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Friday, November 26, 2010

"It is dark. You are likely to be eaten by a grue."

1985 was a whole different world.

AIDS hadn't hit yet; the Sexual Revolution was still going strong. President Reagan's wife Nancy told us all to "Just Say No," but most of us weren't. A lot of us hadn't figured out that the seventies were over. If you want pop culture details, I recommend "1985" by Bowling for Soup.*

But this blog is about gaming, and to some extent, computers. We had both in 1985, but they were pretty different from what we know now.

There were games, sure. Dungeons and Dragons was eleven years old by then, and the first edition of Advanced D&D was still going strong. Magic: The Gathering and the Vampire games were still to come by years.

There were computer games. Sort of. Most of the best games you'd see were in the arcades at that time, but for the few who had personal computers back then, you could find a few items.

I'd cut my teeth on ADVENTURE, for the Atari 2600, the old cartridge-based console that pretty much created home console gaming as we know it today. No hard drive, no internet connection, and all of 16 kilobytes of memory. That's KILOBYTES, son, not megabytes, not gigabytes. But what did we know? We thought it was awesome, because it was the cutting edge of technology at the time.

The box is on the right. The actual gameplay screen is on the left. YOU, the player, are represented by the little green square at upper right; the arrow thing you are holding is your magical sword. The yellow thing at lower left is the Grail, the object of your quest; get it back to your Golden Castle, and you win the game! Unfortunately, you have a red duck -- er, DRAGON, to contend with. In this screen, he is very likely charging at YOU, the player; however, since the chunky-pixeled icons could only be rendered ONE WAY, you're holding your sword backwards, and the duck-dragon is charging at you butt first.

Did I mention you can only hold one item at a time? If you charge down and butt the grail with your square little body, you will automatically drop the sword. Luckily, the dragons in this game are so dumb, he'll likely charge into it and kill himself. If he doesn't, though, he'll bump into you, ROAR loudly, and then eat you; your square yellow selfness will be visible in the little hole in his belly. And then you can hit RESET because you've just lost the game.

That was the state of the art in 1980. It had improved a tad by 1985... but not a hell of a lot. ZORK was still the big dog as far as computer fantasy gaming went. It was quite good. It was also completely text based... NO graphics whatsoever.
It was considered hot stuff because it could parse text; you could literally type in English what you wanted to do, and the game would figure it out and let you do it.

It's also worth noting that ZORK and its sequels were still in print for YEARS after the first one came out in 1980. We were still pretty far back along the tech curve; processing power was doubling every few years, sure, but this was not a rapid process when you were starting out with mere kilobytes of memory. Hell, the first computer I ever owned that had an actual hard drive wasn't until 1999.

I do remember the first home computer game I ever played that had actual graphics. It was 1985, the computer was the Tandy ColorComputer (and it should tell you something that Radio Shack was still a player in the computer manufacturing and sales biz at the time), and the game was Dungeons of Daggorath.

Snazzy, eh? Vector graphics! Actual colors! Yowza! Admittedly, the graphics didn't actually MOVE -- although there was sound. No music; this was beyond the capability of the system or the speakers.

You'd type MOVE FORWARD (or M -space - F - space - ENTER) and you'd move up, square by square.

Upon reaching a door, you'd type OPEN RIGHT, indicating you were using your right hand to open the door, and the screen would change. It was essentially creating the illusion of movement by simply drawing a new picture every time you did something. Your computer still does this, but at a framerate of 24 to 30 pictures every second. The old Tandy CoCo had a framerate of... um... about one picture every two or three seconds, if I recall correctly. It was not fast. It seemed downright glacial by today's standards. But it was magic, back in the day.

Oh, look, we're being attacked by a troll. The troll did not move. His pose never changed. You could tell he was moving towards you because his hazy silhouette would appear in the distance, and then he'd suddenly appear -- one square closer to you -- until he was in your face, as he is now, and it was time to fight.

Behind him, you can see the distant form of a snake. The snake will wait patiently until the troll is out of the way before attacking you. This wound up being one of the keys to the game: once you'd become powerful enough, weak enemies like snakes and spiders COULD NOT HIT YOU, which meant if there was a spider in the way, the Troll or Knight (lord, we were terrified of knights) would have to simply stand there behind the spider, waiting for the spider to die, before he could move up and hit you. So long as you had armor and shield and were tough enough -- and had a spider behind you -- you could explore the dungeon in relative safety. It was also handy to save empty potion bottles and discharged magic rings -- if you threw them down on the ground in front of you, the enemy HAD TO PICK THEM ALL UP BEFORE ATTACKING YOU.

This is how I killed my first Knight -- I dumped all my stuff on the floor except my sword and shield, and waited. When a knight found me, I beat the crap out of him while he was picking up all my stuff. I finally managed to kill him, just as he was picking up the last item.

The second knight was easier. And note that we had to find all this crap out by trial and error. There were no hint books, no cheats, and no Internet to go and look stuff up on.

This brings me to the real topic that made me sit down today for yammer: the story I read in 1985. It was published in Dragon magazine that year -- issue 97 -- and was pure science fiction. In it, a young girl is trying to make money so she can attend this exclusive music school in Austin. Her method of making money is rather unorthodox: she is playing a game called "Catacomb" on her computer.

Catacomb isn't just a simple computer game, though. She's connected to thousands of other players, all over the country, and many of the people she meets in-game are ACTUAL PEOPLE, avatars of players from other places! And in Catacomb, it is possible to slay monsters, take their treasure, and either buy better gear in-game... or trade it for a fraction of its value in real American money. This is how she hopes to make enough for tuition: by slaying monsters in an "online" game you play on a "web" of other computers.

I don't think today's youth can imagine how incredibly unlikely all this sounded back in 1985.
Sure, we knew about computers. We were cheerfully dropping quarters in them in our free time to play anything from Video Poker to Spy Hunter. In fact, that year, a dungeon-type arcade game, Gauntlet, was quite popular with a lot of people I knew. But playing over a web of computers? How would you connect them? Telephones? The long distance fees would beggar a king!
Shows what I knew. In the SJG game Car Wars, autoduellists could keep in touch while on the road using Elmay (short for electronic mail), a computer text that could be transmitted and recieved within seconds. Suuuure. Why use Elmay when you could just call someone up? And the idea of a game where you could actually sell your in-game treasures for real money? Ha, ha, ha!
Sure sounded like science fiction to me. But the guys at SJG were a lot more plugged into the world of computers than I was. And, apparently, so was Henry Melton.

You want to know what the world of online gaming looked like from the far distant world of 1985? The author of Catacomb, one Henry Melton, was kind enough to post the entire text of the story on his web site. Here's the link:
So go see for yourself.

*The lyrics to the song "1985" by Bowling for Soup can be found here:

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In Praise Of Roebeast

This is Roebeast, and his blog, Roebeast's Magical House of Sunshine, can be found easily enough here on Blogspot:

I sing his praises today, because he is apparently one of the three other people than myself who bought Fantasy Modeling when it first came out.

FM was a fantastic magazine, born of the early 1980s, the success of Starlog magazine, and the fantasy gaming craze that grew into what us old grognards of today think of as simply "gaming and gamers."

It was devoted largely to miniature modeling and painting, but had articles about modelbuilding, kitbashing, gaming, wargaming, and so much more. It was a glorious thing, to those of us who lived way the hell and gone out in the boonies, back in the day, back before cell phones and web connections made nothing very distant at all.

It only lasted four issues. I mourned the hell out of it when it folded. I'd subscribed for the coming year; they sorrowfully sent me a check for the balance of my money (and an offer to invest it in a subscription to Starlog.)

Today, though, we live in a very different world, a world where if I want Leonard Nimoy's music album on CD, I can order it on Amazon (or Ebay, if I want the original vinyl.) Today, NOTHING seems like it's very hard to get. The internet is a place where if ANYONE EVER GAVE A SHIT ABOUT IT, there's a site... or a blog... or a retrospective... or a photo gallery... or, in many cases, the thing itself, available for download for a reasonable fee, or free.

But not Fantasy Modeling. It was just too obscure. Too few people had bought it, read it. All the copies ever printed were trashed, or lost, or made into mouse bedding somewhere out there. I searched, I hunted. But the only "Fantasy Modeling" my google-fu ever returned were exotic dance studios and nude clubs in various cities across the nation.

Not that this was a bad thing, but it weren't what I were lookin' for.

But then, casting his mighty shadow across the dawning Web, came Roebeast, modeling tools in one great hand, mouse in the other. He took a break from his many vocations, including blogging, comics work, modeling, gaming, and (if his picture is any indication), killing zombies with sledgehammers.

And he dug into his pile of old and beloved periodicals, and took the time to digitally preserve a grand and glorious thing for the benefit of us all.

Check his link, above, if you still don't get what I'm talking about. His comics and model work is quite worthwhile, too.

Thanks, RB. When's issue four going up?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pig Faced Orcs and Other Changes

Nowadays, if you ask someone what an orc looks like, you're likely to get a picture that looks something like this....

...or perhaps like this....
...or perhaps even like this...

Wasn't like that for me. When I became interested in fantasy literature and gaming, back in the seventies, there was some conflict about orcs. First time I ever saw an orc, it looked like this:

...the illustration in the first edition AD&D Monster Manual.

Now, I'd read Lord of the Rings, and Orcs got quite a rap in that series. Man, orcs were just flat out mean, ugly, unpleasant, and lethal, if you let them be. They had names like Ugluk and Gorbag, and would eat your hobbits for breakfast if Saruman didn't want them alive. THESE creatures, though... WTF? These weren't scary monsters, these were confused looking pig people... or perhaps the sapient evolved descendants of Dino from The Flintstones. THESE could not be orcs. What DID orcs look like?

When Ralph Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings movie came out, I went to go see it. Sure, they'd have to show orcs in there, wouldn't they? Well, as it turned out... not exactly.

As animated over live action footage... well... they did manage scary pretty well. But you couldn't see what they looked like for beans. They vaguely looked like badly animated guys in battered renfair gear with glowing eyes added in postproduction. What the hell DID an orc look like? At one point, I had the opportunity to buy some 25mm orc miniatures. I looked forward to painting them up and seeing what they looked like. I wish I had some pictures of those figures, because they were so badly sculpted, that once I had them painted... well... I STILL wasn't sure what an Orc looked like...
The Brothers Hildebrandt did some terrific Lord of the Rings art for a series of calendars back in the seventies. This was their first painting with orcs in it. I was still not satisfied. If these were orcs, they were Disney orcs. Where could I find something MEAN and SCARY, durnit?

Games Workshop, in England, was one of the first outfits to give me a REAL clue as to what an orc looked like, as seen above. They were green, had long pointy ears, tended to baldness, and had big lantern jaws and tusks. Well, it was a start...

It took the Dungeons and Dragons people thirty years before they decided what an orc looked like. Perhaps to avoid conflict with Games Workshop, D&D orcs are gray, and somewhat hairier than GW's. They're certainly scary, for all that they're pretty much cannon fodder and walking XP packages for players.
It took the Warcraft people, Blizzard Entertainment, to really flesh out the orc, though. Warcraft orcs are green, tusked, and remarkably scary. On the other hand, by the time Warcraft III and World of Warcraft came out, they weren't that bad -- they were, in fact, a deeply spiritual, shamanic-nature kind of folk, and had only been psychotic bloodthirsty villains due to being corrupted by demons. Sigh.

Blizzard had ushered in the PC orc... in both senses of the word; both player character and politically correct.

I mean, I know things are going to change. The game, the fantasy, all of it, is a muse for a lot of people, and there's going to be evolution in how our monsters and villains are presented.
But there are some permutations I could have gone without...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Social Skills for Gamers: Part Four

I think they actually sell these over at No fair sawing the soap open to get the d20 out! They smell great, too.

Mistaken Identity

Hm? No, never heard of him. Why do you ask?

Man Cave

Man cave goooooooood.

Social Skills For Gamers, Part Three

(Stolen from John Kovalic and Dork Tower, All rights reserved; everything copyright, trademarked, owned, and stolen from John Kovalic.)

Hot Babes Do LARP

Been there. Seen it.

Social Skills for Gamers: Part Two

This artwork is copyrighted by and the property of John Kovalic, creator of the Dork Tower comics, some of the finest comics about gamers ever written. I have stolen this one panel because it says so much with so little. Go look at more at

Social Skills for Gamers: Part One

How come I never run into chicks wearing shirts like that?

The Gun Is My Skill List

Ah, here we go... I'd been LOOKING for this one...

Beware of Dwarves

The elf Tizerk emerged from the tunnel in the rear of the Orc camp, and was immediately blindsided, falling to -4 hit points and collapsing. But the Dancing Dwarf had his back, and emerged from the tunnel to cover him.

The orcs moved in. Strangely, they ignored the Dancing Dwarf in favor of stripping Tizerk's corpse and perhaps making soup out of him. They paid no attention to DD as they casually sheathed their weapons and argued about who'd get the ring and who'd get the bow as they moved forward.

So DD casually hacked one of the orcs into chutney. He was around ninth level at the time, so the orc was in about four pieces before any of him actually hit the ground.
The orcs froze, thunderstruck. What the hell? How did THAT happen? They paused to look at the dismembered orc corpse. Meanwhile, Tizerk kept rolling to stabilize, and not doing too well at it. DD reached down to administer first aid, but then had to stop and chop up another orc who approached before he could do anything. Tiz was at -6 and falling.
By now, a crowd was starting to gather. Another orc approached, and died in a welter of scimitars and gore. The other orcs discussed the matter at some length. Perhaps the elf had had some sort of disease? Was it contagious? WAS there a disease that caused orcs to explode into gory chunks?
It was about this time that DD realized that the orcs couldn't see him... even when he attacked. He'd forgotten all about the shirt of +1 chainmail... that made him invisible to orcs... that he was wearing. He'd had it for ages. He hadn't fought any orcs since about fourth level. It actually took him a while for this to dawn on him. Meanwhile, Tizerk stabilized, and DD continued to have to hack up about one orc per round, as they tried sneaking up BEHIND the corpse, rushing at the corpse, and tossing a lasso at the corpse to see if they could move it (DD cut the rope). The orcs were mystified, and beginning to get a little scared.

"What is UP with you nitwits?" screamed a goblin. "There's THIRTY of you idiots, and ONE of HIM! KILL HIM!"
"Um," said an orc, "I think he's almost dead as it is. Unless he's just moving so fast we can't see him. And if that was the case, why would he lay back down? He could have killed us all by now."

"WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?" screamed the goblin. "There's ONE DWARF, you pack of utter morons! WHY IS HE STILL ALIVE?"

"Dwarf?" said the orcs. They looked around. "What dwarf?" DD took advantage of the fracas to slip the Ring of Regeneration onto Tizerk's finger... not realizing it wouldn't heal wounds that had occurred when he wasn't wearing it. By now, the rest of the group was beginning to get antsy, and had moved into the far end of the tunnel.
"This is stupid," said one of the orcs, truly a mental giant among his kind. "If there was a dwarf, and he was invisible, Zog there wouldn't be able to see him, either. Therefore, there is no dwarf. And did Zog just call us a bunch of names?"

All the orcs turned to look at Zog. "But... but," sputtered Zog the Goblin, "THERE'S THE DWARF! HE'S RIGHT THERE! HE'S RIGHT--"

And as the orcs gleefully slaughtered their most outspoken critic, the group collected poor Tizerk and sneaked out the way they came...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Colossus of Ylourgne

Long one, this time.
One of the neater things TSR ever published was the old Castle Amber module.

It had nothing to do with the Roger Zelazny novels. It was a rather unique Dungeons and Dragons adventure based on the works and worlds of fantasy author Clark Ashton Smith, and it was a doozy, containing mysteries, puzzles, monsters, planar travel, and at one point required the party to time travel in order to solve a mystery. At this point, this post will take two forms: the black text explaining what the party did, as opposed to the red text quoting from the Smith original story...

Upon successfully obtaining the Potion of Time Travel, the party, in their quest to escape from a parallel universe (medieval France) and return to the Forgotten Realms, set forth to the capital of the province, Vyones, in order to seek out the Viper-Circled Mirror from the wizard Gaspard du Nord.

Unfortunately, en route, they encountered a terrified curate, fleeing from his monastery – the last survivor. The monastery had been destroyed by the necromancer Nathaire, in the body of a hideous horror, the Colossus!

“In the interim, several monks of the Cistercian brotherhood, watching the grey wall of Ylourgne at early dawn with their habitual vigilance, were the first, after Gaspard, to behold the monstrous horror created by the necromancers.”

“Then, with both hands, the colossus tore loose an immense rock that was deeply embedded in the hillside; and lifting this rock, he flung it at the stubborn walls. The tremendous mass broke in an entire side of the chapel; and those who had gathered therein were found later, crushed into bloody pulp amid the splinters of their carven Christ.” ---Clark Ashton Smith, The Colossus of Ylourgne

The party hurried along the King’s Road north, to Vyones, finding the town in an uproar, and the Viceroy hard pressed to maintain order. Caravans of the wealthy and noble were headed south, and they’d commandeered most of the province’s standing military to escort them! The party did what they could to help… until summoned to the chambers of the Viceroy’s chief advisor… the wizard Gaspard du Nord. Du Nord had once been a pupil of Nathaire’s, and had a secret weapon that might help against the hideous horror…

“Working feverishly by the light of the westering moon and a single dim taper, Gaspard assembled various ingredients of familiar alchemic use which he possessed, and compounded from these, through a long and somewhat cabalistic process, a dark-grey powder which he had seen employed by Nathaire on numerous occasions. He had reasoned that the colossus, being formed from the bones and flesh of dead men unlawfully raised up, and energized only by the soul of a dead sorcerer, would be subject to the influence of this powder, which Nathaire had used for the laying of resurrected liches.”

“Gaspard made a considerable quantity of the mixture, arguing that no mere finger-pinch would suffice for the lulling of the gigantic charnel monstrosity. His guttering yellow candle was dimmed by the white dawn as he ended the Latin formula of fearsome verbal invocation from which the compound would derive much of its efficacy. The formula, which called for the cooperation of Alastor and other evil spirits, he used with unwillingness. But he knew that there was no alternative: sorcery could be fought only with sorcery.” ---Clark Ashton Smith, The Colossus of Ylourgne

A bargain was struck: Gaspard would surrender the Viper-Circled Mirror if the group would aid him in laying low his former master. Armed with three pouches of the necromantic powder, and their own spells, the group set out for Ylourgne at all speed, hoping to head the monster off before it could attack the city.

They almost made it.

“A cloud of arrows, visible even at that distance, rose to meet the monster, who apparently did not even pause to pluck them from his hide. Great boulders hurled from mangonels were no more to him than a pelting of gravel; the heavy bolts of arbalests, embedded in his flesh, were mere slivers.”
“Nothing could stay his advance. The tiny figures of a company of pikemen, who opposed him with out-thrust weapons, swept from the wall above the eastern gate by a single sidelong blow of the seventy-foot pine that he bore for a cudgel.” ---- Clark Ashton Smith, The Colossus of Ylourgne

“His head was level with the tower, and his eyes flamed like wells of burning brimstone as he drew near. His lips were parted over stalactitic fangs in a hateful snarl; and he cried out in a voice like the rumbling of articulate thunder: "Ho! Ye puling priests and devotees of a powerless God! Come forth and bow to Nathaire the master, before he sweeps you into limbo!" “ – Clark Ashton Smith, The Colossus of Ylourgne

The group paled before the enormity of the task. One swat of that tree the monster used for a club would squash a man like a tomato! But armed with courage and firepower, they advanced…
They knew that the Colossus’ backpack contained Nathaire’s apprentices… all necromancers themselves, who could heal Nathaire as quickly as he took damage. Plainly, the first step was to destroy them while the Colossus was distracted. Using spells, they severed the straps and blasted the wizards within. Meanwhile, the knight Navarre, using the Hammer of Hermes, launched himself at the monster’s shoulder, hoping to grab hold and cast his pouch of powder into the monster’s nose!

Didn’t quite work that way. Lacking any practice with the Hammer, he successfully thwacked himself into the monster’s back, and got its attention. The horror turned, and found the remainder of the party barbecuing his pupils!
Scott and Nathan narrowly avoided being hammered flat with the mighty pine club (tokens were spent). Meanwhile, Navarre clambered higher on the monster’s back, using tent pegs to crawl onto the monster’s shoulder… (he can be seen, wearing green armor and green shield, in the picture below; the purple caped figure wielding green fire is Nathan.)

"Draw nearer, Nathaire, if indeed it be you, foul robber of tombs and charnels," he taunted. "Come close, for I would hold speech with you." ---Clark Ashton Smith, The Colossus Of Ylourgne

…and it was then that the monster finally realized someone was on his back. He seized Navarre and began to squeeeeeeeze!

Nathan summoned the Hammer of Hermes to his hand! The weapon lay forgotten at the base of the city walls! It leapt to the air, and tore back to its master’s hand…. punching straight through the monster’s thigh! The monster screamed… and began to draw breath…

…and the party flung their pouches of powder into the monster’s face! Scott immediately triggered the spell designed to return the souls of the dead to their stolen bodies – and then, inspired…. Blessed the creature!

The monster stopped. It looked confused. It dropped the near-dead Navarre from a twenty-foot height, doing him no good at all.

“The anger was erased from the mighty, contorted mask, as if from the face of a dead man; the great cudgel fell with a crash to the empty street; and with drowsy, lurching steps, and listless, hanging arms, the giant turned his back to the cathedral and retraced his way through the devastated city."

"He muttered dreamily to himself as he went; and people who heard him swore that the voice was no longer the awful, thunderswollen voice of Nathaire, but the tones and accents of a multitude of men, amid which the voices of certain of the ravished dead were recognizable. And the voice of Nathaire himself, no louder now than in life, was heard at intervals through the manifold mutterings, as if protesting angrily."

"Climbing the eastern wall as it had come, the colossus went to and fro for many hours, no longer wreaking a hellish wrath and rancour, but searching, as people thought, for the various tombs and graves from which the hundreds of bodies that composed it had been so foully reft. From charnel to charnel, from cemetery to cemetery it went, through all the land; but there was no grave anywhere in which the dead colossus could lie down."

"Then, towards evening, men saw it from afar on the red rim of the sky, digging with its hands in the soft, loamy plain beside the river Isoile. There, in a monstrous and self-made grave, the colossus laid itself down, and did not rise again. “ ---- Clark Ashton Smith, The Colossus of Ylourgne

The adventure ended with a crazed three-day party, the payment of a substantial reward from the grateful populace of Ylourgne, and (as the party was leaving), the apparent construction of a statue of the three of them in the town square… the Saviours of Ylourgne!

“Of Gaspard du Nord, who had been the saviour of the province, it was related that he lived in much honour to a ripe age, being the one sorcerer of that region who at no time incurred the disapprobation of the Church.” – Clark Ashton Smith, The Colossus of Ylourgne for the whole text of the original story!

The Battle Of Bulette Pass: An Exercise in Group Storytelling

TODD THE BARBARIAN, half-orc. Still getting the hang of this "magic axe that comes back when you throw it" thing.
IXCHEL THE MAGE: No armor whatsoever. Eek.
SNIG THE GOBLIN: Why should adventurers have all the fun?
FATHER ANDERSON: Cleric and den mother.
MISER THE MINSTREL: Bard and seduction machine.
MEREDITH: Druid and animal lover. This does not include bulettes.
REDGAR: A fighter. A BIG fighter. A very STRONG fighter. But not a very high LEVEL fighter...
TIZERK OF THE GOLDEN BOW: Elf. Archer. And not present for this session, regrettably.

Part One. The bulette has attacked the group while traveling through the mountain pass out of the Battle of Bones, en route to a treasure site somewhere in the Anauroch Desert. Miser the Minstrel has had the crap beat out of him, and has retreated back into the wagon. Todd the Barbarian has had the crap beat out of him, and is on the ground in front of the wagon, barely alive (behind the bulette).

Yes, Tizerk, your horse is fine.

Meanwhile, Redgar sneaked out of the back of the wagon, flanked the beast, and whacked it a good one, getting its attention. Father Anderson, holding the torch, is seen to the left of the wagon, having had the crap beat out of him, too. Meredith the Druid is visible at far left, using her Bag of Boulders to pelt the beast with mega-sling-stones. Ixchel the Mage is not visible, as he is hidden in the wagon, poking his head and arm out every turn to launch a spell at the monster, then quickly withdrawing to safety.

Part Two. After having the crap beat out of him, Redgar is swallowed whole on a natural twenty. The monster then goes after the source of pain in his left buttock (Father Anderson and Meredith); Anderson is closest, and gets attacked. Ixchel continues to pop out, launch spells, and pop back inside, like a demented Whack-A-Mole that shoots back. It is somewhere around this time that Snig the Goblin is seen, hanging onto the monster’s underbelly and trying to hack through its armor. The group yells at him to get out from under the thing, which he does.
Part Three. The group disperses to raid assorted fast food joints, regrouping a half hour or so later.

Part Four. Snig does a Legolas Maneuver, charging up the monster’s tail onto its back, drops prone, and begins using his daggers as pitons, to move forward onto the monster’s face, closer to its vulnerable eyes. Redgar is taking heavy damage from the monster’s digestive juices and constricting stomach. He solves this by tearing open a bag of caltrops, hoping to give the monster indigestion. This works, but also has the effect of turning the monster’s guts into something resembling a cheese grater, in which Redgar is now being abraded and squeezed to death. Meanwhile, angry and in great pain, the monster attacks Father Anderson, bulldozing Todd and knocking the wagon aside, nearly onto Miser (seen at right). Critically injured, Father Anderson desperately looks for a way out – and notices Todd’s battleaxe, which is still embedded in the monster’s armored forehead…

… and Father Anderson leaps onto the monster’s head, seizing the axe, nearly losing a foot when he uses the thing’s lower lip as a springboard. He is now in one of the few places on the map where the thing cannot bite him… but he’s in deep trouble if it decides to start burrowing again!
Meanwhile, Snig claws his way closer, closer, to the monster’s eye – STRIKES – misses, and promptly fails his reflex save. He’s sliding forward, right toward’s the angry beast’s mouth! Fortunately, Father Anderson is in the way, and his ears provide fine safety handles. He finds himself nose to nose with Anderson, terrifiedly clutching the cleric’s head for dear life. Anderson is just as terrifiedly clutching the axehandle. Redgar, dying, begins frantically kicking the monster’s tonsils around with his heavy boots---

---and Todd, still axeless, charges around behind the monster and whacks it in the butt as hard as he can with his mighty Gauntlet of Fury!

---and the mortally wounded (and VERY nauseous) bulette projectile-vomits Redgar some thirty or forty feet (far right). Redgar takes serious damage from this; imagine a flexible cheese grater suddenly and violently giving birth to a large fully armored fighter, and you’ll have a clue.
The monster collapses, convulsing, dying, heaving its last.

Miser turns and runs towards Redgar, beginning a healing spell under his breath. The monster gags and coughs, one last time. A blast of blood and phlegm, studded with a great many iron caltrops, erupts with the monster’s dying breath.

Miser catches the edge of the moist shotgun-blast, and is knocked ass over teakettle, although his injuries are minor.

Todd, feeling very pleased with himself, roars the Name, to summon his mighty magical axe back to his hand… having completely forgotten the purpose it serves at the moment.

The axe ploughs a trench up the dying monster’s forehead, up and over its back, down its spine, and right at Todd’s face, taking Father Anderson and Snig with it. Todd glances up and sees his axe, with a goblin’s butt poised right above it, screaming right for his face.

Todd blinks twice, and promptly flings himself on his back, using his Uncanny Dodge.

The axe plows into the ground above Todd’s head, stopping cold. The axe haft catches the plummeting Father Anderson in the belly, stunning him badly. He falls on the unfortunate Snig.

And lo, there is much rejoicing.

Left to Right: Todd, Ixchel, Snig, Fr. Anderson, Meredith, Redgar, Miser, and a raccoon.