Tuesday, May 19, 2009

3/16 Actual Play: Werewolves, Ooozes, and . . .chessboards?

One less this session, and Phedre had a change of heart about her name. Her new name has some kind of D&D reference.

Berend - Jesse's Fighter/Cleric, our only melee character.
Blackleaf - Formerly Phedre, Jessica's Elven Ranger who likes killing.
Bennethost - Jay's Fey Warlock, the glass cannon of the group.
Nim - Dan's Bard, proving that 4e Bards are like 3.5 Bards in name only.

We began right were we left off last week, with Team B rescuing Team A from the dungeon. We put them on our mounts and took them to Hammerfast. We were ambushed by followers of The Hunter during our trip, and managed to get a couple of our A team killed (PC's that would not be returning, giving Colin a convenient way to remove them from the campaign).

In Hammerfast the Dwarf went to talk to his leader about the werewolves. Nim, Bennethost, and Blackleaf went to the local Inn to unwind. At this point Benn remembered the enchanted chessboard from the dungeon and challenged Nim to a chess game.

He set it up, and immediately a skeleton appeared across the table and challenged him to a game. Benn went first. The skeleton made a move and then disappeared. Shrugging, Benn asked Nim to take his place. What followed was one of the more entertaining roleplaying experiences I have had. Dan and I took turns playing "chess", and I set a precedent by using cantrips (hedge wizard's gloves ftw!) to double my number of queens. Dan fought back, and soon we were using every devious illusory and underhanded trick to get the edge. Bluff checks, Insight checks, Intimidation checks, and straight Intelligence checks were thrown around, and all told an hour or so of real time was taken up. I always feel a little bad when my character is in the spotlight that long, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and it didn't seem to matter that this bit of action did little to further the story.

In the end Benn managed to squeak out a victory, and we put up the board. Berend had learned that the answers we sought about The Hunter were possibly hidden in the catacombs under the city. We set out exploring. A couple days of hand waved searching later, we finally stumbled upon something.

We climbed down a ladder and into a large room. Berend sets out and runs smack into a gelatinous cube. Combat was long and tough, we were matched against some Azure Oozes, and the Elite cube. Benn proved his utility by teleporting Nim out of the corner, and then proved his ineptitude by dazing Blackleaf. Berend spent the first half of the encounter in and out of the cube, finally escaping long enough to get away. Nim put the final nail in the coffin with a curse that dazed the cube if it moved closer to him, and the combat ended. Session over after that.

I'm kind of burned out on the longer, more detailed write ups. I did take some pictures, I might put some up later if I can. This campaign is looking dead in the water. No progress in awhile, we will not be playing this week and I am out the following week, putting me at a month with no D&D. Sad. We played some Shadowrun a week or so ago, but we are stopped in the middle of a job.
Bennethost has been, in his short experience, my favorite 4e character to play. Not really much of a striker (the least damage potential in the group, behind the Bard and Fighter), he falls somewhere in the controller/leader range.
I'm not sure where this blog is going. . . .with the game sort of falling down, I'm not sure what to do with it. I started it solely as a way to put up these play sessions. First because I find them useful when trying to remember what happened to tie in old events. I don't DM much, but hopefully the other DM's in our group use it. Second, because I enjoy reading the playthroughs of others, and I thought I could contribute my own.
I read a post on a different roleplaying blog a few weeks ago that has kind of kept me from posting. It was basically a rant against just the type of blog that I have. If I do not have anything groundbreaking to contribute, I should not be blogging. I guess breaking out of that required me to remember that I do this primarily for *me*. I like writing. I don't devote enough time to it. If the best I can do right now is to elaborate on a gaming session, so be it.
That guy can bite me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The 6th level curse

I feel like I have been cursed. I have been at or around 6th level a handful of times, and each time the campaign has dissolved, and been replaced by a new 1st level campaign. Some examples:

K'rrul - My 1st character ever, a Kobold Rogue/Invisible Blade managed to just get into 7th level before our campaign ended. Even that was kind of a gimme, as the campaign had fallen apart once at around 5-6th level, and had picked up again, only to be destroyed again.

Haggar - Halfling Paladin. Made it to around 5th before that campaign ended.

Some wizard - I don't even remember his name. Red Hand of Doom, we got to 5th-6th levels and the campaign ended.

Klaus - Human Cleric of the Sovereign Host. Possibly my most enjoyable character. Just made it to 7th when we lost at D&D and the campaign ended.

Therryk - Dragonborn Paladin of Erathis. This current campaign has this cloud of doom hanging over it. Spotty attendance and disinterest seems to be bringing it to a close. Therryk is currently 6th level. We will see how many sessions we can get through before the curse ends us.

The thing is, each of these endings were big. Not just a change of DM, most of them involved 2 or 3 people leaving the group. I am guessing this next explosion will be the same. Some people will leave, and we will start over again. Maybe 1st level, maybe 4th level, but we will not get much past 6th level before the curse strikes. I'd like to point the finger and say that none of these were my fault. After all, *I* didn't leave, I'm right here. But perhaps this pattern shows that I do have a problem. Me and the surviving core of the main group, currently three people strong, are good, solid gamers in my opinion. And nice guys on top of that. What is the reason for this curse?

The only way I see to beat it is to start at a higher level. My next campaign will be 11th level. How's that curse!? Eat it!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

3/9 Actual Play: Team B gets a shot at some werewolf tail.

Due to much drama and some bad timing, we have not played our main campaign in awhile. With the long break, and with attendance at the last session not great, we decided to break out our B team.

So, same setting, same basic history, only these new (sort of) PC's don't know anything of it.

Berend - Jesse's Dwarven Fighter/Cleric, worshiper of Moradin.
Delg - Chris' Dwarven Invoker, also affiliated with the temple of Moradin
Phedre - Jessica's Elven Ranger, says she is French, sounds Romanian. Likes Dwarves and killing things.
Nim - Dan's Gnomish Bard, the only holdover from team A (but his second PC; Arlarond remained in Fallcrest)
Bennethost - Jay's Eladrin Warlock, Nim's friend from the Feywild.

Nim strolled into the Dwarven city of Hammerfast at dusk. He made his way to the nearest inn, and had a seat at the bar. He scanned the patrons, looking for some that looked like they could take care of themselves, and saw Berend sitting near him. He was wearing his Scale armor and had his axe and shield propped up by him. If that doesn't scream adventurer (or paranoid?) I don't know what does, so Nim approached him and made an offer.

He had been part of a group sent to investigate the disappearance of a caravan in the Harkenwood. His party had discovered that werewolves were behind it, but had not been able to defeat them. He had escaped and his companions were captured, and now he was looking for some able bodies to assist him in rescuing them.

Berend agreed to help when Nim pointed out that the threat to Hammerfast was real, since the werewolves were preying on caravans that brought goods North to Hammerfast. They walked together to his home, the Temple of Moradin, while they discussed this. Present in the temple were Delg, who was acting as a priest at the time, and Phedre, who had come to worship. After explaining the situation to Delg he agreed to help, and Phedre who was eavesdropping put her hat into the ring.

Bennethost stopped by the temple on his way to his nightly pursuits and saw Nim. He had been looking for Nim for about a year, ever since they had become separated on their journey out of the Feywild. He ran over and gave Nim a hug, and they caught up. He was going to join them, of course, though his motivation was more for selfish reasons.

Phedre has a horse, and she offers to ride with Nim, so the rest of the party obtain horses from the Temple and they travel South to the last known location of Nim's companions. The entrance is marked by a large unnatural tree.

The tree is enormous, redwood sized, and has a malevolent, oppressive aura. While it is healthy, trees in the vicinity are dead and dying, as if they had suffered through a long drought. Phedre is fascinated by the tree, and spends awhile examining and exploring it. She breaks of a small branch, and instead of sap, the tree squirts out blood. She climbs up it, to the first major branching. As she climbs, she feels a peculiar pulsing through the bark, almost like a heartbeat. When she gets to her goal, the hair on her neck stands up. She knows she is at a place of peculiar magical power, but as we are unable to discover more, we persuade her to come down.

Not before she can get herself a souvenir. She decides she is going to cut off a branch. She chooses one about as thick as her thumb, and cuts. Blood sprays everywhere. Despite her best efforts she gets it all over her hands and her chest.

She washed up in an almost dried up creek, and we enter the ruined temple.
We cautiously start exploring the entryway, and are quickly ambushed by a fey panther. It bolted out the open door, and must have retrieved it's master, because soon we were fighting 4 big men, and a creepy caster came out of the closed door and began casting spells at us.
Berend is our only melee fighter, so he had his hands full with a fight that had two fronts. The quarters were tough on Phedre, who excels at ranged combat. Delg was in his element. Most of his attacks are area attacks, and the small room made it easy for him to catch multiple enemies in it.

The fey panthers and the soldiers got right in the middle of things, and the wizard stood in the door and cast his spells. His big mistake was the huge darkness spell he threw down. While it netted his panthers a couple of free attacks, we all cleared the area and moved to the walls. Bennethost and Nim used the opportunity to get into melee with the wizard. In a round or two, tables had turned mightily, and the surviving members of his posse were clustered in the middle of the room. Easy pickings for us, and the end of the fight went quickly.

Searching the remains was mostly fruitless. The caster had a fancy staff, which we took, and a holy symbol made of silver and shaped like a wolf's head. Berend seemed to remember that this holy symbol had a connection to a cult that worshiped some arch fey, but did not know much more than that. Bennethost saw the symbol and fell into a trance. He had a vision of several baying hounds on a hunt, with bestial werewolves riding on nightmarish chargers right behind, and a shadowy giant figure with enormous antlers at the rear. He shared this with his companions. We knew that we were dealing with the right people at least.

The next room had a strange fountain. As Nim and Bennethost examined it, they determined that it was a fountain of arcane energy. Nim figured out how to activate it and was flooded with power. Bennethost followed soon after. Tingling with power they continued to explore the ruined temple.
The right pass was barred with rubble piled to block something in. We took the easy road and turned left. That room had a couple tables, some chairs, and a trapped and locked treasure chest. After Nim defeated both, we found a very fine chess set inside, and Bennethost was able to determine that it had magical qualities. We put it in the bag for later.

The next room had a very large block of stone. A dark stain covered the top. It was quite obviously a sacrificial altar. The bookcase in this room was a treasure trove, and after Nim used the arcane power he had absorbed from the fountain to cast comprehend languages, he read the only book we could not otherwise read, the one in Primordial.

It was the story of a hunter, told by him, of his role as leader of this cult. He had come to know about a powerful arch fey called The Hunter. He gathered to him local rangers and woodsmen, and formed a cult dedicated to this hunter. The book told of a quest to find and slay a white stag deep in the Harkenwood, one that enabled them to plant a special tree. This tree, when fully grown and tended with the proper rites and sacrifices, would act as portal to the Feywild. Since the temple had been build at a location where the barrier between the worlds was already thin, this portal would allow The Hunter to pass through and enter our world. He would hunt and kill all living in the region, and grant much power to his acolytes who had served him.

Sobered, we moved on. Berend picked a door apparently at random, as he had been doing so far, and kicked it down. A short hallway led to another door, this one heavy, iron, and locked.

Nim made the lock less effective, and the door swung open. Gnolls, a slayer, and a creature made of vines were ready for us inside a large natural looking cavern. At the far wall were some people bound and unconscious. Nim's companions. Initiative!

Our position crammed in a hallway was hardly ideal. Were we facing mostly enemies who attacked in melee we would be in a very good place. The Vine Horror opened up with a bang, though, and blinded three of us with his ranged attack.

Early on we realized the pits were not useful to us. The first enemy we knocked down there was lifted out by the vines and roots that seemed to cover the walls. We knew that they would do us no such favor, and so we kept well away from them.

Berend moved into the room to create a new front, allowing us to get at the Vine Horror and hopefully shut him down. Delg managed to make it out of the hall, but was knocked into bloodied and was only kept up by Nim's healing powers. Berrend was pushed next to a clump of mushrooms, and their spores attacked him, keeping him confused. As a result he attacked Delg instead of the Gnolls. Phedre had put her Hunter's quarry on an enemy who had quickly moved aside. Now he had cover and she could not choose another quarry, since he was the closest to her.

Bennethost changed the battle somewhat when he used fey magic to swap places with Delg, who was surrounded by Gnolls and not having an easy time getting away, and then he attacked and teleported away, towards the captives on the other side of the room.
Berend shook off the effects of the spores and plugged the hole again. The Vine Horror was dropped, and the battle clearly turned in our favor. With Phedre filling the hallway with her arrows, and Nim and Delg incapacitating the Gnolls, the battle control was all in our favor. It lasted only a few rounds longer. We ended as soon as it was over.


There was some good role playing this session. The beginning, where we all were introduced had a lot of in character chatter, which I love, and certain parts of the dungeon had some good interactions.

You may notice in the shots above the map we are using. Colin drew it out on cardboard, added a grid, and cut it out. He cut the dungeon into pieces, and then added them as we explored. He has these cool little props, things like doors, chairs, and bookshelves, that he places where appropriate. We went at exploration in a more organized manner, with us moving our mini and saying what we were doing, and then letting the next person go. I think that in some groups, where there is a clear prima donna, attention hog, or rogue (usually the rogue is a prima donna...) this could help keep everyone in the game. It worked pretty well, and since this was only our first time trying it out, I think it can only get better.

Since this is *my* blog I wanna talk about my character for a sec. I like fey pact warlocks. But they are not strikers. I am really trying to chose powers and feats that add to his controller side, but in combat his contributions were kind of sub-par.

I don't care though. He is not min-maxed. He was a class chosen to play a person that I would like role playing as. I wanted a high Charisma, high Intelligence character that could participate in all parts of the adventure. My previous character was not much use outside of combat, and most role playing felt kind of flat. My Shadowrun character is pretty tightly focused, and again not much use outside of combat. Benn is a success. Fun to role play, and entertaining in combat, even if he is in no way the star.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

5/5 Shadowrun game: Battle Jitney we love you...

This was our second Shadowrun session. Dan ran both, and playing we had:

Josh-Drake the Dwarven face. Not only good at talking his way into or out of trouble, handy in a fight to boot. The Dermal plating makes him 'pop'.
Joel-J Dogg the Ork ganger. Skills appropriate to a ganger, he shoots, drives, and throttles like a ganger should.
Jay-Teddy Two Eagle the Human mystic adept. Mostly detection spells, with a sniper rifle and a pack full of marijuana.

The first session was an escort mission. We all traveled to the appointed meetup location where we met Fractal, our contact for this job. She told us that we were to get her to an arcology where she would drop off her 'package'. As none of us had brought transportation, she called us a car. We immediately rendered it inoperable. Paranoia combined with lack of expertise led someone (not to be named to protect his reputation) to rip out the rigging in the front seat. Car stop, car no go.

So we ended up walking. As we passed through a seedy part of town, Teddy got the sense that someone was planning hostilities against us. A couple of gangsters hiding in an alley thought they would start something. Likely this was because we were traveling with a very attractive lady. J Dogg used his bravado and gang knowledge to talk them down. These gangers were part of a gang called the Blood Monkeys. Being part of a rival gang may have had something to do with it, but a few moments after we had moved on they attacked.

The firefight was very quick and very brutal. Teddy dropped to the ground and just laid there the whole time, failing at casting spells. Drake ran at them with his shotgun, blasting the two punks, though their cover behind the dumpster made it tough. J Dogg kept himself between the danger and Fractal, getting her to cover between two dumpsters, and then opening fire on the gangsters. A previously hidden elf cast a spell that rocked the dumpsters, slamming them together and squishing Fractal. J Dogg responded with two explosive shells to the head of the mage, and he cast no more spells. Drake jumped up on the dumpster and with his shotgun in the face of the last ganger, tried to end it. The ganger just laughed, and Drake pulled the trigger.

Fractal was surprisingly okay, leading us to believe she was tougher than she looked. We continued on our travel to the Arcology. Our target was a warehouse on the bottom level. Fractal needed to get into the office and plant something. Several plans were discussed. Our eventual plan was to lie our way in.

Drake went to the front door and posed as a representative of a software company looking to unload his wares. The warehouse manager bought his ruse, and Drake called his truck to drop off the software. The truck was real, having been 'acquired' by Fractal for this purpose. The boxes were empty. Fractal went into the office to finish paperwork with the warehouse boss, and J Dogg and I waited by the back of the truck, ready to fake unload some fake bosses. Fractal used her powers or authority to cause a glitch in the loading dock door, and the boss ran out to see what was the matter. Fractal was able to plant her delivery while Drake ranted about the unsuitability of this place for his merchandise, and when she emerged from the office we all piled into the truck and drove away. Mission accomplished. That was last weeks game.

In the intervening weeks while we waited for a job, Drake was able to help J Dogg acquire a new car, so we wouldn't need to walk everywhere. This proved to be handy.

We all found fliers on our doors. The advertised an event at a Club Raven, and included a VIP pass. Since we are shadowrunners, not friends, we never contacted each other about this, but each accepted the invitations for our own reasons. Drake's sharp eyes spotted a watermark that identified this as Fractal's handy work. Teddy knew that invitations like this did not just get stuck in the door of any house, and there was probably something more to this than just a party at a club. J Dogg was certain that his notoriety had finally garnered him some respect and prepared accordingly. He spent incredible amounts of money on appropriate dress, and showed up fashionably late to draw as much attention as possible. This is in contrast to Teddy, who showed up an hour early to watch and see what the deal was, and Drake, who showed up on time. We sat at separate tables (again, not really *friends*) for 4 hours before J Dogg showed up, and then we all moved to sit together. A little deflated that we had been invited too, meaning that the invitation was not issued because of his reputation, he thought that finding a lady companion would soothe his ego.

He spotted an attractive lady across the room who had been looking at him. He approached and laid down his best lines. Teddy was eavesdropping magically and relaying the entertainment to Drake. It was just what you would imagine an uncouth Ork ganger picking up on an attractive human woman in a club would be. After a few moments, J Dogg realized this woman looked familiar. He seemed to think she was a pop star, or famous, while Drake sitting across the room and watching her had picked up on the fact that this was Fractal with a new appearance. After watching him stammer for a while more, we stood up and joined her at the table. J Dogg recovered admirably, telling her that it would do no good to mix business and pleasure.

She had another job for us. This job involved hitting an armored bank vehicle and making it look like a robbery. We were to make it sloppy and again, or real goal was to allow Fractal to plant something. This truck we were hitting did not carry cash, but bank records, and she needed the distraction.

Further details would be forthcoming, so we split up. J Dogg made the most of his night after finding out similar VIP privileges for life are well out of his price range, and Drake and Teddy returned home. J Dogg did not remember much of his partying, but he awoke 2 grand poorer and not feeling up to much the next day. That was our day to prepare, so he lucked out.

All of the prep was done by Drake. With the silver tongue to get things done, he only needed Fractal to supply the contacts. His first step was to obtain a solid vehicle. He was directed to a junkyard and a fellow who seemed more than happy to help his rich new client. He showed Drake this:
Sort of. Ours ran on tank-like treads. It was in rough shape, but for a pretty sum Drake was able to get it running and towed to our ambush spot.

We also needed ammunition capable of piercing the heavy armor that these trucks had. Fractal was able to find us a supplier. We were almost ready.

Drake needed to buy the most obscene lead throwing, fear inducing, highly illegal gun he could find. Somehow Fractal tracked down a supplier, and we now had the Terminator (the bottom half anyways) on our side.

The next day we all piled in to J Dogg's ride and drove to the spot. J Dogg parked around the corner, and got in our tank. Teddy set up down the road, on the first floor of an old building. Drake got out of sight on a side road, and we waited for the armored truck.

J Dogg started up the tank, and notified the whole neighborhood of our presence. Not only was it extraordinarily loud, the clouds of black smoke it threw up were prodigious. Behind the wheel. . .I mean steering levers, was an ork. He had a ski mask on with a skull on it. He was wearing big thick goggles. It was a mental picture to frighten children. When Drake spotted the truck he gave the signal, and J Dogg started forward. The tank maxed out at 35 mph, but it was enough. J Dogg's timing was perfect, and just as the armored truck went through the intersection it was T boned by our Battle Jitney. The collision hit in the less armored cab of the truck, shredding it and it's occupants, and drove the whole mess into a building. Literally. The front end was lying inside a building, with surprised occupants now staring into the face of this smoke shrouded beast, piloted by the terrifying ork.

As soon as things came to rest Drake opened up with his machine gun, throwing a burst of 6 shots right on target into the rear of the armored car. Teddy had his sights on the doors from his perch, and the instant he saw something he pulled the trigger. J Dogg heard the two guards inside panicking, and just as one began an obvious call over the radio for help, a loud plink, and a thud. Teddy's second shot was a wild guess as to where the other guard might be, but it turned out not to have mattered. Drake heard the second shot follow the first, and several plinking ricochets, with the other guard falling dead to the floor soon after.

Drake left his position and hustled to the armored truck. Fractal came out of the shadows, looking different yet again, and joined him. His powerful gun made short work of the doors, and a couple bursts allowed him to yank them open.

Now is when he and J Dogg tested their action chops. Drake made a show of dumping out drawers and loudly cursing about the lack of money. J Dogg menaced the occupants of the building he had smashed, telling him not to forget the Blood Monkeys were here. He was dressed in their colors, which helped.

Teddy, not having anything to do, and just sitting in the car, decided to be helpful and drive around to pick everyone up. He did not get the welcome he expected, as a crucial part of the plan had been a clean getaway in the car, that was now tied to this crime scene. Things went further south when they spotted a Lone Star checkpoint ahead, already established to keep the perpetrators from fleeing.

Fractal used her abilities to try and find an alternate route for us, but our luck ran out. We Turned down a side road, only to have a Lone Star patrol car pull in behind us and flip on it's lights. We pulled over like good, law abiding citizens.

More acting was required. Before the officer could do anything, Drake shouted "Don't you know who this is?". He was playing on an earlier event. After our meeting with Fractal in the club, Drake had make a big production on the way out, hinting that he was a big time record producer and J Dogg an up and coming rapper who had just turned down a very lucrative deal. This had made J Dogg's night, and now it was an attempt to keep us alive and not arrested.

The officer bought it, and even when he pegged J Dogg's SIN as fake, he did not connect us with the crime. He fined us and let us on our way, even going as far as to radio the checkpoint and tell them we were cool to get through.

The cherry on top? When Drake returned home the flag on his mailbox was up. Not a common occurrence. Inside was an address. When Drake went to that address, he found an old abandoned gas station, and sitting in the lot was our Battle Jitney, somehow recovered from the crash.


We started this weekday game since a couple of us have never played shadowrun and have always wanted to. After two sessions it is certainly living up to it's expectations, but as I have expressed to the guys, I think we could play almost anything with that group and have it work. They are a good group of guys.

I am still so new with the Shadowrun rules that I don't think my customary picking apart of what happened is really warranted, but I can't *not* do it, so. . .my uninformed opinion will have to do:

I love the setting. I have always dug post-apocalyptic themes, steampunk themes, and shadowrun has a feeling of both.
I am still feeling out the rules. I like the openness of magic, but a mystic adept is not really the right character to fully experience the system. So far I have been hit and miss with the do or die things, but very satisfying with the detection things.
Combat is not as scary as the rules make it seem. Last night we did not use a battlemat at all (I think had we not so efficiently won, effectively killing all opposition in 1 round, it might have come into play, but probably not).

I have a hard time separating the rules of the game from our roleplaying. A lot of what we did was totoally rules neutral. 75% probably could have been done in any system. One thing I like is the episodic nature of the setting, but even that could be adopted to any rules system.

Thoughts/impressions? Feel free to comment.