A late Merry Christmas and a have a great New Year.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category:

Just posting to say I hope you all had a Merry Christmas and have a great New Year, I'll have quite the few posts for January to make up for the chaos of the last few months so I hope you enjoy them.

Now as a gift I'm sharing a picture (not taken by me) that made be giggle this Christmas.

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Stealth assassinations and freeing slaves in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: ,

Between my friends birthdays and other events this month while I was stuck indoors due to my worsening sciatica and typically terrible British weather I finally got the chance to pick up Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, spending three days solid playing it from beginning to end for full 100% completion this post is just a little overview of my experience.

For a little background information Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (or just Shadow of Mordor for short) is published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment and developed by Monolith Productions, for those of you unfamiliar with Monolith Productions they began in 1997 producing a number of games including some of my favourites such as Shogo: Mobile Armor Division (AL) and Aliens Versus Predator 2 (AL) before been bought by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment in 2004 after which they worked on both the F.E.A.R and Condemned Series.

At this current time alongside the main game a year season pass is available granting all further released content without further payment during this period. There is also a handful of DLC available for between 75p to £3, I cannot and do not recommend purchasing these at this time as they are either single encounter events which grant an epic rune (more on those later) or just runes which grant end game abilities which undermines game progression.

Shadows of Mordor which takes place in a non-canon timeline of Middle Earth puts you in the role of a ranger of Gondor named Talion, after a brief but charming tutorial section which builds the characters of Talion, his wife Loreth and son Dirhael, Talion finds himself slain in a cruel blood ritual by powerful minions of Sauron known as the Black Hand. Awakening in the twilight realm between life and death Talion finds himself bound to an elven wraith who no longer remembers who he is and neither of them unable to die.
From here the story and gameplay begins in earnest and can be described as a combination of Batman: Arkham Asylum and Assassins Creed in Middle Earth.

The games setting spread amongst two regions within Mordor though those familiar with the films or Lord Of The Rings Online will not recognise any familiar areas within them and may feel disappointed. That said however both regions are fascinating and fun to explore in their own right and are sized just right to give the feeling of space without too many empty areas with ruins and Orc/Uruk camps and patrols breaking up the terrain.
Speaking of the regular foes of the land a player mostly faces Orcs and Uruks for the majority of the game, however as the story progresses more specialised Uruks such as giant Berserkers and spear wielding Hunters begin appearing with each new foe requiring particular methods to effectively dispatch them.
By the middle of the game the normal Uruks and Orcs actually become rather scarce in regular patrols, this mixed unit composition results in the combat never becoming entirely mindless with a player having to remain sharp or face sudden unexpected death... at least in mid game. 

The other hazards of Mordor include giant cats called caragors which hunt in packs, graugs which are rancor like beasts that can bite the head off a troll and packs of weak but numerous poison spitting ghuls all of which bring their own challenges and are as dangerous to each other and the Orcs as they are to you. There are also numerous other tiny critters such as dog sized spiders, Mordor rats. sea gulls, bats etc but interaction with them is limited to occasionally shooting an arrow at them for a sliver of experience points and to fulfil the hunting side mission. I honestly think there was a missed opportunity for some giant spider killing.

In regards of the main story there are 23 missions in total though many of them are rather short and serve as tutorials for new abilities and the final missions are somewhat underwhelming with the final boss been a quick time event, a very short quick time event at that. The other major side missions are weapon challenges which vary between fun and frustrating but eventually transform your weapons (though I personally prefer its original form for design and story relevance not to mention it remains as the original form in cutscenes) and freeing slaves. Normally there are packs of human slaves (all using the same character model) that are guarded by a pair or so of Orcs located around the level though a single orc about to execute a lone slave or a unit of orcs are chasing down escapees are not uncommon, normally when freed these slave grant experience points and run off occasionally providing a distraction, can grant information about Orc/Uruk warchief or captain or put the boot in to their down captors. After a certain point in the early game you can acquire special missions from the slaves, these are gained by initially freeing a captured slave who informs you of another group of slaves who are been tortured or punished by the orcs for misdeeds. In spite of the rather interesting backgrounds to each of these missions every single one of them is the same much to my frustration. Each of them involves freeing 3-5 slaves tied to poles with a experience bonus granted by killing Uruks in particular manner as a side objective and there's 26 of these damn missions again wasted potential.

Combat which comprises the majority of the game is good and much like Batman: Arkham Asylum flows seamlessly though targeting can be an issue and on more than one occasion you'll find yourself beheading the wrong ork. Though it is certainly more fun in its early game as the branding ability introduced in the second half of the game that lets you dominate Orcs becomes overpowering and no reason for a player use anything else. This bleeds over to stealth sections of the game as well as dominate guards are not replaced and there is no issue of a dead body attracting attention, combined with the fact that a dominated Ork ignores your presence means there are no downsides.

Okay so far it must sound like I hate the game, this isn't true I very much enjoy the game and the reason why is the much praised Nemesis system which had me hooked for most of the game, the Nemesis system allows the various captains and warchiefs to remember your previous encounters and respond according when you meet again as well as levelling and developing abilities when you or they (if they survive) are defeated.
Here are a few of my choice few captains made an impression during my early game:

Skark Bow Master notable for having one of my favourite helmets in the early game and for setting off the series of events that would develop my end game rival, Skark had a nasty habit of suddenly appearing and  whenever he did he seemed to be always shortly followed by two particular captains...


Krakhorn Sawbones another key player in my early game and first of Skarks back up, surprisingly nimble and loved to throw me around like a ragdoll if he got close. In spite of his hated of burns he was always paired together with a Captain know as..     

 Ugakuga Fire-Brander as you can see he was the first of this deadly early game trio to fall his rapid attack ability really forced me to learn to dodge and counter correctly and he possessed one of my other favourite helmets and designs in the game.

Last but certainly not least Azgrom Caragorfang, Azgroms introduction was short and brief initially thought to have been killed not by myself but by Krakhorn Sawbones after enraging the captain by setting him on fire while attempting to snipe me. Azgrom however refused to stay dead coming back at least 9 times from defeat getting stronger all the while and we seemed to constantly harassing and encountering each other until he became this..

This Azgrom was clever and cautious attacking only in overwhelming strength and fleeing as soon as the battle seemed to be turning against him, he managed to outlive two of the Warchiefs he was body guarding and kill a great deal of lesser captains and even defeated me twice with sneaky sniping.

Though I'll confess that some of the personalities and names had begun to repeat by the end of the game and that is when the charm began to wear off for me, especially since the game forces you to brand captains who afterwards lose all unique interactions with the player and thus all character for most part. The Nemesis system has definitely room for improvement but its a solid base and its a system I hope Monolith Productions retains in future games. All in all Shadows of Mordor gives back what you put into it, the story elements shoring up a sandbox of orc slaughter and amusing confrontations with personalised nemesis. 

For an idea of the graphics and a further probe into various aspects I've touched upon above I recommend watching TotalBiscuit's WTF Is Shadows Of Mordor which I've linked below though please note that TotalBiscuit does occasionally use strong language. 

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Personal First Impressions: 4th Edition Dungeons and Dragons and The Resistance 2nd Edition.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , , , ,

November is normally a very busy month for myself as many of my friends have birthdays spread throughout the month often leading me to be involved in various parties events and general mayhem. This year in particular with myself struggling with sciatica and other health issues and the various other commitments of my friends have led us to abandon large activities so instead we put aside some days for some monster gaming sessions.

Collecting together on a Sunday just after lunch at the house of our host and Dungeon Master told us that he had managed to get a number of dungeon tile sets and a number of pre-made dungeons so we were going to do some 4 Edition Dungeon Runs and see how far we could get before we ended for the day or party wiped.

We decided to avoid wasting half the day creating a character we would use pre-generated characters, unfortunately due to our DM providing 30 to choose from it still took us 30 minutes of debating of what to pick.
Most of the characters came from the handy Pre-Generated Character Library of Dungeon Master's.com (Thanks guys) with myself selecting Belgos | Drow Ranger (Hunter) backed up by a Psion, a Sorcerer and a Warlord then an hour later after our first two encounters by two more players who chose Alvenor the Human Paladin and Jarren the Human Wizard (Evocation Mage).

Thankfully with the Pre-Generated Characters coming with clear move description we got into the play quick smashing our way clumsy through the first few encounters. Now there is something about my gaming group I have come to recognise while we work together well and respect one another's ideas and strengths we do not in fact have very good teamwork synergy on the board. This was very obvious in 4th Edition which now I've played it felt very much like a pen and paper MMO, however once we stopped treating it like a Pathfinder game and started using MMO tactics we started making progress.

Midnight at the gaming table

Twelve hours, a mountain of dead kobold and a slain white dragon with an arrow lodged in its behind later I can honestly say I enjoyed 4th Edition even though I must admit I've often frowned upon it.
However the fact I had to treat it like a game of HeroQuest rather than a roleplay game kind of puts it in perspective, and I admit the group as a whole started getting rather bored with the mechanics due to the limited movepool and cool downs.    

Coming straight from Pathfinder and Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 I found the rule books to both be well labelled and clear in some sections but completely bare in others, in particular the levelling was rather confusing at first with it been so different from the standard Dungeons and Dragons layout and one moment of the day stands out to me was the lack of any random magic loot table. Combined with the minimal magic item examples made the rewards rather disappointing as initially our DM wished to avoid giving out custom loot for balance reasons.

All and all a fun distraction but there is no way we could really go through a long term campaign with the system due to it repetitiveness and feeling of lack of freedom.

The other game that caught our eye over the week has been The Resistance 2nd Edition.
This novel little game was a real mind screw and as a devious spy I got to wreak havoc on my friends discovering that I am rather the decent manipulator.
Resistance is a rather simple game and a version of it that can be played with playing cards is actually on wikipedia. In the game you are all members of a resistance cell that is attempting to topple a corrupt organisation or government however depending on the size of your cell (the number of players) there is a number of spies within your cell. The resistance win by succeeding in three mission while the spies win by causing three missions to fail, if this has peaked your interest below is a video of Wil Wheaton's Tabletop showing a play through.


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November Blues

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: ,

I'm a little late with my initial post this month and I'll confess its not entirely due to this rather bad cold I've caught or trying to catch up with the final days of several Halloween events in various videos games.

In the last two months I've noticed myself bordering on relapsing into depression thankfully due to the close proximity of my friends and my own recognition of the warning signs I've managed to prevent myself from doing so, however I’ve been struggling to get anything done including when I try to write, and in turn managed to make myself feel even lower because I wasn’t getting anything written, in turn making it harder to write...etc.
 I will confess I haven't entirely broken out of this loop and some of you reading this will be expecting me to announce a hiatus for the blog.

That will not be the case, in fact I do have a reasonable backlog of posts and plans for future posts including the completion of the adventure I had written, various homebrew classes from various sources and a few town and location designs for a "Pillage my village" series.
What will be happening however is I cannot directly say when in a month I will update other than soon as possible, this is simply because I don't know what days I will be able to shake this lethargic feeling that threats to consume me.

In more light hearted news fans of Dark Heresy and Only War should take the time to read about the ongoing campaign of this group. 

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Short Story: Grissen d'Lyrandar's arrival at Sharn

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,

Some of you may know that my original intention when creating this blog was to use it as a place for me to upload some of my old creations, to both share them with the roleplay community and as a place to keep them safe as the paper they are written upon fades.

This writing prompt is actually from 2008 during which my group played our gestalt Eberron Campaign, we had initially planned to record our sessions and myself and another player were going to write short stories from our adventures. Unfortunately due to poor recording quality due to makeshift equipment, the additional set up time eating into our game time and massive file sizes of the recordings we abandoned the idea after a few sessions.

In spite that Christmas during the evenings at my parents house feeling inspired and particularly mentally lucid (which is rather rare with my medical condition) I began writing the immediate adventure of my character Grissen d'Lyrandar before he met the party, I had fully intended to continue but writers block and only basic notes to work off meant that the ingame progress was faster than my writing and eventually I found it too difficult to keep up.
Below is the most polished version of my early prologue though I'm sure the occasional grammar error may have slipped by, never the less I hope you enjoy the read and feel welcome to send in your own stories.

For those of you unfamiliar with Eberron and interested to know more there is a wiki alternatively if your interested in the setting it can be reasonably cheaply acquired second hand from Amazon for D&D 3.5 though 4th edition requires a Players Guide and Campaign Guide.


Prologue: The Game

If one thing binds the races of the realms together no matter their features, their wealth or their intelligence it must be gods. Men and women alike adore, loath, envy, worship and aspire to be them, animals are created or claimed as symbols by them, marks of their power has scarred the realms surface for better or worse. Their existence absolute proven beyond a doubt by the divine powers granted to their worshippers and every yet many question their intent, for some the gods are a balance of power in an eternal deadlock, others they are a series of rival political enemies and parties each vying for control, a few believe the gods simply use mortals as pieces in some great game for their amusement and that they use belief and worship as a gambler would bet gold upon a role of the die. Each of these hold truth but one fact is clear the gods did not create the world, they found it in its early state arriving to it as players to a table each linking themselves to its people through their portfolio and like any game players come and go however there are also spectators a few wiser gods sit in their realms watching, smiling for they have learned the secret that their fellows have yet to realise.

The game needs not players, the game plays itself...

And it has its own pieces.

The evening sun set the sky ablaze as its light lit the thunderclouds littered across it, the great floating spires of the capital city rising amongst them like spears casting a tapestry of shadow across the lesser spires and the undercity below them. Even at this hour the city buzzed with life at all levels from the politicians and nobles moving between engagements in their elegant magical soarwood airships to the workers scrabbling across the great streets and bridges linking the city. The city too seemed to take a life of its own as its many street lamps open revealing the magical flame within lighting the city in a cascade of light running down from its tallest spire to its low depths.

The figure at the bow of the ship watched seemingly transfixed by them sight before him as the captain approached, the old sailor grinning remembering his own reaction at his own first view of the capital in years passed as he called out to the figure.

"So I was right, this is your first time here?"

The figure started slightly at the old captains voice, nervously adjusting his oiled leather coat and tricorne hat as he turned, his young face slightly flushed.

"Well it’s the first time I've seen magic on such a scale and the view is amazing even down here... I guess I was expecting something a little less well..."

"Artistic?.. Well enjoy it while you can, believe me the lower parts aren't quite as breathtaking unless you like a knife to the gut, but I just came to say we'll be docking in 5 minutes so you better get packed."

"Yes Captain thank you."

As the younger man moved across the deck the captain turned calling out once more.

"Don't forget that dammable bird of yours either, the things been tormenting old Tom all week...... and Grissen...”

"Yes Captain?"

"Good luck out there."

The bar air was smoky and thick with the wet scent of people and food and filled with the noise of drunken sailors and rolling dice, Grissen smiled at his good fortune as he gazed at his unknown drinking companion while he shook the last of the rain from his short brown hair placing his long wear worn coat and hat beside on the short bar bench. The rainstorm had broken just as he was passing the tavern trying to avoid the numerous hawkers and dealers that littered the busy harbour market and thus he was able to quickly find a seat in the far corner at the good graces of the dwarf sat at the table, the dwarf for its part was now looking away from him staring into the bottom of its empty ale glass as if all the worlds secrets lay there.

Waving this hand in the direction of the bar through the crowd of sailors seeking shelter and drink he was rewarded with a nod from the pretty young barmaid as she delivered drinks to a table of card players, lifting his backpack he carefully pulled a small clay saucer and a packet from one of the smaller pockets as he prepared for his second companions comfort. Placing the saucer on the table he carefully poured the seeds from the packet into it as a satisfied caw came from beside him, an emerald green parrot fluttered from the ceiling rafters to receive its evening meal.

"Your lucky Alvina most familiars need to find their own dinner." his words were smooth and elegant cutting through the din of the room as he spoke the elvish tongue, a few sailors peering curiously towards him with a renewed interest for a few seconds before resuming their drinking.

"Most familiars are not a speciality breed or that bright either Master Grissen... caw." The parrots elvish had a distinct squawking to it but was no less impressive, Grissen smiled Alvina was a special magebreed and was as a result much more intelligent and robust than a normal bird though she did have a slight tendency towards tricks and practical jokes which gave her a unique personality however he wouldn't have it any other way. His hand gently stroked her colourful plumage admiring how the light at this angle gave it an appearance like oil on water, another trait of her mage breed heritage.

"Well even so you'll have to behave for a while or else I'll have to keep paying people money to please them rather than buying your bird seed." The parrot cocked her head giving him a flutter of her wings as was her habit when she had lost interest in the current topic interesting herself in the food now on offer as another feminine voice spoke across from him.

"Sorry for the wait sir what would you like?" The girl gave him a breathless smile as she straightened herself up, she was pretty in a simple way her long red hair curling slightly and a long strand hung across the right side of her face down across her button nose and small cute smile though evidently weary in her posture her green eyes shone brightly in the way of one who enjoys their work. Grissen gave her polite courteous nod and returned her smile with his own as he pulled two copper from his belt pouch sliding them along the table with two fingers towards her.

"What would you suggest for a hungry traveller my good lady?"

Giggling slightly as his words she careful and quickly slipped the coins into her front apron pocket peeking back towards the bar to see if the bar tender is listening before replying in a hushed tone.

"Well your certainly a gentleman aren't you... well we have the bread and cheese with local ale or mixed stew and bread with the choice of milk or cider for a copper, or mutton, veg and bread for 2 copper with either grog or ale... the muttons been reheated two nights now so I'd advise the stew... I made it myself."

"Well I'll have the stew and milk please, copper here when you get back... and what would you like my dwarven companion I owe you at least a drink for your pleasant company." A look of surprise appeared on the dwarfs face barely visible thought its elegant beard as he looked up at Grissen as if seeing him for the first time.

"Well I'll be, I've not heard myself described as pleasant company before, you have strange tastes lad ha well since your offering I'll have the brown and yellow and a decent ale this time thank you." The dwarves voice was crisp and deep though something was strange about it though its deep laugh sounded like the grate of stone, Grissen allowed himself a grin, dwarves were the bankers of the world forever taking notes of debts and if he guessed right he had just evened the score thus improving the dwarf’s mood.

With a smile the barmaid soft voice filled the air once more

"So that’s two copper please one now one when I bring your food and drinks." and with a swift flick of her skirt she made her way through the crowd, an old man obviously a merchant from his clothing called out from the bar as she passed.

"That’s some drinker you got there Elisa a really mighty man." A few laughs and jeers echoed from around the room though the girl was swift to respond.

"Your one to talk Tal I bet at least he pays his tab and doesn't burn himself by passing out at the fireplace." More laughs circled the room as several sailors patted the old merchant's back in jest as he smile back at the girl.

"Ah Lass you put a stake in old Tal's heart you really do."

The room quieted down as evening slowly continued its march into night the rain trickling through the roofs and gutters of the city, wiping the corners of his mouth tenderly with his handkerchief Grissen pushed the empty bowl away now nursing his drink as he watched the waterfall of rainwater through the thick glass window the cities occupants now reduced to a trickle themselves on its streets. He sighed slightly he had been hoping to make more progress into the city but an hour had passed and he still had not left the docks, it seemed business would have to wait for the morning and now he would be best to secure himself for the night, a loud belch beside him signalled that his companion had finished his own meal and thus would be ready for some questions.

"So do you know of any decent priced inns nearby? This rain doesn't seem to letting up tonight."

The dwarf reply was another grating laugh as he pointed his mug somewhat groggily at him "Why not just stay here? The Storm Dragon is probably the cheapest inn that you won't get your pouch stolen in around here."

Nodding at the dwarf Grissen rose from making his way through the crowd of seated drinkers several Halflings cursing at him in their guttural language when he obstructs their view of a game of cards as he headed towards the bar, noticing his earlier heckler waving at him he slipped onto an empty stool next to the old merchant while quickly gazing side to side along the thick oak bar searching for the bar keeper.

"Looking for Jakab?, he's currently in the back fetching another keg of the local... about earlier I was just messing around no hard feelings" the old merchants breath rich with the smell of alcohol and meat hit him like a wave, resisting the urge to wrinkle his noise Grissen offer a gloved hand out nodding politely as he did so.

"No harm done, I'm Grissen I've just been transferred here by my guild, thought I'd keep out the rain for the evening."

"Tal Sander of Sander and Clar, Tis a pleasure and you chose the right inn my friend, old Jakab runs an honest place here and between you and me he has the best choice of staff on the docks." The merchant shook his hand firmly a twisted grin on his flushed face before continuing.

"Yep been coming down here for 8 years now since I first came to the city, good prices, good company and I have enough friends to keep an eye on me on the path home, if your still around for the next few days give us a visit and we'll share some tales eh."

"Getting your free drinks in for the week Tal?" a balding weathered looking man wearing a thick leather apron which looked like an old cut down sailors jacket, carrying a small keg nodded at them as he climbed into view from the stair case behind him moving down the bar to placing his load on the rack along side the other kegs before turning to them a wide grin on his face, Grissen recognising an old sailor in Jakab took a liking to him instantly.

"Well if he can squeeze them from me he's earned them, I'm Grissen and I'm wondering who much it would be for a room and a bath tonight."

Jakab ran his thick fingers through his thinning hair as he spoke "Its two copper for a room and two for a hot bath."

"Throw in breakfast and I'll make it half a silver" Grissen counter offered naturally.

"Done, three copper now and two in the morning... tell me when you want that bath and I'll have Elisa get it ready." With that the bartender moved to deal with the calls further down the bar leaving Tal trying to call him back. "Jakab what about my next ale... dammit."

A cold breeze swept through the bar whisking away the smoke and heat as the door opened with a clatter and a pair of tall figures staggered drunkenly into the room slamming the door behind them, drawing back their hoods even their ragged knotted black hair couldn't hide their obvious half orc features of slanted ears leathery skin and crooked upright noses. The old merchant shifting on his stool leaning close to him Tal's foul hot breath now whispered into his ear.

"Those two are Turg and Kar, always come in here looking for a fight when they're drunk so just keep yours eyes on your drink Grissen." No sooner than these words were spoken were the sounds of a scuffle behind them as a pair of Halflings were dragged from their seats and tossed aside by the two, the brawl was quick and messy as the two Halflings were forced from the bar cursing the half orcs through broken teeth as the two took their seats and with hunting eyes scoured the room for any new challengers.

Cursing under his breath Grissen realised he had left his rapier and cutlass with his belongs in the corner though fortunately he was still wearing his studded leather jerkin and had his bandoleer of daggers across his chest, there was sound of squawk from Alvina as she too noticed the trouble and made her way to ceiling rafters above him unfortunately this only served to draw its attention as the two muscular figures rose from their stolen seats and approached him sizing up either side of him as he turned to face them finishing the last of his drink as he did so.

The pair both towered almost a head and shoulders above him, their eyes bloodshot and faces flushed with drink and considering the strength and constitution of most half orcs he had encountered the two must of had least a keg each Grissen mused, the stockier of the two his chest as wide as a barrel was the first to speak his rancid breath making Tal’s smell like perfume.

"Nice bird I bet she cost a pretty gold or two, I bet a rich man like you doesn't mind buying a round for a few thirsty people." The two half orcs laughed and grinned at each other as watch him waiting his reply, Grissen sighed slightly loosening the glove on his left hand in habit as he spoke.

"She did actually but unfortunately I don't have that sort of money as she was a gift." He watched their faces as they stopped laughing to glare at him, he seen it before in other idiot drunks if you weren't a source of alcohol you were either something to have sex with or something to punch and from what he'd heard about half orc sailors he wasn’t ready to risk been either to these two, he just has to wait until one moved to grab him then he roll under the blow and make a grab for his weapons, he just had to time it right....

"Damm it are you two idiots harassing customers again get the nine hells out before I call for the guard." The voice surprised him it wasn't Jakab which he would have expected it was Elisa by an empty table as the bar tender made motions at her to be quiet the other patrons staring at her too in quiet awe if she was mad, sensing blood the two drunks moved away slowly advancing on the girl. Sensing his chance Grissen shifted his weight to the balls of his feet slipping silently from the stool as he drew a dagger from its sheath holding it gingerly by the blade as he weighed his options. The two were almost to the girl who was now backing up to the wall attempting to get away from them if he went for his sword they'd definitely would have closed the gap and would have time for a few goods hits as well as a possible hostage, Grissen groan inwardly he wasn't a hero, if he was completely honest he wasn't even really a good person, he was a manipulative bastard he preferred his duels to be of wit and words but he had a code and while they hadn't crossed it yet these two made his blood boil especially since he had rather taken a liking to the sharp tongued girl but could he really afford two possible corpses on his hands in the capital city of places. Sighing once more he slipped the thick leather glove from his left hand letting it drop into his pocket.

Elisa's back pressed against the hard wooden support beam as the two advanced on her, she had expected them to calm down, not to advance on her even though she had heard the rumours about them been the reason the last few staff quit, her eyes darted amongst the customers trying to find anyone to help her. The young man Grissen had been blocked from her view and she couldn't hear any movement, she has expected someone to help her even old Jakab for his huff and puff wasn't moving. Cupping a bottle behind her skirt she watched the two foul drunks beginning to reach out for her trying to resist instinctively closing her eyes, she froze as a loud thud sounded from the wall about a foot to the left of her, the two half orcs had also stopped and were staring at the source of it.

His dagger sunk harmlessly into the plaster wall with the intended effect as Grissen drew one of his remain three his voice steady ringing with authority as he spoke

"Touch her and I'll have legal right to uses lethal force on you so you'd best both leave right now before I hand your corpses to the guard." The key to a good bluff in any argument Grissen summarised was to use as much truth as possible in it however it relied on several things to succeed, your targets ignorance, your appearance and your targets been in a position to understand your message. He was dammed if he knew if he could lethal force or not but if often it made people pause though it was becoming increasingly obvious these two were either too drunk or spoiling for a fight to understand as the pair spun round on the new threat coming at him with a bellow. Kar went down instantly with a surprised scream clutching his wrist as the dagger span from Grissens fingertips and sunk into his right hand, Grissen barely had time to block a savage right hook which sent a blunt pain reverberating down his left arm the great weight behind the blow almost sending him staggering. Pressing its advantage the muscular half orc continued its barrage of crude hammer blows at his head making up for its lack of finesse with drunk tenacity and strength, gritting his teeth as his shoulder took more blows aimed for his face Grissen stepped back twisting his body to avoid a clumsy clawing at his eyes before countering his own elbows and fists crashing into Turgs torso gaining nothing more than a choked whistle of air from the half orcs lips spraying spittle over him.

Grissen choked and coughed lungs crying out for air as he fell backwards his vision turn black for a moment as his skull collided with a loud crack with the sawdust covered floor boards, he hadn't even seen the half orc's leg move before it struck him in the gut winding him his heart beat echoing in his ears as the world seemed to slow down for a moment. Moving in for the kill the heavy boot of the half orc rose to stomp his face but Grissen was faster been not slowed by alcohol and now powered by the adrenaline pumping through his veins, in one swift motion he drew a dagger thrusting it deep into Turgs calf the flesh hardly resisting the tempered steel as sound of wet tearing signalled the hamstringing of the half orc which reached out to the bar to steady himself. Recovering his breath the desperate half elf clutched at the half orc wool shirt pulling down with all his might causing Turg to collapse, his nose cartilage snapping with a sickening crunch as his face connected with the hard wood bar, pulling himself to his feet Grissen was filled with momentary sense of relief and satisfaction as he bent down as retrieved his dagger from the now dazed half orc calf with a savage twist before taking a few steps forward to see what had become of his first target.

Kar was eyeing him from behind a over turned chair as the bar patrons now moved aside to the corners of the room the two glared bloody daggers at one another, the half orc holding it by the blade crudely in its left hand waiting for a chance to throw its strength ebbing as blood flowing down its maimed hand soaking its makeshift bandage wrapping crimson. Chancing nothing Grissen raised his now bare left hand the elegant rune upon it glowing crimson as a strong gust of wind circled in the room growing fiercely in the direction loudly cursing half orc as it threw the dagger on last bid only for it to be dashed to the floor along side pewter mugs and cutlery blown from the surrounding tables.

"That’s a damm storm mark... Trug blast the bastard half elf." the Kars deep voice is drowned out by the wind as a crash behind Grissen distracted him from his now trapped opponent, hearing Alvina elvish caw of laughter fill the air above him he risked a glance backwards, Grissen was pleased to see his dwarven companion nodding to him as it was removing a wand from the crushed fingers of the further bloodied half orc who now lay only twitching slightly. Well it was one less problem now to deal with the other in a way that won't have me in jail.... a grin reaching his lips as thought occurred to him causing him to turn to the mob of patrons and sailors lining the wall he raised his voice calling for their attention

"I believe these two have cause you all grief and trouble in the past... well now I offer them to you now for you judgement of what should be done with them."

Looking amongst themselves several nods and words passed and as the wind died down the mob advanced upon the wounded Kar.

A low groan issued from his lips as he sunk into the warm water, the wave of heat flowing across his body washing the aches and a week of sweat from his body while it lay against the edge of the wooden tub his eyes closed. Grissen let out another sigh as he relaxed his mind letting his thoughts of the last few hours event flow unhindered he'd arrived in the city not even left the docks, gotten attacked by two local bully boys, beaten said bullies, was now a local hero along this stretch of harbour, had been upgraded free of charge to the "captains" quarters which to be fair was worth a few silver in itself and now was in an actual warm bath with soap that wasn't made of old fat for the first time in over a two week all for the price of a few large ugly bruises on his left shoulder and a possible minor concussion but all in all not bad for three hours work there was something to be said for been a manipulative bastard though.. "Gods if this was three hours what would a month be like."

"What was that Master? Is something wrong?" Alvina's voice rang down at him from the ceiling tinged with the faintest hint of concern, the vision of her peering at him head cocked in curiosity before him as he opened his eyes.

"It was nothing I was thinking out loud... though I'm touched by your concern." Stretching his arms he reached for the soap on the small chair beside the tub, a pang of complaint at the movement shooting through his left shoulder causing him to grit his teeth.

"Its not you I'm worried about, what about me if something happens to you where do I go?" in a flutter of feathers she leaped to another rafter now facing him directly burying her beak inside her wing for a moment as she spoke.

"Where ever your wings take you I should guess... you know that’s what I would want." Grissen couldn't help but resist a smile as he spoke despite her words no matter how she tired to hide it he knew she cared, the empathetic connection between master and familiar let them feel each others urges and concerns but after all these years habits were hard to break and these little word games were no exception. "Besides I heard you laughing when that half orc was tackled by the dwarf."

"I was laughing at the fact the stupid thing was trying to use a wand... it would of been funnier if it had actually worked."

Really? Personally would find the vision of a two hundred or so pound dwarf doing a flying tackle pretty damm funny." a quiet chuckle left his lips as he ran the thought through his mind again, he'd let the dwarf keep the wand as thanks but did that really even the score between them... well time would tell.

"Really master you shouldn't of intervened anyway we both know the only reason you did was that slip of a girl." Grissen shrugged at the words as he poured the warm water over himself, the tips of his pointed ears sticking out of his wet hair, he grunted trying to ignore the itchy heat emanating from the glowing dragon mark on his left hand as was regular after its use.

"Yes and she was in trouble because you drew that pairs attention to me... besides she was rather cute."

Alvina gave an undignified squawk "That’s the trouble with you humans, your forever in rutting season.. I guess I should be thankful you never learned any polymorph spells at the collage."

"Alvina you know as well as I do I'm a half elf besides I bet you would look just as cute as a human or were you worried about me having me having wings ha."

"Master I have nothing to fear if you had wings you'd most likely end up as a cats dinner and save me lots of trouble and besides there’s obviously not enough elf in you."

Shaking the water from his eyes Grissen looked up at the flapping parrot with a raised eyebrow surprised at her change from their usual taunts "And why do you say that?"

Alvina head still cocked glared down on him a victorious glint in her eye as she gave a cawing laugh "As your uncle said before you left, you’re not enough of a mad bastard."

A soft knocking roused his from his slumbers, twisting in his sleep Grissen groaned trying to ignore it. Probably one of the other patrons drunken and lost looking for their room he told himself. The knock came again with more urgency and insistence than before, reluctantly kicking the covers back Grissen rose from his bed quietly collecting his rapier and brushing the curtains to one side to allow moonlight to shine into the room through the barred window. A man could be never be too careful when travelling alone especially one with a dragon mark, perhaps some bravo was out there thinking a sleep befuddled drunkard would be an easy mark or even a assassin from a rival house could be waiting to grease the wheels of some political plot with your life blood. The knocking came a third time a woman’s whisper barely audible above it "Grissen". Easing his rapier from its scabbard he moved beside the door his fingertips resting on the handle, just because he heard a woman’s voice didn't mean she was alone, for a moment he briefly considered waiting and not opening the door at all until it dawned on him how paranoid he was been. Looking back once making sure Alvina was still sleeping safely in the rafters he slid back the heavy bolts and slowly opened the door. Elisa was there waiting, she looked up at him nervously brushing her stray curl from her face her eyes shimmering in the moonlight, Grissen couldn't help but admire her attractiveness.

"Sorry if I woke you but... I wanted to thank for helping me earlier." she said eventually her voice lingering in the quiet night air.

A bit late for that isn't it couldn't she waited until morning or said so earlier? He thought slowly his face flushing slightly realisation dawn on him.

"Oh it’s alright it was the least I could do... I wasn't just going to stand there and watch." his voice was a murmur his groggy mind still grasping the situation.

With glance down the corridor for a briefest moment she lightly slip forward on her tiptoes placing a light gentle kiss on his lips, "Aren't you going to invite me in, I want to thank you properly."

He stood there blinking dumbfounded for a moment then wrapping his arm around her warmly he pulled her softly to him a grin on his face, I guess playing the hero does have its benefits he thought as the door creaked shut ,the bolts sliding into place.

Wood shavings littered the desk as morning light slipped between the bars of the window dust dancing in its the beams, the noise was beginning to pick up from outside as crew groggily marched to their ships and the early cries of the market stalls echoed from the docks. Another shaving slipped to the desk as the knife slide over the small piece of driftwood once more and with careful hands Grissen held it up examining it as the sun shone off its smooth surface. I feel a shape in you lurking beneath your knotted surface... what is it I wonder, Grissen rolled it once more in the light, the dew drops on the window spraying a rainbow across his hand as he gently squeezed the light wood feeling the soft springiness of it. It always bothered him that he never knew what he was carving only at first that his hands seemed to guide him, though his carvings were usually simple patterned shapes and figures they at least fetched a few copper in a market. He was distracted from his musings a low moan from the sleeping figure the bed, now if only I could carve that wonderful figure... the though flashed by leaving him with a grin as the girl awoke stretching upwards letting the covers slip from her naked body before turning to him with mischievous grin.

"Good Morning, I see you’re up early hummm..." Elisa pushed the covers back further a low moan as she work the fatigue from her limbs, it reminded Grissen much of a satisfied cat waking from a nap.

"Yes I needed to feed Alivna she’s a little grumpy this morning though I'm sorry if I woke you." there was an "Hmp" from the rafters as the parrot turned its back to them, she hadn't appreciated been awoke in the night.

With the lightest of steps the girl slipped from the bed approaching him "Well I'm sure she'll get over it." leaning down she lightly kissed him "Oh yes we were a little busy last night so I forgot to mention it but Jakab said you can rent the room for just a copper a day but you still have to pay for meals."

"That’s great, a tiny room in some sailors inn, its all we've ever dreamed of." Grissen glared at Alvina's interruption but as he opened his mind to speak he was interrupted again.

"You'd be surprised by what people want but don't worry I won't keep you and your master up every night."

He look at Elisa an eyebrow raised surprised further by her response, the earlier mischievous grin appearing once more on her face when she saw his expression.

"I was schooled in elvish when I was young I'll tell you later but first I think a quick shower then breakfast."

"I think I can help with the first one of those." Incanting quietly Grissen could feel his fingers tingle as the magic began to flow and gather within them then slowly running his hands over her body the gathered emanated from his fingertips banishing the sweat from the nights activities, he smiled softly at the girl as her curious expression turned into one of confusion then surprised and finally pleasure as he finished.

"I didn't know you knew magic other than your mark... perhaps you can teach me that one some time... brrr makes me feel covered in Goosebumps though." He laughed as she pretended shivered for a moment his voice taking on a sly but teasing tone.

"I was schooled in magic when I was young I'll tell you more later but first I think breakfast."

She pouted playful pulling her hands on her hips "Are you sure you can't show me more?" she squeaked in surprised as he sudden scooped her up in his arms carrying her to the bed throwing her gently back onto it.

"Well I guess I can show you a few more tricks...” he smiled.

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New Favicon!

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category:

This just a quick update before the second article of this month, last week my headset, keyboard and mouse all finally packed it in after many years within a few days of each other so I've just manage to replace it all today.

Also The Sword and Torch Inn has a new Favicon thanks to my lovely lady friend over at Buzy Bobbins who was also the person who gave me the push to start this blog to begin with.

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Jobs fairs, Payday distractions and recommended Shadowrun Returns Modules.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , , ,

I'll confess I'm a little late posting this month as there was a Jobs fair in Lincoln on the 2nd and I've been following up a few opportunities from it. Those of you in the local area that didn't attend don't worry, you didn't miss much as most of the stalls were training/education courses, recruitment agencies or Carer positions (with Lincoln's ageing population and the recent shake up and investigation of abuse in care homes leaving many positions empty this seems like the only growth sector in the area.)

Also much to my personal annoyance with my own behaviour I've been rather distracted recently by Payday 2, my housemates and gaming group have become rather fond of it and most of my usual late evening writing time has been taken over by the mischievous crime spree of our little crew with Shadow Raid and Hotline Miami becoming fast favourites and Go Bank our bane.

(Sometimes I think they area bit too desperate to stop the drill)

Also with Shadowrun: Dragonfall Directors Cut released last month I took a few days to head back to Showrun Returns to see if any of the modules in the Steam Workshop had been updated and I wasn't disappointed so here are a few of my recommendations:

New Characters:

The Antumbra Series:
Antumra 2 - Eclipse 
Antumra 3 - Corona

While the first of the three is rather short and suffers from the occasional bug it sets a fine standard of quality that only seem to improve through the series. With unique Runners, party banter and multiple choices and endings throughout all three Cirion has created one of the best module series on the workshop.

Seattle Blues

My first and possible favourite module I played, a well designed and well written gritty noir run designed for a Street Samurai however I managed to complete it with a little difficulty as (my now favourite) Decker/Shaman. However there are some issues cause by recent patches that occasionally results in game breaking bug though there are ways to avoid it.

Import Characters:

Assault on Cesh Coran Labs

Continuing the theme of been shot and left for dead, Assault on Cesh Coran Labs puts a more lively and amusing spin on the scenario than Seattle Blues. Having had imported my character from Seattle Blues I found this a little easy but the dialogue was worth the play through.

A Dark and Stormy Night

Can't honestly say I was thrilled with this one but those of you seeking a firefight and a loud raid this is a module for you.

Nightmare Harvest

Caught in the middle of a war between the local Yakuza and Comanche Mafia this campaign is par to Antumra in quality with its dialogue and multiple endings, the finale is a tough fight if you want to keep all your npc allies alive so be warned. 

Streets of London

Initially a big fan of this when it was first released for its many ways to complete a run the campaign is finally complete and the story written in depth. I'll be playing this myself when I've got a bit more free time.

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Chapter Master: A fan made Space Marine Chapter Manager game.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , , ,

The uniforms of the Imperial Guard are camouflaged in order to protect their wearers by hiding them from sight.
The principle is that what the enemy cannot see he cannot kill. This is not the way of the Adeptus Astartes. A Space Marine’s armour is bright with heraldry that proclaims his devotion to his Chapter and the beloved Emperor of Mankind. Our principle is that what the enemy can see, he will soon learn to fear…
- Chaplain Aston, Fire Hawks 10th Company  

 I've always been fond of fan made and indie games, many people I know speak of their dream games so when I see those who move beyond simple musings and try to give form to their ideas I can't help but smile. However admittedly more recently with the rise of popularity the indie game market like any other has been saturated by those looking to make money out of its supporters rather than create decent games.

Chapter Master is a grassroots project at its finest that was given birth at that notorious murky water (or as some in the media have called it the cesspool) of the internet 4Chan, though more specificity /tg/.

As a result it should be mention this article will contain and link to pages containing strong language and profanity, You have been warned.

Chapter Master was first given life in 2011 as an post which complained about the Inquisitorial AI in a game called Chapter Master which can be read below:

This inspired a thread of posters each describing their experiences with this imaginary game, building more and more popularity with each tale of victory, failure and ridiculous AI. Eventually people who were new to the thread began requesting links to the game to which there was an eventual admittance that it did not exist.

After the initial disappointment various new threads began discussing the possibility of creating Chapter Master and as of October 8th, 2011 several Anon's skilled in artwork and coding came forward creating usernames and a forum creating the basics of the game. Though there was an initial burst of creativity by 2013 progress slowed to a crawl and it was believed the project like many others had died. However on August 9, 2014 a poster by the name of Duke came forward having taken all the resources of the forum and produced a Alpha he had nearly single-handedly coded.

As a one man project and Alpha there are the usual bugs one would expect but it looks and plays reasonably well.

To begin you can select an existing space marine chapter though only Dark Angels, Blood Angels, Salamanders and Ultramarines are available at this time of the Founding chapters and the Lamenters of the Existing chapters, alternatively create a space marine chapter from scratch (which is more fun in my option)

After the surprising in depth creation which allows the choice of geneseed flaws and troop weaponry amongst other things, the game lets you out into the galaxy for you to explore and defend after loading up your marines into your vessels (though if your like me you'll find only the smaller companies can fit into your starting vessels).

Management so far other than movement and deployment covers construction of weapons and the recruiting of new marines to the chapter which limited by your chapter limit and Geneseed stocks. While there seems to be issues recruiting normal marines in this early alpha there is no such problem with the special characters and there has been one enterprising player who made a company of Librarians.
I've not yet quite figured out the combat mechanics yet as these are mostly still been built upon, during planetary invasions a player can only choose to be the defender but I seem to win without casualties or be utterly destroyed but its gratifying to see 400 marines destroy an ork force of 3000 and the text descriptions are rather nice. While space battles are reminiscence of a simplistic version of Gratuitous Space Battles which is just waiting to be developed further.

Between fighting back  Xeno incursions and discovering relics occasionally requests will come up from the various factions requesting aid and various random events will occur, I would go into further depth but I wouldn't want to to spoil the surprise for those about to play.

As with any fan game it runs the risk of a cease and desist action especially as Games Workshop is one of the most defensive companies when it comes to these issues, however if they have any sense (sadly evidence shows this may be lacking) they will either let it be or sponsor it giving it the backing it deserves. If they do try to close it down I can only imagine they will fail with the anonymity of its creators and the backing of 4chan behind them and only drive them further underground or cause an explosion of download links.    

With this been an Alpha I'll try to keep an eye of its development but it could fade into the warp for another few years again.

Updates about the game can be followed at its page over on 1d4chan.
The latest version can be download here along with the manual.

Update: Tips for Playing Chapter Master.
Update: The First Release of Interstellar Army Simulator is here.

They shall be my finest warriors, these men who give of themselves to me. Like clay I shall mould them, and in the furnace of war forge them. They will be of iron will and steely muscle. In great armour shall I clad them and with the mightiest guns will they be armed. They will be untouched by plague or disease, no sickness will blight them. They will have tactics, strategies and machines so that no foe can best them in battle. They are my bulwark against the Terror. They are the Defenders of Humanity. They are my Space Marines and they shall know no fear.
– on the Creation of the Space Marines.



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Update: Login Problems and aftermath of Steampunk At The Asylum VI.

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: ,

Good morning everyone I'm finally back after a rather hectic week and I must say after six days of sleeping on a couch its nice to be back in my own bed.

I apologise for the delay in the Chapter Master post (which will be up this evening or tomorrow) as those of you following me on Google + know I had a security scare just before I was about to post it, I found myself unable to log into Google + and Blogger with my password not been recognised so after changing my password I had to go through all my pages and drafts to see if anything had been changed in case it was malicious attack.
Thankfully nothing was alter and there was no keyloggers or trackers discovered on my computer after a deep scan however this and finishing off my costume pretty much took up all my time before I was required to leave for Steampunk At the Asylum VI.

The Asylum itself was a lot of fun and while I could only afford the weekend ticket this year it was well worth the visit, they definitely listened to last years feedback and there were far more talks and events spread over the three days rather than the previous year where most of Sunday petered out and there were mostly book launches. Having been to most of the outdoor events in the previous years I mostly attended the talks that were aimed towards the creative side of steampunk and making costume pieces. Anyone who is interested in a full review of the day should read this fun little article by a first time attendee.

After the festival due to some appointments in town on the Monday I remained at my friends house who lived closer so I could make sure I could reach them in time and then Tuesday I was covering the shop at the Battle Bunker. However all the hectic running about over the last few days and a hint of convention flu caught up with me and I've spent a few days been ill but I'm back up and running again.

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Update: D20 Adventure Rude Awakening progress, ASYLUM VI and why I love charity shops!

Posted by: Jason Silverain / Category: , ,

Hey all, I'm posting a little late this month so here is a run down of what's been happening this last week:

- This months post was initially was going to a collection of settings people have create but unfortunately one of the setting creators hasn't gotten back to me yet so instead I'll be doing a post about Chapter Master, a fan made game that has gone from concept conversations to a one man built game. It is also quite likely I will be doing a post on this years Steampunk at the Asylum too.

- Speaking of the Steampunk at the Asylum its happening soon from 12th to the 14th so get your tickets now if you wish to avoid the queues. I would be working more on my own costume at this time but with a rent increase of £40 I simply don't have the spare cash to throw about this month. However I may make a guide on how to make simple medals in the future.

- My D20 Adventure Rude Awakening is on hold for just a little while longer with the Asylum this month and after a few play-tests there are a few details in the design I just didn't like so I need to redesign the dungeon, which means I have to also redraw the maps which took forever to do in the first place. If anyone has any suggestions of a free dungeon map tool that includes items such as barrels and boxes please leave a comment.

Finally while I don't really have the cash to spare at the moment I also resist a good bargain especially if its for some collector items, I personally believe one of the rarest finds we ever had in my group was a mint condition copy of 2nd Edition AD&D First Quest with Audio CD hidden high up on a lonely shelf and while our local Oxfam once had Scourge of the Slave Lords for sale its £45 price tag (higher than Amazon) put it out of range of a casual purchase.

Now out of habit myself and one of the ladies of my gaming group regularly check charity shops together when we go for walks or when visiting new towns (since one of the appeals is that unlike most shops you never know what you will find) and we've picked up the occasional book or two at any one time over the years.  

Stepping into the shop on this occasion my companion darted off to search amongst the clothes for potential costume pieces for this years Steampunk at the Asylum while I wandered over to the book shelves expecting nothing and found the biggest haul I've ever had in one spot.  

Unlike our local Oxfam this charity didn't know the values of these books and wasn't particularly fussed when I tried to enlighten them about the value simply asking for £10 for the lot.

For those of you curious the value of each book (all used):

AD&D: Manual of the Planes: Amazon Price: £15.87
AD&D 2nd Edition: Dungeon Masters Guide: Amazon Price: £13.49
AD&D 2nd Edition: Forgotten Realms: Adventures:  Amazon Price: £7.90
D&D 3.5 Draconomicon: Amazon Price: £27.56
D20: Orcfest: Amazon Price: £9.03
Sword and Sorcery Creature Collection: Amazon Price: 1p
Sword and Sorcery EverQuest Players Handbook: Amazon Price: £10.54

Stormbringer 4th Edition: Amazon Price Ebay price: £30.31 + £15.90 import only
Ars Magica 4th Edition: Amazon Price: £14.33
The World of Darkness: Amazon Price: £35.87
Mage: The Ascension: Amazon Price:  £10

It should be noted these are all the lowest used prices not including postage so honestly I think I got a heck of a bargain here (except in the unusual case of the Creature Collection but Stormbringer been seemingly rare as a level 20 kobold makes up the difference) with a total saving of £180.81.

Still surprised how expensive the core World of Darkness book is pre-owed though.

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