Author Archives: hccummings

About hccummings

Here you will find out about Hans's writing and other projects. Feel free to leave comments. As time goes by, this site will become more sophisticated and hopefully, be able to provide you with all the information you need about his novels, short stories, and fantasy & sci-fi worlds.

5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, Session 18

This post is a wall-of-text because in my excitement over how much work I put in the tournament I failed to take ANY pictures of the table. I had a field with tents, horses, a tavern and everything set out. Nuts.

The Tournament of Flowers kicked off with a speech by Queen Garria:

“Once again, we come together thanks to the generous contributions of the Order of the Sacred Flower.” She pauses for a moment as the crowd cheers for a group of assembled knights with lotus flowers on their tabards.

“May we all compete over the next several days with fairness and grace, that we might earn glory for our peers and ourselves. As in previous years, each individual’s triumphs will contribute to their team’s quest for victory. May the great Wyrm, Morokei Krongrah watch over us as we celebrate victory in his name!”

With that, the tournament began and the crew of the Sea of Stars were approached by Maxim, the tournament scorekeeper and registrar. He introduced the other teams competing: the Order of Truth, Storm Company, the Knights of the Sacred Flower—the tournament sponsors, Companions of the Crucible, and the Free Citizens of Bryttan. The first event was the Grand Melee, a tournament of chivalric, single combat (no magic). Veya and Sumner signed up for that. Zinianna signed up for the Archery Contest. Straxius signed up for Arcane Archery. Straxius signed up for the Joust, and they would all participate as a team in the Urn of Wits challenge and the final Hedge Maze Challenge.

After easily defeating Grinder the Uncouth of the Free Citizens of Bryttan and Jaana the Hammer of the Order of Truth, Veya faced her 3rd Tier opponent, Dupre the Pure, also from the Order of Truth. Meanwhile, Sumner faced off against Shamino the Swift of the Order of Truth, then Grond of the Companions of the Crucible before facing his 3rd Tier opponent, Talos the Elder of Storm Company. Both Veya and Sumner defeated their 3rd Tier opponents, leaving them to face each other in the Champion Round.

That would have to wait a few days, however, to give the tournament participants a chance to rest. Meanwhile, Straxius faced off against Pelgor Quickfingers of the Companions of the Crucible in Arcane Archery and defeated him. Due to a lack of opponents, Straxius merely needed to be Grigori the Dark’s score to advance to the Champion Ship round. Grigori the Dark, of the Companions of the Crucible lost his 3rd Tier challenge to Valen the Ponce of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. Straxius beat his score, then faced Valen the Ponce for the Championship, convincing the boisterous knight that competing drunk and blind-folded would prove their worth. Valen agreed and competed, not knowing Straxius used his connection with his familiar to see through its eyes. Still, Valen’s skill was formidable and he only narrowly lost to Straxius. The Captain of the Sea of Stars was crowned Arcane Archery champion and granted the Earthtender Circlet as a prize (a circlet of blasting).

Sumner geared up for the joust, using his summoned steed after it was deemed that his Celestial Elephant, Stampy, from his figuring would provide him with an unfair and ultimately impractical advantage. (Why yes, I DID buy empty halves of coconut for this.) First, he jousted against an opponent from the Grand Melee, Talos the Elder. He unseated the old man then was challenged by Jaana the Hammer. After defeating her, his opponent was Dupre the Pure. Once again victorious, Sumner’s final opponent was Valen the Ponce. They made multiple passes and with Sumner’s unhorsing their scores were tied! Sumner demanded satisfaction from Valen the Ponce, but was unable to control his rage at the knight’s good natured boasting and the ignorant comments of other participants comparing the minotaur (whose race was unknown on Brintannia) to a bovine. He broke the rules of the contest and was disqualified for using magic to paralyze The Ponce. Valen was crowned Champion of the Joust and accepted the Gweardon Fortress (Daern’s Instant Fortress) as his prize.

Zinni was confident the Archery Contest would be little challenge to her and after defeating Pelgor Quickfingers, Loren Smythe of the Free Citizens of Bryttan, and Katrina Trueeye of the Knights of the Sacred Flower, she faced her final opponent, Garrett the Lame, also of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. Despite his slow, hobbled gait, he proved himself the better, or luckier, archer and limped away with the Champion title and the prize, the Quiver of the Blessed Huntress (a Quiver of Ehlonna).

During the period in which the melee participants rested, the Urn of Wits challenge was held. A pedestal was placed on a large rug in a pavilion. The rug was large enough no one could leap to the center to reach the pedestal. Upon the pedestal was an urn. The object was to retrieve the urn without using magic and without walking on the rug. Heated debates broke out amongst the teams. The crew took knives to the pavilion tent to create a long section of fabric which the placed on the rug to walk on. The challenge proctors called foul and while they were arguing over the wording of the rules, Valen the Ponce knelt down and rolled up the rug to walk on the grass until he reached the urn. The challenge proctors declared the Knights of the Sacred Flower the winners of the Urn of Wits Challenge. This announcement was met with much grumbling by the officers of Sea of Stars.

Nevertheless, the tournament proceeded and, it was time for the presumably rested and healed melee contestants to face off for the Championship. Sumner was reminded in no uncertain terms that magic was prohibited during the challenge and he faced off with Veya. While Sumner provided a bit more of a challenge than her previous opponents, the barbarian powerhouse from Faerun defeated the minotaur from Ansalon (Krynn). She accepted the title of Grand Melee Champion and the prize of an Adamantine Breastplate from the vaults of the Knights of the Sacred Flower.

After a final evening of rest, the last day of the tournament and the Hedge Maze challenge arrived. (I used the Blenheim Palace maze in Oxfordshire, UK as the model for this maze.) Maxim was careful to explain that divination, flying or levitation magic, or any other means to see an overview of the maze by participants would result in instant disqualification. Once the rules were clarified, the challenge began. Luck was with the crew and they entered the maze first. When they estimated they were about halfway through the maze, the skies darkened unnaturally fast and the skies roiled, filled with swirling clouds of unholy color.

Screams from the tournament grounds outside the maze alerted them that the magical storm was not part of the challenge and they called upon their magic to exit the maze quickly. The people in the tournament grounds were panicking while the knights not participating in the maze challenge tried to calm them. After questioning a few people, they learned that Queen Garria was abducted by three shadowy creatures.

The crew set off in pursuit, finding signs of a struggle in a nearby copse of trees and further signs that the three shadow-creatures took to the sky and flew off with the queen. Her majordomo, Lord Blackthorne was reluctant to accept the crew’s help, but finally relented. They returned to the palace and questioned some witnesses. After discussing the issue with others, they decided to go to the Knights of the Sacred Flower and the Order of Truth for assistance.

To their chagrin, Valen the Ponce turned out to be the leader of the Knights of the Sacred Flower. He was all too happy to assist them, however and confided that they had little faith in Lord Blackthorne’s ability to fairly and safely deal with the panicking populace. At the Order of Truth, the crew searched through their library to learn the shadowy creature were, in all likelihood, the Shadowlords. The Shadowlords, three powerful creatures with ties to Orcus, were thought to have been vanquished ages ago. Their lair was located in the Underworld; a dark place of deep caverns to which no one has traveled in decades.

The officers of Sea of Stars began their preparations for a long trek into Brintannia’s underdark….

The tournament went pretty well. I was surprised the PCs didn’t walk away with all the prizes, but at least I feel satisfied that I didn’t just hand them everything without a challenge. I will admit some of the wording for the Urn of Wits challenge could have been better, but I forgot that, when dealing with D&D players, they’re going to Rules Lawyer the absolutely living flesh off the bones of any challenge with in-game rules. I also got so caught up in tracking the challenge results in the brackets I created that I forgot to give out inspiration for some particularly good bits of role-playing. Maybe one of them will see this and remind me at the next session.

Also, I was surprised how quickly they leapt to offer to go after Queen Garria. Damn, that’s heroic!

If I remember when I return from Gary Con, I’ll summarize how I ran the tournament in a separate post. I wasn’t trying to simulate every little detail and I think it worked out pretty well.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, Session 17

The tunnel leading from the tomb meandered through the rocky underground until it opened into a flooded cavern. Gnolls filled the shores of the subterranean lake and quickly moved to attack. After dealing with them, the crew heard chanting from deeper within the cavern, so they circumnavigated the lake and proceeded deeper into the depths.

The natural tunnel gave way to a constructed area; a ritual room of sorts. Three druids were bound, up to their necks in a pool of blood while gnolls snarled and chanted around them, led in their dark worship by warlock bent on summoning some fell creature.

The crew of Sea of Stars leapt to the attack, intent on interrupting the foul ritual and saving the druids. After a pitched battle, the crew emerged victorious and pulled the druids out of their bloody prison. They led the druids out and found the fire fog was gone and the bleak pall hanging over the grove was lifted. The healing could begin.

Back in Bryttan Castle, Queen Garria expressed her thanks at their efforts and invited them to stay a while. The Tournament of Flowers was starting a few days and they were all invited to attend and participate if they so chose….

This may seem brief, and it probably is, but I got caught up in doing final edits and revisions to my next novel and really didn’t have a lot of time to do a detailed synopsis while trying to prep for the next session and finalize preparations for Gary Con, too. I could’ve summed it up in two sentences: The PCs killed all the gnolls and their leaders, and saved the druids. In gratitude, the Queen invited them to attend the Tournament of Flowers being held in a few days.

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A Short Hiatus

One of my regular players was out with a medical issue for the last two games, so rather than continue the D&D game (we left off in the middle of exploring a druidic grove), I took the opportunity to play test two adventures I’m running at Gary Con next month.

I won’t go into too much detail in case anyone reading this is signed up to play in those games.

timewatch-logoThe first was “Recruiting Call,” an adventure for Pelgrane Press’s Timewatch RPG. This was both the first time I’d ever played or GMed a Gumshoe-system game.

Basically, the premise of Timewatch is similar to the Van Damme move from the 90s, “Timecop.” If you haven’t seen it, I won’t tell you to run out right now and watch it, but it does have Bruce McGill, so that’s a plus in my book.

So, time-traveling secret agents on a time-and-location-hopping adventure. It worked out pretty well. I found the system pretty easy to run, one of the easiest to grok from scratch I’ve experienced, in fact. Fate took several play and GM sessions before I felt comfortable with it. I’m still not entire comfortable with Ubiquity (of Hollow Earth Expedition fame), despite having played it at least once and run it twice. My players discovered that violence-based solutions were a poor choice for their characters (it didn’t help that their rolls were crappy all night), so there’s a hint for you if you’re signed up to play in this at Gary Con.

starwars_logoThe second game was “Imperial Entanglements,” a Star Wars adventure I wrote and ran at Gary Con V four years ago for West End Games’s d6-based Star Wars RPG (long out-of-print, but never forgotten). I foolishly included a character four years ago that was able to break the adventure in the very beginning so I re-vamped all the pre-gens and fleshed out and expanded the adventure even more (to cop to my mistake, I was woefully unprepared to run it that year and decided then that ad-libbing my way through most of a con adventure was a BAD idea for me).

I may have added too much material, but it certainly went better than the last time I ran it. In addition, the pre-gens I created are much more suited for the type of adventure it is and everyone had a chance to shine over the course of the evening. I didn’t even really need the miniatures I had (though I’ll probably still bring them, because not every group is as good at avoiding combat at my current home group can be).

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Next weekend we return to our regularly-schedule, but twice-delayed Fifth Edition Spelljammer game.

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And now for something completely different… The Rapture! (Doctor Who)

Way back around Christmas (2016), we played another session of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. The PCs in this game consist of Jenny Smith (The Doctor’s Daughter), Doctor Cornelius Constance (a 19th century scientician), and Bart, a golden retriever from the planet Xylanthia.
The TARDIS crew was en route to fun Christmastime frivolity on some strange planet when all of a sudden, the Cloister bell started chiming. The sensors went off the charts with artron activity.  This threw them out of the time track and their TARDIS landed with a thud.

Scanners indicated it was the year 2020, Monday the 21st of December, Earth, Unites States, Indianapolis, IN.

You are on Monument Circle. You open the door and the circle is bathed in multi-colored lights as the monument above you is decorated as a large Christmas tree. You look back and notice that the chameleon circuit has disguised the TARDIS as one of the statues. Across the street from you is the Christ Church Cathedral Episcopal Church. There is a sign advertising the upcoming Christmas service. With the message “The Rapture is upon us! Rejoice!”

Jenny immediately felt there was something “off” about the church and the group decided to investigate. They entered the church just as the evening service let out. People filed into the fellowship hall for coffee, cookies, and gossip.

Cornelius noticed a bulletin board captioned “Those who have been Raptured” with the names and pictures of 43 people, including the former Bishop of the church, Marcus Froman. He filed this away in his photographic memory and moved on. Below the board there was a schedule of rapture times. Doctor Constance shrugs and quipped that he was not familiar with the concept of scheduling the rapture, must be some new future church mumbo-jumbo. (Though I did make sure the former Bishop was not related to the Sausage King of Chicago.)

They chatted up the rather gruff dean of the church, Dean David Stone for a little while. Since Jenny was rather charismatic and could get info out of almost anyone, they found out that there are multiple church services a day and each one ends with the new leader of the church, Vicar Judy Pertmore, announcing the next two people to be raptured. The names just come to her. The chosen are sent to the basement and into the catacombs beneath the church to the crypt of the founder. This was where the raptures happen. The group all found it rather odd that the rapture happens underground so they decided to take their leave of the Dean and go snoop around the church.

The group snuck their way around looking for the basement. First, they decided to check out the Vicar’s office. It was locked but nothing Doctor Constance’s sonic screwdriver couldn’t handle. They found nothing of any real value in there, though Bart found grains of sand all over the office. Weird, but meaningless at the weeping-angelmoment. Next, they hit the former Bishop’s office. No sand in there. It appeared as though it had not been touched. They did find a hidden compartment in the wall that contained a note from 1885 warning whoever finds the note to not trust the Vicar and to watch out for the statues. “They look like angels but they are the devil himself. If you encounter them do not look
away for that is when they strike!”
This is when those of us familiar with Doctor Who lore said: nopenopenope

Following Bart’s keen nose they eventually made their way into the basement and into the catacombs. There were random burial niches set into the walls each with a name plaque. Doctor Constance started matching up the names with the names he saw on the Rapture Board. With a quick scan they found out that the bodies were at least 100 years old and seemed to have died of natural causes. In one of the niches, they also found a journal detailing that the members of the church are being sent back in time somehow and that Judy Pertmore is working for the statues. They are put them to work digging tunnels underneath the city looking for something. In the last entry he thinks they found it. There was some sort of glowing chamber and they dragged desiccated statues into the catacombs.

Making their way to the Founder’s tomb they were greeted by two stone angel statues. The group decided it would be in their best interest to run as the lights in the catacombs, including the flashlights in their hands, started going out.  A chase ensued and the group made it up the stairs before anything happened.

The plan: hop in the TARDIS and go back to the date found in the journal. However, their TARDIS was fickle and they wound up in the Cretaceous period. A little percussive maintenance on the console set things right and they eventually arrived at their destination, December 21st 1885. A small altercation ensued with the burly men guarding the entrance to the church but they eventually made their way into the catacombs. There were more angel statues that time but there were too many eyes upon them; roughly three dozen people toiling away digging and lugging other statues around.

crack-in-timeThey made their way to the glowing room. It was a space/time rift. The statues seemed to be feeding off of the artron energy it is produced. Splitting up, they desperately searched for Bishop Froman and eventually found him. They dragged him back to the TARDIS ignoring his fascination at it being “bigger on the inside” and piloted the craft into the center of the rift causing an explosion of blue light as it slammed itself shut. The resulting paradox fixed everything the Angels worked so hard to accomplish and everything was right in the world.

The group unceremoniously dumped the Bishop back at his church and set off for destinations unknown.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, Session 16

spelljammer logo

The next morning, Queen Garria gave them a tour of her castle. They noticed an ancient axe above her throne, an heirloom from an ancestor. The same axe was depicted in a statue in her garden of an armored, bearded man battled a fat, goat-headed demonic creature. When asked, she explained he was the ancestor to whom the axe belonged, shown battling Orcus.

Just then, a page ran up to them. Apparently sent by Queen Garria to a nearby druid’s grove, he spun a tale of a mist that ignited flesh where it touched and a disturbing lack of druids. Not only were the druids nowhere to be found, but the trees in the groves were twisted and corrupted.

Queen Garria implored the crew to grant her a favor and investigate. In exchange, she would give them a letter authorizing a line of credit with the ship builder in nearby city of Bryttan. Eager to further customize Sea of Stars, the crew agreed.

They flew the ship north to the grove as indicated by the page’s instructions. A thick mist hung over the trees, obscuring visibility to the point that they could find a safe place to descend into the grove, so they descended the ladder to enter the grove via the road.

The twisted paths winding through the grove led them past gnarled, corrupted treants, one of whom took objection to the fleshlings in their midst. After defeating the angry tree, they found the center of the grove: a massive oak tree with red leaves.

After a quick search, they found a hollow beneath the tree and descended into a small crypt filled with gnolls performing a profane ritual. Several of the gnolls were so gaunt as to be nearly skeletal, and they turned to attack. After a pitched battle, the officers of Sea of Stars searched the crypt for clues as to the gnolls’ purpose. The fire mist was as thick as ever outside, but they found a secret door in the back of the tomb leading deeper underground….

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, Session 15

spelljammer logo

After loading up their treasure, the crew of Sea of Stars departed from Oerth. A few days into the journey, as they were passing through The Grinder (a vast sphere of asteroids separating Greyspace’s inner planets from the outer planets), the lookout noticed a distant light that seemed to be shadowing them.

mindspiderThey approached a large asteroid and hid behind it, intending to let the other ship pass and get behind it. When they emerged, a ship with a claw-like front was dead ahead, it’s finger-like claws enveloping the front of the ship. Straxius recognized the tell-tale shape of a neogi Mindspinder and ordered the Sea of Stars to reserve course and come about. However, the neogi ship collided with Sea of Stars and its umber hulks leapt aboard!

Riding the umber hulks were their snake/spider-like masters, the neogi. The sharp claws of the umber hulks proved a challenge, as did the insidious magic and poison of the neogi, but after a pitched, and desperate battle, the crew of Sea of Stars was victorious.

Exploring the mindspider, they discovered a vast amount of treasure along with half-a-dozen slaves the neogi had been using in their lifejammer helm. The slaves begged the crew to return them to their homes of Brintannia and assured them Queen Garria would reward them handsomely for their efforts.

Brintannia wasn’t exactly on the way, but wasn’t too far out of the way, so after a brief conference, Straxius agreed.

And here’s where I forgot to return to the ship that seemed to be shadowing them which was NOT the mindspider; i.e. it didn’t do an off-screen teleportation to magically get in front of them. Oh bother.

 By the time they reached Heart Sphere, the repairs were complete and they were well-rested from their encounter with the neogi. The former slaves directed the crew where to take them: a resplendent castle near a lake. Queen Garria greeted her peoples’ saviors and invited them to feast with her that night. She offered them lodging in her castle and their bellies grew full as the night grew dark….

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5th ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 14

spelljammer logo

This is going to have some pretty major spoilers for the Tomb of the Scorpion Prince published in Kobold Press’s Book of Lairs, so be warned.

After a brief conference outside of the tomb and a quick healing by Flint, the crew decided to continue their explorations. Once back inside, they quickly scouted both side corridors. To the left, there was a series of sharply angled rooms adorned with sculptures of scorpions with ruby eyes. The floor contained a mosaic pattern of scorpions. To the right there was a large room with a pedestal surrounded by sand.

They opted to investigate the ruby-eyed scorpions, first. Upon closer inspection, they were certain the ruby eyes were a lure to a trap, so they passed by the statues, leaving them unmolested and came upon a room with burial niches and a statue of the Scorpion Prince himself. Among the treasure, they found a gem etched with a number.

Once they defeated the animated statue and its minions, they proceeded deeper into the tomb. An unfinished, rough-hewn corridor led them directly into a trap which flooded the passageway with toxic water and corpse oozes. They defeated the nasty creatures and after finding a set of sealed doors with geometric indentations, backtracked to the angled corridors with ruby-eyed scorpions.

To no great surprise, the ruby eyes were traps. When touched, they shot great gouts of flame, filling the hallway. In addition, the scorpion mosaic on the floor came to life and swarms of scorpions attacked the crew. When they finished dispatching the vermin, they continued their explorations, finding more cleverly hidden traps, and several more gems etched with numbers.

After some deep thought and a brief rest, they deciphered the clues of the gems. The number etched into each gem, 1, 3, 4, and 5, corresponded to a geometric shape in the door.  1 fit into a circular indentation, 3 into a triangular indentation, 4 into a square indentation, and 5 into a pentagonal indentation.  When the gems were in place, the sealed door opened.

Inside the chamber stood a sarcophagus atop a multi-faceted hollow crystal. Four small stone chambers were on opposite walls. After the crew looked around for a moment, the stone chambers opened and night scorpions spilled out. In addition, the sarcophagus opened to reveal a newly awakened Scorpion Prince determined to kill those who awakened him and begin his conquest of the land once more.

During the protracted battle, they noticed the chambers which disgorged the scorpions also contained indentations and Zinniana ran around to each of them, placing a gem inside. Sumner summoned his celestial elephant, Stampy and Straxius polymorphed himself into a thunder lizard (’cause Tyrannosaurus Rex sounds too 20th century, yo) to aid the fray. After a mighty battle, they defeated the Scorpion Prince and his minions, then shattered the hollow crystal to claim the treasure within.

2016-11-26-00-23-22Ra-Jareez’s tip paid off, and they retreated from Oerth once more to take stock of their newly acquired riches…

Funny enough, they figured out the gems in the final battle before it became a slog. The scorpions had to die before the Scorpion Prince could be harmed. The gems had to be placed before the scorpions could be killed. Each gem had a corrected location. They got that part right on the first try and got the first scorpion down at just about the same time, so the fiddly nature of the puzzle never became apparent to them (though once the session was over, I did tell them how lucky they were to pick all the right choices at the end on the first try and congratulated them on their cleverness). The fact that the wizard was tanking as a dinosaur and they had an elephant stomping bugs probably helped.

I used a lair from the Book of Lairs for this for two reasons: I spent a lot of my prep time learning how to play D&D again (the mind forgets after four months and three different systems) and having the NPC Ra-Jareez find a seedy treasure map and say “Look, I contributed!” was totally in-character for him. I just wish I’d had more angled wall pieces because someall of those bulbous-looking sections are supposed to be angled.

And now we’re off on another brief hiatus. December is a difficult gaming month due to holiday-related family activities. We’re playing one session of Doctor Who (a Christmas special!), but no D&D until January 6th.

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5th ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 13

After a four month hiatus, we returned to our D&D 5th edition Spelljammer campaign! One of our players left the group at the beginning of the hiatus, so henceforth, Flint Rockbottom is Mr. Not-Appearing-in-these-Adventures-as-a-PC. The campaign focus has shifted from Favors of the Arcane to the Wand of Orcus, and posts will be titled accordingly, though the number will remain constant as it’s the same story line.

 spelljammer logo

Six months have passed since you defeated the dragon and acquired Sea of Stars. Though Ragnar technically owns the ship, he is content to act as Gunnery and Armory Master. Flint Rockbottom has taken up brewing with a new passion and owns a brewery on the Rock of Bral from which he produces ale and beer that is now being exported to other worlds, through your patron, Herzog.

 

After some time spent refitting the ship, and a few quick jobs to shake out the kinks, your spelljammer is ready to fly into the black once more!

 

Still, the specter of the Wand of Orcus looms over you. No new information came your way, and that there have been no obviously related attacks or disturbances is disquieting.

 

As the officers supervised final preparations for launch, Ra-Jareez approached Captain Straxius. He presented the wizard with a treasure map he’d acquired sometime in the past week. “Ra-Jareez knows there is little trust here. This one hopes that by sharing this treasure, you will know this old Nkosi means well. Perhaps a little something for everyone, yes?”

 

After a brief discussion, they decided since this purported lost treasure was on Oerth, it would be worth investigating, despite its location deep in the Sea of Dust in the Imperial Wastes. Fortunately, they were in a flying ship, so the lack of water in which to land was not a problem. Once they arrived in Greyspace and trekked to Oerth, Flint took the helm and hovered the ship above the site.

 

From the air, it was clear the giant scorpion statue protruding from the sand was part of an ancient complex, a forgotten temple deep in a land long bereft of life. Straxius, Sumner, Veya, Zinniana, and Kagark descended the ship’s rope ladder to the site.

 

Immediately, the sun glinting off a stone in the tail of the scorpion caught their eye. Zinniana and Veya climbed the monolithic scorpion’s tail, and saw the stinger was a giant gemstone. With care and cleverness, they removed it and brought it back down to Sumner and Straxius for examination. Before anyone could stop him, Sumner licked the gemstone.

 

Much to the minotaur’s chagrin, the gemstone was cursed. Lacking any means to remove the curse, they were forced to proceed despite this setback. They descended into the underground chamber, presumably a tomb of some sort.

 

At the bottom of the stairs, the corridor split off to the left and right, in addition to continuing straight. Ahead, a pit stretched across the corridor from wall to wall. As soon as they entered the intersection, cultist leapt from concealed crevasses and attacked! One shatter spell later, courtesy Zinniana, and more cultists emerged, ready to kill the intruders.

 

As the battle raged, a cultist’s head bounced into the pit, attracting carrion beetles the size of full-grown hogs to climb up and attack, seeking food. Though the battle was bloody, the crew eventually emerged victorious and paused to evaluate their wounds before moving deeper into the tomb…

Four months of playing other games caused this session to go a little slower than normal; we all had to learn how to play D&D again. Still, progress was made and we’re all looking forward to continuing the campaign.

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Doctor StrangeRoll – Post-Gen Con Hypnosis

We’re taking a break from the Spelljammer campaign on Doctor StrangeRoll so I can concentrate on writing my next novel*. I’ve found it increasingly difficult to write a mostly-original D&D campaign and try to write long-form fiction at the same time.

Not to worry, this hiatus is only going to last six weeks or so (the length of time it takes me to complete a first draft), though it’ll probably be November before a proper resumption of D&D since I want to play-test a Ghostbusters adventure on the session just prior to Hallowe’en.

For our post-Gen Con session, we BSed about Gen Con, broke in a new player with CAH (apparently, it’s becoming my group’s litmus test, because it’s far worse than ANY jokes we make during a regular game), and created character for the first of possibly two short games.

dungeoncrawlclassicsThe first of these two is Dungeon Crawl Classics. Next game session, we’re going through a 0-level funnel. My four characters are: Dennis the Mendicant (think Dennis the Peasant from Monty Python & the Holy Grail), Lazlo the Smuggler, Bob the Butcher, and Lightfoot the Shaman. We’re a four-man frat party! Dennis has cheese dip, Bob has a side of beef, Lightfoot brings the herbs, and Lazlo… well, Lazlo has a waterproof sack. Maybe they’ll mix some trash can punch in it.

Between the five players, we have a LOT of herbs. “Herbs.” The jokes have already started. Of course, one could argue that to go off on a life of adventuring in the world of Dungeon Crawl Classics, one would HAVE to be high (or drunk, or insane). We also have a lot of chain, for some reason. I should douse one of the chains in oil, light it, and pretend I’m Ghost Rider!

GMG5070WCoverLargeWhile I played Dungeon Crawl Classics at Gary Con last year, that was a playtest (I suspect of something Lahnkmar related) with pre-gens. This is for real.

* What’s this novel, you ask? (If you’re not asking, skip this part.) It’s the fourth book in the Zack Jackson sci-fi series for all ages. I spent a lot of time trying to find my voice for this series again because I spent way too much time writing Scars of the Sundering (not that it wasn’t worth it, it was just more time-consuming than I expected and Zack Jackson sat fallow too long for a series in which I plan 6-7 books). You can stay up-to-date on all my fiction by going over to my other blog: VFF Publishing.

Categories: Random Thoughts | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Handicap Awareness at Gen Con

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Gen Con is nigh! With less than two weeks to go before the best four days in gaming (as of the time I’m posting this), I’m not going to rehash what so many others have put out there; there are tons of blogs and articles out there with advice regarding large conventions like Gen Con. My advice is going to be different. I am going to rehash what I’ve posted in previous years (they’re my most popular posts!). To most of it, Wheaton’s Law applies. For those of you who are link-averse, Wheaton’s Law is this: Don’t be a dick.
However, the things about which I’m going to speak, are the sorts of things people are not aware they’re being dickish about. They’re not being malicious; they just don’t have any personal experience with these sorts of issues, so when they start breaking Wheaton’s Law, they don’t know they’re doing it. My job here is not to castigate, but to educate.

Specifically, I’m talking about dealing with those who have physical challenges at conventions. The handicapped, to be blunt. People like my wife. She can walk, but conventions like Gen Con are too big for her. So, she uses a wheelchair to get around. She has a snazzy metallic red electric wheelchair, but in years past, I’ve pushed her in a manual wheelchair. This gives us a unique experience at Gen Con.

Be Aware of People Around You

The average con goer is, shall we say, Plus-sized. OK, that’s fine. I’ve been there; I lost nearly 50 pounds a few years ago. At conventions, people often have large backpacks. Sometimes, everything they brought to the convention is in this backpack. People are not always aware that this backpack adds two to three feet to their girth. They spin around quickly. If you’re in a wheelchair, those backpacks are level with your head. More than once my wife has narrowly avoided being clobbered in the head by an unaware con-goer suddenly spinning around because something caught his or her eye. When I pushed her, I watched for this sort of thing. Now she drives herself, and I worry she’s going to get beat up.

Step to the far sides or into a booth space, if possible, to have conversations with friends or on your phone, or to look at the map, in your backpack, etc.

Moving through large groups of slow moving people is a challenge in a wheelchair. Sometimes people back up unexpectedly. Worse, they often stop unexpectedly. Sometimes it’s because the crowd in front of them has stopped. Sometimes it’s because something caught their eye. Sometimes it’s because someone caught their eye, and they’re stopping to chat. If this happens to you, look ahead a bit and see if there’s a spot in a booth where you can divert to stop. Please, please, please don’t just stop in the middle of the aisle to root through your backpack or catch a Pokémon. You’re not in a high school hallway; stopping in the middle of the aisle is hugely disruptive. Also, if you’re pushing your kids in a stroller, you really need to watch where you’re pushing them. My wife almost got t-boned by a stroller a few years ago because the mother had her head turned one way, watching something, and was pushing and walking in a different direction… in a CROWDED hall way (not even the Dealer Hall). She also almost got run into by a guy walking very fast and not watching the direction he was walking. His friend yelled to get his attention, otherwise he would have tripped over my wife’s (in motion) wheelchair. She had no chance to take evasive action because he approached from an angle that was mostly behind her. Situational Awareness is a thing. You don’t have to be a fighter pilot to practice it. Seriously.

Bathe regularly. Use deodorant.

Shower regularly and use deodorant. This has been covered by almost every blog and podcast I’ve seen on the subject. I bring it up because something most people aren’t aware of: Gamer Funk is worse when your head is at waist level to the average con goer. Think about it: you sit on your butt every day during the con, often for four to six hours at a time. Frequently, walking around the city during the Con can be like walking on the surface of the sun (i.e. it’s HOT). The chairs don’t breathe. The A/Cs in the convention center will have trouble keeping up with a roomful of gamers when it’s hot and humid outside. Except for a very few, select people, most attendees have the crotch region covered completely by a couple of layers of clothes (basically, I’m talking about everyone who can’t get away with wearing something like a swimsuit or lingerie to Gen Con). Sweat happens. Funky things happen in dark, warm, moist areas. This is not shameful, it’s just a fact of bio-chemistry. Cleanliness saves noses.

Give wheelchairs a wide berth; don’t step over them.

Often, those of us using wheelchairs move a little slower than others in the Dealer Hall. Sorry, it’s just difficult to push a large mechanical object through a crowd. Sometimes, we have to stop for a moment to wait for an opening to cross an aisle. I know you’re in a hurry. I know there’s a demo you think you’re late for, or a game in another room. But FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLY: DO NOT STEP OVER THE LEGS OF THE PERSON IN THE WHEELCHAIR. This happens to my wife at least once a year. Someone will get the bright idea that they can cut a corner if they just step over my wife’s legs. That is 100% NOT OKAY. For one, these people usually misjudge how much space they need and end up kicking my wife’s feet or the wheelchair. She’s not paralyzed, OK? She has feeling in the lower half of her body. In fact, because she has a degenerative spine condition, she feels these jolts acutely. IN HER BACK.

Pain is a funny thing (and I mean funny like a heart attack). In my wife’s case (and I know many people experience this same thing), it’s like gas prices. It’ll spike very quickly, and then take FOREVER to come back down. If you kick her wheels (however accidentally) or kick her legs because you felt stepping over her was quicker than going around, or accidentally knee the back of the chair because you’re standing too close in line, all of those jolts go right into her back. The extremities are ALL connected to the spine in some way. That jolt of pain doesn’t just go away. It takes HOURS. Often, it takes her lying down for hours before it gets back down to a manageable level and it’s not something that can be alleviated by popping a couple of ibuprofen. Chronic pain does not work that way.

More than once, she has missed out on a half-day or a whole day of a con because of this pain. When you are the cause because you carelessly stepped over her wheelchair and kicked her legs, causing a flare up of pain in her back, you have taken a day at Gen Con away from her. Is that worth saving five seconds to you?

Don’t tie up handicapped accessible bathroom stalls unless you have a Potty Emergency.

A comedian once proclaimed the virtues of the handicapped rest room stall, saying it was “the Cadillac” [of the stalls]. While it is true these stalls are often very roomy, there is a reason for that. Here’s a hint: the reason is NOT SO YOU CAN USE IT TO CHANGE INTO OR OUT OF YOUR COSTUME. I respect cosplayers. What they do is AMAZING. But if you’re tying up the accessible stall chatting on the phone, changing clothes, having a quiet moment, you may be preventing people who need to use it for its intended purposes from using the facilities they require. From what I hear, because I don’t have first-hand experience with the ladies restrooms, for every ten to twenty standard stalls, there are one or two handicapped stalls and one or two “family” stalls (if you’re lucky). The family stalls are slightly smaller than the handicapped stalls, but larger than a standard stall so that a mom can stand and assist her toddler. Handicapped attendees don’t expect the handicapped stalls to only be used by handicapped people. With some 50,000 – 60,000 attendees anticipated, it is understood that sometimes there will be a line for the facilities. People expect to have to wait their turn. The main point is to use a non-handicapped stall if one is available and to be aware that people in wheelchairs cannot choose one of the smaller stalls.

Look, I get sometimes you need a quiet moment, or have to change clothes, but that stall is that big so that wheelchairs can get into it. My wife told me of an experience last year where she was in a line three wheelchairs deep waiting for the accessible stall while two young ladies were changing clothes and giggling and were pretty much oblivious to the fact that they were not the center of the universe.  Apparently, of the twenty or so other stalls, only two others were occupied at the time, so it’s not like these young ladies had no choice (and couldn’t wait). One woman had to get out of her wheelchair, crawl along the floor, and into a non-handicapped accessible stall because she could not wait any longer. My wife confronted them and politely made them aware they were holding up the line and they cried and accused her of being rude.

When people abuse the handicapped restroom, handicapped con goers risk wetting their pants. That shouldn’t have to be one’s main concern in a public restroom.

It’s a safe bet that most cosplayers are from out of town and have hotels. Perhaps they see the bathroom, the handicapped stall in particular, as a more convenient place to work on their costume than going back to their hotel. Well, tough. That stall is for handicapped people to pee and poop. You don’t get to act put out when one of them calls you on it. Besides, have you SEEN what’s on the floor in a public restroom? I certainly wouldn’t want to get that on my costume.

NX_senior_man_wheelchairDon’t be a Dick

This last thing actually is castigation because this happens every Gen Con and it’s not a matter of people being unaware; it’s a matter of people being rude jerks. If there’s a person with a wheelchair waiting for an elevator and they were there waiting when you and your group of friends arrived, WAIT FOR THE NEXT ELEVATOR IF YOU ALL WON’T FIT. More than once we have had our elevator poached by a group of rude assholes who rush to get into the elevator before we can. That’s being a dick. That’s being rude. You are bad people and should feel bad. When that happens, we hope the elevator breaks down with you in it. Don’t make me be a bad person for wishing bad things upon you.

Let’s work together to make sure the Best Four Days of Gaming are the best days for ALL attendees!

Categories: Conventions | Tags: , | 14 Comments

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