Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Update: The Face of Mystara, Part II (Session 1)

From the Journal of Methra the Magus:

After the ship was destroyed by the Kraken, the survivors crammed into the only remaining dinghy.  The last remaining lifeboat had sprung a leak, and Todd the Fighter swiftly began to bail the water out.  The situation appears rather bleak.


The halfling Wickwar Davis and the Magic-User Blanith for the Mind were sailing for the mainland.  Landing in Specularum to sell some spices, art work and other items they had managed to hold on to from the Isle of Dread.  They trusted these sales to Captain Barlowe's discretion, and took two weeks to rest at the Serpent's Tongue Inn.  Remembering the specialists they left behind on the Isle, they took to posting "Help Wanted" signs to recruit adventurers to help rescue them.

Back in the Ocean:

The survivors of the shipwreck were picked up by Thyatian sailors.  Utho the Fighter gratefully tipped the sailors ten gold coins.  The Thyatians took the small party to the nearest port, Specularum.  Seeing the "Help Wanted" signs on the local inn (The Serpent's Tongue) the small party inquires about the job.  The promise of a sign-on bonus caught the attention of Utho the Lawful.  The new party listened to the halfling's and Blanith's story about their old party group and the specialists they had brought to help colonize the isle.

A village to rescue and the promise of deep pockets made the newcomers eager to ship off with Blanith and Wickwar.  The halfling and mage gave the new group sixty gold each for agreeing to their adventure.  The two week trip to the island involved one big storm.  As they approached the island, an ominous ash cloud hung over the volcano.

Approaching the place where the village of Tanaroa used to stand, the adventurers could see nothing but ash.  The party decided to explore more of the island to try to find the villagers, and something stirred beneath the ash before they were able to leave.  Charred zombies circled the village, stirred by the noise of the party or a thirst for blood.  The adventurers did not stick around to find out.

In Mora, the villagers came to greet the party.  They told of a serpent who spit fire and destroyed villages, people and the island.  They said the serpent was a warning to not go north beyond Tanaroa's wall.  

Going back to the burned village, they saw several marks in the ash blanket where the zombies emerged.  In the wreckage of the half-built boathouse, they found a burned guild insignia.  The party suspects the worst...

From the Journal of Alexandria Postoak:

Blanith and Wickwar go to Specularum.  They decide to stay for two weeks in the Serpent's Tongue Inn.  They have paid the captain to sell all the stuff the got from the island of Dread.

Wickwar has decided to look for maps, and Blanith spends all his time in the inn waiting and listening to rumors.  They have decided to put out flyers to find people to adventure with them.

The group talks to decide whether or not they want to go on this adventure.  Blanith and Wickwar decide that they are going to give each person in the party a full share of the treasure found.  Wickwar says that he wants to save the people that are on the island.


A group of four fighters, a cleric and a magic-user paddle a small life boat through the ocean, bailing water as they go.  They are picked up by a Thyatian vessel and then dropped off at the nearest port.  Utho is looking for bounties and happens to notice the flyer and brings it to the group.  The group finds Blanith and Wickwar to accept the offer and apply for the job.


The boat arrives at the island after two weeks at sea in storms.  The island is dark with clouds of smoke from the volcano.  Blanith and Wickwar are surprised to find that the village of Tanaroa is burned and nothing but ash.  The group decides to leave the village, then zombies start to rise up out of the ash.


The group reboards the ship and goes to Mora.  The people of Mora say that a lizard came to burn the village asa  warning to not come to the north.  The village says the the sky serpents fly over normally, but the red dragon is the only one that has ever threatened them.


The group gets back on the ship and goes back to Tanaroa.  There are a lot of places where you can tell that zombies rose up from the ashes, but the zombies are gone.  


The group searches for the guild people, but all the find is a badly burned guilder insignia.  Blanith and Wickwar decide to give up the search for the people they came to look for.  Oliver prays for the dead.  They can see the grave pyramid is the only that that is not charred, so they go to investigate.


The group deates the next plan.  They go north to look for survivors.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Dungeons & Dragons: The Face of Mystara Campaign Log, Part I

The first part of our Dungeons & Dragons Basic/Expert campaign has concluded.  Now, the player party has other designs and far grander plans than any that have come before.  With ships and soldiers, they intend to make their mark on the Sea of Dread!

This log covers June to early October, 2014.  Since we've had major format changes this week, we decided to experiment with a new template for campaign logs and updates.  Stay tuned, and check out Part II's campaign log as well!

The Grand Duchy of Karameikos, 1000 A.C.

In the lands of the Known World, peace is never known for long.  Furtive whispers of gathering darkness drift across the realm like the shadows of darkened stormclouds.  A sellsword's steel is good currency here, and indeed all across Thyatis.  Where strife holds sway, our adventurers always tread.

Our heroes are chance companions met upon the road, yet it seems all share one common goal:  to seek out adventure!  The road is rife with tales of strange and haunted places, guarded by things outside of civilization.  Everywhere treasure and magic are to be had, if only one possessed the means.

In pursuit of this glory, our adventurers will risk all.  Can they brave the gauntlet of the Known World and arrive at their proper destinies?  Or will the gibbering insanities of Mystara break their wills, casting them into obscurity forever?

The Face of Mystara is a Dungeons & Dragons Basic/Expert campaign that will progress through the various levels of the 1980's era basic sets as the players rise in level. In addition, we'll be using most of the printed modules for Basic/Expert D&D from the same time period, in an effort to recreate the zeitgeist of a bygone era of adventuring.

At times, players may control more than 1 player character. In these instances, players are limited to one demihuman class among the allowed total. All a player's characters gain the same amount of XP. As characters level up, they will access more and more of the rules until finally the Rules Cyclopedia is made available.

Current Player Characters
Total Party Levels: 8
  • Wickwar Davis - Halfling: 4 (L) 
  • Blaneth Grigix of the Light - Magic-User: 4 (C) 
Total Party Levels: 2 (+10 Normal Men)
  • Captain Ioran Barlowe - Fighter: 2 (L)
    • The Drake (Small Sailing Ship) 
    • 10 Sailors - Normal Men 

Disbanded Player Characters
  • Modai Valius - Elf: 2 (L) 
Deceased Player Characters
  • The Red Fox - Thief: 1 (N)
  • Lucian Talbot - Fighter: 1 (L)
  • Spiel Von Hechtinburg - Thief: 3 (N)
  • Xan-Dar - Fighter: 2 (N)
  • Vorenus - Fighter: 1 (N)
  • Bastian Schweinwächter - Cleric: 2 (L)
  • Corpus Bin Jesse - Magic-User: 2 (L)
  • Cornelius Swift - Fighter: 3 (L)
  • Gwendolyn - Thief: 3 (N)
  • Siyr Neski - Cleric: 3 (N)
  • Gengis Schweinwächter - Fighter: 3 (L)
  • Gareth Ironhand - Dwarf: 3 (L)
  • Nuaoo the Islander - Thief: 4 (C)
  • Sven Svensgaard - Magic-User: 4 (C)
  • Gorgiana Longtree - Cleric: 3 (C) 
    • War Dog (2 HD) 
  • Phineous Longfellow - Cleric: 4 (L) 
  • Elessa Astraya - Fighter: 4 (L) 

Campaign Log
Total Time: 66.5 hrs (10.12.14)
  • Horror on the Hill (6.1.2014 to 8.7.14) Total Time: 42.5 hrs - No one knows what became of the Hill, but everyone at Guido's Fort knows that something terrible looms over the River Shrill. The adventurers meet at the Inn in the small community, and prepare to set out in search of treasure and glory.
    • The PC's introduce themselves upon the road to Guido's Fort and become fast friends, intrigued by the notion of what could be upon the dreaded Hill. After plying an old timer with many drinks, the party hits the sack and sets out for the river at first light. After buying a boat and crossing the river, the party explores the Hill for almost two days, running into Driver Ants, Giant Horned Chameleons and even Neanderthals. Avoiding most of these encounters, the party finally talks to the Neanderthals, and ask for directions. (4 hrs)
    • Confusion is the watchword of the day as the party follows the neander-fellows to a sheer cliff. Exploring the hill and avoiding monsters, the party spends close to three days going in circles. However, they soon gain their bearings and begin to map the trails on the hill. On the evening of the last day, the party's camp is attacked by ghouls, skeletons and a strange visitor named Priycyk. However, it' the giant rats that steal in among the party late that night that claim the lives of four of the intrepid adventurers. (5 hrs)
    • The party backtracks once again after burying their dead, and happen to rescue a distraught maiden who joins the group rather than be left on the hill. After visiting the strange sisters Rosalinda and Rosabella, the party scales the western cliffs on the hill to investigate the caves and slay the bullyish ogre. After swaying the Neanderthals to help rid the caves, the party wipes out the southern ogre lair. (5.5 hrs)
    • The party makes it's way to the old monastery, and begin to explore the inner halls. Much of the searching proved fruitless, however. After losing a member to hobgoblin hostilities, the party returns to the Sister's meadow to recuperate. Afterwards, the party climbs the hill to the ruins of the monastery, getting inside and into a torture room crewed by goblins. The characters free Cullen DeFilch, but lose one of their own as well.(5 hrs)
    • The upper level of the monastery is explored, and the complex is mapped out by the adventurers. Bugbears, goblins and hobgoblins abound. The party befriends two starving war dogs, who take to Georgianna quite well. (5 hrs)
    • The entrance to the dungeon is found, and the party descends within. The players rescue a dwarf held captive by the monsters in a smith for over a year. After defeating the hobgoblin king through spellcraft and trickery, the party springs a trap that plunges half of them down a 300 foot chute into a room with many doors. One of them sprung open, and Vorenus caught a berserkers' sword to the belly.. (7 hrs)
    • The second level of the dungeon is revealed to be a maze of tunnels that intersect at the hub point where the players entered. After learning how the trap works, the party holes up in the hobgoblin king's chambers to rest while they explore the lower level. During the return part of such a trip to the second level, the party encounters Priycyk again, who offers to spread rumors among the humanoids in return for a cut of the treasure. However, one of the spellcasters attempted a charm on him, which did not work. Thankfully, his anger was abated by the offer of 300 gold, which he took and promptly left. The exploration of the lower level continues. (4 hrs)
    • Further exploration of the dungeon finds the characters beset by an owlbear guarding it's drinking hole. Bastian Schweinwachter was mauled and killed by the rampaging beast before it was brought down. Burying the body in the earth floor of the tunnels, the characters find two other adventurers (one of them Schweinwachter's brother) who had been trapped in the dungeon since their party was captured more than two weeks earlier. The adventurers retreat to the surface after a grisly encounter with a gelatinous cube leaves the Magic-User Corpus bin Jesse slain. (2 hrs)
    • Weeks 9 and 10 are Mystara Battles: Skirmish Playtest. (0 hrs)
    • The players return once more into the hideous depths of the Hill after resting in the hobgoblin's chambers. This time, however they are foiled as the chute is closed and their ropes removed. They travel deeper in to the caverns, and eventually find an underground stream. Avoiding many dangers, they find their way into the lair of a young red dragon, who proceeds to incinerate Gwendolyn, Siyr Neski and Bastian. After slaying the beast, the survivors meet with the sisters and return to Guido's Fort rich...though they have lost many lives. (5 hrs)
  • The Isle of Dread (8.24.14 to ?) Total Time: 24 hrs - After traveling to Thyatis City and taking a few weeks off, many survivors from the Horror on the Hill congregate to make a new voyage into adventure and the unknown. This time, we set sail south into the Sea of Dread!
    • The adventurers spend a great deal of time recuperating from the Horror on the Hill. After traveling to Thyatis City and setting their treasures straight, the group decides to remain a group and even formalize a bit. The party soon finds a secret treasure map in the red dragon's hoard, and it speaks of a strange island to the far south, and hints there may be great treasure there. After buying a small sailing ship (the Drake), the party hires Captain Barlowe and his crew to look after the ship and see to the general upkeep thereof. The party sets sail for Specularum, then turns south following the directions on the vellum letter. 19 days after setting out from Thyatis City, the party find the so-called Isle of Dread. The party waits in the harbor until first light to step ashore. (4 hrs)
    • The party makes contact with the islanders. After learning that a great wall seals the villages off from the rest of the island, the party organizes an exploratory venture beyond. They find the village of the Phanatons, and take refuge there. They find the central plateau of the island, and resolve the climb the great wall. After returning to the southern islands and sending Barlowe to the mainland to get trade goods, the party ventures back to the plateau and braves the insane climb. Inside the volcanic caldera, they find another village, and hear tales of horror regarding a temple on an island in the caldera's volcanic lake. The party arrives at the temple, ready to explore the treacherous source of the villager's dread. (5 hrs)
    • The adventurer's enter the temple and after mucking around for too long in the entrance are faced with the entirety of the tribe living on Taboo Island. After a short battle ending in the deaths of Gareth Ironhand and Gengis Schweinwächter, the party has charmed all the heads of the tribe. The party heads to the strand to bury their dead, and the chieftain of the tribe (who was blinded, not charmed) dispelled the Continual Light in his eyes with a Continual Darkness and rallied the tribe against the interlopers. On the beach, the tribe is put to sleep and the party murders most of them as they lie helpless, resulting in a major alignment shift for almost all of them. Meanwhile, Wickwar is trapped in the temple on a lower dungeon level, in a dark room full of spitting cobras. (5 hrs)
    • The party bumbles around in the lower levels of the flooded temple. Both Wickwar and the party in general separately managed to find some areas that had flooded, and got swept further down the ancient passages. The clerics have found that the Immortals have turned from them, and no longer answer their pleas for spells. After finding a massive, heated underground cavern beneath the temple, they decide that discretion is the better part of valor, and turn back to the surface. (5 hrs)
    • Escaping to the surface of the caldera, the players attempt to escape the nightmarish land. There's many complications, however. Sven Svensgard was murdered by the islander Nuaoo, who took Sven's Potion of Flying and flew away before the party could enact retribution. The few of the party, after nearly drowning crossing the narrowest part of the volcanic lake, found some boats on the far side of the lake and attempt a rescue on the rest of the party stranded on the island. However, the celebration doesn't last as 4 pteranadons begin harassing the party. Other than Wickwar and Blaneth, there are no survivors of Taboo Island. Using Invisibility, the intredpid explorers actually make it all the way back to Tanaroa. (2.5 hrs)
    • A new party prepares in Minrothad. Blaneth and Wickwar await the return of Captain Barlowe, and make plans to civilize the Isle of Dread and exploit a new set of trade lanes to Minrothad and the mainland. (2.5 hrs)

Campaign Resolution

The remaining two members of the party grit their teeth and press forward with their ambition.  The plan is to open the Isle of Dread, and conquer it as their own domain.  Even now, preparations are being made to bring civilization and prosperity to the tribes on the island.

Blaneth of the Light and Wickwar Davis must first find companions to aid them in their endeavor and brave the trials of the Isle of Dread.  Much is to be done, and it must be done with raw money.  However, if the characters are successful in creating, maintaining and defending the trade lane, money and influence may flow into the Isle's newly constructed ports.

What lies ahead?  Wealth and influence, money and power?  Or death and ruin, ridicule and destitution?  Find out in part II of The Face of Mystara!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Format Changes!

By now, you've noticed the site has changed appearance quite significantly.  This is the result of a number of extraneous factors, which I will now share with you here.  I have meant to make this post for a few days, but as many of you know, I've never been accused of having ADHD - I got carried away finding and fixing bugs, adding new features and perfecting the layout.  Not to mention reorganizing our publishing schedule and changing the entire color scheme...and a thousand other things so mundane and banal I do not wish to recall them (or my compulsions to manipulate them).

Some of you may have noticed we started having problems with the blog late last week.  The server that hosted the images we used for the old layout apparently went offline, the event which prompted all this to begin with.  If you were one of the lucky few to encounter a blank white page with invisible elements, congratulations, you found the Negative Zone...and I'm sorry about that.  Getting the blog up and running (and looking good doing it) became my top imperative.

I managed to find a similar template and put it in place...but IntenseDebate was having problems with it.  Try as I might, I could not find the issue, and several hours into that debacle decided to run a test using my Disqus account.  The ease with which everything was taken care of during that test made me change my mind on the spot - the Wargate now uses Disqus for handling comments.  I highly recommend you head over and make an account, it's the easiest discussion system I've ever seen.  It does insist on taking you to the post page to make comments, but we'll try to bring back the drop down menu so you don't have to scroll down after clicking to comment on some of the longer articles.

With IntenseDebate acting up, and since we didn't host the images for the template ourselves anyway (or build the template for the blog) I decided it was time for a complete change.  Overhaul was overdue.  However, to completely code a blog template that contained all the features we wanted and included an artistic backdrop would take more time than I'd like to spend on it, with everything going on with gaming lately!  So, for now, we've went with customizing (corrupting) one of the templates provided by Blogger, so I can get back to the real business at hand - generating campaign material and coordinating the many related projects we've got going on.

So, now that all this is in place, what else is changing?

Well, the new template provided a number of neat opportunities.  First, the bar at the top will house all the links to what used to be called States of Play.  Since these are more visible now, we're doing away with the huge introductory text section that used to contain those links, freeing up a LOT of space.  This is cool.  We're going to add a number of pages there that will house galleries to pictorial articles like various models and terrain.

Also, the display area for pictures and such is much greater, as is the text size.  That's important to old people like myself.  It will probably only get bigger from now on, as the years turn to Alzheimer's.

Labels have now been split up into two different sections.  Battle Index will serve to keep track of all our current games and features, while Battle Archives will contain material from old games we currently do not support on the schedule.  In many cases, a lot of this old stuff will be reclassified as we comb through the Archives and reformat relevant entries, such as the aforementioned model articles.

Another big thing was optimization in the new template for mobile devices.  The old template was from years back, and didn't include a lot of that code.  Now, even this basic one had all of that information already built in, which should make accessing the articles much easier on our friends who carry those blasted cyberdecks...er, I mean cell phones.

The site will continue to mutate for the next few weeks, regrowing any features that were lost.  In a few cases, new features will arise - the plan is in place, now we just have to comb through it all and put it on the right shelf.  However, this is basically the design we'll be looking at for the foreseeable future as it provides a lot more wiggle room than the old one did.  We're able to add website functionality that the old format prohibited, and that's a good thing.

Give us some feedback!  What do you think of the new layout?  Color scheme burn your eyes?  Does your cyb -...uh, cell phone interact with the blog any better at all, or is mobile optimization a cruel hoax?  Leave your comments below!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Introduction to Miniature Painting, Lesson 2

Welcome back to our Introduction to Miniature Painting class log.  It's been a moment since we've been able to actually write this stuff down, but the class has been rolling along strong!  A few days of good weather gave us enough time to get over a hundred models prepped and ready for use in the class and by the club! 

Lesson 2 - Base Coating and Flow Control:  Assembly Line

After getting the first set of archers done, we sat down for the second set.  We'll have a unit of 20 when they are all finished, and just in time:  our player characters in Dungeons & Dragons are already attempting to conquer an untamed land and bring civilization to a savage wilderness.  We all know how that goes - you're probably going to need a ton of soldiers, and I'll wager at least 20 of them will be archers.

Reverend Greg has already turned in a list of units he wants to hire...

We concentrated on the same pattern we used on the first set, but these models were slightly different.  However, the class was instructed in the "Assembly Line" technique and put to work completing a larger number of archers in the same amount of class time.  The class immediately caught on and in no time we had all of these guys ready for the QuickShade treatment.

We'll all be dodging arrows eventually...as soon as she's finished with her nails.

The Assembly Line is a fairly easy concept.  Each stage is repeated on a set of models, one after another, before going on to the next stage.  For example, you have five models on your paint table.  You start with stage 1, and the skin is painted on one model and then that model is set aside.  You then go to the next model and paint only the skin, setting that one aside and moving to the next when finished.  Continue on the same paint stage for all the models, then return to the first and begin stage 2...which in this case was the breeches.

Using this method can speed up your work, but it's only recommended you use this technique with models that are very similar in appearance to make maximum use of your color palette.  You will also find you will waste less paint preparing your brush and flow, as you will use the same color for longer periods of time.

You should try not to work on too many models at the same time.  I usually have a limit of five at a time, but then I spend a lot of time on cleanup and details for each one.  However, normal infantry like this can get by with a quick table-ready paint job, especially if you are going to be using QuickShade on them.

Class is moving along great!  Next week, we'll move on to more advanced techniques - though we'll still be using simple models to practice on.  The practice will definitely pay off, with what lies ahead for our intrepid painters once this class is finished!  We've got a huge job ahead of us getting all our models show-worthy, but it won't take long at this rate!