Monday, April 30, 2012

Although I've been dilatory in posting recently, The Wife has no paucity of posts over at her blog, A Canuck Mom Down Under (link on the left sidebar).

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Caverns of the Snow Witch [BOOKS]

Sparse posting around these parts of late: new job, lack of computer at home (which should be rectified at any time), and, well, parenting, have combined to make for quite limited free time.

One of the things The Wife and I brought with us to do while we waited for our things to arrive was a "Fighting Fantasy Gamebook", which is basically a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book but with a character sheet and dice.  I remember playing one of these as a kid and thought they were fun.  You use dice to roll starting ability scores, and a good chunk of what happens to you in the book is determined by a combination of those ability scores and future dice rolls.  Combat is a big part of the game, and as you go along you collect certain weapons and potions to aid you in your quest.  It's sort of like a tabletop RPG but designed for one player and (of course) with limitations to player freedom.

The Wife and I stumbled upon Caverns of the Snow Witch at a used book store and decided to give it a go one night after Boomer went to bed.  The plot of the book concerns, as per the title, an evil witch in an icy land who is harassing travelers and, being an adventurous sort, the hero of the book decides to try to stop her.  We rolled extremely on the combat ability score (labelled "Skill") and fairly high on hit points (Stamina), but pathetically bad on Luck.  This proved to be an interesting combination, as we triumphed through every combat with little trouble, but couldn't avoid some major problems due to the poor Luck.  On our first run through, we made it pretty far into the "Crystal Caves" after killing snow wolves, a yeti, and more, but then got stuck in a strange Luck loop while trying to fight a robed fellow in a prism.

Still, it was a kinda fun way to pass an hour and I could imagine trying it, or others, again.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Buffy Comic Project: "Hive Mentality"

Buffy the Vampire Slayer # 33

Dark Horse (Vol. 1 1998-2003)

Creators: Tom Fassbender & Jim Pascoe (writers); Cliff Richards (penciller); Joe Pimentel (inker)

Setting: Season Four

T.V. Character Appearances: Buffy, Spike, Willow, Tara, Giles, Xander, Anya, Riley

Major Original Characters: Cole (Initiative member/bug); Warren Whitcomb (entomologist)

Summary: Buffy recovers from the attack of the human-sized insects just in time, and with Spike's help manages to kill them. Meanwhile, Tara and Willow visit the cage Initiative member Cole, who is quickly transforming into an insect creature himself. They decide to seek Giles' advice. Elsewhere, entomologist Warren Whitcomb completes an autopsy on one of the insect creatures but is murdered by an unseen attacker. When all the Scoobies are in one place, they decide on a plan. Willow and Tara prepare a magical spell that will act as an insecticide, and Cole is set free in the hopes that he'll lead everyone back to whereever the hive is. The Scoobies gear up and put the plan into effect. Cole leads them to a massive underground hive filled with thousands of the insect creatures. From somewhere above, a voice taunts them. Giles looks up and sees the speaker and says "My God! You!"


Ah, Riley, you poor sap. Once again you snooze through a whole episode, and I don't think anyone cares. Nothing particularly memorable in this issue, and it's probably good it's coming to an end soon. One assumes Rebecca is the "mysterious" insect queen revealed next issue, though I'll happily be surprised if I'm wrong. The artwork remains good, with each of the cast members easily identifiable (this may not sound like a big accomplishment unless you saw some of the early issues in the series!). Willow and Tara are given some nice romantic moments, though the writers don't seem to know what to do with Spike.


* Last issue ended with Cole and Rebecca disappearing; in this issue, Cole is suddenly locked up in an impromptu cage. Something must have got lost in plotting between the issues . . .

Next Issue

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Royal Karameikan Fist Recaps # 28-30

Temeris' and Daisy's adventuring through the Forgotten Realms as members of the Royal Karameikan Fist Adventuring Company has been more sporadic of late, but I'm hoping to get things back on track soon. In the meantime, here are recaps from the last three sessions (# 1-27 are available here).


With a band of Tyran warriors at their side, the Royal Karameikan Fist Adventuring Company streams through the bronze doors and out of the catacombs to engage the devotees of Orcus in hand-to-hand battle. The leader of the Tyran contingent cleverly orders that stones with Silence cast on them be thrown into the midst of the enemies, preventing their priests from casting spells. While Daisy focuses on fighting humanoid warriors and zombies, Caullum and Temeris flank one of the ogres. With the other party members adding to the numerical superiority brought by the Tyrans, the battle goes extremely well. Although a couple of the Tyrans fall in the battle and two devotees to Orcus escape, it is a clear victory.

Bouyed by the victory, the party and their new allies decide to press on in the hopes of finishing the Orcus worshippers before they can regroup. Outside the secret temple of Orcus, Temeris scouts ahead and sees a zombie guard holding a thunderstone in its hand. Shadow immediately shoots arrows at the zombie, causing it to drop the thunderstone. Temeris runs and slides along the floor and somehow catches the thunderstone before it can hit the ground and explode! With the element of surprise maintained, Temeris scouts ahead further and comes to a door. He hears voices on the other side and then footsteps approaching. When a devotee of Orcus steps out, Temeris stabs him from behind. Despite the enemy shouting something about "parlay", the others rush in and soon the man falls to the ground dead. Through the open doorway, the party witnesses a sight both terrible and magnificent! Almost a dozen worshippers of Orcus are assembled in a long room divided by a narrow bridge. On the far side, under a giant statute to Orcus, the head priest of this nefarious cult chants in a bid to bring a demonic entity to Faerun! Daisy charges across the bridge in a last-ditch attempt to break up the summoning ritual, but hot on her heels is Shadow--chanting "Hail Orcus" herself!


As the final battle for control of the Earth Blood began, Daisy sprinted at full speed across a treacherous bridge that spanned a river of red liquid below. Although the bridge was guarded by powerful ogres, Daisy managed to survive their attacks and reach the monolith where the head priest of the Orcan cult was conducting a blasphemous ritual to summon a foul being from beyond. Temeris, thinking that stopping the summoning was of vital importance, chased after her. Surprisingly, however, another member of the party ran after Daisy—but not to help!

Shadow, possessed by a nefarious spirit, magical disease, or simple mental illness, shouted prayers to Orcus and tried to stop Daisy from reaching the bridge. However, the Orcans closed ranks after she passed and Shadow found herself in deadly combat with those she was trying to aid. Soon, the rest of the party and the Tyran army flooded into the small area that led to the foot of the bridge, but in such close quarters, little movement was possible. Daisy and Temeris found themselves fighting alone on the far side of the bridge, surrounded by priests and armoured ogres! Even with Caullum’s timely arrival by crawling along the ceiling, the battle, was faring poorly for this segment of Royal Karameikan Fist Adventuring Company.

While a vicious slog for dominance persisted at the foot of the bridge, at the other end the armoured ogres were wreaking havoc. Soon, Daisy fell to their attacks. Seconds later, Caullum was laid low! Temeris, thinking the battle loss, negotiated a truce with the Orcan leader so that the wounded could be safely removed from the battlefield. However, much to his dismay, the Tyrans and other surviving members of the RKFAC refused to heed the truce! The fighting on the foot of the bridge continued. Meanwhile, Temeris was able to rush to the side of his fallen companions. Caullum was badly hurt and unconscious, but would pull through. Daisy, on the other hand, could not be saved. Temeris began to sob as he realized that, for the first time, a member of the Company had been killed!

The prolonged battle at the foot of the bridge took its toll as well. Shadow’s stunning betrayal led to her being attack by both the Orcans and the Company, and her death was made even more cruel by Crispin’s rage-induced decapitation of her body. Eventually, almost all of the Tyrans and remaining men-at-arms were dead or unconscious, and only Crispin, Atvan, and Temeris remained standing on behalf of the Company. Crispin, Atvan, and their few remaining allies soon found themselves locked in mortal combat with the head Orcan priest and his ogre bodyguards, while Temeris watched and vacillated because of the earlier truce. Eventually, Temeris joined the fray. After more bloody combat, it still appeared as if the battle could go either way; the Company had the numbers, but the Orcan ogres were deadly. Finally, a crucial turning point was reached when the head Orcan priest decided to commit apparent suicide by jumping in the flowing red underground river below. The last remaining ogre retreated, with the Company too tired and wounded to stand in his way.

After the battle was over, Caullum regained consciousness and decided to climb down to inspect the red river. He saw what looked like the possessions of the apparently suicidal priest, but did not find a body. Taking a vial of the liquid with him, Caullum climbed back up to where the others were and proceeded to carry out a surprising plan: he poured the liquid past Daisy’s lifeless lips, and she sparked into life! Temeris tried the same experiment with Shadow’s body, but to no avail. Atvan decided to take Shadow’s body to the surface for burial. Meanwhile, the Tyrans made a shocking discover themselves: the Orcans had kept several slaves, and most were still alive! One of the slaves, a verbose Gnome named Festivus, stated his intention to join the Company immediately, which helped console everyone as Crispin stated his intention to leave the Company and find the peace of mind he had clearly lost after Shadow’s betrayal. As the victors rested and recuperated, a discussion of what should be done to protect the Earth Blood ensued. The surviving warriors of Tyr agreed to guard it and wait for reinforcements. The RKFAC decided that it should travel back to Shadowdale or Ashabenford to sell the spoils of their adventures and resupply.

It had been a long and dangerous quest, but the perserverance of the members of the Company won the day and took a powerful magical resource out of the hands of a cult dedicated to a dark god. One adventure was over . . . would a new one arise?


Leaving the surviving Tyrans to guard the Earth Blood, the Royal Karameikan Fist Adventuring Company makes their way back to Shadowdale without incident. There, the party splinters. Atvan sets off to find Bastian and bring him back to help identify all the magical items the party has acquired (which, for now, are left in the hands of a temple to Tyr for safekeeping until a fair division can be arranged). Caullum returns to his homeland to see whether the power-struggle between his “Queen”, the council, and the deranged leader continues. Temeris, meanwhile, is ecstatic to see a message waiting for him at the Old Skull Inn from the Royal Society of Explorers--an invitation to present his application in person! With Daisy along for company, Temeris sets off for Selgaunt immediately. Meanwhile, Festivus books an inn at the room and begins consuming massive quantities of food, telling all who’ll listen (and many who won’t) about how he was starved and enslaved by the worshippers of Orcus.

Some weeks later, the Company is reunited except for Atvan. In addition, the Church of Tyr dispatches one of his knightly disciples to accompany the group. Marcus, a paladin of Tyr, quickly gets on Daisy’s bad side when he states that animals are only good for eating and labor. A fight almost breaks out in the common room of the Old Skull, but Temeris manages to break it up. Clearly, for the good of the Company, its members need to direct their hostilities towards a common enemy! To this end, Festivus invites everyone to a heaping helping of plum pudding in order to discuss what the group should do next.

As the group mulls over options, first Temeris and then Daisy hear a mysterious whispering in their ears from an invisible source. The whispering tells Daisy that animals are in danger and that she must act to save them by finding “the man with red hair and a scar on his lip.” Daisy jumps on the table and shouts for a request for information on the whereabouts of this man, and receives directions to an apple farm about a ½ day’s ride away. She immediately rushes outside and jumps on her horse, galloping away before the other members of the Company can even catch up to her!

It is nearly dawn by the time the rest of the Company arrives at the farm, unsure of Daisy’s whereabouts of what dangers lurk inside. Caullum sneaks around one side of the farm and notices a barn full of animals within, while Temeris sneaks around the other side, spotting a small house and a strange mound that appears to be moving. Just as he’s about to attack the mount, however, he realizes it’s Daisy, who had camouflaged herself in order to survey the farm from hiding. Additional scouting shows that the farm appears uninhabited—at least by humans. When Daisy realizes the animals in the barn haven’t been fed in a couple of days, she immediately sets off rectifying that. Over the farmhouse, Temeris decides the best way to have a look inside without damaging anything is to climb to the roof with the still-weak Festivus strapped to his back and then lower the gnome down the chimney. Inside, Festivus (now covered in soot) determines the house is empty but is excited to find some fine books on cookery. Much to Temeris’ chagrin, he also realizes that the front door wasn’t even looked. He extorts a promise that Temeris will wash his clothes to make up for the mistake.

Soon, the members of the Company notice strange lights coming from the north. Investigation reveals an abandoned and decrepit farmhouse. Further investigation reveals a strange anomaly: all that is left of a portion of the building is a wall with a door on the inside; but on the other side, no door is visible! Caullum deduces that it might be a magical portal, and Temeris eagerly bursts through. The others soon follow, and find themselves at the beginning of an enclosed stone corridor. Following the passage, the party comes to a circular room with an exit on one side and a statue in the center. Underneath the statue lays a scroll. Quickly but taking time to look for traps, Temeris retrieves the scroll and brings it back to the others. Caullum determines it is magical in nature, and Festivus interjects that he had probably better take a look at it.