Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cave of Wonders

"It begins on a dark night, where a dark man waits, with a dark purpose..."
- Aladdin

As life changes, so do adventure ideas.  While I wrote and brainstormed the Vellyn (snow & ice) campaign for quite some time, now that life has alternated, some of the main players involved may be dropping out.  Due to this unexpected nature of life, I'm adjusting.  Perhaps Vellyn will become a possibility again in a few more weeks.

It seems that as I talk with various people, both old friends and new acquaintances, they all seem intrigued when I tell them that I'm involved with Dungeons and Dragons (even writing one article gets you some respect), and when I extend an invitation to them to play, they seem partially uncertain, but extremely interested at the same time.  And so, most of the my games of late are introducing people to the awesomeness that is D&D.

 As I talked about in blog post earlier this week, I've been reading all of the Ashes of Athas adventures since they've become available.  Some of my favorite adventures in the campaign arc are the ones where the characters are exploring old elemental temples, Kalak's ziggurat and the like.  My favorite part about these adventures is the maps that are made out of various Dungeon Tiles.  Other DM's have spoken out that they don't enjoy Dungeon Tiles for a number of reasons.  I think they create a lot of awesome looking terrain relatively easy.  Slap down a acrylic sheet over your tiles, and the map looks solid and doesn't move around.  Bam! You're done.

Ashes of Athas used the Dungeon Tile set Dire Tombs.  I was extremely impressed with Dire Tombs when I first got into D&D and bought the book Dungeon Delve.  Many of the maps in the mini delves used the tiles from Dire Tombs.  Out of all the different tiles, Dire Tombs had a unique look and just seemed to ooze flavor as players would explore.  It was a set I always wanted, but since it was from 2008, it was difficult to acquire.  I did some hunting and searching, and I found two sets for a decent price, so I decided to treat myself and get them.  Two sets of course.

Now I have the joy of planning a new adventure for new players.  When I last did a game like this, I ran Evil Tide and used a ton of sahuagin.  This time, I think I'm going to go for a more elemental themed game.  As a child, my favorite movie was Aladdin.  I watched it countless times on repeat, dressed up as him for Halloween, and basically wanted anything Aladdin (it was my birthday cake too).  In true D&D style, I'm going to pull from my own Appendix N of Karl's Influences and take some inspiration from the much loved Disney movie.

Monster-wise, skeletons fit the theme nicely.  There are numerous tiles in the set that have skeletons scattered around them.  I also think that the "tomb/cave" atmosphere will support spiders and other creepy crawlies.  Though the Dire Tombs tiles are yellow-ish, I plan on combining them with Cathedrals of Chaos and the Dungeon Master Set to create some other interesting terrain and features.  Cathedrals of Chaos especially does well for hidden tunnels, broken columns, and elemental features like water and lava pools. 

The Cave that will comprise the adventure will also have some deep spots that lead to the Underdark.  This will allow me to throw some Hook Horror monsters into the adventure as well, giving me an excuse to finally use them after I bought a few at Gen Con for a cheap price.

Reading the Ashes of Athas adventures also made me miss playing 4E, as all my D&D playing lately has been with the playtest packets for D&DNext.  With all the options (and books) for 4E, it's almost a shame that I'm not playing it as much, but perhaps one day soon I'll go back.  Brainstorming a new adventure has made me pull out the books and start diving into them again.  Heroes of the Elemental Chaos had a ton of great primordial information, and some of the creatures and descriptions really gave me a lot of inspiration.  If anybody else has a favorite book that they always go back to, let me know in the comments!

On a side note, I was flipping through the Book of Vile Darkness Player's Guide when I saw the paragon path for an evil druid which would basically allow them to become a vermin lord.  The picture in the book reminds me of Kyuss, which immediately made me think of my favorite Dungeon Command: Curse of Undeath miniature, the Disciple of Kyuss.  I noticed a similarity to that miniature and my favorite PC one, the half-elf druid.  Could a player switch miniatures upon hitting paragon tier, representing their dark transformation?  I think so.

Life is still moving forward, even though my plans changed.  It does feel good to write again and be inspired and creative.  Thanks again for the support everybody!

As always, leave comments below and be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Climbing Mount Doom

"There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while.  The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him.  For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

Despite all the blogging that I do, I very rarely mention the main campaign I'm in.  The scope of it is pretty huge, and there are a lot of epic moments.  It's called Life.

I play a Divine based character (pretty sure I'm a cleric, though I have to find my sheet).

For those that have read my last few tweets (or lack thereof), I've mentioned that my life got a little crazy, and because of that, I had to take some time away from the blog while I re-evaluated some things.  Not blogging, and not writing, but just life, and where I'm headed and what my story is.
I've mentioned it in other posts, but I live as a Christian.  It is an integral part of my life, and determines the basis of how and what I do.  In essence, I am second to God and serving him.  The work of Christ is my first priority. 

One of my favorite authors of all time is Tolkien.  I read The Hobbit when I was 10, and had finished all The Lord of the Rings before the movies came out.  That was a big deal to me, since I was able to say I read all the books BEFORE the movies even existed (I guess I was a Tolkien hipster).  One of the big things I loved about Tolkien was his Christian-based writing.  I think it was during that time that I knew I wanted to write and create characters.

The thing about Tolkien is that his books were based off his own life struggles during World War I, where most of his friends had lost their lives.  From there, certain elements and themes of his grand story were things he had thought about in his own life, his faith being one of them.

When it comes to playing D&D, I think my own life story and my faith has had a huge impact on me as well.  The worlds I create, the NPC's, and the overall themes I challenge my players to face all are linked to my story, and the faith story God has given me.

While I discovered D&D during a time when I was stricken with arthritis, it was not the reason I started Artificer's Intuition.  That all came about of another great test and story, and in its aftermath, I decided to take a chance with a dream of mine.  Hence the blog was born.

A year and half ago, somebody that I was extremely close with was in a horrible car accident.  The car was stopped, since the freeway was backed up.  Another driver, not having seen the stopped car, crashed full speed in the stopped vehicle.  My friend was in a coma for a week.  The other two people in my friend's car didn't make it.

The week my friend was in the coma brought us a lot of questions.  Would my friend be ok?  Would there be brain damage?  What kind of life would they lead afterward? 

With some of these other challenges in life that I've gone through, it becomes apparent that we are always given choices.  Despite the fear and uncertainty of the times, I prayed earnestly for my friend, rallying others to pray for her as well.  My friend came out of the coma, and miraculously, had no severe injuries.  No broken bones.  No internal bleeding.  Simple physics equations will tell you that something should have happened to her when a force of that magnitude struck her.  I knew in my heart she had been saved for a reason.

I'm not sure that I will be continuing my story with my friend's.  The story got a lot more complex, and I'm not sure what's going to happen.  I do know that I will continue to pray, and continue to follow Christ.  That part of my life hasn't changed.  In a sense, it has made me more devout as life has become more uncertain.  I'm interested to see where my campaign goes next. 

About a month ago, I ordered a Star Wars Miniatures map pack.  Why did I do this?  Simply because having multiple maps is awesome, and this one had something very special, especially for Vellyn, my ice and snow world.  I give you the Nelvaan Plains.

The flip side of this map is a temple courtyard, with a massive Star Wars tank in the middle.  While I'm not sure what I would use it for, I figured I could either cover it up with other tiles/3D terrain, or say it's a massive broken construct or airship.  Let me know what you think!

 In the last few weeks, I've also started exercising more, giving myself an outlet for some of my energy.  I decided I needed an artistic outlet as well, so I bought some miniature paint and a small pack of Warhammer 40K goblins to paint for fun.  Since my campaign world uses a lot of alchemy, the fact that they are holding pistols isn't a big deal.  I just call them alchemical firearms or something.  Since they're goblins, this is pretty likely in my games.


Thanks everybody for being here for me in my difficult time.  Special thanks to Teos Abadia for reaching out to me and having some nice chats.  If you haven't started getting emails with the Ashes of Athas adventures, contact him right away (@Alphastream) to start getting them.  They are really amazing and inspiring!

As always, leave your comments below and be sure to follow me on Twitter @artificeralf