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These days I'm mostly over at I Blame Ninjas, my new screenwriting blog.

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Current Music: We Belong, Tori Amos

A short horror film I co-wrote! Check it out.
Still trying out titles for my new screenplay project. I realize it's a little tought to offer very much without the genre or premise, but for the moment I'm focused on the title. All feedback welcome.


Into the Ghostlands

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Testing a screenplay title: GHOSTLAND

Based solely on the title, does it sound like something you'd be interested in? Would you want to find out more about it? What do you think it's about?


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Current Mood: curious curious

I began my Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition game Sunday with character creation & a mini-adventure. I had a lot of fun - the rules are very smooth & fast-playing. The game is set in the default Fallcrest setting from the Dungeon Master's Guide, just to keep things hassle-free & enable other folks to run games in the same world for different sets of PCs if they wish. I made a couple of additions, adding a mysterious black tower overlooking the falls, which belonged to a wizard who vanished 130 years ago and which no one has ever been able to enter since. And the Necromancer, whose undead armies laid waste to the Nerath Empire to the south before his fall.

The five heroes met as children when a red dragon attacked Fallcrest, then split up as most of their families left town following the devastation. Now, 10 years later, the young adventurers return.

Beladona Windslip, tiefling warlock (toryadore)
Theren, half-elf paladin of the Raven Queen (goldrushg)
Culhaire Bonree, eladrin wizard (reapersaurus)
Adin McGregor, human fighter (doccross)
Ari, eladrin warlord (Kurt)

Adin, who never left Fallcrest, and the four travelers hear a strange story - the ravens have returned to the impenetrable Black Tower overlooking the falls. Each makes their way to the tower, where they are reunited with the others. Theren prays to the Raven Queen and has a sense the ravens are watching the tower rather than protecting it. Culhaire and Beladona both sense immense magical power within the tower. Adin discovers the tower seems to absorb energy when he taps it with a rock seeking a hidden door. Ari notes the ravens appear to be ordinary birds, and are not rooted to the tower - some fly off to feed & return.

Puzzling over the mystery, Culhaire suddenly realizes this day marks the 100th anniversary of the fall of the Necromancer, slain by a band of heroes who fought their way through his undead hordes into his great tower far to the south.

Disturbed by the coincidence, the five decide to investigate further. Culhaire will try to peruse the old guild records kept by Nimorazan, the septarch, but ruefully notes the dotty old wizard will no doubt demand a hefty fee for the privilege, which the party cannot yet afford.

This was all roleplaying & a few skill checks, but if I'd been thinking I could have run it as a skill challenge, which I'm itching to try out. On the other hand, since this is a VERY long-term plot thread & mystery, defining 'victory' would have been difficult.

Departing the Black Tower, the heroes notice a disturbance on the Market Green in Lowtown.

Alston, a half-elf who lives in Fallcrest, recovers from a fainting spell as the heroes approach. He says his sister, Morwen, plunged into a forgotten crypt in the catacombs while visiting the tomb of their parents. The heroes volunteer to help, and a trader donates a coil of rope from his stall - 'best in the Nentir Vale!'

Followed by a mob of curious townsfolk, Alston guides the heroes to the catacombs in the bluffs. When they reach the collapsed floor, they see Morwen has been dragged away by something. A giant rat hisses at the heroes. Alston faints again.

Beladona keeps the rat at bay with bolts of eldritch energy while the others use the rope to climb down into the crypt. The wily rat dodges several eldritch bolts & sword and axe blows before finally succumbing.

This was a basic giant rat minion, just for us to figure out how to roll an attack or two, but everyone kept missing. It was hilarious.

Following the drag marks in the dust, the heroes enter an ossuary with ancient bones spilling from the niches in the walls. The drag marks lead to a pair of double doors at the other end, beyond a T-intersection. As the heroes move forward, they spot two orange glows approaching down the side corridors at the T. They quickly rearrange their battle formation, just in time to see two enormous fire beetles rounding the corners!

Adin and Theren form the front line, with Beladona and Culhaire hurling magic missiles and eldritch bolts from behind. Ari uses his warlord powers to enhance the attacks & tactics of the others, while darting in to deliver blows with his spear.

One of the beetles falls, but the other looses a fire blast catching several heroes but fortunately doing very little damage. Then three giant black centipedes wriggle from the piles of bones to attack the flanks & rear. Beladona faces off with the centipedes while Culhaire dodges to the other side of the front line and continues firing magic missiles. Adin takes several beetle and centipede bites, and Theren is bitten & briefly paralyzed by a centipede, but soon all the monstrous insects are slain.

Our first full-fledged combat. It actually went very well despite my barely knowing what I was doing at the start. Lots of movement and tactics within the party. I didn't use the monsters very effectively; delayng the appearance of the centipedes was dramatic but allowed the party to wallop the beetles hard for a round. And the centipedes should have ganged up on 1-2 PCs, using flanking attacks and scuttling in & out to strike. But it was a lot of fun and I can see how cool running encounters is going to be.

This took us up to our 7 p.m. end time, so we paused the adventure at the closed double doors. Next session, the exciting conclusion, some down time, and then on to the first real dungeon.

Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

I ended up buying D&D4e on Saturday. Then went back Sunday to buy the Open Grave sourcebook, which contains the coolest monster ever. Unfortunately, I can't reveal it because all my players read my blog, and it's going to show up in a dungeon soon.

I spent most of Sunday figuring out how to build encounters. I think successfully, unless our first game ends in a total party kill.

And, in the process, I abandoned my original plan to build a massive three-level dungeon in favor of several shorter dungeons, generally two separate ones per character level. I think the 4e rules & monsters provide a lot of really great tools to construct some strongly thematic, evocative adventures. I ended up feeling like I'd be wasting a lot of that opportunity with a great big dungeon, even one consisting of various somewhat-themed components. For example, rather than a small shrine-crypt combo with a few undead encounters, I found I really wanted to build a very spooky catacomb under a desecrated church surrounded by a mist-filled graveyard of broken tombstones overgrown with moss & vines. And so I did.

I suppose I could have done all of this with the 3e rules, too, but for some reason I have yet to pin down, it just felt like 4e really supported those kinds of adventures, and fired up my imagination.

Now, does anyone know where I can find a writeup of a spider that, you know, spins a web, suitable for a starting party of adventurers?

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Current Music: The Dark Knight

Considering working on a delve - my term for a massive D&D dungeon designed to carry characters through three levels. Question: What kinds of underground ruins would you expect to find beneath the fallen towers of a wizard tyrant? Say, Isengard or Barad Dur?

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Neat tip - rather than writing out a new grocery list every time you go to the supermarket, draw up a master list of your regular purchases on the computer, then print out & check off the ones to be picked up this trip. For multiple-shopper households, including brands & sizes makes sure the right items get purchased regardless of who goes.

Current Mood: impressed impressed

6. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
7. The Ghost Brigades, by John Scalzi

I've heard good things about Scalzi's sf books & finally picked up a couple. I enjoyed these quite a lot - very much in the vein of Starship Troopers, Forever War and Ender's Game, with the twist that the soldiers are 70-year-old humans who are placed via consciousness-transfer into cloned 20-year-old super-soldier bodies to fight an endless war for habitable planets against a motley assortment of alien races. Very fun stuff. There are two more books in this series, both retellings of the story from different viewpoints. I have those on a checkout list from Amazon but haven't finished the order yet.

8. The Nine, by Jeffrey Toobin
Non-fiction book on the Supreme Court from the late '90s to 2005 or so, including the Clinton impeachment, Bush vs. Gore ruling, and death of Rehnquist. Very interesting. I'd earlier read The Brethren, on the court in the late '60s-early '70s, and Turning Right, on the court in the '80s and '90s.

Current Mood: cheerful cheerful

Thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes! I had a fun, low-key day Tuesday, going out for lunch & dinner, and seeing Watchmen, which I enjoyed but didn't find enthralling, perhaps because it followed the graphic novel so closely for the most part that it held almost no surprises. I also stopped at the DMV to renew my driver license, which was less fun but at least did not take forever. Think I will go clean out the car & put in the new floor mats I bought before going to the gym - knock another item off my to-do list.

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Current Mood: cheerful cheerful