Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lampreys the Nightmare Continues

Some more about the sea lampreys that infect Lake Michigan and make life near the lakeshore in Chicago a dangerous proposition for all concerned.  Know your lamprey.

This type is especially dangerous to small water craft, children and pets.  Artist: Uknown

Thankfully they only get this big in the deep waters of the lake or tidal areas near the museums.  Artist: Patsy McDowell

This is an accurate depiction of a 17th century lamprey as depicted in the historical novel "Lamentations of the Flame Princess."  Artist: Ian Maclean

OK that's all for lampreys today, let's be careful out there and remember that the only good lamprey is a dead lamprey. Part of why we became the U.S.A. is because they used to eat them in England and that is revolting.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Into the Odd Twice, Labyrinth Lord Generates Worst Vacation Ever

Many have been the games played in the last couple of months; at least, many by my standards. My Dungeon Crawl Classics campaign at Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL, restarted, only to be placed immediately back into hiatus for the holidays.  I finished with the customized D&D 4th Edition game held at Chicagoland Games in Chicago, IL.  The D&D 5th Edition game, customized for Clark Ashton Smith's world of Hyperborea, is still going strong.  I enjoy the setting and the system, and I get to play with my wife and good friends while drinking beer or cocktails. Like all of my In Real Life games, it is rated M for Mature.

To look at this requires Maturity.

It is over Google Hangouts where my gaming has increased a great deal. I've gotten very comfortable with the format; I will always prefer to meet in person for a game, but when that's impossible, Hangouts is the way to go. I prefer it when the GM uses a tool of some kind (such as Roll20 or Paint) to show graphics, handouts, or maps but it no longer detracts from my enjoyment overmuch if those tools aren't used.

I'm playing in two long-running campaigns over over the wire: Fantasy Flight's Star Wars and classic, Game Designer's Workshop Traveller. I've also had the chance to play a great DCC module, Prince Charming: Reanimator and for the first time played a (very enjoyable) session of Labyrinth Lord.

I loved that we started the LL game "on vacation", which I don't think has ever been a start for an adventure I've been in. One of the characters had to pound around in the bucolic summer heat wearing plate armor as we investigated clues, explored a tomb, and sought information, leading to his oft-muttered "Worst Vacation Ever!"

I've been excited about Into the Odd for a while now, and finally had the chance to try it out with a couple of great GMs.  In the first case there were three players total and we ran through a dungeon-type scenario pulled from the game designer's blog. We had characters whipped up in a jiffy and they soon developed their own unique personalities, helped along by the weirdness of the environment, a shared near-death experience early in the adventure, and our general sense of paranoia and impending doom.  We ran through the whole dungeon in the time we had allotted and I was able to go through the process of "leveling up" with four quick rolls.

An interesting and diverse assortment of arcana.

The second game of Into the Odd was of a more free-form nature, and I will borrow generously from the report of our GM, Noah Stevens:

We were hired by Mr. Smythewick-on-Smythe, Comptroller of the Adventurers' and Post-persons' guild, to deliver 1 pound of fine green tea - likely magical.  "Viridian Tea of the Jade Brewmancers".  In addition, we have distributed amongst ourselves 100 chocolate bonbons, meant for consumption by Serpent Men (AND ONLY by Serpent Men! as we have since learned).
Both are to be delivered whilst Arcturus hangs in the Southern sky above Bastion, if we are to be paid.

Before leaving we purchased a purple Crocatoo from Mr. Oubilette, at his Fantastic Fowl Emporium.  Also released Odiet Thindo from gravest indenture via bayonet to Mr. Oubilette's abdomen.  Maybe.

A brief moment of air travel by Daemon Zeppelin, and the party docked at the Aerodrome of Bastion, on the Sky Level.  We landed, poisoned the customs agent (accidentally!) and dodged the tax-man.  After nearly getting pick-pocketed, we pressed into service a Deep One hybrid urchin boy named Bertie (possibly the son of a watchman).

Hugo's airship: How Does It Work

We hired Hugo the Aero-captain, and contributed to his untimely death by Crabbird, after destroying a lovely and aggressive mated pair with rocket and blade.

Between the Crabbird attack and the unwanted attention of the Guard, now approaching via airship and firing at us, we temporarily lost one member of the party. As well as permanently losing the previously mentioned Hugo the Aero-captain.

An arcanum, the Dust Mephit Engine, was recovered (still unknown exactly what it does, but it was the engine for Hugo's dirigible.  Odiet damaged the rune-markings in removal from the tiller).

We broke into a private dwelling on a rim-side balcony, and entered into the temple district to avoid the Guard and their Auto-Arquebuses.  Hid in and dealt with the temple of Doubloonus, and the High Priest, for several days but declined his offer of theological and economical intercessions.
Then we got all henna'ed up with currency symbols and dressed in robes (even the parrot) so as to stand out less, and struck out to find the Serpent Men and deliver our packages.

We entered into the Aviary of the Contemptuous Saint, where everything is a bit too tidy and neat.  A nameless Faepog came sidling by with Mr. Fiddler's (probably cursed) fiddle. Nobody came sidling by with my expended rocket, however.  
That's where we left off, until the next time...

One more thing--I played Metamorphosis Alpha today for the first time since I was in junior high school! It was a great time with a good crew; lots of action, investigation, and humor. I'll talk details about it in a future post.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Warlords of the Air

Airships, for A Contest Full of Hot Air

Let's talk about the big ones, the battleships, perhaps not seen since the Last Great War, perhaps yet to be built.

"With the cloud came a great thrumming sound, like many deep-voiced gongs being beaten rapidly in unison. The sound grew louder as the cloud began to fill the whole sky, casing a dark and ominous shadow over the Valley of the Morning.  It was the allied air fleet of five nations.

Each ship was a thousand feet long. Each had a hull as strong as steel. Each bristled with artillery and great grenades which could be dropped upon their enemies. Each ship moved implacably through the sky, keeping pace with its mighty fellows.

Ships with Imperial crimson suns emblazoned on their white and gleaming hulls.
Ships with great black double-headed eagles glaring from the hulls of deepest scarlet, claws spread as if to strike.
Ships with massive three-color flags spread on backgrounds of blue.
Ships with cannon and bombs and crews, their booming engines like triumphant anticipatory laughter."
--Michael Moorcock, The Warlord of the Air

Good times, bad times, you know I've had my share.

There are blimps and balloons and sometimes those are enough, but when you want to move huge cargoes or large contingents of men or mount cannons, then you need a rigid airship, a dirigible. And it has to be filled with helium or a helium-like gas, because otherwise you are floating through the sky in a huge bomb: Oh The Humanity.

They can of course also be used for luxurious passage from one city to another for those that have the guilders and gold to spend that way.  But imagine huge airships, bigger than the Hindenburg, and engineered far beyond that disaster-in-waiting. Rotors to compensate for the explosion of cannon; broadsides of guns and huge grenades to be dropped directly on opposing ships and forces.  And such a quiet way to deliver great masses of troops.

Moorcock suggested the evolution of recoilless guns "that can stand in the air and shoot much longer and more accurately than cannon."

Imagine what even one of these Airships of the line could do, if it was suddenly, through powers scientific and arcane, thrust into a world that was not as advanced, or had simply never seen something like it. The men on a ship like that would have to decide what they wanted to do with all that firepower and speed. Decisions: yes...