Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Ten: "The Question: Pipeline"

As much as massive universe-altering crossovers get criticized, I loved The Question storyline throughout the weekly 52 event a few years back.  It treated Vic Sage with real love and respect, and made his successor take on the role in a very natural manner.  The Question: Pipeline is a collection of what I assume were back-up strips from the pages of Detective Comics featuring Renee Montoya as The Question.  The book begins with Montoya still working with Professor Rodor and running a hotline where people who have problems can call in for help.  One such call sets Montoya looking for a missing illegal immigrant, and soon the missing woman's trail leads to a massive world-wide smuggling operation.  The first half of the book is the best, full of exciting action scenes and with a nice conclusion.  The serialized nature of the short strips makes for a lot of cliffhangers, but it works well.  The second half of the book continues with Montoya on the trail of the mastermind behind the smuggling ring, but is a little bit more of a standard superhero book.  Montoya teams up with The Huntress to take on the super-villain who is behind everything.  The comic implies that the villain created the whole smuggling ring just to lure Montoya into his grasp for revenge, but that doesn't make a lot of sense (nor do other motivations behind the villains' actions).  So overall, somewhat uneven; but if you're a fan of The Question, it's working picking up.

And I have no idea what the character is up to, if anything at all, in the rebooted continuity . . .

Monday, July 30, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Nine: "The Death-Ray"

If you forget about the title, the first half of Daniel Clowes' The Death-Ray seems very much like a gender-reversed Ghost World, as a pair of outcast boys navigate their teenage years.  And then, almost all of a sudden, one of the boys (Andy) discovers he has super-strength activated by smoking; and then, really all of a sudden, it turns out his Dad has left him a death-ray pistol that only he can use.  Stories about teen losers who suddenly inherit super powers and are forced to make difficult decisions are a staple of comics, but Clowes definitely gives an original, skewed take.  The characters in the book are very interesting, and I'm a fan of Clowes' artwork--I especially like all of the little details in the flashback scenes to the 1970s.  As a graphic novel though . . . I'm not convinced.  I think part of the problem is the casual whimsy of what happens to Andy, which leaves the reader thinking that anything can happen, and if anything can happen, why do we really care what does happen?  The plot just kinda dribbles away, and the ending is the very tired "meta" sort.

I'm not sure if that makes sense, but I guess I'm saying I far prefer Ghost World . . .

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Eight: "Green River Killer: A True Detective Story"

I don't read much true crime, mainly because there's an ugly aspect of humanity I prefer not to engage with.  I do like a good mystery though, so once in a while I'll read something like Green River Killer: A True Detective Story.  This account of the decades-long hunt for the serial killer responsible for the murder of at least 48 women is told from the point of view of the lead detective on the case.  Interestingly, it's written by the detective's son.  The artwork works quite well, but the narrative style chosen serves to leech much of the drama from the story.  It's told in the increasingly-fashionable method of jumping back and forth frequently from the past to the present and everywhere in between.  There are certain stories this can really work for, but I think most of the time, especially in true crime stories and mystery fiction, the traditional chronological method works best: we want to see how the bodies were discovered, how the clues were assembled, how the murderer was caught, etc. in order.  Overall, this was a mediocre read, and the killer very much personifies Arendt's phrase "the banality of evil."

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Seven: "Super Boxers"

The whole idea of a graphic novel about "Super Boxers" makes me smile, and I think you gotta admit it's kind of a goofy idea.  In this future, boxers are outfitted with special gloves that make their punches hit with seven times the amount of force as normal (cf. "Kickpuncher: His Punches Are As Powerful as Kicks!") and they wear special helmets and body armor to protect themselves.  I laugh, but I got to hand it to Ron Wilson for running with the idea and placing the core concept into an SF world that has had at least a little bit of thought into it.  In the future of Super Boxers, rival corporations have assumed almost all the power on Earth and have reduced most people to working for a pittance.  Super Boxing is entertainment for the elite, but there's also a secret and illegal underground boxing circuit for the poor.  One of the underground's best boxers gets caught up in a power-play topside and is sent to fight a product of corporate science and genetic manipulation.  The question of who wins the match has serious consequences for the future of corporate domination.

It still sounds a little goofy as I write it, but really Super Boxers isn't bad.  Perhaps reminiscent of Rocky III in some ways (with corporations subbing in for the Soviet Union), but carried off better than it could have been.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Realms Toowoomba Recap # 1 [RPG]

One of the best ways I've found to meet people and make friends in a new city is to start or join a regular gaming group.  Last week was the first session in a D&D 3.5 campaign I'm directing, using the Forgotten Realms as a campaign setting.  We had three PCs:

Borya, a Fighter from the Moonshae Isles;

Rolen, a Monk from mysterious Calimshan; and

Nakor, a well-to-do Rogue from Sembia.

I thought I'd start the first session off with a bang by having the PCs begin on a ship attacked by undead while heading right toward jagged rocks!  Here's a brief recap below:

The Sword Coast is a perilous land, full of sudden threats and unseen dangers. Terrible storms, pirates, monstrous creatures, and even worse things make travel a risky endeavour for the unwary. The farther North one goes, the more barren and savage it becomes, with few outposts of civilizations still secure among the frozen frontier. But with great peril lays the rumor of great reward: mines veritably spilling forth gold and gems, tombs of ancient rulers full of strange and valuable artifacts, and forgotten strongholds of ancient civilizations guarding magickal relics. Power, fortune, and glory draw many to the Sword Coast and its interior. A caravel named Waukeen's Grace has stopped at several ports in the South to pick up passengers heading to the Sword Coast. Will you be one of them?

[25 Ches 1372 DR]

Across northern Faerun, the snows have given way to Spring rains and both settlers and adventurers venture forth after the long Winter.  Aboard the small merchant caravel Waukeen's Grace, several such passengers have set sail for the famed Sword Coast to seek their fortunes.  Notable among them are Borya, a warrior from the Moonshae Isles who wields a massive greatsword; Rolen, a monk from mysterious Calimshan; and Nakor, a well-to-do fellow from civilized Sembia.  For several days the voyage was routine and sedate.  

One night, the ship was caught in a sudden and unexpected storm.  For hours it was driven off-course, lost in wind and rain of unthinkable force.  The ship's captain, a gaunt hook-nosed fellow named Bryne, stayed at the tiller, but all passengers were ordered below-decks to ride out the storm.  

In his bunk, Rolen tried to sleep but was constantly irritated by water dripping from above.  The destiny of these three adventurers changed forever the moment that realized some of the dripping liquid was not water; it was blood!  Rolen leapt out of bed to investigate.  Carefully climbing the ladder to the main deck, he could just make out a prone figure laying near the tiller.  Returning below deck, Borya and Nakor were roused and all three adventurers  prepared for danger and ascended upwards.

On deck, it was hard to see or hear anything above the terrible gale.  From out of the darkness, a ghastly figure emerged: an undead abomination, composed mostly of bone with little flesh remaining!  Nakor and Rolen engaged the creature and its companion, while Borya responded to a scream from below-decks and witnessed a cabin boy, Tazi, being chased by another fleshless fiend.  On deck, Nakor and Rolen struggled to keep their balance as the ship was pitched and tossed by the waves.  Rolen spent several seconds dazed from hitting his head on a railing, but together, they managed to destroy one of the creatures.  Below deck, Borya made quick work of the horrific entity chasing Tazi by cleaving the creature in twain with his sword.  He quick joined his companions above and together they destroyed the last one as well.

Before they could gather their wits, however, Nakor, manning the now-spinning tiller (as Captain Bryne was dead), realized there were rocks dead ahead!  With an enormous show of strength, he managed to steer the ship enough to avoid a direct collision, but the rocks left a deep gash in the ship's starboard hull.  Rolen was thrown into the freezing water and struggled to reach the surface, and soon Nakor appeared to be sharing his fate.  Borya took quick action: breaking a wooden ladder rung to help him float, he threw Tazi over his shoulder and leapt into the water.  Several tense seconds passed, but working together the adventurers managed to survive the crash and make their way safely to the shore of a nearby island.  Borya even took the dangerous risk of returning to the sinking ship in order to successfully save the ship's injured patron, a priest of Waukeen named Illanus.  An ominous unnatural fog rolled over everyone in an outward arc, but the only visible effect was that the body of Captain Bryne became animate and lurched away.

[26 Ches 1372 DR]

It was a cold and miserable night, but with some luck and persistence the adventurers managed to start a fire, erect a crude lean-to, and survive until morning.  With the storm lifted and daylight revealing their surroundings, the adventurers and the two crew they managed to rescue realized they were on the shore of a small island with a dense, almost jungle-like interior.  A strange black tower could be seen just barely jutting out over the treetops with a mysterious red glow coalescing near its crest.  The adventurers focussed on finding food, salvaging what washed up on shore from the wreck of the caravel, and looking for better shelter.  Rolen and Nakor made two brief incursions into the jungle but turned back after narrowly escaping injury at the hands of primitive pit and spear traps.

The adventurers and their two vulnerable charges face a mystery that grows deeper at every step.  What caused the unnatural storm that drew them here and wrecked their ship?  What is the strange red mist and how does it bring the dead back to a mockery of life?  Who . . . or what . . . resides in the strange black tower?  And perhaps, most crucially of all, how will they escape this foreboding island?


Obviously, having undead boarding a ship during a storm is not a 100% original concept (Pirates of the Caribbean was on my mind).  But it did seem like a fun, novel way to open a game compared to the usual meet-up in a tavern or clear adventure hook.  Here, the adventurers only goal was survival.  I was impressed that the trio of adventurers managed to rescue not only Tazi, but Illanus as well.  The players were told that I'd run a short adventure of two or three sessions, and then we could decide whether to have someone else direct, stop there, or move on to a full campaign.  I decided an island adventure would work well, as escaping it would allow a good sense of completion if that was all there was going to be, set up things nicely if someone else was going to direct later, or serve as a memorable beginning to a long campaign.

As I write this commentary, we're now 31 sessions into the campaign.  It's funny, but I just realized that none of the PCs who started this session are still in the game: Borya's player only did this first session, Nakor's player disappeared suddenly after several months of steady gaming, and Rolen's player decided to play a different PC named Markus (and, last session, switched again to a character named Sha'Dar).  However, two of the characters who first appear next session (Fargrim & Cain) are still around.

In any event, I'm really happy people seemed to have fun and that the campaign has lasted as long as it has.  Having a regular gaming group was one of the things that made Toowoomba feel more like home for my wife and I.

Next Recap

Nightside City [BOOKS]

I picked up this 1989 novel at a used book store a while back because once in a while I crave a quick read and a standalone novel; so many of the books on my shelves are part of epic series.  I read a lot of books like Nightside City in my early teens, so there's also a nostalgia factor.  Nightside City falls into what you might call Noir SF.  The main character, Carlisle Hsing, is a down-on-her-luck private detective on the planet Epimetheus.  Due to its unusual tectonic configuration (any geologists, please excuse my complete ignorance of the field), Epimetheus rotates incredibly slowly and a sizable portion of the planet is in perpetual darkness.  The only settlement on the planet, Nightside City, was built on the nightside because the dayside is hit with such high levels of UV radiation as to make habitation impossible.  But now, centuries later, Nightside City is about to pass over the terminus and its residents are facing the inevitability that they need to find a way out.

Why then is a mysterious corporation buying up all the real estate for cut-rate prices in a doomed city?  That's the intriguing mystery that Hsing is hired to investigate.  I love a good mystery just like I love a good adventure hook in gaming.  Placing a good mystery in an interesting and original setting with solid characters makes for a winning novel, and Nightside City is certainly one of those.  The author, Lawrence Watt-Evans, does an excellent job of slipping in details about the history, culture, and technology of the story's setting without resorting to extended info-dumps.

All in all, a good, fun read.  I'm happy to report that some investigation reveals a sequel named Realms of Light was published in 2003.  Is it on my Amazon.ca wish list?  Yes it is.

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Six "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Volume 1"

I remember reading this years ago and just thinking it was okay, but this time around I absolutely loved it.  I think part of the difference is, thanks to an online annotation I read after each issue, I have a better appreciation at just how much work, references, and little easter eggs to Victorian literature that Moore put into it, along with artwork by Kevin O'Neill that perfectly encapsulates the feel of the story.  It's also simply quite funny in spots, and I got a kick out of the over-the-top action scenes starring Hyde (seeing him literally rip people apart puts him a notch above the Hulk!).  Reading this made me look forward to re-reading Volume 2 (especially with all the subtle clues to the oncoming invasion) and reading for the first time the League stories that Moore has done since (here's hoping the library cooperates . . .).  It also makes me want to go back and read or re-read the "real" adventures of the members of the League; I've never read any of Verne's novels featuring Captain Nemo, for example (I have read books involving all of the others).

Good stuff.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Five: "Untold Tales of the New Universe"

Untold Tales of the New Universe is more properly labelled a trade paperback collection than a standalone graphic novel, but there's no reason to be pedantic.  I bought this because I remember when the New Universe was launched in 1986, as I had just started collecting comics some months before.  It was a big deal to me and I loved it, and I bought at least a few issues of every title.  There's a lot of nostalgia there, and part of the excitement at the time was the feeling of getting in on the ground floor of something epic.  Seeing new heroes in a new universe from the very beginning made one imagine how cool it would have been to have started collecting comics in 1961 with, say, Fantastic Four # 1!

If you have no ties or recollection of the New Universe, than this collection probably won't do much for you.  But if you hold some nostalgia like I do, it's a lot of fun.  The first story features Ken Connell from Star Brand and is set before the events of The Pitt; it's a very clever story that is very meta and very fun.  The story featuring Tensen from Justice is also done well and helps give the character a little bit more heart.  For those who always wondered what the heck happened between Nightmask # 4 and # 5, the dangling plot thread finally gets picked up twenty years later.  Brief stories featuring Mark Hazzard, Spitfire, and Psi-Force were solid (some are shorter than others).  The only story I didn't really  dig was the one for Kickers, Inc., a book which I thought at least had an original and interesting concept; here, a journey through a hell-dimension just comes across as the wrong genre for the characters.  At the very end, there's a very useful Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe-style entry on the New Universe that helps explain what happened to it in-continuity in the pages of Quasar and elsewhere.

I always wonder how well something like Untold Tales of the New Universe sold; were they really enough fans like me to make it worth it financially?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Four: "Batman: Night Cries"

Batman: Night Cries deals with a heavy topic: child abuse.  Published in 1992, one might expect it to be preachy or overwrought, but it actually holds up fairly well.  Known child abusers are being systematically murdered in ways reminiscent of the abuse they inflicted, and both Batman and Jim Gordon try to track down the killer.  The stress of late nights and early mornings really starts getting to Gordon, as do constant nightmares about the physical abuse inflicted on him by his own father.  The emotional trauma gets to the point where Gordon almost takes it out on his own son, but decides to break the cycle by sending his wife and son away so he can get counselling.  Meanwhile, Batman investigates angles relating to a potential drug war and more before tracking down the real killer.  There's only room for a limited number of suspects in a stand-alone graphic novel like this, and it's not too hard to guess the "who" in this whodunnit, but there is a nice twist regarding motivation.  As I've often mentioned, I'm not an art guru, but I thought the painted work by Scott Hampton perfectly caught the tragic, moody atmosphere that fit the story quite well.  This certainly isn't the feel-good book of the year, but some recognition should go towards Archie Goodwin and Hampton for a sincere attempt to bring more attention to such a terrible phenomena.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Three: "Ted McKeever's Metropol Volume 4"

I bought this used some years back, not realizing it was volume 4.  Coming into the middle of a story can be confusing to the reader with no fault attributable to the writer, but I managed to figure things out pretty well by the time I was done.  Metropol is a city infested with thousands and thousands of demons, and a wall has been built around the city to keep the infestation from spreading.  While the demons prey on humans, four of the humans have been reborn(?) as angels.  As volume 4 begins, the angels are raiding a gun shop to stock up for the battles to come; they pick up everything from machine guns to bazookas to (somehow) tactical nukes.  They then get in a battle with some demons and blow them away. It's actually kinda fun, if very weird, and one clearly gets the sense that more is happening behind the scenes that will be revealed in later volumes.

The artwork is . . . well, unique.  I'm not much of a judge of art, and I understand McKeever has won several awards.  To me it looks atrocious; the disfigured anatomy and faces works just fine for the demons, but the humans and angels don't look much better and it's sometimes hard to tell what's happening during action sequences.

All in all, it's not the sort of thing I want to rush out and buy . . . but if someone were to give me the remaining volumes, I wouldn't complain.

Hell Frozen Over: Chapter Five [BUFFY]


Angel unzipped the tote bag and looked inside. But for a dozen freshly cut wooden stakes lying in a loose bundle, the bag was empty.

“I was going to put in some garlic, holy water, and even a cross. But then I remembered your, ah, condition,” Giles finished lamely. He had been sitting in the library ever since his dinner with Jenny Calendar ended. Although filled with shadows during the daytime, the main room of the library was even darker now. It was Friday night, and the high school would be deserted for the rest of the weekend.

“Thanks,” Angel said, looking up while he zipped up the bag. “Well, I guess I’m off then. The graveyard, the Bronze, alleyways. Anyplace I’m forgetting?”

“No, I believe that covers it rather well,” responded Giles. “A few hours’ patrol should be sufficient.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll let you know if anything happens.” Angel grabbed the bag and turned towards the doors.

“Ah, Angel?”

He turned around. “Yes?”

“I thought perhaps we could . . . talk for a moment.”



“About what?”

“Oh, nothing in particular,” said Giles. “I just thought we might . . . get to know each other better. After all, you and Buffy have been . . . ah . . . together for quite some time now, and as her Watcher, I’m responsible for her, of course, and—“

“And why do I feel as if I’ve just been taken home to dinner for the first time to meet Buffy’s father?” Angel smiled slightly and then he returned to the table and sat down.

Giles’ face reddened. He sat down as well. “Of course, I didn’t mean to--well . . . actually I was going to ask you what your intentions were towards the girl,” he confessed.

“My intentions?” said Angel to himself, as he looked off in thought. He looked back at Giles. “With everything that’s been happening . . . I haven’t really thought about it--I mean, I haven’t formed any intentions as of yet. I wanted to take things slow, but things just sort of happened.”

“Please don’t take my question the wrong way,” said Giles carefully. “I’m not trying to break you two up. I know Buffy cares about you deeply. But . . . . Well, the idea of a vampire and a Slayer together, while quite romantic, is not . . . practical. In the long run, I mean. It is not as if you and Buffy can ever be married and live happily ever after.”

Angel looked up, grimly. “I know that. I tried telling her that.”

Giles looked increasingly uncomfortable as the conversation went on. He stood up abruptly. “Well, there’s no need to come to any decisions tonight. Just something to think about is all.”

Angel nodded, and walked out of the room with his shoulders slumped. He wouldn’t make any decisions anytime soon. But he would think about it.


The three vampires pressed themselves flat against the roof of the small mausoleum and peered over the side. It was hard for them to believe that, after all these years, human prey still willingly walked into the Sunnydale cemetery after dark. One would think they would have wised up by now—but they hadn’t. The cemetery was still prime feeding ground for the shyer varieties of the undead who didn’t want to risk the Bronze or the streets of the city. Often dinner would consist of children out to play pranks, or couples out on a scary but romantic stroll. Sometimes even police officers came to inspect strange noises. It didn’t matter, though—they all tasted good.

One such figure soon came into view. With so little moonlight, it was hard to tell much about this potential meal. He wore a long, dark coat, and was holding something. He seemed pretty well built, but that didn’t matter to Cleo, the only female of the three vampires. The strongest human was rarely a match for the weakest of their kind, and the larger the prey, the better the meal. She whispered to the others. “I’ve got this one. Watch out for the Slayer until I’ve dragged him under.”

She inched along the roof of the mausoleum to position herself right above where he would walk. She waited patiently, until the time was perfect. She leapt off the roof, and landed on the man’s back. With one swift, smooth move she pulled down the collar of his coat and sunk her teeth into his neck, right where the jugular vein lay. Half a moment later, she recoiled in pain and let out a yelp. Her mouth hurt. She realized she was bleeding and that she had lost two of her fangs. Metal! He was wearing some kind of armor or something, and she had bitten right into it.

The man turned around and looked at her with cold eyes and clenched teeth. He grabbed her by the arm and swung her into the air so hard that the tombstone she landed on broke in half. She wasn’t dead, but she wasn’t moving, either.

Tomas and Albert, the other two vampires on the roof of the mausoleum, didn’t know what to think. This guy wasn’t just another idiot strolling into the cemetery in hopes of some spooky fun. But then again, he wasn’t the Slayer. They would never live down running back to Spike and the others like cowards if this were something they really could handle. But if it were something they couldn’t?

Pride got the better part of Albert’s discretion, and he jumped down a few yards in front of the man. Albert’s face morphed and he opened his mouth widely and licked his fangs. He expected the middle-aged geezer to blanche in fear and try to run for it. But instead, the stranger lifted up a small pistol. Albert laughed.

“Bullets ain’t gonna hurt me, old man.” It was then that Albert noticed that a thin hose ran from the handle of the pistol and disappeared somewhere inside the man’s voluminous coat.

“No, but this will,” said the figure. He pulled the trigger, and a blast of high-pressure holy water hit the vampire right in the face, completely drenching his skin and clothes. Albert’s flesh was literally burning, and he felt like he was covered by napalm. He screamed and ran around frantically before collapsing into the dirt and disintegrating into ashes.

Tomas had seen enough. He took a running jump off the mausoleum and landed almost twenty feet away from the man before regaining his feet and booking it for the entrance to the tunnels below. He didn’t get far enough, however. The man’s hands disappeared into his coat and emerged holding a small rifle with a circular barrel drum around it—it looked almost like a tommygun from an old 1930s-era gangster movie. He aimed carefully, and each time the drum rotated, a short, sharp piece of wood shot from the barrel. The last thing Tomas knew before he disintegrated into dust was that something had hit him in the back.

The man walked over to where Cleo was still lying on the ground. She was semi-conscious now and struggled to look around to see what was happening.

“I have a question,” he said simply, drawing a long, thin knife from his belt.


Xander felt like he had been driving all night long, even though it had only been a few hours since Cordelia had traded the wheel for a spot in the passenger seat, with Buffy moving to the back seat, bummed she didn’t have her driver’s license yet. Night came quickly as they moved further east, and the world seemed desolate once they left the Interstate for one of the myriad highways which branched off of it. Even though it was only late September, snowflakes were already beginning to hit the windshield as they climbed higher and higher on mountain roads. None of them were accustomed to the cold, so they set the heater on high.

Buffy seemed to relax considerably since they left the restaurant, and now slept soundly. Xander glanced in the rearview mirror and saw that she was drooling slightly on Willow’s shoulder, who also dozed peacefully, and in fact, was snoring slightly. It was a cute scene and would have made a memorable incident to tease them about later if he had thought to bring a camera.

As the minutes passed, Xander grew more and more nervous. The snow came down harder and harder, and it was getting difficult to see the road clearly. Learning to drive in Sunnydale had not exactly provided him experience in handling potentially icy roads.

“Are you sure this is the right way,” Xander asked for what must have been the fifth time. “We were supposed to reach the place like two hours ago.”

Yes I’m sure,” said Cordelia. It was late, she was tired, and she was getting sick of Xander constantly questioning her. She unfolded a map and turned on the overhead light.

“See, we’re on this line and pretty soon we’ll reach this dot there,” she said while pointing at it. “I’m not stupid. I can read a map, you know.”

Xander spared a moment’s attention from the road to glance down at the map. He looked back at the road, thought for a second, and looked back at the map.



“That’s a map of Canada,” he sighed.

Drifting snow blew across the road, causing him to slow down considerably. Time seemed to drag on even slower as they inched along the road. After a few more minutes, he realized he was only guessing where the road was. He pulled the SUV over to where he hoped the side of the road was and put it in park.

“If this is some pathetic attempt to make out with me, it’s not going to work,” said Cordelia.

Xander sat patiently, waiting for the snow to die down. It seemed to take forever, but finally the snowfall began to lessen and he put the car back into drive.

The only problem was that it didn’t move. They were stuck.

He shifted gears several times before throwing his hands up in frustration. He zipped up his jacket and opened the car door to take a look around. The problem was quickly apparent—he had stopped the car in a thick bank of snow and ice. Fortunately, he had managed to avoid driving into a ditch by mere inches.

Cordelia joined him outside. The snow continued to fall thickly and was illuminated by the small pool of light emanating from the car’s front grill. There was some moonlight as well, but the area was empty except for a row of trees several yards away. There were no tracks on the road except for the ones they had made, and they had not seen another vehicle for almost an hour.

“I tried calling on my cell phone, but I guess I used up all the minutes talking with Harmony earlier.” Small clouds of fog formed as she spoke. She looked at the SUV. “So isn’t there something you’re supposed to do, like rocking it back and forth or putting down dog food or something?”

“If we rock it back and forth, we’ll likely to end up face down in the ditch. Dog food gets soggy when it’s wet, and we don’t have any kitty litter—unless you packed that in one of your bags too!” he snapped. The stress and the cold—and Cordelia—were getting to him.

“Hey, don’t put this one on me, ‘Xan-Man’,” she shot back with a glare. “You’re the one who was driving. If you can call it that.”

“And you’re the one who can’t even read a freakin’ map! Listen Cordelia, let’s just put what’s going on between us away and concentrate on figuring out a way out of here.”

“There never was, and never will be an ‘us,’” she said.

They glared at each other. They were angry, not in the faux-anger that led them to leap into each other’s arms in the past and embrace passionately. This time, they were simply torqued at each other.

Xander walked around the car and trudged a little way into the snow. Willow and Buffy were still asleep in the back seat. He simply had no idea how long the storm would last, or if it was really a blizzard or would be melted by tomorrow. All he could think about was that stupid book he read in eighth grade on the Donner Party.

“I think I see a light up ahead,” he said to Cordelia, who started to shiver. “Maybe we can find someone there and call for a tow truck.”

“No way. This is like the start of every single horror movie in existence. Car dead, walk to strange mansion on the hill, meet Norman Bates. I don’t think so.”

“Fine.” He started trudging off into the snow. He was scared too, and thought about asking Buffy and Willow to come with him. But Buffy was sleeping soundly for the first time in who-knows-how-long, and he didn’t want to have to freak her out and ruin the last vacation she might have in a long time. Or ever. Vampire slaying is listed next to land-mine defuser in the High Risk Occupation chart.

The snow was deep, and sometimes it seemed as if he was wading more than walking. He silently cursed himself for walking around in weather like this in just jeans and a jacket. But it wasn’t like he had much of a winter wardrobe, he remembered in his own defense. Up ahead, the light was getting brighter and it did look like there was a building up ahead—maybe a farm or a gas station.

Snow crunched under his feet as he walked. Suddenly he realized his footsteps were only making some of the crunching sounds—he was being followed! His mind raced through all the possibilities life in the Hellmouth had taught him to expect: the Abominable Snowman, Bigfoot, giant frozen zombies. He turned around, prepared to run.

It was simply Cordelia.

“I know you all think I’m just some kind of stuck-up bitch, but I’ve helped all of you out several times,” she said when she caught up to him, as if their earlier conversation had never ended.

Xander knew she was right. There were a lot of examples—she had helped them out when the Master had escaped, when Ethan had cast that spell turning them all into what they were wearing for Halloween, and even when Buffy was being hunted by that weird insect assassin thingie. She had even let herself be talked into letting them come with her on this messed-up trip.

“What do you want me to say?” said Xander, throwing his hands up in the air.

“’Thank you’ would be a good start,” she said.

“Thank you.”

“And ‘Don’t worry, I’ll find a way to get us out of this’ would be a good second,” she added, still in a confrontational tone.

“Don’t worry, I’ll find a way to get us out of this,” said Xander, doing his best Sylvester Stallone. It made them both smile and broke the tension. They weren’t lovers yet, Xander knew, but he could never tell on any given day whether they were more or less, than friends. But they were something, at least, and he resolved to just let things be.

The building in the distance began to definitely take the shape of a small farmhouse as they approached, but it grew no less spooky in appearance. A porch light was on, but otherwise the place looked run-down and abandoned. Two of the windows were boarded up, the fence in front had long ago fallen over, and there were no vehicles parked in the area. The two teenagers walked to the front door, and Xander readied himself to knock when he heard the distinctive sound of a shotgun being pumped behind him.

They turned and saw a squat, plump woman in a thick flannel shirt gripping a twelve-gauge with gloved hands. Her hair was done up in curlers, and she had a grim expression on her face. Xander thought that she looked much more like Kathy Bates than Norman Bates, but that thought led him to think about his earlier conversation about Misery, making him even more uncomfortable. The woman raised the gun menacingly, and they raised their hands instinctively.

“What do you kids want?” she said with the air of someone who was not going to take bull from anybody.

Xander explained how they were on their way to Arctic Ridge when they had gotten stuck about a mile back. Each time he finished a sentence, the gun lowered slightly. When he was finished, the gun was pointed at the ground.

“Well you’ve got the good and the bad,” the woman said. “The good is that you’re not five miles from that old resort.”

“See!” said Cordelia, elbowing Xander in the gut.

“The bad is that no tow will be comin’ out at night in this weather. Hafta wait ‘til morning.”

Cordelia visibly paled at the thought of having to spend the night sleeping in a cold, cramped car. The snow continued to fall, and it seemed that the temperature dropped with each passing minute. She realized for the first time, even in spite of the fact it lacked a decent mall, that Sunnydale had at least some good things going for it.

“But I guess if ya don’t mind the floor, ya ken sleep inside,” continued the woman. She used the gun as a pointer to indicate the house. “Name’s Martha.”

Xander and Cordelia smiled and then retreated a few steps and whispered to each other.

“No way,” said Cordelia. “Look at her. She has ‘personal hygiene’ written on her ‘To Do’ list and it hasn’t been checked off yet. Her house must be even worse. And I still see ‘Psycho’ written all over her face.”

“Look Cordy, it’s like math, right. A dirty floor and the chances of her being a nutty knife-wielding maniac are outweighed by the 100% chance of freezing our butts off in the blizzard. With Buffy along, I’m willing to be warm and take my chances with the maniac. Still, if you want to sleep in the car all by yourself, you’re welcome to it.”

That convinced Cordelia, and they told Martha they’d get their things. They trudged back to the car, retracing their own footprints that grew shallower as the snow continued to fall. Xander gently woke Buffy and Willow, both of whom had slept through the whole incident, and told them that they had decided to stop for the night and rest with a friend. Both were too sleepy and out of it to inquire about how this “friend” had been made.

It was bright and sunny the next morning when they watched a mechanic carefully attach tow cables to the SUV. They spoke with Martha about Arctic Ridge while waiting.

“It’s sure not what it useta be,” she said. “Looks like crap. Has for years now. Since the owner’s daughter died, he’s let the place run to hell.”

“It can’t be that bad,” said Willow. “I mean, we’ve seen pictures and all. On the Internet.”

“Don’t know much about that,” Martha said. “Still gets visitors, though not many this time of year. It’s haunted though.”

“Haunted,” queried Buffy, her Slayer persona coming online.

“Ghosts,” replied Martha, matter-of-factly.

“’There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophies, Horatio,’” Willow recited.

“Horatio?” Xander said.

“Shakespeare,” Willow answered.

“I’ve always wondered what Shakespeare’s first name was,” he said earnestly. Willow sighed—it almost made her regret being well-read when no one ever understood her references.

“Wait, I’ve seen this one,” interjected Cordelia sarcastically. “Old resort, haunted by ghosts. It’s really the old caretaker who’s behind it all. Scooby Doo, right?”

“We’re in great shape then,” responded Xander. “I’ll be Shaggy, and Will, you’re Velma.”

“I’m Daphne,” said Buffy, trying to imagine herself being kidnapped by all kinds of weird goons. She was disturbed to realize that very much was her life.

“Well no way I’m that other guy,” said Cordelia. “Those ascots? Please.”


Monday, July 23, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels, Day Two: "I, Whom the Gods Would Destroy"

Of Marvel's long-standing super heroes, I'd have to say the two I've never had a real interest in were the Hulk and Thor.  I have a pretty decent comic collection, but it probably includes less than 20 from each character's main title.  For Thor, I never really got into the myth- and deity-based adventures.  I did really like the recent movie, and today's selection I, Whom the Gods Would Destroy would serve well as an introduction to the character for new fans if it weren't out of print and 25 years old.

IWGWD as I shall have to call it is an 1987 graphic novel that has Thor at his angsty best.  I'm not being snarky here, as the theme of the story is the dualism and conflict entailed by Thor trying to reconcile what it means to be immortal with his alter ego Don Blake's mortality.  As Blake, Thor faces mortality up close every day as a surgeon with the inevitable risk of losing patients on the operating table.  At the same time, however, he recognizes a joy and excitement of mortal life that the endless, interminable repetition of immortality can't begin to match.  Thus, Thor begins to spend more and more time as Blake, much to the dismay of Odin, who sentenced him to live as a human to teach him humility.  Lady Sif enters the picture as Thor's long-time love interest, but she's disdainful of his life as Blake and can't understand why he would ever want to spend time with mere mortals.

Thor's wrestling with mortality and immortality really is the plot of IWGWD; there are no super-villains, evil gods, demons, or really any fight scenes at all: quite unusual for a Marvel comic!*  It doesn't come across as boring however, though perhaps a touch ham-handed here and there.  Still, one gets the sense that the writers wanted to tell a serious story to try get deeper into Thor's personality and the inner conflict driving the character at that point in continuity.  It's good stuff, and successful on at least one indicator: it makes me want to read more Thor comics.

*  Okay, Lady Sif gets into a bit of a bar brawl and Thor has a montage where he stops some crooks and puts out a house fire, but still!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Thirty Days of Graphic Novels: Day One "Britten & Brulightly"

The Wife & Boomer are away in Canada for a month, and I although I miss them terribly, it does give me extra time to putz around with my various stockpiles of books, comics, and t.v. shows.  One of the plans I've had for this time is "Thirty Days of Graphic Novels," wherein I'll read and post about a graphic novel each day.  Many of these are ones I've read before, but years ago, and a few are brand new.  Today's entry is in the latter category and comes thanks to the library:  Britten & Brulightly by Hannah Berry.

Britten & Brulightly is the tale of a private "researcher" (investigator) named Fernandez Britten.  Nicknamed "The Heartbreaker" for his years spend uncovering cheating spouses to the dismay of his clients, Britten now takes on only serious cases involving murder.  The plot of Britten & Brulightly is intentionally evocative of classic noir, and the beautiful artwork reinforces the connection: trench coats, phone booths, rainy streets, and so forth.  Britten is hired by the wife of a recently deceased man whom the authorities think killed himself; but she thinks differently.  With the help of his "partner", Brulightly, Britten gets involved in a complicated case involving blackmail, adultery, and murder.  I mention Brulightly because Britten's partner, whom he talks to and takes advice from, is the one aspect of this graphic novel that sits it purely in the realm of either fantasy or Britten's insanity: Brulightly is a tea-bag!  Don't let this turn you off, however, as it's neither cartoony nor silly in context; it just adds a layer of surrealism that leaves the reader wondering just what is going on inside Britten's head.  Anyway, it's a great story with great dialogue and characters, and a book I would love to add to my collection if it wasn't a bit too pricey.  I can admit to getting a bit lost by the complicated plot, but I'm sure a re-read would solve that problem.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Castle Ravenloft Adventure 13: "The Hunt for Strahd, Part 2"

Man, this was a tough one!  The goal in this mission is to find and defeat Strahd once and for all by destroying both him and all of his potential resting places (coffins).  Like much of Castle Ravenloft, there are some aspects of the rules that are confusing.  Some of the interpretive issues we struggled with were:

(1) Does the victory condition of "destroy all of the Coffins" mean only all of the Coffins that have already been placed when Strahd is defeated or does it require that you keep turning over tiles until you've placed all of the coffins?  The Wife and I disagreed on this point, but due to the strategy we eventually chose it was a moot point because we ended up with all the coffins on the board anyway.

(2)  When you reveal Strahd's Crypt, what does the "If Strahd is not in play" condition mean?  Does it apply only if the "Strahd Appears" coffin hasn't been found or does it apply if that coffin has been found and Strahd has been knocked to lower than 5 hp and reduced to mist?

(3) What happens if you turn over enough tiles to get Strahd's Crypt to appear without opening any coffins and then defeat Strahd?  The text says Strahd "makes his last stand from his crypt", but if you then subsequently turn over the coffin that says "Strahd Appears", do you have to go through it all again?

Our first couple of tries, we proceeded by turning over tiles and destroying the coffins as soon as they appeared.  This led, each time, to Strahd appearing fairly early and would have required us to basically defeat him twice (once to get him to turn to mist so we could survive long enough to turn over all of the coffins, and a second time after placing the Strahd's Crypt tile when he returns to full hp).  We actually came very close to succeeding on this method, but still died both times.

We then tried a different strategy for the next couple of attempts, and this was to turn over tiles without destroying coffins, then defeat Strahd when the "Strahd's Crypt" tile appeared, and then destroy all the coffins (ignoring the one that said "Strahd Appears" on the theory he had already made his "last stand from his crypt").  This too got us defeated twice in a row.

For our fifth and barely successful attempt (which was somewhat arguable because a phone call in the middle of the game left us unsure about a crucial action), we followed the same strategy as our third and fourth attempts.

We were happy to have finally won after so many defeats, but the unclear nature of the victory conditions left it somewhat unsatisfying as we're still not 100% sure whether we ran the adventure as it was intended.

Anyway, looking online it appears there are two official bonus scenarios which we plan to play sometime in the future . . .

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Temeris, Daisy, and Caullum [RPG]

After 32 sessions, the exploits of the Royal Karameikan Fist Adventuring Company have come to an end--at least for now,  A good time was had by all, and many thanks to Steve for initiating and directing the campaign.  Here's how my two PCs (Temeris and Caullum) and The Wife's (Daisy) looked at the end.

Rog3/Ran3/Royal Explorer 1  (XP: 23005)

Abilities: Str 14 (+2), Dex 18 (+4), Con 14 (+2), Int 16 (+3), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 18 (+4)

Hit Points: 46

BAB +5, Light Crossbow +9 d. 1d8, Dual Attack (Shortsword & Dagger +1) +7/+8 d. 1d6+2/1d4+2

Saves:  Fortitude +8, Reflex +12 (+13 vs. traps), Will +3

AC 18 (19 vs. traps)

Racial Traits/Class Features:  Sneak Attack (2d6), Trapfinding, Wild Empathy, Favored Enemy: Zhentarim, Explorer Lore, Combat Style: 2-weapon fighting

Feats:  Diligent, Nimble Fingers, AP: Light, WP: Simple, WP: Martial, Evasion, Trap Sense, Weapon Finesse, Track, Endurance, Alertness, Exotic WP: Repeating heavy Crossbow

Languages:  Common, Dwarven, Halfling, Elvish, Undercommon

Skills:  Appraise +11, Balance +5, Bluff +5, Climb +7, Concentration +2, Craft: Cartography +13, Decipher Script +10, Diplomacy +5, Disable Device +12, Disguise +6, Escape Artist +6, Forgery +5, Gather Info +4, Handle Animal +4, Heal +1, Hide +9, Intimidate +4, Jump +2, Knowledge: Religion +3, Knowledge: Geography +7, Knowledge: Nature +10, Knowledge: Nobility +5, Knowledge: Cormyr +4, Listen +6, Move Silently +7, Open Lock +13, Ride +6, Search +10, Sense Motive +1, Sleight of Hand +4, Spellcraft +3, Spot +8, Survival +6, Swim +7, Tumble +5, Use Magic Device +4, Use Rope +4

Coins:  9304 GP, 36 SP, 85 CP, 3 PP

Possessions:  Bedroll, crossbow bolts (x13), map case, chalk, light crossbow, dagger, flint & steel, flecks of strange material, Leather Armor +2, explorer's outfit, trail rations (x4), torch, signet ring, Masterwork Thieves' Tools, noble's outfit, treasure map, area map, short sword, thunderstone, sunrods (x5), potion of invisibility, Dagger +1, potion of cure moderate wounds, statute with fungus, banner, potion of eagle's splendor, potion of cat's grace, masterwork cartographer's tools, spyglass, robe of scintillating colors, Horse

Chitine2/Battle Sorcerer4 (XP: 17180)

Abilities: Str 14 (+2), Dex 16 (+3), Con 19 (+4), Int 16 (+3), Wis 14 (+2), Cha 14 (+2)

Hit Points: 64

BAB: +5, Shortspear +11 (thrown), +9 (melee) d. 1d4+2(+3 PB).  Multi-attack Thrown: +7/+7/+7

Saves:  Fort +6, Ref +8, Will +10

AC: 19

Racial Traits/Class Features:  Darkvision, Shortswords are Simple Weapons, Small Size, 20' Climb Speed (+8 bonus, climb across walls & ceilings), +4 Grapple, +4  Oppose Disarm, Dazzled in Bright Light

Feats:  Multiweapon Fighting, AP: Shield, Alertness, WP: Simple, WF: Shortspear, PB Shot, Summon Familiar

Languages: Common, Undercommon, Kuo-Toan, Orc, Elven (Drow dialect)

Skills:  Appraise +3, Balance +4, Bluff +2, Climb +10, Concentration +5, Craft: Trapmaking +6, Diplomacy +2, Disguise +2, Escape Artist +1, Forgery +3, Gather Info +2, Heal +2, Hide +10, Intimidate +3, Jump +0, Knowledge: Arcana +5, Knowledge: Dungeoneering +4, Knowledge: Underdark +5, Listen +5, Move Silently +7, Ride +3, Search +3, Sense Motive +2, Spellcraft +12, Spot +6, Survival +2, Swim -2, Use Rope +3

Spells Level 0 (Known: 4, Per Day: 5, DC: 12):  Message, Detect Magic, Open/Close, Stick

Spells Level 1 (Known: 2, Per Day: 5, DC: 13): "Lloth's Gaze" (True Strike), "Carapace of the Dread Rock Spider" (Protection from Evil)

Arcane Spell Failure: 15%

Familiar: Yathril (Toad)

Coins:  8347 GP, 32 SP

Equipment:  Masterwork Heavy Steel Shield, Shortspears (x7), Spell Component Pouch, Backpack, Traveller's Outfit, Chitine Web Armor, Potion of Cure Serious Wounds, Cloak Resistance +1, Scroll of Continual Flame, Scroll of True Strike, Scroll of Feather Fall, Horse


Bar7 (XP: 22735)

Abilities: Str 20 (22 w/ Gauntlets Ogre Strength) (+6), Dex 12 (+1), Con 16 (+3), Int 11 (+0), Wis 12 (+1), Cha 13 (+1)

Hit Points: 87

BAB: +7/+2, Masterwork Great Axe +14/+9 d.  1d12+9

Saves:  Fort +8, Reflex +3 (+5 vs. Traps), Will +3

AC: 20 (22 vs. Traps)

Racial Traits/Class Features: DR 1, Rage (2/day, duration 12 rounds, +2 Str/Con, +2 Will, -2 AC, + temp hp), Speed 40', Trap Sense +2, Improved Uncanny Dodge

Feats:  Toughness, Power Attack, Cleave, Extended Rage

Languages:  Common

Skills:  Appraise +0, Balance -4, Bluff +1, Climb +9, Concentration +3, Decipher Script +0, Diplomacy +1, Disable Device +0, Escape Artist -4, Handle Animal +5, Hide -4, Intimidate +11, Jump +3, Listen +11, Move Silently -4, Ride +5, Sleight of Hand -4, Spot +3, Survival +5, Swim +0, Tumble -4

Coins: 9683 GP, 389 SP, 76 CP, 3 PP

Equipment:  Backpack, bedroll, buckler, chalk & charcoal, dagger, flint & steel, grappling hook, lamp (common), entertainer's outfit, parchment, rations, rope (hemp), waterskin & water, hammer, coloured rocks, candy, Gauntlets of Ogre Strength +2, Letter from Bastian, Chainmail +1, Shortspear, Oil of Bless Weapon, Morningstar +1, Masterwork Great Axe, Potion of Cure Moderate Wounds, Potion of Enlarge Person, Necklace of Protection +2

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Hell Frozen Over: Chapter Four (Part Two) [Buffy]

The next few days passed quickly. Dawn kept accompanying Jamie to the meetings and Jamie kept chickening out about talking to Brian, but Dawn didn’t mind so much anymore. She was starting to enjoy First Principles and make friends there—it really was becoming a community, even though it swelled with members every day. By the end of the week, almost 250 people were showing up for each meeting. Together, the group repaired playground equipment, collected clothes for the needy, and drew plans for a youth community center. Her sister was proud of her too—Buffy kept telling her how great it was that she was volunteering and helping people out.

Dawn managed to avoid Timothy Huston the entire time, until one day when she was painting over graffiti on the side of a downtown building. She could feel him staring at her as she mechanically dipped the brush in the can and then onto the wall. He was making her nervous, and she was sick of it. She set the can on the ground and slammed the brush into it, sending little blotches of white paint everywhere.

“I know what you said about Buffy,” she said angrily, turning in his direction.

“Huh?” he said, surprised.

“My sister. I heard what you said about her being a freak. Somebody told me.” Her eyes bore into his as she put her hands on her hips. Around them, the other painters tried to appear casual as they listened in.

“I didn’t say that,” he said to her dubious face. “I said it was freaky how she always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that it was too bad because she seemed okay otherwise.”

“You . . . you did?” Dawn stammered, trying to regain her composure.

Timothy shrugged. “That’s right. That’s all I said.”

“Liar!” yelled one of the other painters in a mocking voice. “He also said you were cute!”

Dawn blushed and turned away to pick up the brush. Timothy leaned against the wall and spoke to her quietly so the others couldn’t hear.

“Really. I swear I didn’t mean anything against your sister.” He looked surprised when Dawn started giggling.

“You’ve ruined your shirt,” she said, pointing to the coat of fresh white paint he was leaning against. He jumped away from the wall and looked at his arm. “I meant to do that,” he said quickly, combining it with a charming, self-effacing grin. “You’ve heard of those old stone-washed jeans right? This is my new style I’m starting. I call them ‘paint-splashed shirts.’”

After that, Dawn didn’t go to great lengths to avoid him anymore. In fact, Jamie teased her that she was trying to bump into him.

On Friday afternoon, Dawn was in the crowd when Wittingstone gave a speech to his largest crowd yet. Most of it Dawn had already heard before, but she paid close attention anyway.

“Communities are the bedrock of this great country of ours. But communities aren’t static things— communities grow over time. Communities like ours grow when American citizens work together, and when outsiders learn the ways of communities, shedding their own peculiarities in the process. By becoming one people, we stand united where others would fall.”

Dawn joined in the applause.

“Community,” he continued. “Community is what First Principles is all about. American citizens deserve community, and community is what makes us strong as a people and as a nation. Community is working together to build each other up, not tear one another down. And most importantly, a community sticks up for members of the community when outsiders threaten it.”

Dawn lingered for several minutes after the meeting, chatting with other members and saying goodbye to Jamie. It was late in the afternoon when she got home, and she arrived just as Buffy was leaving for work.

“How was your group-thingie?” Buffy asked.

“It’s called First Principles,” Dawn said with a slight smile. She had told Buffy about it a hundred times but her sister could never remember the name. “But yeah, it was good.”

“Still sounds like the Girl Scouts to me,” Buffy said jokingly. “But seriously, it sounds cool. There’s a lot more ways to help people out than killing vampires. By the way,” she continued, as she opened the car door. “I picked up a pie from the bakery. Mind dropping it off at the new people down the street? I think their last name is Jocerta or something. They’re from Pakistan.”

“A pie? You can’t be serious. We never did stuff like that for neighbors.”

“I know. But Mom always did. She said it was the way to make people feel welcome. So I figured we’d take up the habit. Anyway, I’m sure the Jocertas are nice.”

“Maybe. But we should be vigilant of outsiders.”

“What? What makes you say that?” Buffy looked shocked. “Did you hear something about them?”

“No,” Dawn replied. “It’s just common sense, Buffy. Everyone knows it. People who aren’t part of the community might be a danger to it. We have to watch out for ourselves, you know.”

Buffy shut the car door and walked over to Dawn, eyeing her carefully. “That’s not how we are, Dawn. We give people a chance. Where did you get all that from? Is that what they teach you in that club?”

“First Principles isn’t a ‘club’ Buffy,” Dawn said, becoming visibly angry. “It’s a community. Members of a community protect one another from outsiders, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

“Then maybe you need to find another ‘community’ to hang out at if they’re making you think like that.”

“Maybe you should just leave me alone, like you promised!” she shouted. “They’re my friends and I’ll see them if I want to!” She stepped inside the house and slammed the door in Buffy’s face, hard.

Buffy thought about trying the doorknob but then thought better of it. Better to let her calm down. I can’t believe she said that. She doesn’t usually freak out so quickly. What a brat. Was I ever like this to Mom? God, I hope not. She walked back to the car and got in—an evening of burgers and fries was waiting.


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Castle Ravenloft Adventure # 12: "The Hunt for Strahd, Part 1"

The penultimate adventure!  Here, the heroes are given a straightforward task: kill Strahd and his bodyguard.  There's two twists in this scenario: first, the opportunity to find some of the "adventure treasures" that could be quite handy; and second, although only one of Strahd's bodyguards will appear, it's determined randomly (and secretly) each game, and could range from relative weaklings like the Kobold Sorceror or tougher adversaries like the Zombie Dragon.  The Wife and I considered our spate of good luck, as we drew the former, and found it relatively easy to defeat both Klak and Strahd.  Strahd, it should be noted, only needs to be reduced to 5 hp or less before he turns into mist in order to escape for the next adventure.  We didn't follow any special strategies for this one; we used five heroes and wandered around until enough tiles were turned over and the battle could begin.