Monday, May 17, 2010

RIP Ronnie James Dio

Ronnie James Dio died on Sunday. He was a legend in the rock world, fronting some of the best and most metal bands of all time. Starting out in Rainbow and Elf, he replaced Ozzy at the Black Sabbath frontman before moving on to his own band, Dio. Along the way, he popularized the 'horns' and made metal the dragon's lair that it is today.

Unlike many other rock stars (and other Black Sabbath frontmen), Dio was an articulate, intelligent man who seemed to know how silly a lot of rock is, and then embrace it anyway. He lived the rock and roll lifestyle - notoriously, he once drove a car into a hotel lobby - but he never overindulged to the point where he melted his brain. He gave some of the clearest interviews I have ever heard on the subject of rock music.

Where Ronnie is now, you can bet the locals are surprised at his choice of furnishings. They're probably used to fluffy clouds and maybe green meadows. Requests for spike-covered thrones, chains, and sharp weapons on the walls must be causing something of a stir.

Rock in peace, Dio.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

RPG Ability: Beard Armor

Have a seat, boy, and listen. Now, you're not in trouble, but you gave your ma and I quite a scare when we found that razor in your toolbelt. We're not mad, we're just worried that you might make a terrible mistake.

Don't shave your beard, son. No dwarf should ever shave his beard. I know you think you're stickin' it to your old man and all that, but maybe I can change your mind. I'd like to tell you the story of your great-great-great-great granddad, old Othar Beardhaverson.

Othar was stationed to an outpost on the frontier of our clan's territory, right at the edge of goblin territory. It was little more than a small guardhouse cut from the rock, with a storeroom and a watch tower, but it was crucial in watching for goblin incursions. Othar and three other dwarves kept watch day and night. It was boring work, sure, but crucial, lad, crucial.

You see, one day they spotted a mass goblins approaching across the valley. They tried to go for help, but the goblins had sent advanced scouts that engaged the dwarves and penned them up. The main force would arrive in a matter of hours, and the dwarves knew they had to get a message out to ready the defenses.

They made several attempts to push past the goblins, but the greenskin scouts had the dwarves outnumbered ten to one and kept pushing them back into the gatehouse. The dwarves were tough though, and they kept fighting despite their wounds.

After several hours of constant fighting, all of the dwarves were too wounded to run except your great-great-great-great granddad. After so much abuse, his proud armor was in sad shape, battered and broken, and he didn't have the time or tools necessary to mend it properly. Without his armor's protection, he wouldn't last ten seconds against the cunning gobbos.

Othar was a clever one, though, and he came up with a plan. He took his big, glorious beard, and he braided it over his body, using it to shore up the weak points in his armor and keep the plates in position. With his armor prepared like this, he downed the last of the ale and charged from the guardhouse. The goblins attacked as always, but their weapons couldn't get through Othar's beard armor. He fought his way through and ran as fast as his legs could carry him, bringing warning to his king and mobilizing the army.

The next day, the army came and relieved the guard house. They met the goblin army head-on and turned it back, with Othar Beardhaverson, still clad in his beard armor, personally leading the final charge that routed the goblins.

There, there. Don't cry, son. We forgive you. Just promise me you'll throw away that horrible razor, and not another word about shaving your beard. For your ma's sake.

Beard Armor is an ability that allows a bearded character to bolster his armor with his mighty beard. It was developed by the dwarves, and dwarves get bonuses as the race with the best beards, but it is available to any race capable of growing beards. Sorry, elves.

A character cannot simply tie his beard about his body and expect to receive the Beard Armor bonus. One must learn the secret of the Beardsmith's Art, which includes special techniques for knotting and braiding beards to give the best durability and protection.

Beard Armor gives its bonus in addition to any other armor that the character is wearing. It can be worn by any class, and does not impart any armor-related penalties to skills or spellcasting.

Only the character who grew the beard can wear the beard armor. You cannot cut off another character's beard armor and wear it as your own. Beard armor must consist entirely of your own beard, though you may include your mustache if you like. No weaves, wigs, or beard extensions can grant beard armor.

Legends say that some Beardsmiths grow their beard armor to the level of beardery where they become Beardmasters. Beardmasters weave weapons and tools into their beards so that they can both attack and defend with their formidable facial hair. If there is any interest in the Beardmaster paragon path, please let me know in the comments. If I get enough commenters clamoring for Beardmaster rules, I'll give it a shot to develop full rules for the paragon path.

EDIT: Kudos to my lovely (and beardless) wife for the idea.

Monday, May 10, 2010

RIP Frank Frazetta

Frank Frazetta died today. Perhaps more than any other artist, Frank Frazetta understood low fantasy, swords-and-sorcery stories. His paintings don't try to be photo-realistic. They're brooding, gritty, sensual, and dangerous. I understand that he's not everyone's cup of tea, but then again, neither is low fantasy.

I know that a lot of people have said it before, and I don't have much new to contribute to the conversation, but what I like about Frazetta's art is that it is straightforward. The hero is muscular, the monster is grotesque, the damsel is voluptuous.

I have been reading some Conan stories by Robert E. Howard, and this is how Conan's creator wanted to see the world. In his mind, the best world was one where a man could take a sword in his hand and carve out a place for himself. Tyrants and monsters would fall before him, and women would long to feel his mighty arms around their slender waists. Not that it would be easy. A hero would have to be prepared for pain. He should steel himself for a long journey, usually alone, against treacherous enemies. There would be women who would try to lure him to danger, and monsters of every size, from the subtle to the gargantuan. There would be dark magic and terrifying elder gods. But a man who was strong of heart and limb, who put his trust in steel and nothing else, could triumph against those odds and emerge the victor, black-haired and sullen-eyed.

This was the world Frank Frazetta painted. It was simple, raw, and unapologetic. May he rest in peace.


I created my first challenge on Ficly today in memory of Frank Frazetta. If you feel like participating, check it out here: RIP Frank Frazetta Challenge on Ficly.

This may be a good opportunity for those of you who have been meaning to write something on Ficly but haven't gotten around to it yet...