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?]

Monday, November 15, 2010

Switching Pub Dates

As it has been obvious for the last several weeks, updates are not likely to actually appear on Mondays, this week being no exception.  Therefore, I'm switching to a Tuesday/Thursday schedule to see if that is more workable.
I currently have two Southern Reaches sessions to write-up and the first session of Dyson's Delve with our brand new DM (as in, never ran a game before).

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thoughts on the Next Campaign

With Southern Reaches moving along, I've started giving thought to what my next campaign will be like.  I've got two ideas:
  1. Updating the Table Map for the Southern Reaches and running the next generation of adventurers in the same area.
  2. Setting aside fantasy altogether and running a West Marches style science fiction game, likely using the Traveller rules (the current version from Mongoose).
Part of the intent behind Idea 1 is the incorporation of what I've learned running the Southern Reaches.  This would include adding additional towns and spreading civilization a bit further afield.  One of the issues I've found with the current set up is a lack of people for the PCs to talk to other than each other.  By scrolling time forward a decade or two I can add new settlements and make some other changes to the maps, like adding rivers in the Sea of Grass, something the current map distinctly lacks.  Rivers would allow exploring PCs to move farther faster as rivers provide ready-made "paths" to follow.

Idea 2 is something I've discussed with the Verden DM (Hello, Kyle!) - starting the PCs with a small ship on a frontier world with newly discovered (or RE-discovered) worlds as the adventure locales.  I have an idea where a couple hundred years prior to the campaign start a stellar empire collapsed under external and internal pressures.  Things are slowly being put back together again and the PCs would start out with an old starmap showing old trade/communication routes and world names.  The PCs would be explorer/traders, looking to find what is out there now and make a buck off of it, possible bringing lost worlds back into the fold or establishing new polities.  Or maybe looking for Old Tech to sell or use.  Still mulling this one over.

Current plans use the Traveller system, but I need to sit down and read it before making any decisions.  I might use a different system and just crib the Traveller spaceship tech, depend on how easy it is to add alien species.  I'm envisioning using D&D races as alien race templates and seeing what develops out of that.  The thought of space kobolds/goblins as ship technicians warms my heart a bit.  I'm slowly building a wiki of ideas and am contemplating calling the space campaign either "Fragments" (a new idea) or "Found Worlds" (recycling the name of my short 4E campaign).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Discovery of the Lake of Fire

This session happened Friday, November 5, 2010, and was one of two sessions I ran this past weekend. We had a new player join the group this session. He will only be available every other week due to Real Life, but he has played in many of my games so it’s nice to see him at the table again.

Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
Thomin (elf bard)
Tycho von Helmont (elf alchemist)
Agnes Sunbeard (dwarf rogue)
Sal Ty (elf wizard)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)

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

[Happening off-stage, Tycho was cured of his insanity by the arch-bishop who arrived at the Iron Keep before the spring equinox to bless the iron mines. The group also picked up an elven bard, seeking fame and fortune as an adventurer. After being cooped up at Drop-off Tower for two months, a new face was a definite plus and the group invited the bard to join them. Plus, they got to show off the improvements they had made to the Tower to someone new.]

After a lengthy discussion about where they wanted to adventure, the group of adventurers headed to the Eastern Edgewood, seeking to return to the ruined tower where they found the adamantine door. Approaching Owlbear Crossing, they found a patch of five assassin vines laying in ambuscade for creatures crossing the river. After the quick application of acid bombs and fireballs, the adventurers cleared the path and crossed the river.

They arrived at the ruined tower inside a ring of hills near the end of the day. They decided to spend a little more time exploring before making camp and tracked down the exposed stairs leading down under the pile of ruins. The three traps the group had encountered on their previous exploration had not been reset, which the adventurers took as a good sign.

Returning to the hallway intersection where the adamantine door once was, the adventurers found a dead morlock, huddled against a wall. Examining the body, they found claw marks, burns, and a large crushed area over the rib cage. Tycho opined that the claw marks could be those of an immense bat, but no one was certain what caused the ham-sized crushing blow to the morlocks chest. Looking around for tracks, it appeared that the morlock had gone up the stairs the adamantine door had blocked, received its wounds, and then crawled back down here, where it died.

Wary of what might be up the stairs, the group decided to investigate the other hallways and doors they could see first. Through one stone door they found what appeared to be a storage room for old dwarven furniture, stacked tall and covered with sheets. After searching the room, they discovered another door in a side wall. Agnes checked the door and discovered that, while it was unlocked, is was definitely trapped. She took some time (and received a guidance spell from Su Bel) and disabled the trap. Expecting some sort of treasure or items of importance behind the door, the adventures found instead a blank wall. After spending some time “shopping the room” for furniture they might want to take back to Drop-off Tower, the group moved on.

The next stone door they opened revealed a large room with a raised dais in one corner, a shallow pool of water on the opposite side of the room, and another door. Additionally, the floor was subtly sloped towards the pool. Having mapped the hallway on the opposite side (which did NOT contain a matching door), the adventurers were suspicious of the door. Mog went to throw a coin into the pool of water, but was stopped and advised to wait until Agnes had checked out the door. Sure enough, it was trapped with a cone of cold trap. After Agnes removed the trap (and packed it away for later use), the door was opened and revealed another blank wall.

Satisfied that the door was secure, Mog was allowed to throw a coin into the shallow pool. Nothing happened. Further investigation of the pool led to the finding of Mog’s coin and nothing else. The adventurers scratched their heads and moved on.

At an intersection they had a choice of paths to follow. The north passage ended with a side passage visible part way down, the west passage ended in a rough area of stone with a pulley anchored to the ceiling, and the south passage was interrupted by a portcullis. The group chose to go north first. The side passage led to a large set of stone spiral stairs heading down. Suspecting it led to the morlock tunnels, the adventurers chose to avoid the stairs at this time. As the corridor continued past the stairs another ten feet before dead-ending, Agnes decided to search the area. The end of the corridor was a large geometric sculpture carved into the wall. Agnes discovered that some of the components of the sculpture moved a bit and, after trying several combinations of movement, was able to open a secret door concealed in the sculpture. The door opened into a 20-foot square room with bunk-beds, a writing desk, some empty shelves, and a couple barrels. One of the barrels was empty while the other was half full of vinegar. The sheets on the beds were fragile from age and everything had a layer of dust on it. With no other exits, the party exited the concealed room and closed the secret door again.

The group next took the west passage and found it ended at a rough area that was the very top of some immense cavern. The heavy chain going over the pulley was taut, indicating a great weight rested on one end of the chain. The cavern was very tall and they could not see the bottom or what the chain was attached to. Shrugging, they turned back and investigated the southern passage. Beyond the portcullis they could see a shrine to a dwarven deity and side passages. The lifting mechanism for the portcullis was nowhere to be seen and the portcullis looked quite heavy. Tired now from their travels and exploration, the group returned to the concealed room and camped there for the night.

The next morning, with no other options (other than the morlock tunnels and they were not ready for that yet) and Mog and Su Bel actively suggesting the stairs up, the group returned the once secured stairs and started climbing them. They quickly determined that they should have risen above the level of the ruins and yet they were still inside with no sunlight visible. Turning a bend in the stairs, they could see light from what seemed to be a very large number of torches coming from the end of the stairs. Thorngrim cast invisibility on Agnes and she stealthily moved forward.

When she crossed onto the last ten feet of the stairs, the air temperature spiked suddenly upwards and she started sweating from the heat. When she reached the lip of the stairs she could see that the stairs opened onto a platform in the center of a lake of fire. The air was roiled by the heat and she could not tell how far away the walls were, but she could see two other platforms linked to this one by narrow pathways above the surface of the fire. On each platform was a giant with burning hair and beard standing in front of what appeared to be a spiral stair leading up. Where the stairs led was unclear due to the heat waves, but it seemed clear that there was something above this chamber. Agnes fell back to the rest of the adventurers to report what she had seen. When she was ten feet down the stairs, she passed the boundary of hot air and steped back into the cool air of the ruins (which now felt chilly). Wanting more magical support before attempting to take on the fire giants (read: they wanted Sal backing them up), the adventurers left the ruined tower and returned to Drop-off Tower.

*End of Session*

Monday, November 8, 2010

Monday Post Delayed

This weekend was rather busy, first with a monthly Saturday game and then all day Sunday with house cleaning prep for a monthly event at the house this coming Saturday.  As a result - not much writing done (read: none).

On the plus side, there will be two Southern Reaches this week as I ran two games of it - the regular one on Friday and a second game on Saturday when not all the players for the schedules Naze Valley Rangers game were able to make the game (due to visiting family).  I got to introduce/activate two new locales...but I'll talk about them in the actual posts.

I hope to have Friday's log written tonight and will post it tonight or tomorrow morning, depending upon when I get finished with it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pleased with the Players

So two sessions ago, I snagged the party wizard with a lesser geas. He was bid to “sacrifice a member of his party on the Blood Altar”. The player struggled mightily to find a way out of it, initially settling upon sacrificing the half-orc barbarian (the appropriately named “Mog the Doomed”). A few days before the game where the deed would happen, he realized he had another option and chose to sacrifice one of the trained dogs in the party rather than one of the player characters. Then he had to explain it all to the other characters in a way that would not leave him dead or expelled.

I will admit at this point that the geas was more or less done on the fly. I knew there was a shrine to the Forbidden God in the room and decided that the statue there was faceless. When Sal carefully stood at the doorway and cast detect magic to search the room for magic, I saw an opportunity and decided that this was the link the Forbidden God needed to gain purchase on a new mind. I pulled Sal’s player into another room and explained that nothing in the room was magical, but now he could see a face on the statue and it was looking directly at him. It then gave him the order in the geas and I had the player roll a Will save. He failed spectacularly.  Glee!

The player kept what had happened to himself and the other players did not nose in, despite knowing that something unusual had just happened. I was very pleased to see this as other groups I’ve played in would hound the player, trying to “get in on” whatever was going on. The game session was ending just as the players found the Blood Altar, but they returned to the surface, not liking the look of a room with a pool of liquid blood on its ceiling. Conveniently, this gave Sal’s player time to think through the situation and find an acceptable (to him) way out.

Normally I let a week of time pass in-game between sessions, sometimes longer if the players need some time for projects their characters want to do off-stage. When I started the next session only two days after the last session ended, they knew something was up. As Sal explained the situation and what he’d been forced to do, the other adventurers (and to some extent their players) went through a short emotional roller-coaster ride. In the end, they accepted that Sal had done what he could to deflect the geas and maybe spoil things for the Forbidden God (he had bathed the dog in holy water prior to sacrifice), but they were not generally happy about the situation. This is why they started looking for ways to cleanse the shrine and the Blood Altar when they returned to the Iron Keep.

I’m really happy with the way things played out. When faced with a hard situation that would have caused party strife and possibly cost the group two experienced adventurers (Mog from sacrifice and Sal from expulsion), Sal’s player came up with an innovative solution and the other players role-played out the resolution very well.

This, of course, encourages me to do something similar again. Heh.

Monday, November 1, 2010

SR25: Betrayal and Insanity

This session happened Friday, October 29, 2010, and was the only session I ran this past weekend. This game starts only two days after the end of the previous session as opposed to a full week. Also, I ran some stuff with Sal’s player prior to the actual start of the game to get some dice rolls out of the way. You’ll see why both of those are significant below. Heh, heh, heh.

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

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

Two mornings after the finding of the shrine to the Forbidden God, Su Bel could not find her dog. It was a well-trained dog that Thorngrim had trained for her and she was looking for it in Drop-off Tower, whistling for its attention, when a rather nervous Sal approached her, starting the conversation with, “About that – I need to tell you a story.”

Before Sal would begin his story, he required Su Bel cast zone of truth, so she would know he was not lying to her. Suspicious, Su Bel cast the spell while Tycho, Agnes, and Thorngrim stepped closer to hear what the nervous and agitated Sal had to say.

Sal explained that back when he was scanning the shrine of the Forbidden God using detect magic two days ago, he saw the face of the deity on the blank statue…and the Forbidden God saw him! The Forbidden God placed a geas upon Sal to “sacrifice one of the members of his party on the Blood Altar”. Sal felt the geas take hold of him, locking its way into his mind, and he could not speak of it while it gripped him.

Sal had no idea where the Blood Altar was, although some of the wall paintings the group had seen suggested what it would look like. When the group found the room with the blood pool on the ceiling, Sal said he knew they had found the Blood Altar. The geas started slowly nudging Sal to make a sacrifice, an urge that Sal could only fight off by actually planning the deed. Through a complicated process of elimination, Sal had decided that Mog would be the sacrifice, until he noticed Thorngrim working to train his dog in a new command. Sal said he realized that the dogs were also part of the group and would meet the letter of the Forbidden God’s geas, but still (hopefully) defy the Forbidden God.

Sal then related how he had used sleep to capture the dog the previous night, placed it in a bag of holding along with some kindling and firewood, and snuck down into the chambers below Drop-off Tower, using the key he had been given when the locked doors were put into place. Outside the Blood Altar room Sal had bathed the sleeping dog in holy water and then summoned an elemental to place the firewood and kindling on the altar while Sal wire-bound the dog’s feet. Sal then directed the elemental place the bound dog on the altar and light the firewood, making a burnt sacrifice of the dog. Sal then fled using haste and flight to avoid anything that might happen as a consequence of the sacrifice. Sal did not relate the howls of agony he could hear the dog making as he fled.

The other adventurers were floored by Sal’s admission. Questions were asked and words were said. Agnes asked for Sal’s key back. Sal did not hand it over, but no one pushed the matter either. After much argument and discussion, it was decided that a trip to the Iron Keep was necessary so that Sal could replace the dog. There was an unspoken consensus that things could have gone far, far worse.

The next day Sal cast mount five times and the group rode the magical horses along snow-covered Gravemarker Road. Due to the heavy snow on the ground, they are only able to make it to the empty Woodcutters Camp before needing to camp. Early in the evening a stampede of auroch charged at the adventurer’s campsite and Sal cast rope trick so the group could escape above the stampede. The auroch lingered in the area for hours until a dire tiger attack drove them back onto the plains. By the time the rope trick spell ended, the area was clear of (living) aurochs and predators. Shortly after dawn Sal cast mount again and the adventurers arrived at the Iron Keep mid-morning.

Dropping off much of their gear in their rooms at Spider’s Bar, the group scattered through the town, each looking in their own way for information. Agnes spent time chatting with Spider about the morlock tokens and the rumors that there are many tunnels under the forest and that the Obsidian Cube might be magical. Tycho sought out a wizard who knows arcane sight, trying to gain a copy of the spell. The wizard snubbed Tycho, stating that he was not taking on any apprentices at this time. Later in the day, Thorngrim ended up talking to the same wizard and they got chatty, talking about many things arcane. Thorngrim made such a good impression, the wizard sold Thorngrim a scroll of arcane sight, minus the Baron’s 40% mark-up. Tycho now hates that wizard, and spent some time contemplating what it would take to burn down the wizard’s stone house.

Sal went looking for information about the Forbidden God. Unfortunately for him, an arcane caster looking for that information after claiming to have found a shrine to the Forbidden God, tends to make people wary.  Sal spent the rest of the day being questioned by a pair of inquisitors. Su Bel, using her priestly contacts, got a better response and offers of help to purify the unholy shrine and statues. It was recommended she go speak to a pair of inquisitors who were new to town and ask them for assistance. Sadly, the inquisitors were unavailable as they were questioning a potentially dangerous and deranged wizard. So Su Bel took the wergild Sal had given her for sacrificing her dog and purchased a new dog.

The next day the adventurers returned to Drop-off Tower (after Sal and Thorngrim remembered to use their magic to clear the snow from the road, allowing faster movement). Just past Jericho’s Grave, a dire tiger was spotted stalking the adventurers. Several fireballs (and fireball-like attacks) from the adventurers drove off the (now heavily wounded) dire tiger. The adventurers arrived at Drop-off Tower near sundown and settled in for a comfy night in their new home.

The next morning (after some discussion), the adventurers descended below Drop-off Tower once again to investigate the secret trap door they found in the room with all the elven swords. A new protocol was initiated, requiring both Thorngrim and Sal to periodically use detect magic on the party, looking for new auras of enchantment as a method of avoiding more unpleasantness. The secret tunnel led east-northeast and came back up in a sleeping room. In addition to a bed and table, there were some shelves of books, mostly in abyssal and draconic. This led to some speculation about what kind of elves used to inhabit this area. Sal was able to identify three of the books as radiating magic and Su Bel identified that all three also radiated evil. Tycho picked one up and started flipping through the pages.

Tycho was hit by a symbol of insanity, which shattered his already tenuous grasp on sanity, which is to say it took a while for the other adventurers to notice. When Thorngrim discovered the new aura, steps were taken. The book was taken away from Tycho, who babbled a bit over it. Agnes, supported by several of Su Bel’s divine spells, was able to disable the symbol on each book [scoring beau coup experience points for the party in the process]. Sal started scooping books into a bag of holding for later review and the elegant bed was disassembled to be hauled back upstairs to the Tower for Agnes to use (after being magically cleaned and mended).  A secret door in the sleeping room led to the hidden library between the Obsidian Cube room and the Blood Altar room.  The adventurers returned to the surface.

Sal and Thorngrim spent some time examining the spell on Tycho and determined that it is beyond their ability to defeat. In fact, there is no one back in Iron Keep who will be able to beat the spell until the spring Blessing of the Mines, when high-level clergy from the mainland visit. The adventurers settled in for a long winter wait with their insane friend.

*End of Session*