Kingbeast's Lair

Growling about the RPG industry and my gaming life. RPG and anime reviews from a passionate fan. (Formerly John's Hero HQ.)
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Archive for April, 2011

My Gaming Kit: Part 1 – The Guts

April 23, 2011 By: John Taber Category: Games, Growlings, Product Reviews

Summary

In Ryan “F-ing” Macklin’s blog he posted an article on “convention kits”. That got me thinking about the gear that I use for gaming and why I have selected it. This is the first of three article that I will use to discuss the gaming gear that I currently use and why it works for me. The first article details my gaming bag (i.e. “The Guts”). My netbook and the critical components of it will be covered in article 2. The final article will be on my game room setup.

Whenever possible I will put links to where this gear can be purchased online.

The Guts

  • Jansport Laptop Backpack – I use a laptop backpack as my main carrying device. It has a large main pouch with a padded area for my netbook and two nice sized outer pouches for carrying dice bags, writing tools, and other miscellaneous gear. I also have a custom messenger bag but I prefer the Jansport Laptop Backpack because of it’s comfort when carrying lots of heavy gear. (Note that I could not find the model number that I have as I removed the tag.) I have heard other gamers recommending the Gator Carry On Bag from a company called Red Oxx. Right now I will stick with my Jansport backpack but this bag does look promising.
  • Screen And Battlegraph Boards

  • Savage Worlds Customizable GM Screen – The sturdy Savage Worlds Customizable GM Screen has a landscape layout with inserts for all 6 sides. I really love the fact that I can just replace the inserts with new sheets when I change campaigns. In fact I have several inserts available for download from my site in the Campaigns And Adventures section. The landscape layout is also great as I can still see the players clearly and do not feel fenced off. You can get a copy from Amazon at this URL for $29.99.
  • Standard Wooden Clipboard With A TOPS Engineering Computation Pad – I use a standard wooden clipboard and a pad of engineering paper. Engineering paper has graph paper on the reverse side and is 3 holed punch. You can get TOPS Engineering Computation Pads on Amazon for $19 at this URL.
  • Pentel GraphGear 1000 Mechanical Pencil And Tombow MONO Plastic Eraser – This Pentel is a solid feeling .9mm mechanical pencil that collapses with a click. I like the .9mm lead size as it gives a dark clean line. You can get the pencil on Amzaon for $33.10 at this URL. I know…it is expensive. The MONO eraser from Tombow is from Japan but they can be purchased at most good stationary stores or online from the manufacturer. It erases very well with no damage to the paper.
  • Battlegraph Dry Erase Boards from Longtooth Studios With Crayola White Board Crayons – Battlegraph Boards are interconnecting gaming squares that are finished like a white board with etched squares. After playing with them now for several months they have really grown on me. I like the fact that 4 of them disconnect and easily fit in my backpack. I also like the way the entire assembled board can be rotated with chits still in place. Boards with squares or hexes are now sold individually for $7 from Longtooth. The Battlegraph Boards really shine with Crayola White Board Crayons. The Crayons don’t rub off as easy as white board pens and don’t smear when touched by a loose finger. I use these suckers for several things during a session…keep reading! :) You can get the Crayola White Board Crayons from Amazon at this URL for a paltry $4.83.
  • Hand Made Chits – Instead of using figures I use cardboard chits roughly 0.75″ square that I cover with Scotch tape. I like using chits because they are easy to cart around, can be flipped, stacked, or placed on top of dice, and they can be colored and numbered for easy reference. I color code and number my chits sequentially so that no two chits have the same number. For example, chits 1-10 are red, chits 11-20 are blue, chits 21-30 are green, etc. This way when I am tracking bad guy stats I just put “13”, “21”, etc on my notes. The colors allow me to differentiate the different types of bad guys (i.e. “the red chits are the PC, the orc are green, and the ogres are blue”).
  • Laminated Speed Chart And Big Foam D12 – I run a lot of the Hero System so keeping track of phases and making it public is important. I use a laminated speed chart that Tim Connolly devised. Here is a link to the file on my site. This works great with my Crayola White Board Crayons. The roughly 3″ foam D12 is used to visibly track the phases. Unfortunately I do not have information on who manufactured the foam D12 that I using.
  • Plastic Sheets Protectors For Monsters – I bring copies of monsters that will be in the session and several empty plastic sheet protectors. When combat starts I arrange the bad guys in Dexterity order then put them into a sheet protector. During the session I can use my handy dandy Crayola White Board Crayons to record damage and status information.
  • Dice And Chits

  • Koplow 16mm D6 Dice With Pips And Square Corners – I really have come to appreciate dice that are clear, can be quickly read, and fall fast. I really like the blocks from Koplow as the fit all of these requirements and look darn nice too. :) Here is a link to a set of 12 at FRP Game for $4. I have blue, green, and purple sets right now.
  • Larger Clear Dice – I have dice that are a bit larger (0.75″) and clear that I use to delineate characters that are flying or invisible. These really work great for flying character as you can set the top dice face to the height of the character. The slightly larger size makes them a good fit for chits.
  • Additional Con Gear – For conventions I like to load my ditty bag with some not so obvious supplies. Some things I like to bring include cough drops, hand sanitizer, multivitamins, and ear plugs. All have an obvious purpose that most convention attendees will understand. ;)

That wraps up my basic gaming kit. What are some items in your standard gaming kit that you think really rock!?! :D

Spirit Storm Session Log: Epic Tale #10 – The Mysterious Tower – Session #25

April 08, 2011 By: John Taber Category: Games, Spirit Storm News

KirinDate At Start Of Game: 1/13/207

[Author’s Note: This is the log for the 25th session. Note that the order of the events in this record may not be in the exact order that they occurred during play.]

The Ruins

After defeating the deadly acidpede the PC search its lair. Inside they find what appears to be a large square pillar roughly 5m wide on a side. The pillar goes from floor to ceiling and appears to be of newer construction that the rest of the ruins. After looking around Cillian spots an opening in the ruins near the tower above them. The PC decide to investigate the opening. Oren digs a tunnel into the region. When he breaks into the room the PC see a strange half deer half alligator creature, a stagator, watching two of her young. After Bilby does a quick search the PC back down the tunnel not wanting to rile the creatures.

Next the PC decide to break into the pillar which they think might be a stairwell. Oren uses the Granite Head forge magical hammer to bust down the wall then the group removes the rubble. Inside they do find a stairwell. Carefully Bilby investigates. At the top the PC find ruins of some cells but decide not to investigate. Instead they head down stairwell. At the bottom they find a strange chamber with 3 levers and force fields. After playing around carefully for a bit Cillian is able to safely trip the trap which fills with acid. After finding a hidden latch the PC are able to get by the trapped room.

In the next area the PC find a larger room with four small holes in the floor. Po can detect that they are magic but the PC cannot find objects the properly fit in the holes. Again not wanting to search the ruins Oren caves in part of the wall and the PC move into the next area.

In the next area the avatars find two doors. The PC take the door that is toward the direction of the tower. Inside the find a gas traps that locks them into the room with a steel plate. Thinking quickly Po seals up the gas jets with magical ice sling stones. At the same time Oren bashes down the wall on the side of the door again using the Granite Head hammer. The top door leads to several long hallways with pit traps. Po and Bilby lead the way setting off the traps carefully. Oren jumps the pits and Cillian disables them.

In the following room the PC find a small iron chest and an iron door. Cillian carefully checks the chest and finds a trap that drops a lever inside the box. He tries to pick the lock but it is too difficult. Next the PC investigate the door. The lock is normal looking but Po detects that there is some type of spell on the lock. Oren again digs around the door. In the next room the PC find an empty hallway. At the end Po finds an illusionary wall covering a force shield. On the way back Cillian unlocks the door from the rear side. The group then hears a panel slide open in the ceiling and six strange half mosquito half spider creatures, spisquitos, fly down and attack. Four attack Oren and Cillian. Two more chase after Po as he flies out of the room. Oren and Cillian are both bitten and paralyzed by the creatures! After paralyzing their prey the spisquitos continues to suck out blood! As Oren fights to escape Kanga starts shooting them down. Once the ones on Po are down he starts shooting them off of Oren and Cillian. Oren eventually escapes and pounds some. Bilby cuts down one but is eventually bitten and becomes paralyzed. With a couple more shots Kanga finishes them off. After healing up Cillian takes another look at the difficult lock on the chest and is able to pick it. Inside they find an iron key that appears to be magical. Placing it in the look of the door opens the illusion wall and force shield.

The Tower

After opening the force shield the PC see a passage way leading to the tower. At the end of the hallway is a door into the tower. Just outside of the force field is a lever. When the PC throw the lever the force shield on the tower drops! Immediately after dropping the shield the howling spectral form that they saw earlier laughs then flies away. As it flies past the PC they note that it appears to be a Cougar Kin…could it be Soza?

When the PC open the door they discover that it opens in the middle of a large 10m diameter tower. It appears that the inside of the tower is larger than the outside. The room is setup like a fancy bedroom and study. The floor is covered with rich carpets, the bed is a work of art, there is a large desk with magical lanterns, an overflowing bookshelf, and a tall wardrobe. Po detects magic on almost everything in the room. He carefully checks the desk and finds that it helps one concentrate. Using his new spell he shrinks the desk and hands it to Oren to carry it for him. Oren agrees if Po carries his backup maul. Po agrees then shrinks the maul. The group searches the room for secret doors. Oren is surprised when he searches the wardrobe and emerges with clean clothes. Eventually the PC discover that on the back of the door they used to enter the room is another door! When they open this door they find another room that is void of furniture but has a large circle and lots of notes. It appears to be a work room of some type.

Cillian then decides to look on the back of that door. He finds another door and opens it before really searching the workroom. To his surprise he finds a room filled with a mound of red silk pillows, lots of treasure, and a large creature resting on top! The creature appears to be a giant Goat Kin type being around 4m in height! When the door opens the creature beckons to Cillian, “Fine sir. Please do not step any farther into this room or I will be forced to make you leave.” Quickly the rest of the PC join Cillian to speak with the creature. The PC eventually learn that the creature is named Cizbakri. He is a mystical creature known as a Kirin that has given his word that he will protect Soza’s treasure for 1001 years. (He is only 275 years into the period.) Po knows that Kirin are legendary creatures with vast powers of wind that come to the aid of good heroes during epic struggles of good vs evil. While speaking with Cizbakri Po notices that a normal looking brass candlestick on the top of the pile radiates with powerful healing magic. He guesses that this is Donovan’s Mate! Eventually the PC decide to tell the Kirin about their journey as avatars of the Great Tree. Oren spins a fantastic tale which mesmerizes the Kirin. After the story Cizbakri is impressed and sensitive to their quest but he tells the PC that he has given his word to guard the treasure. Next the PC ask Cizbakri about Soza and their arrangement. According to Cizbakri Soza made a fatal mistake when he setup the shield around his tower. He miscalculated and put the shutoff lever outside of the shield. Soza was trapped in his own tower! After researching a way to escape for almost a month Soza passed away due to starvation. His spirit was haunting the tower until the PC released it. Next Cizbakri reveals that he too was tainted by Nombrian magic. He seeked out Donovan’s Mate to heal himself. Soza had the artifact so he made the deal to guard the treasure if he could use the magical rod. The PC then convincingly argue that Soza stole the staff from Cragspine so really it is not Soza’s treasure at all. This puts the Kirin in a quandary. He agrees to let the PC have Donovan’s Mate but he warns them that the rod has been trapped by Soza and that the healing it bestows comes at a price. According to Cizbakri if you touch the staff it will transport you to a pocket dimension. The large Kirin then warns the PC that inside of this pocket dimension there is an “evil part of his spirit”. Inside this realm this evil spirit is akin to a god. If the avatars can pass challenges from this creature it will “free” Cizbakri and he will be willing to give them Donovan’s Mate and anything else they want from the treasure room. Steadying themselves the PC reach out for the candlestick…

Date At End Of Game: 1/14/207

Review Of Le Chevalier D’Eon By FUNimation

April 04, 2011 By: John Taber Category: Anime Reviews, Media Interests

LCDE Cover For First DVD

-== What is it? ==-

Le Chevalier D’Eon (LCDE) is a drama period piece set in the middle of the 18th century. LCDE is a 24 episode television show that originally aired from August 2006 through February 2007. It was directed by Kazuhiro Furuhashi and was originally produced by Production I.G. The title has been acquired by FUNimation.

The main protagonists in LCDE are agents of the King Of France Louis XV. The main thrust of the story is the search by D’Eon de Beaumont for the killer of his sister Lia. While searching for his sister’s killer D’Eon encounters revolutionaries, zombies, and evil magicians known as “Poets”.

There is very little nudity and only light sexual references. Several of the sword fights have some bloodshed but it is not too extreme. The movie is rated “14+” at RightStuf.com and I think that rating is accurate.

I purchased the original boxed set version of the DVDs. There are 6 DVDs as part of the set. There are 24 episodes making up roughly 600 minutes of content.

-== What I Like ==-

The four main characters in LCDE are all very strong. They have fantastic motivations and each gets several dramatic spotlights over the course of the series. D’Eon de Beaumont’s search for his sister Lia takes a lot of screen time. One really cool thing that happens during the course of the series is that Lia takes over D’Eon’s body in moments of stress or combat. The animators show when Lia is in control by softening D’Eon’s features and having his hair come untied. Even though having a story with an effeminate lead may seem strange it actually comes off pretty nicely. In one scene D’Eon even uses this to disguise himself as Lia! Durand is the second of the four main leads. Durand appears to be Lia’s former lover and firmly believes in her loyalty to the King during the course of the story. The aged fencing master, Teillagory, is the third main character. He holds the days of the old knights in reverence. We learn a lot about Teillagory over the course of LCDE. The final main character is one of the Queen’s young attendants Robin. Robin matures a lot emotionally during the series and the others can always be sure that his pistol will be at the ready.

I loved the fact that real historical figures were used as the basis for most of the important characters in LCDE. Some historical characters that came to life in the series include Louis XV, Queen Marie, Maquise de Pompadour, Queen Mary Charlotte, King George III, etc. Even D’Eon is based on Chevalier d’Eon a cross dressing historical figure. These ties to real figures makes the characters feel deep and real.

Over the course of the 24 episode run the group is led through several story arcs. The first story arc in LCDE that really caught my attention occurred in episodes 7 through 12. During this time the group travels to Russia in an effort to find Lia’s killer and recover a set of Royal Psalms. While away they meet with Empress Elizaveta (based on Empress Elizabeth). On her death the crazy Pyotr (based on Peter III) becomes the emperor until he is quickly overthrown by Ekaterina who is based on Catherine II (aka Catherine The Great). This story arc is very strong, full of fantastic political maneuvering, and full of surprises. Episode 13 of LCDE is the start of a trip that takes our group to England on the trail of Lia’s killer,Maximilien de Robespierre, and the Royal Psalms. During episode 19 the first of the main characters falls. It is a really powerful episode in the run. Episode 21 and 22 of LCDE have the trio returning to France where things really start to heat up. The last thread is very emotional and closes out the series. The ending of LCDE is very strong.

The art style of LCDE is superb. The detail in the characters and their emotions is very well done. The costuming is very authentic and really adds to the story. The period architecture shown in the backgrounds is beautiful. It is blatantly obvious that artists did a lot of research on the period and it really shows. The art is the best thing about LCDE.

-== What I Don’t Like ==-

My biggest problem with LCDE is the very slow start and the erratic pacing throughout the series. It is not until episode 7 that things really start to get interesting. During the 24 episode run they really needed to add more tension so the watcher is on the edge of their seat.

The minor story arc climaxes during the series also feel cut short. Even though I really enjoyed the trip to Russia the climax of that series felt truncated. I think the entire thing wrapped up in literally 2 minutes of screen time. I would have like to see it play out a bit more. The final episodes of LCDE do not have this issue.

-== Summary ==-

LCDE is a great period piece with an engaging ending and superlative artistry. I could look at the backgrounds and costumes all day long. If you watch LCDE stick it out to the end. The strong finale changed my rating on this product from a 7 to an 8. ;)

You can get a copy of the S.A.V.E. edition on RightStuf.com at this URL for $22.49. Amazon has the set for $26.99 at this URL.

I give it 8 out of 10 paws.