Thursday, December 30, 2010

Traveller Brainstorming - Rending Thought to Paper

To keep folks up to date on the development of my sci-fi West Reaches (and fill a gap in my posting schedule), I'm posting some notes from a brainstorming session I had earlier in December.  This was an attempt on my part to start corralling my thoughts on what I wanted, so it may be a bit scattered.

It is important to remember that the baseline assumption is that interstellar society was destroyed as a result of two, relatively equal factions going to war.  The final stages included the release of A.I.-grade computer viruses that wiped data on a grand scale and made computer controlled machinery dangerous if not outright hostile.

At the end of each session, the player characters must return to the ship.  This parallels the "each session ends with the PCs in town" rule in a fantasy-based campaign and is one of the major components of the campaign style.  I originally thought about requiring the PCs return to the homeworld, but quickly realized that that would be much too restrictive on game play.

If the players fail to return to the ship, the DM rolls on sci-fi version of the Table of Doom, a random table describing what things happen to PCs who fail to make it back to the ship on their own.  They'll make it alive, but probably not happy – it is a table of doom after all.  Options include being attacked by a local predator or running afoul of locals, either a mugging, graft, or some other inconvenience.

What type of ship will the PCs be based out of?
The ship needs to allow for a number of faceless crewmembers for new PCs to step up from and replacements to be advanced from.  With 5-6 players at a time, this will probably require a pool of approximately 30 crew.

Will there be non-crew on board the ship?
Possibilities for non-crew include passengers, gamblers, companions, and scientists (especially if the player characters have some form of government charter).

Assuming the ship is privately funded.
  • Early missions are a search for funding/proof of concept.
  • After a few successful trips, the possibility of having a research team assigned to the ship for a stipend.  The ship still needs to trade, but this would be the beginning of a steady income.
  • Later, the player characters could possibly be offered espionage jobs by various factions.
  • There is also the possibility of getting bodyguard/VIP ferry jobs to other planets.  Possible VIPs include: delegates, scientists, diplomats, wealthy people, and archeologists.

Status of Worlds:
The following is a brainstormed list of possible world types the PCs could discover, from the technology perspective.
  1. Space-faring: interstellar capability.  This should be rare, with the PCs homeworld being one of, at best, three worlds capable of regular interstellar travel at the start of the campaign.
  2. Space-faring: intra-system only.  Less rare, but still rare.
  3. Space-faring: orbital only.  This society would still have advanced technologies, the lack of space flight possibly due to a slow rebuild of technology or a different set of goals set by those in charge.  Other possibilities include societies with "Modern" technology levels or even a WWII era technology level.
  4. Advanced technology but no spaceflight.  Similar to the above, but they do not have even orbital capability.  Reasons for this could be a lack of the right technologies, a balkanized political structure, or simply no desire to return to space.
  5. Fallen to "Modern" technology, either stabilized or still falling.
  6. Rebuilt to "Modern" technology from a lower level.
  7. Fallen to WWII era technology, either stabilized or still falling.
  8. Post-apocalypse scavengers.
  9. Pastoral society with minimal tech, either due to conscious choice or a lack of the necessary resources to support any technology base (like a metal-poor world).
  10. Everyone is dead, either due to war (the original or something local) or a hostile environment that finally defeated the colonists.
  11. Recolonized by a previously unknown alien species.
  12. A new sentient species is developing in the ruins.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Dyson’s Delve – Session 6, Part 1 - Super Rat Makes Friends

This session happened Wednesday, December 22, 2010.  This campaign uses the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game.  We are using the Pathfinder RPG, so some adjustments were made (or so I’ve been told).  Due to a pet emergency, Luna's player was not able to join us.  As I was on vacation, we were able to run the game later than normal, which makes for a long write-up.  To avoid a "Wall o' Text", I'm breaking this up into two blog entries.

Adventuring Group:
Harkaitz of the Red Soul, Cleric of Ra (male human cleric of Ra)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (female human fighter)
“Electric” Frankie Hu (male dwarf monk)

SPOILER ALERT: If You Might Play Through Dyson's Delve, Stop Reading

In Aldelle, the town trader let the adventurers know that the "really interesting thing" he had been promising had finally arrived.  Curious (and wanting to use the credit they had accumulated from the sale of goblin armor and swords), the adventurers went to see what the trader had.  What the trader was offering was a belt of giant strength [+2].  Seeing the immediate use of the item and purchased it for Frankie's use, trading in the spare +1 leather armor and +1 longsword in addition to using all of their credit.  Two healing potions were also purchased, replacing the one used by Wednesday during the manticore fight and adding an additional cure moderate wounds potion to the groups resources.

After gearing up, Super Rat returned to the Delve.  Quickly making their way back down to the manticore level [Level 4 of Dyson's Delve for those keeping score at home], Super Rat investigated the gas trap room.  Wednesday disabled the auto-closing and locking mechanism on the door nearest the landing room and she and Frankie entered the room to investigate.  They found the room contained four free-standing iron candelabra and little else.  The gas vents were coin-sized round holes in the walls.  There was some suspicion that the gas might be flammable and the trap was designed to go off after some of the candles were lit.  It was decided to close the door to this room and leave it alone.

The group headed down the side passage and turned left at the T-intersection.  Wednesday checked the door at the end of this corridor, then unlocked it and open it.  This surprised a group of four goblins as well as the adventurers, who were not expecting to see any more goblins.  Harkaitz advocated the group fall back behind him as the goblins rushed the door.  Wednesday gladly complied and Sahar stepped back after taking a swing at the lead goblin.  Once his companions were behind him, Harkaitz unleashed burning hands, and this time it killed all three goblins in the area of effect [I finally rolled something more than absolute minimum].  Frankie then quickly stepped over the dead goblins to deliver a flurry of blows to the remaining goblin, killing it.

Wednesday searched the room while the rest of the adventurers looted the goblin bodies (scoring only some slightly toasted sets of leather armor and short swords), locating a secret door in the south wall.  The adventurers formed up and then opened the secret door.  Behind it was a group of four lizardmen at the ready, but not attacking.  Sensing a possibility to talk, the adventurers paused.  Both sides tried to establish communication, only to learn neither side shared a language.  [Luna knows draconic, which the lizardmen speak, but she was not with us.]

Harkaitz stepped up to attempt some measure of communication with the lizardmen.  Borrowing some chalk from Wednesday, he started drawing stick figures on the wall.  This led to one of the lizardmen stepping forward and (borrowing more chalk from Wednesday) making queries and replies through his own stick men.  The adventurers establish that they are no friends of the goblins and have killed the manticore, which impressed the lizardmen.  The adventurers had good feelings about themselves until the lizardmen conveyed that there were, in fact, TWO manticores.  Que the roar of a manticore in the background.

Having established common cause against common enemies with the adventurers, the lizardmen ushered the adventurers into the hidden room and closed the secret door to keep the manticore out.  The lizardmen then showed the length of the secret passage and where it connected different parts of this level.  The lizardmen had been trapped here by the manticore and kept hidden from the goblins also trapped on this level.  Using chalk, the lizardmen leader outlined what they knew of the adjacent rooms and indicated that they had stolen the goblins treasure without the goblins knowing.  They were willing to share the treasure with the adventurers if the adventurers would help them escape back to the surface.  Always ready to kill goblins (who had threatened to wipe out Aldelle), Super Rat agreed.

The goblins were concentrated into three linked rooms and possibly a fourth, accessible by two secret doors.  The adventurers decided to enter through the secret door in the middle of two of the rooms with the majority of the adventurers pushing into the room while Harkaitz formed a barrier isolating the room.  The plan was to clear the first room quickly and then switch to the second room.  This adventurers attacked and the plan was working fine, but would have been close due to a total of 12 goblins between the two rooms (plus a goblin leader) - until the lizardmen flooded in through the other secret door, crushing the goblins in a pincher attack.

The sounds of the battle drew the second manticore to the area, roaring challenges.  Seeing an opportunity to catch the manticore in a pincher while the aid and shield of faith spells Harkaitz had cast were still up, the adventurers and the lizardmen redeployed in the goblin chambers to attack the manticore.  Harkaitz, Sahar, and the bulk of the lizardmen prepped in one chamber, Wednesday and the lizardmen archers took position to open a second door that would expose the manticore's flank, while Frankie prepared to do an end-run all the way around the level through the secret passage.

After the quick restaging was done, the attack was started by Sahar opening the first door and swinging her sword at the manticore.  This drew the manticore's attention and the fight started.  The manticore attacked the main room, Wednesday and the lizardmen archers opened the side door and attacked, and Frankie started his sprint around to the far side of the manticore.  The combined attacks from the lizardmen and the adventurers killed the manticore quickly, quick enough that the manticore died just as Frankie got into position.

As a gesture of good will, the adventurers gave the manticore carcass to the lizardmen.  In return, the lizardmen gave the adventurers ALL of the goblin treasure, not just half.  The lizardmen then packed up their belongings.  While they were doing that, the adventurers took the time to add some more Super Rat graffiti, posting "Super Rat: Kills manticores dead!"

Once the lizardmen were ready to travel, Super Rat escorted them out of the dungeon.  At the surface there was discussion as to which way the lizardmen were planning on traveling.  Their home was on a path that would have taken them through Aldelle, so the adventurers offered to escort them safely past the town, which the lizardmen accepted.  The village guard gave the adventurers some strange looks when they showed up with the lizardmen in tow, but after it was all explained, things went smoothly.

Once the lizardmen were safely away, the adventurers returned to the inn to eat, sleep, and plan their next foray into the Delve.  [We also leveled up at this point.]

[This is where I'm breaking the narrative.  The next adventure log posting will conclude this session.  There was no Southern Reaches game for two weeks, so it will not be until the second week of January before the next adventure log appears for that game.  Dyson's Delve will continue on its regular schedule.]

Thursday, December 23, 2010

SR31: The Death of Su Bel

This session happened Friday, December 17, 2010, and was the only session I ran this past weekend.

Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
Mog the Doomed (half-orc barbarian)
Sal Ty (elf wizard)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)
 – Kainen (Thorngrim’s human fighter cohort)

Note: the list of player characters is in player sitting order, from my left and then clockwise around the table.

Su Bel wanted to go to Iron Keep to switch out her current weapon for an improved scimitar, the favored weapon of her deity.  Mog, Sal, and Thorngrim agreed to go with her (mostly to get out of the very crowded Drop-off Tower).  After making a swap for a new scimitar [+2], the group talked about going back to the tower where the adamantine door had been found.  Knowing that there were two fire giants and the Lake of Fire up those stairs, the group spent the day at Spider's Bar planning their attack.  The plan was to cast no less than nine spells (later increased to eleven spells) on Mog, increasing his abilities to be (hopefully) over that of the giants.

The next day, with a plan in hand, the group headed back east, temporarily stopping off at Drop-off Tower before following Owlbear Road east.  Surprisingly for this late in April, there were no encounters along the way.  Once the group made their way into the ruins and up the stairs to the landing below the Lake of Fire, the three spellcasters started casting a series of spells on Mog, including: resist energy [fire], bull's strength, protection from evil, and haste (by Sal); shield other, bless, aid, and prayer (by Su Bel); enlarge person and greater invisibility (by Thorngrim); and barkskin by way of a potion made by Tycho.  Mog then charged his way up the rest of the stairs.  The others cast a few more spells on each other before following (mostly greater invisibility on Su Bel and Thorngrim and invisibility on Sal).

Thinking he could sneak up on one of the fire giants, Mog quickly followed the arching path from the center of the immense chamber around towards the platform to the left of the stairs.  He only made it half way when four fire bats erupted from the Lake of Fire and attacked him, their echolocation completely nullifying the effects of the greater invisibility cast upon him.  At the same time, the other adventurers entered the center platform and were noticed by the sharp-eyed fire giant at the other end of the room, who started throwing rocks the size of their heads at their heads.

During the fight, Sal summoned a medium air elemental to fight the fire bats and Su Bel summoned a celestial dire boar, attempting to send it around the second path to the first fire giant to flank it for Mog (who she was able to track thanks to the fire bats attacking him).  Unfortunately, the celestial dire boar was not very nimble and stepped off the path, burning itself severely and triggering four more fire bats erupting from the Lake of Fire.  Sal dealt with the fire bats by having his air elemental batter the first group and he cast slow on the second group, effectively taking them out of the fight.

Mog went toe to toe with the first fire giant, beating it down while the giant was only able to land the occasional blow due to the greater invisibility Mog was fighting under.  Emboldened by Mog's success, Su Bel advanced on the second fire giant in order to cast bestow curse on it.  This turned out to be a mistake.

The second fire giant was able to determine where Su Bel was in general and was lucky enough to hit.  Su Bel could not take the same amount of damage as an enraged Mog, and the third hit she took killed her.  This galvanized the other adventurers, who quickly took down the second fire giant and then mopped up the last of the fire bats.  Behind each fire giant they found a set of spiral stairs leading up to another level of the tower.  They gathered what treasure they could and then carefully wrapped up Su Bel's body to take it with them.

The adventurers made a bee line back to the Iron Keep.  There they were able to use cash on hand to have raise dead cast upon Su Bel.  As she was a fellow cleric, the temple forwent the 40% markup the Baron mandated on all transactions within the Keep.  This allowed the casting of the raise dead and both restoration spells necessary to bring back Su Bel back to full strength.  Most of the money spent was Su Bel's, but Thorngrim was able to cover the cost of the second restoration when her funds ran out.

While waiting for the necessary time between restorations, Sal took the time to create some magic items for the adventurers.  After Su Bel was back up, the adventurers decided they wanted the skulls of the fire giants as trophies and returned to the Lake of Fire to claim the grisly trophies.  After using magic to clean the skulls, the adventurers returned to Drop-off Tower, where one of the skulls was mounted over the fireplace.  The second skull was carted back to the Iron Keep and mounted in Spider's Bar with a small placard.  The adventurers then spent another week in town while Sal crafted two more magic items.

*End of Session*

[AD&D grognards may recognize the Lake of Fire inside a tower from an old TSR module.  I've switched it up a bit and dropped the portions leading up to the tower.  I'll talk about this later, once the players explore more of the ghostly tower.]

Quick Update (OK, not really that quick)

I'm on vacation now for the next two weeks, so I'll post a few things here as I go.  I don't know how often I'll be posting during this time, but it will be at least the scheduled Tuesday and Thursday postings.  This, by the way, might not count as today's post - I have an adventure log I'm working on, which should be finished this afternoon before Date Night with the wife.  Assuming I get enough time to write it.

We played Super Rat again last night, making it down to the fifth level of Dyson's Delve.  The DM has announced that he has the level UP from Dyson's Level 1 done and is planning a wider story arc away from the Delve once we reach a stopping point he has set for the Delve.  [Said another way, we will not be exploring all 11 levels of the Delve as the DM wants to do some stuff away from the dungeon setting.]  I'm interested in seeing what he develops.  He's got a good grasp of the rules mechanics, so I'm curious what kind of world he creates for us to explore.

I've always had an interest in wargaming and historical miniatures.  It's not my primary focus of interest in gaming, but it is something I enjoy doing when I get the opportunity.  I've used the Warhammer Fantasy Battles rules to set up battles for a fantasy RPG campaign I've run in the past (I own a copy of the 1st edition rules, which have the guidelines for point-costing new units properly).  While do-able and enjoyable, there is a limit to what can be effectively fielded and the magic system is radically different from what I use in the RPG.  As a result, I've been looking for something else to use.

This year I came across the Hordes of the Things ruleset and I like what I see (I have the free download of the rules).  This gives me a fairly easy to use set of tactical rules, but now I'd like some campaign rules to go with them.  Reading several blogs in the blogosphere, I came across references to Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming, which includes his much touted work, Setting Up a Wargames Campaign.  Thanks to a gift from a good friend, I now own this book and it has been placed on the top of my reading stack for a quick reading to see if it is what I want/need.

On a different topic, I am progressing slowly with my ideas for a sci-fi campaign.  I have some basic game mechanic questions I need to work the answer out, like the size of the ship the PCs are using.  A small ship might make sense, but a larger ship allows characters to be off-stage when their player is not able to make the game.  I may do a mix-up and start with a small ship (either a rental or a ship's boat they managed to jury-rig) to get off planet to the "floating hulks" in the star system and then let the PCs select a ship, secure it, and then explore it.  Hmm.  I really like that idea.  Give them a McGuffin piece of software to blow out the Apocalypse Virus from the ship's systems and let them learn about what they've just secured as they go.

The other question I want to consider is: will they have passengers?  I think the answer is "maybe".  I've about decided that I'm going to use the HERO System (FREd version - Fifth Revised Edition for those not familiar), which allows for the possibility of starting characters being on the run from someone or searching for something or just wandering (see: half the main characters in Firefly for examples), and bolt on the relatively system agnostic parts of Traveller I like (the sector, system, and life forms creation sub-systems and maybe the character generation system with an adaption kit between rules sets).  If someone chooses that option, I'm good with it.  If no one does, I'm also good with it.  Eventually the possibility should arise for the players to take on passengers, gamblers, companions, or even a research team.

I've also started working out what possible levels of technology/society will be possible.  This will range from the exceedingly rare (at least at the start) star systems that have also reclaimed the ability to travel the stars to high tech societies with only system wide or orbital only space travel, to complete collapses to alien races moving in on previously human worlds.  That last part will need some more thought.  I want there to be alien races already known, but I want the opportunity to insert new alien races as well.  The Hobgoblin Star Empire should be possible, nay even required.

That's all for now - back to the Southern Reaches adventure log and the Death of Su Bel.  (Heh, heh.)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dyson’s Delve – Session 5 – Manticore!

This session happened Wednesday, December 15, 2010.  This campaign uses the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game.  We are using the Pathfinder RPG, so some adjustments were made (or so I’ve been told).
Adventuring Group:
Harkaitz of the Red Soul, Cleric of Ra (male human cleric of Ra)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (female human fighter)
Luna (female elf sorcerer)
“Electric” Frankie Hu (male dwarf monk)

SPOILER ALERT: If You Might Play Through Dyson's Delve, Stop Reading

In Aldelle, Frankie and Wednesday were able to learn a few things from the previously captured goblins and hobgoblins.  First, while the goblins did not know Common, the hobgoblins did.  Second, the person who had set the goblins on the path towards attacking Aldelle was none other than Tim the Questgiver, who set us after the goblins!  This went a long way towards explaining why Tim had had a map of the first level of the Delve, but did nothing to explain why he had set the whole conflict up.  Harkaitz was able to locate a handy haversack in town and traded the jeweled crown and 4000 pieces of silver for it.

After some discussion, Super Rat decided their best path was to finish investigating the crypts on level three of the Delve, looking for a sign as to what attacked the ghouls (before they got there).  The group quickly made their way to the crypts, cautiously approaching in case something new had taken up residence in the area.  After verifying they had not missed anything in the stirge chamber, the group continued down the corridor, knocking on coffins to see if anything was active in them.

The corridor ended in a T-intersection, with each branch relatively quickly turning a corner and then coming to an end.  Harkaitz, Luna, and Sahar stayed at the intersection while Wednesday and Frankie checked the branching hallway to the left for anything unusual.  Other than finding the stairs up to the temple room on the second level, this hallway was quiet.  Once out of sight of Harkaitz and satisfied there were no undead in the coffins, Frankie and Wednesday started opening them, looking for treasure.  They found quite the haul in gold coins and gold statuettes, but hid the loot as Harkaitz was against looting tombs of the quiet dead.

Circling back, the duo checked the right-hand passage.  In an empty niche Wednesday discovered a small pressure plate.  After relieving the available coffins of their gold coins (a much smaller haul – apparently the wealthy were buried down the other hallway), Wednesday and Frankie alerted the rest of the adventurers as to their finding.  Wednesday could find no evidence of a trap attached to the pressure plate, but triggered the pressure plate using a quarterstaff just to be safe.  The pressure plate opened a secret door in the back of the alcove but also animated the all the skeletons in the coffins of this passageway – six in all and completely surrounding the adventurers.  A quick but painful fight happened and most of the adventurers took some damage before the skeletons were destroyed.  Harkaitz healed everyone back up to full health.

Behind the secret door was an oval chamber containing a sarcophagus.  While Sahar and Harkaitz were discussing whether or not to open the sarcophagus, Sahar decided to cut to the chase and pushed the lid off the sarcophagus.  This released a blinding flash of light, blinding Harkaitz and Sahar.  After determining the effects would last an hour or so, Wednesday and Frankie suggested checking the coffins the skeletons animated from.  Harkaitz had no issues with this as animated dead were not sanctified burials.  Luna stayed to keep an eye on the two blinded adventurers while Wednesday and Frankie proceeded to loot all the coffins they had not been able to loot while Harkaitz was watching.  Luna took advantage of Sahar and Harkaitz by drawing mustaches and big eyebrows on the two human with chalk, claiming she was using “elven magic” to shorten the duration of the blindness.  Meanwhile, Wednesday and Frankie found more stirges, but were able to kill them with minimal trouble.

Once the blindness eventually wore off (and the chalk was dealt with), the adventurers decided to follow the stairs down to the fourth level of the Delve.  The stairs ended in an empty room with stairs leading further down and a damaged door to this new level.  Investigating the door, Wednesday was able to determine that the door had been damaged by the claws of some powerful beast on the other side and barely held.  Peering through punctures and utilizing his darkvision, Frankie was able to see a narrow corridor beyond this door, with a door and two side passages along the right wall.  The adventurers decided to explore beyond the scarred door.

The door beyond was also heavily clawed and Frankie could peer though to the room beyond.  It was mostly empty, so the adventurers pushed on.  The first side passage was a corridor leading to a door on the left and a T-intersection at its end.  The group decided to pause here while Frankie stealthed forward to check the final side passage.  It opened to a small room containing a monster with a lion body, a human head (with sharp teeth), and a long tail with spikes – a manticore!  The manticore noticed Frankie at the same time and roared a challenge at Frankie.  Frankie immediately fled back to the party, calling out, “It’s a manticore!”  Luckily, the corridor was too narrow for the manticore to easily move through and it had to squeeze in to get at the adventurers.  Harkaitz and Sahar took positions at the first intersection so they could both attack the monster with their swords while Luna and Wednesday fled back to the landing room to provide ranged attack support.  Frankie, thinking he might be able to flank the manticore ran down the unexplored corridor.

The manticore flicked its tail at the adventurers, sending two spikes each at Harkaitz and Wednesday (who had wounded it with her crossbow).  It then advanced towards the adventurers, but stopped short outside of Harkaitz’s reach.  This changed the adventurers' battle plans significantly.  Wednesday had taken two spikes and dropped to the floor unconscious while Harkaitz was heavily wounded and unable to attack or heal without inviting an attack from the manticore.  Sahar yelled at Harkaitz to fall back as she attacked the manticore around the corner from the side passage and then stepped right in front of it.  Harkaitz threw a fire bolt at the manticore and fell back to the landing room.  This left Frankie now cut off from the rest of the party and the only known exit from the dungeon.

Back in the landing room, Luna pulled Wednesday out of the manticore’s line of fire while Harkaitz channeled a sunlit burst of healing positive energy.  Due to his position, this burst healed all the adventurers (except Frankie), but stopped short of the manticore.  This (and the healing potion Luna fed her) brought Wednesday back into the fight.  She, Luna, and Harkaitz used ranged attacks to harry the manticore while Sahar held it in place and carved it with her sword.  Frankie, blocked by locked doors, returned to the fight and was able to deliver the killing blow on the manticore with a flurry of martial arts attacks.

Spending some time to catch their breath, the adventurers took stock of themselves and passed out the healing where necessary [and it was necessary].  The adventurers forced the manticore body back into its lair where Frankie proceeded to skin it.  The rest of the adventurers searched the area and found the valuables the manticore had scavenged from its prey.  This included a small chest of gold coins and three magic items: a sword [+1, +3 vs. spellcasters], a wand [of hold person], and a potion [of invisibility].  After Luna identified the magic items, they were dispersed to those who could best put them to use: Sahar got the sword, Luna the want, and Wednesday the potion.

Once Frankie was done with his bloody work, the manticore pelt was packed away in the handy haversack and the adventurers continued exploring.  Ready to head back to the surface, the adventurers followed the T-intersection in the direction of the landing platform.  They found it connected to the back side of the first room Frankie had peered into.  Wednesday checked and opened the door and the adventurers peered in.  The room was mostly bare, except for four statues, one in each corner.

The adventurers fell to discussing what to do next, when the door suddenly closed in front of them.  Frankie peered in through the clawed door and saw clouds of gas start filling the room.  Realizing the manticore-damaged doors would not hold the gas in and suspecting it of being unhealthy, the adventurers hotfooted it around the outside of the room using the corridors and fled up the stairs towards the surface, pausing only long enough to destroy a trio of ghouls that wandered into their way.  The adventurers tired but wealthier returned to Aldelle to discuss their further plans over drinks at the inn.

*End of Session*

Thursday, December 16, 2010

SR30: The Shadowed Obelisk – Part 3

This session happened Friday, December 10, 2010, and was the only session I ran this past weekend.  This is the conclusion of the adventures in the Shadowed Obelisk.

Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
Tycho von Helmont (elf alchemist)
Agnes Sunbeard (dwarf rogue)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)
 – Kainen (Thorngrim’s human fighter cohort)

Note: the list of player characters is in player sitting order, from my left and then clockwise around the table.

[Recap: Deciding to investigate Three Peaks, the adventurers cleared a road there from Drop-off Tower.  In a deep valley between the three mountains, the adventurers discovered The Shadowed Obelisk.  Cautiously entering the Obelisk, the adventurers were trapped inside when the entrance magically sealed over.  Forced to find another way out, the adventurers explored the larger-inside-than-outside interior of the Obelisk.  The mysterious Jack disappeared, the “schoolroom of the undead” was cleared, many were rooms explored, and the looping nature of the dungeon and an indicator of the length of time some of the inhabitants have been here was discovered.]

When the adventurers awoke in the morning, they discovered Mog was now missing.  This was somewhat worrisome and the adventurers decided to push on and find a means of exiting the Obelisk.  Heading south from the room they had camped in, the corridor ended in a door and a side passage.  The side passage ended in stairs descending into a flooded area.  Not wanting to deal with a flooded area of unknown dimensions, the adventurers chose to investigate the door.

Agnes inspected the door and listened for clues to what was on the other side.  The door was unlocked and untrapped and she heard deep voices and smelled BBQ.  Agnes opened the door on a square room full of trolls in the process of cooking a kobold on a spit.  The trolls were slow to respond and after a couple of fireballs from Su Bel, started to break.  Ultimately, the trolls failed to flee far enough away and were brought down by more fire from Su Bel and Tycho.

Leaving the troll bodies behind and continuing south, the adventurers came across two doors: one leading to another hallway, the other to a room with a tilted floor.  The adventurers crossed the tilted room and exited another door to a room with a water fountain.  Three of the four fish-shaped fountains poured water into a large basin, while a fourth sprayed a corner of the room, where the water pooled and then flowed out a corridor.  Agnes investigated the pool and determined that the fish could be rotated.  After rotating them in different configurations (and flooding the room somewhat), she noticed that the water seemed to leak out of one corner of the room, indicating a secret passage of some sort.  Unfortunately, there was no way to access the door from this side.  The fish were left facing the basin and the group left through the north passage, following the flow of water out of the room.  This hallway ended in stairs leading down to a flooded area, probably the far side of the flooded are they had discovered earlier.  They also noticed the water level was slowly lowering and decided to return to this area later, once the water had drained away.

Backtracking, the adventurers followed the passage skipped prior to entering the tilted room.  This lead to an empty room with a secret passage to the room at the bottom of the pit Tycho, Thorngrim, and Kainen had fallen down the previous day.  Somehow, without descending stairs or a sloped passage, the group had found their way to a deeper level of the Obelisk.  To say this complicated their mapping effort is a significant understatement.

The door out of the pit room opened onto a large hallway full of ogres.  Getting the drop on the ogres, the adventurers used the last of Su Bel’s fireballs and several more of Tycho’s fire explosives to kill of the ogres, but not the ogre magi leading them.  A short game of cat and mouse started, the ogre magi using its at-will invisibility to disappear after each attack was made.  This worked until it made an attack of opportunity on Su Bel and became visible, unwisely exposing itself to Thorngrim’s magical attack, which killed it.

This hall had four doors out.  The southern one held a kobold barracks.  The kobolds were surprised to see the adventurers, but made no hostile moves.  After a short conversation, the adventurers left the kobold area, agreeing to send word if the adventurers found a way out of the Obelisk.

The northern door led to a smaller room with a stone statue wearing an ornate golden key.  Agnes moved in to investigate and the statue animated and attacked.  [The adventure calls for a living statue – I used a stone golem instead as I had stats for that.]  This fight was difficult and dangerous until the spellcasters got involved.  Aware that the golem would be immune to most magics, they cast greater invisibility on Agnes and displacement on Tycho and Kainen.  The powerful hits from the statue thundered on the ground as it regularly missed the adventurers front line while Tycho lobbed acid bombs onto the statue, slowly dissolving it.  In the meantime, invisible Agnes made multiple attempts to steal the key off the animated statue, eventually succeeding just as the statue was destroyed by Tycho.  The key was very ornate and appeared to be made of brass or gold feathers – the Feathered Key of Qual the adventurers had read about the previous year!

Being thorough, the adventures checked the other passages from the Ogre Hall.  One led through a series of rooms to the Library of Blank Books.  The other passed a room of strange, abstract sculptures [a tesseract, a Klein bottle, etc. – I found some images online to show the players] and eventually connected to the stairs across from the circular snake room.

Suspecting the Feathered Key would let them escape the Obelisk, the group backtracked to the room where the hooded woman Anise was still carving statues.  They told her they likely had the way out and asked if she would she like to follow them out.  She quickly gathered her tools and joined the group.

After checking a few last rooms (leading Anise to question whether or not they actually knew where the exit was), the group worked their way back to the first room, where the stairs had been.  When they entered this room, the Feathered Key started to glow and the wall blocking the stairs evaporated.  At this point Agnes stated she wanted to try and find Jack before leaving.  Anise wished her well, but wanted to leave now.  She and the adventurers parted ways here.

The adventurers followed their map to the room where they had first found Jack.  Jack was not there.  After a very short discussion, the group decided they had done their best and returned to the first room, where they finally exited the Obelisk.  From the Shadowed Valley they followed their road back to Drop-off Tower where they rested and split the loot they recovered from the Shadowed Obelisk.

*End of Session*

[This adventure locale used the Moebius Dungeon from Tower of the Archmage fitted into my Pathfinder campaign.]

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Dyson’s Delve – Session 4 – Super Rat Gets Creeped Out

This session happened Wednesday, December 8, 2010.  This campaign uses the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game.  We are using the Pathfinder RPG, so some adjustments were made (or so I’ve been told).  This was a short game as I was late in arriving.

Adventuring Group:
Harkaitz of the Red Soul, Cleric of Ra (male human cleric)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (female human fighter)
Luna (female elf sorcerer)
“Electric” Frankie Hu (male dwarf monk)

SPOILER ALERT: If You Might Play Through Dyson's Delve, Stop Reading

After taking time to sell off the goblin gear to the village trader, assess the value of collected treasure, and purchasing some additional gear (oil flasks, manacles, and some healing potions - NOT a list of related items), the group of adventurers now known as Super Rat (at least to their enemies) returned to the Delve.  The group’s goal was to root out any further goblins in the dungeon and make the village safe.

Consulting their maps, the adventurer’s decided to descend the stairs nearest the entrance to the dungeon.  This led to a small set of caves.  At the bottom of the stairs was a pile of dead rats, partially eaten and the group anticipated goblins with their giant ferret pets.  The passage forked almost immediately, one 5-foot wide passage and another, narrower one.  Frankie explored the wider passage and found a nest of rats, which immediately attacked.  After Luna used burning hands to kill most of the giant rats [doing more damage in one casting than Harkaitz in three], the rest of the rats were quickly dispatched.

The rat’s nest was a dead end, so the adventurers moved to squeeze through the narrower passage.  On the other side, Frankie found a ghoul which attacked him.  A short fight happened, with Harkaitz greatly weakening the ghoul with a wave of channeled positive energy.  After that, Frankie killed the monster.  In a side cave, the adventurers found the ghoul's larder and some stairs down.

The ghoul encounter gave the adventurers pause.  The only other stairs down the group had discovered was in a temple like area with goblin bodies spiked to the pillars supporting the roof.  This set of stairs down was guarded by a ghoul, which seemed unlikely to be allied with the goblins.  What was going on further down in the Delve?

Following the stairs down previously guarded by the ghoul, the adventurers found another cave.  Frankie edged forward quietly, but halfway across snapped a tripline, which dropped a rock from the ceiling upon him.  Luckily, his monk training provided the reflexes to avoid the worst of the trap and he took minimal damage.  [Actually, he blew his Reflex roll, but the DM only rolled one point of damage, so there you go.]  Deciding it was time for a professional to take over, Frankie called on Wednesday to take the front.  Harkaitz moved forward as well, providing light with the sunrod mounted in his shield.

Wednesday probed further into the cave, around a corner, where she found stairs down deeper into the earth…and another tripline, which dropped a boulder on her, crushing a shoulder.  Harkaitz quickly provided healing.  Tucked in a shadowed alcove in the cave (now illuminated), humanoid bodies were discovered on the floor and another passage was found in the back of the alcove.  Harkaitz stepped forward to investigate the bodies and try to determine what killed them when the bodies suddenly animated and attacked – they were actually zombies!  Harkaitz again channeled the positive energy of Ra, gravely injuring the zombies, allowing the other adventurers to quickly put them down (again).

While catching their breath, the adventurers decided that the zombies and the traps were guarding the stairs down.  This meant that there were likely no more goblins down this way, but something the goblins seemed to have feared.  After some discussion, it was decided to explore further on this level before heading down deeper.

The passage at the back of the alcove lead to another cavern which seemed to be a catacomb.  On the floor were three ghouls, obviously destroyed by unknown weapons.  Harkaitz performed rites over the ghouls bodies to keep them from rising while the other adventurers searched the area for treasure, discovering a goodly number of gold coins.  With obviously dangerous unknowns ahead, the group reorganized its marching order, putting Sahar and Harkaitz in the front to fend off any attacks.

Slowly advancing through the catacombs, the adventurers arrived at a door.  Beyond the door were stone crypts, covered in finished stone, and a breeze of charnel air.  Advancing slowly, rapping on sarcophagi to see if anything is moving inside, the party found steps down to a slightly lower chamber, the apparent source of the breeze.  In that chamber, the adventurers found the opening to a small airshaft and a flight of stirges.  Both Harkaitz and Sahar were drained of large amounts of blood during the fight, but the adventurers eventually won the fight.

With their stoutest members weakened from the blood loss and healing magic starting to run low, the adventurers decided to return to the surface and then the village.  A pair of ghouls attempted to stop the adventurers in the zombie room, but the adventurers weren’t having any and took them down quickly – Sahar’s sword arm was still deadly in combat.  After the ghouls, the way back to the surface was clear of enemies.

Back in town, the adventurers checked in with the sheriff to see if anything had been learned from the previous captives.  As it turned out, no one in town could speak the goblin tongue and the goblins could not speak the common tongue of man.  Frankie and Wednesday volunteered to help the sheriff question the goblins.  Harkaitz, with a constitution weakened by the stirges, decided to return to the inn and sleep, putting off learning what the goblins knew until the morrow, when he could seek Ra’s help in restoring Sahar and himself to full health.

*End of Session*

[I had to leave as it was a work night, but the others continued on with the questioning of the goblins.  I’ll report what they learned at the beginning of the next adventure log.  Additionally, the client site changed something in their filtering software and I can no longer make updates during the day.  As such, the next couple of updates will either post early in the morning on Tuesday or Thursday (if I have time to write them the night before) or in the evening.  My apologies about that.]

Friday, December 10, 2010

Some Comments on the Shadowed Obelisk

The Shadowed Obelisk breaks one of the basic tenants of a West Marches campaign: At the end of each session, the PCs must be back in town.

The most obvious reason for this is that it keeps PCs from being "locked" in an adventure and unable to be played if last week the assembled players didn't finish the adventure.  As this week is likely to have completely different players or one (or more of) the players available last week is not available this week (or for longer), PCs out in a dungeon are in limbo that is fairly disrupting.  Not only can those players not play those characters, but other characters wanting to explore that location are either kept from doing so or strange continuity issues can crop up when the first group finally resumes the adventure.

There is also a more subtle reason for this tenant: players might be in a different mind-set later and want to do a different style of adventure session.  By having each session end back in town (or an accepted waystation), the players can choose adventure locales that match what they want to do that night.  Rough week at work and want to blow off some steam smacking down monsters?  Let's go to the Terrace of Fallen Horses and beat down some undead.  More interested in exploring?  The Underfortress still has plenty of space still unexplored and you can go as deep as you want and then leave.

The Shadowed Obelisk locks the PCs into the location until they find the way out.  At the current rate, this will take another session or two, depending upon how unlucky the players are.  One of the players available in Part 1 was not available for Part 2 (due to his wife's birthday) and another vice verso (he runs a Shadowrun game every other week at the local college gaming group meeting).  Due to the nature of the twisted time and space of the Shadowed Obelisk, I was able to hand wave the character switch and still keep it internally logical, but in, say, the Underfortress, where normal fantasy reality applies, it wouldn't work without a major drop in suspension of disbelief.

It is also depriving the players of choice in what they want to do for the session, something vital to any campaign, especially to a West Marches style campaign.  My players have been significantly more proactive in this campaign as opposed to my Naze Valley Rangers campaign, where I tend to provide them with adventure hooks and see what they do with them.  I like the sandbox proactiveness and want it in more campaigns.  Not allowing multiple sessions in a single location erodes that and I don't like it.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

SR29: The Shadowed Obelisk – Part 2

This session happened Friday, December 3, 2010, and was the only session I ran this past weekend. This session was a bit off for a couple of reasons (the players wanted to kill things and the session turned out to be mostly exploration) and I learned why continuing an adventure locale beyond a single session is sub-optimal. I’ll write on that later.

Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
Mog the Doomed (half-orc barbarian)
Tycho von Helmont (elf alchemist)
Agnes Sunbeard (dwarf rogue)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)
– Kainen (Thorngrim’s human fighter cohort)
– Jack (human Ftr/Clc NPC)

Note: the list of player characters is in player sitting order, from my left and then clockwise around the table.

[Recap: Deciding to investigate Three Peaks, the adventurers cleared a road there from Drop-off Tower. In a deep valley between the three mountains, the adventurers discovered The Shadowed Obelisk. Cautiously entering the Obelisk, the adventurers were trapped inside when the entrance magically sealed over. Forced to find another way out, the adventurers explored the larger-inside-than-outside interior of the Obelisk. Near the end of the session, they found a human adventurer that seemed to remember them from 20 years ago and blamed them for abandoning him.]

When the adventurers awoke in the morning, they discovered Sal was missing, but in his place, Mog had appeared. Mog explained that he had followed the new road to the Shadowed Obelisk, arriving at dusk. He had entered the Obelisk for shelter during the night and become trapped when the entry stairs were magically blocked off. He fell asleep for the night and awoke in this room with no idea how he got here.

After questioning Mog a bit, the adventurers turned to questioning Jack in more detail. This lasted a while, but the adventurers were no closer to an answer as to how Jack could know them from 20 years ago when they had just entered the Obelisk the previous day. In fact, several of the adventurers would have been children or not yet born 20 years ago. Jack also seemed to have remembered exactly how angry he was with the adventurers for abandoning him long ago.

Reaching an impasse with Jack, the adventurers decided to investigate the “lecturing mummy” and his “audience” of ghouls and wights. Decamping from the Sky Room, the party backtracked around through the Music Room to the lower room that provided access to the Audience Chamber. Tycho turned himself invisible and slipped into the Audience Chamber to investigate further. The ghouls and wights took no notice of him, so he moved up onto the stage to see what the mummy was writing on the chalkboard. The chalkboard was covered with multiple layers of mathematical and necromantic formulae. Tycho took notes. He then explored further, finding two more doors out of the area, one on the far side of the stage and one on the far side of the Audience Chamber. He then returned to where the other adventurers were waiting and reported what he found.

Not wanting to leave powerful undead behind [and spoiling for a fight], the adventurers prepared to attack the ghouls, the wights, and the mummy. Once the adventurers were ready, the door to the Audience Chamber was opened and Su Bel launched a fireball into the room, incinerating all of the ghouls and wights. Tycho (up in the Music Room, adjacent to the Lecture Stage, opened the door connecting those two rooms and lobbed an explosive flask at the mummy. The mummy attempted to flee, but it was slow [20 ft move] and fell to a set of combined attacks from the adventurers.

After securing what loot they could find in the two rooms (mostly a magic kopesh one of the ghouls was carrying), the group exited through the far door on the stage. This led to an empty room with exits north and south. Choosing south, the party entered an octagonal room with a spiral staircase in the center that went both up and down. There was a descending passage to the south and a door connecting the Octagonal Room to the Audience Chamber (through the far door in the audience chamber). Continuing south, they stopped at the entrance to a chamber covered in broken glass – the floor, the walls, even the ceiling. After much discussion [much!], Mog attempted to tear the door off its hinges to use as a scraper. He struggled at this for some time, during which Tycho and Su Bel backtracked around through the initial entry room and down the southern passage they had peeked down, arriving at the eastern entrance to the Glass Room.

By this point, Mog had finally worked himself into a sufficient effort to tear the northern door off its hinges and proceeded to scrape a path through the broken glass to the western door, where Tycho and Su Bel waited. There was much rolling of the eyes.

It was also noticed at this point that Jack was no longer with the group. No one could remember when he disappeared, but they were fairly certain it was after the attack on the undead was over.

The group next headed south through an unexplored hallway, arriving at room full of junk and refuse. Here they were attacked by giant flies. Mog charged the flies to give them a target and, once the flies surrounded Mog, Tycho threw an acid bomb to kill them [excluding Mog’s square from the effect]. The only exit from this chamber was west and the adventurers followed that path.

The adventurers passed through a series of mostly empty chambers before arriving at a dead end. Agnes thoroughly checked the end of the corridor and realized that there was a room on the other side of the wall. Mog stepped forward with a mining pick and proceeded to knock down the wall separating the two areas. From here they continued west, pausing once to check out a circular room with a serpent motif, right down to the giant serpent that attacked them, but was defeated. [It was an Ouroboros in the original text and I did not have stats for one, so I subbed a giant moray eel instead. It was a danger until Su Bel cast freedom of movement (or whatever the spell name is) on Mog and then it was all over for the snake.]

After the serpent sidetrack, the group continued exploring west until they passed through a secret door and re-entered the junk room with the bodies of the giant flies. By passing continually in one (general) direction, they had looped back to a recognized starting point.  Very odd.

Backtracking to an opportunity to head south, the adventurers explored a series of rooms off a long, bending corridor. They met a mysterious hooded woman carving short statues out of stone and talked with her a while. They learned her name was Anise and that she had been down here long enough to learn stone carving and get good at it. She would not leave her room, but expressed an interest if the adventurers found a way out of the Obelisk.

The party pushed on, finding a secret passage between Anise’s room and an adjacent one. Unfortunately, the passage was trapped and as soon as the door at the far end was touched, the last ten feet of hall way dropped into a room 20 ft below. Tycho, Thorngrim, and Kainen fell, taking damage and discovering a new room in a lower level of the Obelisk. Rather than explore further, the group decided to fall back to an empty room nearby to rest and heal.

*End of Session*

[Readers of other blogs might recognize this locale. I’ll properly credit it once the players escape and I don’t have to worry about them reading up on the place. This locale will be at variance with the rest of the adventure locales as the players will remain here until they can find the key to exiting (hint, hint).]

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Seal for Super Rat

Fiddling around at Official Seal Generator and came up with this:

Thoughts? Critiques?

Blurb for the New Readers

I've had a recent spike in viewers thanks to Dyson over at A character for every game linking to my Dyson's Delve adventure logs.  As a result, I'd thought I'd give a quick rundown on the campaigns chronicled here.

Active Campaigns:
Southern Reaches
This is a sandbox fantasy game based on the West Marches campaign style.  I am the DM for this game and it has run 29 sessions at mostly one game a week, played on Friday evenings.  We are using the Pathfinder RPG, but I'm applying a lot of old school ideas to the campaign.  I've been very happy with the results.

Dyson's Delve
This is a basic dungeon crawl using Dyson's Delve.  This is a training game for a brand new DM and most of the players started playing tabletop RPGs in this campaign or the previous one, Verden (see below).  I like the game and the dungeon, but I'm still trying to feel out my character, Harkaitz of the Red Soul.  This game runs Wednesday evenings.

Defunct games:
The Found World
This was a short-lived D&D 4E campaign I originally started this blog to document.  I was the DM and one of the dominant characters was a female bugbear warrior.  That and an off hand comment by Zak Sabbath on his blog, Playing D&D with Porn Stars, led to the naming of this blog.  The game ended when I could not get enough regular players to run a 4E game.  I could get players for the Pathfinder RPG and switched to that, starting the Southern Reaches campaign, listed above.

This was a slightly different sandbox game set a thousand years after the cataclysmic ending of the Necromancer Wars.  The players were a group locked outside the city of Verden for three months amongst the ruins and war-debris left behind by the Necromancer Wars.  The campaign ended abruptly when the DM got a better job in a different state.  This was a fun game where I was a player.  I miss it.

That's about it for now.  I'm also mulling over a Traveller game.  It doesn't have a name yet and I'm not even certain who I'd run it for, but I like the idea of it and will occasionally "talk out loud" about it here as I develop it.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Dyson’s Delve – Session 3 – In Which the Party Is Named

This session happened Wednesday, December 1, 2010. This campaign uses the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game. We are using the Pathfinder RPG, so some adjustments were made (or so I’ve been told).

Adventuring Group:
Harkaitz of the Red Soul, Cleric of Ra (male human cleric, Fire and Sun domains)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (female human fighter)
Luna (female elf sorcerer, draconic bloodline)
“Electric” Frankie Hu (male dwarf monk)

SPOILER ALERT: If You Might Play Through Dyson's Delve, Stop Reading

Going through the spoils of their last run through Dyson’s Delve, the adventurers were joined by Luna, and elven sorceress with a knack for identifying magic items and an interest in adventuring. Realizing an actual arcane caster would be useful and was needed, she was readily accepted into the adventuring band. After selling off goblin gear and trading the gold scrapped from the zombie sarcophagus for two potions of cure moderate wounds, the adventurers set off from Aldelle to the dungeon.

At the cave entrance to the dungeon, the adventurers found a small sign, written in goblin. It stated, “Super rat not allowed – Go Away.” This nonplussed the adventurers, who realized that Frankie’s “Super rat was here” graffiti in the goblin bar had been taken seriously. There was talk about defacing the sign, but Harkaitz advocated waiting until the group was leaving to avoid tipping off any goblin patrols to the group’s presence.

The adventurers made their way through the caves to the finished hallways in the back (stopping only momentarily to kill some fire beetles on the way) and found two goblin guards at the back stairs down, deep in an argument as to whether or not “Super Rat” really existed. Frankie instigated a fight with the battle cry “Super Rat is here!” Luckily, the short fight drew no goblin patrols.

Heading down the stairs, the adventurers discovered that the goblin bar was now closed and Frankie’s graffiti marred. He updated it by adding “Super rat is angry!” and then the group moved on. At a T-intersection, the group found a room to the left blocked off and likely containing fire beetles. The group decided to leave that room alone and try the right passage, stumbling upon a goblin watchpost with four goblins. This fight was tense as the goblins started out flanking Wednesday (who had been in the lead), but Luna’s magic missiles and Sahar’s swordwork turned the tide. Frankie wrote “Four more for Super Rat” on the walls to taunt the goblins further.

Following a winding hallway at another T-intersection, the adventurers found a large room with pillars and stairs down to the next level of the dungeon. The pillars were carved to have bone-looking spikes sticking out of them and on the spikes were several goblin skeletons. This was puzzling to the adventurers who could make nothing of it.

Retracing their path and taking a different hallway, the adventurers found a locked door, with the locking mechanism on this side of the door. After Wednesday unlocked the door, Sahar and Harkaitz stepped up to face whatever was on the other side. Sahar kicked the door open and received a Molotov cocktail to the face for her troubles. The burning oil splashed onto Harkaitz as well, lighting both adventurers ablaze! Inside the room was an old goblin barricaded behind a turned over desk with a torch and a ready supply of oil flasks. Sahar and Harkaitz pushed forward to kill the goblin, Sahar doing so with a critical blow (after Harkaitz rolled near minimal with his burning hands spell, again). Sahar quickly put out the fire on her, but Harkaitz needed help from Wednesday and Frankie. Harkaitz then channeled the positive energy of Ra to heal both Sahar and himself of their wounds (and avoid any scarring from the burns). The only things of note in the room were the four remaining flasks of oil, which Harkaitz took and placed in a belt pouch. These would turn out to be critical later. Frankie took the time to write “Now Super Rat has fire” on the wall.

Following a different hallway, the adventurers found another barracks, this time with four goblins and two hobgoblins. After a tough fight, the adventurers finally killed their opponents and happily found that only Sahar was hurt. Harkaitz healed her back to full health before the group pushed on.

The next hallway ended in two doors. Sahar kicked open the door and the party discovered four grizzled hobgoblins – the hobgoblin leader and three bodyguards. At first the adventurers were confident, having bottlenecked the fight so only one hobgoblin could reach Sahar at a time and the adventurers could used ranged attacks (notably Luna’s magic missiles) against the other hobgoblins.

Then the second door opened and two more hobgoblins appeared directly next to Sahar!

The adventurers staged a fighting retreat back to the barracks while the hobgoblins fired arrows into them. At one point the hobgoblin leader berated his troops by shouting out “You fools! Kill them!” to which Frankie quickly replied, “We’re trying!” When the adventurers were finally out of the hallway, Harkaitz told Frankie and Wednesday that the oil flasks were in his belt pouch and then threw one of the flasks into the mass of hobgoblins in the hallway. Wednesday followed suit, lightly pulling one of the flasks from Harkaitz’s belt pouch and dowsing the rest of the hobgoblins in oil. After taking a nearly fatal arrow from the hobgoblin archer [a critical hit for heavy damage], Harkaitz realized he could no longer wait for Frankie to throw more oil and he launched a flame bolt spell at the hobgoblin archer, incinerating the creature [with a near maximum damage critical hit] and lighting all the rest of the hobgoblins aflame [again doing near maximum damage].

The hobgoblins were able to put themselves out quickly and surged into the barracks, attempting to slay Harkaitz. While nearly successful, this push into the room allowed ALL of the adventures to attack and the hobgoblins, greatly weakened by the fire damage, went down quickly to the assault. One of the last hobgoblins to be defeated was the hobgoblin leader, who Frankie subdued, rather than kill. Frankie tied up the hobgoblin while Harkaitz used one of the cure moderate wounds potions to heal himself and a cure light wounds potion to heal Sahar. [Harkaitz was out of 1st level spells at this point and down to a single use of channel positive energy.]

After waiting for the burning oil to expend itself, the adventurers took a quick survey of the two rooms the hobgoblins had been occupying. They found some gear and maps of Aldelle, marked to show defensive weaknesses and planned routes of attacks. The adventurers scooped up the map and decided it was time to get back to town with what the map and the hobgoblin leader.

On the way out, the fire beetle room was dealt with (the last two bottles of oil and another fire bolt spell killed all seven fire beetles) and a final patrol goblin was captured (he saw the adventurers had his boss tied up and he just gave up). On the way out of the dungeon, Harkaitz stopped at the cave mouth and burned the goblin-made sign, indicating what “Super Rat” thought of the goblin warnings. The adventurers then returned to Aldelle and turned their captives and the map over to the sheriff.

*End of Session*

[As a side note, the adventurers made 3rd level at the end of this session, using the Rapid Progress column of the Pathfinder Experience Table. And yes, it does appear that the adventuring group has been named "Super Rat".  Or at least that is how our enemies know us.]

Adventure Log to Follow

We played in Dyson's Delve again Wednesday night and had great fun.  We picked up a new player and she chose to run a sorceress, finally providing a somewhat balanced party.  She is also new to table top RPGs, having only done Steampunk LARPs previously, but she fit in well with the group and started picking up the basics well.  Welcome aboard, K.!

I should have time around lunch to type up at least part one of the adventure log if not the whole thing.  During this session I was reminded why adventurers in the past always carried a couple vials of oil with them.  Two words: hobgoblin BBQ.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thinking about the Next Campaign: Traveller Option

I’ve been giving more thought to what I’m going to run after Southern Reaches gets to a stopping point. By “stopping point” I’m thinking somewhere between levels 12 and 15. I haven’t set a fixed point yet, but it will be somewhere in that area, which means next summer at the earliest.

I’m of two minds as to which way to go. I have two general options in mind: 1) retire the current PCs, scroll time forward 10-20 years (possibly more), update and revise the map of the area, and restart with new PCs; or 2) Try a sandbox science fiction game, probably using Traveller (the current Mongoose Publishing version). In this posting, I’m going to discuss the Traveller option.

I’ve been (slowly) reading through the rule book for Traveller as I’ve had some time to do so and I’m liking what I see. The rules are fairly light, which should help getting my gaming group to accept them. Not that they care for rules-light over rules-heavy (most of them actually prefer the HERO System), it’s just requires less time investment to learn the rules. I like the skill system, which assumes that if you have the skill at all, you are automatically successful at normal skill use, unless under pressure or things are dangerous. So with Pilot-0 (lowest level of the Pilot skill), a character can fly a starship from one system to another and land without needing to roll any dice. Now if the starport is under attack or you have to dodge through an asteroid field while being chased by hostile craft, then the dice are needed. I like skills and my characters usually have tons of them, so I appreciate an elegant set of skill rules and Traveller has them.

The only thing I’m uncertain of about the Traveller rules is adding alien races. The standard milieu for Traveller is the Third Imperium and I don’t plan on using that at all. I want to add D&D races as the aliens, mostly as a form of short-hand for alien cultures. I like the idea of techie kobolds, high gravity world dwarves, and low gravity world elves (although I might jettison elves – haven’t decided yet). With Traveller being humano-centric almost to exclusivity, this means some additional work on my part to get more alien races, especially if I want them available for player access at the start of the campaign. Speaking of which…

The idea behind the campaign is exploring 2-3 generations (maybe more – I haven’t decided that yet either) after interstellar society collapsed due to a big, messy war. One of the final stages would have been attacks on knowledge in the form of incredibly virulent and semi-sentient computer viruses that trashed both general knowledge and engineering archives. Coupled with devastating planetary bombardments targeting manufacturing capacity and highly destructive space battles between ships and planets became isolated from each other with limited ability to rebuild. Worlds that were not self-sufficient experienced drastic drops in populations from famine, plague, or the failure of life support systems in hostile environments. Many self-sufficient worlds had to deal with political anarchy as communication and power systems crashed and failed.

Not all data/knowledge was lost. Isolated systems that were kept isolated were immune to the virus attacks and copies of information on removable storage media were safe. Once infected systems were isolated and purged, knowledge could be pooled again, but what was left was spotty and often incomplete, particularly in the area of starship construction and systems. Surviving engineers and scientists piece together what they can and start experimenting to rediscover the missing information while society is rebuilt on a planetary scale.

Time passed and nothing was heard from the dark. There was no word on which worlds might or might not have survived the war.

The players represent a small group from a world that once manufactured (and stored) luxury starships as its primary trade. This means that when their world was able to recover, there were many dead starships available, both on the planet and “parked” (or abandoned) in the system. Laws were in place that allowed anyone who could secure a ship, purge its databanks, and get it running again could claim the ship as their own. The player characters are a group that did so, but at great cost. Armed with an old copy of a star map, a (mostly) functional ship, and a heavy debt load, the characters are ready to set out and (hopefully) find their fortunes.

That's my basic idea for a Traveller campaign.  It contains the exploratory aspect I like from a West Marches-style campaign and uses a game system that supports this style of play without having to create a bunch of rules sub-systems.

Dyson’s Delve – Session 2, Part 2

This session happened Wednesday, November 17, 2010. This is a new campaign being run by a first time DM. He is using the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game. We are using the Pathfinder RPG, so some adjustments were made (or so I’ve been told).

Adventuring Group:
Harkaitz of the Red Soul, Cleric of Ra (male human cleric, Fire and Sun domains))
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (human fighter)
“Electric” Frankie Hu (male dwarf monk)

SPOILER ALERT: If You Might Play Through Dyson's Delve, Stop Reading

[Recap: After warning the village of Aldelle of possible goblin attack, the adventurers returned to the dungeon of Dyson’s Delve to fend of the goblins. After re-securing some rooms, the adventurers pressed into a boarded off area, discovering crypts with restless dead. This adventure log picks up after the adventurers defeat a zombie in a sarcophagus.]

After destroying the zombie, Harkaitz cast detect magic and found that the longsword the zombie had was magical [+1]. As Sahar, the newest member of the adventuring group, was the only one using a longsword, the magical one went to her. Not wanting to lug the heavy gold lid around with them, the adventurers left it here with plans to return once they finished exploring for the day.

Leaving a sealed of crypt alone at Harkaitz's request (plus, no sounds of movement beyond the crypt door), the adventurers headed north. Following a short hallway, the adventurers found a chamber containing a shrine and an empty water basin. After some investigation it was determined that pouring water into the basin turned the plain water into holy water. This was done with one of the adventurers waterskins and held for later use.

The Water Shrine room ended at the second boarded door (the one the adventurers had not unboarded), and so the adventures turned back and retraced their steps. The adventurers removed the gold lid from the zombie’s sarcophagus and pried the gold trip from the sides and took it all with them. The gold lid and scraped gold was set down at the door to the crypts the adventurers had entered and that door was closed and boarded back up. The adventurers wanted to explore down a nearby set of stairs with being encumbered, but also did not want any goblins wandering by to make off with their treasure.

Once that was done, the adventurers started heading down the stairs, only to be confronted with a pack of giant rats! Harkaitz used his burning hands spell, but again failed to kill any of the rats [rolled 2 points of damage on 2d4]. The fight was, however, brief due to Harkaitz weakening the rats. It was also loud enough to draw a goblin patrol from the lower levels, a patrol the adventurers met on the stairs. The goblins had giant ferrets as attack animals and the fight was a bit tense due to the confined quarters, but the adventurers won and healing magic was used.

Harkaitz had cast a bless during the fight and, not wanting to lose any use out of the blessings of Ra, the group pushed on quickly, looking for a fight. They found a goblin rest area/tavern where five goblins were sitting at tables drinking with a hobgoblin bartender. After a brief pause wherein both sides started at each other, the adventurers attacked, initiating a long brawl. The adventurers killed the goblins (eventually) and subdued the hobgoblin bartender, who they tied up.

Low on hit points and mostly out of healing magic, the band of adventurers decided to return to Aldelle with their new captive. Stopping only long enough to reacquire the gold stashed in the crypts (and reseal the door again), the adventurers headed towards the exit of the dungeon. They reached the cave just inside the entrance when another goblin and giant ferret patrol appeared from the other set of stairs down. After a short and desperate fight, the adventurers won and escaped back to Aldelle.

Back at town, the hobgoblin bartender was turned over to the sheriff for questioning and the adventurers retired to the inn for rest.

*End of Session*

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dyson’s Delve – Session 2, Part 1

This session happened Wednesday, November 17, 2010.  This is a new campaign being run by a first time DM.  He is using the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game.  We are using the Pathfinder RPG, so some adjustments were made (or so I’ve been told).  This is Part 1 of this session, Part 2 will follow, once I have less friends and family around.
Adventuring Group:
Harkaitz of the Red Soul, Cleric of Ra (male human cleric, Fire and Sun domains))
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (human fighter)
“Electric” Frankie Hu (male dwarf monk)

SPOILER ALERT - If You Might Play Through Dyson's Delve, Stop Reading.

Having warned the sheriff of Aldelle of the goblins massing in Dyson's Delve (and spending a day healing), the trio of adventurers prepared to return to the nearby dungeon.  As they were leaving the village, they were joined by a human woman named Sahar, who appeared to be handy with a sword and armor.  Now knowing exactly where the dungeon is located, it only took a half day of marching to arrive at the cave entrance.

Wanting to verify the areas that Harkaitz, Wednesday, and Frankie had cleared were still clear, the group carefully but quickly retraced their path of exploration.  They found a new batch of fire beetles in the twisty passage.  There was some short discussion about fighting or passing the beetles by, but Harkaitz ended that discussion with a swift swing of his Morningstar, squashing one of the beetles flat (and getting some of the glow juices on his boots).  After a short scuffle, the rest of the beetles were eliminated.

The group then moved through the goblin guard post, noting that the bodies of the two goblins slain there were gone.  They heard the low sound of goblin-speak from down the hall and cautiously made their way to the goblin barracks.  There they found two live goblins fixing up the place and discussing what killed the previous occupants.  The goblins cut off their conversation, having noticed the adventurers and charged Wednesday, who had been scouting the way.  Wednesday was forced to fall back to the goblin guard room where the adventurers formed a line and fought and killed the goblins.

After that, the adventurers verified the goblin champion's room was still empty and retraced their steps.  They decided to finish investigating the area on Old Man Tim's map before taking any of the stairs up or down.  Going right from the door from the fire beetles, they found the remaining section of the map blocked off.  The two doors leading to this area were boarded shut and had a goblin-shaped skull painted on them.  According to Old Man Tim's map, the two doors linked up through the boarded off area, so the adventurers selected the farther door and pried the boards off.

The areas beyond were burial chambers of various sorts.  The first area contained a sarcophagus and wall paintings.  The paintings showed the life of the person in the sarcophagus, a priest of some sort.  Harkaitz strongly advocated leaving this sarcophagus alone.  Wednesday knocked on it but, receiving no response, agreed and the group pressed on.  A door to the south opened on a crypt full of animated skeletons!  Harkaitz called upon the holy power of Ra and channeled a burst of positive energy, blasting all of the skeletons to dust.  Harkaitz performed a short blessing to purify the crypt and the door was closed.

The next chamber housed a gold-plated sarcophagus.  When Wednesday knocked on it, something inside started making noise.  The sarcophagus was opened and a zombie tried to get out.  Harkaitz once again called upon the power of Ra, but the zombie was of sterner stuff than the skeletons and was not completely blasted by the holy light.  Sahar started slamming the lid on the zombie and Frankie unleashed a flurry of blows that finally destroyed it.

*End Part 1*

Monday, November 22, 2010

Dyson’s Delve – Session 1

This session happened Wednesday, November 10, 2010. This is a new campaign being run by a first time DM. He is using the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game. We are using the Pathfinder RPG, so some adjustments were made (or so I’ve been told).

Adventuring Group:
Harkaitz of the Red Soul (male human cleric of Ra, Fire and Sun domains)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
“Electric” Frankie Hu (male dwarf monk)

The village of Aldelle was a pleasant place to live. A farming community, it received some periodic trade in the form of travelling merchants. Recently, the merchants have started disappearing and rumors of bandits or worse started spreading. The village elders called a meeting and asked for volunteers to track down the source of these troubles. Three nascent adventurers were volunteered: Harkaitz of the Red Soul (a blustery muscular follower of Ra the Sun God), Wednesday (a quiet elven woman with an excellent eye), and “Electric” Frankie Hu (a nimble dwarf with something to prove).

After searching the area where the disappearances have happened, the trio ran across Old Man Tim (also known as “Tim the Quest Giver”), an itinerant beggar and wanderer. He claimed to have seen some forms making their way to the nearby cliffs and followed them. He saw them drop something on the path to a nearby cave. When he opened it, it appeared to be a map of the caves. Tim gave us the map and then headed back to the village to report what he’d seen to the sheriff. (Harkaitz is currently of the opinion that at some point, Tim will be found working for the raiders. Nothing definite, just a hunch.)

The trio followed Tim’s directions and found the cave in question. Frankie was sent in first, as he could see in the dark. He reported an empty cave with passages leading off, which matched the map Tim gave us. Searching around, Harkaitz found a goblin skull that rattled. He opened it with his morning star and found 12 silver coins. Frankie found some giant ferrets noisily eating something in an adjacent chamber and the trio picked a fight with the ferrets by Harkaitz firing a fire bolt at one of them. Bad positioning made this fight sketchy, but the trio eventually defeated the ferrets. After some healing, the trio investigated the side chamber and found that the ferrets had been eating on giant rats. Yuck.

Checking another side chamber, the trio found a dozen LIVE giant rats cowering. Harkaitz opened “negotiations” with a flaming hands spell that did minimal damage. The rats attacked. The trio fell back and used the narrow cavern entrance to bottleneck the rats and keep them from surrounding the adventurers. Even so, Wednesday took a nasty wound that looked infected [she contracted filth fever, but it wouldn’t manifest for a day]. Harkaitz healed the damage, but could do nothing about any potential disease.

Skipping a set of stairs leading further down, the trio instead followed their map to another set of rooms. Passing through the last of the natural passage, the trio was attacked by fire beetles (or Frankie attacked the beetles - it's hard to say any more). After a comedic series of fumbles (on both sides), the trio finally defeated the beetles. Carefully opening a door in the back of the cave, the trio found it did lead to a finished hallway as shown on Tim's map. Careful listening detected goblins shooting the breeze to the left. The trio stormed the room and killed the goblin guards almost immediately (Wednesday stabbing one through the heart).

Beyond the guard room was a goblin barracks with four sleeping goblins. Well, three sleeping goblins and one waking up, wondering why he could not hear the guards talking anymore. He awoke another goblin before Frankie charged the room. Frankie quickly killed one of the awake goblins as part of a flurry of blows, but missed the second goblin, who cried out in alarm. This woke the other two goblins and a fight ensued. Harkaitz killed one of the goblins while Frankie knocked out the goblin he originally missed and tied it up for later questioning. Harkaitz and Wednesday kept the fourth goblin busy until a goblin champion burst through the door in the back and joined into the fight. Wednesday was nearly killed (down to 2 hp) and Harkaitz was wounded before the remaining goblins were finally killed.

Quickly pushing through the door to check the room beyond for more combatants, Harkaitz found it to be the goblin champion's sleeping chambers and empty of goblins. The prisoner was dragged into this room with the goblin champions head set on his lap. Harkaitz healed the adventurers (but not completely as he ran out of healing magics) before he and Frankie revived and questioned the goblin. Wednesday searched the room during this time, finding a small coffer and not much else. Having a funny feeling about the coffer, she had Harkaitz open it. Harkaitz found it full of 5000 silver pieces, neatly stacked in rows. The goblin captive, meanwhile, claimed there were enough goblins here in the dungeon to completely destroy the village. This was serious news.

Wanting to get this information to the sheriff (and being completely out of healing magic while still down hit points), the trio of adventurers packed up the goblin champions very nice bed and retreated out of the dungeon, avoiding another pack of rats along the way. Back at Aldelle, they turned the goblin prisoner over to the sheriff and shared everything they had learned. After receiving 5 gold coins as a reward, the trio returned to their rooms at the inn to rest and recuperate.

The next day they sold off their goblin loot (shortswords, leather armors, and some shields) to the village trader for credit. The trader claimed he had something “real special” coming in that the adventurers would surely want. What the adventurers really wanted was the additional 25% value given for credit instead of coin.  Wednesday came down with filth fever, but quickly shrugged it off after some chicken soup and bedrest.

*End of Session*

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Shadowed Obelisk – Part 1

This session happened Friday, November 12, 2010, and was the only session I ran this past weekend.

Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
Tycho von Helmont (elf alchemist)
Agnes Sunbeard (dwarf rogue)
Sal Ty (elf wizard)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)
– Kainen (Thorngrim’s human fighter cohort)

Note: the list of player characters is in player sitting order, from my left and then clockwise around the table.

Seized with a new road-cutting fit, the adventurers decided to mark a road to Three Peaks, remembering that there was supposed to be something there, but not what. The left Drop-off Tower and followed Owlbear Road a couple hours east before diverting off to the southeast. After trailblazing into the Three Peaks Hills, the group camped, using an extended rope trick cast by Sal as a safe place of refuge [and missing a couple night time random encounters].

The next day they pushed on through the hills to the mountains of Three Peaks. They observed a deep canyon between the three titular mountains of the region, but were attacked by a flight of wyverns before achieving it. Thorngrim was poisoned during the fight and nearly died of the poison before the fight was over and Su Bel could cast lesser restoration on him. [At the end of the fight Thorngrim was down to 5 hit points due to Constitution loss and damage. Sorcerers can be SO fragile sometimes.]

The group pushed on a bit further, trying to get a look into the unusual canyon. At the deepest part of the canyon they spied the Shadowed Obelisk, a squat obelisk 50 ft square and 100 ft tall, covered in obscure pictoglyphs and with a large set of stone doors facing east. Sal found them reminiscent of the glyphs he translated on the Illustrated Menhir at Old Stones, but he was not able to read the pictoglyphs in any meaningful way. The group decided to camp before attempting to approach and enter the obelisk.

The next morning, the group approached the obelisk and Sal and Thorngrim cast detect magic. The Shadowed Obelisk radiated a major aura of conjuration magic and the two arcanists theorized that the inside might be larger than the outside. This intrigued the entire group.

Behind the stone doors was a very steep set of wide stairs leading up to a chamber. Thorngrim cast invisibility on Agnes and she silently climbed the stairs. Finding the room beyond empty except for two doors, one north and one south, she signaled it was safe for the rest to climb the stairs. As the last person cleared the stairs, a stone wall quietly appeared, sealing off access to the stairs!

Having no way back, the adventurers pushed forward. The southern door opened onto a hallway that quickly branched, while the north door opened onto a shorter hallway with doors. The group chose north and started checking doors. One door opened onto a small storage room that was empty, while the door across from it opened on a hexagonal room with a statue of a scholar holding a compass (for measuring angles) and an abacus. The angle on the compass was checked and found to be measuring 23 degrees and the abacus counter "23", both of which Tycho noted down. Not finding anything else of interest, the group continued to the final door at the end of the hall.

This opened onto a room with two doors out, one on the eastern wall and the further door up a flight of stairs. Checking the eastern door first, the found a flight of stairs behind it, hearing quiet sounds of creaking wood from above, as though one or more individuals were shifting in wooden chairs. Agnes quietly climbed the stairs to find 14 chairs with a mix of wights and ghouls sitting in them, facing a raised stage where a mummy was writing various formulae o a chalkboard. Seriously creeped out by this, Agnes retreated and closed the door behind her.

After some discussion, the door at the top of the stairs was tried next. This opened on a square room where sourceless chamber music could be heard. One of the doors out of this room seemed to lead to the raised stage where the mummy was writing on the chalkboard and the group decided they wanted nothing to do with that, so they tried the door in the western corner. This door lead to a hallway that wrapped around the back of the music room. This hallway had two doors – one midway and one at the end. The nearer door opened onto an empty room with an open hall leading further north, but the smell of bacon seemed to emanate from behind the second door.

Curious about the bacon smell, the group opened the door to find a small square room whose ceiling seemed to open on a clear night sky. In the room was a middle-aged man cooking some bacon on a skillet over a small heatstone [a magical device in the form of a stone that provides the same heat as a campfire when activated]. The man looked up and recognized the group by name, claiming to have adventured with them in these halls long ago. This confused the adventurers to no end as none of them had ever met this individual before. He seemed to believe that the adventurers had deserted him a long time ago and he seemed to blame them for it. As he did not seem overtly hostile, the adventurers settled in for a rest and fell to talking with the man, whose name was Jack.

*End of Session*

[Readers of other blogs might recognize this locale. I’ll properly credit it once the players escape and I don’t have to worry about them reading up on the place. This locale will be at variance with the rest of the adventure locales as the players will remain here until they can find the key to exiting (hint, hint). Additionally, due to visiting in-laws, Southern Reaches will not run the next two Fridays, resuming December 3rd. I will have postings between now and then, so please check back in between now and then. Thanks!]

EDIT: Corrected the text to note Tycho checked the angle of the compass and not Sal - my mistake.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Hot (and Cold) Time in Old Stones

This session happened Friday, November 6, 2010, and was the second of two sessions I ran that weekend.  My monthly Naze Valley Rangers game was called due to two players (a couple) being out (visiting family).  As I have a nearly complete overlap in players between the two groups now and the three players available were JUST shy of leveling, they asked to play Southern Reaches.  They almost regretted it.
Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
Mog the Doomed (half-orc barbarian)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)

Note: the list of player characters is in player sitting order, from my left and then clockwise around the table.
With most of the rest of the group busy with matters relating to running Drop-off Tower as a base of operations, Su Bel, Mog, and Thorngrim decided to take a road building expedition to Old Stones.  The trio headed south on Old Road, through the southern part of the Edgewood, then across the western tip of Three Peaks Hills, until finally arriving at the end of Old Road and the edge of the Sea of Grass.

The grass, having been heavily grazed on by the auroch herds during the winter, was still growing back and was now only four feet high, which aided their navigation efforts (after an initial wandering off course).  Along the way the trio noticed a dire lion stalking them and decided to fight it, feeling they were ready to take a dire lion on.  They were, but just barely.  Mog was close to death, fighting on through sheer half-orc stubbornness when he dealt a mortal blow to the dire lion.  It being near the end of the day, the trio decided to camp rather than push on and Thorngrim cast rope trick for a safe place to camp.  They had dire lion steaks for dinner.  Big ones.

The next morning the trio pushed on with their road making and arrived at Old Stones.  The locale was much the same from the last time Mog and Su Bel had seen it, almost exactly a year ago.  Two concentric rings of low stones (50 ft and 30 ft radii) surrounding a central grouping of three cyclopean stones set in a rough circle.  Thorngrim, not terribly impressed with a bunch of stones, decided to perform a bit of an experiment before the group left.  Setting up a rope inside the rough circle of cyclopean stones, he prepared to cast rope trick "to see what would happen".  Su Bel and Mog stepped waaay back (along with the two trained dogs), outside the first ring of smaller stones, and waited to see what happened.

Thorngrim cast his spell, setting off a globe of light that engulfed the innermost ring and then spread out to the first ring of smaller stones, blinding Mog and Su Bell.  When Mog and Su Bel could see again, Thorngrim had disappeared and there were lights arcing from the smaller stones like thin tongues of electricity.  They stepped forward to see what had happened to Thorngrim (dragging the dogs with them) and were transported elsewhere as soon as they crossed the line of smaller stones.

The new place the trio found themselves in was a small globe of ice and snow, approximately 50 ft in diameter.  All around them was multi-colored chaos and darkness.  In the distance they could see another globe made of basalt, rent in places by fiery fissures.  Between the world of ice and the world of fire was a smaller, grassy orb that orbited on circular a path between the first two worlds, approaching each closely, but never touching either.

Thorngrim tentatively identified the place they were in as the Elemental Chaos, an exceedingly dangerous area to be in unprepared.  Wanting to see what was below the orb they were standing on, Thorngrim had a rope tied to himself and stepped to the side of the globe.  Instead of needing the rope to avoid falling off the globe, he found he could walk normally along the curve of the orb, his feet always pointing towards the center.

At this point a medium ice elemental stalked over the far horizon of the ice globe, clearly hostile in intent.  The trio quickly closed ranks and defeated the elemental, but its appearance goaded them into looking for a way back home.  Su Bel's sharp eyes spotted the short end of the rope trick – on the fire globe.  Of course.

The trio realized the grassy orb approached within 15 ft of the orb they were on and Thorngrim theorized that if they jumped high enough when the grassy orb was close, they might fall to it rather than back onto the ice orb.  This idea was met with questioning looks, but the appearance of an elemental ice gibbering mouther motivated Su Bel and Mog to give it a try.  After defeating the elemental gibbering mouther, they attempted to jump to the orbiting world.  Thorngrim made the transition first, proving that it could be done.  While waiting for the grassy orb to cycle back again, Mog and Su Bel had to deal with an elemental giant centipede (which went down quickly).  After several fruitless attempts by Su Bel, Mog grabbed her and jumped across himself (Thorngrim's dog made the jump during the fight with the elemental centipede and Su Bel carried hers while Mog was carrying her).

On the far side of the orbit, Mog immediately jumped across to the basalt orb, carrying Su Bel (and her dog, Bala, too) across.  Thorngrim's dog also made the jump, but Thorngrim failed the timing and fell back to the grassy orb.  A large fire elemental burst out of one of the rifts on the basalt orb and stalked over to Su Bel and Mog.  This fight was more intense than previous combats, but still over quickly.  While waiting for Thorngrim to return in his orbit after another failed attempt, Su Bel and Mog were attacked by a group of three burning skeletons, quickly followed by an elemental iron golem, its metal form glowing around the edges from the heat contained inside. 

At this point Su Bel sent the dogs through the rope trick portal (the dogs were only too happy to leave this weird place) while Mog took two solid hits from the golem, one a critical hit.  Su Bel healed Mog of most of the damage with a cure serious wounds spell [empowered by her access to the healing domain], but the golem continued its attacks on Mog (establishing a pattern of hit, heal, hit).  Mog yelled at Su Bel to go through the portal, but she rejoined that he would die if she left, and Mog could not argue with that.  When Su Bel was out of cure serious wounds, she reverted to shield other, a potentially life-threatening choice.  The next set of hits from the iron golem [which included another critical hit] would have killed Mog if the damage had not been split between the two adventurers.  As it was, the half of the damage Su Bel took staggered her almost to unconsciousness [dropped her to zero hit points].

Using the last of her ability to channel positive energy for the day to heal herself and Mog a little further away from death, she apologized to him, stating she had to drop the connection between them.  Mog yelled at her to use the rope trick portal to escape while she still could.  Not wanting to leave her companions behind, she could not argue with Mog anymore on this point and staggered through the portal.  Mog bellowed to Thorngrim, still stuck on the grassy orb, that the golem was too strong to fight any further.  Thorngrim responded by casting invisibility on himself.  Mog took this as a sign and dove through the rope trick portal just ahead of the iron golem's next attacks.

The iron golem, no longer having targets to attack, headed off to see if any were hiding on the far side of the basalt orb.  This opened up an opportunity for Thorngrim to safely jump across between orbs, an opportunity that he was finally able to make.  Now on the basalt orb, Thorngrim scrambled through the rope trick portal, sprawling to the grass outside of the smaller stone circles at Old Stones.  He immediately canceled the rope trick spell, severing the link to the Elemental Chaos.

The trio, much the worse for the wear, quickly bound their wounds and marched an hour away from Old Stones to cast rope trick again and camp.  The next morning, Su Bel used most of her healing magics to restore herself and Mog to full health.  The trio then bid a hasty retreat along their new road, pushing on to Drop-off Tower by sunset.  Luckily they encountered nothing along the way home.

*End of Session*

[My thanks to Jerry Holkins (of Penny Arcade) for devising the locale for his 4E game and posting pictures of it and explaining it so I could shamelessly steal it for my campaign.  It was as cool as I hoped it would be and the players were awed by it.  Except for the part where they nearly all died.  THAT they weren't so keen on, but what are you going to do?]