Thursday, December 17, 2009

World Building: Other Races

Shifters - Shifter blood runs thinly throughout rural communities in some parts of the world. Occasionally a child is born who displays some of these shifter traits. Usually, unless someone intervenes (often the Church) he or she can live a normal life. These shifters are drawn to solitary lives as shepherds or fishermen.

Gnome - As Tieflings influence finances, Gnomes influence Academics. Gnomes are sought after by the wealthy as tutors of utmost quality. The University has several tenured Gnomes, and Gnomes are scattered the world over in schools and research houses. Gnomes have a singular interest in knowledge, and the power that comes with it. Extensive study of archaeology and history has allowed the Gnomes to corner the market on ancient magics, and to introduce some technological marvels as original creations. Gnomes are almost always independently wealthy, and live in large (for them) estates with many generations sharing a compound.

Deva - Although quite rare, Deva do exist in connection with Divine events. Often a Deva will claim to be the Avatar of their God and create a highly devote cult of personality that follows them without question. Whether these actions are sanctioned or not is unknown, but Deva have garnered a reputation as Cult leaders and mystics.

Goliath - These stubborn individualists are perhaps most well known for their rebellion. Goliaths make their home in the high mountain passes, and every generation or so their extreme distance from civilization emboldens them to declare independence. After a hastily gathered army of city guards and wardens is gathered and dispatched, the Goliaths usually back down and see reason. Once in awhile a rebellious young Goliath will leave his home to make his name in the city. These Goliath are highly prized in combat arenas and mercenary troupes, and rarely return home.

Half-Orc - Called Orcs, these brutes are ubiquitous in the more dense urban areas. Their strength makes them ideal for some of the jobs Halflings can't do, and their prolific nature means they breed like rabbits. Bouncers, bodyguards, builders, and other non-skilled professionals in the inner city are often Orcs. Occasionally one will learn a trade and rise to become a genuine artisan, but stigma against buying from a non-Human will always keep them second best in this regard.

Gnoll - Some segments of the world do not regard Gnolls as thinking beings and deserving of the rights that such beings have. As a result, Gnolls are secretive and self serving. Most Gnolls adopt nocturnal behavior to further limit their contact with the public, and crime is common among them. When Dwarves are accused of theft, it is usually a Gnoll that is truly guilty.

Warforged - Occasionally recovered in old ruins, Warforged are without exception very, very old. They are considered property of the state, and kept apart from society in general. From time to time, when a show of force is needed, a squad of willing Warforged will be deployed, and they generally do their job without needing to lift a finger. For most, however, their needs are met, and they are free to spend their days in whatever leisure activity they desire. As a result, there are quite a few very powerful magicians, historians, and physicians among their ranks.

Changeling - Official word is that they do not exist. The truth is that a small population of Changelings does exist. For all of recorded history a clan of Changelings has followed the powerful, shadowing and influencing them subtly. Their goals are unknown, as is their true number.

Drow - The only colony of Drow is under the mountains. Most of their efforts are bent towards excavating and attempting to find their Underdark. While the rest of the world view it as a religious or racial obsession, the Drow are convinced that somewhere under the world lies a second world, and their home is there. While they are nominally citizens, most officials don't bother with them, as they can be extremely deadly on their home turf.

Kobold - Kobolds are commonly considered to be to Dragonborn what Halflings are to Humans. Lesser in number than Halflings, they have also avoided the traps of slavery and poverty.

Goblin - These cunning beasties are found in civilization's garbage piles. Subsisting on scraps and hand me downs, Goblins, like rats, have carved out their niche in the sewers of mankind. Commonly viewed as pests, most civilized people have no desire to associate with Goblins.

Minotaur, Shadar-kai, Revenant, Kalashtar, Genasi - Unknown in the world, if you want to play this race you are from another world, and need DM permission. That goes for MM races, too.


World Building: PHB Races

Races may or may not have a different flavor in this world. I will include relevant PC races and some MM races.

Human - The dominant race in numbers and influence. Essentially flavorless, a blank slate for you to imprint your character on.

Half-Elf - This true breeding race is labeled Half-Elf almost as a slur. They appear mostly human with some elfin qualities that give them their name. Half-Elves are not numerous, and exist mostly in the shadows, functioning as conmen and grifters. Honorable Half-Elves exist, often rising above their brethren to work in law enforcement, or occasionally as entertainers.

Tiefling - Possessing a reputation as superb bankers and money managers, Tiefling have risen above many of the other non-human races to several positions of power. A loose network of family and professional ties have made them one of the more powerful factions in the world. While certain criminal elements do exist, a majority of Tieflings operate entirely within the law. This relatively recent surge in power has allowed them to dig into their past. Discoveries made there indicate that not only are the Tiefling not native to this world, but they are changing over time to a more 'human' appearance. Who knows what more digging will uncover...

Dwarf - Rather than attempt to integrate themselves into Human society, most Dwarves spend their entire lives in one of several Dwarven enclaves. Living on the outskirts of society, they have earned a reputation as tinkerers and occasional thieves. While it is true that a Dwarf is almost always an opportunist, propaganda and racial tensions are mostly to blame. Dwarves also have a rich cultural heritage, with songs and poems without equal in the world. Their oral history is particularly rich considering they are among the longest living races in the world.

Halfling - The most human-like of races, Halflings are also most numerous (besides Humans, of course). They thrive in urban areas where space is at a premium, and are often exploited for cheap labor. River barges and other small vessels are also filled with Halflings, generally, as their quick feet serve them well on the water. They are, as a whole, a poor and dirty race, with little cultural history of their own. Common belief is that they are descended from humans, and are slaves as their birthright.

Eladrin - The most beautiful race in the world, or so they would have everyone believe. The most visible Eladrin function as attractive escorts for politicians and businessmen. Their dirty little secret is that they are able to use their innate fey powers and their affinity for weapons to function as very effective bodyguards. Eladrin society places high value in martial prowess, and Eladrin boys and girls learn quickly or are weeded out. Children unable to participate in this training are taught in segregated schools, instructing them in Arcane and other mystical training. Like Dwarves, they keep to themselves, but they give the appearance of aloofness, rather than being cast off.

Elf - Feral cousins of Eladrin, Elves are so rarely seen that they are viewed as myth by some members of the population. Almost all Elves live in wooded areas, surviving by hunting and gathering what they need. The few elves that choose to live in society are often mistaken for Eladrin. Elves are fanatical about ancestry, and have genealogies that go back a millenia. These records end abruptly at a time the Elves are reluctant to talk about. Whether this reluctance is due to fear or lack of knowledge is unknown.

Dragonborn - Called Dragons by the populace, Dragonborn are feared for there size and ferocity. Their relative rarity is compensated for by their presence. Dragonborn dominate wherever they tread, and are seen as military commanders (under Human supervision, of course), performers, artisans, and criminals. Their numbers remain small most likely due to their wanderlust. Dragonborn are natural travelers, and rarely settle down. When an opportunity to mate presents itself, they often do, but Dragonborn have a poor reputation as caregivers, and most eggs don't hatch.


World Building Again

I still have an actual play to write. Motivation is low since I missed that session, and I'll miss two more because of the holidays. I'm not alone in this, I think holidays muck up *everyone's* gaming.

I've been spending my down hours, like driving, showering, and falling asleep, thinking about trying my hand at a real, honest-to-goodness homebrew world. My, that was a lot of commas. I don't have a chance to DM in my future, but honestly. . .that is the best time to work on this kind of thing, right? No pressure? No outside influence regarding PC choice or players or anything? I will be sticking with 4e though, so not an edition neutral build (though that is mostly to accommodate player choice regarding race and class).

This was all spurred by this enworld post on campaigns. I tried to do this with the couple of small attempts on world building in my recent past, and realized they were very, very derivative. Not that derivative is something new for me, it is a major reason I don't write much any more. I get this bug in my brain to write something, and it turns out to be a reflection of some earlier book/story. We'll see if this turns out like that.

For my starting point, I'm taking a theme or trope that I really like and building on it. One of my favorites is the post-apocalyptic world. This is not Mad Max (though Mad Max does exist in this space, as does Fallout), this is more generally a fallen world. One where the glory days have passed. Some good fantasy literature does this, like the Shannara books or the Wheel of Time books. What really got me thinking about it was Lord of the Rings. The book doesn't emphasize this, and the movies don't show it, but at the tail end of the third age, most of the glory days are behind Middle Earth. Relics like Narsul and Glamdring are beyond the ability of man to create, and ruins like Weathertop are all that remain of a great civilization.

I'd like to emulate that, but focus it more. I initially went to far and started in on a Logan's Run style place, where the entire history of the outside world was unknown, and everyone was gathered to one small place. While that might make for an interesting story or one-shot, it has an implicit level of player cooperation. I'd like for this world to be as house rule free as possible, and the smaller I made it the more that became difficult.

So, I have four areas I am working on, with a fifth I try to keep in mind as I go:


This is one of the simpler questions to work out. In keeping with my original Logan's Run (and The Island, and Aeon Flux) inspired idea, I want the landmass to be small. A single continent. The historical clues point to emigration from elsewhere, but details are lost to the sands of time.

I don't want to get too fancy or crazy with the geography. Ideally the world will have no wilds left, with only the fringes having any sort of mystery. While most or all of the possible races have a home, fantastic beasts like Dragons and Medusas are legend.

One country accomplishes this. No Eberron-like fracturing of the continent. My current plans in this regard are to take an existing map, whether real or fantasy, and work it over to my satisfaction in Gimp. Not far out of the planning stages here.


The most developed section of my world. I'll save a full individual writeup for another post. I worked on races first with the understanding that knowing how so many races fit in a small amount of space helped me to visualize the shape and current state of my world. For example, in this campaign, Tieflings are viewed with a cultural bias as being excellent managers and bankers. Since most non-humans are faced with some amount of discrimination, intelligent Tieflings often exploit this bias as route to power. This results in an old boys network of Tieflings that aid each other in this line of work, and an underground that assists in siphoning off assets from their masters.

Little insights like that help me to guide the rest of my thoughts, and hopefully the end product is better for it.


The makeup of the world has meant that classes are viewed differently. In a traditional medieval fantasy world, there is plenty of room for fighters and their derivative classes. In a world without a meaningful standing army, and with no wilderness to speak of, ruffians who like to stab things are almost always criminals. The integration of Primal classes also impacts this, but I am making headway there. I think this section will get put on hold until I finish my work on. . .


I struggled with this, since it is likely the largest amount of work, and will have the smallest payoff. I am tempted to go with Core here, and save myself trouble, and make it easier for Divine PC's, but that feels like a lazy move to me. I still have some thinking to do here.


I do not want to make an adventure path. I will likely not get to run this world for a long, long time, if at all. Putting work into something like that is folly. However, I do want to consider where the plot can go. This means placing interesting hooks and things throughout the fluff. It means building with an eye towards interesting changes, not making a static world and standing back. It is also the thing I am itching to dive into, but won't waste my time with.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Where have I been? What is going on?

Not sure what the audience is like for this thing, but an update is warranted for my own sanity.

Two weeks ago we did not game due to low expected turnout. Last week the game was held, but family obligations prevented me from attending. Our excellent DM has posted his writeup on our campaign message board. The specific thread is here.

We will be gaming tomorrow (that's the plan, anyhow) so I will endeavor to remain caught up. Still looking for my 'voice'. We'll see what comes out.


Monday, November 16, 2009

AP: Double Teamed to Death (nearly)

Arashi - Genasi Swordmage
Paulic - Elven Ranger
Senzamei - Eladrin Wizard
Phaedra - Elven Cleric
Jasper - Gnome Warlock/Wizard
Hogorth - Eladrin Fighter/Warlord

We soldiered onward this session, towards the castle and our goal of ultimate understanding. . .

Unfortunately, because we are just *that* lucky, we triggered two encounters, so the session was one, long, painful fight. I am getting a tad ahead of myself, though.

We got within sight of the castle and saw 11 or so guards gathered outside. Presumably, they knew we were coming and this was their response. We also saw Captain Regal there, and Senzamei remembered that he is familiar to her. He is a character in a children's book, or series of books. Not only does he engage in a series of daring exploits, but he has a pet dragon.

Suddenly a little less cocksure, we discussed some other options. Waiting until dark, or trying to find another way in were the two best options, until Jasper thought it would be a good idea to try and bluff our way in. Senzamei recalled that the nemesis of Captain Regal was the Dread Pirate Roberts (yes, that one?!) and we tried bluffing the Captain, telling him the Dread Pirate was after the Prince.

Captain Regal apparently believed us, and led us into the castle. Once in the courtyard, the trap closed and we were ambushed from all sides. Smart, eh? We bluffed our way into the trap, and past one encounter to take both on at the same time! Hurrah!
So the dragon in the corner is Flamey, Captain Regal's wingless dragon. . .until it sprouts wings of flame. Nice. The large enemy in the other corner is the wolf that we saw the prince riding. Yes, there are archers on the walls.
This is midway through the first round. We had some amount of leeway, since without the first encounter outside to alert them, the dragon and the wolf are still sleeping when we enter the courtyard. At Captain Regal's signal we are attacked, and our retaliation is swift and. . .unfocused. Hogorth and Arashi are both in the lead and take on Captain Regal, since he has a huge target on his back by virtue of being the captain. Jasper blasts a chunk of enemies out of the way and makes a patch of difficult terrain. Now the heavies are up front with the Captain (good) and the soft centered party members are in the back surrounded by solders and about to be attacked by wolves (bad):
- Senzamei is in good form, actually hitting fairly often. These hits are punctuated by a crit even, which is awesome!
- Lead the Attack on Captain Regal felt right, and may have actually been the right call, but he went down pretty quickly to the focused fire. Things did not get noticeably easier when he died.
- The rear of the party was attacked by a Wolfmaster and his two wolves. They did repeated high damage to our softies.
- A round or two in, Flamey and The Wolf both entered the fray. This was BAD. We had two big enemies and two defenders, which is fine, but we were fighting on basically three fronts, without someone sturdy to hold off the eight or so soldiers and their two wolves.
- Things get a bit worse when the Dragon uses a mobility power to shift back and create some zones of damage. With all the melee fighters involved, it is tough for us to keep or stay out of these. Senzamei Fey Steps out, which is good in the short term but leaves her exposed. The Wolf predictably goes for her.
- A slight misread of Senzamei's Guardian Blades power puts a serious dent in the wolf when he makes a series of attacks against her and Arashi, and is dealt Int*4 damage (16) in response. We cheer.
- Phaedra is flanked by wolves and gets beaten down to less than 0. She falls.
- Inspiring Word brings her to positives, but she is hit again before her turn and must make her first death save. She fails.
- A cunning plan involving Hogorth Fey Stepping adjacent to her and Paulic tossing a Healing Potion goes off without a problem, and she is able to roll out of the way while Hogorth holds off her attackers. A shift granted to the entire party puts most of us within range of her healing powers, and she unloads her big guns. Healing is dispensed and appreciated. The two tanks were in single digit hit points for most of the fight to this point.
- Tired of the constant (yet surprisingly ineffective) sniping, Jasper uses Otherwind Stride to pop up on top of the wall. He proceeds with the business of tossing the archers off with Thunderwave. We cheer.
- Things still seem grim, since at this point we have killed only the Captain, but bloodied almost everyone else. A lesson to be learned about focusing fire? To make matters worse, all of these solders grant their allies Temp HP when they are bloodied. Stacking Temp HP.
- Arashi takes on The Wolf, and Paulic disengages from melee. The recently healed Hogorth incurs several OA's (to Phaedra's disapproval) and uses the daily magic item power of his sword to immobilize the dragon. With it marked and unable to move, the most powerful attack available to it seems to be a basic claw attack.
- The Wolf dies.
- In a freak event, one of the wolves draws an Opportunity Attack from Paulic, and he crits. He crit with his boot. Max damage. 5 damage. It kills the wolf. His ego is forever inflated. He states "I am a God."
Better. This is about an encounter's work. They are all bloodied though, so we power through this.
- Jasper crits on the final archer, flinging him off the edge to his death.
- Phaedra pulls out all her healing mojo, granting Temp HP and healing to Hogorth. He takes enough damage to kill him, but does not die due to this. Even though she is upset that nobody told her how *dead* they were, she continues to heal. What a champ.
- Following this, a few members of the party use second winds. With no more real healing triggers to spend, and almost everyone bloodied, it was needed.
- Jesse is frustrated to find several of his attacks over the next round miss by less than two, indicating that the Second Wind's defense bonus saved them from harm.
- Like dominoes, the enemies begin to fall, and we are victorious.


Horrible note taking. Mostly consisted of writing down the bizarre things spoken by the party:
- One plan for destroying the castle was to concoct the AIDS virus and spread it to the troops. This was predictably suggested by the bloodthirsty Valenar Elf.
- The Wolfmaster sounded like a bad 80's movie. While I initially thought 'bad beastmaster clone', Paulic thought 'bad Die Hard or other action movie clone'. We ended up fleshing out a Road House-like movie, where the protagonist was the Wolfmaster. With Patrick Swayze dead, we would just have to settle for photoshopping wolves into the fight scenes.
- XXY, the genetic condition, was mentioned as causing one to be covered in floppy penises.
- Since everything we kill disappears, and it is looking more and more like the Prince is at the heart of this, a parallel was made to the movie "The Neverending Story". We are the Nothing. The prince is Bastian. How sad.
- Jesse mentioned that this was a "Custom Dragon". We were derailed for a moment describing his hydraulic tricks. There was a cholo standing a few feet away with the control pad for him.
- And finally, splintery wooden cocks of death...

I don't remember where that came from. Jesse was telling us that originally we would have only needed to fight the Captain and his men, and that the fight with the Dragon and the Wolf were the second encounter. It also included some wooden toy soldier minions that could only be killed with fire, so I imagine that is where that last one came from...

This session, denouement. Well, following some final battle against an eight year old or his pet wizard. Or both. Or neither.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

AP: What was I doing here? It's not important...

Following a mid-week email that fast forwarded us to our destination, Thrace, the usual group assembled:

Paulic (Valenar Elf Archer Ranger 4) - Learned a new skillset this session, that of teppanyaki master. If this adventuring thing falls through, he can always fall back on twin striking cuts of meat on a hot grill.

Arashi (Stormsoul Genasi Assault Swordmage 4) - Slid right into the role of Tavern owner like he'd done it before. Amazing for a guy who spent most of his life in a cage, but he held the mantle of authority well. Usually by holding it over our heads in a menacing manner.

Phaedra (Arenal Elf Devoted Cleric 4) - Since death worshipping powers don't port well into the hospitality industry, she fell in line as the Tavern's main chef. With meals consisting of all-vegetarian fare, and (apparently) delicious cakes, she was kind of the main draw. And she made sure that as a tavern wench, she had her cleavage appropriately maximized.

Hogorth (Eladrin Hybrid Fighter/Warlord 4) - Despite a keen mind and quick blade, he was dropped in the most obvious spot befitting a man of his strength. As being a bouncer for the mildly overbearing Arashi, he spent the beginning of this session drunk. Playing second fiddle to a mildly intelligent lizard will do that to you.

Jasper (Gnome Hybrid Wizard/Warlock (Fey) 4) - With magical tricks up his sleeve and the charisma to make it work, Jasper should be obvious as the main performer in the tavern. Unfortunately, the wrongness of it all and his inability to handle stress led to a near mental breakdown. He compensated for this by sobbing uncontrollably out of view of the rest of us.

Senzamei (Eladrin War Wizard 4) - With her player absent, alternated between mindless zombie, DM controlled personality, and comatose baggage. She was the waitress, though it was hinted that there might be another profession she engaged in on the side.

Boxed text that kicked off this session set the stage. Jasper is playing his crystal keyed xylophone on stage, while Phaedra and Paulic prepare meals for guests. Arashi surveys his bar, keeping an eye on Zap and Hogorth as they watch the door.

Any questions about our reasons for being here were met with "You start thinking about it, and then realize that it's not important." We are all working in a tavern in Thrace called The Eye of the Storm. Arashi came into town awhile back, and set up the tavern for our arrival. About two weeks later the rest of us came following him into town, and for the past couple of months we have been spending our day-to-day lives running the tavern.

As for our other options, such as leaving town or exploring the nearby castle, "You think that is a very bad idea. It makes you uncomfortable to think about it." Residents of the town are currently packing our bar and enjoying themselves very much. With no real reason not to, we all stop fighting the compulsion and do our job.

The action this night is a possible bar fight. An unruly patron is getting violent and a brawl would be bad for business. Hogorth confronts and forcibly removes the offender from the bar. Crisis averted. . .not quite, as a couple of kids dash through the door and steal some drinks from a table. Hogorth sees them giving their drinks to a shadowy figure in an alley across the way, so he goes to investigate. It is the drunk troublemaker from just a moment ago. Two of his companions use the distraction to dash into the bar and start making with the brawling. By time the bouncer returns, things have devolved into a messy barfight, and the evening is quite ruined.

Getting things cleaned up once the guard has carted away the offenders (Guard insignia is best not thought about, since it is not important) is a priority. The Prince of Thrace is having his 8th birthday party here tomorrow, and we have much work to do. While Phaedra slaves away in the kitchen preparing, everyone gets the mess cleaned up, and Hogorth and Arashi have a FIGHT. Not like, with fists, but about Hogorth's supposed lapse in judgement and the resulting mess. Hogorth, for his part, remains drunk throughout the evening, and prefers to blame Arashi for holding him back. After Hogorth stumbles off to pass out for the evening, Arashi draws up a post advertising an open position as a bouncer, and tacks it up by the door.

The next day, everyone is up preparing for the Prince's arrival. Some drama is inevitable, though, when Hogorth sees the ad for his position. He brings it to Arashi, upset about this (and apparently, a lot of other unresolved baggage). It remains unresolved when the Prince and his retinue arrive.

The Prince and a herd of children his own age are accompanied by a dozen guards, and the old cloaked and bearded vizier. Among the guards is the Captain of the guard, an ex-pirate named Captain Regal. He lives up to every stereotype a pirate ever had, with a peg leg and a pirate hat (non regulation, I imagine). In an effort to keep Hogorth's bad attitude from ruining the party (and his reputation), Arashi sends him up to the main marketplace to purchase some blue dragon meat for the prince. Paulic then puts on a show with said meat, chopping and grilling it with flair. He unfortunately rolls a 1 on one of his opening moves, and is only saved when the harried Jasper manages to catch the haunch before it hits the ground. Playing it off as intentional, Jasper holds it over Paulic while Paulic slices bits off with his deft knifework. This is while Jasper is simultaneously playing the xylophone, and using ghost sound and prestidigitation to duet with himself. I believe the song was "Farmer in the Dell" or it might have been "The Hokey Pokey".

The party is going quite well. The meal is a success, and the guards dig in to the dragon meat leftovers while Senzamei brings out the Prince's cake. She places the eight candles, and then lights them with a cantrip. This seemingly mundane act gets Paulic all disoriented. He has seen Senzamei do this before, even in his current life as a grillmaster. Something about the setting though, with the prince, and the magical flame, causes him to loose it. He remains quiet throughout the rest of the party, and then attempts to approach Jasper about something. From the outside, it appears like. . .well "We've been friends for awhile now," and "I've been having these strange feelings." and "Why can't you just make this easy?" lead us to believe that Paulic has just now professed his love for Jasper. Jasper is not pleased by this (and any effort to steer the conversation to *why* is, predictably, not important) so he retires to his room.

Part of our mental compulsion is the sealed chest at the foot of our beds. Whenever we think that things don't feel right, we are comforted by going to our rooms and meditating on this chest. Several things in our current circumstances trigger these feelings, like the magic room under our cellar, Old Thrace, and any suggestion about a life before our current one. Paulic, in his manic insanity, breaks several knives trying to pry open his chest, and eventually uses an axe to chop into it. Inside he finds his old belongings. This is quite the development for him, but given his recent failure to talk sense into Jasper, he decides to sleep on the problem for now.

Arashi, on the other hand, can't let a possible workplace romance get out of hand. He awakens early and goes to talk to Paulic about his overtures to Jasper. He makes it clear that Paulic's acts in the bedroom are his own business, but he doesn't want anything to interfere with his work. Paulic, for his part, manages to break Arashi's compulsion. The Prince of Thrace, and Captain Regal seem to be a key, as they are figures from their shared adventures.

With Arashi now fully aware of his real self, along with Paulic, they split up to convert the rest of the party. Arashi confronts Phaedra, and tries using his hatred of her religion to jog a memory. She steadfastly clings to the delusion, until he mentions stillborn. She swoons, and remembers. Paulic is unsuccessful in convincing Senzamei. Arashi tries to talk with Hogorth, and things predictably go downhill. His methods include a mop, and hand to had combat. They crescendo with attempted electrocution, and his familiar as an improvised thrown weapon. They climax with a verbal drubbing where Hogorth's ambitions are questioned, and for him that is the final key to unravelling the domination.

Senzamei, now quite afraid of her insane-seeming companions, is trying to get into Jasper's room, but he is having none of it. After her chest is broken open, she falls unconscious, and Hogorth breaks down Jasper's door to talk with him. Jasper is able to shake off the effect when his meeting the party is mentioned, and he remembers that he thought we would make a very poor archaeological team.

With Senzamei's unconscious body forgotten in the hallway, we all gather downstairs to talk about what happened. We have memories of 2 months working in this tavern. For Arashi, he has memories of an additional 2 weeks waiting for the rest of us to arrive. Since he only entered the town of Thrace a few seconds before the rest of us, we come to the tentative conclusion that while in Thrace, time runs at a different pace. Very different, since as Phaedra looks at her journal from the past couple of months, she reads that the Prince has had his birthday here about every 2 weeks. Her entries are regular, and reveal that we have been basically repeating the same actions over and over. It then dawns on us that if the party we were looking for has been missing for about a month, odds are that if they made it this far they died of old age long ago.

We decided to investigate our tavern before we go anywhere. On our way to the magic room below the basement, we stop to check out the cellar. Inside it we make a horrific, or mundane discovery. We uncover a stack of signs that we posit once hung in front of the Eye of the Storm. They are the names of the past taverns (Lydia's Rest, Heart of Fire, Ale's well that ends well, and the Laughing Minotaur). Lydia is the name of the leader of the last expedition. It is reasonable to assume that she was stuck running a tavern and throwing a birthday party for the rest of her life. Hogorth found that horrifying, and possibly one of the worst punishments imaginable. Phaedra felt that it wasn't so bad, since the laughter of children can bring a smile to your face.

We also found a few chests identical to the ones we just destroyed to get our gear. Upon opening them up, we find some increasingly ancient magic items. All of the mundane material has decayed away, but we collected quite a few useful pieces. After that sobering revelation, we climbed down the ladder into the next basement. The room was covered in arcane glyphs written in glowing blue. The arcane specialists in the group were not able to make any sense of the gibberish. The other feature of the room was a glowing blue sphere hovering in the center of the room. Arashi touched it and disappeared. Not wanting to arrive two weeks later wherever they were sent, and end up a bouncer again, Hogorth touched it, and the whole party followed suit.

We appeared in a jungle. Despite various clues, such as the vegetation and the wildlife, we are unable to determine where we are. It doesn't seem to be a different plane entirely, but we are not able to figure anything out beyond that. In our immediate area are some blue crystals, and just beyond those are some red. Experimentation reveals that:
- We are not seeing precisely the same thing
- Some force will not allow us to move deeper into the jungle
- The resonant hum of the crystals can be enhanced with Jasper's tuning fork, and that creates a hovering blue ball like the one that teleported us here.
- Nothing else seems to do that

Fruitless in our efforts to determine more, we leap through the next glowing light, and reappear in our sub-basement. It is quite possible that we are more confused now that we were before that little jaunt. We gather up Senzamei and decide that our best option is to check out the castle. A few things we conclude:
- The vizier who looked like an old wizard could be Alomar, the last man known to have the artifact we need
- The Prince's birthday seemed odd to us. Every two weeks, really?
- It was the only other landmark we really knew about
- It was on the other side of this odd bubble in time, so we would pass through the center and be able to see what was what on our way

Right away Jasper sees something odd. As both a Gnome and a wizard he was able to see that all of the buildings beyond New Thrace appeared. . .odd. Illusory, probably. Not that the buildings here in town were normal, they were described ass oddly constructed as well. We soldiered on towards the center of town, and the open air marketplace that dominated it. As we neared a guard checkpoint in town, Paulic saw one of them jump on a horse and ride hard to the North. With no way to catch him, we just knew that meant that our decision to go to the castle was probably warranted, and that things could get violent.

Entering the marketplace was yet another revelation. Jasper noticed something odd about the vendors there, and a piece clicked in his head. Looking around he saw the same face repeated a dozen times over. His sharp eyes noticed some imperfections in the proportions of the people milling about. It looked like the population there was entirely illusory. When the squad of five soldiers galloped up he was shocked yet again to notice that the plate armor didn't have seams. There was no way to get into or out of it.

The soldiers announced that we were not allowed to have weapons in the town. Hogorth rebutted that *they* had weapons. Things didn't really devolve from there, so much as they exploded:
- Paulic had taken the time to climb a scaffold as he saw them approach.
- Hogorth and Arashi stepped out in front to protect their allies. They both consistently hit this fight, which kept the attention focused on them.
- Arashi kicked things off by marking a swordsman, dashing to slice at an archer, and then riding the lightning to engage the Arcanist.
- Hogorth was dazed the entire fight. His very nice allies kept the enemies within reach of his spear, so it was a non-issue.
- Jasper showed his depth by killing things in a much less flashy manner than before. The opposite, in fact, as his curse+eyebite managed to finish off a couple of the enemies
- Despite his position very far behind the party, Paulic drew fire from the archers after they saw his effectiveness
- Straining the probability of this encounter, Phaedra crits twice, and keeps the party up. While doing that we discover that the healing dampening effect of the Mournlands is not present here.
- The last archer had climbed to the roof, and was immobilized, cursed, and quarried before he was killed. He dissolved into weird nothingness like the rest, and Jasper rode the curse to teleport back down to the ground. Showoff...
No pictures this week. My cameraphone is just not up to the low light and unsteady hand. I'll have to start stealing the actual camera.
The bulk of our evening was spent roleplaying as confused tavern workers. It was quite fun. Enough so that we were going on and on about how it would be awesome to play in a campaign where we owned a riverboat tavern, and traveled from town to town, adventuring and serving drinks.
Poor Paulic was the first 'awakened' and every time he tried to talk to Jasper about it we really gave him a rough time. It just sounded like he was hitting on him. A lot. Senzamei was the prostitute in all but name, as the stereotypical tavern wench. Of course, before when she was not there she was taken advantage of by Phaedra, so she seems to attract those sorts of things...
Hogorth and Arashi had a few spats about Hogorth's attitude problems, drinking problems, people skills. From the outside looking in, Hogorth was an accident waiting to happen, but the real scary one was Jasper. He was not taking the stress well, and as someone pointed out "Its always the quiet ones...".
Some other good lines:
- "Please help me. I am retarded. I need the following things:" - joked about hanging that sign around Hogorth's neck when he went to market. We had just established that he can, in fact, read.
- "Yours consist of murder and horse farts" - Arashi, about Paulics recently recovered memories.
- "Your are just the inside of a cage." - Paulic, about Arashi's memories.
- "Like a family friendly Hannibal Lechter!" - Trying to deal with the comatose Senzamei eventually involved loading her on a sled painted with smiley faces, tying her up and putting a mask on her (to prevent spitting).
- "Keep your government out of my bag of holding" - The next idea was to load her in Paulic's bag of holding with her head sticking out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Flee the Mad Beholder!

Jesse kindly sent me his handout, and some of the stats on the beholder eye rays he used, along with the traps. I am posting it here because I think it was done really well. Take a look:

Flee the Mad beholder!

You must escape from the magic warped creature who's path you've crossed. To make matters worse the land itself seems to be against you, with many hostile arcane barriers in your way and few places to take cover or hide.

Each person must complete a skill challenge: 4 successes before 4 failures. That means you have to make four skill rolls on the Primary Skills list below, before you fail four rolls. The DC starts at DC 12 and increases by +2 every time you use the same skill more than once. A failure on one of these checks causes you to be attacked by the beholder's eye rays. When you succeed you've managed to slip away from the monster, you can still aid your companions (but you can not take the continue on to Thrace action).

If you fail you fall behind and the beholder catches up to you. This is bad.

You can assist others by using the Secondary skills: success gives the person +2, failure gives them -2 on their next Primary roll. Every time you try to use the same skill to help the same person, the DC rises by two.

Skill checks are a standard actions. If for some reason you do not use your move action to flee during your turn you get a -2 penalty to your next primary skill check and MUST use the next attempt to flee or you automatically gain one failure.

Primary skills (start at DC 12): acrobatics, athletics, dungeoneering, endurance, nature, stealth. DC goes up by 2 every time the same skill is used.

Secondary skills (start at DC 12): arcana, insight, nature, history, perception.

Special Actions

Teleport 5 or more squares: 1 automatic success for the teleported party member.

Ranged Attack: Reduce the attack roll of the next eye-ray by 2 on success or grant a single ally member a +2 bonus to their next action on success. On failure you become distracted and wander into an area of magical hazards (can not attack while in a hazardous area).

Continue on to Thrace: While you’re performing the skill challenge, you can try and guide the party towards your final destination of Thrace (if you're not in an area of magical hazards). Make a nature check, DC 17. On success you help redirect the wayward party towards their final destination. If you fail you are attacked by the eye rays or you wander into an area of magical hazards (50/50 chance) as you hesitate to try and pick out your way through the waste. No successes here results in the group being hopelessly lost. One means you know roughly where you are, but loose a day of travel. Two keeps you on course. Three and you find the best path to escape and advance, granting all allies a +2 bonus to any remaining primary checks.

Special: If the beholder acts last everyone starts with one success. If the beholder gets a surprise round everyone unaware starts with one failure, if any players get a surprise round they start with one success.

Eye Rays: +19 vs. NAD, 1d8+5 damage + some other effect (depending on the ray).

1) Numbing Cold (cold, fort) - You are slowed (save, endurance or heal[DC 15], others can heal you as well, ends). Your successes do not count until you are no longer slowed.

2) Telekentic Blast (force, reflex, attacks anyone who aided you last turn as well) - you are hurled randomly (1d8)
8: away, you gain 1 success
1-2: backward, you gain 1 failure

3) Fear (psychic/fear, will) - you are shaken (save ends): -2 to defenses and any non-primary skill checks, +1 to primary skill checks.

4) Petrification (fort) - 1 automatic failure, no damage.

5) Venom (poison, fort) - You loose a healing surge.

6) Domination (psychic, will) - You are dominated for 1 round, during which you attempt to hinder an ally with a secondary check and do not flee (success is a -2 to their next check, failure means nothing).

7) Stone to Mud (auto hit, no damage) - You drop neck deep into a pool of sticky mud. You can take no action but try to escape (Athletics DC 12, others can pull you free as well). After you escape you are coated in thick mud, giving you a -2 to all Str/Dex/Con checks and attacks (save ends).

8) Barrage - The beholder makes two ray attacks, against you and one other ally (reroll any 8s)

Anti-Magic Ray (recharge 6): An an interrupt the beholder makes an opposed roll (+10) with the person using the power. On success the power is negated. Utility powers use the most relevant attack bonus, racial powers use your highest stat bonus +1/2 level +2.

Magical Hazards: Random trap, level 1+1d4 (DMG 88), reflavored as a magical hazard. Arcana is an added skill that can be used for most interactions.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

AP: In this session, amourphous blobs

A full house this time, all six players and our patient DM...

Senzimay (Eladrin Wizard 4) - Has been at times a zombie follower and make out buddy for Phaedra, or sitting in a library staring into space. She snapped out of it and summoned a spectral steed to catch up with us, citing a 'premonition'.

Jasper (Gnome Wizard\Warlock 4) - Continued his dimensional experimentation, but with much less success this time. I think we have the Mournland to thank for that, and if things get hairy it might become a legitimate option for those of us frightened by his power.

Hogorth (Eladrin Fighter\Warlord 4) - Continued his ineffective, draw-no-DM-attention playing by mainly pissing off the party and scooting things around.

Phaedra (Elf Cleric 4) - In the Mournlands is just a 'crappy wizard' with magical healing nerfed (or so we thought!). In addition to that, Resist 5 Radiant popped up, meaning she had to work a little harder to be awesome this time. We appreciated the effort.

Paulic (Elf Ranger 4) - Our dedicated tracker this session. Also wins the Gold Star Award for best massive damage of the day. We salute you, Paulic. Take this coupon for a small fry at your nearest Burger King with our congratulations.

Arashi (Genasi Swordmage 4) - Keen Arcane knowledge (in a party with 2 wizards even) combined with lightning tinged ancestry made him our early warning system for the storms of magical energy. Also, he swung his sword at a lot of things, and even hit some of them.

Last session we ended with the supremely dubious decision to walk into the Mournlands or our own free will. Our DM let slip at one point this session that we were possibly a little out of our league in here, and gave us a boost by giving us a Milestone after every encounter. I believe he called it 'giving it everything you've got'. It meant that nobody was shy about spending their action points.

We also got a moment of infodump/exposition. Since last session Jesse had prepared for us going on any number of quests, he had not fully fleshed out the details of what we were doing in the Mournlands. In a bit of a retcon, we learned the following:
- The Artifact was last known to be in the town of Thrace, in the possession of the wizard Alomar
- Alomar was a retired wizard doing research for the state. Part of his research involved this artifact
- At the time of the Day of Mourning, Alomar had the artifact.
- A team of adventurers failed to retrieve this artifact for Mord about a month ago
- The team was led by a Paladin of the Silver Flame (Mord's religion) named Lydia.
- Our mission is to discover the fate of the team, and to complete their mission.

We got down to the business of tracking and finding the team. Right away we stumbled across their trail (or we assume it is their trail, the Mournlands don't always play fair). It headed in the direction we thought it should, towards a road that led toward the town that was our goal (nice, right?), so we followed it.

Around this time, Arashi began pointing out strange storms in the sky ahead of us. Small stormlets that we could easily avoid. He also pointed out the large, malevolent one closing in behind us. Hasted by this development, we hustled along until we encountered one of the oddities of the Mournland.

A field of grain (we assume wheat) blocked the path. Arashi examined it, and confirmed it was. . .strange. It leaked a fluid, and it appeared to be made of stone. With effort, he broke off one of the heads, and kept it in a pouch.

Of course, Scooby Doo time was allowing our nemesis, the rapidly congealing storm, to catch up, and we had to suck up our fear and just plow through the field. We survived.

We picked up the trail, and followed it as it veered towards a half-standing barn and half-demolished farmhouse. In the land around the derelict structures were several corpses. Paulic determined that whomever we were tracking stopped here and examined the corpses, then remounted their horses and continued on their way. In an effort to stay ahead of the storm, we did too.

A few hundred yards later, at our best forced marching speed, we realize it will not be enough. We have already seen this storm change course to follow us, and we watched it condense down from a large amorphous blob (see the title!) into a smaller, tentacley amorphous blob. Enough running from our problems, it was time to take a stand. We did so:
- The thing descended and through some quick arcane studying it was identified as a Living Spell. Specifically a Living Color Spray.
- In the early rounds, Senzimay summons her Fire Warrior (a bird), Arashi marks it and whiffs a few times, Paulic Quarrys and Twin Strikes, Jasper Curses, and we feel the thing out.
- Once a round when we hit it, the Spell buds off a smaller version of itself. These minions do random damage when they hit, and have another random effect when they die. The Spell demonstrates its. . .annoying nature when it shifts something like 6 squares and makes an attack to daze everything it shifted through.
- This is kind of the low point for Phaedra. We were under the assumption that magical healing was impossible in the Mournlands. She is our healer. On top of that, this spell had resist 5 radiant. A quick glance through her power cards did not seem to help her there. Jesse reminded us that he had never said that we could not heal. Jessica, trying not to metagame, used a healing word on the bloodied Arashi. . .and it worked. Somewhat. Bloodied characters only healed half. This, coupled with the fact that her Lance of Faith us superpowered, doing Striker level damage for like 1d8+10, made the resistance a non-issue.
- Senzimay also gets a boost, when we remember that her conjuration can flank, and she is reminded that even though she has a Fire Warrior summoned, she can use other spells. The Flame Striking of minions commences.
- Many rounds of combat pass, and we eventually bloody the spell. We know this because it splits in two at that point. Each one also buds off a minion when hit. This solo fight has turned into a full on mass battle.

- Paulic (who let us know he has been studying his power cards) opts to use his Daily. . .Split the Tree. It is at this point that we find out that the split creature has a shared HP pool. Paulic crits on one of his rolls. Split the Tree (for those in the dark) has you choose two targets, and make two rolls. You apply the higher of the two rolls to both targets. Since one was a crit, both are crits. He then spends an action point and shoots again. All told, he deals 75 points of damage in one round. Let that sink in. That is enough damage to kill any of us. From full HP to dead in one round. Freaking amazing.
- Hogorth starts kiting one of the spells away from the group. Aiming to keep them apart and allow the party to focus fire. This works for like, two rounds before the spell just flies away. Hybrid Fighters are not, by default, sticky at all. Plus, the party did not seem to approve of my 'helping'.
- Phaedra pulls out her Opportunity Action Guy (multiclass Shaman) and casts 'Bacon of Hope', which is predictably delicious and manages to hit both big spells.
- Jasper is given plenty of opportunity to show of his awesomely powerful Thunderwave, and between he and Senzimay the minions are kept from totally overwhelming us.
- Someone, and this record does not indicate who, kills the spell. In a final, loving gesture, it explodes and takes its minions with it, damaging us one last time.

That was the first blob of the night. We continued on, since it was still like, mid morning and we had a three day hike in front of us. The trail we followed eventually merged with the road, and due to the messed up nature of the Mournlands, we lost the track because the road appeared well traveled. Of course, the road *could* be well traveled, but we didn't assume that to be the case just yet.

After some tense moments skirting around a dozen Warforged we guessed to be followers of The Lord of Blades (the racist messiah of Warforged everywhere), we came upon our second true challenge of the evening.

Paulic spotted a figure in the distance. After carefully sneaking up on it, he guessed that the figure was humanoid. . .and petrified. Or a well made statue. But this is D&D, what do you think the players thought?

Sure enough, a Beholder hovered around the edge of the odd terrain and Paulic knew he was spotted...
- Thus began our second encounter of the night, the skill challenge. Jesse judged this enemy to be far above our current abilities (15th level solo with 740 HP. . .Paulic's crit for 75 seems a little less majestic against those numbers).
- The skill challenge was to escape with our lives. We all got a handout that indicated the allowed primary and secondary skills, the DC's, and the penalties for failure.
- In addition to the regular skill challenge, we had another goal, Escape to Thrace. In an added wrinkle, besides the 4 individual successes before 4 failures, we had to make a series of more difficult Nature checks to avoid being lost. Each successive test improved our chances of getting away and making it to Thrace.
- It went wonderfully. Tough to narrate. We went in initiative order. On a success, nothing happened. . .we just got our cookie. On a failure, we either got tripped up by the alien terrain, or got blasted by one of the eye rays.

We ended with everyone getting away safely. The remainder of the journey to Thrace will probably be dealt with narratively (emails or forum postings this week) so next week. . .answers! action! adventure!
Very nice session. The solo fight was anything but solo, with the splitting at times there were probably 6-10 enemies on the map. It kind of made it a more dynamic fight than if it were just 1 thing.
The skill challenge was very well put together. I am going to ask Jesse if he has the file he typed it up in, I'd post it here if he did. The best or one of the best skill challenges I've done.
The Mournlands are weird. That is all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

AP: Just try to enjoy camping in D&D, I dare you

Of course, the camping was on the edge of the Mournlands, so we kind of get what's coming to us...

Arashi (Swordmage 4) - Came to the session with a new friend. It seems that in a recent violent storm he acquired a little lightning lizard. He named him Zap (is this a traditional Genasi name?). Zap earns his keep in the first session, as you'll see.

Phaedra (Cleric 4) - Came to the session with a new friend. Somehow she has gained the loyalty of a ghostly minion (Arenal elves and their ancestor worship). Unlike Zap, this undead friend has no name that we know of, and did not really earn his keep this first session.

Paulic (Ranger 4) - Already has a pet horse that communicates via fart, and a pet falcon. We are not allowed to know the names of his pets. I suggested his horse pull a cart (to literally pull his weight in this party) but my idea was not taken under advisement.

Jasper (WizardWarlock 4) - Our newest addition, he does not have a pet, though as a wizard it would be fitting the theme. In fact, at that point we would have more pets than not. Jasper, though on the exterior a jolly little gnomish wizard, is in fact a powerful, murderous fiend. His spells suck folks into other dimentions. Don't piss him off.

Hogorth (FighterWarlord 4) - Plane jane with no pets or dimensional portals, he is still not sure about this group of adventurers.

Dame Orena summoned us to the cathedral again. It seems that after a few days of arguing, she is eager to push us in *some* direction, but including yet another new member. His name is Jasper, and he was told by Mord (our benefactor) that we were his new Archaelogical team. We straightened that issue out, and then got to the business of deciding where to go. Since Jasper was all about visiting the Mournlands, that broke the deadlock and we wasted little time in getting started.

No, really, we didn't. I can see how that last bit could be taken ironically, like by having this paragraph describe our extensive preparations, and shopping guides, and divination or skill checks, but we really did pretty much just start walking immediately after that decision.

Our job was to locate the previous group of adventurers that had tried to do this mission, and to retrieve the artifact they were sent to get. This was a favor for the Prince of Cyre, and in atypical adventurer fashion we had not established any kind of reward for completing this deed successfully. Oops.

Our newest member performed a bizarre ritual involving a tuning fork and our vibrating brains, and we walked through the day tirelessly (MC Bard ritual). Our woodsy Ranger, Paulic, did some scouting and found us a great place to spend the night. It was on a lightly wooded hill, with brush thick at the base. It gave us a good view of the surrounding lands and provided us cover against anyone seeking to attack us.

Arashi took first watch. During his watch, his lizard (who has low light vision) spotted a figure sneaking around. He pointed it out to Arashi (who does not have low light vision), and Arashi started after him. During the following "encounter"
- The hunting habits of shocker lizards was discussed. Do they hunt in packs, taking down much larger prey, like elephants? Charging up like Blanka from street fighter, and hurling towards them?
- Paulic was pretty much it here. With an insane longbow range, and the far shot feat, he was the only one to effectively hit the fleeing spy.
- Hogorth managed to, using 2 magic items, immobilize the spy as it transformed into a cloud of bats and took flight. It immediately made it's save and kept flying.
- In a last ditch effort to stop him, Arashi flung Jasper into the air - *20 feet*. Jasper still fell short of hitting the druid by about 40 feet. The phrase fastball special was indeed uttered. Jasper also managed to avoid falling damage by activating his magic sandals. Was he intending on being thrown? It sure sounds like it.
- Paulic plugs away, but only manages to bloody the thing before it finally flies too high to hit.

We are sure that this guy was just the tip of the spear, but continue our rest anyhow. Paulic had pretty much pegged this spot as the best place to rest up within a few hours walk, so it made the most sense to finish our night here, and take off the next day. Paulic's watch was next, and since he has the perception skill of a demigod, they did not attack. Hogorth took the last watch, and since he has the perception skill of a clam, they sprung their trap then.

Just kidding. That was how a mean DM would have done it. They attacked while Paulic was on watch. He spotted them (for there were a few, now) skulking around and quietly roused everyone but Jasper. Phaedra was sleeping in a tree (Elves!?) so she stayed put. Hogorth and Arashi stayed low. At the last possible moment Hogorth woke Jasper up, in time for him to make his hide check and avoid the first round of pain. The enemies prepare to charge in, but we jump the gun and hit them first...
- During our surprise round, Paulic scurries up the tree, making this the tree to be in if you were an elf right now. Hogorth plants his banner and yells a battle cry. Jasper peeks through his tent flap and casts a spell at the bunched up attackers. An icy blast from The Frozen Hell explodes, and the ground is covered in treacherous ice. One unfortunate soul is caught in the portal and gets pulled across the planar boundary. Our respect for the tiny caster goes up a notch.
- A Stillborn assassin (incorrectly referred to as an Abortion (which Jasper pointed out would make a great band name)) teleported into our midst. The three original party members recognize her as the same elf that tried to murder Nolan DiVidalis while they were in town. They thwarted her attempt then, and for some reason she was out here near the Mournlands trying to kill us. With friends.
- Aside from the Assassin and the Druid, we fought 9 or so minions. They had an axe throwing problem, and Jasper quickly cured them of it. Unfortunately, as each one died they threw one last axe, usually at Paulic or Jasper. For minions, they were nasty, which takes the fun out of killing them. Jasper finished them off anyways, with another horrible spell to watch, one that physically removed several combatants from this plane of existence. They still found the energy to throw axes through the shrinking portal. Jerks.

- With the minions out of the picture, Arashi set into the Druid, and Hogorth tried to hold off the Assassin. Focus fire on the Druid eventually brought him down, though he managed to apply some nasty effects to a few party members before he croaked.
- The Assassin must have known she was coming after us, because she now had some kind of warding protecting her from Arashi's lightning damage. Unfortunately for her, she had neglected to ward against radiant damage, arrow damage, and spear damage.
- Jasper's spell that sucked all the minions away continued to restrain her, and we saw the end in sight. She was bloodied, stuck, and flanked by our two meleers. Of course, since she is a recurring villain, she had to Dimension Door away and escape from us. Someone, I don't know who, called her a whore. I don't know what the basis for that is, but I like it.

With that, we are able to finally finish resting, and prepare to enter the Mournlands. Paulic instructs his horse to wait for us (using a series of complex whistles). The horse agrees (using a series of farts). Next session, almost certain death...


Trying to avoid the rut I stuck myself in, so this post is an experiment in a more lighthearted style. I hope it sticks. I planned to take more comprehensive notes during combat, and to write down things I found entertaining. I ended up with notes like "Shocker lizards hunting an Elephant, Blanka style" or "The Frozen Hell". I may need to work on my note taking.


Friday, October 9, 2009

On Halfling Gangsters and Copper Pots

So real life intruded and I didn't write for awhile. Also, work intruded and now I am gaming a different night with a different group. 3rd level, so I have yet to get any Paragon play outside of one-shots.

In an effort to at least write something, I'll be blogging as much as I can about this game, even though our excellent DM is doing writeups. Having done them as a player and a DM I find DM writeups easier. You know the details and progression of events more intimately, having *designed* them to begin with.

Paulic - Elven Ranger
Phedra - Elven Cleric
Arashi - Genasi Swordmage
Hogorth - Eladrin FighterWarlord

So last session was my introduction to the group. They have been playing this campaign for a couple of months already, and were currently biding their time in Verithrond, in Western Breland. The mysterious benefactor that had contacted me to meet him here in Breland had also asked them to wait here for a week or so. Having been adventuring constantly for awhile this led to some spring fever, and some impromptu adventuring and roleplaying was had.

Paulic was traveling through the Copper Festival and noticed he was being tailed. Being a Ranger, and an Elf, he had little difficulty in throwing the tail. Being a Valenar Elf, he immediately started following/watching his shadow. The halfling that had been following eventually gave up and left the fair. Paulic followed him to another district, and then caught up to him in an alley. In an effort to find out what was going on, poison arrows were shot and a halfling was thrown into a wall.

After the watch arrived and arrested him, Paulic got to spend a few days in jail to think about what happened. Luckliy a shrewed Gnomish Barrister (class coming in the PHB4!) was able to get him off with a fine, but he no longer has a clean record. And he is still a Valenar Elf.

Arashi and Phaedra also spent some time at the festival, but their stories are a little less interesting. Arashi was trying to track down the source of some Cyran copper pots that he had innocently bought last session, and that involved interrogation, and Alchemy. To complete the Batman image, he tried a rooftop surveillance of a grubbier part of town, but ended up on his back in an alley.

He fell. Nothing beyond that, and get your mind out of the gutter. His investigations discovered that the pots were Arcane Marked 6 years ago, so they were not likely forgeries, but smuggled.

After Paulic is sprung from jail, he and the others (and the zombified (because her player was absent) Senzimay) go check out a Halfling warehouse. Various investigations and introspection and other puzzling has arrived at the halfling mafia being behind the smuggled copper pots/vessels/vases. I am still not sure why this is significant to the group beyond something to occupy their time while they wait for the appointment with the benefactor, but give me a few sessions...

Arashi knocks on the door. He would like to buy some more copper pots. It is currently around 3 AM. The Halfling that answers tells them to come back in the morning. Arashi repeats his request. After the door is slammed in his face, he starts knocking with his sword.
This picture taken after the door is finally busted in. A volley of sling bullets pelt Arashi (12) but his warding deflects all but 3 of them. Immediately following that two halflings mounted on dinosaurs charged around the corner and into the group. They were outclassed, but didn't know it. The three fully conscious members of the party took the dinosaurs apart without much effort, almost casually. The DM-run wizard missed (and I am told that was pretty standard for her) and the fight was over when the halfling slingers inside the warehouse bolted.

The evidence recovered was useful for the party in that they were able to uncover some small plots the halflings had a part in. They implicated them in the attempted killing of a Dragonmarked heir of house Vadalis. The party had been instrumental in preventing his assassination earlier in the week, so this new information just got them more deeply involved in the plot. Arashi and Paulic were not too thrilled about that, but as the Dragonmarked heir was quite handsome, Phedra was interested in this news.

The day finally arrived for the meeting with our benefactor, and I met the party formally for the first time in the basement of the Church of the Silver Flame. Mord brought us there to give us some options for what to do next. He was going to be incommunicado and wanted us to have something lucrative and important to do while he was gone. He referred us to his squire, Dame Orena to give us any further instructions and left on the train.


No fault of Jesse's, but I was largely a spectator this session. Bringing someone new in, whether it is through PC death or changes or a new warm body at the table, is always an adventure. You have the reality suspending options that bring instant gratification (your long lost cousin!!), and the more realistic options that take some time to work in. I'm cool that Jesse got me in without too much struggling. This party already has a good bunch of inside jokes and cool experiences. It might take a few sessions for these writeups to make much sense. . .


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Curse of the Crimson Throne 9: Saved by the beets

As always, there will be spoilers.

Saul - Bard
Torg - Fighter
Saturnine - Sorcerer
Veegor - Barbarian
Lars - Paladin
Raiche - Avenger

We began where we left off, with Lars opening a door in the basement of the clinic.

Okay, I forgot to take pictures until the end of the session, and was not really able to sit down to write this thing *last* week, when it was still new. So, some things are gonna be a little sparse. Sorry.

In the basement we run into Lars and Saul. They had beat us down here. . .somehow. The next room is full of more patients. These don't appear to have the plague, instead they look like they were unconscious, but perfectly healthy. At the end of the room two doctors hover over two patients with daggers raised. Their implication is clear. If we enter, they will try and kill their hostages.

Of course we enter, because we are heroes, and the doctors go down fast. A couple of Gray Maidens try and stop us, but we defeat them as well.

We burst into the office at the end of the room and confront its occupant, Doctor Davaulos. He and a few more of his Doctor cronies put up a weak fight, but we defeated them. Of course, since it is our Modus Operandi, we kept him alive.

We discovered that he was holding a lever that operated a lift on this floor, linking it to a second basement. This basement was decorated in a horrible, torture, disease, undead motif. We encountered some priests who had evidently heard us coming and prepared. Again, we didn't have too difficult of a time defeating them, and kept one alive to interrogate.

We did some more exploring. There was a room with glass walls and a glass floor with zombies or skeletons trapped behind it. We deduced that it was an attempt at art.

The final fight was a bit more challenging. We opened the outer door to a room, but discovered that the inner door was ice cold. The last time we had encountered this we fought chillborn zombies. We would have had a tougher time then, but we had a good controller. This time, we had no controller.

The fight began with Raiche using a power that allowed him to teleport into an unseen room with a nova of energy. He was almost immediately overwhelmed and dropped. The rest of us burst in. . .kinda. Besides the three chillborn zombies, there were three vampires.

The vampires clustered in the corner and did their vampire thing, while the zombies ran interference and made it tough to get to their masters. Saturnine, with resist cold 5, is immune to their aura, but too squishy to just run by the zombies to get the vampires. It was a tough fight. In a twist on the usual, the final vampire stopped fighting and we chatted with him.

He was amoral, but not needlessly cruel, and revealed that he was working with the queen's physicians to develop a cure. Their goal was to find a cure, and then use it to make the disease more virulent. He was nearly finished anyhow, and was just missing a key ingredient. It seems that in its current form, the victim would likely not survive the treatment. Add beets, however (beets featured in a session I missed. Apparently an old perfume maker was using beets in a hoax cure, and that was also the missing ingredient in the real cure).


That was most of it. We discovered that the cultists, the queen's physicians, and a group of vampires were behind the plague. Who would have guessed *that*? The cultists were using a plague demon, imprisoned in glass, and distributing its filth to infect people. The vampires were working on this cure to help make the disease worse, and the doctors were the face of the operation, tracking down immune people and doing their hideous experiments on them.

We let the vampire go in exchange for his help. If you can't tell, most of the group is unaligned. One of the prisoners (the cultist) had his eyes stabbed out, and died due to massive soul loss. In character, we don't know why. Out of character, Saturnine did it. We brought Field Marshall Kroft in to clean up, and relayed all that we had learned, omitting the deal with the vampire. She brought us back to the Citadel, and showed us a gift from the spirit of Beor. . .magic items.

From beyond the grave Beor had felt our need of moar crit damage, and we each chose a magic item, our first and only magic item in this campaign. We got our standard between-book email, that told how even though we had significant evidence against the queen, we could not move against her. She dissolved one of the guard organizations in the city to make room for her own, the Gray Maidens, headed by her companion. The guard is pretty whimpy now. During the ceremony transferring power to the new commander of the Gray Maidens, the old Sable Company commander shot the queen in the head with a crossbow. Nonplussed, she yanked it out and drove it through his head.

This city is messed the hell up, and the module will keep us here until we have been sufficiently tentacle raped. I'm glad I play a warforged.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Curse of the Crimson Throne 8: It gets deadly.

Spoilers past this point.

We were short a bit this session:
Lars, Kalashtar Paladin(Jesse)
Renn, Gnome Illusionist (Jay)
Kilhan, Eladrin Cleric (Rob)
Raiche, Elven Avenger (Mike)
Saturnine, Tiefling Sorcerer (Scott)
Dan DMing, we were all 7th level for this session.

Last session (which I missed) they had done some investigation and ended up in a playhouse of some kind. My character joined them, and we began poking around, looking for some hints or clues about this plague (or zombies? I'm not sure...)

On the ground floor we found some strange things. In one room several zombies stomped around in a rough approximation of ballroom dancing. They did not seem to be bothered by our peeping, and we left them to it. Another room had one zombie on a stage. He mumbled some zombie speak (mumbmlbmblbbrainsbrainsmubmblb) and several others watched him. At intervals they clapped for no apparent reason.

Leaving this creepiness aside we climbed the stairs to the second floor. Here there were some more zombies dancing. We could feel the blast of their cold aura from the stairs. It was an ominous sign. As soon as we stepped foot in the room combat started.

It was brutal. Chillborn Zombies have an aura 2 cold effect that stacks with itself. If you are in 1 aura, 5 cold damage. In 5 auras? 25 damage, just for starting your turn. It triggers if you move into it or start your turn, so even passing through got deadly. Early combat looked like this:

That diagonal line of mobs was our death warrant. The dwarf mini and the gnoll are both zombies as well. Six of them versus us, and those overlapping cold auras.

I should point out that 4 of the 5 of us were currently suffering from the effects of plague. Some had reduced surges, but the worst were down to no surges and a -2 to all d20 rolls. A couple folks had been putting off taking a rest since rests were when the DM called for endurance rolls. So we were down in power, and in healing, and short a striker and a leader. All would have meant a tough fight, if not a TPK.

The turning point was Visions of Avarice, and after a round or two the battlefield looked like this:
All of the zombies pulled and immobilized to the far side of the room. Now the auras were more of a deterrent from approaching them. They had no ranged attack. The sole ranged attacker was an invisible Gnome Bard that unveiled herself midway through the fight.

What made this mess even more of a turnaround was our Sorcerer. Saturnine is a Dragon Sorcerer, and his energy resistance is Cold. Since each of those auras is 5 damage, he was immune to their effects. Between his fire damage, and the cleric's radiant damage, the fight began to turn.

Kilhan took 4 of them out at once by moving close and calling down a divine prayer that hit the group. The death burst from one of them triggered the burst from another, and so on, until 4 lie dead. Unfortunately, Saturnine was in the area and his resist 5 cold was not quite enough to keep him up. Honestly without that he would have been killed outright by the explosion. Kilhan was able to heal him up right away, after some persuasion by the party.

We won, but barely. Saturnine wanted the Gnome kept alive, so Raiche turned his blade at the last moment and knocked her out. Renn sat down in the corner to take a short rest and died.

It was an interesting moment, because not everyone was paying attention (end of battle, folks were talking among themselves about what to do, rolling perceptions, things like that) but I think it was kind of a shock to most. Nobody expects an ally to just fade out during a rest. Once everyone was done with their post fight rituals, Lars carried Renn's body out, and the Gnome prisoner was taken to the temple for interrogation. Saturnine asked to talk with her alone for a moment, and ended up getting quite a lot of information that we could use to take our next step in figuing this disease riddle out.

The party was interrupted by a loud knocking on the door. When they opened it, a metal man greeted them, and claimed to have the memories of their fallen comrade, Renn. Cue new PC intro. After some confusing back and forth, the party decided that he was above board and he accompanied them on their next mission.

Torg, Warforged Fighter (Jay)

The information that Saturnine got from the Bard led us to a clinic. The Doctors brought to Korvosa by the Queen were looking for someone that seemed immune to the plague. According to our source, they had such a person in a clinic across town. Of course, we went there.

During the session that I missed we had somehow found a doctor's mask and regalia. Our cleric, Kilhan, had been wearing it, and we used it as a convincing ruse to gain entry into the clinic. Unfortunately, the receptionist would only let him through.

While the rest of us twiddled our thumbs, Kilhan explored the clinic. A large open warehouse held rows of cots, all occupied by plague carriers. Doctors administered to them, and when one drew some blood and headed to a rear door, Kilhan followed. When he lost sight of the Doctor, he opened a door at random.

He chose poorly. The room he entered was a guard room, and inside one solitary Gray Maiden was gearing up. He surprised her as she had on her greaves, and nothing above her waist. She seemed irritated. Kilhan, maybe forgetting that he was scoping the place out, maybe not recalling that the person we were looking for did not match her description, maybe blinded by bare boobies, told her to come with him

Yeah. While he was exploring, Lars tried to pry clues out of the receptionist. What the conditions of the sick were like, who brought them in, things like that. He was failing at that when Kilhan brought his prize back out to the front. She had paused to throw on a tunic, at least, but was still irritated. Many failed attempts at lies and confusion about what was going on led to her turning on her heel and leaving, back inside the clinic. Kilhan followed her. Torg followed Kilhan.

The Gray Maidens guarding the door were fast. The oddities were piling up, but a big, armed and armored thing pushing past the receptionist and into the clinic was enough for them. Combat was on.

I'm sure Scott would like it known that he was against it. Against all of it. Retroactively, we should have let someone else, someone with better people skills, impersonate the Doctor. Perhaps the Paladin Private Investigator?! But with Torg quickly surrounded, and his allies all leaping to the battle, after a round or two of hesitation Saturnine joined in.

Raiche had gotten bored waiting and went looking around the building for other ways in. He was in the back when he heard the fight start up, and used a sweet Avenger power to phase through the wall and right into battle. The fight could have been hairy, because of all the patients around and the fact that we were not at 100% effectiveness due to disease, but we did well. The Maidens had a funky ability that lessened the effect of healing, but we managed to not run into it at all, and took them all out.

During the fight, the Doctors all withdrew and ran to the back door. When it was obvious that we were going to win, Lars took off after them. He followed them down some stairs, and stopped at the door. . .end of session, with a cliffhanger even!


Beor died too. While Dan ran the game he had his PC back with the guard, and kept making rolls for him.

I am kind of torn about things like this. I did not mind Renn dying, as much as I enjoyed playing him. PC's are mortal, and they will eventually die if you keep taking risks. It is just a less than heroic thing to be killed by disease, and out of combat. Anyhow, I also like my new PC, so that lessens the sting somewhat.

I hate pointing out when I personally have a good moment, since I feel it shows that i am biased. I can't avoid it though, Visions of Avarice saved that fight. The zombies were swarming us, our options were: 1) Die 2) Back down the stairs to try a bottleneck (and aggro more zombies) 3) Something that changes the battle. We got a 3, luckily. I do kind of like that Renn's absolute final act was to keep that spell going so the party could survive.

I glossed over some of the middle roleplaying between fights. We healed Field Marshall Kroft of the plague, spent time at the temple, other stuff.

And the final fight was a disaster. Kilhan did about the weirdest thing possible. He went in to find signs of this immune girl (we had a description). He looked around, found a topless chick, and grabbed her. As a party, we didn't really do well when he brought her back. His goal was to take her away from there and interrogate her, but the bluff checks to try that were horrible. I'm sure there is a way we could have gotten what we needed without killing, but when the diplomacy dice fail you, you take what's left.

Next session, resolving Lars' action.

Also, our campaign blog is here, if anyone is interested. Right now it is mostly character bios.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Curse of the Crimson Throne 6

This post contains spoilers.

As mentioned before, I missed the 5th session. In it, the party located the body of some tribal people. It had been taken by a necromancer (or necromancer's apprentice?) and they had to delve into some catacombs to retrieve it. In a post game email, Josh narrated the near hanging of Trinia. At the last moment she was saved by a vigilante known as Blackjack.

For this session we were 6th level:

Raiche - Elven Avenger (Mike)
Saturnine - Tiefling Sorcerer (Scott)
Veegor - Longtooth Shifter Barbarian (Josh)
Renn - Gnomish Wizard (Jay)
Saul - Half Elven Bard (Colin)
Kilhan - Eladrin Cleric (Rob)
Lars - Kalashtar Paladin (Jesse)
DM - Dan

Dan's first session as DM for this new book began two weeks after the last one ended. We each had time to do as we pleased, and had agreed to meet at the Inn where Renn worked and Beor drank. As we sit to discuss recent goings on, Saul is possessed by the Harrow deck. It does a reading, through Saul, and it seems to center on yet more drama surrounding the party. One particular note is that Saul's card is the Survivor, and the first card drawn mentions a sickness in the city.

Veegor, in typical PC fashion, insinuates himself into our conversation. He is there when an old acquaintance of Beor's approaches us. His name is Grau, and he is looking for some help with a sick niece. Since we are heroes, we agree to help and we follow him to her home.

Her name is Brianna. The church has agreed to help her, for the low low price of 150 gp. We know that there is no way on earth that her family can come up with that, and besides, Kilhan, Saul, and Renn all have the Cure Disease ritual. While Kilhan goes upstairs to perform his ritual, and Veegor goes outside to perform *his* ritual (carving native runes around the perimeter of the house), some of the party chat with the priest who was at the house.

His name is Ishanni, and he is the temple's best expert on diseases. He was stumped by this one, and amazed at the divine power that Kilhan used to cure it. In gratitude for our help, Brianna's mother invites us to stay for dinner, and we all have a nice visit.

Afterwards, we each go to our respective hideouts for the evening. Saturnine stops by the guardhouse at the north shore on his way home. We had heard a rumor that the night before Brianna got sick (last night), a singe ship was sunk as it tried to enter the harbor. Saturnine asks around, and finds that the ship was lit with only 1 lantern, and refused to answer hails. The guard sank the ship despite the known convention of lighting a ship with only 1 lantern when there is plague aboard.

Saturnine tells the guard captain that he suspects a plague is loose in the city, and then goes home. The next day, plague is loose in the city. Coughing and other symptoms that we saw in Brianna are everywhere, and we go to Field Marshall Kroft to see what we can do to help.

There we meet Dr Davaulos, head of the Queen's physicians. He is Chellaxian, like all or most of the Queen's cronies, and was somehow summoned the day before from Chelliax, many hundreds of miles away, and arrived just that morning. The morning the plague broke out. He and his assistants all have faintly magical masks they wear that identify them as physicians, and they spread out to combat the spread of the disease.

Marshall Kroft, as always, has news for us. She gives us a letter from Vincarlo Oracini, the man who had hired us to find the Queen's 'assassin'. He would like to meet us later. In the interim, we have some errands to run. We stop by Brianna's house to see how her recovery is going, and to ask some questions. She is coming along nicely, and Kilhan is able to make a breakthrough in our investigation.

In an effort to determine where she contracted the disease, he asks her about her day before she got sick. She hesitantly tells him about finding a chest washed up on the shore, filled with silver. Kilhan buys the chest and it's contents from her, and we take it with us. Disturbingly, the chest is radiating some faint magic, as if it once held an enchantment.

Our next stop is the temple, to speak with Ishanni. As a disease expert, he might be able to shed some light on the transmission of this plague. As he ushers us back, we notice in the light of the temple that several members of the party are showing signs of the disease. Now our search is more than altruistic or mercenary, it is for survival.

Ishanni carefully takes one of the coins from the chest, and promises to do his best. We are now able to make our appointment with Vincarlo Oracini. We travel to the appointed location, and he surreptitiously lets us into his training studio. He wants us to get rid of someone for him.

Not what you think. Apparently Blackjack thought that Mr Oracini would be willing to house the woman convicted of regicide in his studio. He has been doing so, but is unsure of his ability to hold off the guard forever. They would very much like to search his place, having reason to believe that he is harboring a fugitive, and he would like us to fix things before the whole mess gets ugly. He has arranged a place for Trinia in the country, and needs us to escort her past the guard and out of town. We agree.

Our plan is for Renn to cast invisibility on her and sustain it as we leave. While being invisible does not make one hidden, the heavy fog this night should make our mission simple. One snag, of course, is that Trinia does not wish to go to this safe house. She does not entirely trust Vincarlo Oracini's motives, and has arranged her own way out. We bend to her wishes, and escort her to the docks. Once the spell is allowed to end, she walks into the mist, and disappears again. Raiche is able to follow enough to catch a glimpse of her in a small boat as it pulls from the dock.

We have been going all day, but we stop in to see Field Marshall Kroft anyhow. She has a couple of things for us to investigate. She is curious about reports of immune people, but her most pressing concern is Rackers Alley.

The disease is fast acting, and the city has already begun the process of carting away the dead. One route has been mishandled, however, and the bodies are being dumped in Rackers Alley instead of taken to Gray with the rest. We are to investigate this.

Sure enough, when we find the alley there is a pile of bodies up against one wall. We are surprised when figures leap down from the rooftops, but Renn quickly pegs them as vampires and we do what we do best.

Saturnine had been sneaking around to the opposite end of the alley, and was caught away from the group by the lead vampire. Veegor charged over to help him, leaving the rest of us with the handful of regular vampire spawn. They try dominating us, which is less effective. The leader gets a lot of mileage out of draining Veegor's blood when she knocks him down past bloodied, but they were over matched to begin with. As they start to fall, instead of dying they transmute into a silvery mist that blends with the ambient fog and drifts away. We are left with no answers.


That was most of it. After I left they did some detective work in the adjoining building, but I have not gotten the scoop on what, if anything, they found.

It felt like a first session. A lot of talking and running around, and a throw away fight at the end to sate our blood lust.

I have yet to be present at a fight that really tested us. The session I missed had a couple moments, I was told, where the big bad trapped our two defenders in a web. Low magic means thrown weapons run out pretty quick, and they were removing their gear to throw as improvised weapons.

This was our first session with what Josh is calling 'unlockables'. Powers that we get to level the playing field, or make up for the lack of magic. Interestingly, if I remember right I was the only one who tried his, and mine failed, so the impact of these powers is still up in the air.

This disease plot point warranted a warning email before the session. Dan wanted us to all know that things may combine to kill our character in ways we could not prevent, and wanted us to be prepared with a backup. This scares me. I really enjoy my character, but he is weak. Any checks along a disease track will almost certainly end in my death.

Another missed session next week. My luck will ensure that it is the session when I die of a horrible wasting disease.