Friday, August 31, 2012


I liked Clean.  On its surface it is a detective novel with telepathy added as a twist.  In fact, the first several chapters unfold in typical crime drama fashion.  A murder, some inter-departmental drama, and the hint of a love interest.  It is quickly apparent, however, that the world this book takes place in was carefully crafted.

The book unfolds from the first person perspective of our protagonist.  The title, Clean, hints at his past, as we learn right away that his past is checkered and filled with abuse and relapse.  He is a telepath in a world where telepathy and other Abilities are accepted and regulated.  The actual history of this unfolds in dribs and drabs as the story unfolds.  Rather than an infodump in the first chapter, the author wisely builds his world and it's backstory brick by brick, and reveals the past of our unnamed protagonist at the same time.  It is effective.  The case progresses, we delve deeper into the past of the main characters, and we learn more of the world that shaped them.

I give the book 3 out of 5 stars.  Remembering that 3 star books are still great in my book, I'd recommend it if you're into crime dramas, if you like post-apocalyptic stories that don't get too gritty, or if you are a fan of character driven sci fi.  This is not hard sci fi by any means.  I stop short of giving it 4 stars simply because the story didn't *grab* me.  Also, I got an advance copy through Goodreads First Reads, so I didn't need to decide if it was worth the 8 dollars for a paperback or e-book.

 - Complex characters
 - Interesting setting

 - Cliche in places

Bottom line:
Well written, exciting, first book from Alex Hughes.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Let's try this blog thing again...

Tabletop gaming has been sadly lacking since I posted last.  My work schedule has eliminated pretty much all opportunity to game.  I think it's time to evolve this blog.

One thing I've been contemplating is a review blog.  I've been reading a lot more lately.  I've also joined a cool little site that sends review copies of books out to be read and reviewed.  I certainly don't fancy myself any kind of real journalist, but if a review is being solicited, then a review I will deliver.

As such, I think I'll establish a rating system here:

***** - Worth re-reading.  Thought provoking, entertaining, or intriguing in different measures.
**** - Engaging.  Something that stays with you and makes you wish for more.
*** - Average.  Forgettable, but enjoyable while it lasts.
** - Difficult.  Not so bad that it wasn't worth finishing, but unfulfilling in the end.
* - Impossible. Too thick or boring or vile to finish.  Not worth anybody's time.

Bearing in mind, of course, that these are *my* ratings, and entirely subjective.  Here's an example of books by rating:

***** - Ender's Game
**** - Honor Harrington series
*** - Dragonlance series
** - Linear Algebra: A Modern Introduction
* - 50 Shades of Grey

The thing is, I like three star books.  Most books I read will be three star books.  I *own* some of the Dragonlance novels.  But that doesn't mean they are something special, like Ender's Game is to me.  I think I've read that book a dozen times.  I've bought it 3 or 4 times, and loaned it away each time and never had it returned.  I assume that means others like it as much as I do, and refuse to return it.  With the Honorverse, I couldn't tell you where one book stops and the other begins, all I can tell you is it is a wonderful setting to lose your imagination in.  I could read books set there, with or without Stephanie Harrington, all day long.

In any case, I am going to attempt to review some books in the future.  I'm hardly what you'd call a hard nosed book critic.  We shall see where this takes us.


Saturday, March 27, 2010

AP: The Lakeside Shuffle

And on we continue with our quest. Participating this session:

Iolo (Half Elf Bard/Rogue) - A freelancer hired by house Vadalis to investigate the failed assassination attempts. The eccentricity of the group will drive him to alcoholism. At that point, he'll fit right in.
Paulic (Elf Ranger) - Continues to exemplify the perfect Ranger. And the perfect Valenar. A new measurement was created this session, Paulics per Million, or PPM. Paulic is all PPM. A regular ranger might be 30 PPM. He is like, the chosen one of Rangers.
Phedre (Elf Cleric) - Her wandering accent hides a vulnerable side. I think her left side? This must also be the side that encourages her to flounce. Elves, right?
K'rrul (Kobold Assassin) - Discovered the sexy side of assassination, earning the name "Cruel. . .Sexual Assassin".
Arashi (Genasi Swordmage) - Again, the battle basically swirls around him. Of all the characters in the game, he is the one most likely to be a kick-ass action game hero. Also, is intimidating to *crazy* people as well as non-crazies. Look out!
Jasper (Gnome Wizard/Warlock) - Hopefully adventuring with a band of felons and misfits only enhances his reputation as an explorer, not tarnishing his reputation as an academic. Since really, he's the scariest of us all.

The travel weary and teleport-lagged Eye of the Storm trotted into Lakeside after a journey of a thousand miles. We were after Serin. He was our latest clue in a continent spanning treasure hunt, with the prize being a spoiled Vadalis heir that was targeted by a cult of deathless assassins known as 'The Stillborn'.

Luckily for us, the Vadalis compound was easily found. In this small town of roughly 1,000 people, the Dragonmarked family was the largest institution. We made our way directly to the stables to drop off our charges. We were paid (surprisingly), and directed to where we could find Serin.

Yes, Serin was actually Nolan. He had been hiding out here since our departure, and had not been idle. He introduced us to Iolo. Iolo had been doing some digging about these assassination attempts, and had discovered:
- They were being undertaken by an organization known as "The Black Flock"
- A certain assassin known as Crow had been asking around Irongate, looking for sellswords. Presumably this was to replace the ones we have killed.

Over the next few hours discussion we learned that Nolan was a Dragonmarked scion of his house. His dragonmark allowed him control over animals and other beasts. Whether the flock wanted him for that, or for other nefarious purposes, we didn't yet know.

Iolo's investigations had also discovered that some unknown group was descending on Lakeside. We were pretty convinced that Nolan's cover was blown (and just in time, naturally). Luckily, while we discussed this, Nolan started getting more and more drunk on fine brandy. He agreed to go with us to the town's only Inn, and set a trap for this group.

When we arrived we found out that a woman had been asking around for Nolan. While the party arranged to purchase the second floor of the inn, Arashi told a stable boy to go to this woman and tell her where we were. The Innkeeper was kicked out. The party spread out on the first floor, and Paulic took a spot in the second floor window overlooking the entrance.

Three figures approached the inn. Paulic quarried one, but did not shoot. They entered, and after a short (and fruitless) conversation, a bar fight broke out:

An insane Kalashtar Monk, a Black Flock Necromancer, and an archer, just inside the door. Nolan was in the rear. Iolo was right up by the enemies (and Phedre's MC Shaman Spirit Companion). The middle row on the left was Phedre (on the bar), Arashi, and K'rrul (hiding on the stairs). Jasper was in the back, and Paulic was upstairs.

- Iolo darted in and with a flick of his rapier, spectacularly missed. The miss was most likely a feint, though, as he slashed across the face of the lead caster (minor action attack crit following his standard action miss).
- Paulic moved to the top of the stairs and executed a crit himself. Things looked smashing for the heroes!
- Phedre turned undead. . .and nothing happened. Seems her keen elven eyes and highly trained Clerical knowledge took a back seat to her hatred of Stillborn and she failed to check whether this necromancer was undead before she tried turning her.
- *Immediately* after she turned undead, the necromancer summoned a good handful of skeletons. Don't think the party didn't point out this poor timing to Phedre at the time. It's a good thing her flouncing on the bar top didn't provoke an Opportunity Attack when she moved in to Turn Undead.
- The tide began to turn. A skeleton ran at Nolan, cowering in the back of the tavern, and cut him down.
- The crowded inn was filled with explosions of thunder and lightning as Arashi and Jasper cut down skeletons in an effort to turn the tide.
- Paulic must have spent the months traveling in honing his craft. Instead of turn after turn of twin strike, he used all the tricks available to him, shifting around the battlefield and in general, filling even more things with arrows than before.
- Iolo's skill set was a perfect fit for our eclectic group. With no real solid front line, or a battle strategy worth anything, our plan is usually to scatter like roaches and chew at the closest or weakest thing we could find. Iolo was a natural at this.
- K'rrul, towards the end of the battle, leaped into the shadow of the necromancer. Due to the unintentionally suggestive things that got said about his status, he was dubbed the Sexual Assassin.
- When the outcome of the battle started looking inevitable, Phedre shrieked "I won't be denied!", as she wanted to be the one to deal the deathblow to the assassin.
- Paulic had a great time shouting that same thing before each shot for the rest of the encounter.
- The archer was cut down, and then the Necromancer, but the monk was still kicking. Like, really still kicking.
- Once bloodied, he was intimidated into surrendering by Arashi.

As it was well past our normal ending time, we stopped right there. . .


Iolo is our friend Dan's character. A hybrid bard/rogue. He fits really well, and it looks like the powers of those two classes are pretty complimentary. He has quite a few ways to gain combat advantage by himself, as well as some leadery things (like CA for *everyone* and his 1/encounter heal). He is already more liked in the party than K'rrul. Can you blame them though? He's a half elf. . .

And Andrew (Paulic's player) was so bugged that we gave him a hard time about only twin striking, that he spent the intervening weeks poring over his cards. He was really, really effective with all his powers available. I highly approve!

This was our first fight since our shopping trip. Sadly, I don't think much got used. Arashi kept forgetting to activate his bracers to resist necrotic damage (until too late). Jasper changed the damage type of his curse once or twice, to no real effect. Of course, that is just how I like it. I like the power residing in the PC's, not their trinkets.

K'rrul hid in the Necromancer's shadow for one round, but the comments lasted the rest of the encounter. I can't wait until he can do that Daily, for an entire encounter. The lulz will never end. . .


PS - blogger is being a tard about me uploading the one picture I have for this session. I'll work on it.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

AP: Do you have this +2 Goblinkiller Armor in baby blue? It sets off my eyes.

Alternate title: "Does this Cloak of Fireslaughter make my ass look big?"

Fear not gentle folk, I have not forgotten the blog. We have not gamed every week, so I am working on getting 2 sessions down. The session for this post was a shopping trip and globe trotting adventure. Not a lick of combat.

Our intrepid adventurers Paulic, Phedre, Arashi, K'rrul, and Jasper again sallied forth from a campsite surrounded by the rotting corpses of their fallen enemies. Paulic's excellent pathfinding and knowledge of natural processes sped our feet and we made our grand entrance into the Fortress of Fading as night fell.

Our first order of business was to raid the vault of our slain would-be ambushers. Irus took his share of the loot and bought his contract from Paulic, returning to his family in the city for now.

We traveled together to Senzimay's estate. She welcomed us warmly, and offered us a place to rest for a day, and her services as a ritual caster. We graciously accepted, and got to shopping.

Eladrin only trance for four hours a day, so the city was teeming with life at all hours. We had a bit of time to ourselves to unload the vast amounts of wealth we had acquired. Enough, in fact, for each member of our party to purchase one 8th level magic item.

A good deal of real time later, and one in game day later, we had satisfied our urges and spent about half of our current capital on becoming more efficient killers.

Then we began our travel. A couple of days hiking out of the mountain to the sea to catch our boat. No incident in the city (surprisingly), and no problem finding our ride outta town. The boat took a few weeks to sail West along the coast to the mouth of a large river, where we were dropped off. We hiked to the small seaside fishing village Seaside Reef. There Arashi leapt on his summoned horse and galloped ahead to the next large town, Quarry. In Quarry he hired a boat to go upriver, and when the party arrived we boarded this boat and traveled to Aridusk by boat. Another few weeks.

From Aridusk we were able to board the lightning rail and traveled in style to Verithrond. We hurried to the Vadalis compound to find Nolan. . .and he is not there. Nobody knows where he is. We are told that if we want to find him, we had best find the man known as Serin. He is posted in the Vadalis stronghold in Karrnath.

This is where our Eberron geography lesson occured. Since even with the map, divining how our voyage transpired was difficult, we related the voyage to landmarks in the US. We just left New Hampshire, took a boat to Minnesota, and then all the way up a river to like, Colorado. Or something. Now, we found out that the place we needed to be is like, Ohio, or Kentucky. Or something. Also, we found out that Nolan's brother was the King of Wisconsin. Nice.

Faced with the prospect of another long voyage, and one that would be simpler if we could only travel through the Mournland (remember, the Louisiana Purchase is an impossible mess to travel through), we started poking around for a way to teleport there.

Our eventual solution was to hire a house Orien mage to teleport us as near our destination as possible. To defray the tremendous cost (well, we could easily afford it, but we didn't *want* to pay) we offered to transport some magebred draft horses for house Vadalis. That was roughly half of our trip paid for. Not bad.

The deal went off without a hitch, and we ended the session arriving in Karrnath with a dozen expensive horses. A few hours ride was all that kept us from the next leg of our journey. . .
Quite a bit of time was spent dividing up our money and purchasing goods. It had been awhile since I played in a shopping session, and I kind of enjoyed it. Like planning an assault, it can be fun occasionally, but can also be a drag if done too often. We had been hoarding our goods for awhile, so we had around 23,000 or so GP to spend. Most upgrading was actually pretty utilitarian. We couldn't afford to buy up too many plusses, so we bought items that helped us in other ways. Jasper got some gloves that let him change the damage type of his Curse, and spend some charges to add damage to an enemy. Arashi got some gauntlets that helped him resist damage. I think once our Mage and Cleric learn to enchant and transfer magic items we will do a little more of the upgrading. I know K'rrul still has a +1 neck piece, and I'm sure he's not the only one behind on the big three.
A lot of off topic chat, as we weren't really all focused on buying stuff together. One random conversation began as a musing as to what Deathless (an Undead Elf variant in the Eberron setting) ate, exactly. We determined that they can only eat twinkies that were forged when they were still alive. Twinkies are forged in the fires of Mount Doom. "Come and get 'em while they're hot!" Sauron says, as he adjusts his apron.
I guess you had to be there.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

AP: Clever Title Placeholder

Full party again this session. Good thing too, as we stumbled into a nest of trouble. Stumbled/Galloped, really:

Paulic/Irus - One boy split into two bodies, this session they perfected the Twin Twin Strike. That's right, four arrows. As they are controlled by one mind, Paulic often acted as the laser designator for Irus' arrows.
Phedre - If her devotion to the party was ever doubted, she only need point to fights like this one. Arashi was propped up by her healing, and she brought back Paulic from the brink of death with it.
Arashi - Certainly got the enemy's attention, since even without being marked they focused on him, mostly. Was swarmed early, healed up, swarmed again, and healed again. . .ended the fight so deep in negatives that another attack would have killed him for good.
K'rrul - As an Assassin should, he stayed hidden, invisible, or concealed for the first half of the fight. Less impressive than Paulic, but the enemies were Brutes, so he hit with nearly every attack this fight.
Jasper - Obliging enemies clumped up for him, and his spells were extra effective this fight. Also managed to save Paulic's life. Three cheers for Jasper!

The party piled into the cave en masse, since our stealth was clearly broken at this point. Arashi carried the weaker party members over the river, and we climbed up into the ogre's home. It was a dead end.

There was a large ogre-sized bed, and several broken pieces of furniture that had been feeding a fire at one point. Despite searching around for another way in or out, we found nothing. We left the cave empty handed. Paulic looked at the surroundings and guessed that in other valleys like this, with a river, ponds or lakes often formed at the low point. He thought that if ogres had moved in, they likely gravitated to the lake as it was a source of water and possibly food. Arashi climbed a tree to scope out the area, and saw a thin wisp of smoke in the distance, coming from the lower part of the valley. With afternoon approaching, we shouldered our packs and walked the few miles to the lake.

We arrived on the opposite side of the ogre camp. From our position in the grass at the edge of the lake, we saw four or five buildings. One of them was a log cabin-type structure, and it had smoke rising from the chimney. At that distance we were unable to determine much more, so K'rrul ghosted off to scout out the camp.

He returned and confirmed what they saw. Four tents, one smallish cabin, and ogres and wolves visible. A quick and dirty plan was hatched:
- Paulic, Irus, K'rrul, Phedre, and Jasper go back to where K'rrul had observed the ogres and hide.
- Arashi was to circle around the opposite side of the lake.
- When he was good and ready, he would mount his Obsidian Charger and . . .charge through the camp.

Paulic and Irus each climbed trees to 15 feet or so high. Jasper, Phedre, and Phedre's Mister Bubbles each hid behind a tree in the forest. K'rrul hid in the high grasses and brush at the edge of the woods, but outside the camp. And waited.

Arashi charged through the camp like an elemental fury. Shouting and yelling, he whipped his sword over his head as lightning coursed over his body. It certainly got the ogre's attention. They unleashed their wolves and followed him into the woods.

A nublie young human, dressed in scant clothing stepped calmly from the cabin and took to the air, hovering 10 feet above the ground and moving towards the woods herself. In addition to all of that noise (3 ogres, 3 wolves, 1 mysterious caster), three totems in the village all released spirit animals. One each of a wolverine, bear, and mountain lion ghost totems leapt from their prisons and charged after Arashi.

Even though he was mounted, an ogre managed to catch up to him just as he entered the trees. It was perfect timing, really:
- The ogre had unknowingly lodged itself in our trap. It ran right by K'rrul in the grass, and ended up just a few feet from Jasper and Phedre.
- Almost the entire ogre army got to go before the rest of us went. The Vicious Dire Wolves, The Ogre Savages, and the jailbait something or other all went before any of us. They advanced, but as yet only one of the ogres was in our trap
- We sprung. K'rrul stabbed, Paulic and Irus shot, and Jasper cast. Now that our trap had sprung. . .were we just normal combatants, about to get smashed to jelly by ogres?
- Arashi was foiled early. He marked and moved, but the wolves had an ability to pull their target prone, and the other wolves all did bonus damage to prone targets. In addition to taking gobs of damage, he was wasting a move action every turn just standing back up. Luckily, the one he marked first attacked someone else, and he used his mark to teleport out of the gank and near his allies.
- Jasper changed the face of the fight in the first round or two. He bravely charged in, getting clubbed nearly to bloodied for his trouble, just so he can try to Otherwind Stride the ogres and immobilize them. He did hit one this way, and then dropped an Enlarged Acid Mire where he was, hitting most of the enemy and creating a huge, 5x5 area of difficult terrain.
- Phedre then spent her first few turns healing Jasper and Arashi up, then spent the rest of the fight healing herself, Arashi, K'rrul, Arashi, Paulic, Arashi, etc.
- Mr Improbable, Paulic/Irus, seemed invulnerable and cocky shooting at ogres without fear of reprisal. Their flying, improbably hot leader closed in on him, however, and instructed her ogres to do the same. Suddenly realizing that 15 feet is not that high to an ogre, Paulic was forced to use his magic cape to teleport away. Irus had an ability that let him get away from his ogre, too, but they were on the run and without their superior vantage point.
- The seemingly endless bag of hitpoints represented by the ogre mini finally dropped to our focus fire, leaving only two more ogres, two wolves (one of which was bloodied) and the spirit totems.
- Right. . .the totems. They were minions, which was a nice gimme in this bloodbath. Their catch, though, was that they imbued their allies with various, unnamed and improbable boons when they died. At one point we were fighting an ogre wearing a wolf mask with supernatural bestial elements reflecting the lion and bear totems. Quite the amalgam of a creature.
- With the ogres intent on killing our archers, and the boss lady not much of a threat (yet), we were able to start finishing off the wolves. This was working, being hastened by the Acid Mire, and Phedre summoning her Consecrated Ground. There was one poor wolf immobilized in two different auto-damage zones.
- Consecrated Ground was keeping Arashi from dying, and things were looking. . .okay. Or at least *less* deadly. Possibly sensing the same change in tone, the ogre leader morphed from a nubile young temptress into a Large, horrid, steaming mess of ugly. With a club. The ball is in our court, it looks like.
- Jasper had just teleported Arashi out of the way of the ogre leader and into the Consecrated Ground. Now she was in melee with two of the squishy members of the party, and she bore down on Paulic.
- With his freshly renewed vigor, and seven whole HP's, Arashi engaged her again. It was nearly his final act. He was dropped back into negatives again, and far away from the safety of Consecrated Ground.
- Desperation or teamwork had us focusing fire on her, and we quickly brought her down through bloodied, and eventually dead. Not before she dropped Paulic and chased Jasper away. Clever use of Eyebite kept him off of her radar, and kept him alive.
- Arashi didn't die, though he was so far negative that 10 or so more HP's would have killed him for good. We stopped there.
Paulic's double crit Twin Strike. Those dice must have 20's on more than one side to crit so much. ..

This session was mostly combat. It was kind of the culmination of this little investigation, two sessions of figuring out what was so scary in this valley, and if it had anything to do with the wagon crash. It appears it did. The ogres were led by an Ogre Mage, Jesse let slip. Someone super smart had guessed this very early on, so it was kind of a confirmation more than anything.

This was a pretty fun time, despite it being a long fight. We are sixth level, and had enough tricks up our sleeves to stay creative through most of the fight. Except Arashi. Those wolves really messed with his game. He lost enough actions that he was still sitting on Dailies, even though Jasper, Phedre, and K'rrul had been using theirs. . .kind of an admission that this fight was maybe a touch out of our league. Despite that, all the attention paid to Arashi (and deservedly so, with his pre-fight role as bait) kept them off of us long enough for us to whittle them down. Had they honed in on our two archers early and taken them out, or shut down Jasper's controlling, it would have been a very different fight.
Next week . . .exposition, roleplay, and possibly a surprise or two!


Friday, February 12, 2010

AP: My name is Koulton Brightwind, and I approved this message.

So this will be a two for one post (again), life has jumped up and stolen a bunch of my free time, so I got a little behind. Both sessions were full houses, with all players present:

Jasper - Begins work on phase two of his life plan, gain notoriety for himself to enhance the dust jacket of his book(s). He does so by schilling for a Pirate Captain.
K'rrul - Continues his efforts at fitting in to the party. Unfortunately, he remains unsuccessful to date.
Arashi - Begins the quest that Jasper finishes, though his inner Swordmage would much rather just cut to the chase and kill the opposition.
Phedre - Ultimately it is her goal to return to Verithrond in time to save a pretty dragonmarked man from assassination. So really, this is *all her fault*.
Paulic - Continues his tradition of just shooting the hell out of anything that gets in his way. Along the way he attracts a follower who has similar goals in life.

After the dust settled from our epic(ish) battle with the Eladrin assassination squad, we decided to split up and gather some information. Que the montage.

Phedre cast Speak with Dead, and Arashi brainstormed on some questions to ask the Eladrin leader. We convinced the lone surviving assassin to join us. His name is Irus, and he is our new Paulic. So we had two Paulics now. Both taciturn, arrow shooting, elfin murderers.

The rest of us went to the rooms of the Spiked Star. We considered taking their group name (The Spiked Star!), but I think consensus was that it was too retarded. Instead we took a bunch of their stuff. In addition to some magic stuff we found on their bodies, we also recovered some maps and a journal. Oh, and a trunk full of *spellbooks*. This has the potential to be the most valuable thing we collected, but we won't know until Jasper or Phedre has time to catalogue them.

Speak with Dead was productive. We learned that the person that hired the assassins is none other than Anton. Big shocker there. Unfortunately, we were not able to find out why he did so. This was kind of a small time adventuring party, but apparently they were well known enough that when a different party of Eladrin (The Cunning Claws. Why couldn't we have killed *them* and taken their name?) noticed Irus traveling with us, they suspected something.

This kind of marks our descent into madness. At that point, our careful plans about pretending to be dead, or seeking revenge, or any other interesting thing fell apart. We decided to stay in our adversaries' rooms. An official from the hotel approached us as we climbed the stairs, and though we were able to bribe him, we were still required to sign in. Since we guessed that the sign in was compared to the official log kept by the Guard at the gate, we couldn't just BS it (Dr and Mrs Smith, of Bree, with retainers) and we sent our least cunning member to the front desk to sign us in.

That's right. Paulic (of clan Paulic, of the Paulic reaches in Paulic county, Paulic) and Irus went to the lobby to see what was going on. While he was down there, Paulic signed us in, with our real names. He also gave Irus a little direction on what to say to Elaceiria, the leader of The Cunning Claws. It was awkward to listen to. Like Paulic, he was used to using his bow to solve his problems, and it was clear that she wasn't quite comfortable with things.

That night, as we prepared to lie down and be killed in our sleep, a city guard knocked on Arashi's door and gave him a letter. As he was in a room alone, and did not elect to share with us what it said, we didn't know anything was up until early the next morning. As he left to go to a meeting (indicated by the secret note), Paulic caught up with him, and they went to negotiate our future with a Pirate captain.

When they returned, the told us of the *new* plan. This pirate captain liked us. She wanted to take us home. She was willing to do so, for free, if we did a favor for her. A pirate election was coming up, and her candidate, Koulton Brightwind, was running against Anton Fatass. She wanted us to talk to some of the other Pirate captains about their votes, and hopefully sway them to vote for Koulton.

Despite being the party that negotiated this deal, Arashi was against it. He proposed an easy solution, if Anton was dead, he could not be elected. The party agreed, with one exception. Jasper wanted to try a more elegant solution. He wanted to destroy Anton's life, by destroying the source of his power. His ultimate goal was to take away his wealth.

So, Anton and K'rrul started talking. We chatted up sailors in seedy dockside taverns, dock workers in seedier dockside whorehouses, and eventually got ourselves audiences with a few of the influential Pirate Captains. Jasper spoke plainly and honestly about our experiences with Anton, and about his evaluation of the Quartermaster's performance. He used information gleaned from some Captains to sway the votes of the more difficult to persuade ones. Finally, he resorted to outright lies to sway the final contact of the day, convincing her that Anton was poised to eliminate the Piracy aspect of the organization in accordance to a contract he made with Dwarves.

In the end, Jasper was able to tell our contact that should the people vote as they indicated, Koulton would carry the day. In return, she offered us passage to the mainland at the end of the week. Six days hence.

With almost a week to kill before our ride outta town, the party had a pow wow to decide what to do. Our most attractive option, and our eventual choice, was to travel back to the Eladrin city and loot the holdings of the Spiked Star. Irus, their sole surviving member, didn't seem to take any offense at this, so we left immediately. Since we had a couple of extra days, we also wanted to spend some time in the dark and scary valley, and investigate the wagon crash that we discovered.

After making camp that night, we started off early the next morning and soon reached the crash. After extensive searching returned very little new information, Jasper performed a ritual to hopefully shed some light on what had happened. His ritual allowed him to see what was loaded on the wagon (various fine Eladrin goods from the Fortress of Fading), how it crashed (an ambush by several large canine headed humanoids and their wolves), and what they did with the wagon after it crashed (unloaded the contents onto sleds and pulled it into the woods in the valley).

Paulic was able to pick out a path once Jasper gave him a heading, and we started off into the forest. Paulic was out in front scouting with K'rrul a few feet behind him when he stopped suddenly. One hundred or so feet away one of the wolf-headed ogres stood with two wolves, apparently unaware of our approach. We snuck into position, and Arashi got his attention by using an arc of lightning to create a thunderclap in a clearing. The ogre charged:
- 5 on 3 meant that unless this ogre was a solo or vastly higher in level, we had this fight in the bag before it started.
- He wasn't a solo or higher in level by enough to matter.
- Three strikers (K'rrul, Paulic, and Irus) focused fire on him and he was bloodied in the first round.
- Round two saw him down for the count, and his wolf companions soon followed.

Disturbingly, when we examined him we noticed that the wolf head was actually a mask or a kind of headdress. When removed, we saw no way for him to see out, and it was obvious to us that this ogre was blind. Creepy.

Paulic continues pathfinding, and we followed the trail to a cave near a river. The stench of ogre permeated the cave, so we were pretty certain our quarry was there. Paulic and K'rrul snuck inside. After a bend, the light from the entrance disappeared, and we were left groping blindly along. The noise from an underground river masked our approach somewhat, but it also blocked our passage. We couldn't tell how large or fast moving it was in the dark, and were unwilling to compromise our stealth. K'rrul waded in. About ten feet into his swim, just as he was unable to easily walk, he was attacked:
- Dire Stirges lived in this cave. K'rrul and Paulic were a good 100 feet into it, alone and in the dark, with the party lounging at the opening waiting for us to return.
- K'rrul popped a sunrod and illuminated the cave. A handful (6 or 7?) or stirges were clustered over the river. Paulic yelled for the party and began Twin Striking and backpedalling.
- Through a series of obfuscating techniques, K'rrul managed to escape and prevent his blood from being totally drained.
- The party rushed in the following round and a natural kink in the cave provided a good point to hold them off. The battle surged around that point for a bit, with Paulic getting a good bit of attention from the Sturges, but our ability to teleport kept them from draining us dry.

And with that, I'm almost caught up. I have yesterday's game to detail, and that should be a bit of fun (big, climactic combat!). These two sessions were filled with talking, discussion, and exploration of Jesse's carefully built Pirate town. Early on, Jasper was labeled as a shill (Sarah Palin, to be specific) for Koulton, and a lot of jokes were had at his expense. His goal was revenge (in 5-10 years, if interest rates hold), and his motives were. . .annoying. In the end, it appears that we got what we wanted, but this is D&D. You never know if things will turn out as planned or bartered, and you should never count on it. We also managed to get some cathartic wholesale slaughter out of our systems, and should get rewarded my large amounts of lewt. We will see. . .

Friday, January 29, 2010

AP: We spring the trap!

A full house this session:

Jasper (Gnome Wizard Warlock 6) - Despite being only half controller, he controlled very well. Had the biggest letdown of the night when he was dominated and unable to sustain his Acid Mire immediately after casting it
K'rrul (Kobold Assassin/Rogue 6) - In his virgin combat he emerged solidly mediocre. Managed to crit on some guy who only had 10 HP remaining. Yay?
Arashi (Genasi Swordmage 6) - Took a ton of damage, and gave as good as he took. The confined space virtually guaranteed he'd be close enough to take advantage of his mark when it went off.
Paulic (Valenar Elf Ranger 6) - Continued the time honored tradition of bow rangers everywhere, quarry+twin strike=awesome. Now holds both the gold and silver in single round damage totals for the party.
Phedre - (Aerenal Elf Cleric/Shaman 6) - Must have done something to piss these guys off, since she took enough damage to be killed at least three times over. Consecrated Ground saved her life.

After some pregame chatter, we jumped right in with an initiative roll. Despite high dex characters, and good rolls, we ended up going all bunched up *after* our ambushers.

At the top of the battle mat were the large doors we entered through. The three minis outside the warehouse were ours, as were two of the minis just inside (crappy camera phone and poor lighting, sorry!). This was taken immediately after they charged in on us. No surprise round, since we were pretty sure that our boat wasn't going to leave from a landlocked lumber warehouse. Most of the boxes with lines through them represent piles of lumber. The southernmost one was actually a staircase. The three long skinny boxes that are divided in two (1x3, 1x4, 1x5) were masts suspended from the ceiling of the building, 30 feet up. The Large mini (not an Aboleth!) was a Fey Constrictor, the toughest snake ever. This was a *long* battle-
- The snake slithered through the pile of lumber and grabbed Arashi before he could go.
- Two of the other attackers aimed for Phedre from range.
- Two more charged in to engage at melee range.
- The net result was our healer having to use her first Healing Word on her first action to bring herself out of bloodied. She used another minor to summon her Spirit Companion (an elven mummy affectionately called Mr Bubbles).
- Arashi teleported out of the snake's coils (the first of many times this would happen) and tried working his Swordmage magic.

Swordmage magic is different from other defender magic. Where a Fighter or a Warden needs to be in melee range for his mark to be effective, and a Paladin needs to 'engage' his enemy, Swordmages invert that. An Assault Swordmage like Arashi needs to make his mark think hard about who they attack. If the mark is violated, Arashi can teleport up to 10 squares and hit the offender. If Arashi can get himself to the other side of the battlefield, his mark has to endure a gauntlet of OA's, get whacked by him, or do nothing. This fight was a good showcase for that. We mostly stayed bunched up at the door at first, meaning that Arashi was well served by marking an enemy far from the door and teleporting back near his allies.

- After our first round, the fight was feeling tense, with the obvious focus on our Cleric very apparent.
- With all the teleporting available (three of the five party members have quite a bit of the Nightcrawler in us) the neat clump of allies frayed a bit. The snake surprises us when *it* teleports.
- Something else that blindsided us was the Half Elf using a power to make us belive he was our ally. Predictably, Paulic the bloodthirsty Valenar was immune, but everyone else had to give the guy a wide birth.
- In fact, even as she lay dying, Phedre was failing saves against this power. Her twilight thoughts as she drifted in and out of must have been concern for her new found friend.
- And die Phedre did. She started bringing out her Daily heals to stave off the inevitable. It was for naught, as just a couple rounds in, she lay bleeding on the ground. It was then that we realized that *nobody had any healing potions* (not strictly true. . .Jasper had one he had forgotten about).
- Jasper spotted an opportunity and jumped at it. He threw down his new 5th level Daily, Acid Mire. A sustainable 3x3 area of bubbling acid that damaged anyone who started in it, or fell prone. It also acted as difficult terrain. With his amped up Thunderwave, he could keep an enemy or two tied up.
- He was promptly dominated. His daily expired after doing a few points of damage to the two enemies caught in the area.
- The nearest ally to Phedre, Paulic, rushes to her side to administer 'Valenar First Aid'. By repeatedly kicking her in the ribs, he was able to allow her to spend her Second Wind.
- The big guns, Bacon of Hope and Consecrated Ground get thrown down. Consecrated Ground will keep Phedre alive the rest of the combat.
- Split the Tree struck again. Paulic critted with one of his shots. Does this sound familiar? This time his grand total was 72 points of damage to two enemies, killing them both. He now holds the all time record and the runner up.
- That was the second and third enemy death, leaving a skirmsher(?), a 'sniper', and a snake to deal with. The sniper was annoying, spending his time leaping from mast to mast, 6 squares above the party. The snake was eating a tremendous amount of damage and not getting bloodied. The other guy was a pushover.

Difficult terrain was obviously available for us to use in this fight. Jesse had drawn it out lovingly in advance. He described in detail the features of the warehouse, and the masts hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately, we were not availing ourselves of the options open to us. Partly it was the sinking feeling you get when your healer keeps dying. Maybe a little of it was our attempt to reform into some semblance of a strategic formation. Some of it was our power tunnel-vision, I'm sure.

- K'rrul had been shrouding the sniper as he crouched on a mast, plinking away. When he had stacked up four, he used a power to teleport up and attack the sniper, whiffing.
- On the sniper's turn, he leaped off and shot the rope holding the mast. K'rrul tumbled down and was crushed by the mast, dying a horrible death.
- Just kidding. Through several methods (Acrobatics training, Temp HP, and Insubstantial) he reduced the damage taken to 3.
- With the sniper in melee, and the only thing with legs left alive, we decided to take him alive. With those magic words, K'rrul critted on him, and the renewed shrouds as well as the rest of the damage was maximized. 43 damage on a guy with 10 HP that we wanted alive *anyways*. Lame.

- The snake took some work. We found out later that he was an Elite. He had several cool hypnotic powers that ultimately failed. In fact, enough of his otherworldly flavored powers failed that he behaved much as a normal 40 foot snake would behave, aside from the teleportation.

Following the combat, we had a quick interrogation session. Our Eladrin prisoner didn't seem to speak common, but with Phedre as an interpreter, Arashi made it very clear that his ability to continue breathing was due to our benevolence, and if he did not make it worth our while, we might cease being so giving. In return, we got pretty much nothing. We had killed the mercenary Captain, and this guy claimed to know nothing about their reasons for attacking us. Searching them yielded some magic items, and one solitary clue. A magical stone that we guessed was used as a key for an Eladrin safety deposit box. Our prisoner told us the box was located in the Hand of the Ivory Stone, back at the Fortress of Fading.


About two hours of combat. It was admittedly a tough fight, with one enemy per PC, each one at 7th level. On top of that, the snake was a 9th level Elite. We did well, probably because they wasted a *lot* of actions trying to kill Phedre, and she kept popping up. Midway through the fight she said she had taken over 150 pts of damage, and she kept getting knocked down after that. After we killed the mercenary Captain, she dropped a healing potion. Before we could dash in and grab it, the freaking *snake* came from across the room and ate it, glass and all. Poor Phedre had been eyeing that potion.

After that the session went off track pretty quickly. . .and got pretty blue. Next week? We figure out what the hell we are doing next!