Sunday, September 24, 2006's Cold Fusion

I remember walking into a gaming store in Chapel Hill a few years back, and a bunch of gamers were huddled around a game table preparing for a session. Their preparation included, along with the requisite dice and character sheets, brewing up a giant pot of extremely strong coffee. They were very excited about making the coffee with H2 Joe, the bottled caffeinated water.

In the knowledge that gamers may drink a lot of coffee--I know that I do--I offer this tidbit.

My friend Brad Schnurr has raved about his cold filter coffee machine for nearly two decades. He was visiting this weekend and I remembered to ask him the name of it so that I could get one for my brother.

Basically, it is a cold water drip method of making coffee concentrate which retains all of the caffeine but none of the acid. This makes it possible for people with stomach problems to continue to enjoy the lovely benefits of coffee in the morning.

You put a pound of coffee in the machine and cold water, leaving it to drip through overnight. In the morning you measure out the coffee concentrate you want for strength into your cup and then fill up the cup with hot water. Bang, good brew, no stomach pain or guilt.

Check it out, and tell them Shandar sent you. It's not magic, but you don't have to tell them how you made the potion.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Aspects of Lolth shouldn't look like a drider!

This is a longstanding gripe of mine. Nobody has released a good figure of Lolth, ever, to my knowledge. What constitutes good? Something reasonably accurate to the descriptions of her in the original 1st edition products.

Lolth appears as a drow of unparalleled beauty and cruelty, as a giant black widow with the head and face of a drow, and as a giant black widow spider without human head. The cover art of the old Demonweb Pits modules show the drow head on top of spider eyes, which is icky. I don't really want that, either.

At any rate, my beef with current depictions of her is that she looks like a drider. For example, the cover art of Queen of the Demonweb Pits by Paul Kid. Ick again.

The drider is a transformed drow who has displeased Lolth and fallen out of her favor. There can be no greater display of favor of a god than to transform something into their own image. Hence, it is impossible for me to concieve of these drider-like Lolth's as anything approaching her actual avatar, because only that which is favored by her would look like her.

If someone can give me an explanation why my line of reasoning is faulty, I'd appreciate it...but not as much as I'd appreciate having someone do an actual, accurate Lolth...especially if it was a boxed set with all three of her forms.

Until then I'll have to make due with the Ral Partha giant black widow with a Grenadier Frost Giantess head I glued to it. It isn't perfect, but it is better than one of these female drider versions.

Actually, what I'll probably do since the Ral Partha giant black widow body is disproportionally small compared to the head, is break the head off and glue the head directly to the body of the 03085 : Labith, Female Spider Centaur by Reaper Miniatures (their own contribution to the non-Lolthy Loths).

I think that will hold me over until someone does an actual Lolth to my satisfaction. I'll post my version when finished.

The old rule books don't draw a distinction in appearance between drider wizards and priests, and don't mention warriors at all. This from the Monstrous Compendium:

All driders are able to cast the spells that normal drow can use once per day. Driders also retain the magical or clerical abilities they possessed before their weird transformation. A majority of driders (60%) were priests of 6th or 7th level before they were changed. (Remember that drow priests, and therefore driders that were priests, can also use clairvoyance, detect lie, suggestion, and dispel magic once per day.) All other driders were once mages of 6th, 7th, or 8th level.

And yet, nearly every drider picture and miniature has them decked out like warriors and not priests or wizards. And there are no drow priests, only priestesses. Well, it just isn't tidy.

They also seem to indicate that secondary sex traits disappear during the tranformation to drider, leaving all driders sexless and the only possible avenue for more driders is the more drow failing Lolth's test. You can get more information on driders from the Monster Manual II, page 60, the Monstrous Compendium, Volume 2 under Elf, Drow. There is also a section in the Drow of the Underdark, pp. 9-12. There is also a good article on driders in the January 1988 issue of Dragon Magazine, Entering the Drider's Web: What happens after a drow fails Lolth's test. None of these sources give any indication that driders look like Lolth, that she would like looking like a drider, or that driders have any secondary sex characteristics.

But, with 3rd Edition, we get driders with boobs and Lolth with a torso and two arms (and, yes, boobs) everywhere drow items are sold. Even untidier. Something had to be done, and I'm the only OC/ADHD guy I know who can do it to my satisfaction.

Because I can't not buy the miniatures, and if I have them, I have to use them somehow in my is my break down of drider kind:

First of all, driders now retain the same secondary sex characteristics they had as drow, however these creatures are sterile and have no interest in copulation. As it says in Drow of the Underdark, "Lolth wants their existence to be a series of torments, not to create a race of enemies for the drow."
The old, original drider miniatures by Grenadier are the standard drider. These are promising drow male warriors who failed the test. Any drider figure which appears to be male and carries a weapon is this type of drider.

I think this is a RAFM miniature, possibly from the Cthulhu line, but could be Ral Partha. At any rate, it is clearly a drider-ish creature without boobs or weapons, so I am using it as the result of a drow male wizard who failed the test of Lolth. I call these "Draeders" in my world. Eventually I'll post a complete description of the drader here, but now is not the time.

Lastly, the driders with boobs.

This is that Reaper Mini I mentioned earlier, which is a nice female drider. All female driders in my world become "Drauders." Now, there is only one untidy little detail left, which NONE of the rule books address.

Drow priestesses are granted their spell casting ability by Lolth. If these priestesses have been turned into driders by failing Lolth's test and falling out of her favor, why is she still granting them spells? I am not satisfied with the answer that she does it because she is chaotic. That doesn't wash.

The Spider Queen loves chaos, yes, but as one of the cruelest dieties in the pantheon, I think she loves punishments even more.

I haven't decided yet who might be granting their clerical spells, but I am convinced it is not Lolth herself. I am currently leaning toward driders of all three types in my world being under the (grudging) protection and care of Lolth's son, Vhaeraun. And though he hates the priestesses of his mother, he delights in forcing these fallen priestesses to worship him instead of her, which they do because he is the only power which will accept their worship and grant themm their spells. (You can find more information on Vhaeraun by scrying through Google)

Some of these female driders, or Drauders, do refuse to worship him and give up the use of their clerical abilities entirely, opting instead to learning the warrior's art. They are not particularly good at it, having had no prior training and being new to their drider forms, and so do not tend to last very long in the perilous Underdark.

And that, my dears, is Shandar's Monstrology lesson for the day. I think this is logical attempt to deal with the inconsistencies created by WOTC 3rd edition art (which, admittedly, builds on the inconsistencies of TSR sourceworks). A kind of "unified theory of the drider" if you will.

It works for me, anyway, and if it works for you, feel free to use it. If you have an argument against this line of thinking, please leave me a comment. I'd like to consider it, but better be stronger than just "third edition is better, so just do that you old fogey."

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Morgan Kieth Studios linked to me!

I just noticed Morgan Kieth Studios put link to my site on theirs, and I'm honored. I've had a link to their site for a while--their minis are really amazing but I mostly like their tips on sculpting. They are doing an update of their website and they have not migrated the tips on sculpting to the new web layout yet, so you'll have to take my word on that until the update happens. Keep checking there, though.

I noticed today in their recent releases they too have a new Lolth-like offering, I think it is called Hesperus, goddess of the underworld. It is far superior to the WOTC Aspect of Lolth miniature (which I still have to get to complete that set...dang it) but I have the same complaint about it as I do for all the recent Lolthesque sculpts being made...including Reaper and a few others. It isn't an image of Lolth. Or, more accurately, it isn't an image of any of her three forms.

Because I know that blog posts are supposed to be short, I'm going to go into greater detail about this Lolth/Drider thing in another post. I want to keep this primarily on the topic of thanking Morgan Kieth Studios for the reciprocal linkage.

Thanks! And keep up the great work!

Monday, September 04, 2006

New Stuff

Well, it has been a long time since the last post. Since then, we've played two sessions and the Company of the Severed Head has had many changes. After a giant glowing green orb that shoots lightning turned half the party into figurines of wondrous power and put the thief into a snow globe with her cats and most of the treasure, some changes were necessary.

We lost two players who had too many time conflicts to play even once a month, so the figurine of wondrous power gimmick will allow them to be carried with the others and dropped in at any time if the players are actually there. The snow globe thief probably won't be playing anymore, but I like the idea that she is carried around. I just hope the gnome doesn't sell her or trade her for some magic item.

The remaining three players were allowed to roll up a new character each, and we've joined the two parties into one that will operate at least temporarily. It isn't easy in 2nd edition to run more than one character, but I think this is better than having me run a bunch of NPCs to fill out their ranks. It also provides a nice seperation and buffer when there is a real chance of a character dying--you have a fall back character you also care about. Nearly lost one of the new characters the first day due to an attack of a dire rat in the wine cellar. The theory was born out. Having the risk of losing one of two characters is much more fun for the players than the risk of losing one of one and starting over from scratch.

On the minis front, I have a complete Dragon Queen set now, and was impressed by how few extras I have after the sorting. This set more than most had a nice balance of the number of creatures appearing to the frequency with which the mini appears in your booster...with the possible exception of too many War Apes and too few Stirges.

I also have my Gargantuan Black Dragon and the Colossal Red Dragon will arrive on the 6th by Fed Ex. I've picked up my Clay Golem now, and an Iron Golem, and am waiting on the Mounted Paladin I won on eBay. Getting closer all the time to having all of them from WOTC...but I have to admit I'm really eager to start getting my Blood War minis.

And....I really want to get the new Horror Clix figures. The Brine Witch is going to be my Bliddenpoolp or whatever her name is until WOTC makes a mini of her. Once we get through Doom of Daggerdale I really want to get going on the other modules I have lined up before we start the Giants and Demonweb series. Of course, at our rate of play, I'll be 96 when that happens, but at least I stand a good chance of having all the figs I'll need to run it by then.