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The Heavy Metal GM

bangin' heads and playing games

Month

July 2017

Ald Sotha: Family Reunion

“There’s no reason for this!” Corbin screamed with fury, his voice echoing in the catacombs. Lisbeth’s mind was ablaze with fear and panic. The others looked on without idea of what to do. Silence returned to the crypt for a minute or two until the eyes of the corpse snapped open once more. It inhaled sharply, the party recoiled in surprise at the sudden movement.

Mia’s father opened his mouth and the sound of six different people came out, “Where am I?” 

“Back to a place that you left by the laws of nature,” Corbin answered angrily. Lisbeth shot him a look at would make a dragon roll over.

“This may be tough to deal with, but you died and I’ve given you life once more,” Lisbeth told him, her voice trembling a bit. Knowledge of resurrection had been reserved for the most elite members of her order. She felt lucky to have figured it out on her own. What if they found out, though…  she thought.

The corpse’s voices were no less shocking a second time, “Back from the dead? I don’t remember what happened…” A look of perplexity adorned his face. The hair on the back of Crysx’s neck stood on end at the sound of this tortured soul. Lisbeth informed him that his memory should return shortly.

Crysx cleared his throat and explained the situation; who they were and why they were in this part of the empire. He explained that they were here to help and that his daughter  was just outside. The man’s expression changes int he blink of an eye. Flailing about in an attempt to stand up, he realized his body was atrophied from the long sleep of death. Lisbeth eased him back down, informing him that he needed to rest for a bit before leaving. She didn’t say it, but there was a lingering fear of using healing magic on the newly resurrected body. There was no way to tell if the cursed mark would interfere with her spells, and she didn’t want to find out. In an awkward silence, they all waited for his body to heal enough to the point where movement was manageable.

“We never got your name, good sir,” Tiberius probed. He informed them that is name was Frederick. Pleased that his memory was returning quickly, Lisbeth started to ask him about what had happened.

“The winter came so fast, and it came angry. We didn’t have enough wood so I was outside splitting some for the stove. I heard someone trudging through the snow and simply thought it was Mia. I didn’t bother to look up, she likes to come outside and talk with me as I work. Sometimes it interferes with the work she has to get done, but I don’t mind. My daughter is my life. What kind of father would I be if I always turned her away?” He started to trail off.

Lisbeth cleared her throat, “The sooner we get through this, the sooner you can see Mia again.” Frederick composed himself and continued.

“I said something to who I thought was Mia, just to start a conversation really. They didn’t answer, but kept coming toward me. Being the soft spoken woman she is, I didn’t think much of it. Before I knew what had happened, someone struck me on the back of the head and, in a flash, I was on my back. Everything was blurry, I couldn’t see who it was but they were large. A sharp pain across my throat followed by a warm, wet feeling and then nothing.” It was hard to tell where Frederick was looking without any pigmentation to his eyes. It made speaking to him uncomfortable.

“At least we know this threat is humanoid and intelligent. It’s more than we had before. Maybe they can be reasoned with,” Tiberius said hopefully.

“If we’ve learned one thing on this journey, it’s that things don’t immediately want to reason,” Crysx mumbled to himself.

The group decided it was time to head out. Frederick was able to pull himself to his feet and walk autonomously. Towards the entrance from which they came, something caught Corbin’s eye. The skeletons in the walls were different from the ones deeper in the catacombs, something that was only apparent when revisiting the more shallow parts. Being towards the back of the group, it was easy for him to slow down and examine the specimen. Broad shoulders, long arms and legs, tusks on the lower jaw. This skeleton is a half-orc. This new piece of the puzzle only made him excited, there had to be a reason for it. He decided to poke around a bit more, only to find that most, if not all, the skeletons in this part of the catacombs were half-orcs. I wonder when things changed. Humans are an invasive species, something tells me this has a lot to do with why we’re here. His friends interrupted his analysis, asking if everything was all right. Nodding quickly, he left the puzzle pieces to join his friends.

When they reached the top of the steps, Crysx told Frederick to stay behind while him and Lisbeth went to go talk to Mia.

 

“I don’t understand,” she complained. “What do you mean my father is with you?”

Lisbeth inhaled frustratedly, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I tried to put it lightly, but it seems this isn’t working. I resurrected your father. The problem is that he had a cursed mark cut into him, it messed my spell up. He’s alive, he has his memory but he looks a little disturbing. Just try to show you’re happy to see him. Okay?” The girl nodded sheepishly at Lisbeth’s frustration.

When Frederick walked through the threshold and greeted his daughter, she fainted.

“Family reunions can be hard sometimes…” Tiberius said, trying to lighten the mood.

 

 

Stay Metal \m/

 

Excited for Ensiferum

Though they have stayed virtually the same over the years, Ensiferum has never failed to deliver top notch music that hits a certain aesthetic. Surfing the wave that was One Man Army, they’re back with steel and fury to bring us Two Paths on September 15th of this year. Interestingly enough, it seems like they’re kicking up the production a notch since their track record shows they released an album every three years. This time they gave the spurs a good kick, since One Man Army was released in 2015. With the lyrics video for the single For Those About to Fight for Metal, I am incredibly excited for this album.

The song itself is exactly what you’d expect from Ensiferum: a satisfyingly powerful tune with a touch of grandeur. It sets the stage for an album that brings “more bombastic orchestral and down-to-earth folk aspects,” says bassist/vocalist, Sami Hinkka. From the looks of it, Ensiferum plans to take this album on tour, the first leg of which starts on September 27th, 2017 in Europe. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be seeing any of that as I’m in the US.

What’s probably the most exciting thing from my angle is that Netta Skog is now in the band (as I’m a huge Turisas fan). This is old news from April, when Emmi Silvennoinen had to leave the band for some family matters, but it doesn’t dilute any of my zeal. Getting these little bits and pieces over the months has been nothing but a tease. Now that it’s all put together with some huge announcements, I can say that the hype train has officially left station.

But what about this single? Well, like I said, it’s exactly what you’d expect. Maybe it’s because it’s still new, but the bits with the chorus just drives me wild. I always love when bands take the sound of a vocalist and amplify it by added ten other voices. Metal is about unity, and to me, expert placement of such a sound set is a perfect reflection of that philosophy. I can’t wait to see them play this song live someday. The song is relentless, with but a small break for an orchestral piece that lives up to the praise that Hinkka gives the album overall in the Facebook post from today. Simple, strong, and satisfying: the words I would use to describe this single in a concise manner.

In that post, you’ll also find the complete track listing and the preorder link for the album. Show some love and pick it up, because I’m definitely going to.

Perpare yourselves, for the time has come to Fight for Metal!!!

 

Stay Metal \m/

Icons and Conditions Review

Not too long ago now, John W.S. Marvin over at Dread Unicorn Games released a book called Gods and Icons. It’s a supplement for 13th Age RPG with a myriad of new Icons, class abilities, player races, and to augment it all, player races. Well, Mr. Marvin is back with a vengeance, with the accessory for the setting, the Icons and Conditions cards. Just for full transparency reasons, John was kind enough to send me this copy of the deck specifically for review.

Just to describe what these are: This supplement is a deck of cards, but not just any cards. Some have the Icons from the Gods and Icons book, while others have the standard conditions for 13th Age (hampered, stuck, etc.). They’re made of similar material to regular playing cards and seem sturdy. Additionally, there’s a card in the deck telling you where to find licensing info. When I first opened these, I was a little underwhelmed, but only because I saw the back of the cards (as seen in the featured image). It looks cool, the blue is interspersed with some black with some shades in between. I mean, after all, it’s just the backs of the cards. When I flipped it over, I saw the face of Commander Tyrvek, the Icon that essentially replaces the Orc Lord, sneering at me menacingly. The art from the Gods and Icons book translates really well to this tiny format.

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Each card is formatted like a normal playing card, with the figure depicted on them both right side up and upside down. This serves a function though, as Icon relationship points aren’t so black and white as a king of spades. We can have a five or a six relationship rolled with each Icon, and depending on which way the card is facing, you can remind yourself of what you have.  I honestly thought this was a brilliantly simple idea that makes them utilitarian but still visually appealing. There is one minor gripe that I harbor towards these cards, and it’s that only two of the Icons on the cards have a backdrop. This is probably due to the original art, but I wish that every Icon had something interesting going on in the background. This easily makes Tyrvek and Aurum Rex my two favorite cards out of the bunch.

In the realm of practicality, these cards simply make sense. There’s two copies of each Icon card included in the deck, which is reasonably priced at about $14 US for the entire shabang. While this may immediately seem to fall a little short, it’s sensible in the light that you don’t have overlapping Icons between players too often. The only time I could see this happening is when my players decide to collaboratively create a party, which is honestly never. If that day does come, however, I can just pick up another deck. There’s a reason why I’m so quick to jump to that conclusion, and it has to do with conditions.

image3.JPG

The conditions cards are a tad boring to look at, but they serve their function one hundred percent. The layout of the information makes finding the condition you’re looking for to hand to the victim player easy. Being one to quickly overlook things, it’s convenient that the title of the condition is in big letters to see while hastily shuffling through the deck. I keep track of conditions using the little rings from plastic bottles to place on miniatures, which is great, but I often have to remind players of what the conditions do. This makes these cards invaluable, as I can take the heat of running the game off of myself a little by handing the affected player one of these bad boys.

If you’re a sadistic GM like me, and enjoy stacking up the conditions on players, the number of which may be problematic. There’s three copies of each condition included in the deck. In my group, I have six players. If each of those players end up getting the same condition, two players will have to share a card. Much like the situation with the Icons cards though, I feel like most groups don’t have the same condition going out over the whole party. My group is a little special in that regard (no offense, guys), so this could very well be a rare problem for people. In the first play-through I had using these cards, it never came up; so this problem is strictly hypothetical as of right now. Watch my Twitter account to see if it ever comes up.

All in all, the condition cards alone pretty much make this worth picking up. It saves you an insane amount of table keeping by thrusting some of your job into the hands of your players. Hopefully when my campaign wraps up, I can explore the loose yet deep setting presented in Gods and Icons to take those cards for a spin.

You can find this deck for sale at DriveThru RPG here and the rest of the Dread Unicorn’s horde here. Happy gaming, and as always…

 

Stay Metal \m/

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