My Top 10 Favorite Monsers

Several other blogs that I read have been doing the their top ten favorite monsters (here, here, here, and here). Not being one to miss a meme I present to you mine. (Though most are OD&D).

  1. Medusa: A nicely proportion gal with looks that can kill.
  2. Beholder: It's smart, it's evil, and it can Nerf casters with a glance.
  3. Gas spore: a worthless monster other than psyching out those players who memorized the Monster Manual.
  4. Crypt Thing: It' looks like a lich, but more chatty. Once you honk it off it will "disintegrates" a party member by teleporting them a thousand miles away (or paralyzing them and making them invisible).
  5. Rust Monster: I love seeing the Fighter types scream and move to the back of the party when this cute little beast shows up.
  6. Lich:Undead arch mages or high priests, great behind the scenes villains, and hard core combatants when prepared.
  7. Shuggoth/Gibbering Mouther: I was privileged to have the First Edition Deities and Demigods that contained the Cthulthu Mythos. The Gibbering Mouther is an obvious nod to the truly frightening Shuggoth: 10 tons of Jello sprinkled with eyes, mouths and limbs that just want to give you a full body hug.
  8. Drow: A late addition to the OD&D school, but very capable opponents with no real weaknesses. I also enjoyed the "take back" effect that their equipment had. The DM could hand out tons of +5 magic items only to have them become worthless in the surface world.
  9. Xorn: Treasure eating, trilateral symmetric, intelligent rock. Aside from the Gibbering Mouther it's the most alien of the OD&D creatures.
  10. Flesh Golem: Frankenstein's Monster in D&D form. Strong, largely invulnerable, but can get a little crazy every now and then.


My Game Prep

I am blessed to be a part of a consistent gaming group that has a bounty of GM's (no less than 4), so we frequently alternated between two different games: Currently we are going between a GURPS adaptation of Mass Effect and my 4E intro; Previously it was 3.5 D&D using classic modules ; Everquest; A home brewed 3.5 setting (soon to be published) ; Starwars and so on. 

Regardless, this alternation allows me some luxury in terms of prep time: On the odd weeks when I don't run, I get to explore, experiment, and play with ideas. On the weeks that I do run, I knuckle down and generate content.  All the while I turn ideas over in my head. 

When prepping I try to keep 3 rules in mind: 
  1. Keep it fun
  2. Don't over prep
  3. If the players don't see it (or it's effects), it might as well not have happened. 

So learning CC3, Dungjinni and The Gimp are fun. But I am only creating what I need to run and only what the players will "See". 

When I set up encounters I only create 3-4 of them (that is about all the group will get through in the 2-3 hours of productive play that we have).  Though I do keep in mind what might be coming. 

For "Grand Plots" I will make notes, but no plot is set in stone until I bring them to the table. 
I do this because I am a firm believer in the dual edged quantum nature of plots: If players don't observe a plot it doesn't exist. However, until the players observe the plot it can be anything I want it to be, thus I can change it as I see fit.  This allows me the luxury of not having to figure out everything in advance and the adaptability to match step with the players interest. 

I have learned the joys of "Filing off the serial numbers" on creatures, especially in 4E where no-one has memorized the Monster Manual. So an Orc, goblin or Hobgoblin becomes a "Wig", Or a Kobold becomes a "Claw Foot". I have grabbed stat blocks off of DDI and renamed as I see fit. So what was a Thuggish Cultist now be came a Wig Devote. 

On the previous off week:
I produced some Photo Comps of the Temple and a near by village
Gave thought to the social implications of a Glyph based language, and Mechanically affected Immortality on a small, elite, yet diverse population.
Worked on local maps in CC3 (still trying to get good at that).   

During the on week I:
Generated some encounters with Asmor, only 4 of them. 
threw together some battle maps in Dunginni.
Made scant notes about how I though things may play out. 
Printed chits and maps. 

Enough rambling, I need to find a Magic item suitable for a bard...


Playing with Campaign Cartographer

Here is what I've done while following this set of video tutorials for the second time.

They were instructive and reasonably easy, it helps that I had done 
some playing on my own.


Quick Memorable Names

As a good GM I try to have list of NPC names handy when I run. I've used imdb, looking up genera relevant movies and mixing Actor and Character names (Though Mark Skywalker didn't work so well, but Luke Hamel did); I've used census data and name generators to modest success; I jumbled sounds/letters together with less success. 

I recently hit upon a naming scheme that seems to work so far:
Take the name of anyone you know (co-workers, classmates, relatives) and remove the first letter so that Smith becomes Mith; Carter becomes Arter; Tim becomes Im and so on. 

The nice part is that I can remember them latter when I write up my notes. 



Asmor's Instant Dungeon: 9th level Time of War, Part 1

The premise with this adventure is that the Players are assigned to protect a Defensible position outdoors such as a mountain pass or a bridge. The waves will come one after another with a little control by the players. Minions abound in this one so I made heavy use of the generator's advanced options to force the settings.

  1. [Level 13 Magic Item]: Orb of Drastic Resolutions +3 (Player's Handbook, page 238 [Orbs]) (DDI)
  2. [Level 12 Magic Item]: Thornwalker Slippers (Adventurer's Vault, page 130 [Feet Slot Items]) (DDI)
  3. [Level 11 Magic Item]: Survivor's Belt (Adventurer's Vault, page 167 [Waist Slot Items]) (DDI)
  4. [Level 10 Magic Item]: Lens of Discernment (Adventurer's Vault, page 174 [Wondrous Items]) (DDI)
  5. [2352 gp]: 1343 gp, 81 sp, 90 cp + 1 fire opal (1000 gp)
  6. [2100 gp]: 19 pp, 196 gp, 34 sp, 60 cp
  7. [1428 gp]: 1424 gp, 30 sp, 100 cp
  8. [1428 gp]: 420 gp, 70 sp, 100 cp + 1 emerald (1000 gp)
  9. [672 gp]: 669 gp, 28 sp, 20 cp
  10. [504 gp]: 38 sp, 20 cp + 1 aquamarine (500 gp)
Encounter 1: 8th Level, 1925xp: The First Wave.
1Chain Devil (Kyton) (DDI)Level 11 Skirmisher 600Monster Manual, page 62 (Devil)
7Unattached Soulrider Devil (DDI)Level 10 Minion 125Dragon 370, page 8 (Dangers of the Demonweb)
3Legion Devil Hellguard (DDI)Level 11 Minion 150Monster Manual, page 64 (Devil)
Development: After the battle a successful hard Perception check will allow the successful players to see the "Observer" a non-distinct humanoid figure watching the battle just out of missile range.

Give the Players a short Rest and then continue with:
Encounter 2: 9th Level, 2100xp: Second Wave
8Legion Devil Hellguard (DDI)Level 11 Minion 150Monster Manual, page 64 (Devil)
6Warped Grimlock Zombie (DDI)Level 11 Minion 150Dungeon 161, page 94 (Touch of Madness)
Tips:The Hellguard will move in phalanx formation with a rabble of Zombies around them. When close enough the Hellguard will attempt to bypass defenses by teleporting into flanking positions and will bull rush targets so that they fall into the Zombie mass.
Development: The observer moves to the edge of vision and opens a firery gate.

Encounter 3: 9th Level, 2200xp: The Probing Feint
4Kalaka (DDI)Level 9 Soldier 400Dragon 369, page 31 (Demonomicon of Iggwilv)
4Warped Grimlock Zombie (DDI)Level 11 Minion 150Dungeon 161, page 94 (Touch of Madness)
Tips: The Kalaka race forward (followed by some additional Zombie stragllers), when within range 5 they will use their "Unexpected Reneforcements" to teleport past the immediate defences or to flank targets. They full well expect to use their Spewing Death abliltiy and will manuver to maximize the effect.

Encounter 4: 9th Level, 2100xp: The Wall Breakers
2Fire Archon Emberguard (DDI)Level 12 Brute 700Monster Manual, page 18 (Archon)
1Viscera Devourer (DDI)Level 12 Controller 700Monster Manual, page 68 (Devourer)
Tips:As the Archon close the horrid Devourer will arise from the pulpy mess of the Zombie Corpses. The Archon's have been charged to distroy enough of the barrier to allow passage, ignoring any harm to them selves. The Viscera Devourer will plauge the heros untill distroyed trying to grab any who have fallen.

Encounter 5: 10th Level, 2675xp
3Loremaster Accordant (DDI)Level 11 Artillery 600Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide, page 265 (Order of Blue Fire)
1Greater Ghoul (DDI)Level 10 Soldier 500Dungeon 156, page 63 (The Haunting of Kincep Mansion)
3Vampire Spawn Bloodhunter (DDI)Level 10 Minion 125Monster Manual, page 259 (Vampire)
Tips:Loremasters close to range 20 and unleash Acordant Vision on three targets and then move to range 10 and bombard with Changing Ray. When a majoritity of the defenders are affected the Ghoul and Vampire spawn scale up the wall and rend at the defenders. Once the Ghoul and Spawn are in place the Loremasters will close to Range 4 and release Changing Wave to effect the maximum number of defenders.

Development: The Observer closes the gate and appears to retreate.

The long rest that follows should end when the defenders hear a horrid cackling comming down the pass tward them precced by a thick mist (concelement).

Encounter 6: 10th Level, 2600xp: The Terror Squad
1Displacer Beast (DDI)Level 9 Skirmisher 400Monster Manual, page 70 (Displacer Beast)
1Destrachan Farspeaker (DDI)Level 11 Controller 600Dungeon 161, page 103 (Touch of Madness)
2Gibbering Mouther (DDI)Level 10 Controller 500Monster Manual, page 126 (Gibbering Beast)
1Rotclaw (DDI)Level 11 Brute 600Draconomicon: Chromatic Dragons, page 205 (Undead Dragons, Draconic Zombie)
Tips: The Displacer Beast will arrive first and will try to grab targets with it's tenticles. The Rot Claw charges in on the next round and scales the fortification to harm the defenders in the most savage way possible; The Gibbering Mouthers slime to either side of the fortification (and attack it directly); With the Farspeaker trying to break the barrier down the middle.

Encounter 7: 10th Level, 2600xp
2Fithrichen (DDI)Level 12 Controller 700P2: Demon Queen's Enclave, page 18 (Shunned)
2Firelasher (DDI)Level 11 Skirmisher 600Monster Manual, page 104 (Elemental)
Tips: The Firelashers will use whirlwind dash to close with the defenders as the Fithrichen scale the fortifications. Once on the wall the Fithrichen's will drop darkness and disgorge spiders before joining in melee.

Development: When the last of the observers attackers fall, over the rise comes 2 Boneclaw Guardians 2 Korned King's Knights on one. The observer throws back her cloak and joins another horned knight on the back of the other Boneclaw.

Encounter 8: 12th Level, 3800xp: Last Chance for Defeat
4Knight of the Horned King (DDI)Level 11 Soldier 600Dragon 369, page 30 (Demonomicon of Iggwilv)
2Boneclaw Guardian (DDI)Level 12 Soldier 700Dungeon 157, page 76 (In the Depths of Avarice)
Tips: The Horned Knights will charge with lances drop them after an inital attack and join melee. If two targets dare "double up" on a knight a "Mark of the Beast" will be set upon them (once for each knight).

Major Quest 9th Level: 2,000xp

Notes: The exact defenseive position is left up to the DM but additional skill chanllenges should be allowed to repair damage to the structure in a "quick and hasty manner".
The Treasure parcels should be front loaded for the most part with additional healing made availible.


Playing With Gimp: part 2

Over the last few weeks I have improved my Gimp'in skill to the point that I am producing Photo Illistrations for my game.
Here are a couple examples:
This first example is a view to the south looking at the Thread (or Great Tower as the locals know it.) (this image was built from my photos from Ireland)

The second one is of the Temple:
Tree back ground from: Axel-D
Field from: CatDancing
Path From: Ana Carol Mendes
Temple from: Koshyk
Clouds by: Kevindoley

Both Images are released under the Creative Commons 2.0



Playing with Gimp

So I have been playing some more with gimp:
Today I followed this toutorial (which wouldn't be bad for world creation in Traveler and other world games). 
Part 1 Part 2  
Here is the result.