Wednesday, July 31, 2013

More Tales of Adventure!

"Stop playing grabass and cast something!"

"You damn Adventurers stay off of my lawn!"

"My robes are the prettiest of scarlet, non?"

"Dingle make stinky!"



Saturday, July 27, 2013

Howl O Scream 2013 update

Yeah, I bitch.  A lot.  I'm not likely to stop now and it is only going to get worse as I grow older.
courtesy of Seaworld parks webpage
So here we have the entry page for the Busch Gardens-Seaworld Howl-O-Scream events.  As you can see Williamsburg, in the Old Dominion, is still going with the theme started 2 years ago.  I admit the eyeball in the rose has a certain creep factor to it, but honestly it is entirely too vampire chic for my tastes.  Indeed much of the park is Vamp Chic for Howl-O-Scream of late.  I blame Twilight  and The Vampire Diaries, but I can't back that up with hard evidence.  It just makes me happy to blame them.
Tampons, those hapless residents of Tampa, Florida, have a door, cracked open with the 13 on it.  Inviting or warning, you decide.  I have not been to BG Tampa in decades, but their default theme is Africa.  Hot ass Tampa lends itself well to the African theme in my opinion and I was not disappointed in my trips.  Williamsburg does Europe, which sort of makes sense in a loose historical sort of way and Tampa does Africa.
Now on the right we have Sea World San Antonio.  What can we say about San Antonio?  It's in the Independent Federal Republic of Texas and was named for Texas's first cattle rancher Anthony Sandberg.  They have Williamsburg's old Howl-O-Scream logo of Jack (A Pumpkin Man!) and I wonder if they have the old props as well.  Unfortunately clicking the "Visit Site" link takes you to the regular Sea World San An site with no information about Howl.  They are still well within their hot and wet summer events down (and over) there.
It is possible, I suppose, that Jack will pop up from his giant pumpkin to get the party started, but he may suffer heat stroke in the process.
Maybe they will put a cowboy hat on him for local flavor.
As out of place as he will be, I am jealous that they get the old guy and we are stuck with an unimpressive statue of a scary J-horror inspired ghoul girl who doesn't even have the decency to walk about and haunt the park.
Boo to you BG.  Is this the evil influence of Inbev at work?

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tales of Adventure! The Wizards of Morcar

Sometime around 1989-1990 Milton Bradley, in association with U.K.'s Games Workshop, published a modular board game called HeroQuest.  The game was of the classic dungeon crawl type with 1 player controlling the monsters and dungeon and up to 4 players going against him as individual heroes.  It spawned a few expansions as well before it ended its run in the stores.
The basic story is what you would expect from a dungeon crawl: An "evil" wizard named Morcar has his home invaded by 1-4 looting ruffians with no regard for personal property and no proper employment to speak of.
After three years of having his home ransacked, trashed, despoiled, his carpets soiled, his toilets clogged and his servants slaughtered mercilessly (I mean, really, if they are all dead who is going to clean the blood off the walls and floors...not me, mate, I can promise you that.) Morcar hired 4 magically endowed security professionals...THE WIZARDS OF MORCAR!
I'm not sure where the so-called heroes are going what with that being a deadly drop and all.
Not to be deterred the "heroes" used their ill-gotten loot to hire mercenaries to help them in their pilfering of Morcar's summer home in Crookeddick Fell, near the frigid wastes of Coldsnatch Valley.

Take a gander at this quartet of magical destruction, each a master of his own school of magic, at work.


This has been a public service announcement brought to you by the wizards at Celtic Pumpkin:
Stay safe, kids.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Could you please, maybe, see your way to considering...


Paladins, what happened to them?

Once upon a time paladins were not the animals they are today.  If you ask the average person on the street what a paladin is you are likely to get an answer like, "What?  Who are you?  You are creeping me out you damn weirdo.  Go away, I'm dialing the police right now."
Or something similar.
However, if you ask a gamer you are likely to get a more reasonable answer along the lines of, "A half-assed healer," or "tank", or "those sissy goody goodies that can't do any damage and  that I totally own on my rogue, like, all day because I am uberl33tz, biaTch."
Sadly all of those answers are wrong.  In the beginning there were only 3; three classes to cover all your gaming needs.  They were Fighting Man, Cleric, and Magic-User!  The Cleric, now seen as the party band aid, was actually a Holy Warrior.  The Fighting Man was exactly what it said on the tin and the Magic-User was the wizard.  Then came Supplement 1: Greyhawk and 2 new classes: the Thief and the Paladin.  The Paladin was considered a Fighting-Man plus extras and not many extras.  By AD&D 1st edition the Paladin was still a subset of Fighter (although he would become a subset of Cavalier) and was everything a Fighter was plus much more.  The Paladin was not a back-up healer, not a Holy Warrior and not a tank.  The Paladin was the righteous defender of good.  Even more than a good Cleric the Paladin was the stuff of heroes.  "Good deeds are meat and drink to a paladin" said the Player's Handbook.

Unlike the modern gamer logic, the old game didn't concern itself with party roles and balance, that was the player's job, the old game concerned itself with a rules framework.
Then came the dark days of the MMO and the changes, oh the horrific changes.  Players began to expect balance.  Balance meant that if one guy had armor some other guy did damage.  The Paladin was not a class to be entered into lightly requiring some pretty high stats to be rolled and a code of conduct most gamers cannot fathom.  Yet the new game, as played by those who had played MMOs, said that everyone should just be what they wanted to be so no more high stat requirements for classes.  This left everyone wondering what to do about the Paladin.  Since he has some holy powers and heals and such he should have to suffer in some other area, and that area became damage.  Eventually Paladins were seen as tanks and expected to use sword and shield (I have a rant about shields that would scorch your very soul, but I will hold off) which meant even less damage output.  Since he was not a Cleric his heals were not good enough to be of much use either.  The Paladin, being a goody goody that helps people was picked to be the guy who protected the rest of the party, too often seen as the people that actually "Do the real work" which is just bullshit.

Thus did the Paladin go from this:
Full Page Illustration, page 23, AD&D 1st Edition Player's Handbook entitled, "A Paladin In Hell".  That one big bug-eyed demon is running for its ass because it knows that Sir Foottotheballs is just getting warmed up.  Seriously, he's got a boner inside that plate codpiece.
To this:

Or worse, this:

Now I ask you, is that any way for a knight to be?
These guys are supposed to do damage and lots of it, and not just to the undead.  What you should hear is, "Oh shit, a paladin!  Run!" not, "I can't believe he's playing a paladin, whatta noob."
This is how a paladin should look:

NOT JUST FOR UNDEAD FIGHTING...Kicking a giant's ass is all part of the job.

And the last thought you should have is, "Mommy" before you are cut down by his righteous fury and a hoof to the balls!

So could we please unfuck the Paladins in gaming?

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Busch Gardens Williamsburg Howl O Scream 2013

Scant info on the website:

For the past few years BGW's theme for Howl O Scream has been "The Dark Side of the Gardens" with their eyeball-rose logo and that creepy undead girl.  I assume this year will be the same given the eyeball-rose logo is on the current website.
"Fear has a way of Spreading" it says.
The initial information tells us that it still has the whores, which I am sure will be good for some people but not this punkinhed.
If the fear is everywhere was too intense for children, as many a complaint suggested it was, and the scarezones were implemented to make the place more "child friendly" how is it that whores dressed as nurses is not offensive to parents at all?

Give me scares of spooks and monsters, BG, not of chlamydia!

Meanwhile Hunt Club Farms in Virginia Beach will no doubt be as fun, spooky, and harvesty (well it is a farmer's market) as always with a carnival atmosphere.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Wizards Get Wood

Amongst the many phallic implements popularly employed by those of a magical bent we often find the staff. The wizard's staff is ubiquitous in fantasy gaming and as such has come to be one of the markers by which we identify a wizard in the wild.  A Wizard's Staff is not any common stick or even a traditional quarterstaff.  Indeed no, the Wizard's Staff is typically an understated ornamental affair often topped by some powerful charm, such as a crystal, or perhaps carved into a cunning design, like the head of a fantastic monster.  If said wizard is a sculpture being sold by the Franklin Mint, you can take it to the bank that a cut-glass crystal is going to be on that staff somewhere.

Have we ever stopped to ask ourselves why?  Why a staff?  Why is this particularly wizardy?

A warrior has his weapons and armor.  A cleric has his holy symbol.  A wizard too has accouterments with which he is associated.  A quick informal poll will reveal charms, symbols, cauldrons, crystal balls, pointy hats, and of course wands and staves.  Indeed the staff is part of the graduated three phase stick accouterments commonly called wand-rod-staff.  Think of each stick on the list as more powerful and useful than the stick before it.  We can call them all foci if we like.  
My boy at the bottom always eschews a staff and even a dagger but has been known to carry a sword.
Wands are commonly associated with stage magicians and sometimes witches and ever since J.K. Rowling, wizards as well.  In the Potterverse wizards and witches practically require a wand to do magic.  Well, mostly.  As with so many things the exceptions seem to outnumber the rules.  In gaming wands are usually put into one of the following categories: 1) spell storage device, 2) arcane focus, 3) power point booster.  Wands should never be used as a melee weapon save in the most desperate of situations and in such cases assume the wand will be destroyed in the process.  A broken wand is useless save for humorous situations.

Rods are larger than wands, thicker and stronger and suitable as light melee weapons.  Rods tend to work like wands but either hold more spells or provide more focus and power.  You don't see these very often.

Staves are stout sticks suitable for long hikes through the forest, smacking errant summoned minions and are often either the Swiss Army Knife of wizard weapons or supreme foci.  In a system that uses staves and wands as power point storage devices the staff is usually a major pool of power, perhaps even a regenerating force.  In at least one game of my experience it even functions like a shield providing defense.  What can't a staff do?
I'm honestly not sure what this guy is up to, but he brought some massive wood with even has a little head on it. These raunchy puns are free, ladies and gentlemen, so don't complain about the quality.
We have yet to answer the initial question of why.  Looking at our historical literary antecedents we have Merlin, who may or may not carry a staff depending upon the interpretation.  Nicole Williamson's Merlin from Boorman's Excalibur carried a staff which he never used as a weapon but did use for some nice pyrotechnics.  Gandalf, of course, is one of the great models for the fantasy wizard.  Gandalf, when he first appears in The Hobbit, carries a staff.  He soon gains his famous sword Glamdring, but in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy we see Gandalf fight with sword, staff, and both at the same time.  As Gandalf's initial image was based upon Odin, who enjoyed wandering Midgard as a mysterious traveler with his sacred spear, Gungnir, disguised as a walking staff, it is likely that it is Gandalf the wanderer that inspired this concept in gaming.  The image of the wizard with a staff is as evocative as the barbarian with a sword.  Is this why?
Gandalf clearly has something to say about this whole "staff" thing.

Well partly.  To get the answer we must delve deeper.  We must return to those thrilling days of 1974 in Battlecreek, Michigan.  We must return to Dungeons and Dragons, the Original version.  OD&D was a very simple game by modern standards.  In order to play it properly one needed to be familiar with tabletop wargaming and specifically Chainmail, TSR's first big product.  Chainmail was meant to simulate medieval warfare and as such it had a variety of weapons in its charts but not a quarterstaff.  This is logical in the quarterstaff just doesn't seem to show up in the army lists of history, despite its common use since the dark ages.  In the initial release of DnD the wizard class was limited to a single weapon, the dagger.  There were magical staves however, and these were not so much weapons as weaponized magical items for wizards only.  Usually they contained charges and multiple spells and bonus powers and such.  The wizard and his staff were a force with which to be reckoned.

By the time AD&D 1st edition came out the quarterstaff was a weapon on the charts and was one of the few weapons a wizard could wield along with his trusty dagger and darts.  Yes, wizards spend plenty of time in pubs and are all fiends for a good game of darts.  Dungeons and Dragons was the first, but once it took off plenty of games began to hit the market.  Not every game treated the staff in the same manner as DnD had done.  Games of the more generic variety, like GURPS, treated staves as power batteries, storing power for the use of the wizard.  Indeed if a game uses power points wands, rods, and staves are more likely to be power batteries than spell storage devices.  Sometimes they are both.  Now if you are starting a 1st level character and you get to pick one weapon to know how to use from a very small list what are you going to choose?  Tiny knife that requires you to get in close and personal or 6 odd foot of oak?  Yeah, it's like a shotgun; very psychologically comforting.  Unfortunately due to the logic of gaming if you sharpen one end of it into a point it suddenly becomes a spear and just as suddenly your wizard cannot fathom how to use it in combat.  Seriously.  You have been warned. 

A good example of the staff at its best, in my opinion, is in the old Games Workshop dungeon crawler Warhammer Quest.  Ah the wizard of WHQ.  The model that came with the box set has a sword and a staff but the player starts with only a sword.  Now I've made clear how much I like a wizard with a sword in the past but how to achieve full Gandalf Event Horizon?  

WIZARD'S STAFF Only the Wizard may buy a Wizard's Staff, for a cost of 500 gold. To determine if there is one available when the Wizard visits the Guild roll 1D6. On a score of 4, 5 or 6 there is one for sale. A Wizard may only ever have one Wizard's Staff.
The Wizard may use the staff in hand-to-hand combat at -1 on his to hit roll. It causes (1D6+the Wizard's Strength) Wounds on the target. It can also be wielded defensively, giving the Wizard +1 Toughness while he carries it.
The Wizard's staff is inherently magical, and once per adventure you can use it in the Power Phase to re-roll the Wizard's Power (and perhaps avoid an Unexpected Event!).
A Wizard's Staff comes with 1D6 points of Power already stored in it, which the Wizard can use in the same way as his Power tokens. To recharge it he must visit the Font of Power.
Ah yes, the WHQ wizard!  Sword, Staff, bag of cool shit, and such a HAT!  We have to discuss hats soon...
Now that's quite a staff.  The wizard can use his staff as an off-hand weapon for a point of armor while still using his sword and he can use it to reroll power AND it carries a power charge for him.  Gandalf enough for ya?

So if we look at all of this I think it comes down to that old idea of balance.  The wizard doesn't get armor.  He barely gets weapons and when it comes to creating melee combat power tables and rolls the wizard will ALWAYS be on the lowest end.  It is the gaming dichotomy of FIGHTER on the powerful end of hit points, melee skills, weapons and WIZARD on the powerful end of brains and blowing things up with the power of his magic words.  To this end the wizard wears a dress and carries a stick.  Unassuming, to be sure, but anybody who watched Gandalf lighting pine cones with his staff to chuck firebombs at wargs in the recent Hobbit film can certainly see the value.  Oh and when you are deep in a dark dungeon with not a torch in sight, a glowing gem on a stick is worth a hundred magic swords.  Period. 
What would a wizard article be without a reference to one of my favorite wizards of all time, our old buddy Skeletor.  Skeletor's Havok Staff is a prime example of wizard staff badassery and let us not forget that old skullface carries one half of the Power Sword to boot.  That is quite a staff, ladies and gentlemen.
"Here is your stick.  Try not to get into any fights for a while."


"No buts, boy, do you want to summon demons and force them to get you lemonade and cookies and destroy entire towers with the power of your snark or not?"