Monday, December 15, 2008

12/13 Actual Play: Part II, or the beginning of something exciting.

Continued from above! I just don't have the heart to pile all that text on you at once. Maybe I need to assign someone to take pictures for me. A lot is on my mind already as I DM, I can't imagine where I would put one more thing...

The party went on up to the Moonstone Keep to see if they could find out what was going on. Lucan was clearly not happy about the arrival of the Elves, and did what he could to remain out of sight. Arlarond distracted the soldiers by using his magic to help them groom their animals. Ana tried to convince the guards to let her in the Keep, but they had been told nobody gets in, and her wiles fell flat.

She remembered that as a child she would squeeze out of the window in the laundry. She found the low window and climbed in. Arlarond sent his familiar through, and had it take the shape of Petunia, her 1/2 ton pet pig. With this ready excuse for being where she shouldn't (the pig did it), she snuck through the first floor and up the stairs. With a couple close calls but no alarms, she made it to a secret passage behind the Lord's study. All those years of snooping around paid off again, as she had a front row seat to the tail end of the meeting of the Lords. With little context, she was only able to find out the the Elves had come to warn Fallcrest about an old common enemy. Lord Markelhay did not seem convinced and asked the Lord if they could continue their conversation in the morning, after he had slept on it.

Ana returned to her friends and relayed what she had overheard, but Arlarond and Lucan, the two most steeped in History and the Elves could not think of what enemy they could be referring to.

After that dead end, the party elected to get in a good night's sleep before setting out in the morning. After a geography refresher they decided that checking up on the quarry and finding the fate of the stolen cargo would both be possible, since they were both in an unknown location South of Fallcrest.

Halma needed to create a diversion. He had a room paid for at the Lucky Gnome, but in a concession to common sense decided that putting a decoy in his room and joining the rest of the party in our Inn of choice was a better idea. Ana and Arlarond went with him to make sure he was safe, with Lucan and Arlarond not far behind.

He procured some dummy making supplies, straw, cloth and the like, and snuck in with the bag of holding to build it in his room. He did not count on Ervan waiting there to speak with him again. Ervan missed Halma, but spotted Ana and called her over to his table. He wanted to know where Halma was, and was getting quite verbally abusive until Arlarond intervened. At one point several of his lackeys stood up and he demanded that she leave the place.

After a verbal pissing match with Arlarond, they all sat down at his table, and talked things out. Ervan was mostly concerned about how this will hurt his reputation. As a dealer in information, if nobody trusts him that they will be paid he will loose business. He can't show weakness or allow it to look like he let Halma walk all over him. He needed the goods back with their owners, and he was willing to pay his informant out of his own pocket and let the group keep the entire reward if they would fix this for him.

During this exchange several things came out about Halma's past. He was a one-time leader of a splinter thieves' guild, and in the recent past had become involved in a brutal and nasty guild war. He managed to emerge with his skin whole, but with nothing else. For the past five years he has stayed a drunk and Ervan has moved up, to the point where now Ervan was in some position of power in the new guild, and Halma had no standing at all. The bad blood from this past feud had caused Ervan to overreact when he thought the olive branch of an offer of work had been abused by Halma. With both sides seeing a clearer picture, some agreement was reached. While working for the guild was on some level distasteful for members of the party, working to help clear their friend's name was noble and good, so they agreed to do this one thing for Ervan. For his part, Ervan seemed to view this as the beginning of a new long and beautiful arrangement between the Heroes of Fallcrest and the Guild of Thieves. It will remain to be seen now this develops.

The night passes uneventfully, and the group departs on a boat early the next morning. The storm is still putting a hurt on river travel South of Fallcrest, so a smaller boat was needed. Large enough for them to take their wagon, of course.

After almost eight hours of travel, the party spies a boat wreck on the Eastern shore of the river. It appears that they found the boat they were looking for sooner than they thought they would. They disembarked and started towards it to investigate. About fifty feet away from the boat they were surprised by an abomination made of plants and plant parts emerging from the forest -
- Three darts whizzed from the river's edge and caught Lucan on his neck. While the darts were trivial, their poison caused him to act sluggishly.
- The three lizardfolk with blowguns scattered, two of them disappearing near the wreck, and one making for the treeline.
- After the party rushes towards the Vine Horror, he takes his action (Having delayed since the beginning of the round), to run to where he can hit the whole group and unleashes a horrific crushing vine attack. Roots and creeping vines erupted from the ground and began crushing and killing the whole party, except Therryk whom he missed.
- The Greenscale Darters targeted those Heroes that managed to burst free of their vines, trying to keep them poisoned and slowed.
- The status effects were mostly an annoyance, since the main combatants were too tender to protect themselves once the party freed themselves of the vines and the effects of the poison. They were unable to retreat into the safety of the river or the trees, and were killed quickly.

Searching the boat was profitable. Aside from signs of struggle and several indications that suggested that the crew had been taken or killed by lizardfolk, Ana found a strongly enchanted Rapier, and some gems and gold were recovered from the lizardfolk.

Wagon tracks lead into the woods. The wagon appeared to be heavily laden, and pulled by horses, so the party figured that someone had taken the cargo that was on this boat away by wagon. The party headed East though the forest. By now the sun was low in the sky, and the thick foliage blocked much of the remaining light. The trees here were twisted by some unknown force, and misshapen.

The Heroes never saw it coming. From high in the branches Two Deathjump Spiders and Two Ettercaps descended on silent webs, and struck the party from the corners. Thinking to make themselves hard to hit with an area attack, the party had spread out, two defenders in front, cleric and rogue in the rear, and wizard in the center. Each of the corners was attacked, with only one of the spiders hitting, and then the apparent leader of this ambush struck. An Ettercap with a longspear covered the entire area with a sticky web, immobilizing some and making it difficult for the rest to move -
- The spiders leapt around, but missed with every attack. They were singled out and eliminated quickly by the party.
- The Ettercaps with axes tried a few different targets with little luck, but were finally able to flank on Ana and both hit. Their poison was deadly effective, and she was stunned and poisoned until she fell to the ground, unconscious.
- We stopped there.

The orange die is a flaming sphere courtesy of Arlarond. The red outline is the webbed area that is difficult terrain. You know, difficult terrain is my new found best friend for making difficult combats. This is a 3rd level combat, so it should be not difficult, but the ambush hitting all of the party meant that only Lucan, who is an elf and can shift in difficult terrain, and Hamla, who got out in his first round, have been able to do much in the way of moving. I apologize for the cruddy pictures. Cellphone camera + bad lighting combined for cruddy pictures. The air and fire elementals are the ettercaps flanking a dying Ana. The monster next to the die is the Ettercap Webspinner, who is still untouched. The earth elemental with the red ring to show that he is bloodied is a spider.

I am really coming around to liking the pipe cleaners a lot. My only difficulty with them is when it comes to PC's. It is easy to determine which monster is bloodied or marked, but players keeping the marks at their spot is not working 100%. Having them be on their minis would be a little better, but since the healing and debuff removal of PC's is many times better than monsters, we would be constantly moving and removing them. I think a good compromise is using the little markers that came with the whiteboard (they look like Sorry pieces), putting them at the edges of the board in front of each player and stacking the conditions up there. Putting the markers at the initiative count would work too.

So. . .the confrontation with Ervan was not in the cards. Originally he was going to be there to harass Halma a little more and press the urgency of his request. It was roleplayed well, though, and the moral quandary the party was put in was just delicious. I am a little sad to have had Therryk be there, but not roleplay his possible connections to the Guild. One of the reasons I have DMPC's and wish we had one more reliable player.

Ana's spy mission was also improvised. Especially entertaining given that she does not have the ranks in stealth to pull something like this off reliably. Lucky rolls on her part paired with unlucky rolls on mine got her all the way up unobserved. Good bit of fun there.

The combats this go-around are built with a better eye to enemy combat roles. The first combat I knew would be short. 3 Lurkers, 1 Controller, and 2 Minions. The Controller was dead meat the instant he showed his face, and the Minions are there because I delight in mixing them in with the regulars and seeing my party sweat. I have a new love of Lurkers. They do crap damage compared to Skirmishers. I don't care, they are fun to run.

The second combat is currently paused. I had a friend who would pause Super Mario Brothers while he went to school, and come back something like 6 hours later and pick it up again. Kinda like that. I think it could still go either way. Ana is down and taking ongoing 5 poison, she is stunned and restrained, and flanked by 2 Ettercaps, neither of whom is bloodied. The spiders are all but dead (one down, the other one a virtual minion), but they never hit anyways. The other Ettercap was only recently hit at all, and still has a lot of fight in him.

Thus, the party will have fought two 3rd level encounters, and be in rough shape and need an extended rest. 4th level is not looking good for them. I am a little worried for them...


Sunday, December 14, 2008

12/13 Actual Play: The Autumn Festival, Interrupted

This session went well, I thought. I was running though, so maybe this is not the unbiased opinion you are looking for. That also means that I did not take notes and was only able to get one picture of the action. I will do my very best to lay it all out, though...

Jay DMed and played Therryk the Dragonborn Paladin
Dan was playing the newly resurrected Arlarond, Human Wizard
Jesse played Halma, the Human Rogue
Colin was Lucan, Elven Fighter
and Chelsea played Ana, Half Elf Cleric.

We picked up the party as they journeyed down the river back to Fallcrest. Gennal left them to do some rangery foresty things, and the party enjoyed a leisurely float home. The crew of the ship was feeling good about their contributions to the adventure, and insisted on being told over and over again how their knots and ropes helped the party descend below the temple.

They party arrived home early in the morning of the annual Autumn Festival. News of their arrival must have preceded them, as there were two guards waiting to escort Ana to speak to her father, and a less benevolent welcome awaiting Halma.

Lord Markelhay was waiting for his daughter in his study. He was mostly concerned about the Heroes of Fallcrest being missing for so long. He had planned on asking them to travel South of town and secure the old quarries. Fallcrest was in hills dotted with quarries. Most of them were private operations run by individual stonemasons or groups providing stone for artisans. The trade had dwindled over time, to the point where now, nearly ninety years after the Southern wall was destroyed there was no sign that it would ever be reconstructed.

Until now. The recent news of the Drow just to the Northwest of the city, along with the escalation of other threats in the wilds has motivated the Lord to begin reconstruction of the wall. A palisade was erected while the party was gone, and Ana's father had intended the group to complete it's tour of the Southern quarry before the Autumn Festival to allow him to announce it's reconstruction during the festival. With no time to do that, Lord Markelhay asked his daughter to take the Heroes of Fallcrest South and see to the quarry, and he would announce that it had already been done. He gave her rough directions to help her find it, but as it had been centuries since anyone had done any serious work there, it might still be difficult to find.

Halma's meeting was less cordial. The man wishing to speak to him was familiar. So was their conversation. A blast from the past, so to speak, this was the same thug that had pulled Halma aside on our very first session. I didn't include it in the write up there, so I will summarize. Weeks ago this man, Ervan Lances, had pulled Halma aside and told him that the powerful storm had delayed a cargo ship headed to Fallcrest from the South. His informant told him that it had been damaged and that the owners of the ship would be willing to pay whomever could retrieve their cargo.

Ervan now told Halma that he had information linking Halma to a recovery of this cargo, and demanded his cut of the reward. Halma naturally had no idea what he was talking about. Ervan, feeling cocksure told Halma that he would give him 'some time' to come up with the money, and that they would speak again.

The party made their way to the Blue Moon Alehouse. They had decided that when they could they would meet up here at noon, were they ever seperated. Lucan spied someone in the crowd, and was surprised to see Arlarond striding towards them. Last anyone had seen of him, he was dead on a slab in the Temple of Erathis. While tight lipped about specifics, apparently he had been raised by a Temple of Ioun, and had been studying and rehabilitiating while he waited for his friends to return.

The party got a table in the taproom and discussed recent developments. Halma and Ana relayed their new information, and everyone enjoyed the chance to relax and have some fun at the carnival.

A stage had been set up inside the courtyard of the Moonstone Keep. A constable kept order, allowing anyone who wished to perform for the crowd, and marked down the stand out acts. A few members of the City Council were there to help choose the best talents of the day. Halma decided he would try his hand at some juggling and slight of hand. From the crowd Arlarond spiced up his show by making the daggers appear to be flaming or enchanted in other ways. Halma used the magical properties of his dagger to make it dissapear only to reappear in his hand, and the crowd loved it. He catered to the crowd and kept them thinking he was an instant away from painful failure.

Arlarond tried next, using his magic to make bright fireworks burst in the sky, and his new pet owl flew circles around them. The crowd was dazzled by his display, but Halma's act would be hard to beat.

The last of our group to try was Ana. She had been working up some jokes to tell before the crowd. Arlarond helped cover the groans and stunned silence with some illusion of laughter, but it was clear that the previous acts had stolen their hearts. In the end, Halma's act edged out the others, though he was put into a sudden death with an elderly Tiefling quiltmaker and her gorgeous quilts. Though her talent was undeniable, Halma's ability to play to the crowd won him the day, and the first winner's token of the day!

Next was the eating contest. A local bakery supplied the pies for 1 cp apiece, and this was one of the more popular contests. More than a few people dropped out, however, when the almost 7 tall foot bulk of a dragonborn named Therryk got in line. Arlarond also got in line, and in all there were seven eaters for the first heat. Arlarond was one of the first two elimintated, but Therryk survived through the next heat of 5, and into the final round, with two bulky humans. It was looking like the end for Therryk, the guy to his left was clearly going to win. Suddenly, though, he got a pained look on his face and excused himself from the stage. Seconds later the sound of retching could be heard from around the corner. Arlarond later confessed to using a little magic to make his pie taste like warm snot. The edge was enough, and Therryk earned the second token of the day!

The contest was over in time for the group to enter the Treasure Hunt. The edges of the Tombwood held 5 small golden coffins. The person or group to find the majority would win the contest. Ana and Lucan had the sharpest eyes in the group and signed up. Beforehand, Arlarond and Halma pulled them aside and gave them several pointers about good hiding places and in spotting something unnatural in the woods. Ana was able to locate two, and Lucan two more, meaning they shared the win for the third token.

The next even was the most popular of the day. The town sponsored a wrestling competition. Men and boys from all over town came in to try their hand at each other and win a token. This competition was popular enough that all five members of the party entered it, though Therryk was eliminated early. Lucan was unlucky and his first and last opponent seemed to have an uncanny knowledge of how to subdue him. Ana was the only woman who signed up, and her opponent was clearly disturbed by that. The members of the town guard in the area no doubt contributed to that, so the lad took it easy on her. Her downfall came in a moment of bravado, when she mounted the corner post and attempted to dive onto him. Her clumsy maneuver was easily avoided and he plopped on top of her, keeping her down and knocking her out of the running.

Halma was a dark horse in this competition. He was smaller and more wiry than everyone else (aside from Arlarond), but used his quickness to great advantage. Intimidating his opponent with his dagger prowress was just the edge he needed. He won his first match handily, and moved on to the next round.

Arlarond was the real underdog. He used a bit of magic to coat his bare torso in a slippery film. His opponent was clearly not expecting this to be much of a threat, and was surprised when Arlarond slipped from his grasp. This happened a few times. Arlarond was eventually able to get him pinned down and move on to the next round.

A few more fights narrowed the field down to four, Arlarond, Halma, the man who had defeated Lucan, and one other. Luckily Arlarond and Halma did not have to fight each other. Halma won his match quickly and easily, but Arlarond struggled. While he slipped out of holds again and again, he couldn't maintain his grip on the other guy. After a long fight, he was finally subdued.

Halma's final fight was pretty anti-climatic. He evaded the first grapple and moved behind his enemy, subding him and winning the contest. Another token won, and Halma's second.

The next contest was the carnival. All day the thieves' guild was running games down in the Lower Quays. A wooden token was hidden somewhere, in one of the games, and you can bet that the game was rigged to allow only the person that they wanted to win. The party played some games, and found the token. Halma elected to play a dart game, where for a copper the player got three darts to throw at a board. The board was covered with inflated bladders, and popping one won you a prize. Halma threw all his daggers at once in a blinding barrage, but was puzzled when one of the darts just bounced off it's target. He slyly threw his dagger at that balloon and it returned to his hand immediately. The thug running the contest was obviously confused, as the rigged balloon should not have burst, but gave up the prize anyways. Halma's third token!

The next contest was an all day affair. A board in the courtyard of the Nentir Inn was erected with names on it. Anyone could ask to have their name on the board. People came by all day long and chose the person they thought most deserving of the token. Ana put her name up, and loitered for awhile talking to passers by and garnering votes. Her position as one of the Heroes of Fallcrest certainly helped, and her contributions to the town before that. The only serious competition they saw was Constable Blackshield. The party had an intense dislike of him, and spent some time following him around and telling the people he spoke to the truth about him. Most were appaled by his behaviour, and this sealed the deal for Ana, earning her a token when the votes were counted.

The last two competitions were tough for the party to participate in. The Livestock competition was to show off animals that had been raised in the past year. While Ana had been raising a 1000 lb pig named Petunia, it was not as impressive as some of the other animals. Nobody elected to try and cook something, either.

The day was ending when people gathered at the gates of the Moonstone Keep to hear Lord Markelhay announce the winner. With 6 of 8 tokens it was clearly the Heroes of Fallcrest. He presented them with a staff (his confused look betrayed the fact that he had not expected this to be the winning prize), and the party led the procession down to the Southern wall.

Lord Markelhay had been busy. He had ordered a scaffold built and had the green dragon draped over it, with its wings spread and looking dangerous. A gallows was nearby. In the shadow of the dragon he outlined the recent threats to the city. A man with a sack on his head was walked to the gallows, and the hood torn off.

The party recognized him, it was one of the Drow they had captured, the one they called the cabana boy. A noose was placed over his neck and he was hung until dead. By now the mood was somber indeed. Lord Markelhay began to outline his plan. The Heroes of Fallcrest had been working for the city again! The need to rebuild the wall was great, and the Heroes had been to the quarry and established a base there. Soon stoneworkers would begin the work of walling in the city and making everyone safe once again -

He was interrupted by Nimozaran the Green coming on stage. He whispered something in Lord Markelhay's ear. From their higher vantage on the stage they could see something over the palisade. Lord Markelhay called for the gate to be opened and the entire city of Fallcrest watched the Elves enter the city.

Four Elves riding on War Zebras entered first. They were dressed in ceremonial armor and were flying the banner of the Elf tribes of the Harken Forest. They were followed by an enormous tortoise. A howdah on the back held an Elf Lord, and a strangely dressed elf, similar to a witch doctor, sat on the leading edge of the shell and guided the beast. At this development, Lord Markelhay was ushered away, and the Elves followed him to the Moonstone Keep.

The Festival had ended in a sudden manner, and the party now had several decisions to make.


That was the first ninety minutes of the game. I had a great time running it. I had created this Festival with a couple adventure hooks and a lot of roleplay. My goal was to do this, and then unleash the party. Let them go. No rails. Try some semblance of the sanbox we had set out to do.

This is a good argument for not trying a 100% sandbox approach. Only bringing in content as the party discovers it is cool, but scheduling something like this with the party's participation implicit with it's creation allowed for a whole sled of roleplaying, and aside from being very fun to do, allowed for a lot of character development. As a DM it was great because the increased definition in everyone's backstories allows me to come up with better and more pressing hooks.

The best moment for me was the mention of Constable Blackshield. The party has had a couple bad run ins with this stereotype of a crooked cop, and just mentioning him riled them up. Real anger and emotion, followed by them scheming to ruin his attempt to win the contest. I felt like I had introduced a viable NPC that I could bring back again if I needed that emotion.

The grappling competition was I think the highlight for the players. Everyone tried it, and almost everyone tried some unorthodox thing, and the penalty for losing a fight not being instant death was mentioned as a selling point. This is something to think on.

I had some individual roleplaying planned for each player. Halma and Ana had theirs outlined here, but Arlarond's raise from the dead also had some, with a DM to player email earlier this week and a mysterious message to go with it. What Dan chooses to share about his character is his business, though, so I will not go into that here. Colin's character had tougher history to work with, but when I do part two later you will see what I *tried* to do.

I do not want to portray Lord Markelhay as an opportunistic greedy politician in these writeups, but it is coming across that way. He is using the Heroes, I think everyone knows that, but his motivations are noble, at least for now.

Next time, the party chooses, and a 100% improvised scene that stole the session...


Monday, December 8, 2008


You Scored as Storyteller

You're more inclined toward the role playing side of the equation and less interested in numbers or experience points. You're quick to compromise if you can help move the story forward, and get bored when the game slows down for a long planning session. You want to play out a story that moves like it's orchestrated by a skilled novelist or film director.





Method Actor




Power Gamer




Casual Gamer


Uh, interesting...should I feel good about this? It is what I *want*, but the quiz does just ask you your intentions, not your abilities.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

12/6 Actual Play: The Temple of Treasure lives up to it's name!

It has been. . .a long time since we played our main campaign. We left off having just discovered what was up with this place, and having for the first time a clear goal. Follow the blue lights to the bad guy and kill him. Get rewarded with stuff.

We started this session with:

Therryk, Dragonborn Paladin played by me
Ana, Half Elf Cleric played by Chelsea
Halma, Human Rogue played by Jesse
Lucan, Elf Fighter played by Colin, who also DMed.

A short time into the game Gennal, the Elven Ranger played by Mackenzy joined us.

The blue light led us deeper into the complex. As we travel it gets hotter and more humid. We see signs of steam power everywhere, and are caught off guard by a damaged pipe blasting steam at us. Clattering and scurrying just out of the range of our vision seems to follow us, though Ana catches a glimpse of a cat sized bug as it scurries from view. The lights lead us to a very large and heavy door that we can't budge. Attempting to use the lever near the doorway is useless, and Halma believes that it is because the steam required to power the mechanism is not being directed here. The cold pipes in the reason seem to confirm this, and we backtrack to where we think we can switch it over.

Our backtrack leads us to a large room:
The L-shaped structures to the sides were pipes rising from the floor, following the outlined L shape, and returning to the floor. The shaded pieces were debris, and the other end of the room was an elevated platform. The X's were spots where a large pendulum swung, alternating back and forth between the two spots. The lines on the front of the platforms represented two control wheels. We spotted two man-sized robots and Halma had a chance to catch them off guard with a dagger (Critical!) before we started combat:
- The mechanized creations were in the process of hammering at the pipes with their axe-arms, but stopped to try hammering on us with them.
- Once we begin fighting a swarm of insects emerge from the debris and scuttle towards us.
- Two large bugs join the fray. Halma spins and tosses his dagger in a blinding barrage, his dagger magically appearing in his hand for an instant only to fly back towards another bug. Half of them fall dead.
- Ana calls upon the power of her god and a radiant pulse pulverizes her enemies and bolsters her allies. Only the largest two bugs remain standing.
- Lucan stabs at the nearest one in a devastating series of blows, breaking it's guard and tearing it's carapace, leaving a squishy mess on the floor (Two Criticals!)
- One of the axe men rushes to the platform and turns the crank on the right all the way, immediately exceeding the allowable pressure on the pipe on that side causing it to explode in a mess of steam and shrapnel. Ana, Lucan, and Halma are caught in the blast but continue fighting through their wounds.
- The robot grabs the pendulum with his non-axe arm and swings across to the other side, preparing to do the same thing if we get to near that pipe.
- Halma sprints forward, leaping on top of the pile of junk and sliding down, slipping his dagger into a beetle with a flourish at the end.
- Lucan charges up the stairs, throwing his trident an instant before the axe man can turn the wheel. The trident knocks him off of the edge, stalling the threat for now.
- Halma tosses his dagger as the beetle moves away from him, it buries itself in a soft spot, only to appear an instant later in his hand.
- Therryk hits for seemingly the first time, cutting down the final enemy and ending the immediate threat.

After examining the machines in this room, Halma and Ana adjust the position of the remaining control wheel and we are able to go back and open the door. We meet our old friend Gennal, it seems he has been meditating and searching for a loyal beast companion in the forest around Fallcrest. Having found one, he immediately followed the trail of rumors and tracked us down with his Ranger's skill here in the dungeon. We were grateful for his help in the coming battles.

The blue light leads us deeper into the bowels of this place, and the atmosphere gets steamier and warmer still. It disappears at the entrance of an odd room, and we see it continuing on the far side:
The two fearless defenders get to right. . .*there*, and two enormous crocodiles lunge from the water and attack. The room is an artificial swamp, with difficult to determine boundaries, and standing water in the middle with an island. Shrubberies dot the room. A thin mist pervades, and the door on the opposite wall appears to stand in the middle of a swampy wilderness, and only by touching the wall can we determine that it is really there. Immediately after the crocodiles attack, the battlefield changes:
- Three mastiff sized lizards slink from the underbrush and spit acidic goo at Gennal. It bloodies him before he gets to act.
- Lucan and Therryk each go toe to toe with a crocodile, Therryk calls upon his divine connection to close some of Gennal's wounds, though the divine attack doesn't even faze the crocodile.
- Halma slinks around the edge of the battlefield, looking for a chance to dart in.
- Ana holds her holy symbol aloft and a divine glow washes over her nearby teammates. Her holy symbol holds the glow for the rest of the battle, increasing her ability to heal her allies.
- The creatures seem disheartened, and their attacks do little as we begin to push back.

- Ana hits a crocodile with a divine attack, distracting it from Halma darting from the brush to slip a dagger under it's leg. A gout of blood spurts from the wound and the crocodile goes belly up.
- The remaining crocodile gets its jaws on Lucan's leg and pulls with a twist. Lucan cries out in pain. (Critical!)
- Gennal and his wolf companion have moved in on the lizards, making it tough for them to spew their poison.
- Lucan lashes out with his trident, attempting to shove the crocodile from his leg and managing to skewer it's tiny brain.
- The mop up action with the lizard revealed that our careful jumping over the water was warranted. Gennal stumbled into the water and was burned again by more acid.

We pick up the trail of the blue light on the other side of the room and follow it down. It terminates at the doorway of a large room. The center of the room is dominated by a large cage, with a platform elevated above the rest of the room. Pipes crisscross the room, and we can hear gears and other machinery below us and around us. On the platform inside the cage at the center of the room is a thick pipe that loops out of the ground. We can feel the energy leaking from the pipe as well as see it. Black necrotic power is washing over a mechanical man standing next to the pipe. He is wearing skins and furs of animals, the first such robot that we have seen do so. We learn that the pipe is part of the vast mechanism that manages the "entropy" of the dying human creators. This pipe carries away the negative energy that would corrupt the souls of the bodies kept in suspension, and allows them to fulfil their purpose. The robot tells us that the machine is alive, and that repairing the rift will not be allowed. We also learn that this robot considers himself one with this machine. Diplomacy and Intimidation exhausted, battle begins when a large black tangle of dark energy appears in front of us:
- Halma rushes to try and lock down the robot.
- Therryk feels that he can sacrifice some of his vital force shut down the leak, and does so while attacking the black tangle.
- Ana retreats from the melee and concentrates on using her divine connection to seal the leak.
- Lucan furiously stabs at the blob with his trident, and scores several solid hits on it (Critical!). As a result the Blob splits into two equal sized black tangles of energy.
- The robot in skins hits Halma with eldrich energy, but he manages to shrug it off for now.
- Halma strikes back by attempting to drive him through the cage and over the edge, but the cage is too strong.
- Therryk shouts words of inspiration to Ana, and she retreats before the advance of the second blob, healing herself.
- The robot teleports away from Halma and conjures a stinging black darkness over the cluster of party members in the doorway. Ongoing necrotic damage from the blob's attacks and damage from the dark cloud knock Therryk down and unconscious.
- Gennal attacks and hits the original blog hard (Critical!)
- The robot follows it up with a solid smack from his hammer that shoves Halma back a step, and then places a curse on him discouraging Halma from moving closer.
- Therryk slips closer to death, and would have died, but the robot's spell dissipated allowing Ana to call upon her god for healing.
- Lucan stabs at a blob, doing serious damage but it still looks as dangerous as ever (Critical!).
- Ana raises her holy symbol, and two bolts of radiant light shoot from her hand and destroy the blobs.
- The robot rushes down the stairs, and is stopped at the bottom by a battered Therryk and Lucan blocking the way. Therryk slashes at him, and hits, providing the distraction for Halma to fly in. Halma runs towards the stairs, takes two steps on the wall, tumbles in the air and buries his dagger in the furs. A furious shriek is his reward.
- Ana uses her rapidly diminishing healing ability to bolster Lucan, and is rewarded by the robot teleporting right to her.
- With the resources of the whole party bearing down on him he doesn't last long. Lucan shoves him around with his trident, Gennal pumps arrows into him, but he is finally brought down by a cleverly placed dagger belonging to Halma.

Our guiding light turns beige, and we are able to follow it back and claim our reward! Magic items are doled out, and our mission is complete...


I noticed I am moving towards more linear style and it is taking longer to write these. Of course, they are getting longer, too. I am not sure I like the linear retelling of the combat. We will see. I haven't been doing it long enough to settle into a style. Also. . .I am hating these cell phone camera pics. I might start using my camera, even though I will be mocked mercilessly by my wife. That is her job. I only posted the ones I have to show how we are using the condition markers. They come in most useful when determining which defender marked who, and who has been cursed or quarried.

The final battle was tough. Very tough. Therryk has 11 surges and 40 HP. He was at -15 (5 from dying), with 2 failed death saves when Chelsea healed him up. After the fight I counted up and realized that Therryk was out. 11 surges used. Lucan stayed in single digits much of the last half of the fight. The two blobs made it functionally impossible for someone to get up to help Halma flank. He did what he could by himself, but was out of options pretty much when Chelsea dropped the two blobs. I was seriously thinking that Gennal would have to make it out to tell our friends and family how we died, since he was closest to the door. And an Elf. During the fight we had a skill challenge option that we could take as a free action on our turn. We could sacrifice a healing surge, or try and use a religion or arcana roll to gain a success. I contributed 2 surges, and exhausted that option, but the only person really capable of making the required DC was Ana. And she rolled a couple stinkers. As it was, we killed our opponents before we completed the challenge and Colin sort of hand waved it finished. In fact, as we were past quitting time he hand waved the entire wrap up, handed out magic items (woo hoo, finally!), and we called it done. Next week, my turn...


Saturday, December 6, 2008

11/29 Game part 2

Life has been busy. This part is short, since I didn't actually get to run most of it. The next encounter looked like this:

The party is railroaded down the hall as it moves through the Castle and merges with the hall that goes around the perimeter. The outside wall has tall narrow windows that open to a beautiful view of the dawn sun and the Castle high above the ocean, and above even the clouds. Destruction is everywhere and it is evident that something came this way. The party hears yelling in the distance and get to about the edge of the above map before they are able to pick out any words, if anyone speaks the Deep Speech. Here is the encounter:

UH - 2 Umber Hulks
O - 2 Ogre Thugs
F - 1 Foulspawn Seer

The party will likely investigate. The umber hulks have tremorsense 5, so unless supernatural means are used to conceal them, once the party is within 5 squares (even through the wall) the Umber Hulks charge.

The logic behind this setup is that as the sun rose the umber hulks sought some kind of darkness/protection, and the foulspawn seer is trying to motivate them to continue on. The ogres are pushing the umber hulks trying to move them out of the room, but nothing short of battle will get them to go. This battle has potential to be deadly. With the foulspawn seer's aura the umber hulks have a +20 to hit with their main attack and a +18 vs will. The seer himself is pretty painful, and I aimed to keep him protected by his brutes as much as possible.

If we we were running ahead (ha, so naive I was) I had a short battle planned against the monster tasked with guarding the door, a hydra. It would start bloodied and with one of it's heads dead. For fun.

The last battle we started but did not finish:
The monsters:
L - Lich (Custom NPC using the DMG rules for adding a template, with the Lich template added)
S - 3 Skeletal Tomb Guardians
DS - 2 Dark Stalkers
T - 2 Trolls

Here is the stat block I used for the Lich, typos and all:

Lich (Human Wizard) Level 11 Elite Controller (Leader)
Medium Natural Humanoid (Undead) XP 1,200
Initiative +9 Senses Perception +9
Necromantic Aura (Necrotic) aura 5; Any living creature that enters or starts its turn in the aura takes 5 necrotic damage.
HP 248; Bloodied 124
Regeneration 10. If you take radiant damage, your regeneration doesn't function this turn.
AC 28; Fortitude 23, Reflex 25, Will 23
Immune Disease, Poison; Resist 10 Necrotic
Saving Throws +2
Speed 6
Action Points 1
R Magic Missile (Standard; at-will) ♦ Arcane, Force, Implement
Ranged 20 Target: One creature +15 vs Reflex 2d4+5 force damage.
a Scorching Burst (Standard; at-will) ♦ Arcane, Fire, Implement
Ranged 10 Area burst 1 +15 vs Fortitude 1d8+5 fire damage
a Color Spray (Standard; encounter) ♦ Arcane, Implement, Radiant
Close blast 5 +15 vs Will 3d6+5 radiant damage, and the target is dazed until the end of your next turn.
a Fire Burst (Standard; encounter) ♦ Arcane, Fire, Implement
Ranged 20 Area burst 2 +15 vs Reflex 4d8+5 fire damage
a Wall of Fire (Standard; daily) ♦ Arcane, Conjuration, Fire, Implement
Wall 8 within 10 squares Effect: You conjure a wall that consists of contiguous squares filled with arcane fire. It can be up to 8 squares long and up to 4 squares high. The wall lasts until the end of your next turn. Any creature that starts its turn adjacent to the wall takes 1d8+5 fire damage. If a creature moves into the wall's space or starts its turn there, the creature takes 4d8+5 fire damage. Entering a square occupied by the wall costs 3 extra squares of movement. The wall blocks line of sight. Sustain Minor: The wall persists.
Spellmaster (Minor; recharge 56)
The lich regains the use of an expended encounter power.
Necrotic Master
The lich can convert any attack power that it has to necrotic, change a power's energy keyword to necrotic, or add necrotic energy to an attack power that doesn't normally deal energy damage.
Blur (Minor; daily) ♦ Arcane, Illusion
Until the end of the encounter, you gain a +2 power bonus to all defenses, and enemies 5 or more squares away from you cannot see you.
Dimension Door (Move; daily) ♦ Arcane, Teleportation
Teleport 10 squares. You can't take other creatures with you.
Staff of Defense (Immediate Interrupt; encounter)
Gain a +3 bonus to defense against the attack that triggered this.
Alignment Evil Languages Common, Deep Speech
Skills Arcana +15, Religion +15
Str 11 (+5) Dex 12 (+6) Wis 14 (+7)
Con 17 (+8) Int 21 (+10) Cha 13 (+6)
Equipment Staff, robes

Built using Asmor's Monster Maker. The Lich is aware of the party and uses the surprise round (as the door is opened) to cast blur. The dark stalkers start hidden, as to the two skeletons on either side of the Lich. This means the part sees one skeleton and two trolls. The lich uses fire burst, since it is an area burst and thus it can't be determined where the attack came from. The three visible enemies move right up and engage the party.

The sick, evil part comes at the first dark stalker's turn. He uses his racial dark fog ability to cover the party's area in darkness. Now blinded, the skeletons and dark stalkers engage. The Lich can now engage with whatever he likes, though he will not get close enough for them to see him. Because the dark fog blocks the sight of PC's and the trolls, but not anyone else, the PC's are at a huge disadvantage. The trolls function as regenerating roadblocks, allowing the rest of the Lich's team time. The lich saves his wall of fire till he can get everyone, or until he needs it to block line of sight, though he will still try and do as much damage as he can with it. The second dark stalker will use his dark fog at his leisure, aiming for optimal placement. The Lich saves color spray and dimension door with his action point to use in his escape attempt. He always tries to escape if reduced to less than 100 HP.

Of course, it did not go like that. Dan must be the only wizard in the world who chooses dispel magic. He dispelled my dark fog, and the party saw the enemies moving in. The second dark stalker used dark fog on his turn, but Dan used his paragon path ability, from the Spellstorm Mage path, to regain his dispel magic and do it again. Still, the skeletons got 4 attacks a round, and the dark stalkers were invisible and doing much damage. The party figured out that there was something throwing spells at them, and that it must be under the effect of blur. We had to call it a day before we got too far, though.

I think the last fight has a pretty high chance of a TPK if the party is not prepared for the nasty trick I pulled. The lich is not seriously powerful, his at-wills are not that tough and his to hit is lower than the average PC. It is the combination of Spellmaster and Fire Burst that makes him a threat. Regaining that will quickly tear the team down, as the hallway they start in is the same size as the burst, meaning they have to move into the room to spread out. Regeneration 10 and 248 HP is sick, too, especially since the party had no divine characters with them, so radiant damage was only coming from the warlock.

In case you want to tack a story on to this, or are wondering at a reason for the madness, I do have an actual adventure here. The lich was a mage who left his order to pursue forbidden knowledge. After decades, centuries of study he concluded that the next step in his evolution required the power of life energy of the heart of a Castle. He spent the next few decades developing and testing a Ritual to do this, and your players have rudely interrupted him. As for what happens if they defeat him. . .a mobile base of operations like a Castle is a perfect reward, and an awesome plot device in a high fantasy world like that. Different adventures every week are possible when your players can travel the world at will...

If anyone runs it, let me know how it goes.


Monday, December 1, 2008

11/29 Game

I ran Saturday's game, and since it was basically a railroad there is no actual play. Also. . .taking notes and DMing may prove too much for me. Perhaps someone will be nice enough to take notes for me when I run next, since that will be in our *main* campaign. This post will mostly be a crunch nuts and bolts post, I really had a blast with the combat(s) we ran. Since we didn't get to play even half of what I had prepared, I'm putting it all up here. Maybe someone will, some day.

We had for this game:
Tank, a Dwarven Tempest Fighter played by Jesse
Juanita, a Tiefling Inspiring Warlord played by Jessica (our guest for this session!)
Ailef, a Human Wizard played by Dan
Syvus, a Snakeman Star Pact Warlord played by Colin
Bram, Human Beastmaster Rogue played by me as a DMPC.

A couple notes on the players, Colin was pretty much a reflavored Dragonborn, with poison as his chosen breath weapon type. I made a few pregens, mostly because I anticipated this session having a high death rate. I played the story appropriate one, but was pleasantly surprised by how he turned out.

Backstory/lead-in is all in the previous post. We jumped right in with the party and a couple dozen others (dubbed redshirts, actually these were re-enforcements. Were anyone to die, they would take control of one of these others). The group split up, with our party, led by Bram, heading towards the core of the Castle. A loud pounding grew steadily louder, and the party soon encountered this room:
They approached from the North, and since everyone was itching to go, no plan was made. As they entered the room they were spotted and initiative was rolled.
BB - 3 Bloodspike Behemoths
WT - 1 War Troll
O - 3 Orc Minions
D - 2 Displacer Beasts
T - 2 Trolls

In the center of the room is a portal. Initially it is dark, but at the bottom of the round it changes. The triangles are difficult terrain. The looping hallway to the East is a ramp that emerges 10 feet above the ground, into a kind of balcony. The Behemoths and War Troll are in the process of closing off the hallways by collapsing the arches over them. That was the noise heard. The Orcs are 'trainers', as long as the orc is controlling his behemoth I intended to play it intelligently, reflecting the leadership of the orc. The War Troll was the centerpiece of the battle, he had very high defenses and regeneration, his job was to keep one PC marked. At the end of the first round the Displacer Beasts and Trolls rush in from down the hall, and the portal changes. I rolled 1d8

1 - Fire: Any creature starting his turn within 2 squares takes 5 fire damage
2 - Beach: Water pours from the portal and pushes all the creatures at least 2 squares away, and is difficult terrain.
3 - Void - Nothingness, and an impressive suction pulls all creatures within 5 squares one closer.
4 - Leaves - A peaceful forest, with fall leaves swirling out
5 - Battle - Sounds of battle. Immediately before I roll again I roll +20 vs AC, 3d6 damage against the closest creature as an errant ballista bolt flies through.
6 - Thunderstorm - Dark and violent thunderstorm, +10 vs reflex against all within 2 squares on a hit 1d6 lightning damage.
7 - Icy mountaintop - Snowy white mountain with a powerful bust of wind that pushes anyone adjacent 1 square.
8 - Darkness - Malevolent darkness burst 2, total darkness, and anyone starting in the zone takes 5 necrotic damage.

If I happen to roll the same number again, I planned to on the fly amp up whatever effect I rolled. For example, towards the end I rolled 8 twice, and so the zone immediately grew one square bigger. I included this partially because I didn't know how the party would handle the trolls if they had no source of fire or acid damage. Dan's mage was focused on frost, so I included a way to 'finish them off'. A successful Arcana roll DC 30 would allow them to understand how to control the random switching and chose the portal they wanted. Fire, of course is the easy answer, but pushing a troll through, and then changing the portal's destination would have worked, too.

Unfortunately, despite this being a very dynamic and exciting battle, it did not have much to do with the two major features of the battlefield. The party was stuck in the bottleneck the entire fight. The Behemoths had high initiative and rushed forward, discouraging the three squishies from leaving the hall. The Fighter and Warlord were able to get past the difficult terrain, but by then they were surrounded and there *really* was little incentive to wander onto the floor. Some highlights:
- Dan threw out his Wall of Fire before the War Troll went, surrounding him with fire. In hindsight he regretted it, as it has such great damage potential and the ability to alter a battlefield.
- One behemoth went down quick, and the other two lingered under 20 HP for 4 or 5 rounds. Once the party felt the pain of the War Troll they focused on him instead.
- Displacer beasts are vicious in pairs. One moves in and delays, the other moves to flank and they each get 3 attacks. They dropped the Warlord at one point. One of them constantly lucked out on his Displacement roll.
- Fighers rock. Once the one displacer beast lost his displacement the fighter marked him. Every time he tried to shift away he was stopped by the fighter, and went down pretty fast.
- Rangers rock. While I didn't do much beastmastery things, I did use a lot of Martial Power content, and the Sharpshooter is great. Better than Battlefield Archer for sure.
- Colin never got Dark One's Own Luck to work. And every time Jesse used a certain power he rolled a 1. Twice in a row, even.

The fight lasted a loooooong time. Most of it was the level. We haven't played anything higher than 4th yet, and the options sometimes took a while to wade through. Jessica was new, and didn't take much longer than anyone else, if that puts things in perspective. The number of enemies also contributed, combat rounds got noticeably shorter as the number of enemies dropped.

I think I need to break these up. They are feeling long. Part two to come soon...