Wednesday, February 25, 2009

2/21 Actual Play: The Rat Mother One-Shot

This past weekend I ran a one shot, attempting gritty low magic 4e. It could be argued that 4e's very nature is against this, even outlawing all but Martial classes is not enough, since some of the things they can do are so over the top.

We did not outlaw any power sources. In fact, I scrounged preview material from around the web, and brought it in case anyone wanted to give them a shot. Since the plan was to roll 3d6 in order it made sense to provide a larger number of classes, hopefully accommodating any wonky rolled scores.

We were short, it was me, Jesse, Dan, and Chris. I had prepared a few 4th level and higher combats for our 1st level characters with 5 PC's as baseline. I did not pull punches. To me gritty means overwhelming odds and a sense of despair and inevitable failure. This is why I do not prefer gritty games. I don't like feeling like a . . .torturer, I like facilitating awesomeness.

Anyhow, rolling went well thanks to Jesse and his suspiciously well rolling dice. I had pre-rolled a Human Sorcerer, Jesse rolled up a Dragonborn Sorcerer, Dan rolled a Half-Orc Barbarian, and Chris had a Minotaur Warden. We were all members of a nomadic group of nomads, traveling travelers if you will. We were headed North with our 11 wagons to begin the Spring portion of our trading and festivalling with the cities there. We used Jesse's large 1" grid pad of paper, and I had cut out 2x3 'wagons' the night before. Each wagon was pulled by an ox. Despite their appearances. Although I sometimes wish I had 11 Large Oxen in my minis collection, I used what I had.

Due to some unforeseen delays during their trip the caravan was running late. The sun was setting when they drew within sight of their first city. A few moments later three individuals emerged from the brush. They were quite disturbed that the caravan had arrived just now and told them that for their own safety they needed to turn around right now and not come back. Unfortunately, time was not on the side of the party, and with the sun going down and these people insisting that they did *not* want to be here after dark, the party was left with no choice but to circle the wagons.

I let them arrange the wagons in a circle however they wanted. Jesse did it, and chose to leave the animals near their wagons to aid in a quick getaway. This seemed like a bright idea at the time, but was in hindsight not so great. One of the folks who had leaped out ran off to get help from the farmstead where they all stayed, and the others watched the road to the town nervously.

Sure enough, the sun had gone down but the sky was still purple with sunset when some creatures burst into sight. Two wererats, two human rogues, and two rats attacked the caravan. Right away there were problems. Dan, who is sometimes a spotty roller (I know, its the dice. It is random. There is no outside force. It is not his or anyone else's fault. But this happened with the first edition of Arlarond in our current campaign. Sometimes he is hot, and sometimes cold. Right now our melee striker was cold) was rolling on the low side, and my wild sorcerer only rolled even when he rolled like, 6es, and that was pretty often. Jesse's Dragonborn Sorcerer was the Dragon build and had quite a bit of success. He had Con problems like my sorcerer and getting close to do damage was dangerous, but he did quite well.

It was those damned wererats and their regeneration. At low levels that is such a tough thing to overcome. After the rats and wererats had breached the perimeter and killed the two outsider NPC's, as well as a couple oxen, they managed to infect Dan and Jesse's PC's with filth fever. For a one shot this is not world-ending, but since Jesse only had something like 4 surges to begin with it was kind of. . . mean of them. The next stage of the disease only triggered on an extended rest, so I though we would be safe for the rest of the session. It is not like you can get *double* filth fever.

I deliberately did not mention Chris' Warden because I want to separate him from the rest of the riffraff. He was stellar. I outlaw the oversized weapon property when I run, so it was not that, it was his huge pool of HP's and his AC of 19. He was pretty much invulnerable. He only got to activate his mark once or twice, but it was his powers that healed him and his daily. . .I'm getting ahead of myself. Also, more foreshadowing: they found a couple glass vials of silver used to coat weapons for combat against lycanthropes.

With no locals left to give them any sort of direction they party healed up (nobody chose a Leader, so the caravan included a few herbalists and lore masters who healed them between encounters. In a low magic way) and waited. A few more commoners arrived and told them what was up. Awhile ago the city was besieged by these huge rats, and their bites turned the victims feral. A few people sought refuge outside the city and kept their location as secret as they could.

Some of them took turns watching the road and warning travelers away. They hoped to complete their ultimate weapon and kill the source of this infestation, and the caravan had arrived with just the tools they needed to complete the job. They had build a huge ballista, with a bolt made of silver. All they needed was a bit more silver and the opportunity to fire it and they could end this all. Jesse went to work preparing his wagon for the ballista.

After a few hours they were attacked again. This time, rather than just a group of scouts, the attack was intended to cripple or kill the caravan entirely. The fire elemental marks the location of the large bonfire they kept roaring in hopes of keeping the enemies at bay. Jesse also mounted torches on the outside of all the wagons, keeping the whole area illuminated.

The first attack was a pack of Dire Rats and 2 feral halflings with slings. From the shadows around the caravan glittery eyes watched, and a few rushed from the sides. Jesse, Dan, and Chris all focused on the main attack, and I had the rear all by myself. The halflings were deadly, and could launch 3 stones each when their power recharged. Chris closed with them, and they would shift back and hit him again. So he used his daily. In addition to giving him another point of AC, it made all the spaces within 2 of him difficult terrain. No more shift-attacks for them. Dan took out the two minions on his side, raged, and charged at the main pack of rats. He had a power that added 7 temp HP each time it connected, and these rats broke their teeth on that temp HP.

Meanwhile, I was getting harassed. . .by two crappy little rat minions. 16 HP and a super low AC meant that I was just meat waiting to be eaten. I kept shift-attacking, but could not land a hit. These are *minions*, all I needed to do was hit them. Jeez. Chris, who was playing his defender to the hilt withdrew from the halflings and charged across the battlefield to save me.

He arrived just in time to help me kill them, and killed one of the rat minions on the way. The consequence was dire, though. The halflings, now free to sling stones again, turned their wrath on Jesse and Dan. The NPC's had long since died. They were soon joined by Dan's character. He went to negative HP's and fell. This is not the first time this same Half-Orc barbarian had died quickly in an unheroic fashion. His first appearance was as a an NPC in a 3.5 game run by Dan. Josh convinced him to scout ahead with a glowing falchion, and he was pin cushioned when he rounded a corner. The picture shows Dan, dead (the Ramborc) and the dead NPC's.

While Dan rolled dice for his next PC we struggled to finish the fight with us as winners. Most of the rats had died, and only one minon remained (whiffing as he tried to chew the leg off of an ox). Chris once again shut the halflings down and we won.

Dan rolled up a Halfling Bard and was filling in the numbers as dawn approached. An hour or so before daybreak the rest of the survivors showed up. They had the broken down ballista strapped their backs, and three of them helped Jesse mount it on the top of his wagon. Three more went to work smelting the silver to try and cover the rest of the ballista bolt.

Again, like clockwork, the rats attacked before the party was ready. I prefaced the attack with a metagame discussion. The rats and feral humanoids were all minions. The Large mini was the Rat mother, gravid with young. The NPC's told the party they needed at least one more minute to finish setting things up. The party had to protect the caravan for 10 rounds. NPC's are minions, too, and each one that dies lengthens the challenge. Firing the ballista is an auto-win, so the goal was to protect.

I underestimated the lure of killing minions. Jesse rushed in with his area attacks and killed quite a few in the first round. We all did our best to wipe out minions in the first round. The next round, 4 more appeared on our flank. The round after that 4 more appeared. With everyone in the same spot they just walked right in to the camp.

Of course, the Rat Mother was not just sitting back an allowing it to happen. She had reach, and as soon as she could, she grabbed Chris and kept him from going anywhere (for one round at least), and mauled the crap out of Jesse. This is where I took the picture. Jesse is bleeding out. The camp is filled with minions (The fiery bird thing is the ballista, and the elemental is the fire. The pale dude with the stick is me, and the halfling there is Dan. Chris is the Minotaur. Jesse is the blue dude lying down at the top.) Jesse shouted to one of our friends to grab the vial of silver from Dan's character and just dump it over the bolt. He went to do it and was flanked by two minions. I was almost dead. Minons kept arriving, swarming the wagon and killing our helpers there. Our friend managed to get the silver, get it on the bolt, and run it to Chris. All while being attacked. The other helper rolled an assist to help Dan take his second wind, and he used his multi-class cleric power to heal Jesse. They were both beat down again, however, leaving Chris as the sole remaining PC. He climbed up to the ballista. Rats were swarming up the front, clawing at him from the rear, and he rolled the shot.

And he hit. The bolt smashed through the Rat Mother. The remaining minions went into a frenzy and began tearing each other apart. Chris was able to go and save his teammates.
Chris is the only PC in that picture. He was swarmed.

That was all. I thought that will all new classes and no handy power cards we would take a lot longer to get through the encounters. It turns out that when half of the PC's are bleeding out combat goes pretty quickly.

I feel less need to separate my random thoughts from the narrative with these one shot write-ups, but I still have a few things to ruminate on.

Here is the invincible rat mother

Clearly, either the party would have had to focus fire on her or go through my hoops to kill her. Her tactics, which she stuck to, were to stand back and use all of her actions to command minions. When she was approached she used frenzy and grabbed the defender to keep him from helping his friends and clawed the crap out of Jesse. Later in the fight she was dazed by me, which was a help.

She was a Soldier. I don't like that. This is what triggered my rant last week. In the end it really does not matter, but it can still bother me.

The Warden was sweet. Not so much for his marking, which we didn't really see, but because of his powers. They kept him standing. They kept the ranged enemies locked down. He had probably as much HP as the rest of the party. And the highest AC. Very cool. My Sorcerer was fun, but I only chose that build because of the numbers I had. I hate the random aspect. Jesse's build seemed cooler on paper, but is kind of scary. Low AC and lots of powers with close range is a disaster waiting to happen. Proper coordination with a defender should mitigate this somewhat, but I'm not sure I would jump to play one. . .yet. The Barbarian seemed fun. More rages to choose from will be cool, and higher levels where he can just about rage every fight will be nice.

The Bard was disappointing. Granted, he was only up for 1/2 of a fight. Less than 6 rounds. But, when you need a leader most is when you are bleeding on the ground, and the Bard just did not pull through there. Maybe the preview info we had was glitched or wrong, but there was not class ability that healed. His powers were cool, kind of. His at will that enabled him to mark for an ally has so many uses, and skill challenges or non-combat encounters will be his bread and butter. I was really hoping for a viable Bard as a class, not so much for my sake, but for Dan's sake. He wants it. When 4e came out my standard for it not sucking was the Half-Elf Bard also not sucking. Please don't suck Half-Elf Bard, not like 3.5.

So . . .the $64,000 question. . .is 4e gritty? It can be. Even with magic and fantastic races (Dragonborn Sorcerer is not gritty) I think we had a gritty feel. Low magic enemies and no magic gear helps. I think a campaign that attempted gritty would be well served by limiting classes or power sources. Swordmages would be out, but I think Artificers properly flavored would fit in well. Limiting the party to humans might work well, too. Keep magic items out and just give static bonuses to compensate. Rolling dice though. . .I think playing a character long term might make it less viable. Limit point buy to 18 or something if you really want to keep power down. No 20's for starting stats. As much as I hate houserules (I have one 4e houserule, no oversized weapons) for gritty to work you might have to consider some.

Next week should see the continuation of our main campaign. . .


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Monster roles vs Player roles

I want to look at the roles as defined by the game. First, Player roles:

Controller: Offensive characters who specialize in dealing damage to multiple foes or causing status effects.
Defender: High defense and good close up offense. They have powers that make it difficult to ignore them.
Leader: Inspire, heal, aid, and protect your allies, also has good defenses.
Striker: Deal high amounts of damage to a single target at a time.

Monster Roles:

Artillery: Do primarily ranged damage and protected well from ranged attacks.
Brute: High damage, low hit rate. High hit points, low defenses.
Controller: Manipulate enemies and the battlefield, inflict conditions on their adversaries.
Lurkers: Avoids attacks and deals high damage when they attack.
Minion: Cannon fodder.
Skirmisher: High mobility attackers, they are the baseline combat statistics for monsters.
Soldier: Low damage, high hit rate. Average hit points, high defenses. The opposite of Brutes. Have abilities that draw an enemies' fire.

They have three roles that they can have in addition to the others:

Elite: Two times as tough as a regular monster
Solo: Equal opponent of an entire party. Note that even though a Solo monster also has another role, but it must be able to function alone so the role is not as important for a Solo.
Leader: In addition to the functions of its main role, leaders grant bonuses and abilities to their allies. Unlike Elites or Solos, being a Leader does not increase the XP value of a monster.

Some of the player roles have direct analogues in the monster roles. Artillery, Lurkers, Brutes, and Skirmishers are all focused on damage dealing. This makes a lot of sense. Player roles exist as a way to facilitate teamwork. They present clear duties in combat with strengths built into the class. The DM has no need to co-operate with himself so the roles are different. Rather than a role defined as 'deal damage to one target', he should have roles defined by how he is using the monster. His Strikers need to be defined by how they deliver damage.

Defenders are almost a direct analogue to Soldiers. They have the same duties in combat, and some of the same strengths and weaknesses. Interestingly the player role of Controller is shared by Artillery and Controller monsters. The monster Controller says nothing about dealing damage to multiple foes, but instead is more focused on altering the battle in different ways.

Which brings us to Leaders. The player and monster definitions of Leaders are similar, but it is impossible to make a pure leader using the monster's roles. Your monster will be Brute (Leader), or more commonly Controller (Leader). This is unusual to me. If I were to make up an NPC Cleric focused on healing and supporting the other NPC's on his side, he would have to occupy some other role in the scheme before he became a Leader. Even more interesting, if I were to create a monster out of whole cloth that had a Cleric-like feel without using an established monster, I would need to choose one of the other main roles to base his stats on. Attack bonus, Defenses, hit points, these are all based on the six monster roles (excluding minions, of course). Adding a Leader template does not change the base stats at all.

Granted, creating a monster is less about his stats and scores, which can be tweaked to your liking anyhow, and more about the powers you pick. Still, I find it odd that there is no base monster role geared towards support. Say you want to make up a goblin shaman who heals in a different way than the cleric class. You create some cool powers appropriate for his level. He has a basic attack, and a suite of powers that heal and buff his allies. What role is he? By the book he is not a controller. By the book, he doesn't have a role. Your best bet is to call him Artillery or Soldier and ignore it from there.

My point is that the role system is great for finding and categorizing the monsters in the Monster Manual. How you use them, however, does not have to be in a rigid manner prescribed by the book. Just like player roles are flexible, monster roles do not have do define them wholly. Creating fighters who have high damage potential like strikers, or swordmages who have controller like abilities is easy and often done. Breaking the role's rigidity is par for the course, and will become easier as more books are released.

I hope you all excuse this self indulgent rant. A light bulb went off and I felt the need to put into words the mental block I had overcome. Questions or comments are welcome!


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

2/7 Actual Play: Southember

Some additions this session!

Sambrielle the Halfling Warlord, played by Jes
Zamir the Genasi Swordmage, played by Chris

This is in addition to our usual crowd:

Therryk played by Jay
Arlarond played by Dan
Lucan played by Colin
Ana played by Colin (Chelsea had something *better* than gaming)
Jesse ran again...

We picked up where we left off last time, having stripped the bodies of anything useful. We were told by Troap to remain where we were until noon. There was some paranoia about a probable attack, but we elected to wait, and give him the benefit of the doubt.

At around noontime a goblin with a hand mirror approached us. When he entered the glade, lightning struck from the mirror to his face, and we saw Troap's face appear over the original goblin's. He told us that we might have some success talking with the gnolls. They are slavers, primarily, and are upset that orcs keep killing what they see as potential slaves. He gave us a claw to show to the gnolls, and the goblin fell to the ground, dead.

We decided to heed his advice, and Scrag leads us to the gnoll encampment. As expected, the gnolls were mistrustful of our intentions at first, but when we showed them the claw they took us to see a leader.

Troap had arranged help for us, two valuable slaves. We are introduced to Sambrielle the halfling warlord and Zamir the genasi swordmage. Sambrielle was part of a unit of guards from fallcrest in the area, and did not think any of her companions had survived. Zamir was a wandering sage, exploring the Fens when he was captured to be sold. While it is understood that we do not intend to keep them in slavery, in order to not upset our hosts, we kept up the illusion that they were our slaves.

We were led to an island of forest in the midst of the gnoll camp. Under the boughs of a large tree a tent had been erected. Inside the tent were the leaders of the gnolls. Much about the nature of the legion is clarified at this point, and we took time to draw out a flowchart in parchment in an attempt to understand the power structures.

Despite our relatively warm welcome, the gnolls were not as willing as the goblins to desert the legion. The told us of the gnome revolt. Some time in the recent past, the gnomes had revolted, believing that the others of the legion would join them when they broke away. Instead, they were slaughtered and the survivors split up as slaves for the remaining factions. The gnolls did not want this to happen to them, understandably.

In an attempt to 'talk shop' with the gnoll slavers, Therryk inadvertently learns of some Eladrin slaves here, in the gnoll camp. The gnolls were holding six Eladrin, one of them a powerful fighter. We negotiated a price for them, and purchased the Eladrin (and one Kobold). We had no real leads on where we should go next, so we felt like this was a good opportunity to return these Eladrin to their home. In order to control them, the gnolls had put their eyes out, and we led the crippled men and women to their home.

The eladrin city, Southember was a shadow of it's former glory. As we approached we saw the ruined fortifications that did not fade into the Feywild with the rest of the city. Even though the swamp had not yet managed to erase the beauty of nature from the city proper, it was abandoned and the outer parts had fallen into disuse and disrepair. We were allowed to speak with Kerlos, and brought into the center of Southember.

They were happy that we had brought their people back, but somewhat disturbed that we had bought them as slaves, giving the gnolls more gold to use in their war effort. The whole approach we were using, of attempting to break the Legion from within, was derided by the Eladrin that we spoke with. They counted 60 of their people missing or killed so far. The efforts to translate the Orcish Prophesy had not been tremendously successful, but there was some talk of a Therming Stone, an artifact supposedly kept in the South, and what we could to to derail the plans of the Red Champion.

We did share what we knew of the power situation with them, and offered our help in protecting the city. Kerlos had a job for us right away, luckily, and the next morning we left in a wagon for an Eladrin outpost. Many of the supply trains had been lost recently, and in attempt to draw the ambushers out we were posing as a lone supply wagon traveling to an outlying hold of the Eladrin.

We got within about 15 feet of the gate when we were ambushed by orcs. As often happens, we got strung out early and spent the fight trying to get back together:

The post-it represents our wagon with all non-eladrin or elf looking folk hiding under the silk canopy (only Eladrin. . .). As soon as the trap is sprung Lucan and Ana charge forward, and Sambrielle climbs up on the wall. The other two defenders are still waiting in the wagon.

With us strung out like that the two Hobgoblins fighting Ana shout the signal and slam the gate shut. From it's recess in the wall it slides out and crushes her against the opposite wall. Sambrielle leaps down to protect her friend, and the rest of the party is not far behind. Therryk clambers over the wall and leaps down with an attack to help protect Ana. Zamir places his mark on the other one, preparing to teleport through when he can.
Lucan struggles to get over the wall, but eventually the three defenders get into play and keep the heat off of Ana, allowing her to be pulled from danger. The Orc caster who was on the roof of the building disappears inside, and then appears at a window cursing us constantly with an armor debuff. Another group of orcs charges from the building and engages us. By now we have marginal control of the battle, and Arlarond is able to conjure a huge storm of Ice over the orcs, marked by the blue corners.
The new orcs are not minions like the earlier ones, and do not go down easily. The two hobgoblins (Soldiers) have high enough AC and low enough to hit that Therryk and Zamir spend several rounds whiffing back and forth with them. In that time Lucan dances through the orcs, stabbing with his trident and marking most of them. In a rush to get at Arlarond, who is laying down copious amount of damage, they provoke attack after attack, and only one manages to get through. He gets over the wall and goes after the caster.

The orcs begin to fall, and one of the hobgoblins finally goes down, leaving Lucan free to charge into the building at the caster.

Arlarond manages to finish off the orc in his face, and the final hobgoblin drops, leaving the orc in the window facing all of us alone. He is forced from the window by Lucan, but manages to grab the windowsill on his way out. Lucan stabs his trident into his hand and into the wood below it, pinning him there. Zamir's sword flashes with lightning and the caster is forcibly yanked down and across the battlefield to his feet...


This is what I get for waiting too long to do this. 11 days and spotty notes means that much of this may not be exact or as detailed as it could be. We did not play last week due to the Valentine's Day conflict.

I abbreviated a lengthy amount of conversing at the gnoll camp. We went back and forth and over things multiple times, and came away with the sketch I posted here. It may be illegible due to it's rushed nature and cruddy picture, so I'll attempt interpretation:
11 o'clock - Splinterpaw Gnolls, slavers and members of the Legion of the Chimera.
12 o'clock - Gnomes, former members of the Legion of the Chimera and now slaves primarily held by the gnolls.
10 o'clock - Your guess is as good as mine...
8 o'clock - White Hills Goblins, led by Troap, and current members of the Legion of the Chimera
6 o'clock - Lizardfolk, members of the Legion of the Chimera, their numbers and affiliations are unknown.
5 o'clock - Children of the Five - Kobolds, members of the Legion of the Chimera and loyal to the orcs and their cause.
3 o'clock - Bloodspear Orcs - led by the Chunagarat (Red Champion in Orcish), the core of the Legion of the Chimera, they number at least 200.
Center - Drow - members of the legion of the Chimera, their numbers and affiliations are unknown.
2 o'clock - Your guess is as good as mine...
There are other goblin tribes, the total number of goblins is around 400, and the remaining allies number between 500-1000. That is a grand total of 1,100-1,600 in their army.
There was also some discussion about why Therryk wanted to buy a slave. I really tried to approach his alignment from his past as a ne'er-do-well, and as a Paladin of the god of civilization. From *his* prospective, slaves are a necissary evil. For most humanoids slavery is a way of life, and he has no problem as long as it benefits his God's ultimate goals.

So he bought a Kobold slave. Nominally to gather info, but also because of a bit of roleplaying. Plus, we now have one more on our list of replacement PC's:
The Graygrinder children
A sailor on the Dragon's Bane
Unnamed Kobold

And I do love Kobolds so. The next session should be on the 28th, this week I am running a one-shot low magic first level game with some of the preview classes available. Hopefully it goes well...


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

1/31 Actual Play: Regime Change

The regular crew was in attendance:

Jay: Therryk, a dragonborn paladin
Dan: Arlarond, a human wizard
Colin: Lucan, an elven fighter
Chelsea: Ana, a half elven cleric
Jesse: Jesse, a human DM

We began the session by releasing the gnolls we interrogated last session. It was decided that we should let someone know of what we have learned, and Therryk somewhat uncharacteristically had a good idea, and we went into town to talk to Arlarond's master about it. Therryk felt that including Lord Markelhay automatically made it official, which might be bad.

The Book that the Gnolls were looking for, The Prophesies of the Orcish Crusades, was not in Lord Markelhay's library. We were able to learn a scrap of information about it, however, that guided our next few decisions. The only known translation out of the original tongue was done by an Eladrin scholar, Solitare. All roads lead to the Eladrin, so that is the next destination for our heroes.

We return to the Moonstone keep with Ana to tell her father that this plot appears to have some real substance. Instead of random marauding orcs, this looks to be an organized movement with clear goals. According to the Gnoll we interrogated, the ultimate success for the Legion of the Chimera would be the eradication of civilized peoples in the Vale.

Lord Markelhay and Kerlos are aware of some of the threat, and Kerlos was already planning on going back to the Fens to help with preparations and to discuss the situation with Fallcrest. He had made an arrangement with Lord Markelhay to allow for labor sharing in the quarries. The two communities would work together pulling stone from the earth to build fortifications. Whether the sides would later try to tear each other's fortifications down will remain to be seen.

Lord Markelhay gives his blessing to journey to the Eladrin city, and we join with Kerlos and his remaining men the next day. The swiftest method is to take a boat downriver and then cross overland through the swamps. We go to our usual boat, and find that it's captain has renamed it Dragon's Bane.

The journey takes days, and the antsy party passes time by maintaining their fighting form with the crew. Kerlos indicates when it is time for us to disembark, and we begin the overland portion of our travels. He is skilled at navigating the treacherous terrain, and the travelling is swift. Two oddities are observed during our travels. The first is odd lights that appear in the sky. We are warned by Kerlos that legend tells that the lights will steal your soul if you stare too long. The other is a shimmering curtain hanging in the air. As we approach, Kerlos tells us that they are what remains of the former beauty of the land, curtained off from the decay by some unknown means. They are rare and shrinking as time wears on. He suggests that as night is falling, it might make a good resting place.

We set up camp in the middle of this island in the muck, and appreciate the quality that allows us to see out and prevents observers from seeing through the shimmering curtain. Partway through the night we are awoken by Kerlos. One of his men scouting the area discovered a small group of goblins travelling past us. We immediately prepare for battle, despite his wish that we just follow them and discover the location of their camp.

Battle is opened with Arlarond fireballing the 5 goblins. It ends there too, as they all drop to the assault and begin sinking in the brackish water. We are able to rescue 3 of them, and bring them back to our camp to question them.

We awaken the seeming leader of the troupe, and begin to ask questions. His name is Scrag, and when he is assured that we have slain his companions (to prevent them from ratting him out for squealing) he was very forthcoming about his intentions and what he knew of the plans of his tribe.

The White Hills Goblins are native to beautiful white hills far to the West. They were directed by the legion to come to the stinking Witchlight Fens. Scrag was not happy with the decision, and was willing to help us return to his camp and possibly allow his people to return home. He holds no position of authority, but was chosen to lead the scouting group simply because of his ability to return home. They were scouting out another goblin camp, not the Eladrin city. It appeared to us that the Legion might be showing a few cracks.

Kerlos and his men took the two surviving goblins back to their city, and we followed Scrag through the swamp for the rest of the night. We began to appreciate the skill with which Kerlos led us through the region. Scrag seemed to find pits of much as deep as he was tall, and briers and brambles. After a brief confusion where we thought he might be lost, we sighted a hill in the near distance, and he pronounced us home. He assured us that showing a white flag was a sign of peace even to goblins, and that we would be given the opportunity to speak if we presented one.

Scrag led the Heroes of Fallcrest into the squalid goblin camp. Aside from a hastily build structure at the peak of the hill, the goblins were all living in tents and other makeshift shelter. Since it was early yet, he offered to let us sleep in his tent until their boss woke up. He cooked us 'soup', which was as disturbing as you can imagine, and pampered us in similar fashion until we are allowed to speak with the goblin boss.

His name is Troap, and he is rumored to be a shaman or sorcerer of great ability. We are led to the building at the top of the hill and led inside. In the corners are four goblins with blank eyes and short swords. The situation begins to fall apart rather quickly. It turns out that the White Hills goblins are led not by one chieftain, but by a few different goblins, and Troap is but one, and this is just his camp of goblins. Each leader has his own camp filled with goblins, and even if Troap were to dislike the Legion as much as Scrag, which he doesn't, he can't speak for the whole tribe.

Redemption comes with a proposition to Troap. If we eliminate the other goblins leaders and allow him to be set up as the sole Chief of the tribe, he agrees to lead them from the Fens. It is decided that we will wait in ambush for a meeting of the leaders of the tribe, and slay them all. We all grab a chain and Arlarond creates the illusion of manacles. We are led from the village by Scrag, apparently to be sold to the Gnoll slavers. In reality, we go to one of the curtained off islands and prepare for an ambush. After nearly a day waiting we are informed via an animal messenger that the meeting is set for midnight.

We set up for the ambush. Arlarond has learned a new ritual that he can ward creatures away with, so we set up with Scrag at the top of a tree, Arlarond below him, and Ana at the base, and ward the whole area against goblins attacking. His ritual is performed beautifully, and we are sure that they will be reasonably protected. Lucan and Therryk climb trees and wait, hiding, for our victims to show up.

This is after the surprise round. The Christmasy character at the top is a Hobgoblin leader who came accompanied by two skeletons. To the right is a goblin fighter with 4 retainers. The fellow in the middle is Troap, who came alone. On the left is a goblin caster with 4 gnomish slaves. Therryk was spotted right away and the surprise round had he and Lucan leaping from their perches to attack the leaders of their respective groups:
- The Hobgoblin seemed like the biggest threat so Lucan and Arlarond concentrated on him. He died quickly.
- The warding against our attackers did not protect against undead or fey, so our plan lost some of its appeal when the skeletons walked right past the black line.
- Two of the Gnomes snapped rods in two and a large monster made of muck rose from the swamp. It was a Wichlight Mire Golem.
- From his protected position Arlarond rained down his death in a more efficient fashion than normal. The goblin that Theryyk ended up fighting was accompanied by minions, and Arlarond cleaned them out quickly. He activated his flaming shroud and caught skeletons and the goblin caster who were too close for his liking.
- The caster was rough. He had an insect theme, summoning a scorpion to attack twice, and attacking our minds with visions of swarming, biting bugs.
- Lucan didn't end up straying far from where he started, either. The Hobgoblin went down, and the Golem stepped right up and went toe to toe with him the rest of the fight.
- The Golem had several nasty abilities. He could create mucky difficult terrain right underneath you, and then got a bonus to his melee attacks against enemies in difficult terrain. He went twice a round, too, which might have seemed like a good idea at first but...
- Lucan had his deadly trident aura up, and Ana summoned her Consecrated ground, meaning that twice a round they were doing automatic damage to the Golem.

- The fire shroud killed of the skeletons, and Ana sparred with the last Gnome, but the real battle was the Golem and the Goblin caster.
- Getting the Golem bloodied did not take as long as killing it, and the caster recharged his scorpion power. Ana was keeping Lucan propped up, since he was the focus of most of the hits from both of the big assailants.
- When the Golem went down the caster made a break for it, but the ongoing fire damage from the fire shroud took him down after only a couple rounds of running.

We ended there....


Once again we derailed the DM's plans pretty fiercely. Luckily this is all part of the joy of playing in a sandboxy game. Jesse handled it super without a hitch, though I think we all knew that no DM plans on his PC's entering into that kind of negotiation with a goblin tribe. That is what made it fun.

The highlight for me was Jesse statting up a Mire Golem like the Gravel Golem that I threw at them a few sessions ago. It is just that kind of internal consistency that makes a world fun to play in. Rotating DM's does not seem to be ruining this at all. If I had to guess, I'd say that we are going out of the way to include stuff from other campaigns, leading to above average internal consistency. That is just my opinion, perhaps other multi-DMed campaigns have suffered the opposite problem.

I am enjoying this chance to get to roleplay Therryk a little better. I still struggle from making him too flat in the beginning. Next level begins the deepening with my second multiclass feat, this one moving me into retraining some Warlord powers. It is 100% clear to me that paragon multiclassing is not more *powerful*, but I am more concerned about depth, at this point. I am willing to sacrifice power for utility, for sure. Strength Paladins suffer a lot with this. Take a look at what I can do right now at 5th level:
- Holy Strike - Radiant Damage
- Valiant Strike - Damage, better chance to hit

- Radiant Smite - Radiant Damage
- Staggering Smite - Damage and push

- Paladin's Judgement - Damage and heal
- Martyr's Retribution - Damage

- Martyr's Blessing - Protect an adjacent ally from damage

I understand that you could make say. . .a ranger that has little else to offer besides damage, my issue is that Strength Paladins have such a dearth of powers to choose from, and the ones they have are bland. Neither At-will has an effect. What is that about?! Bah.

Here's hoping Divine Power fixes this a bit, and that Therryk is still around to benefit from it. That's right, with all my apparent self hatred, I do like playing him, and he is useful as a damage sponge, healer, and off-striker. He has good AC, reasonable HP's considering his mediocre con, lots of surges, and does fancy damage on occasion.

I'll see if Jesse has the stats on that Golem for me to post. Colin and Chelsea took some pics, too, so maybe I'll make a second post, an update to this one later.