A to Z: H is for Hook HorrorPosted: April 8, 2011 Filed under: A to Z, adventures, aldeboran, monsters 4 Comments
H is our letter for the day and today I will talk about “The Hook Horror” from the 1981 Fiend Folio. Fiend Folio is one of those books that I didn’t like when it came out because all of the critters in it seemed so weird and useless and lacking in logic… and then I grew up and stopped taking it all so seriously… or something like that. The hook horror lives in caves, is 9 feet tall, moves at 90 feet per turn, has an AC of 3 (which is pretty good) and has 2 attacks per turn that inflict 1-8 damage each. Weighing in at 5 hit dice, it is a little tougher than ogres (4+1 hit dice) and a little weaker than giants (8+ hit dice or more, unless you are talking about those pathetic Verbeeg). It bothers me that the hook horror is not described as being able to peck or bite with that massive beak (in the picture, his beak is bigger than his hooks). I’m thinking that would be something I would change with a house rule. The hook horror is nearly blind but has excellent hearing (therefore turning invisible won’t help you — HAH— but your magic user might find a use for that audible glamer spell). They communicate by clicking their exoskeletons. This makes them sound like they are insects, but in the drawing they look like a double-hand-amputee in an evil chicken suit. I actually like the drawing so I wouldn’t change that… even the lumpy sweater-vest and panties that the hook horror is wearing. Guard the rear! Your henchman has just been trepanned by a hook horror!
A to Z: G is for Gamma WorldPosted: April 7, 2011 Filed under: A to Z, adventures, aldeboran, gamma world 1 Comment
This fascinating article from Outside Magazine by Henry Shukman describes a trip to the Chernobyl “exclusion zone” in The Ukraine more than twenty years after the reactor exploded.
Shukman describes how the area around Chernobyl has returned to a state of near wilderness. Elk, wolves, wild boar, lynx and other animals not seen outside of zoos in this part of Europe have returned and are prospering. The towns within the exclusion zone were abandoned right after the reactor failed and nature has been taking it all back; wood rots, iron rusts, ice and roots crumble away the asphalt and concrete.
But the exclusion zone might also be the world’s biggest unguided experiment in genome mutations. Researchers have discovered many species of plants and animals that are changing in unexpected ways. Some birch trees within the zone resemble tree-like giant feathers rather than the common birch tree. Bird populations exhibit unusually high rates of albinism. Animals inside the exclusion zone have higher levels of cancer than animals outside the zone.
Meanwhile, the ‘containment’ structure that was built over Chernobyl #4 (the reactor that caught fire) has begun to fail and the expected replacement structure is overdue. Engineers claim the containment structure was never adequate to begin with. In Japan, problems continue to plague the earthquake and tsunami damaged nuclear plants.
I’m not sure whether to be fascinated or scared to death.
A to Z: F is for Flightless BirdsPosted: April 6, 2011 Filed under: A to Z, aldeboran, monsters 1 Comment
The image at left is of an ‘axe beak’ from the Monster Manual (1e) rather than an image of ‘flightless birds.’ Flightless birds don’t have a picture and I always liked the axe beak picture. The axe beak can’t fly (neither can the penguin), so I suppose it qualifies as a ‘flightless bird.’ He also looks kind of pissed off.
‘Flightless Birds’ is one of those Monster Manual entries that always makes me want to say, “Hah…hah…what the fuck?” when I read it. According to Saint Gygax, they are ‘typified by the ostrich, emu and rhea.‘ It also says that they have between 1 and 3 hit dice and can inflict 1-4 or 2-8 damage! Gygax clarifies that the ostrich types have 3 hit dice and do 2-8 damage. So, in D&D, an ostrich is more likely to kill you than an average homicidal man with a hatchet who will have only 1-6 hitpoints, attack as a 0 level creature and inflict only 1-6 damage each time he whacks you with his hatchet. What the fuck? I met someone once who worked at the zoo and she said the ostriches were kind of mean and cranky, but I never heard of them killing people. On the other hand, having a 1st level party getting TPK’d by a flock of “the other-other white meat” while taking a shortcut across a pasture is kind of funny.
Inspired by pictures like this(below), I’ve always wanted to create ostrich cavalry for Aldeboran:
A to Z: E is for Experience PointsPosted: April 5, 2011 Filed under: A to Z, aldeboran, rules Leave a comment
Perhaps this should be under ‘X’ for ‘XP.’ Too late. When playing a game like D&D, the ‘transactional’ nature of some of the actions within the game soon become obvious. Your character performs an action (like killing a hobgoblin). You are awarded with some experience points. Once your XP reach a certain point, you “level up” and suddenly get better at doing the things your character does. I used to be really ‘down’ on the D&D XP system (even before I played video games, like Baldur’s Gate, where XP is awarded every time you do something rather than at the end of a session like we usually do it in ‘pencil and paper’ games… or when you get back to town (the really old school system)). XP obtained for treasure used to really stick in my craw. These days it really doesn’t bother me; in fact I kind of like it. I think part of me has come to peace with the idea that D&D is, at it’s core, a video game from before video games existed and XP is just a part of that. So XP is part of your reward for playing (since it is one of the indicators of progress). Some of the games I have been involved in include XP simply being awarded periodically, or at the DM’s fiat… or players all level up every X number of sessions. I’m surprised to admit to myself that I don’t find that as much fun as ‘the pinball game’ method where you can see the numbers building up and when you reach X, suddenly you get a little reward. Admittedly, default XP rules in D&D are a pretty bald mechanic, but they have become so ingrained in the game system that I miss the XP rules when they are gone. In my mind, one of the advantages of the XP rules as written is that players have a certain amount of control over their own character’s advancement. “A goblin is worth X number of points. You need Y number of points to get to level 2. Defeat Z number of goblins and when X*Z is equal to or greater than Y, you level up.“
A to Z: D is for DemonsPosted: April 4, 2011 Filed under: A to Z, adventures, aldeboran, monsters 1 Comment
Today, D is for Demons. One of the delights of monsters like demons (and devils) is that they can seemingly be so diverse in appearance without raising any eyebrows (if they have eyebrows). Check out the third figure from the left in the picture at right: he has a bird face growing out of his ass! How does that work for him? I don’t know. But it would make sneaking up behind him somewhat difficult. A few years ago I was thinking about the demons and devils I might use for Aldeboran and I considered making them all unique. Perhaps forms, features and special abilities could be randomly generated. I didn’t pursue it any further, but that idea is still on the work bench.
A to Z: C is for CylonsPosted: April 3, 2011 Filed under: A to Z, adventures, aldeboran, monsters 5 Comments
This will probably interfere with my credibility in some people’s eyes, but I am one of those misbegotten assholes who actually prefers the newer Battlestar Galactica to the original series. I know that this is treason. The original aired the same year I started playing D&D (1978) and featured monsters, ray guns and all kinds of other stuff — I just don’t remember it very well, and what I do remember involves a dorky little kid and a robot dog. The original cylons were cool, though. Even when they photographed them through the magic ‘star filter.’ Photos taken through star filters always look cheesey and kind of porn-y… I suppose if robots give you wood, that is a good thing… but speaking of robots giving one wood, have you seen the Svedka Vodka commercials with the dancers and sexy robot? They just freak me out and make me never want to drink Svedka.
C is for cylons. In Aldeboran, I want to have cylons. Why they are there and what they are doing I don’t know yet. But there will be cylons. Some of them will be clanky ones that look like a dude in a suit (see at right) with a red eye that goes back and forth like he is watching a ping pong match. The one in this picture even has a sword! I don’t remember if they had swords or not in the original series. Others will look just like people. Fuck! Maybe they will think they are people and get freaked out when they find out they are cylons! I also want to have a ‘war of the worlds’ bit, but I don’t know if that will be related. Maybe I will wait to talk about ‘War of the Worlds’ when we reach W.