Roll20 ’em if ya got ’em

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Roleplaying has certainly evolved over the years and, of course, online play has taken the hobby even further. I was slow to appreciating sites like roll20 and fantasy grounds, and to be honest, my preference will always be an in-person tabletop experience, but I am coming around.

The biggest advantage is being able to play with friends that are not hometown adjacent. We’ve two Oak Hill Dungeons & Dragons Club members who live out of State: Mike in Louisiana and Steve in Illinois.

Steve makes it to our monthly game sessions at the Odd Fellows Lodge, but I acknowledge that it’s a hardship for him. Mike comes up a couple of times a year, for which we are all grateful.

Roll20 is a fantastic alternative to gathering around the table. It affords these far-flung friends a place in the game, but it also adds those Club members who live upwards of thirty minutes away a chance to relax in the comfort of their homes and slay beasties in their pajamas.

A close second in the advantage stakes is maps and minis. I’m something of a Photoshop and Cartography  junkie, so being able to build custom maps and tokens and upload them to our roll20 gallery opens up a whole new arsenal to our game sessions.

Also, not lugging multiple crates to and from our Lodge is a major plus. It’s all there on my laptop, ready to go.

Roll20 also has built in player record sheets, journals, and a wealth of pre-gen tokens and encounter maps, all which can be accessed on the fly.

Add to that Modiphius’ announcement that roll20 will be supporting Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of and you can readily see why I’m finally coming to terms with our roll20 adventures.

Besides, I still get to satisfy my need for table play. Connor, my 12 year old son, is DMing for me on Wednesdays and on Fridays I DM an OHD&DC: Next Generation game with Connor, Brent’s son Kasey (13) and Brent’s nephew Jaden (11).

I will forever prefer being gathered around a table with my friends, but roll20 is a fantastic alternative that I am not only coming to terms with, but I am finally embracing.

Jeffrey Catherine Jones

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Five years ago today Jeffrey Catherine Jones crossed over from this world to the next. She was 67 years old.

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I’m not sure when I first became aware of her as an artist, but I think it must have been from the cover of Peter Saxon’s The Curse of Rathlaw, a book I stumbled upon at a yard sale when I was a wee lad of ten.

I bought it for a dime without cracking the spine. That cover illustration was all I needed to see…

Jones’ artwork to me seemed to be a perfect marriage between the elegance of John Waterhouse and the primal fire of Frank Frazetta.

Her paintings were works of beauty, but they were also visceral and terrifying.

 

Jeffrey Catherine Jones (10 January 1944 – 19 May 2011) is sorely missed, but her immortality is assured. Jones’ works will continue to inspire artists for generations to come, defining that divine union between graceful symmetry and ferine design.

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The Tower of Joy

Much ado on the internet about The Tower of Joy sequence from last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. I found it well done, save for the absence of Dawn, but it fell far short of the source material. If you watched last night’s “Oathbreaker” but haven’t read the books, here are George R. R. Martin’s words, from the thirty-ninth chapter of A Game of Thrones.

He dreamt an old dream, of three knights in white cloaks, and a tower long fallen, and Lyanna in her bed of blood.

In the dream his friends rode with him, as they had in life. Proud Martyn Cassel, Jory’s father; faithful Theo Wull; Ethan Glover, who had been Brandon’s squire; Ser Mark Ryswell, soft of speech and gentle of heart; the crannogman, Howland Reed; Lord Dustin on his great red stallion. Ned had known their faces as well as he knew his own once, but the years leech at a man’s memories, even those he has vowed never to forget. In the dream they were only shadows, grey wraiths on horses made of mist.

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They were seven, facing three. In the dream as it had been in life. Yet these were no ordinary three. They waited before the round tower, the red mountains of Dorne at their backs, their white cloaks blowing in the wind. And these were no shadows; their faces burned clear, even now. Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning, had a sad smile on his lips. The hilt of the greatsword Dawn poked up over his right shoulder. Ser Oswell Whent was on one knee, sharpening his blade with a whetstone. Across his white-enameled helm, the black bat of his House spread its wings. Between them stood fierce old Ser Gerold Hightower, the White Bull, Lord Commander of the Kingsguard.

“I looked for you on the Trident,” Ned said to them.

“We were not there,” Ser Gerold answered.

“Woe to the Usurper if we had been,” said Ser Oswell.

“When King’s Landing fell, Ser Jaime slew your king with a golden sword, and I wondered where you were.”

“Far away,” Ser Gerold said, “or Aerys would yet sit the Iron Throne, and our false brother would burn in seven hells.”

“I came down on Storm’s End to lift the siege,” Ned told them, “and the Lords Tyrell and Redwyne dipped their banners, and all their knights bent the knee to pledge us fealty. I was certain you would be among them.”

“Our knees do not bend easily,” said Ser Arthur Dayne.

“Ser Willem Darry is fled to Dragonstone, with your queen and Prince Viserys. I thought you might have sailed with him.”

“Ser Willem is a good man and true,” said Ser Oswell.

“But not of the Kingsguard,” Ser Gerold pointed out. “The Kingsguard does not flee.”

“Then or now,” said Ser Arthur. He donned his helm.

“We swore a vow,” explained old Ser Gerold.

Ned’s wraiths moved up beside him, with shadow swords in hand. They were seven against three.

“And now it begins,” said Ser Arthur Dayne, the Sword of the Morning. He unsheathed Dawn and held it with both hands. The blade was pale as milkglass, alive with light.

“No,” Ned said with sadness in his voice. “Now it ends.” As they came together in a rush of steel and shadow, he could hear Lyanna screaming. “Eddard!” she called. A storm of rose petals blew across a blood-streaked sky, as blue as the eyes of death.

I love the series, but I love the books so much more. If you haven’t read them, you should…

I’ve seldom been a PC kind of gamer, but that’s about to change

I am preparing, come Wednesday, to sit down at the gaming table as a player character for the first time since 1988. To be honest, I have not experienced the game from the other side of a DM Screen more than about a dozen times in the 38 years I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons. It’s the Dungeon Master’s hat I’ve been wearing these past four decades of gaming and I wear it well, if I do say so myself.

So what’s inspiring me to dust off a character sheet and shoulder the weight of a 5th Edition Fighter? My 12 year old son, of course. Connor wants to have a go at DMing, and I couldn’t be happier. The kid is a natural storyteller and I’m looking forward to seeing what dangers he has in store for my world-weary battle master.

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So that’s three campaigns I’m now a part of. Conn and I will be playing our weekly Wednesday game with him at the helm, then we have the Oak Hill Next Gen game that meets every Friday, and of course, the mothership, our biweekly (or so) session with the Oak Hill Dungeons & Dragons Club.

I’ve got to admit, I’m really excited to get a chance to play the game from the player’s side of the table, to feel that rush, fueled by uncertainty, and to actually be at the mercy of the dice.

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SKELOS: THE JOURNAL OF WEIRD FICTION AND DARK FANTASY

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: skelospress@gmail.com

SKELOS: THE JOURNAL OF WEIRD FICTION AND DARK FANTASY LAUNCHES KICKSTARTER ON MAY 10TH

skelos

May 5, 2016 – Skelos Press is proud to announce the launch of its new flagship journal with a Kickstarter campaign that will begin on Tuesday May 10th. The first issue of SKELOS: THE JOURNAL OF WEIRD FICTION AND DARK FANTASY will feature a never-before-published fantasy piece by Robert E. Howard (Conan, Kull, Solomon Kane) illustrated by the legendary Mark Schultz (Xenozoic Tales, Coming of Conan, Prince Valiant). Also featured is a new sword and sorcery novelette by Keith Taylor (Bard series, Cormac Mac Art), a long-awaited sequel to his classic tale “Men from the Plain of Lir” originally published in WEIRD TALES. This story will be illustrated by the fantastic Tomás Giorello (Dark Horse King Conan). Another highlight of the issue will be a tale of dark fantasy from World Fantasy Award nominee and John W. Campbell Award nominee Scott A. Cupp.

SKELOS is edited by Mark Finn, author of the World Fantasy Award-nominated BLOOD AND THUNDER; Chris Gruber, editor of Robert E. Howard’s BOXING STORIES from the University of Nebraska Press; and Jeffrey Shanks, co-editor of the Bram Stoker Award-nominated UNIQUE LEGACY OF WEIRD TALES.

Editor Mark Finn stated, “I’m excited to be part of the editorial staff for this journal. We are finding and publishing material that we love to read, and read about. There’s a long-standing tradition to weird fiction, and we think we can contribute something new and exciting to it.”

The first issue will contain short fiction from such talented writers as Charles Gramlich, Dave Hardy, Jason Ray Carney, Ethan Nahte, Matt Sullivan, and Scott Hannan; a fully illustrated adaptation of Grettir and the Draugr from the Icelandic sagas by Samuel Dillon; weird verse by Frank Coffman, Pat Calhoun, Kenneth Bykerk, and Jason Hardy; Insightful essays by Nicole Emmelhainz, Karen Kohoutek, and Jeffrey Shanks; reviews by Charles Hoffman, Bobby Derie, Keith West, Todd Vick, Paul McNamee, Brian Murphy, Deuce Richardson, and Josh Adkins; and with illustrations by Mark Schultz, Tomás Giorello, Samuel Dillon, and David Cullen.

The Kickstarter campaign will run until June 10 and the issue will begin shipping in late June with an ebook version available at the same time. More information can found at the Skelos Press Facebook page – www.facebook.com/skelospress – or you can follow the project on Twitter @SkelosPress.