Posted by: Opinicus | January 6, 2012

Reavers Chapter 2: House to House

Chapter 2: House to house


There was a hill with a crater in it, looking so much like some giant had taken a bite out of one side. The vertical sides of the depression were made of some strange, smooth, drippy looking black stone; gravel and dirt fused together by an orbital C-beam. The inside of the crater was now was coated in a layer of dirty ice and grey-black snow, and sitting on all this was me, ration bar in one hand, the other on the grip of my assault rifle.

My name is Leif, a private of clan Honagar, otherwise known to any non-Reaver as D32-801 of the 18th Reaver company.  I was one of the New Bloods just added.  While most have a hard time distinguishing individual Reavers apart, I looked a bit different from the norm.  This was thanks to the Gene-wizards that constantly tweaked variables and threw in slight mutations in order to keep us clones diverse enough that we couldn’t just be wiped out by a single gene-specific viral bomb.  I stood  shorter than most, at just over 6 feet, that and my blue eyes had a certain brightness to them that stood out. Needless to say that my training and education had perhaps a bit more impromptu hand-to-hand combat experience than most.

We were on Ithicus Prime, a medium population world of the Aquillian Empire, tasked with trying to take the world with as much of it’s infrastructure intact as possible. The planet apparently had large deposits of some semi-valuable material and facilities for the processing of said material. The Powers That Be have deemed that the prize of taking the world outweigh the cost, so here we were.

I took another bite from my ration bar and slowly chewed the tough substance. It tasted like synthetic coffee and plastic. Gazing out at the surroundings, I realized that this area was probably once a fairly well to do neighborhood. Large villas and mansions were scattered around the area surrounded by trees and parks, though now the buildings were all blasted out and the trees were but flash-carbonized claws, pointing accusingly at a sky covered with heavy clouds pregnant with ash. The sounds of distant combat could be heard, faint enough to sound almost gentle.

“Whelp, anything to report?” My ear-bead buzzed.

“All quiet Sergeant.  Only ghost and memories stirring.”

“What? Has your first combat started you waxing poetic now? Heh! Trying to become a skald or something?”

“Awww, you know all the ladies love poets.”

“Yeah? But they only fuck warriors.  Get your kit in gear, we’re moving out in five.”

“Roger that. Be back in two.”

I crammed down the last of my ration bar then checked my rifle and gear.  The ammo count and battery charge on the MA-Rifle was fine and all my other gear was in place.  Giving the nearby hills one last long look, I left the crater and headed back to rejoin with the rest of the squad.

The brief rest at the hill was only fifteen minutes or so, enough to eat a few ration bars and rest for the next leg of the mission. We only had a few more hours of daylight left and with that we needed to engage an artillery group bunkered in the outskirts of the city proper.  Other Gamma teams would be hitting other points of interest as well, but we couldn’t count on them for any help.

As we got closer and closer to our objective, a heavy rhythmic booming detached itself from the background noises.  The trees and villas gave way to apartment complexes and office buildings, the roads became wider and more choked with burned out vehicles, many of which still held blackened skeletons in their warped frames. The sky had turned a hellish red as the sun began to set, soon most of the ambient light would be from the occasional fire still raging amid the rubble and ruins.

We snuck from blackened wall to blackened wall. Most of the structures here were still mostly intact as it only suffered a light plasma bombardment, no explosives and no C-beams that could slag anything that could be salvaged, cold comfort for the poor civilians trying to evacuate the area.

Our point man, messaged back from his position. “Sir! MG nest in the second floor of the three story building up ahead.  I think the objective is just behind it.”

“Right,” responded Lt. Hodir. ” Give me the video feed… okay, I see it.  Everyone, I’m sending the image now.”

A small ping appeared at the edge of my visor, and with a command through my neuro-linked helmet, an image of a building appeared in a window covering the bottom left corner of the hud.  On the second floor of the building was a stack of sandbags with the silhouette of a heavy machine gun on top, the whole setup superimposed with a red outline marking it out.

“That nest has a pretty damn good line of fire over the approach, but there’s plenty of cover between the corner and there. There’s also bound to be other bastards in the building next to it and in some of the other windows.” Several windows on the building were then outlined in red. “Pay careful attention to these ones, they offer the best line of fire on us as we approach.  If need be, we keep up suppressing fire on these as we make our way over.”  Lt. Hodir looked at us all and grinned. “Well boys, let’s get this done!”

“If you see the artillery, plant a targeting beacon near it. The whole fucking city is under a sensor shroud, but the beacon should be able to poke it’s nose through enough for a concentrated C-beam strike. Needless to say, we have only a few minutes to get out before the hammer comes down.” Sgt. Thorgrim added. “We’ll start by popping smoke. Let’s do this boys!”


From around the corner, we lobbed smoke grenades, and a thick grey-black cloud quickly billowed up, small metallic filaments that disrupted IR and other targeting systems caught the dying light of the sun and turned the whole area into a sea of embers. Into this we charged.

Visibility dropped to only a few feet, and even though I held my breath, the bitter alkaline smoke still found it’s way into my mouth. I came upon the twisted heap of a car and ducked behind it.  Keeping one hand on the vehicle, I made my way around it, trying to keep an eye out for either another source of cover or the edge of the smoke.

Suddenly from up ahead came the sound of thunder that never ended. Over to my right a multitude of bullets pinged off metal and cracked into the asphalt of the road.  I had no more time to cautiously make my way out of the smoke and ran forward, hoping that when I exited the smoke I would be near cover, and praying to the fickle Gods that a stray round wouldn’t rip through my body.

I burst out into the light again, the glittering cloud still clinging to me like some etherial lover. Just ahead was the remains of a van of some sort with two other Reavers huddled behind it.  I ran and slid up to the side.

“Whoooo! What a way to start a party!” One of the Reavers laughed to me. It was Grimnir, from my original squad, the other man I didn’t recognize.  Looking back, I saw two reavers, lying in steadily growing pools of blood at the edge of the smoke.  Tracer fire swept the cloud, blindly strafing at anyone still inside, the white-hot rounds throwing strange little eddies in the smoke.

“Hey Leif, let’s get the fucker’s attention!” Grimnir shouted at me over the din of the machine gun with a grin on his face that made it sound like he just suggested courting a woman and not something spitting out 25 bullets a second.  Oddly enough, I caught myself grinning the same.

“Haha! Well, we can’t stay here for…” My sentence was cut short when the brains of the third Reaver sprayed across the side of the van.

“Sniper!” I fired at the windows where shot was most likely to have come from, but there was nothing there now. Grimnir growled something under his breath

I ran around the corner of the van and dived behind a small car which gave me cover from both the sniper and the machine gun, tracer rounds tracking me the whole way, tearing up the asphalt behind me.

I let myself breath a sigh of relief for a second when it caught in my throat as I saw tracer rounds tear through the fiberglass chassis of my cover. Dropping flat to the ground and curling into the fetal position, I prayed to all the Gods and angels that they wouldn’t find their target.  The machine gunner realized that his rounds were not stopped by the flimsy vehicle, and continued raining fire at me.  By some quirk of luck, or perhaps the engine block offered just enough mass, I wasn’t torn to pieces by the time the gunner diverted his attention to more pressing threats.

Quickly patting myself down to make sure all my limbs were still intact, I spied the ruins of an overturned bus that would let me make my way to the front of the building that held the machine gunner.  I took out another smoke grenade and lobbed it in the open space between ahead. Letting the smoke fill up nice and thick, I plunged into the cloud.

A stream of bullets left trails through the smoke over my head as I ran low to the ground.  Running so fast through the miasma, I nearly slammed into the side of the bus as it loomed up in front of me.  Edging around it, the sounds of rounds striking asphalt and metal drew away from me.  Cautiously edging around the overturned bus, I saw the front of the building and that I was well below the firing arc of the machine gun.

I ran up and threw my back against the wall by the front door, eyes scanning the opening for trouble.

Looking back, it seemed that the rest of the squad was pinned down by the cross fire, so I was going to be on my own for a while.  Deciding that if I distracted the gunner on my own now, me dying would leave more of the squad intact when they reached the objective, so it was time to make my presence known.  Mission success over your own life was drilled into us since before we could understand words.

Sticking an optical snake around the corner, it looked like the room was empty, but there were plenty of places for an ambush. Better safe than sorry, remember the training, I thought to myself.  I pulled out a concussive grenade, primed it and lobbed it in.

I counted to three, heard the muted whumph of the blast from within the room, and swiveled in, eyes straining to catch a glimpse of movement.  I spotted the barrel of a gun was coming over the top of an overturned table, and while the synth-wood stopped most of the blast from my grenade, it couldn’t stop a burst of magnetically accelerated ferrous tungsten rounds. The wood splintered and blood splattered against the walls.

As soon as that was done, I caught more movement at my peripheral, and dove for cover behind a chunk of fallen concrete and lay on my back behind it. Bullets blasted chunks off the small piece of cover I had, whittling it down at an alarming rate.  Heartened by having me on the run and with the effectiveness of his assault, he continued pumping rounds at me.  Then I heard the tell tale click of an empty magazine.

Rolling over to the side of my cover, I caught a glimpse of my assailant ducking back around the corner he was hiding behind, reloading his rifle.  I kept a bead on the corner he was behind and waited. When he peeked out again, a trio of rounds blasted his head apart before he could squeeze off a shot.

I got up, and moved to where he was.  Taking a quick look around, it appeared to be some sort of kitchen, covered in a layer of ash, with a set of stairs in the back that led up to where the machine gun nest was.  I knew full well that the way up would be closely guarded.  I then looked up and saw the red outline of the machine gun nest directly above me.  I grinned.

I took out my demolition pack and slapped it against the celling, right under the nest and ran back into the first room.  As soon as I pressed the detonator, the room filled with dust and the never-ending thunder was replaced with falling concrete. The dust cloud was thick so I held my breath and switched to IR as I peeked around the corner.  Even with the optics, vision was difficult due to the residual heat on in the dust, but I was able to make out three figures amid the rubble, two of which were slowly pulling themselves out of the ruin.  Two burst from me stopped that. I put a burst into the unmoving one as well, just to be safe.

Stepping back into the other room where the dust was much thinner, I took a deep breath of clear air and saw several other Reavers run in.

“Fan-fucking-tastic job whelp!  But don’t spend too much time patting yourself on the ass, we ain’t done yet.”  Sergeant Thorgrim’s gravelly voice spoke up on my helmet vox. “Sniper’s long gone, but keep your eyes open, the little shit’s gonna be hanging off our ass like a piece of… shit… not sure where I was going with this, but you get the point.  Step lively Reavers!”

We quickly searched the area and found two more of the PDF machine gunner team who quickly surrendered. Reavers take no prisoners.  After that bit of business, we moved from building to building, the last rays of the setting sun caught the dust and smoke in the air, a thousand glittering fires dancing in the air.  After a bit, even that bit of beauty faded away with the night.


Posted by: Opinicus | January 4, 2012

Reavers: Chapter 1 Landfall

I know this is supposed to be musing and observations on D&D and other Role Play topics, but with so much of that originating from fiction, I thought it would fit in if I tried a short story.  This is the first Chapter, a science fiction tale with Norse inspiration.  May have more chapters in the future.


Chapter 1. Landfall

“We’re coming in fast! LZ is Hot! I repeat the LZ is hot!”  The pilot’s shrill voice screamed at us over my helmet vox as we huddled in the cramped hull of the Condor drop-ship.

Sergeant Thorgrim growled at us immediately after.  “Check your gear boys, we’re doing a fast drop.  Keep your heads low and hit the ground running, I want my team intact when we get to the objective!  Look alive Reavers!”

The pitch of the the engines went to a high pitched whine as it moved into a hover, our eyes glued to the red light, waiting and dreading when it would turn green, signaling the imminent opening of the hatch that was at our feet.  I caught my hand shaking and in the time I took to steady it, missed the light changing, and suddenly the floor slammed open.

The frigid air of Ithicus Prime greeted us with the sounds of gunfire and explosions. We were then ejected from our harnesses to the ground below, our boots crunching the thin layer of ice that had formed over the mud and gravel.

“MOVE! MOVE! MOVE!” We scrambled for the nearest source of cover, a crater left over from the orbital bombardment of this sector. Suddenly a lance of blue-violet energy flashed over our heads, slagging the cockpit and severing one of the four thrusters on the Condor.  The loose thruster launched off like a rocket into the air as the rest of the vehicle lurched to the side, tilted, then slammed into the base of the crater with the torturous sound of grinding metal, all the while the remaining three thrusters burned blackened holes into the frozen ground.

“Command! Come in Command! There’s a Las-tank in this sector!  I repeat, a fucking las-tank in this sector!  Wasn’t all enemy armor taken out over here?”  Lieutenant Hodir screamed into his vox.

“Damn it! Okay men, intel’s made a fuck-up as usual, and they want us to clean up their mess.  Grimnir, Rolfson, you flank it from the left!  The rest of us will draw it’s fire and you plant a det-charge on that son-of-a-bitch!”

“Roger that LT!” Rolfson acknowledged.

“Dergarde, you’re on point!  Watch for infantry.  Okay Reavers, grab your nuts and lets do this!  The Valkyries only fuck the brave!”

Dergarde popped his head over the cover and gave the all clear.  Sgt. Thorgrim growled and ushered us forward.  We ran from cover to cover whilst more beams of energy split the ashen sky above us, blasting more and more drop-ships full of our brothers to the halls of Valhalla.

Cresting a shallow rise, we spied a Centurion-class spider tank, crouched under a camouflage canopy. The energy coils along the barrel of the las-canon bright with pent up energy as it tracked something through the air.  A small team of men were around it, manning an external radar unit and keeping an eye out for enemy infantry, namely us.

Sgt. Thorgrim motioned us down. “Alright boys, it’s looking shitty, that spider’s got a shitload of armor, one det-charge might not even be enough.  Fortunately that’s made them confidant that infantry can’t hurt it, and we’ve got lots of det-charges.  Grimnir, Rolfson, you boys in position?”

“Awaiting your command Sarge.” the reply quickly came over the vox.

“We’ll throw Mjols first, wait to the count of five, then move.  Affirmative?”

“Roger that Sarge — count of 5.”

I drew and primed the grenade in question, and looked apprehensibly at the now glowing plasma coil inside.  Their official name was the AX-34 Charged Plasma Grenade, but only us Reavers are ever issued them; they have a nasty reputation of premature detonation and a relatively slow priming time. But they were devastating and had an electrified explosion which fried unshielded electronics. We’ve dubbed them the Mjolnir Grenade, after the legendary lighting hammer due to the very electrical visual of the detonation.  The risk involved were outweighed by the benefits.

“Okay boys, We primed? Good.  Pins out and thrown on three.   One…Two…THREE!”

I pulled the pin and hurled the loathsome thing with all my might and watched half a dozen other glowing grenades arc with it over the crest of the rise.  We charged after them to press the advantage of surprise, firing our MA-Rifles, striking down stunned soldiers, and yelling battle-cries the whole way.

The Mjolnirs detonated with a static-ey crack. Jagged tendrils of superheated plasma lashed out from each grenade in all directions, slicing and searing the troopers   into steaming chunks.  The optic ports on the spider-tank spat out sparks as their circuits were overloaded, but that didn’t stop it from revving it’s twin Requiem cannons.  It sprayed the area in front of it with a deluge of explosive rounds.

Whilst designed as an anti-vehicle machine gun, the armor piercing bullets were of such a calibre that they proved devastating on flesh.  Fenrir, who was right next to me, was caught in the abdomen and was blasted in two, his hot blood misting the air.  Eric in the front took several rounds to the torso, and there wasn’t much left to identify the remains with.

We threw ourselves against the front of what remained of the sandbag wall after the Mjolnirs had their way, and laid low under the line of fire above us.  To our left, we saw Grimnir and Rolfson, satchel charges in hand, running towards the tank, staying so low that their chins almost hit their knees.

They ran under the tank, ripping off the adhesive strip on the charges as they did.  Quickly they slapped one onto the weak inside joint of the front leg and prepared to apply another to the other leg.

That’s when I noticed that the sparks from the optics had stopped.

The bottom side optical turret swiveled around and noticed the two setting up charges.  The tank started shifting around, making Grimnir and Rolfson dive for cover.

With it’s attention distracted, I sat up behind cover and began emptying my magazine at the optic turret, hoping to distract or blind the damn thing.   Unfortunately the magnetically accelerated ferrous-tungsten did little to the armored eye.

The spider-tank, focused on Rolfson, and as he was scrambling to his feet, he stomped on the poor bastard’s back, slamming him prone on the ground, shattering his spine and rupturing his innards across the frozen gravel.

By now, Grimnir had gotten out from under the tank.  He dove for cover whilst triggering the planted charge.

A wave of force hit me in the face as I continued to spew bullets at the tank’s eye ineffectually.  Small fragments of metal pinged off my visor as I was hurled to the ground.  The sound dampeners in my helmet tried to compensate for the thunderous explosion, but my ears were still ringing afterwards.

Getting up, I saw one of the legs on the tank was completely disabled.  Metal plates ground against each other, giving a distinctly hideous groaning.  Orange hydraulic fluid splattered the floor like the lifeblood of a wounded animal.

The Centurion limped in a circle, trying to find a new target to shoot, but by this point it lacked the agility to track us.  We ran up to it and began slapping more charges onto the cracks in the Titanium-ceramic alloy plates of it’s armor.

The hatch at the top of the tank then opened.  “Wait! Wait! We surrender!  Fuck!  We surrender!”  The two operators of the tank started climbing out, waving their hands in the air.

Sgt. Thorgrim gave them one look, and promptly perforated them with a burst of fire from his assault rifle. “Fucking PDF cowards.”

“Command, this is team Gamma 12.  Laz-tank is neutralized.  It’s status is immobilized but functional.  Team strength is down by three, request further orders…understood Command, over’n out.” Lt. Hodir disconnected with Orbital Command and looked at us. “Okay Reavers, we are to regroup with team Gamma 22 at these coordinates.”

He uploaded the information onto our HUDs.  “And once joined, we’ll proceed on with the mission.  The way should be clear of resistance, but stay frosty, Intel’s full of bullshit anyways.”  With that he lifted his visor and spat on the tank.


Like most of us, the lieutenant looked familiar, as we were all cloned from the same genetic stock, but his veteran status was evident in the greying hair and wrinkles around his eyes.  One doesn’t grow old as a Reaver without learning a few things.

We hiked for about an hour, sticking to frozen riverbeds and bombed out valleys. For once, the intel on the area was correct, and we encountered no resistance. Chatter was limited, and no one spoke of anything other than to point out possible dangers.

Eventually we rendezvous with the G-22 team. They were originally a larger squad than us, but they’ve obviously seen some heavy action as they were down to half strength. Lt. Hodir took over command as all the command personnel from G-22 had been killed when they were dropped into a mine field while under sniper fire.

“Alright, listen up Reavers.  Our objective remains the same.  We push to the edge of the city and take out any heavy ordinance we find. As soon as High Command, in their almighty wisdom, deems it safe enough to risk dropping in some armor, we’ll get reinforcements. At that point we’ll be serving as a skirmisher screen for the armor as it heads over to F sector to engage the enemy’s flank currently engaging the groups there.”

I could tell that this was going to be a long day.

Just little ol’ Opinicus here again. This article’t topic is a very controversial one: when is it okay to fudge the rules and die rolls, if ever? Below is a hypothetical example of where a GM might be tempted to fudge a roll (in order to save a character and keep the plot going).

Paladin: “Foul despot! I have finally found you! Tonight you will drink deep of the sharp blade of justice!”

Boss Villain: “You have slain my minions and foiled my plans. But what is worse is that you slew Desthera, my Drow lover. I would’ve just slain you before, but now… Now I will crush you and everything you hold dear. I will put you through the same loss you have put me through, and know that in the end, it was I that brought about your fall. MEN! Attend to this cur while I ready my arms!” Boss Villain starts chanting into his sword.

Paladin: “You think I’ll give you the chance? Have at you!” Charge past low level minion to attack Boss, incurring an AOO

GM: Minion attacks you… nat. 20! Confirmed…with another 20? Back that up with a… 19? Uhhh….

Player: Is that a coup de grace?

GM:….yeah…. can you make a… rolls dice, adds up numbers… DC 38 fort save? Please say yes.

Player:….If I roll a 20, I make 31…. so no way in hell.

As most table top games have that element of chance to them, many times things just don’t go the way you want them to, as either a player or as a GM. Now this also really applies to why type of game you’re running. Are you running a story-based game, where there is an overarching plot you want the players to delve into and progress? Or is it a module based game, where the enjoyment is almost entirely derived from playing within the rules? I’ll also go briefly into what if you are a player, not a GM. When is it okay to dance around the rules in that situation? (Quick answer; Never you cheating dog!)

The types of games that I really enjoy are the story-based ones. I love having long running plots, re-occurring villains, and deep character interactions. I derive my enjoyment from planning multiple paths the party could take, and coming up with a story based around the decisions of the party. This leads to the the players, and the GM, to develop strong affinity to these PCs. If a well established PC dies, let me tell you, there are few things as disruptive to an on-going story as a character change. Now it can be done right, but there will be that moment of awkwardness where you then need to shoe-horn in a new character, and the inter-party bonds will have to be re-established. Most of the time, this is difficult, and unless you have some really great players, I really get a bad taste in my mouth with the new character, and it’ll take me a few sessions to get used to him/her. Now I’m not saying to avoid killing the characters all the time, lest the party become overconfident and realize that the are practically invincible as the GM will always do something to save a character from death (or only throw weak enemies at them), I’m just saying that I personally feel that if a minion, or trap, or some random encounter just happens to very likely kill of a plot-centric character, feel free to report damage just short of death, or it just happened to roll a 2, not an 18 on that last hit, or perhaps just failed to confirm that x3 critical. Save that death for something that means something. Of course, on that same vein, is it okay to make that 2 into an 18? Here’s where I get antsy. Usually I say “No! Never cheat the player out of something.” Cheating to save them, well, that’s not really hurting the player. It’s not too scrupulous, but for the greater good of the game, I usually let it slide. Another option you could do, is tell the player that just got critted for double his current HP by the orc with a great axe on that his character just died, but that you could make a deal with him. You will negate the crit, but in return, you can call for his death when ever you fell like it, which would be in a very rememberable moment, such as boss fight, or some other fancy point in time. The flaw in this is that the player now plays with the knowledge of the shadow of death hanging over him. If he is a really good player, her will ignore it, perhaps help you out by setting himself up for this tragic, heroic death. But that is if you’ve got a good player.

Let us say you are running a combat intense game, not too much plot. If a character dies, that doesn’t rock the boat too much. When would it be okay to fudge stuff? Well, reporting a lower roll to save a character wouldn’t be necessary. Characters come and go just fine. Reporting higher than roll is even worse in this case than in the story-based game. This game is players vs the game (not you, remember this important point). If you cheat for the game, it won’t too fun for the player when the enemy always rolls 15’s and up. Now the big thing to remember is, this is for everyone to have fun. Not just you, and not just the players. Everyone must have fun. Now, if the monsters were trouncing the players, a GM might take enjoyment out of that, since he’s “winning”. But the players won’t have fun if they keep getting into fights where they have no chance of victory, or the fight was just so abnormally difficult that they shouldn’t even fight. No one likes going into a fight where you only hit on an 18, and the monster has fast healing, and hits you ever round. But on the same token, I don’t find it fun for 1/2 way through the first round, before the monster got it’s turn, it’s already dead. The players that failed initiative sit back and shrug as they got to do nothing, and the GM, who took the effort to make the monster and set up the encounter, didn’t even get to play his own encounter. My proposal in this is a rule that I’ve taken from Akal, and have implemented in every game above 5th lv if I’m running a party of experienced players. Double all the monster’s HP, if not triple it. The party will be hitting just as normally, and the monster can actually get in a round or two before getting chopped into so much chum. Every player will get a turn or two and feel useful, and the fact that they can have an idea of how much HP they were dishing out makes the fight seem that much more challenging. In that same vein, I also avoid using monsters with DR. the heavy one-shot characters will punish their way through, while the dinky, multi-attackers will watch as all their damage is absorbed and they feel impotent.

Now, a few points where faking a roll or making up a ruling would be really tempting, but you should never do this. The main one is; Death spell on the re-occurring villain. He shows up to taunt the players and start a plot going, and BAM! Hold person! he rolls a 1. He’s screwed! If you fudge the roll, you are outright robbing the players. If they actually see your roll, not only are you robbing them, but they will know it. And then no one’s happy. Another one is to fudge a roll to hurt a player. That’s just mean, even if the player was being a prick. They’ve come and put their enjoyment in your hands. You have a responsibility, and taking out-of-game ire with in-game actions is not only childish, but also pathetic. Of course, in-game ire being taken out with in-game actions is an entirely different matter. Up to your discretion, but again, remember, your goal is for everyone to have fun.

Now onto cheating/rule bending from the player. Generally, this is a No-no. If your character just rolled a 1 on a Save vs. Death, suck it up, be a man! You play the game to play a game, not to roll dice and have the GM tell you how awesome you are. Remember, if the GM is going through all the effort of running a game, which is much harder than just playing a character, he’s going to want some fun out if it too. If you make all your saves and always hit and crit every other hit, imagine how you would feel if the monsters were doing that to you? That’s what the GM is going through right when you fake a roll and make a save. I know the temptation to lie about making a save is strong, especially when it’s a life or death matter, but then you’re not playing a game with people, you’re just in an exercise in self satisfaction. Now, there actually is options for rule bending that is allowed for players, but these instances always involve the GM’s knowledge and approval. These are usually for flavor or are some sort of nifty idea that the rules are either missing, too vague, or too restrictive to do normally. In these instances, ask the GM about it. If it’s a good idea and the GM’s cool, you’ll usually get your alchemist-fire-bolas, unique armor, 3rd party class, or what-have-you.

Pretty much, I would be okay with cheating only if it would benefit the enjoyment of everyone present. You have much more freedom with this as a GM, since the enjoyment is based of of what you do to the party. Now I’ve said before, and will continue to say again and again (until some people get this through their thick skulls), Dungeons and Dragons, and other role playing games, in fact all social games, are just that, games. Just enjoy them and have fun!

Opinicus rolling out.

Posted by: Opinicus | January 16, 2011

How to Piss Off Your GM: What not to do, you little $*@$!

Opinicus-“So, the setting is a dark, low fantasy game. I’ll be blending Call of Cthulu sanity rules and this is going to be a heavy horror game, with a Conan feel. Got it? Describe your characters.”

New Guy-“I’ll be playing a barbarian. Got some wits about him, and he has ties to the local tribes. He’s wearing a battered breastplate, short cropped black hair, and lots of scars on his face and arms from once working as a blacksmith.”

Opinicus-“Good, good, okay. And you guys?”

AHT-“Well LG and I will be playing twin, white ninjas, going from town to town, swaggering from brothel to brothel. Our names are Chet and Broseph Crashnugget. We have blue fauxhawks and oversized sunglasses and look like ninja douchbags.”

Opinicus-“AHT… I hate you so much right now.”

I’m going to list a bunch of things that have happened while in table-top games, most of which when I was the GM. Help your GM out if you start seeing these things happen. Remember, enjoying a game is a collaborative effort. Everyone has fun, or no one has fun… unless you’re trolling.

The earliest opportunity to piss off your GM is in character creation. Listen to what the setting and feel he is trying to cultivate. Help him out with it, make something that fits. If your GM is trying for a game of knights and ladies, don’t play Macky “The Shiv” McShankton. The game that the GM runs is built on the main characters, you guys. If you cast the wrong person for the lead role, you’re not going to get the genre you intended, well, you might if you intended comedy, but that’s due to comedy often having the element of the absurd. But you’re not going to be doing this, oh no sir.

So now you’re sitting pretty, in a horror game, playing Anita Mann, a disenfranchised Geisha with a five o’clock shadow, a pronounced adam’s apple, and a distracting bulge in his…errr her crotch. What do you do now to piss off the GM even more? The answer is easy, get another character in on it. Have someone else bounce their character off yours. The game now has Anita Mann and Feldspar Blushbeard, her cross-dressing dwarven backup singer that is also her blood brother… err sister, and they now travel together as a lounge singing troupe. This is very aggravating for the GM as you’ve now sucked someone that might’ve played something setting appropriate, and have converted them into something else that’ll dilute the atmosphere.

Now, are you done? Noooo… there is so much more you can do to get that GM blood pressure rising. Now, if you were a decent human being, you’d play the character seriously, and the game could still be salvaged. Who says that a queen and her overly hairy, cross-dressing manicurist can’t be thrust into a terrifying situation and still get the bajezus scared out of them. But no, you’re going to play them less like real people, and more like the larger-than-life caricatures you made them out to be.  Every time something scary happens, you go “Uuuuahhh! I mean EEEE!” and jump into the arms of the fighter in the party and ask him to protect you with his muscly arms, disheveled hair… big ol’codpiece. So, you’ve now not only made it that much harder for the GM to set up the right atmosphere, but are now actively thwarting him as well.

Are you done? OH hell no! You’ve not driven the GM to drink yet. So… let’s see what we have, you’ve made an ineffective character in order to play up a gimmick as much as you can. Instead of taking useful skills, like perception, search, interrogate, open lock, knowledge something useful, etc… you’ve spent all your points on preform Can-Can, craft wicker baskets, Knowledge Gnomish heraldry. And since you’ve put so many points into these skills, you’re going to try to use them at every opportunity. The problem is that none of it works (big surprise). So you’re useless, and playing a useless character is boring. Therefor entertain yourself in a way that won’t bother the GM, you know, like start up a side conversation about something unrelated to the game, like how your other D&D group is full of assholes. The more players you can pull into the conversation the better, cause then the GM won’t have to divide his attention among so many players and can really focus on the game at hand, right? Also, walk out of the room without telling anyone why a few times and come back with food, but only enough for you. Another thing that you can do is pull out your laptop and start perusing funny you-tube videos. This is less encouraged as the laptop will take up space on the table, space that is needed for all the liquor the GM has started drinking.

Don’t let up now! It’s time to forget key information or names of important NPCs. For bonus points, make up stuff to fill in the missing bits. The lord of the town was Baron Varcoop III? That’s so hard to remember, just call him Chicken-Coop McMustache face, if that’s too long, just name him Frank or something. It’s pretty much the same thing right? You just thwarted an assassination attempt on the king, suddenly call out “Oh shit! I know what they’re planning! Quick, we gotta go to the Elven Ambassador! They’re going for him too!” The GM will give you a weird look, as he’s not put an Elven Ambassador into the game. If all goes right, the other players would have been paying more attention to what you had to say about last night’s episode of Lost, or the Golden Girls, than on the game, and will believe you. Bonus points if you can pull it off so well that the GM looks back through his notes.

Now, for the cherry on top. At the end of the game, complain about how unfocused everyone was and how the game wasn’t the type that the GM had initially pitched. Also comment on how much the GM had been drinking during the session and tell him that he’s drunk and needs to give you his keys, even if you’re all at his place and he’s not driving. But remember, ultimately you had a pretty decent time. Ask him when he’s going to run the next game.

Opinicus, drunk and angry, signing out.

Posted by: Opinicus | October 11, 2010

Proofreading, Please Do It.

I walk into the bar and order a bear then I drain it in one gulp and I say to the bartender “so, when do you get off I want to get to know you more I dont know why I’m talking to you I;m usually more resurged.” Then I eat some peanuts and finnish my beer.

Have you ever been in an online game and read something like this? What kind of voice are you reading it in? Personally, it’s the same voice I think of when I hear; “Hello, welcome to Walmart, I love you.”  I don’t care if the character is Karastan, Lord of the Aether, Dispoiler of the 4th layer of Hell, Tamer of the Beast of Stomwolch. You sound like a mentally handicapped myconid. Spelling, punctuation, grammar, these are the tools to making your character sound mighty, or at least in full command of his facilities.  You throw this crap out, and automatically your character is losing respect.

On top of that, there is no sense of time. It all flows out at the same rate, making it feel like you are doing everything in almost at the same time. Pauses people! Use them! It gives depth and a sense of measure to your speech. How do you put in a pause in written text? Well… you see, there’s this nifty thing in the English language called a PERIOD, it looks like a dot. Usually found on the bottom right corner of the keyboard. That stands for the END OF A BLOODY SENTENCE! String three of them together and it’s called an ellipsis, also used to show a pause among other things. Tools for giving your awesome character the respect he/she/it deserves.

Now, it’s understandable if you omit things or your spelling/grammar is bad and what not, it’s fine, I understand that the proficiency people have with the written word varies from person to person. All I’m asking is that before you hit that post button, please read what you’ve written. Does it sound good? Read it out loud if you have to. If it sounds weird to you, who had the idea in you head, how is it going to sound to someone that doesn’t have a clue what you were intending to write? Spend just a little more effort in clarity, and it will pay you back in droves.

Of course, this is with a play-by-post game, where one post a day is usually good.  If you’re in a much faster paced game, It’s probably okay to let some things slide, like capitalization. If the period is there, they’ve already read the pause. Minor spelling errors, not too good, but I’ve often read words and not even realized that they were misspelled (spell-checker is my lifesaver!) Grammar is a bit tougher, it keeps the flow of the sentence. Work on this people.

Please, think of the roleplayers.

Opinicus, usually the most angered by the grammar nazis, is now feeling a bit dirty being one. Signing out.

P.S. I’m being a bit of a hypocrite, I didn’t proofread this post too much, but then, I’m getting pressed to do other shit right now. (I’ll update in a sec AHT! Keep your pants on!)

Posted by: allhailthoon | July 18, 2010

Freeform: Want to know how I can tell you’re an asshole?

The nice thing about gaming systems like Dungeons and Dragons is that unless you’re completely inept or putting a conscious effort into building a powerful character, odds are that everyone in the party will be around the same power level.  What any player can and can’t do is carefully determined by combinations of stats, skills, feats, and other special abilities. If one member of the party decides they want to cause problems for everyone else, it’s usually easy enough for the rest of the group to show them their place.

Freeform games (especially online ones), on the other hand, are a horse of a different color. When you let everyone play exactly what they want to play, things tend to get out of control quickly. Yet in the midst of the chaos, somewhere between the point where reason falls apart and the one where rage-fueled indignation begins, you can get a keen insight on just what kinds of players everyone is.

The Overlord: Some people just really want to be the villain. They want to ride skeletal dragons, blight the land with evil spells, and wear crowns made of the severed hands of paladins. Consequently, these people still want to be an active part of the game, which usually means they never do anything that actively evil. The Overlord is usually more of an Indecisive Skeletor.

The Benevolent God: The evil Overlord’s good counterpart. He’s all knowing, all powerful, and wants to be your best friend/spiritual guide/Gandalf. He’s usually played by the worst role player in the group (or at least the one that is most deluded about their own prowess).

The Manual Monster: He really wishes he were playing D&D. Rather than using the complete lack of rules as a springboard for a unique and interesting character concept, he will choose a class and alignment, then complain when everyone else does things that differ from the game system standard.

The Special Flower: Probably the least unique role play archetype. Usually appears human but actually has come kind of fairy/demon/dragon ancestry that gives her special powers. Typically a woman with pale skin, long dark hair, and twenty different adjectives to describe her eye color.

The Kid: He’s the weakest member of the party and wants to make sure everyone knows it. He also wants to be best friends with everyone regardless of how little sense it makes to be both the apprentice of the Benevolent God and the bridge partner of the Overlord.

The Oddball: This person is the reason your party may include a flying jellyfish sociologist that plays badminton and communicates through charades.

Posted by: akalsaris | June 22, 2010

Lore Spotlight: Zarus, the First Man

Zarus is a deity from Races of Destiny with the portfolio of “human supremacy.”  I find it amusing that there is a deity out there devoted specifically to how awesome humanity is compared to everyone else.  His story also bears some obvious similarities to that of Adam and Eve, even down to his downfall by poison.  Unlike the biblical Adam, Zarus isn’t poisoned by the devil, but rather by every other race in the PHB working against him.   No wonder he carries a grudge.

His story:

Long ago, according to legend, Zarus was the first man, created by the world itself.  No deity had a hand in his creation, because no deity could have conceived such a perfect creature.  Members of the other races trembled to
see him, for they knew that he was their superior in every way. His grace surpassed that of the elves, his sturdiness
astounded the dwarves, his crafts were the awe of gnomes and halflings everywhere.
As long as Zarus was alone, the other races allowed him to live, secure in the knowledge that he could not reproduce. But Zarus was not content. He spoke with the world and begged for a mate—and it created his wife, Astra. She was as perfect a woman as Zarus was a man, and the other races trembled yet again, fearing that this perfect couple would spawn a new race that would overshadow them all. To prevent this, the leaders of each race gathered in secret and plotted Zarus’s demise. They brewed a poison and mixed it in fine wine, which they gave to him as a wedding present.
Zarus knew that the others plotted his death, but he could not honorably refuse the gift. He toasted their health, and drank.  The poison worked swiftly, but as Zarus felt his life departing the world took pity upon him and elevated him to godhood. Now Zarus looked down upon the world, and he wiped away the tears of his wife Astra. “Do not weep for me, beloved,” he consoled her, “for I am now a god, and set to watch over our people. You will bear me children—they already lie in your womb—and these will be the start of our race. All the other races will quake in fear, knowing that they cannot match us.” (Ed: For we have a bonus feat at 1st level!!)
This is the story told in the Book of Zarus, the holy scripture of his church. Zarus is called “the true human god” and is considered the only god who places humans before all others. He cares nothing for the other races, only for humanity, and encourages his followers to prove themselves better than any nonhuman.  Unfortunately, he also fosters the belief that humans deserve to rule the world, treating other races as servants. His priests teach that other races are inferior, in need of human guidance—and human masters.
The clerics of Zarus encourage conquest and slavery. The worst sin a human can commit, according to the
Church of Zarus, is to mate with a nonhuman and produce a child. This child is a taint on the race and must be
Zarus appears as an incredibly handsome human male in his prime, suffused with a golden glow. Zarus encourages
his followers and priests to become as perfect as possible, and to dominate other races.

Portfolio: Humanity, domination, perfection.
Domains: Destiny (see page 163), Evil, Law, Strength, War.
Weapon: Greatsword

“Crunch” note: As a min/maxer, I must point out that Zarus has an awesome lineup of domains, especially for a tank.  Destiny is seriously awesome and full of reroll-type spells, as are Strength and War, and Law Devotion from CC is a good trade for the Law domain.  And he has one of the best weapons available to a deity with the war domain as well.  Two thumbs up for humanity!

Posted by: allhailthoon | May 26, 2010

CR: the Myth of the Standard Party

What exactly does Challenge Rating mean? I’ve always been under the impression that it’s supposed to represent the approximate level an average party of four characters would have to be in order to kill a given monster. From general observation, however, parties seem to have no trouble taking down creatures that are a good 2-3 challenge ratings higher than their level.

Of course, every rule has its exceptions and there are few monsters that come to mind when I think of  things that have caused an unexpectedly enormous amount of trouble for an encounter of their level. At the top of this list are Bodaks, Nightwings, and Bleak Born (Coincidence that they’re all undead? Probably not!).

To use a real game example, I’ve been playing for years in a game run by Opinicus. We are level 16 and our party consists of me (a fighter-rogue-Master of Chains, lots of attacks, so a large amount of cumulative damage per round, but not too much per hit), a paladin (not as many attacks, but as ton of damage against anything evil), and a Ranger-Scout-Deep Woods Sniper (given enough of the right magical arrows, she basically fills the roll of an evoker). While the other two can use divine items and I have enough ranks in Use Magic Device to activate most other wands, staves, and scrolls, you may notice the lack of a full time spellcaster. In order to make up for this, Opinicus has been more than generous with magic items, but when the chips are down, there really isn’t a way to compensate for the versatility of a full caster.

Getting back to the example, in a recent adventure, our party was doing the whole on-a-boat-on-the-Astral-Plane thing when our ship got jumped by a bunch of greater shadows and Nightwings. Now, in a previous adventure, we had just taken down a dracolich (given, it was slightly powered down, but come on, we’re level 16, it’s CR 23), so you would think taking down two CR 14 monsters and some minions would be a somewhat challenging piece of cake.

Now the shadows were alright, largely. As long as we had initiative on them, we could pretty well level one each in one round if we rolled well on the miss chances. The Nightwings, on the other hand, were a horse of a different color. Even ignoring all spell like/supernatural abilities, they can still drain magic items, and ignoring their ability to drain magic items, they spend their time flying!

Seriously though, I’m not just writing this to complain. About two rounds in, Opinicus just kind of looked at us and admitted that the monster was totally out of balance. Mind you, the initial reasons why he chose the monster made sense: it was a CR 14 extraplanar undead.

The fact that it was only considered to be a proper encounter for a 14th level party is what really got me thinking. What do the books assume a party consists of? Is it assumed that a party is just four random characters of any class, either different or the same, or it is assumed that the players have put thought into having a balanced and efficient party.

Of course, given the nature of D&D and high fantasy, it stands to reason that a balanced party would contain at least one full time arcane or divine spellcaster (if not one of each).

Posted by: Opinicus | May 23, 2010

Alignment Restrictions

Opinicus here, I was going to write about how to attract sexy members of the opposite sex with D&D, but I lied, because Opinicus can only be neutral evil…

Actually, an Opinicus was a Chaotic Good Psionic celestial Monkey-camel-eagle-lion (man-bear-pig) found in 2nd ed (Monstrous Compendium vol. One). It also states that opinicus is both the singular and the plural form of the word (as I had initially typed Opinici, cactus cacti, octopus octopi).  But if you Google search Opinicus, you get a lot of pictures of Gryphons.

But this is besides the point.

I was always annoyed at some of the Alignment restrictions in Dungeons and Dragons, 3.0 and 3.5.  Now some of them make sense, Lawful good for a paladin, well, good in general for a paladin makes sense to me. Cleric alignment similar to their god, perfect sense. No Lawful good worshipers of Erythnul (CE God of Slaughter from the core book and GreyHawk).

But I find it aggravating that you can’t have a lawful barbarian, or a chaotic monk.  Do they mean to say that Barbarians can’t be honorable and keep their word? Or that monks can’t be wild and head strong/ deceitful and adept at lying? What about drunken masters? What part of drinking unhealthy (or perhaps Too Healthy, winky blinky) amounts of liquor and going carousing about town Lawful?  They did away with Rogues not being able to be lawful from 2nd ed to 3rd, why these alignment restrictions now?

So a monk has to practice and meditate every day, his devotion to his training and discipline is his “lawfullness.” Well, what about the Barbarian that prays to his ancestor spirits every day and gives offerings and sacrifices? Is that not adhering to a code? What of the barbarian that will never betray his friends and will always keep his word? No, barbarians must be unpredictable and untrustworthy, because they can fly into a rage.  And yes, you can always hold a monk to his word, he’s lawful, well, unless he wants to keep leveling in monk (actually, I’m not sure why he would… perhaps some esoteric goal, like getting Evasion and the Monk AC bonus, or perhaps Roleplay reasons, whatever, I’m not here to judge, but that won’t stop me from doing so).

Lets look at other Alignment restricted classes.  Bard, Any non-lawful.  Yup, Bards will never value the law, makes sense, ever since I started playing the violin, I started becoming a hoodlum.  The fact that he constantly practices his art so he never loses his touch with it is but a minor thing, not at all like a monk’s dedication to his physical training.

Druid. Never trust a Druid, just as you can never trust one of those damn dirty neutrals.  I guess this is a throwback to 2nd ed, where Druids can only be True Neutral, though they’ve changed that to just Neutral, yet I will forever refer to that alignment as True Neutral for the rest of my days. Every other alignment gets two words in its name, why not Neutral?  Again, I digress, I blame the cheap Tequila sitting next to me. I’m not drinking it, but it’s volume keeps getting smaller… odd.  I’m okay with Druids being neutral, all the animals in the game are neutral, and they are trying to be in touch with nature, which is above most lofty goals such as good and evil.  Their Deity is nature, who is TN (I guess), they may be one step away from the alignment of their deity.  I’ll bite. But they’re still dirty neutrals…grrrr…

Wizard. They don’t have an alignment restriction, but does the fact that every day they must prepare their spells, preform strange esoteric task to fulfill their art, not constitute a form of discipline? Does their devotion to learning and bettering their art mean nothing compared the will of a monk?

Hexblade.  Now here’s a weird one.  Any non-good.  You can’t have a benevolent Hexblade.  In fact, from the wording, it implies that most Hexblades are evil “Even the friendliest are at best Neutral”.  It also goes on to say that their powers are not gained through learning and an actual desire for this skill, but it is more like a sorcerer’s, where it develops naturally.  This implies that a Hexblade is born evil, or at least their powers drive them to evil. Other than the fact that they curse people, nothing they really do is all that evil sounding.  Aura of unluck? How is that evil? It makes it harder for people to hit him.  Why are they trying to hit him in the first place? Probably because he’s evil.  His spells aren’t that evil either.  worst I could find at the early levels are cause fear and Summon swarm, and by then he’s a 8-10 level Hexblade?  I seriously think that they made him out to be evil just to prevent paladins from multiclassing into it and getting 2x their charisma modifier to saves.  It specifically says that a Hexblade that becomes good loses all Hexblade abilities.  Instead of making it all evil, why not just say that Arcane Resistance and Divine Grace don’t stack and be done with it.  Instead what you get now are paladins of slaughter or tyranny taking a splash into Hexblade for Arcane res and Mettle, now watch them laugh at mages trying to kill them (Laugh evilly mind you).

Samurai. Aside from being a crap class, I totally see why they’d have to be lawful. They’re all about a code and following their master and stuff. But then, what about a dishonorable samurai? turns out they lose a bunch of their abilities and pretty much turn into a warrior.  Now, traditionally, the whole super honorable, belly splitting, only use the family sword thing is an ideal derived from fiction and a time of peace.  Last Samurai? The satsuma rebels that were glorified in the movie had tried to stockpile guns and ammo, and lost when they ran out of bullets.  Death before dishonoring your lord? A popularized concept that came about after Japan was unified.  But this is fantasy, we want the stereotypical samurai, not some Asian dude with levels in Fighter wearing fancy silk armor and wielding expensive weapons.

Dread Necromancer. Assuming Necromancy is evil, I guess this is a no brainer that any non-good is the requirement.  But here’s some food for thought.  What about a society that does not see necromancy as evil.  One where the dead are animated into a public labor force, one that deals with unsavory or dangerous task where regular people would get hurt.  A society that has its citizens volunteer their bodied after they die to be animated in order to keep giving back to the community.  You may think this is wrong and backwards, but the Tibetans cut up their dead and leave them out for the vultures to devour, in our (or at least my) western originated way of thinking, that sounds almost wrong and disrespectful, but this is their culture. They may feel the same about us, burring our dead.  So, in this society of necromancers, could you not have good aligned necromancers?

While I find that quite a few alignment restrictions make sense, the ones that don’t really stand out, I’m mostly talking about the Monk and the Barbarian (Hexblade is a magical class so it’s easier for me to suspend my disbelief).  Because of this, and also because I enjoy morally ambiguous characters, I don’t actually ask players for their alignment.  I may ask them for a general idea for their character, but I never make them choose one.  I’ve seen too many people play what I thought of as awesome monks (roleplaying wise) and get reprimanded for not playing lawful.  Why does discipline in your training and devotion to your philosophy require your to obey the law? Hell, I find the whole Lawful/Chaotic aspect of the alignment chart confusing. we’re all shades of grey on that spectrum, why make someone choose it for their character unless they are one that will really play it the the extreme.

Qpinicus passing out.

Posted by: allhailthoon | May 15, 2010

Creature Feature: Demons

Balor- Generally the more powerful (or nonsensical) a monster is, the more inclined I am to want it to be a unique creature rather than a race or type.  The Balor is no exception to this rule.

I don’t really see Balor as a demon lord so much as someone’s long-suffering strong man (just not Orcus, they’re both too big and red, it would be overkill). Maybe Graz’zt sends him out on jobs when he doesn’t want to get his fancy, six-fingered hands dirty.

Hezrou- I can’t actually picture one not sounding like Beastman from He-Man.

Marilith- Awesome enough that I don’t feel the need for them to be unique creatures, but there also shouldn’t be too many. A small group of sister mariliths, like the gorgons in Greek mythology, would be great. They could exist outside the hierarchy of the Abyss in some out of the way place where even powerful demons fear to tread. They should know many powerful secrets and both demon lords and adventurers should seek their council from time to time. I also like the idea of their being some kind of special condition or cost for their help, like one member of the group that seeks them has to be left behind as a tribute.

Quasit- Quasits are basically the D&D equivalent of that thing that sat on Jabba the Hut’s shoulder and cackled. They just don’t have the same charm as Imps.

Retriever- An entirely likeable monster. Trespass in the ancient shrine of some demon lord and these guys will come in the night and start snatching people from the camp and dragging them into the darkness to die.

Succubus- A succubus doesn’t have to settle for being just a monster, she can be an entire adventure. Since they’re among the more human of the non-lord demons, it’s easy to see a succubus as a recurring NPC, maybe even one of those foils that helps sometimes and sabotages other times.

The Big Names:

Baphomet- At first I wasn’t all that impressed, but then I saw it: HE IS IMMUNE TO MAZES. I don’t think it needed to be said, but I’m glad they said it. I’d like to think that the decision rose from the fact that every time adventurers came, they were sticking him in mazes just to be clever.

Dagon- Nothing wrong with the idea, but I would change the name. Unless you want to throw in Cthulhu  and mother Hydra or listen to your NPCs make endless Lovecraft references.

Demogorgon- I want to like him. I really do. I think it’s the pictures that I can’t get behind. The two heads aren’t so bad, but neither the lizardy heads in 3.0 Book of Vile Darkness nor the Baboon heads in Fiendish Codex I really give off the whole ‘Baddest Demon Ever’ vibe. Maybe if he were a two headed dragon, or a guy with one head and two faces it would be easier to respect him.

Fraz-Urb’Luu- Do you ever get the feeling the people who write these books are just dicking with you when it comes to names? Deception seems like a really strange choice of gimmick for a stocky, bat looking guy, but hid Deception ability is fantastic. Even better than immunity to mazes. Basically, he uses it to convince other demon lords that they’re been summoned, then runs away. He should be a campaign long recurring villain, like some sort of zany demon Skeletor.

Graz’zt- He’s a classic and I can’t argue with that. Sure, dark man in the woods who consorts with witches is an old gimmick, but it’s a good one.

Juiblex- Today is the first time I realized that his name isn’t spelled Jubilex, so I’m still a little stunned. I love this guy though. Sure he’s a little silly, but he definitely has real Lovecraftian terror potential in a not-as-obvious-as-Dagon way.

Kostchichie- I don’t like that he’s a frost giant because his name sounds way too close to Koschei, who is clearly the basis for the lich.

Malcanthet- Ignore the surprisingly tasteful and not overwhelmingly sexy picture. The queen of the succubi should look like Elvira and act like Heidi Fleice. I’d like to see her used as some kind of extraplanar Circe that lures men in with her feminine wiles, toys with them until she gets bored, then turns them into beasts or monsters that reflect their soul.

Obox-Ob- Primitive horrible, filled with rage at the loss of his ancient power and willing to do anything to get it back. That is the stuff of awesome NPCs. The way I see it, there are two really good ways to go about using him.

First, he can be the mastermind behind everything that’s happening. Eventually, after journeying to the Abyss and battling demon lords, the party discovered that Obox-Ob has been the one pulling the strings all along and that he is their real enemy.

The other option I like is having him as the sort of enemy-of-my-enemy. In this case, the party will work with him knowingly or unknowingly and either directly or indirectly. The paladin’s best friend or the party guide could be the demon lord in disguise. Hell, demon lords have time on their side and he’s ancient already, why not make it even more challenging for the party and have him be someone one or more members have been close to since childhood. While they always knew him as a dear friend of mentor, he was just sticking close to them so that he could raise a champion that would eventually help him regain his throne.

Orcus- The fact that he’s fat is never illustrated well enough. While most monsters lose their animal fierceness by packing on the pounds, the idea of the lord of the undead as a lazy, obese creature that constantly feasts on the sins of the dead is much scarier than someone who looks like they’re just going to straight up punch your head off.  Rather than being completely animal or alien, his fatness makes him a mirror for human vices and that carries a lot of power.

Pale Night- One of my favorite of the demon lords presented in the Fiendish Codex. If I were running a game featuring her, I would up her CR off the charts and make her into a sort of primal goddess among demons, like Nyx or Chaos.

Pazuzu- Demon lord of birds and shit. What makes him so special? He has wings. So does everyone else. What else? He has a beak. Are you kidding me? I really don’t think it’s necessary to have demon lord for everything, but I do like that if you say his name three times, you create a temporary bond to him. Candyman is one of my favorite horror films, so anything that reminds me of it does earn a few points. Oh, and you know, Hastur Hastur Hastur.

Yeenoghu- For the more primal humanoid races, I really like the idea of a demon lord or powerful unique monster serving as their god. A lot of gods really seem like they’re phoning it in with the divinity thing. Sure they cast spells, but they don’t do much more. A demon lord seems like he would be more involved and proactive.

It’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to imagine stories of Yeenoghu himself walking the earth in the times before the empires of men, leading a great gnoll warpack.

Zuggtmoy- I like mushrooms as much as the next person, if not more when it comes to pizza, but do they really need their own demon lord? It’s like Pazuzu all over again, only even more pointless. I could see her living in some kind of vast and strange palace of mould and mushrooms where the air is thick with hallucinogenic spores that blur the lines between reality and twisted dreams, but counting them as her domain just seems silly. Can a mushroom really be evil?

Personally, I would re-brand her as some kind of wicked and uncaring fey queen.

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