Friday, January 29, 2010

AP: We spring the trap!

A full house this session:

Jasper (Gnome Wizard Warlock 6) - Despite being only half controller, he controlled very well. Had the biggest letdown of the night when he was dominated and unable to sustain his Acid Mire immediately after casting it
K'rrul (Kobold Assassin/Rogue 6) - In his virgin combat he emerged solidly mediocre. Managed to crit on some guy who only had 10 HP remaining. Yay?
Arashi (Genasi Swordmage 6) - Took a ton of damage, and gave as good as he took. The confined space virtually guaranteed he'd be close enough to take advantage of his mark when it went off.
Paulic (Valenar Elf Ranger 6) - Continued the time honored tradition of bow rangers everywhere, quarry+twin strike=awesome. Now holds both the gold and silver in single round damage totals for the party.
Phedre - (Aerenal Elf Cleric/Shaman 6) - Must have done something to piss these guys off, since she took enough damage to be killed at least three times over. Consecrated Ground saved her life.

After some pregame chatter, we jumped right in with an initiative roll. Despite high dex characters, and good rolls, we ended up going all bunched up *after* our ambushers.

At the top of the battle mat were the large doors we entered through. The three minis outside the warehouse were ours, as were two of the minis just inside (crappy camera phone and poor lighting, sorry!). This was taken immediately after they charged in on us. No surprise round, since we were pretty sure that our boat wasn't going to leave from a landlocked lumber warehouse. Most of the boxes with lines through them represent piles of lumber. The southernmost one was actually a staircase. The three long skinny boxes that are divided in two (1x3, 1x4, 1x5) were masts suspended from the ceiling of the building, 30 feet up. The Large mini (not an Aboleth!) was a Fey Constrictor, the toughest snake ever. This was a *long* battle-
- The snake slithered through the pile of lumber and grabbed Arashi before he could go.
- Two of the other attackers aimed for Phedre from range.
- Two more charged in to engage at melee range.
- The net result was our healer having to use her first Healing Word on her first action to bring herself out of bloodied. She used another minor to summon her Spirit Companion (an elven mummy affectionately called Mr Bubbles).
- Arashi teleported out of the snake's coils (the first of many times this would happen) and tried working his Swordmage magic.

Swordmage magic is different from other defender magic. Where a Fighter or a Warden needs to be in melee range for his mark to be effective, and a Paladin needs to 'engage' his enemy, Swordmages invert that. An Assault Swordmage like Arashi needs to make his mark think hard about who they attack. If the mark is violated, Arashi can teleport up to 10 squares and hit the offender. If Arashi can get himself to the other side of the battlefield, his mark has to endure a gauntlet of OA's, get whacked by him, or do nothing. This fight was a good showcase for that. We mostly stayed bunched up at the door at first, meaning that Arashi was well served by marking an enemy far from the door and teleporting back near his allies.

- After our first round, the fight was feeling tense, with the obvious focus on our Cleric very apparent.
- With all the teleporting available (three of the five party members have quite a bit of the Nightcrawler in us) the neat clump of allies frayed a bit. The snake surprises us when *it* teleports.
- Something else that blindsided us was the Half Elf using a power to make us belive he was our ally. Predictably, Paulic the bloodthirsty Valenar was immune, but everyone else had to give the guy a wide birth.
- In fact, even as she lay dying, Phedre was failing saves against this power. Her twilight thoughts as she drifted in and out of must have been concern for her new found friend.
- And die Phedre did. She started bringing out her Daily heals to stave off the inevitable. It was for naught, as just a couple rounds in, she lay bleeding on the ground. It was then that we realized that *nobody had any healing potions* (not strictly true. . .Jasper had one he had forgotten about).
- Jasper spotted an opportunity and jumped at it. He threw down his new 5th level Daily, Acid Mire. A sustainable 3x3 area of bubbling acid that damaged anyone who started in it, or fell prone. It also acted as difficult terrain. With his amped up Thunderwave, he could keep an enemy or two tied up.
- He was promptly dominated. His daily expired after doing a few points of damage to the two enemies caught in the area.
- The nearest ally to Phedre, Paulic, rushes to her side to administer 'Valenar First Aid'. By repeatedly kicking her in the ribs, he was able to allow her to spend her Second Wind.
- The big guns, Bacon of Hope and Consecrated Ground get thrown down. Consecrated Ground will keep Phedre alive the rest of the combat.
- Split the Tree struck again. Paulic critted with one of his shots. Does this sound familiar? This time his grand total was 72 points of damage to two enemies, killing them both. He now holds the all time record and the runner up.
- That was the second and third enemy death, leaving a skirmsher(?), a 'sniper', and a snake to deal with. The sniper was annoying, spending his time leaping from mast to mast, 6 squares above the party. The snake was eating a tremendous amount of damage and not getting bloodied. The other guy was a pushover.

Difficult terrain was obviously available for us to use in this fight. Jesse had drawn it out lovingly in advance. He described in detail the features of the warehouse, and the masts hanging from the ceiling. Unfortunately, we were not availing ourselves of the options open to us. Partly it was the sinking feeling you get when your healer keeps dying. Maybe a little of it was our attempt to reform into some semblance of a strategic formation. Some of it was our power tunnel-vision, I'm sure.

- K'rrul had been shrouding the sniper as he crouched on a mast, plinking away. When he had stacked up four, he used a power to teleport up and attack the sniper, whiffing.
- On the sniper's turn, he leaped off and shot the rope holding the mast. K'rrul tumbled down and was crushed by the mast, dying a horrible death.
- Just kidding. Through several methods (Acrobatics training, Temp HP, and Insubstantial) he reduced the damage taken to 3.
- With the sniper in melee, and the only thing with legs left alive, we decided to take him alive. With those magic words, K'rrul critted on him, and the renewed shrouds as well as the rest of the damage was maximized. 43 damage on a guy with 10 HP that we wanted alive *anyways*. Lame.

- The snake took some work. We found out later that he was an Elite. He had several cool hypnotic powers that ultimately failed. In fact, enough of his otherworldly flavored powers failed that he behaved much as a normal 40 foot snake would behave, aside from the teleportation.

Following the combat, we had a quick interrogation session. Our Eladrin prisoner didn't seem to speak common, but with Phedre as an interpreter, Arashi made it very clear that his ability to continue breathing was due to our benevolence, and if he did not make it worth our while, we might cease being so giving. In return, we got pretty much nothing. We had killed the mercenary Captain, and this guy claimed to know nothing about their reasons for attacking us. Searching them yielded some magic items, and one solitary clue. A magical stone that we guessed was used as a key for an Eladrin safety deposit box. Our prisoner told us the box was located in the Hand of the Ivory Stone, back at the Fortress of Fading.


About two hours of combat. It was admittedly a tough fight, with one enemy per PC, each one at 7th level. On top of that, the snake was a 9th level Elite. We did well, probably because they wasted a *lot* of actions trying to kill Phedre, and she kept popping up. Midway through the fight she said she had taken over 150 pts of damage, and she kept getting knocked down after that. After we killed the mercenary Captain, she dropped a healing potion. Before we could dash in and grab it, the freaking *snake* came from across the room and ate it, glass and all. Poor Phedre had been eyeing that potion.

After that the session went off track pretty quickly. . .and got pretty blue. Next week? We figure out what the hell we are doing next!


Thursday, January 21, 2010

AP: An evening with no encounters is just. . .improvational theater?

That's right, last session was four hours of roleplay. There were a handful of die rolls (Insight checks. . .Perception checks. A Nature check, maybe) and a lot of in character talking. A pretty health ratio of in character/out of character, really. The participants were:

Arashi Stormcrow - Genasi Swordmage
Jasper Phinneas Merryweather III - Gnome WizardWarlock
Phedre no Delaunay no Montreve - Elf Cleric
K'rrul - Kobold Assassin

Senzimay (and her difficult to spell name) had left the party, as had Hogorth. Paulic (of the clan Paulic) was a zombie this session.

The session opens on May 16th. Arashi, Jasper, Phedre, and Paulic were preparing to leave the Eladrin city that they teleported to in haste two sessions ago. I missed the intervening session of roleplay, but since I am bringing a new PC. . .I never found out what was learned there. I gather there was some Speak with Dead ritual(s) and some roleplaying, but not much else beyond that.

The party was given two methods of leaving the city. Both led to the settlement of Blackrock, on the coast. One was the long and more safe passage along the edge of a valley. The other was the shorter, but dangerous trek through the unknown wilds. Arashi was all for braving the danger. Apparently he was the only one, because the party ended up taking the longer, safe passage. It is a few day's travel, most of it glossed over.

The one interesting event was the discovery of a coach or wagon that had gone off the road. Arashi climbed down to investigate, but was not able to immediately determine how long it had been since the accident. He found no evidence of survivors, and no valuables. Even though he figured a wagon of this type required two horses to pull it, he only found a portion of one of the horses.

Jasper and Paulic climbed up the hill on the other side of the road. They didn't find much, but a set of what appeared to be wolf tracks. The pack of wolves went up the hill, and their trail was lost as they entered a stony area and there were no more tracks.

While this discovery was *interesting*, the party had no context or motivation to pursue it further, so they continued on their journey to Blackrock. The town was aptly named, being built on a large deposit of black rock. It appeared to be obsidian. The city was bounded on one side by the sea, and on the other by a ten foot wall. The wall extended into the water, and metal gates kept boats out. The tallest building in the city had a structure that the party recognized as an airship dock. It was currently vacant.

As the party approached the gate, they were stopped by a solitary guard. He asked them to give their names, and as they weren't on 'the list', they were required to bind their weapons with silver ribbon. He seemed to indicate that only people with interesting or effective weapons were asked to do this. He recommended they stay at The Knight's Reprise, and sent them on their way.

Once inside the city, the party split up. They had to return to Verithrond, and were in a hurry. Jasper looked for some information on House Orien, to see about getting the teleportation sequence in Verithrond. The party had an Artifact that would allow them to Teleport there, if they knew the right Arcane sequence (think Stargate). Arashi went to the docks to see about hiring transport. If Jasper failed, they would need to get to the mainland somehow, and a boat was the only real way to do that. Phedre asked around about some information they had gleaned during the time spent with the Eladrin. All she found was an old crone tending a shrine to the Blood of Vol. She was pretty much antagonistic and told Phedre to get out of town, and that she didn't belong in the North.

Jasper had little luck, too. He learned that House Orien had little or no presence here, since they had a fierce rivalry with House Lyrandar. Arashi learned that most of the ocean transport here was cargo, but if they wanted to book personal transport they needed to talk to the half-elves in charge. The nature of the town began to become clear. This town was run by the shipping and pirate industries. Fishing was core, too. And it all seemed to flow from the large tower in the center of town.

Jasper, Phedre and Paulic all entered an Inn to look for rooms, and were accosted by a Kobold. He claimed that a seer had told him of the party's arrival. He wanted to join, as the seer had suggested his destiny was with them. Needless to say, there were various levels of scepticism. Despite several signs given by the seer about the nature of the party, for prudence sake they all went to verify things with her.

It was fully nighttime when K'rrul led the rest of the party to the door of Eltar the Sighted. She lived in a cave under the black rock, with her door made of chicken (when knocking, Jasper said 'bok bok bok'. made of chicken). A young half-elf boy answered and said that Eltar, his grandmother, was sleeping. With a bribe, we *encouraged* him to wake her, and after a few minutes he led us inside.

She had taken her seat in a tiny room with a small table and an obsidian 'crystal ball'. Jasper verified that the ball was indeed magical, and the seer represented with some out of the blue fortune telling about Phedre. It turns out that some of the information she had gathered about her nemesis, the Stillborn, was incorrect. Unfortunately, like most things of this nature, Eltar could not be more specific. The party grudgingly accepted K'rrul's presence (for now) and returned to the inn for sleep.

The next day we headed for the black tower at the center of town. Our only option was to take a sloop, a journey of four or more weeks, or to find another option with the folks running the show. A tip the night before had given us a name of a higher up we could ask for. A quick bribe and we were shown into the building. Shortly thereafter, a half-elf with a Mark of Storm over his eye entered the room. Over the course of a few minutes negotiation, we learned of several options. Our list became:
- Hire a sloop and travel to Verithrond. This was estimated to take at least a month, and cost 500 GP
- Hire the airship and travel to Verithrond. This could take only a week, but would cost 5,000 GP.
- Agree to owe this guy a favor, and get the airship for only 1,000 GP
- Attack and kill the captain of the airship and turn it over to him. We would still owe the 1,000 GP
- Double cross him and tell the captain (Koulton D'Lyrandar, this guy's boss) of his plans. No clue what the reward would be, or if we would gain passage this way.
- Blackmail him and hope he'd drop the price
- Attack and kill the captain and take the ship for ourselves

The two seriously debated choices became whether to double cross this guy, or do his bidding. Either choice was bound to anger people. Some information gathering at a dive down at the docks revealed that both men were well liked by their crews. The fight could go either way.

In the end, after long deliberation, we chose to sleep on it. The next morning during breakfast, Jasper was handed a note. It was from our Dragonmarked friend. A sloop was departing that day at noon, and we could be on it, headed for the mainland. It appeared that our choice was made for us, which was kind of a relief.

We finished up and headed to the indicated address. It was an abandoned warehouse. Adventurer senses tingling, we approached with weapons de-ribboned and ready to fight. The session ended there. . .

Our DM, Jesse, actually ended it by telling us that we were ambushed from the shadows. Nothing like a combat-less week ending on a cliffhanger to motivate players to show up next time, eh?
The half-elf contact we spoke to had a name, I just can't remember which one it is. Anton, or Alton, or Amber or some A name. A hoity toity name.
Funny things this session besides the door made of chicken:
- Star Rubles (a mixup in gem pronunciation) got an impromptu description, with cosmonauts waiting in line to spend their Star Rubles on the moon. . .as usual, my description hardly does it justice.
- Relieve us of our bodily usage.
- Paulic Paulic of Clan Paulic in the house of Paulic, from the Paulic region of . . . .you can see where this is headed.
Next session, combat? And perhaps some sort of decision from the party about where to go and how to get there!

Friday, January 1, 2010

AP: In which we turn tail and run. . .

So. . .I did not blog about the one session I attended earlier in December. I anticipated the party finishing that story arc while I was unable to game, and figured I would start back in when I joined back up with them. Well, due to typical holiday Shenanigans, they did not play in the main campaign at all. A couple of one shots. So our game this week was a direct continuation of the last session I attended. And did not blog about.

Our investigations had led us to the basement of Alomar's house. His lab held a portal similar to the one in the basement of the Inn we worked in. His was a different color, and appeared to be a key to our way out. We entered.

We exit in a dark and moody jungle. It is nighttime, with washed out colors and the ambient light of the Mournlands. We discovered that Alomar's Crystal Ball was pulling us along, and since we had no other clue as to where to go, we followed it.

The ambush should not have surprised us, since we were in hostile territory, but the Kenku still got the drop on us. Two of them seemed to blend into the blackness so completely that they often disappeared from view after their lightning quick strikes. A caster walked on a path made of inky black feathers 40 feet in the air. The five of them worked together to coordinate their hit and run attacks and split the party in two:
- Paulic, for the second week in a row, rolls to hit on an unarmed OA, and crits. This kills the Kenku. Those of us holding swords look at each other in horror. . .we are being outdone by the Elf's boot?
- Jasper uses the ancient Gnomish art of Hadoken, and blasts Kenku away. He is very effective, as usual.
As the Kenku die, they dissolve into blackness and are either drawn into the Crystal Ball, or away to the North.

As we travel North, we eventually stumble on our goal. It is a large black hemisphere. Thirty or so feet in diameter of, and swirling, menacing blackness. After some study and contemplation, it is determined that this is a veil of souls trapped within some kind of arcane net. In an attempt to destroy it, Phaedra Turns Undead. Then all hell breaks loose.

Another Skill Challenge, only this one had a strong combat component to it. Again, the concept with this Challenge was rock solid, and its execution was perfect. The layout was as a regular encounter. In addition to this, we had the option of making an Arcana, Diplomacy, Religion, or Endurance check. A failure not only counted towards one of the three total failures to loose the Challenge, but each skill had an individual effect as well.

The center of the challenge was the shade of Prince Amir. He was surrounded by spirits, and a few of those became corporeal enough to attack us. Successes and Failures of certain skills would increase this number, and more would appear on their own at certain points in the challenge. This mechanic worked well. Notably, Paulic and Hogorth did not have much skill in the Primary skills required for this challenge. It became a battle to keep the minions away, since their aura applied a negative penalty to the skill rolls.

We totally rocked it, too. We completed the skill portion in the first couple of rounds, getting our five successes, and only incurring one failure. This didn't end the combat, it just made the Shade of Prince Amir more manageable. We then went on to defeat him.

With his destruction, we had a short race to get out of the forest and through the portal before Something Bad Happened. We made it. We appeared in a changed Thrace, with our goal in hand and the bubble destroyed.

The final portion of that session was spent exploring the new Thrace, now exposed to the Mournland. It was devoid of the illusions that had lived here, but the houses and their contents all still stood. We discovered the graves of six people, and deduced that the party we were sent to rescue had died of old age in the time bubble and been buried. We also found Alomar's home, and learned a bit more about the final days of Thrace. Alomar had been close to the Prince, and so it fit that while his research about this mysterious Artifact uncovered more about it's planar properties, he would bend it to aid the prince somehow.

In the final days of Thrace's day to day life, Alomar had activated the cube, stranding Thrace in a bubble apart from the world, and stranding the souls of the Day of Mourning's catastrophe in the bubble as well. I am really not sure I am getting all of that right, and I'm sure there is more there. To be frank, as my *character* is not very interested in such things, I did not devote much brain space to piecing it together. Maybe someone will pipe up in the comments and clear things up.

Last session began with an Extended Rest. It had been awhile since we had been safe enough to do this. Unfortunately, since we were now in the Mournlands again, we were not able to get the full benefits of the rest. In particular, we recovered only 1d4+con mod in surges. During our meager rest in the former lab of Alomar, we began to hear disturbances up in the town. Some exploration revealed a winged female (harpy!) was directing some stone formed allies in the sacking of Thrace. As they were keeping well away from us, we finished our rest and prepared for the day. Paulic soon realized that their loud searching was getting closer, so we hustled up the ladder and into the house. Our quick plan was to hide, while Arashi tried parlay with the Harpy.

His efforts appeared to be going somewhere initially. She was looking for more statues to complement her collection. She had with her a minotaur, a one armed soldier with a spear, and an arbalest. When Arashi did not have any knowledge of statues in Thrace, she said she could also work with bones. Arashi laughingly told her that he did not have any bones.

Combat started when she used some of her innate control over bone to jerk Arashi around. Paulic, crouching across the street and looking through the crack, let loose a shot, and with that everyone jumped into action.
- Everyone on our side gets a Surprise Round except Arashi (obviously in plain sight) and Jasper (cruddy Stealth roll). Paulic uses his to fire the Twin Strike above.
- Hogorth tries to run out from the second floor and across the ruined wall to engage the minotaur, but slips and falls.
- Phaedra is unsure of what to do. She can't hit anything right now, and if she moves she will be exposed. She hides.
- When combat begins in earnest, it immediately gets dangerous. The Minotaur charges the building and rocks it to the foundation. Hogorth and Jasper both try forced movement to keep him away, and he ends up even further inside.
- The harpy, in a pattern repeated many, many times, will fly upward and attempt to use her sorcery in battle. Arashi and Paulic focus fire on the harpy, and she is soon bloodied.
- The animated ballista has a twist that is revealed when it finally fires. It's bolts are blunted and not really deadly. The electric shock that accompanies them, however, is quite deadly. Arashi resists lightning, so it only wastes one shot on him before switching to other, more vulnerable targets.
- The combat on the first floor of the house is brutal and deadly. When the second melee statue joins in, things begin to look grim. Hogorth's last surge is expended, and the only surgeless healing the party has available. Eventually the minotaur goes down, only to be followed by Hogorth.
- We are all saddened when the minotaur rises again.
- We are all angered when the harpy falls to her death, and rises again.
- Hogorth is stabilized, but effectively out of the fight. Phaedra can now focus her healing on the newly bloodied Arashi.
- The harpy is killed again. Breathing a sigh of relief, the party focuses on her cronies.
- We are incredulous when the harpy rises from the dead yet again. Around now, Senzimay (played as a DMPC) grabs the Planar Artifact from Jasper (also played as a DMPC) and starts fiddling with it.
- In a moment of awesome, Arashi triggers his aegis to teleport *above* the harpy in an attempt to grapple her to the ground. He fails, and falls 40 feet to his death. Not dead-dead, just negative HP's. Still, no fun.
- Hogorth and Arashi are both resigned to their deaths, and our poor healer is probably left feeling a bit unwanted. Regardless, she keeps Arashi from death, and despite ourselves the harpy goes down yet again.
- We poop in our pants a little when she rises for the thousandth time, cackling.
- As we put away our swords and prepare our last wills, making sure to cross of Senzimae as she has spent the last two round fiddling with the cube (and, as was suggested, summoning Hellraiser) instead of fighting.
- She opens a portal over Hogorth's body. Everyone runs for it.
- In a last bitch effort, the harpy starts immobilizing folk. Working together, everyone is rolled/tugged/shoved through the portal and to safety in a strange Eladrin city.

Jesse did give us two very good handouts that explained both the Cube and the research behind it. I did not study these, and don't have copies to reference. In a nutshell, the cube we found is attuned to portals and planar travel. It allows the use of rituals related to such travel even if the user does not know the ritual. It works as a focus if they do. It has other, more combat oriented functions. It also has functions that were not enumerated, but must be discovered.
Our flight from Thrace was something I thought about on our downtime. We ended the session and Hogorth had 11 HP's and no surges. I did not imagine him surviving a trip of a few days, unless they were encounter free. He recovered two surges at the beginning of the session, and used one to bring himself up to near full HP's. He dropped in the first third of the fight. I don't know what possessed Jesse to have Senzimae use the cube to port us out. According to him, the harpy was using a finite resource to resurrect. Each opponent could do it a number of times, or she could *steal* one of theirs to do it, too. We did not know that of course, so we felt absolutely screwed.
Okay, this we stuff should be clarified. *I* felt a TPK coming, and I imagine the others felt pretty grim about it too. When Jerome and I were both talking about our back-up characters. . .you get the feeling you are gonna be using them soon.
So the session ended with the portal closed, and we have a week or two of in-game downtime to level to 6th, and do some training or magic item creation. Should be interesting to see what the next session holds.