of Usher, miniseries
Bodies, miniseries
Survivor, Seasons 10 & 11

Video Games
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag Freedom Cry DLC
Tiny Tina's Wonderlands
The Medium
Bramble: The Mountain King
A Short Hike

Tabletop Gaming These numbers are way off. When all the med stuff ramped up, I kinda stopped keeping track.
(Chris/Me)Exalted 3e - 7 Sessions
(Me)Numnera: Those Who Move Clouds - 6 Sessions
(Taylor)Pathfhinder 1e homebrew - 4 Sessions
(Me)Pathfinder 1e Caverns of the Spore Lord one-shot


Another New Beginning

 Been a while, for those of you who take the time to see if I've posted anything.

This past year has been very difficult for me, and culminated in losing my leg (and almost seven months of income, to boot). That story is not for here, but it did lead me to where I'll be going with this blog.

During my time off, I decided to start actually putting work into my original campaign setting, Khardtha, and also designing generally for the games I enjoy playing. I plan to start posting some of that here, but the majority will be going on my Patreon, which I'm not ready to fully roll out yet. 

I plan to use the blog for sneak peaks and small features of my design stuff to maybe get some traffic over at the Patreon, but will likely also post some of that content here after some time has passed. I also plan to pick up my actual play posts and just generally be more active again. This includes going back and cleaning up some of the old posts so they're just a bit more coherent. (This may or may not happen, depending on how much I care when I go back and read)

So there's that. I have a post coming tomorrow, and a couple of things next weekend, but I need to get back in the groove of making myself write.


Numenera: Those Who Move Clouds, Session 1

When a Shadow of the Demon Lord campaign I was running came to a close, I had everyone vote on what would I would run next, from games on The List (almost 100 different campaign ideas I have on the back burners). It was a close run between Deadlands and Numenera, but Numenera won out and we started the campaign on alternate Saturdays over Discord. 


Our campaign starts in Awgere, a coastal aldeia (village) off the Sere Marica known for its salt harvesting operations. The PCs have found themselves in Awgere for their own reasons, becoming acquainted through work or other means. One balmy evening, right as the sun starts to set, an explosion echoes from the marsh nearby the settlement. Many people rush to the scene, fearing the worst for their fellow residents. The PCs arrive to an already gathering crowd to find the remains of a person badly mangled from a localized explosion.

No one gathered could identify the individual, and pieces of scrapped numenera and other devices led Yanusen to believe that a reaction from gathered cyphers had caused the explosion until a device was found that was still functional. Upon activation, the device played an audio message stating "Transmission complete. Mission failure." Interested in what this mission could be, the rest of the group ask Yanu to see if he can get more from the device, which he easily does after manipulating it for a few moments. "Secure objective: Mazen. Return to Astaria rendezvous. Payment upon completion."

This alarmed everyone, especially Mazen, who became even more alarmed when the party decided that the best course of action was to head toward Astaria, putting them closer to whatever group wanted them captured! Plans were hastily made to make the trek overland and after collecting pay and informing those who needed to know where they were going, seeding false information in case anyone was feeding Mazen's pursuers intel, they headed for Astaria on foot.

A more inland route is chosen and the group set off, their travel the first day takes them into the grasslands inland from the coast and they pass a few aldeia until later in the day when they decide to rest at the next one they encounter. The party spots a dead man slumped on the porch of a small hut. He had been dead for just a short time, and some sort of black substance had been placed under his skin from a puncture between his shoulder blades. Finding they could do nothing for the man, they move on. Just down the road, they come across a chimney-shaped building with robed and hooded residents that pass them on the road as they enter a place called Jutte.

A man named Trummel greets them as they enter Jutte, asking what their purpose is and offering information if they need anything in the town. He points them to a hostel and the market square for lodging and food and answers a few questions about crime in the area. He answers a question about the hooded people they saw before and bids them well, letting the PCs go about their way. Trummel meets them in the morning and walks them to the edge of town as they leave, making small talk.

Once far from the safety of the aldeia, the group see an oorgolian kneeling on the road ahead, petting two broken hounds he has with him. When it stands, it points to Mazen stating "Give us that one and nobody gets hurt," stating again that Mazen is the one it's after and projecting a hologram of their likeness to confirm. Mazen and their companions balk at this and after a short exchange, Asimra charges into battle. The oorgolian pleads with Mazen to come along peacefully throughout the encounter, but its voice becomes more digitized as the fight wears on, as if encoded. One statement too many and the alien explodes just as he's about to say something else, shredding the sole hound left standing and leaving the group pincushioned with shrapnel.

With the mercenary and his hounds defeated and another clue pointing to Astaria, the band are left pondering what lies ahead as they mend their wounds before setting off again.

Cast of Characters
Mazen,  A Swift Nano who Controls Gravity (Sam)
Yanusen,  A Calm Nano who Commands Mental Powers (Taylor)
Asimra, A Strong Glaive who Works Miracles (Chanz)
Errol, A Graceful Glaive who Fights with Panache (Rachele)
Raide, A Strong-Willed Glaive who Rides the Lightning (Brenden)
Lincoln Ford Mercury, A Strong-Willed Nano who Works Miracles (Chris G)

1. Playing this game on Discord allowed for some of the people not in our normal group to play and made it easier for some of the players who had scheduling conflicts to participate, but attendance has still been an issue. I've called off games a few times before, and we settled on playing Wilderlands when we can't get four players for a session so we don't have a dry week of gaming.
2. I lean quite a bit more into the sci-fi than I think is intended. Assumptions are made that people aren't idiots and terms and basic knowledge would spread at least a little. This might be colored by having played Torment: Tides of Numenera?


Editions in Dungeons & Dragons, or Where Are We, Again?

I'm still working on getting some actual plays up and I have a few other longer posts in the works that are sitting in drafts, but I'm going to hit on some quick thoughts in the coming days, the first of which is some thoughts on edition and how it's defined.

Dungeons & Dragons was first published in 1974 as a box set with three booklets. These weren't the normal Player's Handbook, Dungeon Masters Guide and Monster Manual that we're all used to, their organization was different, but I think the template was successful enough that it's stuck. If anyone is unfamiliar with this edition, let me tell you that it's a different creature altogether than the game you're used to. The layout is a little all over the place and the ties to wargaming are everywhere in the text. I'm veering off course already, but it really is a unique game and though supplements were printed for it, it stands alone as its own beast.

In 1977, two different versions of Dungeons & Dragons were published. Basic D&D, often called Holmes Basic since it was written by J. Eric Holmes, and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Basic released at the start of summer that year as a box set with dice and booklet or the standalone booklet, and featured rules that took characters to third level. As a further disconnect from the Advanced rules, Basic also featured race-as-class, so a player would just select Elf instead of Elf Fighter/Mage, which are the abilities the race featured. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons released later in the year and presented book releases with a format we've been familiar with since. AD&D also featured class/race combinations, multiclasses and most other trappings people associate with Dungeons & Dragons.

1981 saw a slight revision of the Basic Set featuring rewrites and edits by Tom Moldvay. This edit pushed Basic even further away from AD&D. This boxed set featured a red-bordered rulebook and module B2: The Keep on the Borderlands along with a set of dice. This revision was followed in short order by the release of the Expert Set, by Dave Cook and Steve Marsh. The Expert rules expanded character advancement from levels four to fourteen.

Two years later, in 1983, yet another revision of the Basic Set was released. Frank Mentzer's edit, also known as Red Box D&D, was followed in the next two years by four more boxed sets for the Expert (levels 4-14), Companion (levels 15-25), Master (levels 26-36), and Immortal (transcendence) rules. This release of the Basic rules were presented in a more tutorial form to welcome new players.

In 1989, Advanced Dungeons & Dragons got a 2nd Edition release, with updated rules and new character classes. This release was partially made to address the Satanic Panic that had impacted the game in previous years, removing 'evil' items like the Assassin class and Half-Orc race and changing the words demon and devil to tanar'ri and baatezu, respectively. The release schedule started over with the three core books and ballooned rapidly.

The Rules Cyclopedia released in 1991, collecting major rules from the previous Basic, Expert, Companion, and Master boxed sets. Aaron Alston and his team put together this tome as a reference guide for those with a higher proficiency with the game. In addition, the book included two new classes, a guide on conversion between D&D and AD&D and short overviews of both the Known World and Hollow World campaign settings (Mystara).

Also in 1991, a new Basic Set released that not only included a rule book, but a deck of Learning Cards that had rules of play on one side and an example of those rules on the back. The box also included a map, pawns, and dice. This box included rules that took characters to 5th level.

The final Basic Set release came out in 1994. The Classic Dungeons & Dragons Game, as it was called, was edited by Doug Stewart. The set came boxed with PC miniatures, monster pawns, a DM's screen, a map, and dice.

2000 brought a new edition of the main game line, dubbed Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition. This was a major overhaul of the rules that affected all aspects of the game, and introduced what was called the d20 System that led to the formation of the Open Game License. Notable among changes made were the removal of race/class restrictions and level restrictions for characters.

Three years later, a new release of the three core books revised the 3rd Edition, addressing plenty of minor rules complaints and confusions submitted to WotC. This revision, called 3.5, touched on races, classes, skills, feats, and almost every other aspect of the game. Supplements previously released were addressed in errata documents, but no rereleases and the publishing schedule retained its fast pace.

In 2008, another major overhaul of the primary game took place. 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons introduced new core races and classes with a design that clearly pulled from video games with roles like tank and striker, enemy types likje minion and elite, and powers with cooldowns and resets. Multiple waves of core books also made this edition notable. Mechanically, this edition deviated the most as each class had powers usable at different times and spells were rolled into this system, as well, making most classes feel similar in playstyle, but differentiating them with power sources and delivery. Every 10 levels (1-10, 11-20, 21-30) represents different themes of adventure; heroic adventurers are establishing their legends, paragon adventurers are affecting regions, and epic characters are world-shakers.

In 2010, a soft revision (though not called that) was released for 4th Edition, called the Essentials line. These books cleared up and revised some rulings while presenting the rules in an introductory fashion.

In the quickest turnaround for a full reworking of the main game line, Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition was released in 2013. 5th Edition returned to many of the basic concepts of the d20 System familiar to players of the 3rd/3.5 Edition, though many rules come from all eras and editions of D&D. Defense values were boiled back down, a universal bonus was applied to skills, attack bonus, saves and other things characters are trained in. Advantage/disadvantage was introduced in a move to boil down granular situational bonuses that plagues previous editions.

Though this is presented as a timeline of release with a little bit of detail for each of the editions, my initial reason for this post is the argument in some groups that 3rd-5th Editions are not continuations of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. Does that mean to imply that they're continuations of the Basic rules? There could be an argument for that, I suppose, as the Rules Cyclopedia states it's the second major revision of the BECMI rules, making it a 2nd Edition, of sorts.

Depending on source, there are 5, 14, 17, 18, 23, 28, etc., etc., etc. editions of Dungeons & Dragons. I've read all of those numbers in articles and blog posts, but I don't think I agree. I believe OD&D, the original 1974 release, is its own thing. I also believe BECMI is its own game and Rules Cyclopedia is included in that. Which leaves my absolutely reasonable (yet controversial) take that 3rd-5th Edition is the continuation of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. The "Advanced" name could be dropped since the separate game was no longer in production or supported. This is also supported by the conversion document that showed how to convert your 2nd Edition character and other aspects of your campaign to the 3rd Edition of the game.


A Quick Thought on Domain Spells in 3.x/Pathfinder 1e

 I have a handful of posts I'm currently writing in draft, but I thought of this at work the other night and it's been in my head a fair amount.

The original thought came as this question: Was it the original intention of the designers of D&D 3rd Edition that DMs would assign domain spells, instead of players choosing them?

To which some might say, "No, idiot. You get domain abilities in addition to the spells." Which is fine, but I don't feel like they need be mutually exclusive concepts. Access to domains is granted by every deity to every Cleric that worships them. A Cleric character can choose two domains to represent the aspects of the deity they vibe with that grant slight abilities such as activated bonuses on saving throws against certain effects or weapon proficiencies, minor elemental attacks, or a feat, for example. Each domain has a list of thematic spells implied to be especially granted to the Cleric due to their special bond with their deity.

My proposal: Each Cleric chooses two domains to represent the parts of their deity's portfolio they most associate with, gaining the domain abilities for those, as normal. The DM assigns a domain spell of each spell level available to the Cleric from any domains the deity has access to when the character prays for their spells. Domain spell slots cannot be manipulated as currency for class features or other abilities and can never be left open for later memorization.

This means that a 5th level Cleric of Corellon Larethian prays for their spells and the DM assigns their 1st-3rd level domain spells, which could be from any of Chaos, Elf, Good, Magic, Pride, Protection, or War domains of the appropriate level. I know, it's more work on the DM, but not much, and could be a great tool for foreshadowing; "Why was my character granted Nystul's Undetectable Aura?" You could mix them up and assign them randomly, or in a rigid pattern of repeat, depending on the alignment of the character's god. That could make planning fun. "I'll be able to Dispel an additional time in three days, if we can wait to strike the wizard's tower then."

Anyway, a quick thought. I might implement it. Anyone out there have thoughts?


Wilderlands 4, Session 1

The crew couldn't all assemble for our bi-weekly Discord game of Numenera on the 22nd of April, so I asked if we wanted to pivot to a back-up game so we didn't have a dry week of gaming. Getting answers in the positive, the group began to make first-level Pathfinder characters to play in my take on the Wilderlands setting.

The group started their careers in my homebrew town of Bugbear Falls, a fortified site on the far eastern reaches of the territories held by Viridistan, the fabled City-State of the World Emperor. Having newly made their individual ways there after hearing the promises of wealth and fresh starts in the territory made by the Emperor's court to any willing to explore and tame the marches.

Sitting in the local tavern, The Desecrated House, the newly chartered adventuring guild, the Glorious Slayers, decided to take on a job before their funds started to run out, so they looked at local postings. There were three notices on the board outside the bank/pawn broker:
  • Unbreakables estate clearance! Inquire inside!
  • A return of a bracelet belonging to Elle, from the river by the Hermit's Shack.
  • Rubbings from the fey gate to the east of town. See Sym the Sage for details.
Both of the jobs outside of town seemed appealing and they quickly settled on getting the rubbings, heading to the shop of Sym the Sage. A slate outside reads "Walk-Ins Welcome: Readings, Debates, Research, Taxidermy." The troupe enter and find the small woman surrounded by books, mumbling about proving someone wrong. After introductions are made and business rates discussed, Gregor speaks up and negotiates the terms of the job posted previously. Sym gives them charcoal and paper and sends them on their way.

Once down on the River Road, the party can see the top of the gate, a beautifully carved relief on a cliff face depicting two trees, their trunks covered in runes, branches meeting to create an arch. The fey gate, as it is known, has no opening. A blank rock face is all that greets the party as they approach and take out the supplies to begin making rubbings.

Shortly, however, the party is interrupted at first by one, then another small, blue humanoid coming out of the rock wall as it shimmers and ripples before them, speaking an odd language. They look perturbed, but Echo also speaks the Sylvan tongue and can communicate. They inform her that the adventurer's "kind" had not paid their debts and that they should leave immediately. The little ones seem to personally feel like taking rubbings isn't going to hurt anything and warn the PCs to be gone by the time they come back with their master, at which point they walk back into the gate.

Our heroes speed their efforts and begin to feel immense heat coming from the gate and hear loud, clanging footsteps. They gather their supplies and beat a trail out as quickly as possible by the time whatever is coming reaches their side of the gate, being out of sight and on the River Road back to Bugbear Falls to collect their reward, 10 gold coins and a future research of their choice for free!

Cast of Characters
Gregor and Victoria Palesun, Human Spiritualist 1 and Phantom (Taylor)
Echo Tovun, Elf Magus (Eldritch Archer) 1 (Rachel)
Taric, Human Barbarian 1 (Brenden)
Baila, Halfling Rogue 1 (Rachele)

Notes: You'll notice there are four PCs in the cast, but only two mentioned in the actual body of the session. That's because the players for Taric and Baila left early in the session. I had planned a combat for the session, as well, but put that off when the only two characters left were a Spiritualist and a Magus.

Edit: Changed some names as I've come to rediscover my notes.


Exalted, Sessions 1-5

On alternating Saturdays, Chris runs his Exalted chronicle for our group. The chronicle is set in a modified Creation that mostly plays to how the Exalted setting is presented, but with the agreement that anything that he wishes to change will be changed on a whim, as the events and characters will be presented as the ancient history and some of the most important figures (perhaps gods) of a shared campaign setting in the future, which will mostly host D&D and Pathfinder campaigns.

The Story So Far...
Our chronicle began in K'losis, a city carved into and around a fallen enormous humanoid war machine. There, we had learned some history of the campaign world and that the construct the city was built into is actually the husk of a being from another reality that invaded in the distant past and now there were factions that were trying to bring it and others like it back to life and summon more to this reality! Additionally, it was learned that powerful individuals were involved in these groups, speeding up their timeline by funneling money and resources into their aims.

Reports surfaced during this time of one of the great threats marching across the land as our band made haste to various locations, dismantling cult cells and the portals they had begun to erect. We flew out to face the engine of destruction and were able to dispatch it with the ship's weapons and a sprinkling of our own attacks, then made on our merry way to prevent the onset of the end of the world. 

Our leads took us to the city of Palanquin, where we strong-armed our way into their strange cult politics by having enough knowledge and materiel from capturing and destroying construction from other cult cells, thus locking in our access to the working portal in the city that leads to what we had learned were the giant war construct things' home plane. 

We took the first opportunity to make the jump through and emerged into a barren cityscape. Once we entered we find the place inhabited by the spirits of thousands of the dead, many of which showing signs of physical trauma. Most of these spirits didn't give us a notice, but one approached and engaged us, answering a few questions about the place, then leading us to a building where a council gave us audience, further providing information about the place. We had assumed this was the home plane of the aggressor war machines, but we were told this was also a conquered world, and their undeaths were spent in servitude.

During the trip through the portal, Exton experienced a vision in which an entity revealed to him that in order to fulfill their task of destroying the colossi, they would have to assemble a collection of artifacts. There were eight in total, but it was unclear if all of them were needed, and only a few were revealed. Our "map" was a tome that turned out to be in possession of one of the party, a key, a sword, the Shield of Ancel, the Hands of Tyr, and the Keeper's Dagger.

The form of the last five named and the two unnamed were unknown to us, but we had a start. Exton told the Circle about his visions and the decision was made to cross back into our world to find the artifacts. When we arrived, we discovered that two years had passed, even though we has spent a touch less than eight hours in the other realm. We assessed our situation and set a few affairs straight once we found that our ventures had continued as usual without us, then we took the opportunity to divine where other artifacts could be located.

Our key was in Brightonvork, an island located in the northwest, and the sword was in the Burning Sands, to the south. We decided to head toward the island and made contact with an older lady who explained to us that if what we were after ever existed, it was at the bottom of the ocean with her father's ship, which sank when she was young. It didn't take us long to ascertain the approximate location of the shipwreck and we went diving, recovering a metal rod with no discerning markings on it, as well as some other valuables from the wreck, which were mostly returned to the old lady, after which we set off for the Burning Sands, at which point we left off.

When we pick up next, I will be taking over for the next arc of the chronicle. The Circle knows that one of the colossi are headed to sea, presumably to Brightonvork, and the other is heading in the direction of the Burning Sands. Are these things now moving to intercept any who are trying to retrieve the artifacts? Are they wanting the artifacts, themselves? Hiow do they know about them? The Circle is so far clueless to the actual history of the items.