Saturday, April 25, 2015

Shakeshaft Goes Hollywood!

Jack, circa 1953.
Thanks to Claw Carver--just hired on as the casting director of "Shakeshaft: the Series"--for pointing out the striking similarity in appearance between Saltmarsh's shadiest character and the young Jack Palance, see below.  The intense stare, pronounced brow, and peaked hairline; it's really uncanny isn't it?  The producer of the upcoming tv series is in discussions to secure 1950's J. P.  for the part.  This could be a real gold mine.





Ned, circa 1981.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ned Shakeshaft: Sinister Assassin of Saltmarsh

I haven't had much time for blogging lately because I've been working on a script for a tv series based on the adventures of Ned Shakeshaft, the beleaguered assassin in U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh who gets assigned the unpleasant job of tying himself up in the haunted house in order to divert attention away from a smuggling operation going on in the basement.  A method actor to the core, Ned took the added step of stripping down to his skivvies and having some cronies beat him up before leaving him to his role.   
Insert BDSM jokes here.

Now, if you were a respected professional, would you volunteer for this gig?  Not a friggin' chance.  Not only is the scope of the operation well beneath you, but you gotta' know that there's not a lot of money in it either.  So what's Ned's motivation?

First off, he's clearly not a Respected professional.  He's got a long rap sheet of botched hits and failed enterprises--like his laughable attempt at joining the Ulek gnome-wrestling circuit, or that time he got arrested for "attempted pimping" in Gradsul.  Whatta' Schmuck.

But still, how did he find himself hogtied and stashed like a sack of hirsute potatoes in a decrepit house waiting for a band of well-armed, sociopathic adventurers--who, it should be noted, gain XPs for killing people--to come along and free him from his bonds?  Fortunately for you I've uncovered the answer.  You see, old Ned's got gambling debts out the yang and The Receiver--the prominent Saltmarsh merchant with ties to the Smugglers Under the House--has purchased them because, hey, you never know when your gonna' need a disposable assassin for exactly this kind of dirty work.

The Receiver has decided to give Ned one last chance to make good on his debts so he sends him to the haunted house to wait for the meddling party of adventurers.  But do we really think that he wants Ned to stop the party from finding the smugglers?  Heck no, compadres; this is where the module-writers grossly underestimate the ruthlessness of The Receiver.  As mentioned in the module, Ned's presence will make it obvious to even the least observant party that there is something decidedly non-paranormal going on in the haunted house.  This is entirely by design because, as you'll remember, The Receiver has as yet failed to find the Smugglers den--which clearly indicates that he's been looking for it.  It's been my experience that one doesn't go looking for smuggler hideouts for academic purposes, especially when one has a financial link to said smugglers.  The Receiver is not interested in protecting the Smugglers Under the House at all: he wants to take over their operation.  That's right, the Party has stumbled into a gangster turf war. 

So The Receiver sends Shakeshaft* not to stymie the Party but to assist them in finding the Smugglers hideout and, indeed, to encourage them to keep looking should they consider leaving without finding it.   As soon as the Party finds the secret lair of the Smugglers, Ned is then to slip away and alert the gang of toughs that are hiding out in the woods across the way.  These goons will then descend on the hideout and pound any survivors--on either side of the conflict--into submission.  Ned also knows full well that those same thugs have been tasked with doing the same to him should he fail in his mission. There, my friends, lies his motivation.

* Could he have picked a more conspicuous alias?  I suspect that "Ned Shakeshaft" is the UK equivalent of "Jack Meoff."

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy St. Cuthbert's Day!

I know you're all still recovering from ol' Paddy Snakebane's Festival of Greenery on Tuesday, but get your party hats back out because today marks the feast of St. Cuthbert!  Besides knocking back a pint or three of St. Cuthbert's IPA, you might consider celebrating by being nice to animals as Cuddy was famous for his rapport with the critters of the world.  Also, get in some cudgel practice whilst sporting your favorite chapeaux.

Not sure why he's in a boat in the photo above, but it's a somewhat common theme in non-Greyhawk Cuthbertian imagery. Check out his soccer team's crest (right).

Although Wanderers--along with the similarly themed Rovers and Rangers--is a fairly common team nickname for F.C.s in the British Isles the name is especially appropriate for a club honoring ol' Cuddy; his posthumous wanderings are the stuff of legend.*  For centuries after his death his remains were repeatedly moved from one hiding spot to another in order to avoid plundering by Minnesota Vikings.

* Despite all the Old Country emulation that goes on in MLS nomenclature--see the Uniteds, Reals, Dynamos, FCs, and, now, Cities, that clutter up the standings--no one has taken a shine to the Rovers/Rangers/Wanderers theme.  Wanderers is perhaps too desultory for modern tastes and Rangers is already taken by both a hockey and baseball team here in N. America, but Rovers, I think, would make for a damn fine futbol team.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

U2 Danger at Dunwater: The Alliteration Continues

Perhaps because U1 Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh turned out to be a TPK, my gang never played its sequel Danger at Dunwater.  Which is to say, I have no firsthand knowledge of how this bad boy plays out.  However, that will not keep me from spoiling the crap out of this thing, so move along if you'd rather avoid that sort of confab.

U2 Danger @ Dunwater picks up where U1 left off, riffing on the presence of lizardmen on the smuggler's ship.  It turns out that the lizardmen [Aside: are lizardmen actually amphibians?] were striking a deal with the smugglers to buy bulk armaments at a discount.  The Saltmartians--concerned that the mud-wallowing lizard-freaks are planning an invasion of their despicable burg--hire/coerce the PCs into running off and dealing with the problem for them.  Reviews of U2 (the D&D module, not the high altitude spy plane) praise this module for "not being what it appears," which is too bad, because what it appears to be is a lizard-themed dungeon crawl, and who doesn't like hackin' up lizardmen?  But it turns out that you're supposed to be helping the lizardmen, not flaying them alive.  As written though, the party probably isn't gonna figure that out until it's way too late. 

Essentially, this module is supposed to put the PCs in a moral quandary when they find out that the the heavily armed lizardmen they've been slaughtering all evening are not planning on harvesting the gizzards of the good citizens of Saltmarsh.  Yet the only indication that something unusual is up with these slithery goons is the presence of some Mermaids and other assorted aquatic types sipping tea and snarfing seaweed crumpets in their lizardy den.  Now, if you enter through the front door you'll find this out right away.  But the front door involves swimming, so you're probably not going to opt for that one, preferring one of the land-bound entries.  Which means that by the time you get to Neptune's tea party,  you've already made a stylish belt--with matching boots and luggage--out of the wives, children, and siblings of the lizardude chief and his elite guardsmen.  Fortunately, the Lizardians aren't too sentimental: they'll forgive and forget as long as the party goes off on a wild crocodile hunt on their behalf.*  

But what if a group of PCs actually did take the time to figure out what the Lizardudes were up to instead of collecting their spleens first and asking questions later?  Would this module hold up if it was confronted with such thoughtful PCs?  Consider this scenario: 
Party [approaching the front gate of the Lizardarian Lair]: "All right you slimy, fork-tongued bastards, we know you've been stockpiling weapons for a raid on the village of Saltmarsh.  You'd better cut that crap out right now or you're gonna' be in big trouble."

Lizardudes: "Get lost ya' dandruff-ridden landlubbers, we've got a sahuagin invasion to deal with."

Party: "Say who again?"

Lizardudes: "Sahuagins.  Evil, scaly bastards?  Page 84 of the Monster Manual?  Anyway, they've been harassing us for months, moving in on our turf.  We're here negotiating with the Locathah and merdudes to team up against those creeps."
[As confirmation, Merdude chief and Locathah chief pop their heads out, smile, and wave]
Party [taken aback]: "Oh! So you're not hoarding weapons in order to raid Saltmarsh?"

Lizardudes:  "Raid Saltmarsh? Why would we do that? We're justa' good ol' Lizardfolk, never meanin' no harm."

Party: "You're certain?  No assaulting the village?  No rending townspeople limb from limb?"

Lizardudes [somewhat miffed]: "Absolutely not."

Party [crestfallen]: "Very well. Sorry for bothering you."
[Party dejectedly turns to leave.  The Lizardudes, their annoyance turned to pity, confer with Merdude and Locathah. After some whispered debate, they turn back to the party.]
Lizardudes:  "Say, you guys wouldn't want to help us, would you?"

And so, unless the Master of Dungeons has U3 The Final Countdown on hand and prepped for play, your big Friday night gaming session is over before the pizza's even arrived.



*Since the PCs are working as independent contractors for the Village of NaClmarsh, they would be entirely within their rights to point out to the Lizardmen that this is not within the scope of their agreement with the Saltmartians and will first require negotiating new terms with the town council.
  

Friday, January 23, 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2015 Blogification News: 60 Posts, 5th Anniversary Celebration, New Name, and more.

I didn't bother with resolutions for the new year because I was so successful with my 2014 resolutions that I really don't have anything left to achieve for the next 7 years or so.  But there is one matter that I do need to tend to in the new year. In keeping with a pattern of always having a yearly total post-count that is a multiple of 6, for the last two years I've made a very conscious effort to ensure that, come Year's End, my post-count was inline with this trend.  Well, check this out and let me know if you discern another pattern:

Table II.B.3.xi: Post Counts by Year. 
2010: 42
2011: 30 
2012: 60
2013: 42
2014: 30

Yep, it looks like I might have to have to churn out 60 friggin' posts this year!  What that means to you: Expect more content-less filler posts such as this one.


Also: Last summer I streamlined the name of this blog to its current moniker (see above) from the far more cumbersome "Unfrozen Caveman Dice Chucker." Not only was the Unfrozen Caveman bit just too clunky, but it was also decreasingly relevant after having spent the last several years actively engaging the ol' hobby.  Not that it mattered, none of you noticed.  I'm a little hurt.

Also, also: The official 5th anniversary of this blog will be this Saturday, Enero 17.  I trust you all got the invitation to the party and I expect a great showing at the palatial venue we've rented for the to-do.  Did I mention there will be an OPEN BAR?  And ALL-YOU-CAN-EAT PANCAKES? See you there.


 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Elf Loathing: How to put an end to the elf scourge in D&D

Even though most fantasy literature portrays elves as humorless, superior dullards who would never be invited to any party that a reasonable person would want to attend, in D&D elves are so laden with mechanical advantages (Dex bonus, +1 w/ bow & sword, infravision, stealthiness, magic resistance, secret door-finding ability, etc.) and deprived of significant shortcomings (they're neither overly short nor unappealingly hirsute) that every munchkin gamer signs up for them right out of the chute.  Seriously, unless you want to run a cleric--and such an unlikely possibility is hardly worth mentioning--there's virtually no good reason not to have an elf.

So how do you keep the pointy-eared d-bags off your gaming table?  Here's how I do it:  Inform your players that the following characteristics apply to elves in your gaming world.
  1. Elven names must be at least 7 syllables long. It's impossible to have a badass character with a really long, douchey name.  To make this rule mechanically unpleasant as well, apply a -5% XP penalty to any elf PC who:
      • fails to correct anyone and everyone who mispronounces or abbreviates the elf's name in anyway on every such occurrence.
      • refers to his/her own elf character with any moniker other than its full, actual name--even in table chatter.
      • Such penalties are, of course, cumulative and permanent.
  2. Elves have OCD.  Remember that "Step on a crack and break your mother's back" business from when you were a kid?  Elves take that shit to heart.  An elf who steps on a crack or seam in the dungeon floor must save vs. parallelization* or immediately flee to his homeland to check on his mother's health.
  3. Elves are chaste.  If neither of the above has done the job, you're going to need to hit below the belt; inform the player(s) that, despite all their sexiness, Elven reproductive rites involve a fortnight spent composing love poems and weaving garlands, after which an actual stork flies in and drops off the new elfling, who likely bears a strong resemblance to Odysseus.  No clothing is removed, no groping occurs, the whole affair is rated G.  Indeed, your parents are traditionally on hand for the entire event.  And if that still isn't enough, you're going to have to drop this bomb: 
  4.  Well, some elves are chaste... Female elves can--and frequently do--mate with humans in the traditional, human fashion.**  "Male" elves, however, are not equipped with the right utensils to do the job.  That's right, Legolas = dick-o-less.  Do you really want to play a Ken-doll?
* Auto-correct often comes up with some pretty cool ideas; parallelization is one of them.
** Which explains why half elves were so prominent in AD&D.