Monday, May 22, 2017

DINOSAURS!!

An hour and a half east of Calgary is a town called Drumheller in the Alberta Badlands. It has a long history of coal mining, but today it is known mainly for dinosaur fossils and the absolutely awesome Royal Tyrrell Museum.


With the pleasant weather (rare for the May long weekend in Alberta), we joined the throngs taking in the museum today.


Although many of the visitors were probably out-of-town tourists seeing the museum for the first time, for locals like us, the real draw was a new exhibit.


Featured in an article in National Geographic, the museum has a new nodosaur with a remarkable degree of preservation.


As you can see, the surface scales and spikes have been preserved.


The detail is amazing.


Some fun facts; this guy lived about 110 million years ago, making him the oldest dinosaur fossil ever found in Alberta. He was over five metres in length and would have weighed about 1300 kg. This particular nodosaur represents a new, as yet unnamed, genus and species.

-Rognar-

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Sabaton in Calgary

Sabaton is, without a doubt, one of my favourite bands. In fact, I would say it is probably my favourite to come on the scene in the post-NWBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal for the woefully uninformed). I and a couple of the lads had the opportunity to see them live last night and what a blast it was. But first, the preliminaries; there were two opening acts. The show started with the Norwegian-German Goth metal band Leaves' Eyes. Their set was solid, starting off with Halvdane the Black, probably my favourite of their hits. The band is known for their "Beauty and the Beast" vocals, contrasting the clean soprano of the new lead vocalist Elina Siirala with the deep growls of Alexander Krull. The highlight of their set was Krull in Viking armour, waving a longsword while belting out Blazing Waters.


Next up was the Finnish power metal group, Battle Beast. I didn't know much about this band before last night, but I am now a real fan. They turned up the energy to 11 and never let up. The mosh pit really came to life with Familiar Hell and Black Ninja, but the highlight for me was King for a Day. These songs will definitely be added to my personal playlist.


Finally, it was time for the headliners and they did not disappoint (like there was any chance of that). Starting off with Ghost Division, about the German 7th Panzer Division in WWII, they ripped through a 90 minute set that leaned heavily on their most recent album, The Last Stand, but included classics from all their previous albums. Many of my most favourite Sabaton songs were performed, including Carolus Rex, Attero Dominatus, Primo Victoria, The Art of War, Resist and Bite and Winged Hussars. There was even a brief, impromptu riff of Michael Jackson's Beat It in a rare display of Joakim Broden guitar playing. These guys were clearly having fun and the crowd was loving every minute of it. Awesome show!


-Rognar-

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Iron Gods - Valley of the Brain Collectors 4

We continue our Iron Gods AP with the conclusion of Valley of the Brain Collectors - spoilers ahead.

The party prepared to assault the Dominion hive. After uncovering the entrance, they proceeded in and promptly found themselves facing the other annihilator robot. Though damaged by the blast that destroyed the other annihilator, it was still formidable. The combination of chain gun and plasma lance took a toll on the party, but by this point, they were well-versed in robot fighting. The annihilator was soon a mass of smoking ruin.

Moving on, they battled their way past a swarm of ugothokras and the corpses of Isuma's fellow Kasathans, who were occupied by intellect devourers. It was all Isuma could do to retain her composure as here former friends-turned-meat-puppets were cut down. She vowed to see them laid to rest in the proper way of her people when the battle against the Dominion was over.


Continuing on, they came upon the lair of Maukui, who by all outward appearances, was a young void dragon. Now admittedly, the party members were not experts on dragonkind. Nonetheless, there were learned fellows among their number and the behaviour displayed by Maukui seemed out of character with what they knew of void dragons. It seemed willing to parley and offered what information it could. It told them of a yah-thelgaad named Dweller-in Dark-Places who ruled the hive. It explained that a yah-thelgaad is a sort of advanced neh-thalggu and this particular one was a hated enemy. Maukui would be happy to see it destroyed. It also mentioned a kyton named Paajgat who it considered a friend. Maukui asked the party to spare her if possible.

The company agreed to Maukui's terms and continued on. Many more ugothokras and neh-thalggus were vanquished until they arrived at the chamber of horrors that was Paajgat's "lab". She did not attack, but offered the party exquisite sensations the likes of which they have never known before. The blood-soaked operating tables and various body parts strewn about gave ample reason for the group to reject her offer. Shrugging off the rejection, she allowed them to pass, indicating that she had grown bored anyway and was off to seek pleasures elsewhere.

Sensing that they were getting close to their final destination, the party pressed on. Eventually they came upon a chamber containing a circular platform which they correctly surmised to be a teleportation circle. As they inspected it, a party of neh-thalggus entered the room, led by a similar, but clearly distinct creature. Dweller-in-Dark-Places had found them. The battle was fierce. The potent strength-sapping poison of the yah-thelgaad's claws proved especially dangerous. Though none of the party was felled in the melee, Hala's healing arts were much appreciated when it was over.

Once renewed, the party still had a problem. They had been unable to activate the teleportation circle. They decided to enlist the aid of Maukui. The void dragon agreed to help, asking for only one thing in return, a small device which he claimed was stolen from him by the yah-thelgaad. The description seemed like it might refer to the device that contained Casandalee, but the party agreed anyway (of course, they had no intention of fulfilling their end of the bargain). Maukui removed a limb from the dead yah-thelgaad and touch it to the platform which activated the circle. Smangtooth and Nils passed through. At that point, Maukui, realizing the party's intent to betray him, attacked Hala and Targus, while Smangtooth and Nils found themselves in another chamber facing a fossil golem. Smangtooth's adamantine chainsaw and Nils' laser rifle proved an ideal combination for battling golemkind and the battle was short. However, Targus and Hala were in far greater peril. The stealthy dragon had positioned itself to make a quick and sudden attack, catching both by surprise. Maukui first tore into Targus and he was gravely wounded. It then turned its attention to Hala. With gnashing teeth and ripping claws, it shredded the cleric, bringing down the party's best healer in a whirlwind attack. Smangtooth and Nils, sensing something was wrong, went back through the portal. Targus, badly-wounded, stood over the prone body of Hala, fighting off the blood-stained dragon. Smangtooth charged forth to engage in melee, while Nils blasted away with his laser rifle. The battle was tough. The dragon proved immune to Nils' laser rifle and quite resistant to his arc rifle also. Nevertheless, it could not stand up to Smangtooth's chainsaw for long. As it died, a hideous, brain-like abomination squeezed out of the dragon's body, an intellect devourer. It fought briefly, but realizing it was outmatched, the beast escaped by casting dimension door. It was gone for now, but they feared they had not seen the last of it.

-Rognar-

Sunday, April 23, 2017

A trip to the mountains

This year is the 150th anniversary of the birth of the Canadian confederation. To celebrate, all of Canada's national parks are open for free. Here in Calgary, we are fortunate to live less than an hour's drive from the crown jewel of the Canadian national park system, Banff. I usually take the family to the park a couple of times a year, but it is normally pretty expensive for a day trip, especially since the nearby provincial park, Kananaskis, is free all the time. So, this year, we are getting an early start to take advantage of the free access.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep near Exshaw



Elk (aka Wapiti) wandering through the Tunnel Mtn. campground


Mount Rundle from Tunnel Mtn.


The Cave at Cave and Basin National Historic Site



-Rognar-

Friday, April 14, 2017

Iron Gods - Valley of the Brain Collectors 3

Continuing with our Iron Gods campaign, as always, expect spoilers.

Upon further consideration, the company concluded that the robojack was probably not worth the effort of retrieval and decided to continue on directly to the Dominion hive. On the way, they were once again met by the tiefling bounty hunter, Hyrsek Caio. Using all his "well-learned politesse", he questioned the party on their findings within the Fungal Cave, and whether they had found any evidence of the rogue Technic League mage Therace. The party denied finding anything beyond a few minor baubles. Being a fairly perceptive individual, Caio was certain they were withholding the truth from him. Nonetheless, they were clearly more than he could handle. The reckoning would have to wait and Caio helplessly watched as the party went on its way.

As the company continued to the hive, they encountered an enormous, foul-smelling mass of scaly flesh. They were able to determine that it was, in fact, the decomposing remains of the organic dropship used by the Dominion to land on Golarion. Braving the stench, the party entered the ship from a rotted hole in the collapsing roof. They quickly encountered a guardian of the dying vessel, a lunarma sorcerer. The weird, hovering, tentacled creature engaged the party with magic and a mindrender. It fought with ferocity, but was ultimately defeated. Moving on, the party made its way to the front of the ship where, they assumed, the control centre would found. Access to the deck was barred by three neh-thalggus, the dreaded brain collectors.


They battled hard, with claw and spell, but the potent strength-sapping venom of their bite attacks proved the most debilitating attack. Fortunately, no brains were collected on this day.

Finally, the party arrived on the bridge of the ship. The ceiling was quite high. Suspended from it was an immense steel and glass cauldron containing a huge green ooze that sloshed about within its container.


The ooze began to communicate with party telepathically. It called itself The-Stars-Whisper and claimed to be the shipmind of the dropship. Though its demeanor was initially hostile, it became friendlier upon realizing the party sought a confrontation with the Dominion. Like the ship itself, the shipmind was dying and it grew to hate the Dominion, and especially the neh-thalggus, blaming them for its inevitable demise. It offered the party a cache of useful items it had stored which could aid in the fight against the Dominion. The shipmind revealed a number of magical and technological items, including an ingenuity facet, a special device similar to the inhibitor facet they had used against Hellion back in Scrapwall. However, unlike that device, the ingenuity facet is intended to strengthen, rather than weaken an artificial intelligence. The cache also included a dozen scent glands which could be used to obscure the party from the internal sensors within the hive.

As the group prepared to collect the treasure and depart, the demeanor of the shipmind suddenly shifted again. It decided that it needed to test the party, reasoning that if they could not defeat it, they would be no match for the Dominion. It attacked immediately, using its potent plasma bolt and thought disruption attacks. The battle was hard-fought and more than one party felt his mind nearly shattered by the psychic attacks. Still, the company prevailed and the shipmind died, content that its vengeance would be delivered. The Dominion awaits.

-Rognar-

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Iron Gods - Valley of the Brain Collectors 2

We continue with our Iron Gods campaign - spoilers ahead.

As the party made their way to the Fungal Cave, they came across a campsite across the river. A lone individual occupied the site. They approached cautiously and, although the individual clearly noticed their approach, he did not assume a hostile stance. He introduced himself as Hyrsek Caio and as the company got closer, they could see he was a tiefling. Though reticent at first, Caio eventually revealed that he was a bounty hunter in the employ of the Technic League (although not a member of the organization). He was pursuing a renegade Technic League wizard by the name of Therace. When the party indicated they were heading to the Fungal Cave, Caio offered to accompany them. They politely declined, but told him they would report back to him if they found any evidence of Therace and with that, they headed on their way.

The Fungal Cave was choked with green mould. Two shambling mounds guarded the entrance.After dispatching the sentries, the party entered the swampy cavern. Green slime and humanoid bones adorned the walls. Deeper they went until they were set upon by a group of Mi-Go, the dreaded alien fungus creatures from the void. The Mi-Go proved challenging, but were eventually destroyed. More Mi-Go and the gug allies were encountered. The company came upon a surgical theatre where Mi-Go performed their grisly experiments and a shrine to Shub-Niggurath tended to by three chaos beast clerics of the Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young.

Eventually, they came upon Lrrhech, a Mi-Go cleric of Shub-Niggurath and its bodyguards. The Mi-Go fought hard, but were ultimately defeated. The party was just too strong. Among its possessions, they found the disembodied brain of the renegade wizard, Therace, encased in a metal canister. Although his grip on sanity was tenuous, he was able to tell them of the events that led to his capture and eventual vivisection. Of particular importance to the party, he mentioned that he had sent part of his expedition to another cave to explore. He said they had a robojack with them, which he intended to use should he encounter the annihilator robots of which he had heard reports. Knowing that at least one such robot still remained somewhere in the valley, the party decided to seek out this device. Until next time...

-Rognar-

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Iron Gods - Valley of the Brain Collectors 1

Once again, we continue with our Iron Gods campaign...spoilers ahead.

After tying up some loose ends in Iadenveigh and Torch, and making a quick trip to Starfall to surreptitiously unload some treasure (and Grendal), the party, which now included a priestess of Brigh called Hala, made its way to the Scar of the Spider. At the entrance to the valley, they found the smoking ruin of a massive robot. A large crater indicated that the robot had been crippled by a major explosion, possibly caused by a planted mine. As the party examined the robot, they noticed a large net slung under it. Within contained several human bodies, most likely local barbarians. They had been killed by the explosion, but sometime later, the tops of their skulls had been surgically removed and their brains extracted. As the party examined the scene, the robot exploded, of course.

After patching themselves up, the party began following the tracks of a second large robot which had apparently also been damaged by the blast, but survived and made its way back down into the valley. On the way, they came upon a large cave full of reddish fungus. The fungus turned out to be radioactive, but flammable, The party was able to burn it away, destroy several giant spiders that occupied the cave and recover a sizeable treasure trove. Continuing on their way, they encountered a ragged man with many scars and some high-tech prosthetics. The man, who called himself Paetyr, was clearly mentally disturbed, but not hostile. Hala was able to cure the man of his insanity and he proved to be a valuable source of information. He turned out to be a druid who had been tortured by a group he called the Butchers who inhabit the valley. He was able to provide information on other denizens of the Scar of the Spider, notably a four-armed female being who used high technology. He said she was the one who destroyed the giant robot. The company was interested in making contact with this person. Paetyr said she could be found in a place he called the Machine Caves and told them how to get there.

The Machine Caves turned out to be natural caves, but parts of the interior were clad in metal with glaucite doors and robotic guards. There was no immediate sign of the four-armed creature, but the party members found themselves in the throne room/laboratory of a particularly bombastic robot called Binox. After a predictably unsuccessful effort at diplomacy, a surprisingly difficult battle ensued. Binox proved quite formidable, with integrated laser rifles, a force field and the unexpected ability to rapidly climb out of pit spells (a party mainstay). Nonetheless, the would-be robot king was defeated. They explored a little more and realized the room they were in was a fully functional military and production lab powered by a geothermal reactor, a find worth a king's ransom. As the party healed up, the four-armed female appeared. She spoke in Androffan and said her name was Isuma. She said she was of a race called the Kasathans and that she was from a distant world. She said she was brought to this world on the ship that crashed in Numeria thousands of years ago. She and several fellow Kasathans had been preserved in stasis pods until recently. They had run afoul of a group of Dominion agents and only she had been able to escape. Since then, she has been fighting a guerrilla war against the Dominion. When the party informed her that they were looking to cause some trouble for the Dominion as well, she asked to join them. She also told them of another group of aliens who lived in a place she called the Fungal Cave. She said they were also worshippers of the elder gods of the Dark Tapestry, just like the Dominion, but that the two groups were mutually hostile. She figured this other group might be a bit easier to take on and that they may have some useful technology or information to use against the Dominion. It was agreed to check out the Fungal Cave first and off the went with Isuma tagging along.

-Rognar-