December 20, 2008

Happy Holidays!

I'm taking a quick break from RPG posts for a holiday post. Forgive me.
Okay, in the spirit of the season, here are my top 10 favorite Christmas songs:

Bonus Track! 11. Happy X-Mas (War is Over)
In this song, John Lennon begs the world for peace … a valuable sentiment, in any season.

10. All I Want for Christmas is You
Ye gods, a Mariah song I like! It’s true. It’s rather cutsie, but I like it.

9. Please Come Home for Christmas
A blues standard. There’s actually a surprising amount of X-mas blues tunes out there, but this tops my list. The Eagles gave it a good effort, and Jon Bon Jovi does a shockingly good cover of this, but for the real McCoy get your hands on the Charles Brown (no, the blues singer) version

8. Santa Baby
Eartha Kitt first sung and recording this in 1953, and she said it was a favorite song of hers. Smoky, bluesy, with a touch of sultry greed … this one charms with its bald-faced honesty.

7. Holly Jolly Christmas
Johnny Marks wrote a number of good Christmas songs, this among them. Burl Ives wasn’t the first to record it, but his happy voice is probably the first folks think of when this song is mentioned.

6. Let it Snow
A great love song that never bothers to mention Christmas, this tune has been covered at least 30 times to my count. Great stuff.

5. Christmas Wrapping
In 1981 the New Wave band The Waitresses spun a great tale of love lost, and found, and lost, and found… Charming, humorous, and something that touches a common chord.

4. What Child is This?
My favorite version of this lovely song is the Vanessa Williams version, well sung and passionately rendered.

3. White Christmas
The film
Holiday Inn made this Irving Berlin tune immortal, and with good reason—no one does it like Bing Crosby.

2. The Christmas Song
This wonderful tune was written by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells during a particularly hot streatcch of summer, when Wells jotted some wintery-sounding thoughts on paper to cool off (mentally at least). Nat King Cole recorded several versions, beginning in 1946. Others have made covers of the song, but to me Nat's buttery voice invokes hot rum cider sipped before a warm fire.

1. Jingle Bell Rock
A fast, spirited song that, to me, sums up everything cool about holiday music. It gets me in a good mood every time I hear it for the first time in the season, without fail. That’s enough to earn it first place!

There are many, many more songs I could have mentioned, but this list is good enough for this year!

Get the lyrics and hear many of the songs mentioned here.

I wish all my readers a very Merry Christmas and the very best going into 2009!

December 18, 2008

Last Chance

Goodman Games will stop selling 3.5e products on December 31st. This is the last call.

I suggest folks grab these excellent modules and products while the going is good (and at super-low prices to boot)—don't say I didn't warn you while there was still time.

Visit the Goodman Games online store here, where you can purchase all 3.5 product at 50% off.

For the rest of this December, you can also visit their PDF store here to purchase 3.5 PDF e-books at $2.

This is an ideal time to grab some Dungeon Crawl Classics. Some personal favorites:
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #5: Aerie of the Crow God
    (Andrew Hind)
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #7: The Secret of Smuggler's Cove
    (Chris Doyle)
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #17: Legacy of the Savage Kings
    (Harley Stroh)
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #36: Talons of the Horned King
    (Michael Ferguson)
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #44: Dreaming Caverns of the Duergar
    (Michael Ferguson)
  • Dungeon Crawl Classics #51: Castle Whiterock
    (Chris Doyle and Adrian Pommier with Harley Stroh and Jeff LaSala)
And hey, don't forget to pick up something written by yours truly while you're at it (wink-wink-say no more).

Get 'em while they're hot. Remember, after December 31st, they're gone forever!

December 01, 2008

Bright Torchlight, Big City

As has been (very kindly I might add) touted on the websites of Mike Ferguson & Ken Hart, Dungeon Crawl Classics #60 Thrones of Punjar is coming to a store near you in the near future. A late Christmas present if you will. I'm pretty psyched, as this is my first full-length adventure since The Scaly God (which holds a dear place in my heart but feels pretty ancient to me now). I appreciate having the opportunity to hurl another adventure at the masses—this time 4th Edition! I love the cover work of Eric Lofgren too.

City Adventures used to scare the hell out of me. The idea of running a campaign in the big city—be it Greyhawk, Waterdeep, etc.—was pretty terrifying. I prefer straight corridors and known quantities (a la The Tomb of Horrors, natch) as opposed to wide open spaces where the PCs may run amuck. As a DM, you gotta be able to think on your feet with even the best written/created city adventure.

This said, the best regular campaign I ever ran took place in a small city, specifically Fax on the Greyhawk's Wild Coast. We met for play every 2 weeks like clockwork, which gave the campaign the ease of time (something I desperately lack these days) and NPCs actually had time to develop. The PCs were befriended by a trio of shadowy yet good NPCS: Lasturne, grey elf owner of a mysterious curio shop (think of the Friday the 13th TV series and mentally you're heading in the right direction), Sharill, thief-in-training and member of the local guild, and Darksot, reformed thief with a hidden past. Added to the mix was Mentorian, wizard at large, and the guard captain Duncan. On the darker side was guardsman Ceril (a wererat that betrayed the party eventually and earned their wrath), the "evil cleric" Selyular (the bag guy who always seemed to get away), and Darnek, a bandit underling of the dreaded Silver Dagger cult that eventually joined the PCs for a time until meeting his end at the business-end of a ballista bolt. Rounding out things were an endless supply of haggling merchants, jovial bartenders, and local pickpockets.

If reading the above NPC descriptions makes things sound fluid, they were. The city environment allowed the PCs to run into the same NPCs again and again, there to bargain with them, trick them, and even at times woo them for favors. The NPCs followed their own agendas and slowly gained levels when the PCs weren't around. Good guys turned to evil, and at least one bad guy turned to good. Nothing was black and white.

I soon came to love the city forrmat, because it allowed a depth of play unmatched elsewhere. The players began to "write their own adventures" simply by what they wished their PCs to do. Want to visit Mentorian for wizardly training? There was a little "errand" to run first ... oh, and never mind that bitter ex-apprentice that thirsts for revenge. Want to join the thieves guild? Prove your worth via a bit of daring burglary in the high quarter and they'll allow you to run their trap-filled maze and qualify for membership. I planted adventure seeds everywhere I could, layered subplots over subplots, and let the dice roll where they may. (I'm still sad they never discovered that dimensional portal called the Dragongate hidden in the curio shop.) My players were charitable when needed—they endured a lot of names made up on the spot (they joked me that names starting with a D were spur-of-moment names, which they usually were)—but they seemed to love it. It was a great campaign that went on for nearly three years.

I can't speak much about Thrones at this point, except to say that my intent was to capture a bit of that "adventure seeds" concept, while also making a big city like Punjar feel dark, dirty, and almost claustrophobic. I wanted to provide both safe havens and dangerous places that the PCs might wish to give more than one visit. Did I succeed? Time will tell. But the adventure was terribly fun to write and soon took a life of its own, which is always a good sign. Here's to the city!
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