Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Untamed Wilds Session 13!

Having done a great job solving mysteries, the party was tasked with investigating a site where the flesh melding satyr known as Kalish Blackfur supposedly was making monsters. The group of heroes consisted of the crow ranger, centaur barbarian, harpy swashbuckler, catfolk blood hunter, dragonborn war cleric, dragonborn battle master fighter, goliath wizard, Aasimar druid, half orc barbarian, satyr bard, lizard folk druid, catfok barbarian/rogue, human wizard, and human monk. The fourteen of them found themselves at the entry tunnel to the cavern Kalish seemed to be working out of. The chamber was well lit, had torches around the perimeter with four stone slabs in the center of the main room. In a dimly lit area beyond they saw a second deeper chamber with a familiar satyr to a few of them about a hundred feet away. 

Wasting no time at all the crow shot three arrows at the satyr, causing him to throw up a magical shield. The barbarian charged ahead and changed direction when she saw the large dragon form in the corner, its scaled dark brown and like the dragons encountered before, the entire beast seemed sewn together. She slashed mightily into its neck. The harpy flew in and got off a shot at the dragon and hid behind one of the slabs, noticing in the next chamber another dragon. The blood hunter fired on Kalish, sending arrows into the darkness. The dragonborn cleric shot his crossbow at the closest dragon being vexed by the centaur, the dragonborn fighter shot his longbow at the same beast, the goliath wizard used firebolt, and the druid aasimar druid used his sling. The dragon’s scales proved tough against their assault. The half orc barbarian entered the fray and slashed at the creature as well but to no avail. The satyr bard used his ability to grant movement to his allies and himself letting the human monk and barbarian catfolk move closer to their enemies. The lizardfolk druid threw fire and moonlight at her enemies. The catfolk barbarian took that opportunity to charge the satyr villain and grapple him. Necromancers are not known for their esteemed skills of wrestling and he became screwed. The barbarian also stabbed him with his sword in his other hand, setting up the necromancer for more pain, and noticed the third stitched dragon. The human wizard cast haste on the human monk, and she stunned the first dragon and continued to whale on him. the necromancer misty stepped away to try to escape but only made it to his exit chute in the ceiling. One of the dragons used his breath weapon, a line of acid on a cluster of the party, ruining a few of their days and causing a bit of a panic. The other dragon lashed out at the cluster heroes, causing a bit of damage. The stunned dragon sat their complacent but lost in thought. The party did great, focusing their firepower on the dragon’s master, the necromancer, as well as the stunned dragon. The grapple barbarian used his catfolk climbing and speed boost to grab the necromancer again and wretch him from the wall. They both fell, further dampening the mood of the necromancer, he tried to dimension door away but the human wizard countered the spell. The goliath wizard used his new scroll of cone of cold to great effect, hitting two of the dragons. The party took out the stunned dragon before it could accomplish much, as it died the body rotted rapidly into a soup. The other dragons flew around biting at people and trying to line up shots for their acid breath. the party worked together to help up any of their group that fell. The necromancer went next, he attempted to take himself out but failed when the human wizard countered his fireball. One of the dragons did blast the necromancer and the heroes with its acid breath in its attempt at vengeance. The necromancer died at the hands of the party, and faded into dust. The dragons did not last much longer. 

The party explored the chambers, finding the chute in the ceiling, some tables with empty vials and surgery equipment, as well as a ledge that could allow a flying or climbing creature to bypass a wall. They rested a bit and prepared for their return journey when they heard noises by the entrance. They saw two cloaked trolls with blazing red eyes, they looked angry. The human wizard shot one of them with magic missiles and the monk closed in on it. The other troll moved into range with the rest of the party and cast cone of cold, striking all of them except the speedy monk that just ran away. The combat ensued viciously, a few of the party fell unconscious but were saved by their allies. The troll by the monk fell victim to her stunning fist and ended up pummeled by everything. The other troll was greatly outnumbered and also fell. The party looted them, finding potions on one and broken glass on the other, thanks to the shatter spell of the bard. They survived their dragon encounter, fought as a swarm, and might have defeated a foe they met in session one, if that was really him.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Untamed Wilds Session 12!

Hired to investigate strange necrotic energies escaping a forgotten jail from an older age, the party found themselves under the town of Thunder’s Point again. The group consisted of a half orc barbarian, goliath wizard, turtle man cleric of the grave, the satyr bard, lizard folk druid, catfolk ranger, lizard folk swashbuckler, catfolk blood hunter, centaur barbarian, and bird folk ranger. They entered a thirty-foot square chamber with plaster walls over hewn stone, and as the last member passed the threshold the entrance disappeared, and a faint miasma of green mist hung around the party’s ankles. They fumbled around in the dark for a bit until the wizard remembered his light spell. The turtle man found a space where the wall seemed to be flimsy and pushed his way through, revealing a hallway further into the darkness. The group moved forward, leaving the ranged characters behind. The centaur pushed ahead and found a large sized ogre skeleton hunched in the corner so she poked it, causing it to attempt to bite her neck. It missed and brushed past her neck clacking sweet nothings harmlessly. The group murdered it before it could act again. The walls started cracking and four more skeletons pushed through the walls and attacked the party from all angles. The skeletons hit hard but were put down rather easily. The party ventured forth, finding the hallway went on for hundred of feet and there were cells covered over by plaster. The mist was thicker here, and the party kept checking to make sure it was not gas, noting more of a chlorine or ammonia spell. They broke into a few of the cells and stole bones noticing that this place was strange, the prison area was just walled up after the inmates died. They eventually found a giant door with green mist curling out from underneath it. Doing the rational thing, the centaur barbarian threw the half orc barbarian at the door, bursting it open. Mist poured out of the faintly lit room, the party could see it originated from two large basins on the far end and there was a ghostly robed troll floating above them. The party instinctively attacked him and he summoned four glowing skulls to assist in the battle. The group tied to take out the troll witch and found the skulls interposing themselves to block the party. The skulls themselves kept biting people which not only damaged them but caused the victims to feel weaker. The cleric in the group used dispel magic on one of them and knocked it out of the air, killing it. the wizards used lighting and fire to attack and were able to cause quite the bit of damage. The troll, seeing the party was still in the entryway had teleported behind them and attacked a few times and noticed they were clumped. He used an ability that allowed him to ghost in a line, dealing damage to everyone he touched, which was half the party. The characters that made their saving throws took fifteen damage, those who failed took the fifteen and also had their hit point maximum lowered by fifteen points too. Enraged the party destroyed the troll, made sure the cisterns of mist were either broken or rendered non-working and made their way back to the surface to the reward of some new magic items.  

Untamed Wilds Session 11!!

In their wanderings the party found a firbolg barbarian that did not say much as well as their paladin satyr and catfolk warlock waiting for them back in the sword in the king room. The eleven of them tried to wrap their head around the mystery and the paladin decided to try to bend the sword with his shield. He took some necrotic damage and the human wizard got an idea. He cast levitate on the sword and it rose out of the king’s chest and disappeared. There was a disembodied maniacal chuckling and the group chose to leave the castle. They wandered the castle plateau until they saw torches in the distance and could hear large groups of frog men croaking. They were searching the city for the intruders and the party too evasive actions. The group made their way down to a lower level via magic, ropes, and sick monk tricks, making their way past a few of the roving bands of frog guards and lion sized frog monsters. They made it to a crossroads and figured they could set up an ambush to take out a few of the guards. they saw large sized frog men with two heads each looking over the tops of some of the buildings as well as a few smaller frogs in regal garb or armor. The ambush worked well, they started a few of the buildings on fire and engaged the monsters viciously. By the end a few buildings had been knocked down and a few smaller fires had grown into a respectable blaze. The giant two headed frog men took an overabundance of effort to take down but succumbed to the military strike force of a party. Once satisfied the party made their way further into the city, knowing the fires would lure the frogs away from themselves. They made their way to the next ledge leading to the lower part of the city and used the same strategy as last time, repelling with ropes, magic, and sass. They found the last portion of the city sunken under the waves and out in the deeper waters could see a large wooden platform between a few of the long-broken towers with a gathering of both normal and large sized frog men preforming some sort of ritual. They made their way closer on some stolen boats, splitting into three groups, one was the stealth boat, the other two made too much noise. The stealth boat also featured most of the ranged characters with height stealth, so to the casual observer it would appear to be just an errant boat in the water. They sailed over, saw a cultist frog man person in the midst of driving a dagger at a bound figure, and let loose with arrows. The cultist pretty much exploded, gore soaking his fellow croakers and his lifeless body falling onto the platform. The rest of the frogs started running around readying weapons and one of the large sized frogs cradled its fallen friend in its arms. The hasted monk ran past the crowd of panicked frogs, grabbed the sacrificial victim, and jumped into the stealth boat. They realized the victim was the archaeologist they were hired by and started to undo his bindings. Within the chaos the other boats snuck up and the fight was joined by everyone. Fire and lightning rained down upon the frogs and the lizard swashbuckler felt something pass him in the water, so also came up top to fight. The fight was quick except for two stronger frog men with skills in sward and spell, but their resistance was fruitless, they succumbed to death. The party gathered around the archaeologist and he cast a teleportation circle to return them to the surface.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Untamed Wilds Session 10!

After their reward they were hired by an older archaeologist studying a series of caverns within the Thunder’s Point area. They were joined by two new friends, a human monk and an elderly human wizard. In total, the party numbered eight, the ranger crow, blood hunter cat folk, barbarian centaur, dragonborn fighter, human wizard, human monk, lizard swashbuckler, and the wizard goliath. As they traveled into the deep they found an area that was not stable and the entire tunnel gave way, sending the party into the dark. As they fell they heard the archeologist enact a spell of feather falling, saving the party and his fate is unknown. The group settled about their landing area, finding themselves on a high precipice overlooking a collapsed city enshrouded in darkness. In front of them was a large castle with stone doors untouched by time and blocking it from closing were two humanoid frog man skeletons that looked destroyed by a large lion skeleton. While the party sat around thinking of their escape they could hear croaking in the distance. The crow ranger sat and used his super keen senses to detect that monstrous creatures were approaching and quickly from the lower broken levels of the city. The ranger, blood hunter, and swashbuckler prepared themselves for combat, the barbarian positioned herself to be in the doorway, while the monk and wizards looked around inside the large castle front hall. Their investigation found the door could be barred from the inside, there was artwork depicting the heroic cat folk from the old age defeating their enemies with both magic and sword. There was a large fire pit that had some latent magic to it and a throne with even more magic. The goliath found a secret door in the back of the chamber and was having difficulties making it open. At this point the outer guard noticed eyes in the darkness ascending a makeshift wood and bone latticework scaffolding. The party delayed until they had more information, watching as dark figures moved within the shadows while large croaking things climbed the wall of the precipice. Eventually three small heads poked up over the edge, the middle head stood a bit and launched a fireball at the mass of party members attempting to hide in the shadows, and moments after the blast large frog monsters the size of lions leaps up onto the landing, biting out at anything close to themselves. The party made quick work of the first group, the wizards took a break from their research to drop a few spells into the fray. More of the man sized from men came up the scaffolds and were dealt with quickly. Fire balls and other more cautious spells were cast in the defense of the party and the monk worked her flurries to quickly take out the bigger threats. The centaur looked down again and saw even more frog men climbing. She did the reasonable thing and used her sword as a lever and tipped the scaffold over. Bone, wood, and airborne frog men crashed down heavily against the lower level and croaks could be heard slowly fading. The party took this moment to enter the castle as a group and bar the door with bits of broken skeletons. The human wizard took a closer look at the throne in the rear of the structure and found the enchantments would shock anyone unless they were descended from the royal line of cat folk. He bid the blood hunter sit in the seat and there was no magical discharge other then the firepit starting up very subtly. The group looked in the unlocked and now visible door finding boring rooms looted of all their worth and rotten food. The goliath wizard had the swashbuckler help him with the secret door and together they found their way through, the rest of the group followed as they could. They found the still supplied rooms the guards and servants would live in as well s a weapons depository and quite a few rooms with both spell books and weapons, leading them to think the previous people studied both the sword and tome. They also found a metal door with a feline face embossed on it and kept failing to open it. the elderly human wizard asked the cat folk to put his hand on the door and stabbed him in it, sending blood on the door and causing it to slide aside revealing a chamber with a fancy bed, curtains and tapestries of ancient scenes and peoples. On the bed they found what appeared from the art they had seen the king, in his resplendent robes and garb he looked as if he was still alive, except for the black blade of star and shadow piercing his chest. The wizards again attempted to identify the sword and found no success and a few of the party tried to grab it. They quickly found the sword to either be protected or cursed, it damaged anyone that touched it, causing them to waste away painfully. The centaur attempted to grapple it out of the king and found it unmovable. The swashbuckler attempted to cut it out and met with similar disaster. While they attempted to kill themselves, the monk looked at the back wall and disappeared from view, she had located a secret tunnel that lead behind the scenes. She went left first, eventually finding a locked gate with no visible key. The human wizard attempted to follow and eventually half the group was standing in the narrow hall and the other standing in the bedchamber. The old wizard snuck right down the hall and found a tower with mages implements as well as a large tome, that was locked. The swashbuckler came in and opened it with his thieves’ tools and they learned a bit about the culture, and connected the sword may have belonged to the ancient villain the old heroes had fought. The wizard took the book and the swashbuckler tied to take the skull of a dead bird. The wizard told him to put it back but the swashbuckler told him no, it was his. A shirt spat and argument blossomed, the wizard ending it by using charm person on the swashbuckler and it worked. He told the lizard to put the skull back so the swashbuckler just tossed it back over his shoulder. As the skull broke the lights faded, shadows took over the room and coalesced into a vulture demon, which attacked the party without mercy. The blood hunter and the ranger were the only ones not involved. Still, the six party members within the chamber made quick work of the denizen of the darker worlds, finding only dust in its wake and the skull nowhere to be found. 

Map made in Inkarnate 

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Running for different sized groups

Recently I have been running sessions for multiple groups of players ranging in size from intimate, one player and one dungeon master, to small group, three to six players and one dungeon master, to a large group of fourteen players to one dungeon master. Each different group has different needs and play styles and some dungeon masters are better with certain kinds of groups.

For the one on one we are playing a prewritten adventure with the player having four characters she is controlling. Each character is someone the player has played before either in longer games with other players or campaigns that never went anywhere and wanted to run them through this adventure. Roleplaying within the party is lighter because she would spend a lot of time talking to herself as opposed to other players. In another instance I played as four characters in a campaign my roommate ran in school. It was great, my characters were able to learn more about the world and the way it worked, interact with nobles, anger dark powers, and help the dungeon master come up with obstacles to overcome. With this approach time can be spent on plot lines directly involving the backgrounds of the characters, it is easier to see direct ramifications of the party’s actions, and adventures more catered to the players wishes.  One main advantage for playing a one on one game is you only need two people to play, sometimes scheduling larger groups can be a nightmare.

With a small group of three to six players each player gets more time to shine with their characters and we can mix out adventure styles. For groups this size the dungeon master can integrate more personalized backgrounds for the players. recently we had a few sessions with three players and one dungeon master, less had to be planned on my part as the dungeon master because the adventures were more focused directly on the actions of the players. One session took place in a bar where the party was relaxing after a few stressful missions and meeting other heroes in town. They delved into their individual backstories in correlation to how much their character had drank and were able to forge stronger bonds between the members of the group. The second session they played as a three person group they went on an actual mission leading them past a keep on a cliff and an auction and backstory came into play to knock them off the rails. We are able to do longer roleplaying sessions focusing on much larger topics with the smaller sized group and get away from the big combats. I end up preparing less for these small sessions, knowing the players will converse and carry their interactions further than a few statistics on a page will. Other groups will vary depending on if they want more roleplaying or more combat based adventures.

For groups in the four to six range I try to find a balance between the social and combat interactions as well as involving backgrounds. There are times even with six players that people get lost in the fray, the more aggressive players taking the spotlight. Noise can also become an issue, if people are having side conversations it can become hard to hear what is going on. Four to six has become the standard for many of the game designers when coming out with adventures and modules. This size also allows for a prepared party to cover many of the bases in the adventuring party, the standard mage, thief, warrior, priest mold that has been a classic for role playing games for generations.

For the larger groups with seven to ten players it is harder to keep things in order. It is harder to keep everyone in the picture and involved when everyone wants and deserves to talk with the same bartender or dragon and people are having side conversations in character that might need to be heard by the dungeon master for later conflicts. With the larger groups I end up running more combat encounters or puzzle encounters to keep them moving and within a numbered order to make sure everyone get their chance to do something every session. There is nothing worse then a player feeling like they are not included because they are shy or everyone else has a more forceful personality. In most cases with the larger group it is harder for everyone to hear each other at the table, it tends to get noisy with eleven people all at in close proximity. There have also been moments where one round of combat took forty-five minutes. The next rounds went much quicker. Lower level adventures also work better for larger groups, once characters have more attacks and larger spells game play can slow down in almost any version of the game. Again, most pre-published adventures are structured for parties of four to six players so drastic adjustments need to be taken to ensure the party does not wipe the floor with the monsters every encounter or become under powered to monsters meant for tougher opponents.

10+ PLAYERS!! Recently I have been running many with as many as fourteen players. With ten it is important to keep the party on task, with fourteen, buckle up. There tends to be much more debating on what should be done, be it going left or right down a hallway, should we open this door, or should we trust the NPC we just met. I have found a few things helpful, maximum hit points on monsters, non-combat allies for keeping things on track, task-based missions, and skill challenges. Monsters with maximum hit points helps make sure each monster is around as long as possible. This sadly makes spells like color spray or sleep less likely to work in 5e. Throwing higher level monsters only works within the mid-tier of the game, low levels are more likely to lead to character death and player unhappiness. Adding more low-level monsters has led to success as well, many easier to kill monsters will delay the party from getting to the bigger monsters by a few rounds. The most helpful thing I have started doing is keeping the party in initiative by seat, that way they always know who will act before and after them in combat. When I had the fourteen players show up at the game store we gave the new players premade characters and walked them through the basics. Everyone was at a festival for the recent victory over a big foe when monsters attacked. The party, around the table took turns attacking my monsters, which in the case of the hydra, did not last long against fourteen attacks in a row, even with maximum hit points. If I wanted it to be a bigger challenge I should have doubled the monsters per encounter, I will try that next time. The other crazy part of large groups are the overlaps, there can be numerous rangers or druids in a party, or three rogues, or multiple wizards or my favorite, the four bards. The game can take drastic turns when each player has magic, or abilities to detect certain kinds of enemies with class skills, negating surprise for encounters. We had an instance where multiple uses of divination magic were used by multiple characters to divine what was on the other side of a door. Silly things can happen with this many players as well.

Your experiences might differ at the table, if any of this is helpful at all enjoy. If you have any questions or need advice my email is

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Untamed Wilds Session 9

The party was sent off to investigate one of the goliath keeps on the border separating the giant lands from the rest of the island. The group consisted of the crow ranger, centaur barbarian, lizard swashbuckler, human wizard, satyr bard, minotaur bard, goliath wizard, satyr barbarian, dragon born fighter, and cat folk blood hunter. Upon arrival they found the keep silent, the door barred from the outsider, and blood on the northern wall. the walls were twenty-foot-tall stone, the front doors stone and metal. The lizard, cat, and crow got on top of the wall and noticed a stone inner building with a dirt courtyard with five dead goliaths, four from crushing wounds and another seeming from blood loss on the north wall, his leg was missing. They also noticed the inside face of the stone entrance was covered in bloody hand prints and the door to the small structure within the keep was broken. The lizard threw a stone onto one of the bodies on the dirt and watched as pincers bit and started pulling the body under the dirt. The party launched bolts, arrows, and spells into the area, as the rest of the group had climbed up the lizard’s rope to investigate with them. Out of the dirt burrowed three more of the creatures, Ankheg, and another came up behind the party, that was nicknamed the squamous ankheg, a horrible mutation with spider legs, scorpion stingers, a back full of spines, and nightmare fuel physique. The party took some damage, a few became grappled by the beasts and the scary one sprayed acid on the party. The swashbuckler shot the crow by accident, and the goliath wizard was able to nuke the bugs with a fireball, ignoring his allies with his knowledge of the spell. The minotaur got to gore a few of the monsters as well. shit got real for the party when the scary squamous ankheg sprouted wings and flew down to bother the barbarian, which fell victim to the scorpion tails taking minimal damage but becoming poisoned. She later saved against the poison and destroyed the eggs attempting to take root within. The party was able to destroy these foul monstrosities before taking too much damage. They investigated the smaller structure within finding more broken bodies and the lizard and crow tried to sneak past them. The Satyr barbarian loudly broke down the door, ruining the parties attempt at stealth. From behind the bodies a small voice was heard and they found a pixie in a lantern, which half the party wanted to eat. The pixie got away and told them they would need to report what had happened to their boss, the fort would need new guardians and a strange satyr person showed up and these monsters came with him. The satyr bard matched the description of the satyr with the monster making satyr they met in the first session and the plot thickened. At this moment they heard from the sky a horrible screech and saw a stitched together wyvern gliding down at the keep. They leap to battle and ran out of the keep to face it on the ground after the satyr bard cast hideous laughter on it. They had bunched up and made ready to charge when a second screech made them aware of a second creature, another small frost dragon with blackened and bruised scales. The dragon blasted the party with a cone of dark ice, hitting all that were bunched at the front gate. The wyvern also hit the barbarian with a wicked tail stinger but the poison did not kick in. The party wailed on both of them, quickly destroying both. At this point they heard stirring within the smaller building and noticed the bodies of the goliaths shuddering, as if they were full of hatched bug monsters, so the centaur ran in and stomped the bodies and bugs into paste. The party took this chance to rest and, in the morning, headed back to town, finding a reward of one hundred and fifty gold waiting for them.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Some books I like that changed my life in subtle ways

Greetings fellow readers and friends! I have been tagged to list my favorite books that have influenced my life in various ways and I feel I should do more than just post covers. For simplicity sake and to not clog up peoples feeds with me constantly posting I have decided to just make a short write up about a few of my all-time favorites. There are many other books I am overly enthusiastic about but will be written up later.

Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. If we have talked in a book store or even at a party, I have most likely talked to you about this book. Brief spoiler free talk up that will sound familiar “A hero gives up on the life of adventuring, fakes his own death, and now owns a bar. People come in telling stories about his life getting most of the details wrong until a traveling story teller gets him to tell the true story about what really happened, all his great triumphs as well as his horrible failures that still torture him.” I first heard about and started reading this book back in 2008 and I fell in love with it. It is the best thing I have read since Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings. When I worked at a book place I hand sold over seven hundred copies and still to this day try to spread the good word. We are graced with a second book entitled The Wise Man’s Fear as well as a novella, The Slow Regard of Silent Things. We are waiting on a book three, I feel we are not a world deserving of a book three yet. His books have gotten me out of a few dark spells over the years, they have helped me cope with loss and disappointment. Please check out his Worldbuilders website where geeks can help do go in this world.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, by J.K. Rowling. I was bribed into reading this series as a young adult because I was dumb. My folks bought me book one and within the first chapter I was sold on the series. At that time book four was slated for release in a month or so and I caught up quickly. One of the hardest parts of any series is the wait and with each book the wait felt somehow more painful, with each character loss or the pain of youth being destroyed we would crave the next book. I benefit from these books, I resemble the main character which has helped start many amazing adventures and conversations over the years. It is hard to believe that it is the twentieth anniversary of the publication of Sorcerers Stone. If you have not seen the new covers please check them out. Books one, four, and seven are my favorites. Sorcerers Stone is our, and Harry’s, introduction to the wizarding world, Goblet of Fire had the Triwizard tournament and the awesome hedge labyrinth at the end and horrible heartbreak, and Deathly Hallows gave us resolution to many of the questions that haunted us for years. When Deathly Hallows came out I was working as a kiln technician at a summer camp and read the book in ten hours the night it came out so the campers would not ruin anything for me. Ok, rambling, if you like wizards and have ever wanted to do magic, read these books. The movies are great in their own ways but you miss out on so much if you don’t read the books at least once. I also enjoyed the Cursed Child book, after a few chapters the play format breezed by and it was like visiting old friends you think about often but are too awkward to talk too after all this time.

Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton. When the movie came out I was in third grade and I went with my dad to see it in theatres. As a bit of context, I liked dinosaurs and wanted to sit close to the screen. I had never really watched scary movies at this point either being much younger. I was terrified and curled up in a ball in the seat, there may have been tears. Eventually my dad and I left after the Dilophosaurus ate that guy from Seinfeld, lesson learned. A few months later we went back and were able to see the full movie. In fourth grade my grandfather on my dad’s side passed away suddenly and we were up north for a few days and the only movie we brought with was Jurassic Park, which I must have watched over ten times. I knew the movie pretty well by that point. My dad had read the book so he passed it on to me, so there I was at ten years of age reading Jurassic Park in my after-school day care program, fully immersed. I ended up reading it about six times over the next few years as well as the Lost World. There were cool parts they had left out of the movie and ended up recycling for other movies, which was fine. I loved the books and did not get back to kid’s books for a few years. I also wrote a few letters to Steven Spielberg recommending dinosaurs he should use in the movies and got a response thanking me for my contributions from his desk. Dinosaurs always will spark a flame in my heart, and these books helped.
Practical Demon Keeper, by Christopher Moore. This book I read again while very young, maybe fifth or sixth grade. The story revolves around a demon and its accidental conjurer traveling to a small town in California. The Conjurer is trying to find a way to dispose of his demon and chaos and blood shed ensues. I loved the use of mythology and humor mixed in with the brutality of a demon eating helpless mortals. I still have to read his other novels but I really enjoyed the references to King Solomon and other myths.

Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. I had seen bits of the old Rankin-Bass movies growing up but had very little memory of their contents, I had only seen them during a migraine when I was seven or eight. Back before the live action movies came out I decided to check out the books, borrowing my dad’s box set of paperbacks. Over two days in the summer I read the hobbit, learning all about Bilbo and his ring, the giant eagles, and Gandalf with his Odin like wisdom, I was in love with this book. I started reading Lord of the Rings in high school and ruined them in my backpack. They each took a bit longer to read than the Hobbit but were just as fantastic. Each study hall I would sit down and delve into a world with elves, dwarves, hobbits, and trolls in the epic battle of good versus evil. Being a tiny person, I loved that hobbits were relevant in a world of men and monsters and the fate of everything hung in the balance based on their success or failure. I had the chance to see Tolkien’s original notes at the Haggerty Museum here in Milwaukee when they had it on display, it turns out Tolkien had sold the notes to the university. It was awesome, he had charts showing where each character was in every scene even if they weren’t mentioned, drawings of locations, alternate passages, I was in lore heaven. Since then I read the Silmarillion and a few of the books his son has been releasing such as the Children of Hurin and other books released by other authors, like Tolkien’s Ring by David Day. His world was rich in lore and myth and I hope to continue reading about it for years to come. Hobbit will always have a special place in my heart, and for my four years of college it was my nickname. I love both the Lord of the Rings films, the animated films for the Hobbit and Return of the King, and the strange Lord of the Rings film with the rotoscope animation as well as the books. The Hobbit movies were a bit much but I still enjoyed them, they explored lore that was just suggested and built upon it. The book takes me about four hours, the movies nine. Without these books modern fantasy would not be what it is now, most of the authors out there have been influenced in some way by the story of the one ring, which in itself is influenced by Nordic mythology.

Children of Odin, by Padraic Colum. This was the best source of simple and quick Norse mythology and folk tales for many audiences and one of my favorite ways to introduce people to the world of Thor and Loki. It covers everything from the death of Ymir, the giant and the creation of the worlds to Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods. When anyone has questions about Norse myth this is my go to book, and now Neil Gaiman has come out with his own Norse Mythology book which I try to pair with Children of Odin to give two different accounts of the stories. Gaiman has a way of humanizing the gods and monsters in fantastic ways.

American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. Shadow Moon ends up encountering mythology in very close and personal ways. Tragedy strikes at home and Shadow has been let out of prison early. He meets a strange man named Mr. Wednesday who offers him a job, to be his man, more driver and bodyguard on the road. It features the old gods in a slow war with the gods of the modern age, technology and the like. This was the first book since Name of the Wind that caused me to lose myself completely to the text. Words danced before me and I was gone. As an amateur folklore and mythology specialist, this book felt like it was written for me to devour, characters I knew made me gleeful, and new characters I did not know sent me to my mythology shelf to research and yes, I have a mythology shelf, it is next to my art shelf. Being from Wisconsin I was excited for them to go to House on the Rock, a strange tourist stop full of oddities such as a giant whale fighting a squid and a carousel you are not allowed to ride. The show they made is pretty cool too, I enjoy the castings for everyone and it is neat to see more from characters in the background of the book.

Crystal Shard, by R. A. Salvatore. This was my introduction to the world of Dungeons and Dragons and the Forgotten Realms. Drizzt, a dark elf escaped from his terrible homeland helps the surface folk fight against a mad wizard and his crystal death star full of monsters and death. In this introduction story we meet the young barbarian Wulfgar, who ends up indentured to the dwarves after his people’s failed attack on Ten-Towns, Bruenor the dwarf leader of the region takes him under his wings as a ward. Bruenor’s other ward is Cattie-Brie, a human girl he has also raised. Cattie-Brie uses archery to defeat her foes. They are joined by Regis, a halfling that rather be fishing than adventuring but has a shadowy past and a magic amulet of persuasion. Drizzt is a drow, a dark elf from deep underground. He is a ranger, duel wielding cruel scimitars and accompanied by a magic panther named Guenhwyvar that he could summon with a figurine he had. With his friends Drizzt would topple tyrants, kill demons, anger the minions of the spider queen, mourn friends both new and old lost, and deal with the past he had hoped to leave behind. I had found these books in the Sci Fi book club and ended up with the entire Icewind Dale trilogy in one book. So began the madness of devouring novels. There are currently thirty-three novels books about Drizzt and his friends as well as a few spin off books about his one time rival as well as the Cleric Quintet. R.A. Salvatore has hurt me over the years but what he does is justified, without trauma or loss these characters would not change or evolve into what they become. I had thought that his title Hero was the last book, but it looks like we will be getting more Drizzt. I enjoyed these books almost to an unhealthy level, each one I would devour in about four hours and then the pining for the next one would begin. A few of the storylines would get repetitive, Drizzt is really good at killing orcs, but there was never a time I gave up on them. If you are going to start the series there are two good places. Crystal Shard was written first and after the fact Homeland, Exile, and Sojourn were written to show where Drizzt came from. I tell most readers to start with Homeland, but Crystal Shard was a bit more exciting of a read for me.

Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan. Lightning Thief is about a young boy, Percy Jackson. He has difficulty in school with reading and attention spans, but as it turns out, his brain is hardwired for both ancient Greek and combat. He is the son of one of the Greek gods, and quickly in the series you figure out which. In book one we find out someone has stolen the lightning bolt of Zeus, his master bolt, and he will go to war with the entire world if it is not returned. Percy and his friends Annabeth, a daughter of Athena, and Grover, a satyr protector of demigods, must travel across the land trying to find the bolt and clues on how to save their friends. The first set of books are the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series: Lightning Thief, Sea of Monsters, Titans Curse, Battle of the Labyrinth, and the Last Olympian follow Percy and his friends in their quest to prevent the end of the gods and mortals. These five books were amazing on their own, and Rick Riordan decided to write more expanding on myth. The Heroes of Olympus series features characters that survived the first series as well as a whole new camp of demigods, hidden away from the Greek camp. It seems there is a Roman camp on the other side of the united states that had no idea of the Greek camp. In this arc we meet Jason, a boy with no memory of where he came from but knows all the Roman names of the gods. He ends up in camp Half-blood with Piper, a girl he might be dating, and Leo, a young man who can build things and can control fire. They find out there is a prophecy that will need seven heroes to save the day. The second book starts with this strange boy named Percy, stricken with a loss of memory that only knows one thing, a girl named Annabeth is probably pissed. He ends up at the Roman camp and receives a similar prophecy. The Heroes of Olympus series is as follows: Lost Hero, Son of Neptune, Mark of Athena, House of Hades, and The Blood of Olympus. There were parts in these books that have destroyed me. He is continuing the Greek and Roman stories now with the Trials of Apollo, the Hidden Oracle, the Dark Prophecy, the Burning Maze, and next year we will be getting the Tyrants’ Tomb. Apollo has been struck down from the heavens for something that happened in the Blood of Olympus and now is a mortal teenager, Lester Papadopoulos, now forced to gain his divinity back by freeing the oracles that have been hidden away from the world by an evil organization bent on domination. He has also written a series about the Norse gods called Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Sword of Summer, the Hammer of Thor, and the Ship of the Dead which all feature a young boy named Magnus trying to stop Ragnarok with the help of a mute elf, a fashion sensible dwarf, and a young Muslim American girl that wants to be a pilot that also happens to be a Valkyrie, we also meet Sam, a kid that is gender fluid, Sam rocks. He also wrote the Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid, Throne of Fire, and the Serpent’s Shadow. Carter and Sadie are forced to save the world with the help of Egyptian gods that must possess human hosts to interact with the world. These all are fun series for getting young adults into mythology, some of the myths are edited for content reasons but still live up to the amazingness that is mythology. Rick Riordan has also been working on getting more children of all ethnic backgrounds and sexual orientations in his books. Inclusion is important for these young readers. These books are about accepting who you are and what you came from as well as making your own story. Looking back at the world mythologies, the heroes were from all walks of life, it did not matter if you were old or young, blind or had a gimp leg, everyone has a purpose and a destiny.

Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. Game of Thrones is frustrating and amazing. There is so much to it, so much left out of what we experience in both the shows and the book. We are five books in and seven seasons of the show. The first book I read over the course of a year, getting most of it spoiled along the way, the danger of working in a retail environment. I made sure to work my way quickly through the rest of them, reading the Dance with Dragons in less than a week. Game of Thrones is successful for many reasons, as opposed to the farmer rising up to defeat the tyrant which is many of the fantasy tales we hear, this is nobles backstabbing and burning each other to the ground with their ambitions and treachery. We get mythical beings mentioned in the first scenes that most of the realms think are just stories or fairytales but are actual threats to the Seven Kingdoms, they take a while but are still coming for the south. We eventually get dragons, the exiled princess sold of to the barbaric horse riders in a distant land rises to be the queen of her people and lead them to victory. Characters we get attached too die suddenly, leaving voids in our hearts. We don’t learn, we fall for the next awesome character until they crushed by a mountain. Everyone jokes about the writing of the books and complains about it taking so long to come out. I casually remind people book one came out in 1996, we are in for a wait and the more you bother the author, the longer this is going to take. The show has done a marvelous job adapting the thousands of pages of books into the show, yes characters have been left out or killed off too early. It is a rare thing to see people get this excited and worked up about something in geek culture. The show has gotten millions of people to go out and buy the books in a genre they might have never picked up before. They are not simple reads either, each book is at least nine hundred pages depending on the binding you pick up. After reading so much of Martin I do feel every other book to be a quick read, even when nothing happens for a few hundred pages, I have gotten used to it. And even in the pages where it feels like nothing is happening there are small moments that if missed leave you in the dark to the next big thing on the horizon. Conversations between characters in one chapter can lead to entire families getting wiped out later on. I would also recommend checking out the short story book, Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, it follows a knight and his squire navigating the political landscape of Targaryen rule years before the Game of Thrones series takes place. It is an illustrated book with three short stories bordering on novellas.

Heir to the Empire, by Timothy Zhan. This was my first adult Star Wars books. I had read many of the Young Jedi Knights books with Jacen and Jaina and young Anikin Solo, which would haunt me later on. Heir to the Empire was the introduction to my favorite once cannon, then not cannon, and now cannon again villain, Grand Admiral Thrawn. He studied the art of the Empire’s enemies and would figure out their weakness. He was intimidating and cool at the same time. He drew together the factions of the Empire after the battle of Endor and was using clones again to fill out the ranks of troopers to help combat the New Republic and their forces. Luke was doing his Jedi things again and was losing touch with the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Leia was pregnant with the twins and being attacked by assassins left and right leading to a cool moment where she was called “Daughter of Vader”. The assassins had worked for Vader and reconized his scent. She went with them and helped their people fix their broken world and gained some protection for herself. The Thrawn series was amazing. There was a Sith named Joruus C'baoth, we meet Mara Jade who became very important for many reasons. This trilogy started me on the path of reading many of the Star Wars novels, which was exclusive to about four years. I read almost half the catalogue except for the X-Wing books and a few others. I loved the New Jedi Order books and still hurt from Vector Prime, I enjoyed having a foe that was absent in the force. I was very excited to see them bring Thrawn back in the Rebels show and it was excellent.

Keep on the Borderlands, by Gary Gygax. This was the first Dungeons and Dragons adventure I ever read through, I felt it needed mentioning, being the gateway to the twist my life has taken, trying to write and hopefully eventually publish a campaign world. I am in my twentieth year playing Dungeons and Dragons, most of it I have spent running the game as the dungeon master, leading parties of adventurers through challenges both great and deadly. The times I was able to play as a character have spawned stories that I will tell for years to come, from the Robank’s Avengers meeting an untimely end in a vampire lair, to Robank, my dwarven bard getting killed by a fear spell and haunting his axe until the party could reincarnate him, to Kannorack my changeling warmage/beguiler/bard, Rakomon Teledonde Orta my dusk blade cursed human with a drastic skin condition, and Drogo my tiefling gold dragon blooded sorcerer that just wanted to flirt with mermaids. I have played around fifty different characters over the years and have run eighteen campaigns, seven of which officially finished, the others either the group moved on or life changed or is still in progress.