Thursday, May 31, 2012

Session Report: It's the End of the World As We Know It...

And so it was that the party finally finished off the Chaos Cave.  Steadily escalating earthquakes rattled the group as they forced their way into the center of the dungeon, in search of the Holy Relic of Moradin, the Dwarven God of Dwarves and Beer.  There, in the center of the dungeon, they found Gorgosh, a Dark Cleric, summoning swarms of the Undead, and his Death Knight servant.  There was a force bubble surrounding the entrance, which all of the party save Glacia and her manservant were able to bypass with no trouble.  Wading into the ocean of the Undead, Banebeard, the Dwarven Cleric, was an Undead Turning Machine, destroying scores of Skeletons and Zombies each round, and it essentially because a race between the two clerics - Gorgosh raised them, Banebeard put them down.  Then the Death Knight entered the fray, pointing it's deadly finger at poor Serendipity the Thief/Mage, recently returned from retirement at the insistance of her paramour Aloud.  A deadly Power Word: Kill (aka Fus Ro DIE) spell was spoken, and just like that, no Saving Throw, Serendipity was dead.  The pitched battle continued, with Gorgosh slowly retreating to a small back room, where an eerie blue light glowed ominously. 

Finally Glacia passed her saving throw and was able to penetrate the bubble, and in two leaps bounded all the way across the battle, and into the back room.  So focused was she, that she didn't even see the Illithid playing with a machine in the back of the room.  The machine that was casting the eerie light.  The machine that extended below the surface into the earth.  Which was shaking violently by this point.

Slowly the party whittled down the vast numbers of undead, and closed in on Gorgosh and the Illithid, who turned and fought.  The Illithid unleashed it's devastating mind blast on Glacia, but unfortunately, she was in a state of frenzy and apparently immune to such effects.  It tried to charm her, with similar results.  It was still confused by the lack of effectiveness when Vincent, the militant wizard cleaved it's head from it's body.

Nonetheless, the damage was done.  The machine spun to stop, but the earthquakes continued to rattle the dungeon, causing portions of the cave to collapse entirely and lava to spew from the earth.  Grabbing the Holy Relic of Moradin from the dead Illithid, the party ran as fast as their legs could carry them, but the earthquakes knocked them from their feet time and time again.  Just as the lava was cresting and about to swallow them, Veravum, the hapless Githyanki paladin, opened a planar portal and rescued them.

Passing through the astral plane on their way back to their flying ship, they saw the Githyanki Astral Fortress Weissehaupt burning as it fell through space.  Clearly there was some serious s**t going down.  Arriving back on their boat, they saw the earth rippling like water.  The horizon to the east, the direction of the Human Lands, was glowing steadily as lava overtook it.  To the south, they watched  the entire Elven Nation rip itself from the earth and spin away into the sky.

Veravum helpfully pointed out that the Holy Relic of Moradin was mined by the Moradin himself from the earth beneath Sigil, and posessed, among other things, the ability to function like a portable Spelljamming Helm.  A debate immediately began with regards to who, if anyone, should be saved from the impending global apocalypse.  Some suggestions included an order of Militant Wizards, a tribe of yeti, and "F*ck 'em all, I never liked anyone on this dirtball anyways."

Only time will tell what becomes of the party!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The 5e A-Team

So my group has decided to playtest D&DNext, and as such have formed the perfect group in order to provide WOTC with the most balanced set of feedback possible.

Hannibal, aka Ark.  He's the man with the plan, he's the Grognard of the group, he's guy WOTC would give it's proverbial left nut to get back in their camp.  He'll be DMing.  Specialty: Crunching DM-side rules.

B.A. "Bad Attitude" Baracus, aka Kaye.  Our resident tank.  Cut his teeth on the powergamer-friendly 3rd edition, and is trying to adjust to Labyrinth Lord and 2e restrictions.  Specialty: Tweaking characters to the point where they exist solely for a specific purpose.

H.M. "Howling Mad" Murdock, aka The Boy.  Regards 4e as "real Dungeons and Dragons", he's WOTC's other target demographic.  He's unpredictable at the game table - sometimes his characters fight, other times they go out of their way to avoid conflict, and contemplate settling down and roleplaying a quiet family life instead.  Specialty: Can the rules keep up with his imagination?

Templeton "Faceman" Peck, aka Me.  Yeah, that's right, I'm a ladies man.  You didn't know that about me, because I keep it low key on here.  But now you do.  I was raised on 2e, and my characters tend to be smooth mother f***ers.  Specialty: non-combat focused, charisma based character generation

The Rotating Girl Character, aka The Woman.  My better half.  Rounding out our group is my fiancee, who has never roleplayed before.  Ever.  She's not really sure if she even wants to, or will enjoy it, but is a good sport and is helping out for a session or two to test out the rules.  Specialty: Doesn't really have one, that I know of.  She's there to see how easy the rules are to pick up.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

DnD Next is off to a... wait... what's that you say?

So the debut of the public playtest has hit a bit of a snag or two, and as you can imagine,  NERD RAGE ABOUNDS.  

 Join in the fun!  The more everyone hammers the links the longer it'll take us all to get the playtest!  Yay!

Zombie Apocalypse Survivor

Gamquistu - I could survive for 383 days in the Zombie Apocalypse! How long could you?
Gamquistu - Games, Quizzes and Stuff.

Based on what I've seen around the blogosphere, RPG bloggers will make up the majority of the population of mankind after the first year of the zombie apocalypse. I think that, rather than sharing a badge, it would be more interesting to share the answers that got us all these high scores. I, for one, would like to know who the people are that are going to shut the door on people, or not go across town to check on loved ones. Stuff like that is good to know.

As I'm staring at the title of this post, I'm reminded of the excellent Charlie Brooker series Dead Set. It takes what, on it's surface, is a patently absurd idea - a zombie outbreak occurs, trapping the contestants of Big Brother inside the Big Brother House, and plays it perfectly straight. Brooker uses the situation, in the tradition of the genre, to comment on society at large, and does so wonderfully, creating a tale that is humourous, pointed, and horrifying at various points. Check it out. And really, check out anything Charlie Brooker does, he's a cynical, shouty version of Jon Stewart, minus Stewart's self congratulatory smarminess.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Meanwhile, in Grognardia...

He will break you.  But will he learn from the experience?

A link to yesterday's post by James M was emailed to me yesterday evening.  I read it in the middle of the night, and I've been wrestling with it ever since.  On the one hand, my inner Ayn Rand is offended - hamstringing those who are naturally gifted, giving undeserved bonuses to second-handers, etc.  On it's surface, it Harrison Bergeron-izes D&D, strapping lead weights to the legs of the physically gifted and such. 

On the flip side, within the confines of James' example, it seems to make sense.  If you accept the precepts of D&D, that melee combat is a strength based affair - someone with massive strength wouldn't need to learn as much about fighting, they get a bonus to hit by virture of their muscles, and crush skulls when they connect.  You can even extend that example to Rogues and their Dexterity stat - for them, everything is all about their Dexterity, and a slower Thief would have to pick things up quickly in order to succeed.  Higher Dex = better AC, harder to hit, etc.

I think things break down, though, once you get to the Cleric and Wizard.  Until you get to 4e, while your Intelligence and Wisdom would have an impact on your progression through those classes, there wasn't as much of a direct correllation between the Stat and their abilities.  A low Intelligence could keep a wizard from casting high level spells, and a low Wisdom could cause Clerical spells to fail, but how do you draw a direct line from that to increased/decreased experience, like you do with a fighter?  In 4e I can see it, since everything is stat based, no matter what class you have, but in older versions of the game, you just didn't see that.

And yet...

And yet, I can't shake the feeling that there's something to this.  The game can really punish you for poor stats, as poor Torvalds found out, and this is something good to level out that sort of thing.  But it seems to run counter to the idea of Old School Lethality.

Needless to say, I am conflicted.

Monday, May 21, 2012

FtA: Apocalyptic Nihilism

I was discussing my idea for From the Ashes with a friend, specifically the idea that once you reach Level 9, your powers have reached their peak, but they destroy you in the process.  Chewing on a pen, he replied, "That's pretty nihilistic, man."

I started to argue with him, but what's the point (heh).

It did get me thinking, though.  Every once in awhile, I look around at our society, and think to myself, "We're never going to make it."  The impulses which drive our species are as contradictory as they are destructive, we strive to discover truths that undermine the very same things we build, we prod, blindly, at forces well beyond our control, and we do it all with a pride, a hubris which causes the beast within me to howl with desire to see us fall, to finally receive our comeuppance, at last.

So as you can imagine, reading books like Adam Parfrey's Apocalypse Culture is not very good for me.  It contains essays, written by those who promote extreme philosophies, each representative of the decline of some facet of modern society.  Whether it's making a case against art, or a meditation of the ascension of the atom bomb in the superpsyche of our species, it is 362 pages on why we should just cease to exist.  Some of the stuff included within I don't even want to print, considering the number of people who leapt upon this blog at the mere mention of "porn".  I shudder to think of the type of attention this blog would draw, were I to mention some of the things contained within the book.  I'm relatively jaded, but even I put the book down several times, exclaiming, "Oh come ON..."

Interestingly enough, in the introduction to the Revised Edition, Parfrey states that he simply revised the 1st edition, because he didn't feel as though a book entitled "Apocalypse Culture" should have a sequel.  Of course, having made that statement, he did exactly that 13 years later, when he published Apocalypse Culture II.  No doubt he chuckled ironically and twirled his moustache as he did so.  I haven't read it yet.  It surfaced on my "to read" pile, but after glancing over my shoulder to make sure noone was looking, I moved it down a few books.  I guess I have to be in the mood.

I am a fan of comic books, and while my interest has been waning in recent years, I still manage to pick up anything that Garth Ennis writes.  His books tend to have a very distinct "style" to them - they very often involve hard men living dangerous lives that get by with the help of good mates, who drink heavily and swear profusely, but at the end of the day can be counted on to get the job done.  In 2000, he was given free reign to pretty much do whatever he liked with the Punisher, a title that hand been mismanaged and was currently languishing in obscurity.  His first stab at it was absurdist and over the top, a dark comedic romp more than anything else.  In 2004, though, things got serious.  The title was relaunched in Marvel's MAX imprint, which was basically an R-Rated Imprint, and things got ugly.  White slavers, IRA bombers, the war in Afghanistan, the Punisher took them all on.  His run peaked, however with the release of the one-shot, "The Punisher: The End"

With gritty art by comics legend Richard Corben, this was the Ultimate Punisher tale, with the character taken to it's natural conclusion.  Emerging from a fallout shelter in the remains of a prison, he finds himself in a post apocalyptic wasteland.  Not the fun kind, there are no biker gangs or mutants, just death and destruction.  He journeys through Upstate New York to a last holdout of mankind in the ruins of the former site of the Twin Towers in NYC, where he finds the last holdouts of humanity, the powerbrokers, the wheelers and the dealers who drove humanity to it's current state. 

The story is as bleak as it comes, and the statement it makes about humanity is dark, but it's worth the read. 

Nihilism is tough to pull off in an RPG.  RPGs, and games in general, are typically purpose based, making nihilism difficult to portray in any sort of meaningful sense.  How do you build a system around a lack of purpose?  The two concepts seem fundamentally at odds.  To a certain extent, you can put Call of Cthulhu in the category, where "victory" means surviving without going insance, but the "Game" aspect creeps in, meaning you have to give them some sort of satisfaction, some closure.  Even so, it's tough to take CoC seriously in a nihilistic sense, when there are tentacled monsters popping out of cupboards and such.  Lovecraft's nihilims was all about subtext and that's nigh impossible to allow to shine through in an RPG. 

Twilight 2000, though.  Now that was a Nihilistic RPG.  You play a soldier, stuck in Europe as a war nobody cares about anymore slowly grinds to a halt, not because of a lack of will, but merely a lack of supplies.  I played this a couple of times in High School, and haven't played since, so I'm not sure if the impact this game had on my design of From the Ashes was based more on GDW's design or my GM's own nihilistic tendancies.  We played for several months, as our party first tried simply to survive, until we were able to find some measure of safety with a group of people, and we fought off intruders, scavenged for supplies and tried to rebuild society, at least within our own little part of the earth.

And then we died of radiation poisoning.

Seriously, that was it.  We turned right when we should have turned left, and stumbled into a hot zone, and three sessions later, we were all dead. 

I don't think From the Ashes is a fundamentally nihilistic game.  Or at least, it doesn't have to be - it's not designed to be.  Are you going to die?  Yes.  Absolutely.  There is no retirement for these characters.  They are agents of change, as society digs itself out of the rubble, and they burn themselves out affecting that change.  They flare brightly and then they burn out.  The idea is to shape the world around them before they go, and that, I think, gives more purpose to a game than a hundred plundered dungeons, or a thousand slain dragons.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Cat Piano

This is well worth the watch, it's almost Lovecraftian, despite the cartoony art.  Seriously, it's only 8 minutes long - do yourself a favor and watch this...

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Series of Unfortunate Events

As some readers may know, I run a 2e campaign, in which a friend Kaye playes an unfortunate soul by the name of Torvalds.  Both myself and Ark at Rather Gamey have blogged about him several times.  If this is all new to you Take a minute to catch up if you'd like.

Don't worry, I'll wait.

So after a series of (mis)adventures, Torvalds finally made 5th level, and decided to learn the spell Summon Familiar.  In typical Torvalds fashion, he did not read the fine print on the spell.  In 2nd edition, there's a random chart for everything, including the type of familiar you get when you get the spell.  So rather than getting something cool/useful such as a bat, black cat, raven, weasel etc.  Torvalds get's a Toad.  As he contemplates killing the Toad and trying again, only then does he decide to read the fine print - the death of the Toad would be traumatic to it's owner, to say the least - he would have to make a system shock roll - fail and die, pass and lose 1 point of Constitution.  Tempting as it was to roll the dice, he decided to stick with the Toad.

You would think that this would be the end of the story, but no.  It got worse.

After vanquishing an Elder Mummy, a Lesser Mummy and their summoned Earth Elemental, the party was looting their stuff when they came across the bane of all 2e DMs - The Deck of Many Things.  I contemplated fudging the roll, but I have been a stickler for the dice roll what they roll, so I stuck with it.  The fighter drew his card, and got 2 points added to his Strength.  The Dwarven Priest drew and was granted an 18 Charisma and a small keep.  The Dwarven Thief lost his soul - oops!.  The Half-Yeti Barbarian Reaver (don't ask), was given 10,000 XP or 2 more draws from the deck, took the 2 draws, gaining the service of a 4th level fighter, and an 18 Charisma.  Oh, and the keep, too.

All eyes turn to Kaye, who asked to go last.  His first draw caused him to lose his soul.  His and the thief's souls were banished to one of the Seven Hells, where they were leapt upon by Dev- er, excuse me Baatezu, and tormented.  Their nights would be tormented by dreams of their souls in unending torment until they undertook a quest to regain them. 

You would think that this would be the end of the story, but no.  It got worse.

The Dark Powers offered each of them another draw from the deck, in exchange for 10,000 XP.  Kaye jumped on it, and made the deal.  Unfortunately, the 10,000 XP dropped his level, which meant he no longer had access to the Find Familiar Spell.  Which meant his Toad died.  Which meant he was in extreme pain, and likely to die.  He did pass the System Shock roll, but lost a point in Constitution for his trouble.

You would think that this would be the end of the story, but no.  It got worse.

His next draw caused him to be stripped of all his wealth and real property, including his spellbook.  He still had all the spells he had memorized that morning, but once they were burned, he would have no access to any spells until he got a new spellbook.

At this point we were all laughing helplessly, as poor Kaye stared glumly at his character sheet.  "You're pretty much a crappy fighter now!", the Fighter cheerily piped up.

You would think that this would be the end of the story, but no.  It got worse.

Torvalds pled with the Dark Powers for one more draw, offering up still more XP (not enough to drop him another level, though), and in the spirit of the magnifying glass looming above the ant, his cries were heard, his wish granted.  His first draw got him 2 more draws or 10,000 XP, but like any good compulsive gambler, Torvalds doubled down, drawing twice more. 

The table was silent as we all waited to see what new horrible things the Deck would do to Torvalds.  Much to our disappointment, there was a brief glimmer of hope with his first draw, which granted him 50,000 XP and a Miscellaneous Magical Item.  "Things are looking up!" he cried.  But then, proving that the Dark Powers have a sense of humor, his next draw was the Donjon - You Are Imprisoned.

Poor Torvalds never got to find out what Magical Item he got, as it was stripped from him, along with the rags he had been offered after previously losing everything.  He currently languishes somewhere, contemplating his folly, wondering where it all went so wrong.

"Maybe you're imprisoned in the same place as your soul?" the Fighter offered helpfully.

You would think that this would be the end of the story, and you would be right - that's as bad as it gets.

Next session, Kaye will be debuting his new character.  No doubt it will be more fun for him to play, but I can honestly say that I, and the rest of the party, will miss poor Torvalds.  Let's all take a moment of silence to reflect on the passing of the Best Character Kaye Has Ever Played.

I was reminded of the strip below, so I leave you with it.

The Sound Of A Klaxon

Friday, May 11, 2012

Steve Jackson's Ogre collects almost 1 million dollars!

So Steve Jackson's Ogre Kickstarter wrapped up today, collecting just shy of $1 million - $923,680.  That is absolutely astounding, especially when you consider they only requested $20,000 to begin with.  There were 5512 backers for Ogre, which amounts to the average person giving $167!!  That shows some serious enthusiasm for a product. 

I think what's especially interesting is when you put it in the context of media in general, and the direction it's going.  Up until now, publishers have held the pursestrings, and acted as the gatekeepers, determining what it is that the public would be exposed to.  And while self-publishing and the like has opened things up a bit, let's face it most DIY projects just don't typically have the production value of mainstream marketed products.  Kickstarter levels the playing field - it allows you to narrowcast in the extreme, connecting with people who share your particular/peculiar interest to raise money for the product you want, as opposed to the product the companies tell you you want.

What's interesting, to me at least, about this project was that, up until this point, as far as I know, most Kickstarters had been projects in the idea/design phase, collecting money to raise the production value of their product.  Steve Jackson used it essentially as a preorder system - the game was essentially done, it was just a matter of determining how many to make.  Did it cut into the profits of FLGSs?  Maybe/probably, but at the same time, you can't play Ogre by yourself.  Most of those 5,512 backers are going to need people to play against, and each of those people are a potential sale the FLGSs CAN take advantage of. 

All in all, I'd say this is a win, not just for Steve Jackson, but for the gaming industry as a whole.  If Steve Jackson can collect a cool million on a game that hasn't been in print for over 10 years, imagine the possibilities for our neck of the woods...

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Growing up playing 2e, there was one way to determine whether you hit or not.  Take your THAC0, subtract the AC, adjust for modifiers, and compare to the roll.  If it was higher, you hit, if it was lower you missed.  Simple.  It was great, because it gave me a head start on working with negative numbers when I was in school (of course 2 minus -2 is four, duh how else will I hit the elder dragon?).  It numericized (not sure if that's a word but if it isn't it should be) the "To Hit" table from 1e, making it easier for DMs to create and put forth monsters on the fly, and was generally awesome, in my humble opinion.

I recently introduced a group of gamers to the concept, none of which had played 2e before.  They had played 4e, 3e and 1e, so they had very different ideas on how to do things.

We started playing, and the numbers they rattled off made absolutely no sense to me, I had to have them break it down.  Rather than subtracting the AC from the THAC0 and comparing the score to the roll, they were taking the roll, adding the AC and any modifiers, and comparing the total to the THAC0.  It took awhile for me to be able to wrap my head around it, but it does work, I suppose.

Which makes me wonder if there are other ways to do it...

Monday, May 7, 2012

I Finally Played the 40k RPG!

A friend of mine was organizing a Deathwatch game last Friday, and I happened to call him about something completely unrelated at the perfect time!  Despite having been up far too late the night before catching the Avengers midnight premier, I headed over there with all due haste.

Making the character was fun - everyone else's was made by the time I got there, so there would be no poring through the tomes searching for the perfect expression of the Space Marine in my head.  Instead, it was more like, "Uh... I want to be a sniper.  Which of those makes me most sniper-like?"  This resulted in some confusion as we went along (Two hours in, "Wait, I can spit acid on people?"), but overall the character creation was easy enough, although there didn't seem to be a whole lot of flexibility built into the system to allow for customization of characters.  I guess that makes sense within the concept of mass produced soldiers, but it doesn't necessarily make for interesting character development.

Hahaha character development.  I'm playing Deathwatch and I'm worrying about character development.

So having built Mek Halfhand, I joined the squad already in process, sent to put a stop to an Ork Wauugh before it got off the ground.  They had intimidated one Ork leader, and were setting out to intimidate the others, in the hopes of turning their own mini-waugh against the larger waugh. 

Things... happened, and we faught, and slaughtered orks, and it was glorious. 

The system is a bit crunchy, though, to say the least.  First you roll to hit.  Yay, you hit!  Then they roll to dodge - boo that hit didn't hit because they dodged!  What???!  And even if you do hit, it's entirely possible they just took a flesh wound to the left thigh.  No big deal.  So as you can imagine, combat can take some time.

Mek Halfhand, though, was truly a friend of the Emperor (they were on the JV Wrestling team together), because there's a peculiar little rule that says when you roll a 10, you get to roll for another attack.  Mek just kept rolling 10s.  Standing up before the Ork Chieftain, he unleashed hell's own fury condensed into bullet form.  The one attack took the better part of 15 minutes to resolve, as 10s just kept coming up over and over again, resulting in more attack rolls, which resulted in more 10s, etc etc etc.

When all was said and done, when the calculator had been put away, the eraser burned down to a nub, the cramped forearms massaged, Mek Halfhand had done 524 points of damage to the Ork Chieftain, who had started out with 40 or so to begin with.  The Chieftain had been reduced to a greasy mist, which Mek had parsed out particle by particle, and put a bullet in each particle.

It was about then that we decided that 40k might be a bit broken.  Maybe we just didn't understand the rules right, it's possible, but either way, we decided to switch over to Stars Without Number.  I don't think most of the guys really got how big of a power gap there is between a 1st Level Space Marine in 40k and a 1st Level Dude Who Has Decided To Be An Adventurer in SWoN, but I suspect they'll realize shortly.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Avengers Day!

In a little over 2 hours, I will be kicking off an all day Avengers marathon at a local theater, which is showing Iron Man I and II, Thor, Captain America and Incredible Hulk, all leading up to the midnight debut of Avengers!

Of course, I was up past midnight following an exciting 2e session, which I'll detail later, if Ark doesn't beat me to it, so I am unsure of my ability to make it all the way to 2:30 tomorrow morning, but hey - free refills on soda, so caffeine city here I come!!!!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Dreams and Portents

The party drifts off to sleep, dreaming of elves, and revenge...
Chartreuse's Dream:
You drift off to sleep, dreaming of elves and revenge...

You're at play in the trees of your youth, spinning and skipping from one branch to the next, always above the ground, never touching the earth.

"Skyskipper..." an unearthly voice floats through the air, whisping around your legs and arms before floating into your ears.  You see your childhood friends, down on the ground, waving at you and inviting you to join them.  They don't see the Yuan-Ti rising up behind them, their curved, wicked blades flashing in the sunlight as they cut down your friends.  A scream rises from the forest beneath you and the High Elves charge towards the Yuan-Ti, and the battle is engaged.

"Skyskipper... I am finished..." the wind whispers to you, and the trees you cling to grow higher and higher, and you see that the land around where the elves and Yuan-Ti battle is crumbling, turning gray and floating away into a void, like ash from the pipe.  The land grows smaller and smaller, until there is not even room enough to battle, and the combatants themselves turn to ash and are gone.

"The High Elves have lost their way, lost their way in their hatred of the snakes, they no longer hear my pleas, but I am dying.  I am no longer able to... to..."  the voice fades away, and you are left, sitting on the branch of a tree, all alone in the perfect darkness of the void.  You cry out, but the darkness swallows the noise. 

You wake up with a start, your throat tight, your heart hammering in your chest.  Looking about wildly, you see your companions sleeping around you, and all is as you left it when you fell asleep.  It was just a dream, you tell yourself.  Just a dream.
Wasn't it?
Luke Daggerbeard's Dream:
You drift off to sleep, dreaming of elves and revenge...
You're back at the fields of play from your youth, running and jumping with the other children.   Suddenly, clouds roll in overhead, and a thick, goopey rain begins to fall.  Thunder rumbles and lightning splits the skies, giving the world a strobe-like intensity.  The other children run away, leaving you all alone on the field. 
Suddenly though, you realize that you are not alone after all.  Peering through the rain, you see that a lone dwarf stands at the edge of the field.  He is stooped and leaning heavily on a giant warhammer.  He beckons with one hand, and despite the fear you feel in the pit of your stomach, your feet stumble forward, bringing you into his presence.  Despite being bent almost double, he looms over you, and you gaze deep into his eyes, feeling as though you could drown in their depths. 
His eyebrows gather in the center of his forehead, and he glowers at you for a moment before he rumbles, "Time to grow up, boy.  The time fer dancin' and playin' is done.  There be darkness comin', and although you ain't one of my chosen, yer still family.  Yer pretty handy with that bastard sword, eh?  Not my first choice fer a weapon, fer sure, but it'll do in a pinch, won't it, eh?"
He chuckles, and the sky rumbles in answer.
"Now listen here, and listen good.  Yer a dwarf, boy, and the time is come fer ye ta act like one.  Ye've never been the prayin' type, so I've got no boons ta offer ye, beyond advice, and a warnin'.  Time's comin' when there'll be darkness a'plenty, and only my clerics can carry the light.  You make sure he gets where he needs to go, and ye'll always have a place at my hearth."
The dwarf looms larger, until he seems to swallow the entire world, "Me advice?  Quit playin' around with tha High elves - they've let their head wrap clear around up their arses, sure enough.  They're already in darkness, and can't see what's comin'.  Not anymore."
You've lost sight of the dwarf, and you find yourself in darkness. You cry out for your sister, for anyone, but there is no response.
You awake with a start, panting as though you've just run a marathon.  It was just a dream, you tell yourself.  Just a dream.
Wasn't it?
Banebeard's Dream:
You drift off to sleep, dreaming of elves and revenge...
In your dream, you're back in the temple, walking the halls, but no-one is around.  Your footsteps echo resoundingly, filling your ears and you begin to run, searching for someone, anyone.  Suddenly, you hear the banging of a hammer, coming from the forge.  With a cry of relief, you run back through the temple and burst through the doors of the forge.  There, you find an old dwarf leaning on a hammer near the forge, staring at you through a pair of busy eyebrows.  His hair is white and tied back in a braid, and the wrinkles on his face are like deep crevasses carved into the flesh of his soot-darkened face. 
"So, you be Banebeard."
You try to speak, but find yourself without a voice.  Your mouth moves, but nothing comes out so you gape, like a fish out of water.
"My Temple Guard.  Yer havin' a rough year, ain't ye?  Lost yer temple, lost yer beard, and now you're traipsin' around in the woods helpin' out the stinkin' elves!" 
Turning, he coughs up a slug of phlegm and hawks it into the forge, which flares up mightily.
"And what of my gem, eh?  I left that down in that temple so long they forgot about everything but it's ability to magick the beer, but it can do much more.  Ye've forgotten all about that, have ye?"
Stalking over, the old dwarf grabs your chin between thumb and index finger and pulls you down so he can stare you in the eyes.  "Dark times be comin' boy.  Dark times indeed, and I'll be needin' ye to carry the light into the darkness, so don't be fergettin' who it is that grants ye all them spells ye like tossin' around so much.  I don't mind, to be honest I like yeh, but don't be fergettin' from whence the beer be flowing."
Spinning you around, he gives you a clap on the back which sends you sprawling forward.  You trip and you're falling and falling and
You wake up with a start, breathing heavily.  You realize something is different, and your hands fly to your face to find a full flowing beard, miraculously restored overnight.  It was just a dream, you tell yourself.  But even as you tell yourself so, your fingers run through the fullness of your beard.  It couldn't have been a dream.
Could it?
Torvalds' Dream:
You drift off to sleep, dreaming of grapes and yeti...

You drift in a cloud of a million million colors, light as a feather, as comfortable as the most comfortable cushion.  Gazing languidly around you, you see that there are objects floating in the colors.  Looking closer, you see that each of these objects is actually a crystalline sphere.  Looking closer, you see that within each sphere spins small marbles, all revolving around a small dot of fire.  Suddenly, from one of the spheres, you see a tower of blue light flare, spinning upwards.  You see the blue light race towards a giant mirror, floating in the colors.  It strikes it and destroys it utterly, passing onwards, but its course has been adjusted, and it moves on in a slightly different direction.  Again it strikes another mirror, and is deflected again, and again and again, until finally it is headed directly towards a crystalline sphere.  This sphere is different, though.  While the others are bright and reflective, this sphere is dark and dull, with streaks of angry red and orange running across it, like abarely cooled magma field.  You try and look within, as you have the others, but find your sight blocked, and you are unable to see within.

The blue light strikes the sphere, and is absorbed.  There is a rumbling, and for a brief moment, an opening appears in the dul rock, and you can see within.  You push yourself down, down down, trying to peek through the hole, and you sense the hole beginning to close, and you know that only you can hold it open, though it may mean your life...

You awake suddenly, sweating profusely.  It was just a dream, you tell yourself... it was just a dream...

Wasn't it?
Of course not!  You are Torvalds, and surely this is a sign of your imminent ascension!