Saturday, October 19, 2013

It Is Called Dungeons & DRAGONS, After All...

As someone who has very little experience with dragons in games (surprising after 13 odd years of play), I have decided that I very much dislike the standard metallic/chromatic dragons that are presented by the standard D&D bestiaries.  Sure, I love black dragons and their swampy maliciousness.  I love brass dragons for their quizzical loquatiousness too, and I highly enjoy copper dragons, but the rest tend to not inspire as much as I'd like.  Luckily, it seems like there is a neverending stream of other dragons from elsewhere, and while a lot of them I find intensely lame (heloooo gem dragons), most are awesome.

Rust dragons are easily my second favorite dragon.

I like dragons in two categories: alien superintelligences and ravening dumb monsters.  Too often, they're some watered down middle ground (white dragons have intelligences higher than most wizards, spells, and speak a bunch of languages, and yet are described as feral beasts).  While ravening dumb monsters are awesome though, it really cuts into the true impact of dragons.  Dragons as super-villain, almost godlike beings who would as soon snack on the puny, dumb humans as consort with them.  Many can polymorph into humanoid shapes as well, meaning there can be awesome reveals as to who the bad guy is.

Another factor in the horror of dragons is their destructive potential.  Aside from the fact that they're giant reptiles with teeth and claws and tails that can level houses, they have breath weapons, and spells.  Some even have multiple breath weapons.  I love the fact that a dragon can level a party, but most of my favorite dragons have ways of mutilating a party aside from draining their hit points.  Rust dragons destroy their stuff, shadow dragons drain levels, and my favorite dragons, brine dragons, drain Strength and bring pain.

Look at this majestic beast!

While technically an aquatic dragon, my favorite place for brine dragons are inland salt lakes.  One of my favorite villains I've ever run was a brine dragon by the name of Riozzo.  My group collaboratively designed a game world to run a collaboratively DMed series of games in.  The world, Everith, was a gas giant with floating islands of land.  There were airships, and it was a space-opera-ey type game except without the space part and with 100% more D&D (technically Pathfinder).  The second of our games was on a moon called Batham.  Batham touched the atmosphere of Everith and had its own life forms and ecology.  One of the main points of history was a war between the Inevitables (Law) and Proteans (Chaos).  Riozzo was subcontracted by the forces of law, and was the guardian of their towers on the edge of a salt lake crater.

Now, that was thousands of years before our campaign.  The war between law and chaos subsided and died off.  Riozzo devoted himself to the studies of the universe (physics, time control, astronomy, and alchemy), awaiting the time he would be called back to the war and setting things in motion in his own way.  From beyond the stars, he brought many strange lifeforms, experimenting on them, and, once he had learned all he cared to from them, set them as guardians around his caldera home.  He was the stately figure that loosed his Akata hounds to feed on the town I mentioned in my favorite NPC post, and eventually became something of a looming presence in that campaign.  Riozzo has also appeared in other campaign worlds of mine.  I justify it by him plane hopping as immensely powerful beings are wont to do.  

Honestly, the fact that he surpassed the simple stats of an ancient wyrm brine dragon is the reason he's my favorite, but salt as a simultaneously corrosive and purifying agent played for some important imagery for him and my way of justifying his actions. 


First off, sorry.  Pokemon has taken over my life, blah blah blah.  On to the challenge.

Humans are my favorite humanoid.  A) everyone knows what they are.  B) they are endlessly mutable.  C) extra feats and skill points (in D20 systems) are great.  And D) it's easy to slip into a "human" mindset, because I already have one.  Need random townsfolk or a horrifying cult?  Got it.  Humans are the baseline by which all other races are measured, therefore they're overlooked often.  As with other overlooked things (i.e. cats), I like using them to blow peoples' minds.  

Seriously, who is going to pay attention to the guy on the end?

One of my favorite tricks with humans is in a setting with a hidden bad guy and several possibilities as to who it could be, for example, a high council.  Describe everyone the exact same, just point out races.  It's a guarantee that the human is the second to last one the players will suspect (after the Aasimar).  But anyways, this is a short post, because there's not much else for me to bring to the table.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What Is My Favorite Grass Type...

First off, this post is late because of Pokemon X.  I would say I'm sorry, except I'm really not.  My inner child gets crotchety when he doesn't get let out to play, and he kinda flipped out with unadulterated glee about a new version of Pokemon, and he was also not happy about having to wait until payday to get it.  As a quick review, if you like Pokemon, get it.  It's fantastic.  I get to have Squirtle in my team almost from the get go again, and that makes me so happy I will forgive any and all sins the game has (which are few and exceptionally minor).  I knew I was getting Squirtle soon on, so, unlike most versions I did not go with the water type starter.  The only other exception was Black and White where I went with the super adorable fire pig, Tepig.  I went with a grass starter for the first time ever, and Chespin has been cute and pretty damn powerful so far.  I could seriously gush about this forever, but I want to get this blog post done so I can go back to playing it.


Luckily for me, grass type starters kinda tie into today's blog topic which is about which elemental or plant is my favorite.  I've mentioned how I don't really like elementals as outsiders, and I don't really dig them that much in general.  That leaves plants, and I really do have a favorite.  I love me some Treants.  I'm a huge Tolkien fan, and have always loved the Ents, and Treants really are just D&D Ents.  They're also huge, cool, and really brutal to have to fight.

I love treants...

Here's the kicker with this though; I have never used a treant in a game that I have run.  I've only encountered them a precious handful of times.  In fact, treants and assassin vines are the only two plant types I've ever encountered in games, and I hate assassin vines because they always kill my character or nearly kill my character.  The biggest run in I've had with a treant was with the undead lord cleric mentioned in my undead post.  Benny, my juju zombie minion was constantly killed by a rogue treant every time we went near his woods.  Said treant disliked poor Benny because he was an "abomination," and eventually ended up being the poor zombie's complete undoing after grinding him to an un-resurrectable pulp.  And that is that.  

Here's another treant for the road.

Saturday, October 12, 2013


Outsiders are freaking awesome.  Of course, they also have the largest range of types, because they can be just about anything.  From demons to angels to fire spirits to horrors from beyond the stars, outsiders have a giant depth of possibilities.  The question for today also lumped immortals into the mixture, which further convolutes my choices, because I do love some Dorian Grey style immortality, but I'm going to stay away from those.  It feels like cheating picking something that is a unique creature.  That's also why I'm going to eschew picking my favorite Demon lord, Demogorgon, although he's awesome and a half.  I mean, look at the picture below.  You'd expect that to be a feral beast.  He has an intelligence that makes most high level spellcasters look like Forrest Gump.  Love. It.

So cool.  

Now that I've ruled out unique creatures, I'm gonna also rule out elementals.  They tend to be presented very simply and are thus boring.  While demons (and devils and daemons and whatever nonsense category they're in this week) are my favorite category by far, because I like the bad guys, my favorite outsider is actually a good one.  Lawful good, in fact.  My favorite outsider is the Hound Archon.  First off, they can turn into dogs.  That immediately makes them awesome surprise guests.  Remember that dog that you've seen around town?  Surprise, kids, he turns into a Hound Archon and smacks you down for breaking into that potion shop last week!  One of my friend's games used a Hound Archon in dog form following us around as a guardian from the gods.  It was sweet when the big reveal came.

Wanna play fetch with your head?

On top of that, Hound Archons are pretty beastmode combatants.  For a low-mid level monster, they hit pretty hard, have a decent armor class, are super mobile (at will greater teleport), and with darkvision, low-light vision, scent, and at will detect evil, and an awesome perception bonus, it's hard to get away from them.  Their spell like abilities add some nice utility as well, and, in general, they're a really good option for a fight or ally.  They don't outshine the party usually as an NPC who helps the party along.  In short, they're exactly what a holy enforcer should be. Plus, they're dogs.  They're adorable. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Animals and vermin are an often under appreciated group of monsters.  Sure, the Druids get their wolf animal companions, and every party runs afoul of some worgs or a leopard or something.  Animals are ubiquitous in RPG settings.  Horses get at least low level parties from place to place, towns have an abundance of chickens and cows or whatnot, and every forest has deer to hunt, but animals are never all that scary.  Even in cinema, a place were all sorts of every day stuff gets creepy, animals really don't have a true niche for horror.  Sure, there's Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds and Cujo and...well, I guess it could be expanded a bit more if we included were beasts, but I'm not.

This movie still scares the shit out of me.

My animal of choice for Dungeon Master usage, however, is the well known, unassuming, and absolutely adorable common cat, Felis catus.  Sure, there's the whole fantasy trope of witches having black cats, and I do enjoy playing off of that, and talking cats are a big deal in certain milieus, but there's something amazing about using cats to set the mood.  If there's a cat purring by the fire, people tend to take that piece of scenery as a clue to get comfortable.  If a cat hisses at an NPC, it's an immediate tell that there's something amiss.  Feral cats in a run down area add to the feel of decrepitude, and having a cat dart off when they fail a perception check ratchets up the tension quite nicely.  My favorite use of cats, however, is as a monster.

Not like this...

One of (I believe) my most successful on the fly episodes was started by one of my players telling me that he wasn't going to be present for the upcoming session of my Pathfinder game right in the middle of what I was hoping would be an epic multi session chase.  I had to improvise.  I had been reading stuff from The SCP Foundation (which is seriously one of the most amazingly creepy things to read ever), and stumbled across the crazy cat lady article.  After freaking out completely when several feral cats started fighting on my front porch (I was reading the article at 2am), I realized what had to be done.  I pulled out some sweet templates, designed a mini dungeon, and worked out a challenge appropriate super unique monster.

The session began with the characters waking up to find their friend had disappeared.  They found his tracks leading away from the camp joined by a set of cat footprints.  They followed the tracks into a canyon, and, as they went further and further down, the rogue bringing up the back noticed that there were cats following them.  Lots of cats.  Hundreds of cats.  Their horses had run off into the canyons in a previous session, and as they tracked their friend, they came across the corpse of one of their horses.  For those of you who do not know, cats will eat larger animals.  Y'know, like people.  The horse had been stripped of most of its flesh.  A successful Knowledge (Nature) check revealed most of the teeth marks to be cats.  The horde of cats watched them make this grizzly discovery.  

Cats can be rather unnerving.

The party hastened on, eventually coming to the mouth of a cave with a small, wooden door.  Their friend's footsteps led inside, and they also realized that they were surrounded.  The only place not crawling with cats was (hopefully) inside the cave.  They entered and shut the door behind them only to be met by the stench of cat piss and a screeching, scarcely comprehensible woman.  One of the players knocked her out and killed her, and that was when the cats outside started yowling and scrabbling against the door.  Small furry bodies started thudding against the door, and claws began to scratch away the wood.  

That was pretty much the moment all the players started panicking, and once the cats scratched through the bottom of the door and started swarming them (using the D20 swarm templates to completely eff things up) they kinda fell apart.  It was a miracle they survived with the complete lack of teamwork they showed.  Two players hit other players with their burning hands sprays, and it was only someone knocking a bookcase against the door to stem the tide that got them out of deep crap.  Going out was obviously not going to happen, and so they ventured inwards.  They had a choice of two tunnels, and a deep, throbbing, spine shaking purring from one of them made them rush down the other.  

They discovered that the long tunnel they'd headed down led to a room full of sand and cat poop.  It also had a large pile of dead, decomposing stillborn kittens in the corner (yes, I went there and now have a special circle of Hell).  The far wall had a large, wooden grate, and, with the purring they'd heard earlier getting closer, they managed to knock it off its mooring enough to squeak through in time to see a giant hulking cat like form enter the room behind them.  Freaking out, they headed on.  The next room they found was a room full of metal cages which they though were empty until a pile of straw in the corner of one of them moved.  It was a dirty, scrawny, terrified, half mad humanoid. 

Whatever it was started ranting at them that the big cat monster was controlling the woman and the other cats, and he was here to breed a new one of her when she was ready to go.  He wasn't overly clear on the last part, wouldn't get out of the cage (he was terrified of the cats), and begged them to kill him.  They ended up mercy killing him and moving on.  The next room (and a dead end) they found helped clear up some of the confusion with the whole "breed a new one" where they found the preserved, mummified corpses of clones of the old woman in various stages of decomposition alongside alchemical supplies.  

After smashing stuff, they worked up the nerve to go back, afraid to spend the night to rest because they'd glimpsed several small holes that cats could get in through.  I'd also been hyping up the grossness of layers of cat fur and dander everywhere and saying that they were sneezing and their eyes were watering and that their leather armor would probably forever take on the smells of cat piss.  Y'know, environment stuff.

Basically, it was a dungeon inspired by an episode of Hoarders.

They backtracked to find the giant purring monster waiting for them.  It was a hulking mass of matted fur and rotting flesh and fangs and green glowing eyes that smelled of cat and piss and rot.  They battled it long in those caves and finally hacked it to pieces and hastened on.  Shortly thereafter, they managed to find their way out, find a holding area with their friend, and get away.  The cat swarms had dispersed with the death of their god and his priestess, and the canyon was made a little safer for a time.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love using cats in RPGs.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Beauty Is In The Eye

Today's blog entry for the challenge asks what my favorite aberration is.  Now, I've not experimented much with Aberrations in my games, mostly because they're mid to high level monsters, and most games don't last that long.  Plus, aberrations aren't that easy to work into all games.  Aboleths are aquatic, and most of the rest are underground dwelling, antisocial, monsters that don't fit in with society.  Mind flayers are really neat and all, and I've used them to some effect in the past, but they're iconic, and people expect the same thing out of them every time I've ever run them.  Unfortunately, they're pigeonholed like all aberrations into just being monsters despite having cool ecologies.

Mind flayers are basically mini Cthulhu.

There is one aberration though that, while pigeonholed as monster, thrives on those grounds.  They are the floating bags of eyeballs and fun that are beholders.  As one of the Dungeons & Dragons classic monsters (like mind flayers), beholders have unfortunately not crossed over into other games like Pathfinder and Lamentations of the Flame Princess where they are sorely missed.  Luckily, the conversions aren't that hard, so there are fan made "eye beasts" that terrorize adventurers, but since they're not printed in a book, it's not the same.  There's not full color glossy art next to a stat block in a pretty hardback outside of what Wizards of the Coast puts out.

Awesome art like this.

That also means that it's nearly impossible to find a good miniature for them.  Reaper makes an "eye fiend" mini, but it has tentacle legs and doesn't float so it isn't the same.  Wizard's D&D minis line has a few, but like much of that line, they're either hard to find, expensive, corny, or all three.  Plus those plastic minis have crappy bases and don't stand up well.  Que sera.  I don't use minis much anyways, but I like having them on the occasions that I do.  Plus they're pretty on my shelves.

And the one from Reaper is pretty cool...

The great draw of beholders is their eye rays.  Sure, there's a pre-set list of what eyes do what, but that's beyond easy to switch out, and it's awesome to see a player's face when an eye does something that isn't in the book.  They also completely screw over parties.  Back the beholder into a corner, turn the central eye and its antimagic field on the spellcasters, and let the eye rays or high damage mouth deal with the fighters and rogues and rangers.  They can't be flanked because of the eyes, meaning rogues do crap against them anyways, and fighters fail the necessary will saves from eye beams with alacrity.  Paladins are one of the few threats, and an antimagic field and some munching from the outset do pretty well for them.

They even have ecology and different breeds if a GM feels the need to include all that.  The AD&D Monstrous Manual details much of it and most of the breeds, making it a good read.  Dealing with beholder culture means quite high level characters though, so it's not something I've found much use for.  Still, as bosses of a dungeon, cool enemies controlling kobold tribes, or a wandering beasty on a foggy, ruin covered moor, beholders are freaking awesome.  

This party is probably screwed.

Dice Dice Dice!

I promised to take pictures of my dice, and I have delivered.  These are my plastic polyhedrals that dictate life and death.

Here are the randoms.

I have a few random dice that don't belong to any sets hanging out in my bag.  The d6es are for general usage and rolling stats for games that require that.  The giant d20 is for when I feel like a roll warrants a giant d20.  The weird jellybean ones are Gamescience d3s that have R, P, and S printed on them for Rock Paper Scissors.

The Q-Workshop steampunk dice set and my NPC attitude generator.

Here are my glow in the dark and wisteria purple Gamescience dice.  I used a black, fine point Sharpie to ink them.

The blue with red ink and Borealis and pink with silver ink Chessex sets.

And all together now.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bela Lugosi' Dead. Undead, Undead, Undead.

For those who don't understand the title.  Today's theme is undead.  Despite my love for Vampire: the Masquerade, undead are really one of my least favorite types of monsters.  Zombies, despite really being all the rage nowadays, aren't that inspiring to me, vampires are overdone in RPGs, ghosts are neat but hard to do meaningfully in an RPG, and all the other types of undead really just fall into some blend of the three.  Sure, you can have a flaming, skeletal, liver eating, dracolich or what have you, but meh.  Now, all this being said, Dracula is one of my favorite books of all time, and I love vampire fiction and film (as long as it's not that teen romance Twilight shit).  Vampire: the Masquerade holds Vampires as one of my favorite types of villain, hero, and NPC, but they only really work for me in that setting.

And few things are as delightfully terrifying as the Tzimisce.

For general gaming purposes, however, my most used and loved undead are juju zombies.  Juju zombies are intelligent undead, meaning that in most games (read Pathfinder), they are able to retain class levels, giving them a broad range of powers and potential to throw at characters, and I like saying the word "juju."  I hadn't seen them in anything but Pathfinder, actually, then discovered them when I purchased the AD&D Monstrous Manual recently tucked into the Zombie entry.  I was thrilled, and look forward to using them quite a bit. I've used them already in my trap entry, and I've tossed them at players a few other times as well.

Forgotten Realms juju zombie realness, dahling.

My absolute favorite use of them, though, was as cohorts.  Now, I've talked about my love of Clerics previously, and one of my favorite characters I've played was an Undead Lord by the name of E.B. Thurgood.  This was a group DMed game, and everyone approved juju zombie as a variant template that I could use for my corpse companion.  Benny, the Suli juju zombie barbarian was hands down the heaviest hitter that our low level party could muster, and his damage reduction and energy resistances meant that he was hard as hell to take down.  My cleric kept him and his dead sister (an Oracle of Life) in the back of his cart and just stitched and reassembled them when they got hacked up, animating one or the other when needed.  Both of them, in life, had signed contracts with him giving him possession of their bodies after death, and both resented it.  It was a fun game.

But yeah, undead.  Not my favorite.  Apart from juju zombies, I really haven't used undead much in any games I've run.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

You Are Not A Player Character

On day 14 (two weeks into my challenge, yay!), I am supposed to share my favorite NPC.  There have been many NPCs that helped define games I have been in.  They've served as enemies, friends, allies, and lovers.  One NPC, however, has served as a consummate ally and asset throughout several campaigns, and his name brings hope to my playgroup whenever it is intoned.  His name is Paul, and he is the biggest badass known to man.

He was born with this man's balls and a full beard.

Paul started off as the put upon rector of a small church in a one shot game where we were all playing hobos surviving the ruler purging the homeless from the city.  We sought shelter in Paul's rectory, and quickly terrorized him into a quivering, crying blob of a man sobbing in his attic after summoning the guards while the obese half elf PC crawled up to a ladder towards him and then smothered him whispering a sing song "Paul, Paul, the time for words is over, Paul."  It was a creeptastic moment.  That is where Paul's name came from.  We'd had a few weeks of one shots while friends visited for the summer, and my Pathfinder group kicked off a big co-DMed campaign in our group created world.

About 6 sessions into the game, we'd reached a town that we'd rescued from a bandit lord's regime.  We'd restored the old mayorship, and were heading off on another quest, and it was my turn to DM a session or two.  I decided to shake things up, introduce a new major NPC, and run a crazy encounter.  I was also bringing in a new PC as our friend Jeremy was joining the game.  His character, I said, had been staying the night at a farmhouse in the barn, and woke up to find everyone gone and tracks leading to town.  As nightfall fell, a farming family stumbled zombie like into town, and a mist rolled up.  A stately figure appeared on the edge of town with several Akatas, and dispassionately told his hounds to "feed."  

This is an Akata.

The players rallied the town guards as the Akatas and resulting Void Zombies started mauling the townsfolk and characters alike, and as three half dragon Akatas started swooping overhead (the NPC's special pets), they mounted a counterassault with the guards.  Most of the Akatas and Void Zombies were killed, along with all but one of the guards, leaving the main issue the three half dragon Akatas which were proving problematic, because they were flying.  Now, the surviving guard had, over the course of the battle, despite only having a shortsword and an attack bonus of +3, rolled three crits and another three hits, and, despite only having an armor class of 14, had not been hit once, despite 10+ attacks against him.  During the combat, one of the characters asked him his name, putting me on the spot.  I had him respond that his name was Paul, which was immediately met with a chorus of, "the time for words is over!"

He was also the only person who heard the party Rogue/Sorcerer scream as her rooftop hiding spot was discovered by one of the Half Dragons.  I had him rush to help her, and, on his way out, had him take an attack of opportunity on one of the passing Half Dragon Akatas.  He killed it (mind you, I had players rolling for guards under their command, so this wasn't just me killing my own stuff).  Then, over the next couple turns, he ran off to the upper story of the house where the Rogue/Sorcerer was trying to avoid the Half Dragon Akata that was chasing her around.  Once he got up there, mostly because of the damage from the Magic Missiles from the Rogue/Sorcerer, he killed it in one hit.  

Yup had a badass on our hands.

One of the players ended up taking Paul on as his cohort and leveling him up in Fighter, and Paul continued to just flat out be a badass and take things out even though he was half the party's level.  Ever since then, every time we find a young man of fighting age in a town that shows even a spark of potential, we name him Paul, and after he is christened, he starts winning quite handily.  Paul is now our byword for an NPC that kicks ass.  He's appeared in several games since then. Every time he shows up, the time for words is over, and the time for kicking ass has begun.

Monday, October 7, 2013

I Think I'm A "Good" GM...I Think...

This post about Gamemaster alignments made me critically examine my tendencies when I run games.  It also made me realize why I really disliked certain gamemasters, storytellers, and dungeonmasters I've played under and have jived with others.  The very first gamemaster I ever played under was a guy named Mike who I played collectible card games with while I was in junior high.  Mike shifted from Lawful Evil to Neutral Evil depending on how on task we were.  If we were dicking around and not paying attention, he ended up Lawful Evil, just enforcing the rules and making sure we died.  If we were involved, he started trying to one up us, making up powers and ad hoc rules for his enemies just to make our lives miserable.  If he didn't have awesome NPCs, he was not into it.  He was like that with characters too, and he didn't get invited to many of the games I played with other groups.  As my first gamemaster, he will always have a special place in my heart, but he was definitely a taste I outgrew when I started playing under people who didn't want my character firmly under their heel.

He also literally had cheat dice he'd threaten us with.

The next dungeonmaster I played under quite a bit was the guy who DMed the giant, out of control, 13+ player Eberron game I talked a bit about in my craziest RPG memory post.  I can't remember his name (or most of the people who played at the local comic shop in most of those days), but he was a skinny, slightly punk rock, stoner kid and was completely Neutral.  He really had to be with the utter craziness that was that game, but he rolled with us not knowing rules, being zany, forgetting it was our turn, balancing encounters scaled for a 4 man group  against a disparate band of close to 20 characters (once cohorts and animal companions were counted up) of various levels and letting the dice weed out characters as they may.  All dice rolls were on the table, in the open, and final.  If we screwed up a rule, it was screwed up for the rest of the session, and if someone corrected it, nothing got retconned.  

Most of the GMs at the comic shop that I frequented in high school tended to be Lawful Neutral to Neutral.  There was a very awesome game with a Lawful Good GM running D20 Future, mostly because he made stuff up, blew our minds with it, then codified it in the rules so we could understand, use, and play with it once he was done letting it tickle our sense of wonder.  

I honestly may have played more sessions of D20 Future/Modern/Etc than actual D&D.

I grew complacent under the reaches of Law and Neutrality during my high school career.  I didn't run many games at all during that time frame, partially because I didn't have much confidence in my abilities to run a game, and partially because there were so many DMs running games that I never really needed to run to play.  This all changed when I went to college (I went to a branch of the Ohio State University that is in the town I grew up in, so I never moved).  Suddenly, there were a dearth of GMs, and I was only playing pick up games at the comic shop, because most of the really cool gamers had graduated too and gone elsewhere.  A guy a few years older than me who I worked with and had known my whole life (our moms were friends and went to the same church) had roleplayed for several years with a few of his friends who were also older than me, and, after a feeling out period to see if I was creative enough for them, they asked me to play with them.  

I'd never played with a firmly, completely, totally Chaotic Good group before.  Rules flat out didn't matter.  We went sessions without even rolling dice, our character sheets (GURPS 4th edition) were always in a state of flux, and the stories were fantastic.  We'd play for up to 10 hours straight, in character the whole time, weaving the most complex and beautiful tales of heroes and villains I've ever experienced.  It wasn't a game; it was a release.  We got to be someone else, transported into the world we collaboratively built.  Words can't describe the magic of those games.  I honestly view those afternoons in Scott's apartment as some of the most inspirational and impactful moments of my life.  I will always have a healthy dose of Chaotic Good in my GMing style.  It was free and uninhibited group creation, and it was beautiful.

When the nominal GM of that group quit, that group almost stopped playing.  Horrified that I would lose the most magical thing I'd ever experienced, I volunteered to run the game.  I was not confident, I faltered, I stuttered, and I screwed things up, but we all came together and made a fantastic story.  It brought me out of my shell.  It gave me the faith in myself I needed to run games, and, once life and growing up tore that group apart, I sallied forth with the certainty that I could be a good GM.  

I sallied forth on the giant lion of confidence.

As I played and GMed more throughout college, I realized that, while I loved the freedom of Chaotic Good storytelling, most players and groups reacted adversely to it or just weren't comfortable with it (I made a girl cry running New World of Darkness horror, it was awkward).  They enjoyed rules and rolling pretty dice.  I did too, honestly, and adopted a more Neutral Good GMing aspect.  I still fudged rolls if bad stuff was happening that would ruin the game, but I actually statted stuff up and made encounters and junk.  

There was a kid named Jacob who my buddy, Kenny, and I met in Sociology of Social Deviance (yes, actual class) in college.  He was weird, eccentric, overbearing, socially awkward, and one of the most psychotically creative people I've ever met.  He'd roleplayed quite a bit growing up, and we dragged him into a few gaming sessions with people we knew before he stepped up to run D&D 3.5 for a group of about 8 of us.  That was the game I played Balthaazar, my favorite character ever.  Jacob, honestly, defies definition via the alignment system, but falls mostly into the Neutral Good realm with hefty doses of Chaotic Good and Neutral Evil depending on how attached he got to NPCs and plot trains.  I learned a lot about good GMing from Jacob.  I also learned a lot about bad GMing from Jacob, and as we became close friends, we realized we could openly critique each other, take it to heart and change.  Both of us have become far better friends, players, GMs, and humans from that friendship.  Jacob is still the GM who will blatantly screw the party over, but it will be for plot purposes, and he won't actively dick people over anymore.  I'm far nicer.

So on to me.  I fudge rules, probably too much, but people usually don't complain (and my players are the types that will tell me if they're not happy).  I tend to let the party get away with too much.  They get too much good stuff too soon, and encounters tend to be a little too easy, but I do run things by the rules, as long as the rules don't actively inhibit story.  Even then, I sometimes enforce them.  I've moved to more of a Neutral Good style of GMing as of late, although my Chaotic Good roots show quite a bit, especially if we're playing systems with far looser rules systems like World of Darkness.  Rules intensive games like Pathfinder tend to get a bit more of my Neutral Good side, especially as I stray into OSR territory and run more oldschool systems like my super simplified D&D and Castles & Crusades where we get to dungeoncrawl.  I really want to find a game where my Chaotic Good roots can show again, but I know it's not with my current players.  They like their rules too much.  Not to say they aren't creative as heck (they blow my mind quite often), but they enjoy the gaming aspect of RPGs too much to eschew funny shaped polyhedrals and level progression charts.  

It's A Trap!

Day 13.  Favorite trap.  I will admit, actual, physical dungeon traps are few and far between in my games, because, honestly, I forget about them.  I'm getting much better as the years roll on, but I get so into making monsters and reasons for the monsters to be there and kewl treasures and phat lootz that I forget to put some pits and poison needles and stuff in there.  I've also run a lot more stuff with game worlds like World of Darkness and non Sword & Sorcery systems (mostly because I'm the only one in my groups that owns most of them), and traps are far less common in those settings.  Well...physical traps are. I don't know if this question covers traps like the ones a centuries old Nosferatu spins to ensnare vampire neonates.  I'm gonna pretend it doesn't.

Please, like you didn't expect this.

Traps are typically one shot, one dimensional speed bumps to throw at players.  As such, when I do include them, I just use fire and forget stuff like pit traps, arrow traps, and brown mold sprays when doors are opened.  Occasionally, I give them more moving parts.  One of my favorite challenges that I've ever run involved pressure tiles on a floor that shot bolts of fire at characters if they stepped on the wrong tile (and there was no rhyme or reason as to which tiles caused fire.  They rolled 50% per move.) while the enemies swung from the rafters on ropes at them. However, there is one "trap" that I tend to include in a lot of games.  In fact, I've mentioned it here.  The trap is as follows:

A. The room the characters enter.  They come in through the door at the bottom of the room.  I tend to make the door lock or be just on the other side of a chasm, or at the bottom of a slide, just so that it's hard to leave the room via the entrance.

B. A pool of murky, foul water sits in the corner of the room.  There is an underwater tunnel that connects room A to a pool of water in room C.  

C. Room C is full of heaps of dead bodies in various stages of decay along with an altar with an artifact that periodically animates the bodies into some form of zombie (I like Juju Zombies).

D. This is the door out.  It's locked/barricaded/hidden/hard to get out of/a hole the characters have to get down and crawl through.  The point is so that the characters have to work to get out of the room.

The basic concept of the trap is that the characters get into the room.  They are stuck.  Zombies start coming out of the water and munching at the party.  There are basically infinite zombies; I tend to do something like 1d4 are animated every 1d6 rounds or something of the sort.  If the zombies are really cool, they can drag characters into the water to drown them.  There are four possible ways out of the room:  Death, getting out of the entrance and giving up, getting out of door D, and braving the water, getting into room C and breaking the artifact to stop the zombies.  Every time I've run this, it's been a blast, the characters have really been challenged, and it's been hard for the characters to get out of it.  It hasn't been a trap.  It's been an encounter in and of itself and not just some random hurdle to overcome.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Favorite Dungeon Type/Location

I like dungeons.  Now, I've gone entire games without dungeons, and I don't thing they're necessary for an awesome game, but if there's a dungeon crawl, I'll enjoy it if it's done half right.  The most popular RPG in the world is called Dungeons & Dragons , after all.  Now, I've run through most of the major dungeon types: caverns, ancient ruins, labyrinths, and arcane towers.  Hell, I've even played a game set in the Underdark, which is like an entire game set in a Dungeon.  The Sigil Prep game I was in was also a giant dungeoncrawl though D&D Hogwarts too.  

Sigil Prep, the only D&D setting where you can play a Drow cheerleader.

Out of all of those, my absolute favorite type of dungeon has to be the ruins of a lost civilization.  Caves are nice and arcane sanctums are too, but caves tend to be too on theme and sanctums get too random and weird.  Ruins have the largest range of believable options of fauna available while not making players' brains hurt too bad (normally).  Want dragons?  Check.  Want a beholder who set up shop in an old watchtower?  Check.  Tribe of Kobolds?  Check.  Giant slime mold?  Check.  There can be all kinds of traps.  Treasure tends to pile up in old storerooms, and ancient arcane knowledge tend to lurk in musty libraries.  Plus you can always mold and rust and disintegrate anything too powerful for the players.  

Plus, I love architecture.  We can get soaring cathedrals, squamous geometry of an ancient race, or, my personal favorite, everything sized for non-medium characters.  My absolute favorite dungeon I've ever made was a giant statue of a giant that was a tomb of a giant in the middle of a jungle.  The stairs were chest height, meaning that it took them forever to get up a flight of stairs when large wall crawling creatures where chasing them.  Doors were a pain in the ass, because the thief had to stand on someone's shoulders while picking a lock, and normal thieves' tools did jack squat on giant locks.  Even better, most of the loot was too big for them!  It was awesome.  

Plus, ruins have their own beauty.

My love of ruins may be why I love Monte Cook's new Numenera setting so much.  The entire world is built on the ruins of not one, not two, but eight past civilizations, and the world's technology is just scavenged from past civilizations.  Dungeons exist aplenty.  It's beautiful.  Of course the sci fi leanings of that world also tickle my fancy, because I love mixing my sci fi with my fantasy (which is why I love Eberron).  My current world has tons of ruins too, and I can't wait to run my players through them.  

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Adventure Time

My favorite adventure that I've ever run was in Pathfinder.  One of the worlds I've created is an amalgam of typical Dungeons & Dragons madcappery and the ideals of all that is the U.S.A.  There are Hobgoblin rail barons and the south is run by the Tex Arcana, a cabal of cowboy necromancers who animate the oil under the land into undead dinosaur golems (because oil is dead dinosaurs).  The Ohio River Valley is a dark forest inhabited by Native America Drow.  It's pretty awesome.  However, it's one of those games that every time I run a campaign in it, it falls apart.  It's biding its time in a series of word documents on my notebook and my Google drive.

Stephen King's The Dark Tower series was a big part of my inspiration.

The players rolled up eighth level characters, as I'd intended this as a one shot.  We had an enchanter Wizard, a Paladin with a holy six shooter, and a Ranger with a Camaro, gloves of infinite machetes that he threw, and a puma animal companion.  The Ranger picked up the other two as they were hitchiking along the side of the road, and then they all sat in awkward silence as they drove on.  Someone turned on the radio, and, as they were driving through Tex Arcana territory, I had them roll on my radio encounters table*.  They rolled a sleep spell, all made their saves, and drove on.  About midafternoon, I had the car blow a tire as they were passing an exit, and they pulled into a little mining town.  They got stuck for two days while a part came in for some bit of the car that was damaged (I know nothing about auto mechanics), and went to a local bar where they heard that the town had several mysterious deaths.  The Paladin detected evil and found out that there was evil coming from the abandoned slaughterhouse on the edge of town.  

They decided to check it out, and started searching around.  In a back room, they found the bodies of a few dead people drained of blood and rotting, then, when they ventured to the main slaughterhouse floor, they were attacked by three Urdefhan.  All three hit the Wizard with Rays of Enfeeblement, dropping him to 1 STR and on the floor.  They'd also hit the Ranger, and he was mostly useless.  The Paladin started smiting with his gun and blew one away.  The Wizard cast Murderous Command and the second Urdefhan killed the third, and a Scorching Ray and another bullet killed the second.  They thought they were badass, got burgers at the local diner, and then went back to the off highway motel for some shuteye.  

Urdefhan.  They're demons, not undead, oddly enough.

The Paladin was woken up by Jesus in a dream (yes, Paladin of Jesus), and looked out his window to see a looming, shadowy figure radiating evil on the edge of the motel parking lot.  He woke his compatriots up, but the figure disappeared while he pounded on the wall.  The next morning, the sherrif was found in his office crucified on the wall, the diner owner was dead, and bits of the lady running the motel were all over the parking lot and a trail of bloody footprints and dead insects leading out of town.  Feeling somehow responsible, they followed, ready to kill stuff.

They came across an abandoned mine where the footprints led, and started dungeon delving.  In the first few rooms, they came across a poltergeist, fought it, and survived.  There was a caved in section of tunnel with a small gap they had to worm through, and there was a needle with poison on it.  The Wizard made his save and nullified the poison, the Paladin did too, but the Ranger and Puma took Constitution damage.  After a few more tunnels and crossing a chasm, they came to a room with a pool of water.  The dead started rising from the water, and they found themselves with their backs to a chasm facing down wave after wave of Juju Zombies.  Luckily, I forgot the sneak attack on the stats from Bestiary 2 or everyone would have died.  Luckily, one of the characters saw a wooden grate on the far side of the room that covered a tunnel.  The Ranger broke the grate while the others held off the zombies, and the zombies seemed reticent to go near the grate which nobody picked up on.  

Juju zombie! Surprisingly hard to deal with.

The Paladin detected evil, found it emanating from behind a door, and they deliberated.  The Wizard opened the door.  This was a bad idea.  He got engulfed by the Worm that Walks Antipaladin that was waiting on the other side and almost died.  The Antipaladin then shut the door.  While the wizard was proper fucked on the other side of the door and went unconscious in a swarm of insects, the Ranger thumbed his bum as both he and his Puma were low on hit points and options after the Con damage from the poison and the zombies.  The Paladin took manners in his own hands, opened the door, channeled his Lay on Hands into his gun because of some feat, declared a smite, and then rolled a crit.  Now, the Worm that Walks didn't have all that amazingly many hit points (around 60-70, I think), and the smite bypassed its considerable damage reduction and swarm traits, and one shotted the boss I'd spent about two hours statting out before he got a real turn.  

He looked something like this.

And that was all she wrote.  That session turned into a mini campaign, and the Worm That Walks was retconned to be an avatar of Envy, one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  They dealt with Greed and had a run in with Chastity (one of the Seven Virtues) and War and Plague of the Four Horsemen before the game fell apart.  
* The Tex Arcana, as necromancers, like dead stuff.  They have radio towers in the area that broadcast spells through radio stations so that when people tune through radio stations, they can get hit with spells, crash, and die and give the Tex Arcana more dead minions.  I couldn't find the table I made for the adventure (actually, I have a notebook with NPC names and everything that I couldn't find and might have accidentally thrown away which is sad), but I remember it was a D12, because I like finding uses for D12s because they're criminally underused.  In the spirit of completion, here's a table.  Spell DCs were 16 or 17 so they were liable to work if people rolled low, but weren't liable to cause a TPK, because I'm a relatively kind GM.
1-Hideous Laughter
3-Hold person
4-Sound Burst
5-Murderous Command
7-Shatter (on vehicle)
8-Cause Serious Wounds
9-Deep Slumber
10-Lightning Bolt
11-Phantasmal Killer
12-Wall of Stone (in front of vehicle)

Friday, October 4, 2013

Craziest Roleplaying Moments: I Summon...

I was in high school, playing a mega Eberron game of D&D 3.5 with about 13 regular players (seriously) and about five irregular players.  I was the only one who had made every session and my Human Bard had never died, and the GM started people at level one, started you at level one if you died, and if you didn't show, you didn't get experience.  Everyone else had died at least once.  I was at level 12, and the closest party member was our Shifter Artificer who was level 10.  My 8th level Human Fighter Cohort (aka the bar wench my Bard had knocked up and eventually married) was 8th level, and a higher level than half the player characters.  We had stolen an airship from pirates several sessions before, and were sailing to some southern isles over the ocean.

This is pretty much what playing Eberron was like for me, but all of these were PCs.

Suddenly, airship pirates attacked!  To be fair, one of the second level PCs had gotten to roll the random encounter D100, and had rolled a two.  This meant that there were two ships of airship pirates, and they had flying skiffs and were relatively high level.  We were proper fucked.  Three characters went down in the first round (the low level ones, of course).  Our sixth level Dwarven Cleric started working overtime, the fourth level Druid started in as a backup healer, and the Shifter Artificer (our main source of getting out of dodge) said she was going to summon a monster.  Her player reached into his backpack, grabbed a stack of Monster Manuals, and started paging through them.  
And then he pulled out a stack this big, I swear...

If you had to look something up, you had three minutes and then your turn was skipped.  One of our most powerful characters hadn't finished leafing through Monster Manual 1 in three minutes, and initiative went on.  My cohort Cleaved through a few guys.  I Inspired Courage and picked a guy off with my rapier.  Initiative rolled on.  The next round (about 45 minutes later, because have you ever played with fifteen people in the same game?), our Artificer was on Monster Manual 3 and showing no sign of picking what monster she wanted to summon.  Her turn got skipped again.  The Druid and Cleric and most of the rest of the party went down, and I, as the only person  who could cast healing spells who was not interminably summoning a monster, stepped in to start reviving people with my Bardic Cure Light Wounds.  

Combat went really badly after that.  We started getting kinda hostile over the next hour and a half and three turns that the Artificer poured over Monster Manuals, Fiend Folios, The Eberron book, Pamphlets, and PDFs to figure out exactly what he wanted to summon.  I managed to waste my highest spell slot on a Mass Cure Light Wounds, the newly revived Druid summoned some wind to stop the second wave of pirates from landing that turn, and the low level characters and animal companions dragged the three characters who were still unconscious into the hold with the beat to shit Cleric for some band-aid time.  The rest of us braced for the second wave of pain, low on hit points, low on meaningful spells, and low on hope.  

The GM decided to have a smoke break.  "Are you ever going to do anything?" I asked the Artificer's player.  "Just gimme a minute.  I need to choose between two templates," he replied, sitting calmly and jotting down stats of...whatever it was on a piece of notebook paper.  I rolled my eyes, grabbed the character sheet of the friend who had never played before who had showed up for her first game ever, and started explaining to her how to fight defensively and how flanking worked.  The GM came back, a few of us bought pop at the counter, we settled in, and then the Artificer spoke up.  

"When it's my turn, I summon a Celestial Dire Bison."

The literal fuck?

The room grew silent.  "Well, the pirates go before you," the DM said, and proceeded to describe them landing and mobbing our vanguard.  Then the bison appeared in the middle of the deck, spread its wings, and then, you guessed it, bull rushed the entire end of the ship.  Five pirates, two PCs, and a wolf animal companion went overboard.  Everyone was dumbfounded, and we watched over the next two rounds as a flying bovine wrecked two shiploads of sky pirates while we used Levitate, Tenser's Floating Discs, and rings of Feather Fall to save the party members who went overboard.  

But we got saved by a fucking cow.  With wings. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the craziest roleplaying moment I've ever had just from pure shock value. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Playtesting Actual Play Happy Fun Time

I inherited a group of (mostly) high school players from my friend, Jacob, when he moved off to start his Master's program.  He found them by being a councilor at a local band camp.  I started playing with them on and off a few months ago, and have stepped in to run things for them.  Most of them have never played before.  However, we have all been busy, so we couldn't all make it this past Sunday (or the two Sundays before that, but that's another story), and only Allen and Tim could make it.  I've been hacking together a super simple version of D&D for them, and finally got it done nearly enough for them to start playing.  We set it in my world, so they could choose from my four classes (Warrior, Specialist, Priest, and Arcanist) and seven races (Human, Dragonman, Tiefling, Aasimar, Kenku, Horned Dwarf, and Wood Elf).

Both rolled up Warriors.  Allen was a Horned Dwarf.  Tim was a Dragonman with an ice breath weapon.  Allen chose a greataxe as his weapon specialty and Tim chose a flail.  And then I started them off stripped to their tunics in a meat locker.  Specifically, they had started off in a small town, but had been chloroformed and woke up with crazy headaches.  They felt around in the dark, found a low bench (and the dead body of someone else), and used the bench as a battering ram to break out of the meat locker.  Afraid that they had attracted attention, the two skulked out into the hallway, finding a room full of canned goods and boxed foods.  Allen put some cans in a burlap sack and made a makeshift flail.  Tim poked his head out of the room and found himself face to face with a dog with giant, slavering jaws that rushed him, bit onto his arm, and then the jaw locked and would not let go*.  They finally killed the dog, then used a can opener to cut off the lid of a can then used the sharpened lid to cut the dead dog's mouth off of Tim's arm.

Kinda like this, but with beartrap mouth.  

They snuck on, grabbing torches off of the walls as they went.  Taking a fork in the hall, they stumbled across a feasting room full of dead goblins and hobgoblins**.  They all appeared to have killed each other off in a fight.  They started searching the room, and Tim woke up a merely wounded hobgoblin.  Allen and Tim got initiative and quickly dealt with the hobgoblin before he got a turn in.  Newly geared up with a mace and a short sword, the two of them headed off, finding their way into a kitchen.  A frightened goblin cook threw pots and pans at them, and Allen took a point of damage from a flying teapot.  They talked the goblin down then locked him in the kitchen before heading on.

Yup, goblin cook.

Shortly thereafter, they broke into a locked room which turned out to be an armory.  There they found the armor and gear they'd bought with their starting gold, and geared up even more than before, they set out with more confidence.  That confidence ended when they sneaked into a throne room and found themselves face to face with another goblin beartrap mouth dog and three hobgoblins.  The dog missed, it's jaw locked, and it was out of the combat.  After a series of four crit fails in a row (two by the hobgoblins and one by each player) they finally got down to business of killing the hobgoblins, although Allen went down to 2 hit points after a taking a few hits.

They searched the throne room and found a hidden passage behind the throne that led to the king's bedchamber.  Among some coins and jewels, they found three potions. Two were green and one was magenta.  I forgot to tell them what colors the potions were until later.  They threw their loot into pillow cases and continued.  After venturing out of the throne room, into the main hall, they found the main entry.  However, upon trying the door, they found it blocked by something large, sleeping, and alive on the other side.  They decided that they wanted to live, and did not bother finding out what it was or waking it up, and moved on back into the castle.  This was a good idea***.

They took the first door they found, which turned out to be a library.  Neither of them were interested in books.  Luckily there was another door in the library, and on the other side they found another hallway.  They broke down another door, just in time for Allen's axe to magically heat up from a spell from whatever was in the room, burn his hand, and cause him to drop it.  He went to 1 hit point and ran out.  Tim didn't know what to do, they entered initiative, Allen went first, and he decided to chug a random potion (the magenta one) in hopes that it would be a healing potion.  It wasn't, and he aged back down to being a teenager ****.  A brilliant flare of magic blinded them both, and something ran past them and off into the castle down a hallway they hadn't gone down yet.  

Figuring, again, that they didn't want to deal with things that could possibly kill them, they went the other way down the hallway after Allen discovered that the other two potions were healing potions (and quaffed one).  They found a door that led to a staircase which led outside of the castle, then decided to go back, grab food, and kill whatever had cast magic on them just in case it tried to track them down.  They discovered the goblin queen in her child's room, and had a very confusing, highly dramatic, and hysterical conversation with her as she hid Jeffrey, her little goblin baby, from them underneath her hoop skirts.  They also found out that they'd been captured by the hobgoblins as tasty treats for the goblin feast and that goblins don't really care what they eat as long as it doesn't brandish a mace in their faces.  If maces get brandished they become indignant and apologetic and start sobbing uncontrollably.  

Forget the Magic card, the picture is of the goblin queen.

They decided to say fuck it and left the queen and Jeffrey to their own devices, grabbed some food, and ran off into the wilderness, realizing that they were probably about a day or two from town.  That is where we ended the session.  This coming Sunday hopefully one or two other members will show up and I can add them to the mix.  I am excited to torment them with old school, madcap, goofy D&D antics.  

*Goblins in my world breed dogs that have mouths that lock shut when they bite and automatically do damage every round.  Goblin shamans know a pressure point massage technique that unlocks the dogs' jaws.  It's a thing.  
**Goblins take over castles.  They are also dumb and gullible.  Hobgoblins are smart and usually let the goblins take over, propose peace, then kill the goblins at dinner.  They let some of the goblins get away, wait for them to repopulate, then continue the cycle.  
***In slightly unrelated news, I bought a Black Dragon miniature.  
Mine is not painted this nicely...yet.  It is the first miniature I've ever painted, but I'm going slowly and making sure I do it right.

****The goblin king, who's body they'd found in the dining hall, was old, but he liked getting young and frisky from time to time. 

My Favorite Character That I've Never Played...Sorta

Day nine.  His name was Saint Ibsen McLeod the Cowboy Paladin.  And he was awesome.  He was born the second son of clan McLeod, a ranching family in the great plains of whatever world we were playing in.  His family and the other clans in the area bred giant boars and rode them too.  Always a restless child, Ibsen and his dire boar, Taggart, would often wander the range.  One day, they came upon a couple of boys from a rival clan having their way with a young woman against her will, and, in a blind rage, Ibsen and Taggart killed them and fatally wounded the young woman in the process.  He was banished when the crime came to light, and he and Taggart wandered off into the wilderness.

Cross this...

After a long travel and nearly dying in the desert, Ibsen and Taggart were found by the order of Yamptha, a religious order based out of a desert citadel at a crossing point of leylines.  They were taken in and nursed back to health.  The Order was centered around the Eldest, literally the eldest member of the order, who sucked devine energy from the leylines to power his flock.  The leylines gave the order control of the land and environment around their citadel, and more importantly, they accepted Ibsen complete with his flaws, teaching him to control his impulses and anger and tempering his will and good intentions with wisdom.  

With this...

Ibsen, however, still fell prey to wanderlust, and after a few years, once the order determined he was ready, he left again. This time, he followed the mountains to the far North.  Eventually, he came across a village and was told of their struggle with a giantess who was plaguing them, eating their people and livestock.  Ibsen decided to do something about it, and he and Taggart rode out the next morning to meet the she giant.  He met her on a mountain ridge and spoke with her.  Cromla was her name, and she was an ancient frost giantess, driven from her people due to her age and forced to feed in these lower climes.  Taking pity on her, Ibsen offered her a place with the people as their protector and compatriot, but Cromla was stubborn and refused, attacking Ibsen in her fury.  They fought, and, in a desperate fight, both of them battered and broken, Ibsen wrested Cromla's hammer from her hand, and struck her a resounding blow, shattering her icy form.  

Wielding this...

He then collapsed, and Taggart dragged him back to the town where he was nursed back to health.  Ibsen stayed in the town for a time, eventually bedding the mayor's daughter after she pressed herself on him after falling in love with the man during his stay.  He was given her hand in marriage, but declined, never one to settle down for long.  As an added GM tidbit, she became pregnant after he left, but that is a tale for the playing not the telling.  

Riding this.

And after that, his tale is left untold.  Two one shot episodes saw Ibsen fight a diabolical martial artist with hands of hellfire and, alternately, fight a hell machine and then tackle a death knight off of an airship to save his companions, dying in the process.  I don't count him as ever being played.  He has also appeared in an (unfinished) story that I am writing with the small change that he is a half giant.  In a few games I've thought about playing him in, I've considered making that change.  However, his time has not yet come, but some day, I will play him.  Some day.