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. . .