Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Is Today But Tomorrow Scares Me

The hurricane that eat the Big Apple has finally past and life is starting to get back to normal, albeit slowly. The clouds are parting, the Sun is out and I am back to work, although on a considerably abbreviated schedule. The subway and train systems are not yet back online and that means most people are not back to work yet. Kids are home since the schools are still closed.

Many places are without power (including my Sister's neighborhood in New Jersey) and probably will be for a few more days. Property damage is considerable throughout New York City, Brooklyn, New Jersey and the surrounding areas.

I have been very lucky as I and the majority of my family, friends and acquaintances seem to have all been spared any major upheaval. Well...from the storm anyway.

My girlfriend and I maybe breaking up. There is no need to discuss it here in this forum but suffice to say, it has really taken the wind out of my sails and made the last two to three days very painful. In the end, life goes on (even if you sometimes question why it keeps doing that).

The future is looking a little scary for me right now. I have some plans, some goals and no where near the enthusiasm to see them through that I had just a week ago. I need to rise above that however. How? Not easy. Getting things started helps.

Finally, tomorrow begins the National Game Design Month Challenge I
mentioned. I am viewing it as a practice run for the development of the game I eventually intend to publish which I posted about at the beginning of the month. The problem is...I have completely lost interest in my idea. A lot of my creative energy has dissipated. I have no new idea to replace it. Did I mention I am supposed to start tomorrow?

In any case, Happy Halloween to everyone! Enjoy it and it's ghastly, ghoulish fun. Hopefully I will find some inspiration in it and tomorrow will seem a little less frightening.

Barking Alien

The Jack O' Lantern I put up (the illustration at the top) is by my incredibly talented friend Aristides Iliopoulos, who in addition to being an amazing artist, celebrates his 42nd Birthday today. Happy Birthday Aris!

I colored the above image from Aris' black and white drawing.

An odd bit: This month's views have skyrocketed. I am serious. A lot more than last month and yet I've only done 13 posts. At the same time, comments are waaay down, with only four comments on the last four posts (actually they are all on the post about Lucas selling his company to Disney). I thought there would be more interest and questions in regards to my Ars Magica campaign. Oh well. One of these days I'll just have to talk about D&D and get with the program.

Not. ;)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

May The Mouse Be With Us?

This thing happened.

The Muppets, Marvel Comics and Star Wars are owned by the same company. words.

Barking Alien

Stout Heart And Stormy Weather

Greetings to you all on this storm enshrouded day. I hope this post finds you well.

It does not, unfortunately, find me well. No dear friends and followers, I have certainly had better days, although thankfully my family, friends and myself are safe and sound.

While the storm itself has certainly deepened my gloom, I am sad and dismayed today independent of the inclement weather. I am nursing a broken heart this unfun Tuesday. It is making it difficult for me to do anything of consequence, so I figured I would try to cheer myself up with a recap of Saturday and maybe some additional good news on the gaming front.

Last thing first; It would seem the possibility exists that one or two more new players could be joining my Ars Magica game, at least for a short time. A friend of mine from my Ol' New Jersey group, as well as a friend of his I do not already know, may be available to play starting soon and then leaving again in January (because of their work schedules). The possibility of it extending to a longer period exists, we believe, but it has not been cemented.


On to the recap...

After weeks or even months of travel by foot, Dave's Magus (Adalfrid of Bjornaer) and Companion (Nadjute the Healer) have finally migrated to cold and rainy expanses of the Middle Jutland of Denmark in search of other Bjornaer Magi. So far their search has not turned up anyone.

In need of rest, food and shelter, the two wanderers come upon a large ring of standing stones which in turn encircle an old farmhouse build around a central cottage-like edifice. Outside of the house are three flags. One flag represents the nearby port town of Randers. Another flag honors the Royal Kingdom of Denmark. The third flag, centered between the two, bears the scarlet field and white/silver stag head of the Silver Elk Lodge.

Having heard of this covenant in his travels, Adalfrid suggested he and his Companion rest there if possible. On approach, in the diffused light of a dimming grey sky and distant candles in the windows of the old building, a thick mist settled near one of the standing stones. On closer inspection, the mist was in the distinct shape of an Elk or Stag.

Moving forward to confront it, Adalfrid and Nadjute got within a few feet of this spirit entity before it noticed them, froze for a moment staring at them, then departed both quickly and while fading out of existance. The two travelers than ran to the covenant house where they knocked on the door and were 'greeted' in a most cold and suspicious way by the guards. When Adalfrid revealed he was not only a Magus but a Magus of House Bjornaer, he was quickly ushered inside and told he had arrived just in time. Before Adalfrid could inquire further, the leader sentry told him the Master of the Covenant, the ArchMage Oshemming the Stouthearted, lay near death.


Meanwhile in Sweden...

Magnus the Fire Mage, Asnake, his personal bodyguard and manservant (both played by Marcus) and Nikolas Van Der Hagen (Ray's Magus) engage in combat with a small pack of 5 bloodthirsty wolves. The lupines are surely under the influence of some Mage but who or why is unknown.

The combat was short and sweet, with only a few tense moments. Asnake is made for this kind of fight and Magnus' specialty is fire, so are long as he was careful not to set the forest ablaze the wolves were only a medium threat. Nikolas on the other hand found the wolves quick dangerous and it took all the Player's ingenuity to find ways for his character to avoid their vicious jaws.

Eventually the boys went back to the town of Malmo, bringing to burnt wolf carcasses with them, and returned the old wise woman's eye to her. She honored their bargain and gave them the rare herb they needed to make medicine for the head of their covenant.

The old woman told them that the eye they returned to her sees things beyond mortal ken. The past, the future and far away places come to her in half visions from the right side of her sight, like peripheral clairvoyance. She was sad to say that she saw death at the door for their leader and that even if they had all the herbs they needed (they were still missing one), there was no way to make it home in time to have death pass on his appointed rounds.

The PCs discussed what to do and although they initially had very different opinions on the next, best course of action, they quickly made the decision to head home. It was their idea that either the woman would be wrong and they would find a way to make the medicine and deliver it on time or they would be too late rendering any further questing for the missing herb moot anyway.


Back in Denmark proper, at the covenant of the Silk Elk, Adalfrid and Nadjute enter the bed chamber of Oshemming, leader of the lodge, who is being tended by his personal nursemaid and house 'den mother', Gerda. Also in attendance are Sigrid of the Smokey Eyes, chief protector of the Silver Elk Lodge and a member of House Flambeau (like Magnus), Tomas Svenson, treasurer and a quartermaster of sorts from House Jerbiton (like Nikolas) and Hildebritte, historian, librarian and lore keeper of House Merinita (a House closely related to faeries and focusing on faerie knowledge and magic). The three are the highest ranking mages of the covenant after Oshemming.

Upon seeing Adalfrid, Oshemming shoos the others out of the room and talks to Dave's characters without outside interference or ears. Acknowledging his time is short, he asks Adalfrid to lead or help one of the others lead the Silver Elk Lodge in his stead. "Founded by the Bjornaer, a Bjornaer must always lead this lodge. Or help to lead it. You were drawn here by this oath I am sure."

In addition, as his body was racked with coughs and his last moments become all to clearly fleeting, Oshemming said...

"They will pass the ring...
Go for the crown.
Speak to the stones.
Our niece knows the way.

I am sad I only lived to meet you but I am pleased I will die having known you."

With this, Oshemming the Stouthearted was gone.

Adalfrid was informed upon leaving the bed chamber to deliver the news to the others that the covenant's bylaws state that with no clear successor chosen by Oshemming, it is up to Adalfrid, the only Bjornaer present, to lead the lodge until such time as he chooses a proper replacement.

Tomas, who delivered the news seemed resigned to the situation.

Sigrid laughed and mocked the other two for the newcomer being chosen over them.

Hildebritte was beside herself. She assumed there must be some error or loophole.

There was not.

Reluctantly, Adalfrid accepted the position but made it clear it was not his intention to stay and be their leader. He intended to choose someone. Tomas suggested they all get some sleep while he had some Grogs and Gerda take care of the body. By Oshemming's family traditions it would a funeral pyre in the morning.

As the group broke up and retired, Sigrid lingered and advised Adalfrid not to stay long at all. The place, the Silver Elk Lodge, was cursed in his opinion, tumbling toward its end like a snowball down a mountain. Their doom occurred over time, starting small and unnoticible at first but now rapidly rolling to a messy end. "I wish you no ill. I'm simply recommending you not be at the bottom of the mountain when this snowball hits."

Things began to settle down for the night...the boat of Henrik, Nikolas, Magnus and Asnake is just pulling into Randers, a mile or so from the Silver Elk Lodge. That's went a night sentry stumbled into the front door of the covenant house, battered and bloodied. A large hand print was pressed into the shoulder guard of his cheap and piece meal armor. The Captain of the Guard asked what happened? Who attacked you?


Too be continued...



The wind continues to howl and the rain to come down but yours truly is no worse for wear. My sister lost power out in New Jersey, as did numerous friends in Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan. There has been some pretty scary reports and footage but thankfully the worst is likely over (we hope).

My thoughts and heart felt thanks to all the people on the East Coast for doing their very best to weather the storm. From the brave firefighters of the FDNY to people on Facebook and Twitter updating loved ones on their status and the status of others, I salute you all.

Stay safe,

Barking Alien

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Art of Magic - The Magic of Bad Wrong

Feelin' a little snarky on a Saturday night so....

As it stands, with two sessions played so far in my Ars Magica campaign, I am already doing Medieval Fantasy Role Playing seriously bad wrong. Although my players seem to be enjoying the game and their characters, I can only assume it's a matter of time before the whole thing implodes.

Let's look at my failings shall we...

In two 5 hour sessions, there has only been 1 battle.

While it was somewhat intense, the only battle we've had so far was rather short in duration. It featured the Magi, Nikolas and Magnus, along with Magnus' Companion Asnake the Manservant/Bodyguard, against 5 wolves. The wolves were very likely manipulated into attacking the PCs by another Mage but the mysterious instigator was never seen or directly encountered.

No one died, nor did I try very hard to kill them.

Asnake got hurt from a wolf bite but not especially badly. Nikolas was in the most danger, having the flaw 'Common Fear - Combat', as well as being the least combat capable member of our group (no weapon skills, low damage soak, no armor, etc). Luckily for him, and, uh, oh! much to my dismay as a GM (right? Did I say that right?), Nikolas' Player (Ray) came up with several clever approaches to avoiding the wolves attacks using Spontaneous Magic Spells. I'm sure I will get one of them next time. (Ad libbed that last part. Not bad huh?)

The PCs interacted with numerous NPCs, none of which robbed them, tried to trick them, attacked them or otherwise tried to kill them. They weren't love interests or patrons either.
They were just the various people who people the world. In the instance of three Magi from their own covenant, the possibility exists that one or more of these individuals  may want to kill one of the PCs but they have not shown this conclusively. I need to make the PCs' encounters with NPCs more random, connected to an arbitrary morale roll or something.

Not a single piece of treasure, be it coin or enchanted device, has been encounterd by PCs thus far.

They sold the carcasses of two burned wolves to an old wise woman and used the money to purchase a well made, albiet small, shield.

No dungeon, dungeon-like construction, cavern or other underground structure that could easily serve as a good place for storing treasure and/or being a good home for monsters, has been discovered by the PCs at this time.

Unfortunately most of the dungeons of this era are being used to keep prisoners in. What is up with that? Who uses a dungeon to imprison their enemies? What a waste of perfectly good trap lined monster rental space.

While I am sure there are other areas where I have dropped the ball, these glaring mistakes shall surely come to haunt me.


Barking Alien

Friday, October 26, 2012

Once We Were Vikings

Our Ars Magica campaign has just three players involved in it, excluding myself as Storyguide, having lost one to a particularly nasty work schedule.

That leaves us with Dave, Marcus and Ray, all holdovers from our previous Champions game. Our usual fourth, Lee, is the one stricken with a terrible case of weekend work hours that, as of this time, there appears to be no cure for.

While I do miss seeing my friend Lee, who I like very much as a person, I am not overly sorry he is not joining us for this campaign. Wow, that sounds just as dicky read aloud from this post as it did in my head, no two ways about it.

Thing is...our first Ars Magica session went very smoothly and we got a lot done in just 4 or 5 hours. We played for less time than normal by about two or three hours and got about twice as much accomplished. No one was over explaining every action, no one was analyzing every tiny detail only to ignore the information when it was needed and no one seemed intent on bringing us out of our immersion in the setting with constant 'meta' references.

Yeah, Lee would do that all the time. He would point out the MacGuffin in the story, call it a MacGuffin instead of whatever its name was and note all the various tropes that went with it. He was especially good at focusing on those tropes that weren't Superhero Comic Book related...while we were running a Superhero Comic Book game.

I hope I see Lee again soon...but that will not be missed.


I decided to try running this game in the troupe style recommended in the Ars Magica rulebook. This means that each Player plays at least two characters, a Magus (Wizard) and a Companion. In addition, each Magus can bring up to three Grogs ( lower rung henchpeople who keep the Magi's Covenant up and running) along on their adventures as well.

I am using the Grogs as 'communial characters'. I generate a bunch and the players decide who they are taking. If Dave is playing the Scout Grog, Trilina Greenboots, this week, he might be playing Alfrick The Fair, Archer Grog, next week, while someone else uses Greenboots.

Now on to the PCs...

Ray and Marcus' characters are members of the Silver Elk Lodge, the oldest Order of Hermes Covenant in Denmark. They are playing comparatively young members, as the vast majority of the Lodge's inhabitants are older than the hills of the Northern Jutland and twice as rocky and irregular.

Dave's characters are travelling North from their original homeland of Germany. The two characters were originally native to the region in and around the Black Forest. Driven to find more Wizards like himself as part of his very nature, Dave's Magus has come to Denmark with his Companion in tow.



Ray's Magus is Nikolas Van Der Hagen, a 40 year old, Danish Male Wizard of House Jerbiton. Raised Christian, believes his magical Gift is a Gift from on high and as such should be used to help people in need. While the rapidly expanding Roman Catholic Church in Denmark looks down on Magi and wonders if its not best to be rid of them, Master Nikolas offers a counterpoint and says that he and his allies are there to help the Church, not go against it. Generally this places Nikolas as the spokes person for the group most of the time as the one Magi who understands the mundanes, the priests and to some extent the nobility.

Ray's Companion is Henrik Thorson, aka Henrik the Red, a 36 old school Norseman*. Henrick is a sailor, a fighter and a lover of all liquids of an alcoholic nature. His byname, 'The Red', comes not from his ability to fell his enemies but rather the color he turns when he is good and inebriated, which is fairly often. Henrik is not really an alcoholic but rather he enjoys celebrating. A good drink is something he favors but not without reason. A sound reason often comes in the form of  a victorious battle, an amazing discovery or a heroic act that saves the lives of his friends. Birthdays are also a good reason drink. At dinner with a fine lady. Tuesdays.


Marcus' Magus is named Magnus (try that three times fast). Magnus is Danish Male, 33 or 35 ( I forget) and a Wizard of House Flambeau. Surprisingly subtle for a Magus whose specialty is fire and destructive spells, Magnus does have something of a reputation for having a violent temper. It has been implied (but not yet revealed) that this reputation is only partially deserved. Apparently Magnus is quite a patient and understanding fellow but has a certain something that sets him off. Calm, cool and collected, this House Flambeau Wizard will go off like an incendiary grenade if the wrong button is pushed.

The Companion to Magnus is Asnake, his 32 year old, Male Ethiopian Manservant and Bodyguard. Asnake means 'Become better than everyone else'. Not surprisingly, he is a multi-talented jack-of-all-trades, a cook, a knowledgeable guide to the South (Germany and Holy Roman Empire). He claims to be an escaped slave and that is, generally speaking, the truth.  Of course the true truth is more fantastic.

I was extremely impressed by Marcus for coming up with the secret of Asnake's background. It combines the legends of King Arthur, Rip Van Winkle and a type of African Spirit with a bit of real history thrown for good measure. Asnake did indeed escape from the Roman Empire...roughly 79 AD, 1093 years before the campaign setting year of 1172. He was a champion gladiator, taken to Pompeii with another gladiator, a good friend, by a Roman noble who wished to show them off to a rival. When Mount Vesuvius erupted and destroyed the city, the two friends attempted to escape by boat. Only Asnake made it off the beach. He rowed as fast and as hard as he could, entering into a huge cloud of mist and fog created by the blanket of hot ash hitting the Gulf of Naples.

Asnake rowed for what felt like days until the mist subsided. He found himself, somehow, in the North Sea, where he eventually made ground in Esbjerg, Denmark. Being completely unfamiliar with the region, he did not know he had travelled through time. It was only after a few altercations and the intervention of the Magus Magnus on his behalf that he realized what had truly happened. The two have kept Asnake's true origin secret to this day.


The wandering Wizard of House Bjornaer known as Adalfrid is Dave's Magus. He hails from Germany, one of several Magi who are self-proclaimed protectors of the Black Forest, its animals and to a lesser extent, its Zauberinnen (Faeries). Well, self-proclaimed but Faerie approved.

Long ago a covenant of Magi near the Black Forest made a habit of repeatedly stealing Faerie Vis (pronounce the V a lot like a W and the S not unlike a Z - it means raw Mana or Magic Essence) from the woodland's mystical inhabitants. The fae of the forest rebelled and decreed that without explicit permission from them, no Mage may pass through the Black Forest on penalty of death...or worse. And these are German faeries. They can do 'or worse' with no problem.

Adalfrid is on good terms with the animal spirits of the woods so the Zauberinnen approved him to be there as a favor to them.

Over time (for reasons we have not yet determined much less detailed), Adalfrid moved further and further North. He eventually left the Black Forest in search of more Bjornaer Magi, something that was becoming scare where he was. Eventually this quest brought him to the Silver Elk Lodge.

Dave's Companion character is Nadjute, a Female, visually in her very early twenties, serving as a healer and chirugeon. She is likewise German or at the very least seems German. She often seems to be naive or have limited exposure to the world outside of the deep woods of her home.

Her origins are a triffle odd, though not so much by Ars Magica standards...

One day, Adalfrid saved a doe (a deer. A female deer.) from unscrupulous hunters who were over hunting the area. The deer was an animal of great intelligence, will and spirit and it fell in love with him. The deer pleaded with the Wild Huntsman (Wode or Wodan, leader of the Wild Hunt of Germany) to allow her to become Human to be with her beloved. The Huntsman agreed but the transformation carried with it a curse. Although she can age in Human form, she can not die and will long outlive Adalfrid. What's more, Adalfrid does not feel the same way about her, treating her more often as a younger sister.

Nadjute looks perfectly Human.
She doesn't actually look like a beautiful girl with deer antlers.
I am being thematic here.

OK, tomorrow is the next session, which I may have to run from my chair at home as I hurt my foot a bit this week. We'll see how I am feeling in the morning. Maybe the guys will come over to my place. Maybe magic talking flowers will leap out of my backside. We shall see and I shall keep you updated.

Barking Alien

* We've decided that the terms 'Norseman' and 'Norsemen' are given to those Norwegian, Swedish or Danish individuals who have trouble giving up the tradtional, old ways of Scandinavia. Essentially it is a slang term for those who still wish their people were the Vikings. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Facing The NaGa DeMon

This is coming...
Actually, this is here...though technically it doesn't start until November. I...
Wait...why is this pink? They went with pink? Gah.
There that's better.
So what is this? Why this my creatively curious compadre is the NaGa DeMon or National Game Desgin Month for this November of 2012. A challenge to yourself and the creative community to come up with, design, write and play a game of some kind within one month.
Games of all kinds are welcome and encouraged, from traditional tabletop role playing games to boardgames and computer games. There are no judges, no prizes and no obligations. It is simply the chance to challenge yourself and see what you and your fellow designers can come up with.
I am pretty excited to be participating as I see this as a test run for the game I am intending to publish but can't seem to get going on. If I can do this NaGa Challenge successfully than I think it will give me the courage to finishing my little 'Project X'.
As far as what I will be doing for the NaGa DeMon, it will of course be an RPG of the more Storytelling Game variety, very likely based on some untapped faerie folklore and folk tale ideas I've been thinking about lately.
Wish me luck. Will keep you all updated as I go.
Barking Alien

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

When In Scandinavia...

Velkommen en og alle!

That is to say, "Welcome one and all!"

Continuing to recap the first session of our group's newest campaign, Ars Magica: Something Rotten In Denmark...

After finding an herbalist willing to part with some of the rare herbs needed to make the medicine their aging and ill leader desperately needs, the PCs travel North of the port of Malmo in Sweden to uphold their end of the bargain. You see, this seller of very special plants was no normal old woman. She was a wise woman and a seer, though her talent is limited as a raven stole one of her eyes.


Marcus: "Hold up! A raven took your eye? When did this happen?"

Me (As the Old Woman): "Not sure exactly. A long time ago. I was my granddaughter's age now I'd say."

Marcus: "And you think it's still out there? It can be found? Haven't you ever heard of decay?"

Me (As the Old Woman): "No. Who's De Kay? Sounds like a Spaniard."

Ray: "Dude, this is Scandinavia in the Middle Ages of a Mythic Europe. If a Raven stole an Eye, I am pretty sure both are still out there."


The PCs had made a deal to find the eye and return it in exchange for the herbs.

So off they went, following the instructions to the best they could.

"Walk North until you reach the forest. Enter at the woods and continue North until you can see nothing but trees not matter which direction you look toward. Now listen for a silence. It would be a strange sort of silence, with no birds chirping, no animals moving, no soft crunch of leaves beneath your feet. Wait there a moment and you will hear the raven."

Marcus: "I think the ol' lady's crazy."

When the PCs did eventually come upon the right spot, they heard the raven but did not see it, as it was hidden deep in the evergreen trees in front of them. What they did see perplexed them. The tree in front of them...sagged. It was drooping as if something very large and heavy was sitting on its branches. The guys anticipated a giant raven would swoop out at any moment.

The raven soon showed it itself, a normal sized and average looking raven in everyway except that it did appear to weight a lot. A LOT. At one point it jumped from one tree branch to another to get closer to the PCs and nearly broke the new branch. He also only put the left side of his face toward the group.

The raven spoke, claiming the eye to be his and that's the way is it. When told it was unfair he responded quite firmly that life is unfair, that we take what we can and enjoy it as much as possible since life otherwise stinks and then you die.

The players tried to remember their Norse Mythology but all they could recall about ravens was that Odin has two, Huginn and Muninn ('Thought' and 'Memory'). After a little brainstorming they figured that the raven here in this adventure was suffering from 'heavy thoughts' and was perhaps burdened by guilt for all the items he had stolen over the years.

In an unexpected turn of events, Marcus, playing his 'House Flambeau Magus Master of Fire and Destruction!, talked the raven into giving up the eye since he was so weighted down with remorse and anger he couldn't even fly. It worked and Marcus further suggested the raven return the rest of his stolen goods in order to lift the burden off himself now and forever. The raven turned his head around to reveal his right side profile...and the missing eye, which him promptly gave over to the PCs.

As the triumphant heroes turned to leave, they were slowly surrounded by a pack of wolves. Marcus detected a Magus was near but the sense of it was fading. They would have to find out who sicked this pack of lupines on them later. Survival came first...

More Mike Mignola -
To me, all the beasts, monsters and faeries of Ars Magica should be done by Mignola
and all the people by  Angus McBride

End of Session 1

Character write-ups and some after session thoughts up next.

Barking Alien

Monday, October 22, 2012

Rotten in Denmark, Awesome in Play

I don't know what it is about the month of October but it seems I am destined to post lightly in the time leading up to Samhaine. Is it the work of evil spirits? A witch's hex may hap? I can not say. All I am sure of it I will try to make up for these past weeks as best I can.

This past Saturday I ran the first session of my group's newest campaign endeavour, Ars Magica: Something Rotten in Denmark.

Set in Denmark in the year 1172, our saga focuses on a covenant of magi known as The Silver Elk Lodge (Roughly said 'Sølv Elg Hus' in Danish), the oldest known holding of the Order of Hermes in Scandinavia. The covenant is in its 'Winter Season', with many of its older, more prestigious and powerful mages either dead or so far into their magical studies they don't perceive the mundane world any longer, nor it them. It's eldest wizard, the last living descendant of the covenant's founder, is over 200 years old and not long for this world. He is gravely ill and the potions that have extended his life no longer have the effect they once did.

The covenant has a few old friends and many enemies, not the least of which is the Catholic Church and the more strict members of the Order of Hermes itself. Many of the mages of the Silver Elk Lodge are of the old faith and ways, with some even practicing non-Hermetic magic to some extent. Pagan beliefs and rumors of Rune Casting have not done them any favors when dealing with their Southern brethren in Germany and the Holy Roman Empire. While King Valdemar The Great unites the bickering Jarls of Denmark, he wonders why he lets the Order of Hermes continue to operate in his lands if the mages won't fight for king and country. Likewise, Absalon, Bishop of Roskilde, who has been instrumental in converting the Danes to Christianity, is none too keen on the existence of mages on Danish soil, let alone ones who still adhere to the religion of the old Viking gods.

File:Bishop Absalon topples the god Svantevit at Arkona.PNG

Enter the Player I've mentioned in the past my group can be a bit on the quirky sides (what group isn't I suppose) but I have to applaud them in getting into the spirit of the game and the setting while still generating characters that are uniquely them.

Harder than character creation seemed to be understanding what I was going for with the tone and style of the setting. None of the guys playing in this one are huge history buffs and to be honest most of what I mentioned above is background material which, while it will play are part in the campaign, isn't actually the main focus of the campaign.

The game will be largely influenced by folklore and fairy tales, using a smattering of historical information sprinkled into Norse Mythology, Danish Legends and the stories collected by Hans Christen Anderson.

Case in point, our first adventure...

The Silver Elk, The Witch's Eye and The Heavy Raven

Nothing like aping Mignola for an Ars Magica game. Sorry Mike. I am just the huggest fan.
Hellboy for President!

As the leader of their covenant takes what may well be his final walk among the thigh-high standing stones which ring the Silver Elk Lodge, two Mages, their Companions and a small crew of Grogs, sail for the port town of Copenhagen to meet with a merchant still friendly with their aging group. The merchant, a Danish fellow named Falko, is a purveyor of rare herbs and other plants from many parts in and around Denmark. His herbs are needed for the medicinal potions currently enabling the leader of the Silk Elks to keep Death at bay.

After arrival and a day or so of waiting, Falko is a no show and no one has heard or seen him since his trip South to Germany. His last port of call would likely have been Malmo, a Danish town on the Southern Coast of Sweden. Since it is not especially far the group decides to travel there and see if they can learn more about their missing contact and ally.

Once in Malmo, the PCs do some investigating, talking to the Dockmaster and a few merchants and eventually encounter Erge of Flanders, a merchant specializing in furs, perfumes, oils and other animal products, who happens to be a friend and business associate of Falko. Erge showed the PCs a letter, written in Falko's handwriting (though terribly sloppy and scratchy), indicating he had fallen ill in Germany and would be delayed in returning.

Not to be defeated in their pursuit of the medicine they need, the PCs search Malmo's market place for someone who may have what they're looking for. They soon came across a young woman and her sleeping, wizened, old grandmother, who sell herbs but don't seem to have what the Mages need. That is until the grandmother wakes up, eyes the customers (well, one-eyes them. She is missing her right eye) and seems to realize they are indeed Wizards (they never mentioned they were Magi but did imply the herbs were needed for medicine and that the situation was grave).

The old woman, who bears the claw marks of a bird where her missing right eye should be, tells the Mages and their Companions that she does indeed have what they seek. Another Wizard, a dark and mysterious sort who looked the part of the Sorcerer far more than the PCs did, wanted to purchase it from her just the other day but he wouldn't pay her price and so she would not sell him the herbs.

Her price was the retrieval of her lost eye.

Stolen when she was a young lass, the age her granddaughter is now, by a raven who flew North into the thick woods. If the Mages can return her eye to her she will give them what they need...

More to come,

Barking Alien

Monday, October 8, 2012

Freeze Dried Adventures - Just Add Awesome

As I gear up for my groups's next campaign, an Ars Magica saga set in 12th Century, Southern Scandinavia I have entitled, "Something Rotten in Denmark", I log on to find the internet abuzz (the D&D gaming portions of it anyway) with posts on one party's experience with James Mal's Dwimmermount and some excellent, though more general, comments about pre-published adventure modules in general.

Now I can not speak on the nature of the Dwimmermount adventure itself. I have neither read it nor played it. I was not there to witness it being played by the periodically troublemaking and often humorous Joethelawyer.

I can only talk about modules and how I feel about them. 

I have, in the past 35 years, used professionally published modules on several occasions. Now wait, stay with me and don't pass out. That statement, while completely true, comes with an addendum. In those aforementioned three and a half decades, I have never, EVER run a module straight without any adjustments or modifications. I honestly didn't know anyone ever did that until I was in my late teens. How could you? Who would do such a thing?


I always figured the reason for the plethora of empty rooms was so you, the GM, could put stuff in them. Call me crazy, call me irresponsible but if that wasn't what they were for, what the heck were they for?

Making adventures is easy for me but even I can use a kick start once in a while. Sometimes I just need a little jolt to the imagination to get the engine running full tilt.  Modules always served that purpose when I was stalled for an idea or, more commonly, when I had a dozen epic and awesome ideas but no simple, straightforward one to start the campaign rolling.

I have never used a module for Ars Magica. While I am certain Lion Rampart, White Wolf, WotC and Atlas Games have all produced fantastic adventures for the game, I haven't run and of them and don't intend to. I just don't really need them.

I do want to look at new rules mechanics and systems for alternative magic, especially as different regions and folklore had different beliefs in what magic was, how it worked and what it could do. I love reading the history in the supplements covering various areas of the world. I am curious to see any book that describes mythical creatures native to unique areas.

I do love sourcebooks. Sourcebooks help me generate adventures. So I don't need adventures.

Just some thoughts for the night. More Ars Magica as pre-production is finalized and we get ready to go live...

Barking Alien

Friday, October 5, 2012

Something Is Rotten In The State of Denmark

Only have the briefest of moments to get this down and posted before I head off to work but as inspiration struck I felt I needed to share.

I believe I have found the appropriate locale for our upcoming (and soon I might add) Ars Magica campaign...


I like the idea of the people who were once counted among the great warriors and explorers of the Age of the Vikings now having to deal with life surrounded by the bickering and battling nobles and warlords of the rest of Scandanavia to the North and Roman-Germany to the South.

Plus, Denmark gives me access to the sea and I do so love the sea. I also love sea monsters, of which Denmark and Norway have some of the best. And speaking of monsters, Grendel anyone? Plus a host of faerie and undead creatures and my first real chance to do something with Gnomes related, but not identical, to the Gnomes book by Will Huygen and Rien Poortvliet that I've mentioned before. Plus, I can indulge my love of Trolls thanks to proximity to Norway. As the title reference of this post attests, ghosts and other mysterious things are likely to occur just as easily.

I need to refresh myself on the trade and politics of the time, mostly just to set the stage properly and examine some maps to see where I want the action to start.

So excited! I leave you with a Danish proverb...

Life is not holding a good hand; Life is playing a poor hand well.

Rejs sikkert alle!

Barking Alien

Thursday, October 4, 2012

In A Darker Age

I asked the three remaining players in our group what I should run as our next campaign and the votes are in and tallied. The winner is...

The gang has chosen Ars Magica over Traveller and while I am a bit surprised, I am totally cool with the decision. Ars Magica is one of my all time favorite games to GM and it's been ages since I've run it so all is good.

Now I am more than certain that, as Zak S. might put it, I run this game badwrong (or is it wrongbad? I can never get that straight). I focus considerably less on history and historical accuracy in favor of a 'timeless, folklore quality', as a friend of mine once put it.

I quite enjoy keeping the trappings of the region and culture I am using in mind as veracious to the time and place my campaign is set in as I can, but it is only to reinforce the atmosphere of the game. Political, social and economic elements of the medieval period (usually the late 12th or early 13th centuries for me) serve largely as background.

That said, I would like to set the campaign in a region that has interesting goings on and is thick with folklore.

I have run most of my previous Ars Magica campaigns in either England or France. For England I have primary focused on Wales and the South Western coast. For France, I prefer the regions of Brittany, Normandy and Flanders.

The research I did for my Smurfs game, strangely enough, would excellent source material for use in a campaign that revisits Flanders and the areas that make up what is now modern day Belgium.

Roman-Germany, Black Forest and all, would also be an excellent location.

Any ideas or recommendations? Any one run or play Ars Magica who'd like to offer up some input?

Looking forward to the mythic past,

Barking Alien