Thursday, May 5, 2016

Howls of the Damned: Fuath, A Dream of Poe, When Nothing Remains, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard

Fuath, I
"so very deep and desolate. vocals set against riffs like a solitary figure walking a mountainside. human presence, dwarfed. a landscape of enormity. scale, grandeur." Click here to listen.

A Dream of Poe, An Infinity Emerged
Five long tracks, with an average duration of 11 minutes, reflect the evolution of a character, defeated just after gaining consciousness that the practical side of things is always harder than the theoretical side and that all is knowledge of the world didn't prepare him for the experience. Symbolically, the album is a process of destruction, as the initial stage of the renovation process (which corresponds to the symbolism of the card "Tower" from the Tarot deck), so the themes of death, murder, and the constant reference to water as a symbol of change are essential for «An Infinity Emerged». Click here to listen.

When Nothing Remains, In Memoriam
The third album by the Swedish masters of atmospheric doom death metal features everything the band is loved for: melodic compositions decorated with catchy guitar solos and atmospheric keyboards, with a harmonious blend of clean vocals and growl. At the same time, the symphonic sound is now the key element, which gives the material a special expression, epic and originality. Click here to listen.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Noeth Ac Anoeth
3 ape descendants and an astral seraphim combining their powers to generate colossal interstellar arias of plutonium weight. We are the ideal soundtrack to your next intergalactic voyage or black hole exploration. Druid Doom Riff Technologies v1.6. Click here to listen.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


I decided that what the world needed was a 5e Dungeons & Dragons background based on Joan Clayton--the cut-wife of Ballantrae Moor--from Penny Dreadful

Fair warning: this background is for "mature audiences," deals with a delicate topic, and definitely won't have a place in every game or at every table.

A pdf of the cut-wife background can be had here.

Monday, May 2, 2016

A Ring Thrice Blackened: Black Metal Middle-Earth

A strange confluence of influences: I've been thinking about the Lord of the Rings D&D that's coming out (and the odd lack of information about it), I watched the last Hobbit movie recently, I've been listening to Emperor's In the Nightside Eclipse a lot lately, and I've been having recurring dreams about the Nazgul.

All of this got my thinking about how I would run a game set in Middle-Earth, but with a bit of a "blackened" miasma clinging to the setting like a cloak of despair. Some basic guiding principles:

  • set the game between the events of The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring, emphasizing the rise of Shadow and the darkening of Arda
  • clear the board of the major protagonists from Tolkien's novels; make room for a different fellowship to do the heavy lifting
  • foster the atmosphere of a black metal saga
If you want to take a glimpse at what I've come up with, the pdf is here.

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Bonus mixtape to get you in the mood:

Gravelord Nito † Emperor - Into the Infinity of Thoughts † Satyricon - Nemesis Divina † Summoning - Nightshade Forests † Darkthrone - Under a Funeral Moon † Burzum - Black Spell of Destruction † Mayhem - From the Dark Past Scorpioness Najka

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I Was Interviewed at Appendix N Happy Meal

This Dracula nonsense started really early
I was interviewed over at Appendix N Happy Meal, check it out if you want to know all about my misspent youth.

Penny Dreadful is Back

The first episode of Season 3 of Penny Dreadful doesn't officially air until May 1st, but Showtime has put the episode up in advance on Youtube. 

Dig in, Dreadfuls.

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Monday, April 25, 2016

Some Problems with 5e Dungeons and Dragons

"Natural Language"

So, your fist isn't a weapon but when you attack with your fist it is a weapon attack. 

You can make a weapon attack with something that isn't a weapon. 


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Inspiration is a really interesting addition to Dungeons & Dragons. Finally, the world's premier roleplaying game has actual rules and mechanisms for roleplay!

Except there are some problems in execution here:

  • There aren't a lot of guidelines about when the DM is supposed to award Inspiration to the players, but what is there on paper states that you should award Inspiration when a player roleplays in a way that is connected to their character's personality, ideals, bonds, and flaws. Which sounds good, but in practice this means that the DM will need to keep track of five traits per character and be on the lookout for them in play. The DM already has enough stuff to keep track of.
  • Spending Inspiration give you advantage on a roll, but it's a bit hamstrung by the fact that it has to be spent prior to making a roll. Both dice might show successful results, which seems like a waste of a precious commodity. (You can only have one "point" of Inspiration at a time.) In this case, it would make more sense if spending Inspiration got you a re-roll or advantage on a roll.
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Foe Slayer

Take a look at the ranger's capstone 20th level special ability, then compare it against any other late-level ability from the other classes. Foe Slayer is so bad that you can roll it into the ranger's 1st level Favored Enemy ability and it in no way unbalances the game. If a ranger in any of my games made it to 20th level, we'd definitely be coming up with a replacement ability.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sandman: Season of Mists (part 2)

Now that he possesses the key to Hell, Morpheus finds his dream kingdom visited by gods, angels, faerie, demons, and abstract concepts who wish to possess Lucifer's recently-abandoned domain. (Thor and Loki come calling and there isn't a damned thing Marvel can do about it! Thor is especially played for laughs as a drunken lout.) Of course, this cohort of spiritual powers is itself a kind of Hell, especially for the archly isolated Morpheus. Making matters worse is the fact that accepting the bribe or acquiescing to the threats of one party interested in taking over Hell means alienating and angering the others--therein lies Lucifer's trap.

Everyone has something to offer Dream in return for the key to Hell, but the demons bring the most leverage: they would trade Choronzon (a demon Morpheus once had to duel) to torture as he sees fit, and more importantly they offer him Nada (and threaten to devour her soul if their bargain is refused). Ultimately, though, Dream grants the key to the angels, who expressly do not want it but have been commanded by their Creator to oversee Hell in Lucifer's absence. It makes sense: no one who wants Hell for themselves is fit to tend it. 

This also discloses some very interesting truths about the duality of existence in Gaiman's fiction: for Heaven (err, "The Silver City") to exist, its antithesis must also exist. Since Heaven and Hell are reflections of each other, both are needed and thus Hell must be opened for business once more. Ponder the fate of the angels assigned to Hell's governance; it's fascinating that Heaven must manufacture its own rebels, embittered by the task given them, for its own maintenance. 

Of course, Morpheus eventually does battle Azazel for Nada's return--and win. His reunion with Nada--after what has to be the world's weakest apology for condemning her to ten-thousand years of Hell--is brief and bittersweet: he rejects her offer of becoming mortal to be with her, she rejects his offer to make her a goddess, and she decides upon being reborn as an infant in Hong Kong. Loki manages to trickster his way out of returning to his Asgardian punishment, and Lucifer learns to love life on the beach. Oh, and along the way Gaiman drops a piece of canonical lore that will become the fulcrum of the saga: the current Endless are but aspects of what they represent. They can die, and can abdicate responsibility for their realms as Lucifer did, but there will always be another aspect to replace them. The choices made on the path of destiny have consequences, even for the Endless.