Thursday, January 27, 2011

Dyson’s Delve – Session 10 – Starting the Hunt for Tim

This session happened Wednesday, January 19, 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 (male human cleric of Ra)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (female human fighter)
Tre-ba Bel a sheer (female elf alchemist)
Luna (female elf sorcerer)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)

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

While discussing their plans and options for the day's expedition, the sheriff approached the adventurers with an elven woman in tow.  He made the introductions between Super rat and the elven woman, Tre-ba Bel a sheer, an elven alchemist and another adventurer new to the area.  Accepting the sheriff vouching for her, the group of adventurers welcomed her to the group and explained their current goal: find the wizard Tim and put a stop to whatever it is he is up to.  Frankie took some time to pick up a masterwork glaive.  [Luckily the town had one.]  He was tired of being unable to contribute in a fight in the narrow corridors of the Delve and a reach weapon would ameliorate that.

The group made its way back to the Delve, but rather than use the cave entrance they had been using, they searched the area for the side entrance that leads directly to the Elemental Temple.  After some searching, they found it and resumed the tactic that had worked so far: they pre-empted any questions with one of their own, “Have you seen Tim?”  Apparently, word had gotten around about the group seeking Tim and the guards let the adventurers into the tunnel without any hassle.  At the end of the tunnel, the belled door rang when it was opened and the lead guard from the guard room looked out to see who was entering the Temple.  He recognized Harkaitz from the previous day and minor pleasantries were exchanged.

The adventurers performed a quick circuit of the temple, checking to see if Tim was around (he wasn’t) and then climbed the spiral stair to Level 6.  Verifying the room was empty and no one was around, the adventurers discussed their options.  Harkaitz was not willing to attack the people in the Elemental Temple unprovoked.  Considering Tim’s track record, they could be potential allies against the wizard at the very least.  The other adventurers either felt the same way or were willing to go along.  It was decided that the group would search the area above the entry level of the Delve, up the stairs by the original goblin guard post.  If they did not find Tim up there, the group would return to the Elemental Temple, ask to speak with whomever was in charge, and then simply state, “We aren’t with Tim.  How do you feel about that?”

Tracking their way all the way up through the dungeon (nullifying the reason they had entered the side entrance), the adventurers made their way to the spiral stairs on Level 1 and climbed them.  At the top, they found a rectangular room with five-foot wide stretches of carpet crossing the floor and connecting passages in the center of each wall.  Intensely suspicious, the adventurers carefully advanced on the carpet (Wednesday checking each ten feet) and made their way to the hallway on the left.

The hallway turned right after a bit and opened on a room with a single inhabitant – a humanoid that looked like a cross between a lizardman and a giant insect with four arms and a tail.  Tre-na identified it as a Xill and likely hostile.  This turned out to be the case and a fight ensued.  After a few short rounds, Luna finally killed it with a scorching ray.  After finding little else besides the Xill’s three shortswords, the group reversed course.

At the carpet room, it was decided to check the other passage (directly across the room) and leave the single door alone until afterward.  Heading down that passage, it turned left and ended in a room containing two Xills talking to each other.  Thinking this would be a quick fight, Harkaitz stepped up and cast a fireball into the room.  [Fireball is a third level bonus spell for the Fire Domain.]  It failed to kill either Xill and they took cover against a wall.  The adventurers moved forward enough to cast more spells, thinking to draw the Xill out, until Harkaitz boldly [read: foolishly] stepped into the room to engage the Xill in combat (and theoretically provide flanking for Sahar and maybe Wednesday).

This worked until the Xill paralyzed Harkaitz during one series of exchanged blows.  This caught the adventurers by surprise and the fight took a somewhat desperate turn with the only healer paralyzed and stuck in the room.  Then a third Xill appeared and joined the fight.  Sahar took several hits and was able to shrug off the paralytic effect each time, but was being worn down by the multiple attacks each Xill was able to make.  The adventurers were giving serious thought to fleeing the room when they finally brought down one of the Xill.  Also, at this point Harkaitz realized that, while he could not move at all, he was still able to channel positive energy, which he did, excluding the Xill from the healing effects.  [Using a feat he picked up when he leveled at the end of last session.  He is only able to exclude two targets, but after one of the three Xill went down, this stopped being a problem.]

Once the adventurers defeated the Xill, they packed up the still paralyzed Harkaitz and retreated back to Aldelle.  After two hours, the paralytic effect finally wore off and Harkaitz was able move again.  He immediately healed the other adventurers back to full health, just in time to return to the inn and order drinks.

*End of Session*

[In this session we started exploring an area not part of the source material (Dyson’s Delve), a level above Level 1.  Also, the DM has also chosen to not include levels 8 through 11 of the Delve as he is nearly ready with his own material for us to explore.  We also picked up a new player this session (my wife), bringing the gender tally to four women and three men (including the DM), just in case anyone is wondering.]

[As a note: One of the players has a training class on Wednesdays for the next two months, so we have moved our scheduled days from Wednesdays to Tuesdays.  We have not made a decision as to whether or not we will switch back after that.  It will depend on whether or not Tuesdays continues to work for everyone.]

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Dyson’s Delve – Session 9 – Completing Levels

This session happened Wednesday, January 12, 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 (male human cleric of Ra)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (female human fighter)
Luna (female elf sorcerer)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)

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

This day Super rat decided to investigate some rooms that they had bypassed previously, notably the chained door on the main part of Level 6, a door they ignored in the isolated part of Level 6, and the air and water shrines in the Elemental Temple on Level 7.

Wending their way down through the dungeon, they arrived at the chained door on Level 6.  Wednesday thoroughly checked the door and removed the chains after pronouncing it safe.  Sahar opened the door and entered the room, discovering four gargoyles who immediately attacked.  The adventurers were not certain fire would hurt the stony creatures until Luna hit one with a scorching ray and burned it.  Due to the fight being bottle-necked at the doorway, Sahar was responsible for the majority of the melee attacks.  Harkaitz was able to indirectly heal her by casting shield other on her, splitting the damage she takes between the two of them and healing himself.  It was not perfect, but it worked.  After defeating the gargoyles, the adventurers found two coffers: one with 9000 pieces of copper and the other containing two golden crowns.  [If all the adventurers start wearing crowns, does the group name change to King Rat?]

After healing up from the gargoyle fight, the adventurers descended the spiral stairs to the Elemental Temple.  Harkaitz led the way, acting like he and the others belonged there.  When challenged, he stated the group was looking for Tim and asked if the questioner had seen him.  This worked multiple times.  A door in the back of the air shrine led to a small (10 ft by 10 ft) room with two additional doors, one belled.

After Wednesday removed the bell from the belled door, the adventurers followed a long corridor behind it that ended in a door to the surface.  The door was guarded, but Harkaitz again put the guards off by asking if they had seen Tim and looking dejected when they answered negatively.  The group reversed course and returned to the small room.  Wednesday replaced the bell on the door to the surface and Harkaitz opened the other door.  This door opened to a guard room/barracks with a number of armored guards in the room.  Harkaitz immediately asked if anyone in the room had seen Tim, pre-empting any questions as to why the adventurers were there.  The guards offered that they had not seen Tim in “a while”.  Harkaitz spotted two other doors out of this room, but could not think of a legitimate reason to continue through and did not want to initiate a combat right then.  He thanked the guards for their time and closed the door.

The group next walked over to the water shrine.  There was a passage in the back which led to some sort of guest chambers, one of which was occupied by troglodytes.  Harkaitz’s story of searching for Tim worked here as well and the party was able to leave without a fight.

After a quiet huddle to discuss options, the group walked back to the fire shrine and passed through the wax-sealed door again.  Taking the stairs up to the isolated portion of Level 6, the adventurers turned down a side passage they had ignored previously.  The passage ended at a door, which was unlocked and opened after Wednesday verified it was safe to do.  Beyond the door was a dark room with a single occupant – a medusa!  The medusa was apparently desperate to escape and blindly charged the party of adventurers.  Not knowing that she was trying to escape, the adventurers fought her and killed her.  [Wednesday felled the medusa with a critical hit backstab for near maximum damage.  It was very impressive.]

Searching the medusa’s room afterward, a chest was found containing 10 pieces of jewelry.  None of it was magical, but it was all of value, ranging from an estimated value of 400 gold marks up to 1600 gold marks.  Along with the gold crowns found with the gargoyles, this had been a very valuable day for Super Rat.  The group decided not to push their luck any further and (after bluffing their way back through the Elemental Temple) they returned to the surface and eventually Aldelle to plan their next move.  [And to level up to 5th level characters!]

*End of Session*

[This was a short game session.  We spent time at the beginning dealing with gear and loot from the previous game plus waiting for a late player.  We also stopped a bit early as another fight would have led us to playing WAY late.]

Monday, January 24, 2011

Scheduling for the Week

Things are going to be a bit busy on and off this week at the DayJob, so I'm not certain how many postings I'm going to be able to make this week.  I do a lot of my draft writing during my lunch break depending on how busy I am and busy days leave me with little desire to do anything at lunch but eat and stare out a window.  I had time today to knock out the next two Dyson's Delve adventure logs and those are queued up to post on Tuesday and Thursday.  I'd like to get more posted this week, but we'll see.

Our newbie DM for the Dyson's Delve campaign feels he has a good grip on the rules and is ready to open up more of the world for us to explore.  As a result, he has abbreviated the Delve to only seven levels.  This is both good and bad.  I really wanted to see the whole Delve, so missing out on four levels is unfortunate.  On the other hand, having a newbie DM ready to step outside of another's work and show his own is cool as well.

That's it for now.  Thank you for reading so far and "Later!"


Thursday, January 20, 2011

SR33: Adventurers Make Schliemann Look Circumspect

This session happened Friday, January 14, 2011, and was the only session I ran this past weekend. 

Adventuring Group:
Su Bel (human cleric)
– Dame Yasha of Bereste (Su Bel’s human cavalier cohort)
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)
Sal Ty (elf wizard)

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

Having gained a great deal of wealth recently, Sal set to crafting magic items for the group of adventurers living at Drop-off Tower.  During this time, Su Bel sent off a message to a childhood friend of hers, describing what the adventurers were doing and the dangers they faced.  In response to this, her friend, Dame Yasha of Bereste, Knight of the Order of the Dragon, packed her gear and took the next ship south.  It was clear to Dame Yasha that her friend and her friend’s companions were doing good work clearing the wilds of monsters, but they needed stout companions to assist them.  Arriving mid-June, she received mixed greetings – the adventurers were happy to see another strong fighter join their group, but Drop-off Tower was now very crowded.  [Su Bel took leadership when she leveled last session and Dame Yasha is her cohort.]

Also during this time, Thorngrim started using illusory wall to model expansions and improvements to the Tower grounds at a 1-to-1 scale.  In the evenings, he and Sal would discuss varying design elements and building layouts, adjusting the illusions as necessary [sort of a “spell-assisted design” process].  Despite all this discussion and planning, no actual action was taken on the subject.

Once Sal was finished crafting the items requested by the adventurers [and after a long rambling discussion about where to go, resolved with a coin toss], the group decided to return to the Terrace of Fallen Horses.  Travelling by horseback, they were able to reach the Terrace in one day’s worth of riding.  Once there, the group camped using a slightly different camping routine: using rope trick inside a set of illusory walls (made to look like a hut) with a campfire adjacent.  This seemed acceptable until a pack of eleven ghouls attacked shortly before dawn.  Quickly raising the alarm, Su Bel, Agnes, and Sal held off the ghouls until the other adventurers could respond.  Thanks to a well placed fireball from Thorngrim, the fight was short and the adventurers escaped unscathed.

Once dawn arrived (and the spellcasters were prepared), the adventurers resumed exploring the tombs.  The entrances to the lower tombs were still exposed [Sal had never re-summoned Kazimir to place the dirt back over the entrances] and the adventurers continued searching from the left.  The third tomb was relatively small, with little treasure, but there were two things of note about it.  The first was the actual tomb chamber walls were decorated as if in the center of a wet forest with luminous figures back amongst the trees.  This creeped the adventurers out a bit.  The second notable thing was that the sarcophagus was made of a greenish marble with gold inlays.  Moving the lid was very difficult as the sides and top of the lid were a foot thick.

Inside was the skeleton of a human, covered in cinnabar.  Sal used prestidigitation to remove the cinnabar to a sack [there was three cubic feet of the material], exposing the skeleton and hundreds of beads, likely the remains of the skeletons burial clothes.  Certain this was the body of a king, the adventurers noted that no crown was buried with the body.  After removing the hand-carved beads, the sarcophagus lid was replaced and the adventurers left the tomb.

The next tomb had a longer entry hall, again showing the deeds of the person buried within, most notably showing skirmishes with dog-headed warriors.  The entry hall opened upon a pillared chamber.  The pillars had been carved to resemble trees similar to those shown in the previous tomb.  The walls showed the people living in or near a forest and the king being crowned by priests.  Sal and Agnes entered the room searching for magic and traps (respectively) and so were the first to notice the statues in the corners were not actually statues as the “statues” animated and attacked.  After the fight, Sal was able to identify the creatures as gargoyles, although a different type from that fought in Santa Fe.

At first glance this chamber seemed to be a dead end.  However, after Agnes performed a careful search, she was able to locate a secret door in the back wall, which led to the actual burial chamber.  Inside this chamber was another immense stone sarcophagus made of granite with a green cast and inlaid with gold.  After immense effort, the lid was moved aside, exposing another burial covered in beads and cinnabar.  Again Sal collected the cinnabar [another three cubic feet of the material] and Agnes collected the beads before the lid was returned.  Once again the adventurers noted that there was no crown buried with the king.

With a couple hours of daylight still left, the adventurers opened the next tomb.  The entry hall here led to a pillared room larger than the one in the last tomb, with two doors on the left wall and one large one on the back.  Suspecting the room contained a trap, Agnes carefully searched the floor for signs of one, but instead found a secret door on the left wall.  Behind the secret door was a hallway that immediately turned right and descended a long flight of steep stairs.  The walls were covered with scenes of the king descending into the underworld on a quest of some sort.

At the bottom of the stairs, the corridor resumed and then turned right, ending at a door.  Agnes checked the door and pronounced it clear*, so Kainen opened it.  It was actually trapped.  A solid iron portcullis dropped from a concealed position 20 ft back, locking into the floor and trapping half the party at the end of the hallway.  Then vents were knocked open as water started pouring into the area at a high rate.  The adventurers exploded into action: Mog and Kainen attempting to break the portcullis, Thorngrim reaching into one of the water jets to get an idea of where the water was coming from, while Agnes searched for a release mechanism.  Sal bought the group time by casting wall of ice along the left wall and the two ends where the water jets were (nearly trapping Thorngrim in the ice).

Agnes (among the trapped) was able to determine that the releasing mechanism was not on the trapped side of the portcullis.  Mog and Kainen strained mightily, but could not break the portcullis.  The ice wall creaked and cracked from the pressure behind it.  Sal then put his hand through the portcullis and asked Agnes to grip it.  He then cast dimension door and teleported the two of them five feet back up the corridor, freeing Agnes.  Agnes continued her search for the release mechanism on the free side while Mog and Kainen resumed their work trying to break the portcullis.  The cracks in the ice got larger, the ice starting to bulge where it covered the water jets.

Working her way back up the stairs, Agnes finally found the release mechanism (disguised as part of a mural) and triggered it, sealing the water jets, unlocking the portcullis, and opening drains in the floor.  Mog and Kainen were then able to lift it, freeing all those trapped (including Kainen himself).  Wet and bedraggled at this point, the adventurers returned to the upper chamber and checked the doors there.  All three were trapped false doors.  Agnes disabled them and they were removed for shipment back to Drop-off Tower.  Disgusted with a tomb of apparently nothing but traps, the adventurers left the tomb and camped for the night.

The next morning the group rode to the Iron Keep and sold off all the beads they collected from the tombs and spent the night at Spider’s Bar, enjoying an evening in “civilization”.  The next day they rode back to Drop-off Tower and unloaded their goods.

*End of session*

* Agnes’s player rolled a “2” when searching for the trap.  This gave her a total of “31” for her perception roll, which was one shy of finding the trap.  To say she has “skillz” when searching for traps really, really understates the issue.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

SR32: Adventurers Make Archeologists Cry

This session happened Friday, January 7, 2011, and was the only session I ran this past weekend.  There was a two week hiatus between this session and the previous one due to the holidays.

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.

Short on coin again and with plans on enlarging Drop-off Tower into a small keep, the adventurers decided to return to a locale they had not been to since Fall of the previous year – the Terrace of Fallen Horses.  After packing up some gear for the expedition, the group set out into the pleasant late Spring air.  They followed Gravemarker Road to the Woodcutter’s Camp, which was occupied again by people from the Iron Keep, and then took the Terrace Road out across the Sea of Grass.

It had been long enough since the last time the group had traveled this way that Sal and Thorngrim had to re-cut the road through the tall grasses, adding arcane marks along the way.  This slowed the group down a bit (as did avoiding a pride of dire lions on the hunt) and they had to camp out on the plains for the night.  The next morning they completed re-cutting the road to the Ruined Hills and followed their stone markers into the hills and to the Terrace of Fallen Horses.

The locale looked much like they remembered it.  The upper terrace still had three tombs exposed (one resealed) and the broken horse statues on the lower terrace were where Sal had left them after mending them to the best of his ability.  After some round-about discussion, it was decided that they would try opening one of the tombs on the lower terrace.  Sal summoned an earth elemental [named Kazimir, not that anyone asked*] and ordered it to remove the layer of earth covering the tombs backing the lower terrace.  This exposed six tomb entrances.

The group decided to start with the one they discovered the last time they were here, which was second from the left.  Agnes spent some time checking the entrance to the tomb before lending Kainen her six-foot pry bar to leverage the stone slab away.  The hallway beyond had scenes of an important man, probably a king, doing kingly things, but in every instance, the hieroglyphs of the king’s name and his face in the pictures was carefully chiseled away.  The hallway ended with a wax-sealed door that had magical text painted on it, clearly done after the door had been sealed and not part of the decorations.  Sal and Thorngrim discussed it a bit and came to the conclusion that it was a curse and that the curse was on the occupant of the tomb and not directed at anyone who might, say, open the tomb and plunder it.

Sal used prestidigitation to remove the wax sealing the door and Kainen once again pried open the door.  The corridor continued on a bit and then turned left.  Sal led the way, using detect magic freely to spot anything magical.  Around the corner he stopped short as a large copper half-sphere mounted on the wall started charging up with electricity.  Agnes moved forward to disable the trap, carefully checking the floor for pressure plates.  Unfortunately for her, this trap did not use pressure plates and triggered anyways, filling the corridor with bolts of electricity [imaging the head of a Tesla coil throwing arcs of electricity and you’ll have a good picture].  It also activated two more half-sphere, equally spaced down the corridor and (as they discovered in a bit) several more down around a corner, covering nearly 60 ft of corridor.  After some healing, Agnes tried again, approaching the sphere differently, and this time she was able to disable the first sphere.  While she continued to work her way down the corridor, disabling each half-sphere in succession, Sal and Thorngrim removed the half-spheres from the walls and stashed them in a bag of holding with plans to attach them to the top of Drop-off Tower.

Past the trapped corridor was another wax-sealed door.  Agnes checked it and Kainen pried it open, releasing a small gust of foul air.  Inside was a large (10 ft from foot to crown) sarcophagus with a lid of gold.  The excited adventurers (after checking for traps) opened the sarcophagus to see what treasures lurked inside.  The occupant of the sarcophagus was not pleased with this and attacked.  Su Bel was able to identify the undead as a devourer, known to eat the souls of its victims.  This added a certain cachet to the fight, which ended with the devourer destroyed, but Tycho suffering from two negative levels and several others wounded.  At this point it was decided to camp outside next to the reflecting pool.   

[Note: the standard operating procedure for camping includes the use of rope trick and campfire wall, which tends to side-step night time encounters.  I still roll to check in case something interesting shows up.]

The next morning, the adventurers decided to try one more tomb before heading back to the Iron Keep for diamond dust (as Su Bel has access to restoration now, something Tycho very much needed).  They chose the left-most tomb on the lower terrace and opened it.  The walls here are also covered with hieroglyphs, but had not been defaced like the previous tomb.  The floor of first chamber they entered was a scale map of the surrounding lands, bordered by mountains on the western edge and swamps on the eastern edge.  The roof was painted to look like the nighttime sky.  Sal immediately set to sketching the floor in his journal.  While recognizably the same lands the adventurers were travelling in, there were many subtle changes, including a forest centered on the Ruined Hills (extending from the coast to the north to the Spiderwood in the south) and many more rivers crossing the plains than the adventurers had seen.

Once Sal was done sketching, the group pushed on to the actual crypt, where they again found a large stone sarcophagus, this time facing north (the last one faced south, but they made no special note of it at the time) with no gold on it.  There were also six, wax-sealed urns in the chamber with the sarcophagus.  The adventurers opened the sarcophagus and found the desiccated remains of its inhabitant.  After carefully removing golden jewelry it was wearing, they replaced the lid.  The urns proved to be each filled with 4,000 coins, two each of copper, silver, and gold.  This not inconsiderable weight was conveyed to a bag of holding and a couple haversacks.

Loaded down with coin and treasure (and Tycho still down two levels), the adventurers left the terraces and returned to the Iron Keep.  They were able to convert the jewelry into coin, but not the gold sarcophagus – they had depleted the town’s free coin supply by then.  Su Bel purchased the necessary amount of diamond dust to cast the first restoration on Tycho and enough to cast it a second time a week later.  Then the group returned to Drop-off Tower to make further plans.  [Also, everyone in attendance leveled.]

*End of session*

Due to a mis-communication while I was restating how the adventurers had made camp, I coined a new magic item: the ring of bear traps.  We decided it had two functions: 1) once a day the user can summon a ring of bear traps around him, and 2) three times a day it can be used in melee to make the users unarmed strike count as a magic weapon, add +1d8 to the damage, and allow an automatic grab attempt at +10.  I haven’t set the cost yet, but will do so in the near future.

* I’ve decided that all earth elementals speak with a Russian accent, which went over great with the players.  Or at least they have the faux-Russian accent I’m able to do.  They sound like Lev, the cosmonaut from the movie Armageddon.  Now I have to come up with accents for the other elements, preferably accents I can a) actually do, and b) can consistently maintain.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Tweaks to the Banner

I uploaded a revised banner graphic, which shows some of the new roads the player characters have blazed.  They show up pretty well on the actual print-outs, but are a bit lost in the Edgewood Forest.  Plus, the upside down text marking Jericho's grave does not work as well electronically as physically.

This means I'm going to have to create a different version for the banner, separate from the actual Table Map.  I also want to reduce the height while increasing the width.  The trick part is: how wide?  Needs to be wide enough to look good without being too wide for some viewers to see.  Plus, I don't want a ton of dead space in the form of the sea.  I may make Drop-off Tower the mid-point and go from there.

Feedback would be welcome.  Thanks!

P.S. - I'll write up the next Southern Reaches adventure log during lunch Monday (tomorrow) and post it in the evening.  I'll get adventure log after that (from last Friday) written and posted this week, as well as the next part of the Traveller Hero design discussion.

EDIT: Next SR adventure log has been uploaded.  It will post tomorrow (Tuesday) at 7:00 AM.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Dyson’s Delve – Session 8 – A Marked Room

This session happened Wednesday, January 5, 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 (male human cleric of Ra)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (female human fighter)
Luna (female elf sorcerer)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)

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

Rather than risk losing another prisoner through the sheriff, Super Rat held onto their wizard prisoner until they could question him.  Harkaitz and Frankie handled the questioning, playing “good cop/bad cop”, respectively, but part way through the questioning, Harkaitz seemed to have forgotten that he was supposed to be the nice guy.  The group learned that the three wizards were members of the Temple of Fire, a group that worships the power of the elements or possibly elementals.  (Maybe even elder elementals...)  Tim was once one of their number but was expelled from the group for reasons that were not made clear.  Tim had contacted the Temple for assistance and it was viewed as Tim making amends, so Peter, Richard, and the third wizard [his name was never given, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was John Thomas] were dispatched to assist Tim and find out what he was up to.  The map the had was discovered in the “Dungeon’s Junk Drawer”.

The three amulets the wizards were searching for apparently work with something Tim has to open a portal to…someplace.  Tim was offering everything on the other side of the portal to the Temple – except for the one item he is claiming for himself.  The guys in platemail were Tim’s servants, assigned to keep the three wizards from leaving before the job was done.  Most of this story did not add up, but the adventurers decided that whatever that one item Tim wanted should under no circumstances fall into Tim’s hands.

The group then turned Peter over to the sheriff with the warning that he was a wizard in the service of Tim and should not be trusted.  The adventurers then unloaded more of their loot onto the village trader for coin while Luna identified the gold crown as providing a magical boost to intelligence [+2].  After some discussion, it was given to Wednesday as she seemed best able to use it to the group’s advantage.

The group then returned to the Delve, quickly making their way back down to the sixth level, where they had battled the three wizards.  Planning to do a simple sweep of the last two rooms to verify the map, Super rat ran into a group of four were-rats.  [Side note: one of the players had no idea what “were-rat” meant and it had to be explained.  She was suitably creeped out.]  Due to having the map, Sahar and Luna were able to run around and flank the were-rats.  Both Harkaitz and Luna cast burning hands during the fight, each with a different player character in the area of effect (Frankie and Sahar, respectively).  Harkaitz had done this before with Frankie with Frankie easily was able to evade the flames, but not this time and he took full damage.  Sahar was able to side-step most of Luna’s attack, but still got burned enough that Harkaitz had to run around to that flank and cast cure moderate wounds on her to keep her in the fight until the were-rats were defeated.  Afterwards, Harkaitz healed everyone back to full health with a couple channelings of Ra’s positive energies.  [Who is the one god?/Who is the sun god?/ Ra. Ra! RA!]

Having cleared as much of this level as they could, the group started descending the spiral stairs down to the next level of the Delve.  Part way down, they heard a group chatting as they came up!  Super rat quickly (and quietly) retreated back up to the top of the stairs.  When the group climbing the stairs got near, Harkaitz called out, “What’s the password?”  The group below answered, “Nexus,” and Harkaitz called for them to proceed.  The guard patrol arrived at the top of the stairs to find the adventurers standing about the room nonchalantly.  They gave the group some quizzical looks but seemed to accept them at face value as other guards and moved on.  Super Rat waited until they were out of hearing range and then quickly descended the stairs.

The last 40 ft of stairs were open, descending from the center ceiling of a large, octagonal room.  Four of the walls have large elemental symbols on them, one each for earth, air, fire, and water.  There were also several priestly types going about their business and largely ignoring the player characters, who were doing their best to look like they belonged there.  Apparently, with the previous guard patrol having just gone up the stairs. the priests assumed that the player characters DID belong there and never gave them a second look.  The player characters for their part marched confidently across the room and exited a passage between the symbols for fire and earth.  Turning left, they entered a shrine to fire (consisting of innumerable candles burning plus many fire beetles roaming freely) and finally out of sight of the priests.  Looking around the room, Wednesday’s sharp eyes spotted a door buried under a layer of wax from candles past.  With no other passage except back to where the priests were (and wanting to avoid their suspicions by reappearing so soon) the group decided to try the wax covered door.  Harkaitz used produce flame [2nd level granted spell from the fire domain] to discretely melt the wax only at the edges of the door.  Once freed of the wax binding, the door opened freely and the group entered a very dusty passage containing stairs up to the isolated portion of Level 6.

Following the map they had taken from the wizards, the adventurers passed an abandoned guard post and slipped through a series of rooms and corridors to the secret door hiding the marked room.  Inside the marked room were two coffers.  The first coffer contained 400 gold coins, while the second contained two scrolls.  One of the scrolls had the spell formulae for continual flame on it.  The other resisted both Luna and Harkaitz’s attempts at deciphering it [bad spellcraft roll].  Shrugging and planning to re-evaluate it once they were back in Aldelle, all of the loot went into the haversack.

On the way back out from the marked room, the group checked an adjacent room they had previously ignored and were attacked by five animated statues.  Barely able to damage the stone the statues were made of, Super Rat fought a retreat back to the main corridor, closing and spiking the final door to seal off the statues.  Luckily for Super Rat, the statues did not seem to be programmed to follow past that door.  The adventurers had taken a pounding from the statues and not destroyed a single one.  Battered, bruised, and starting to run short on healing, the group made their way back down through the temple and then up to the surface, their luck holding out enough so that they were unchallenged the entire way.

*End of Session*

[I have a new found respect for animated objects now, particularly ones made of stone.  We had nothing able to bypass their hardness and they took half damage from our energy attack before the hardness was applied, negating our strongest attacks.  We will not be returning to that part of the dungeon anytime soon, I guarantee you.]

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Traveller Further Thoughts – Part 2

In Part 1 of this series I talked a bit about the background of the campaign and what roles the player characters should fill.  (I also attributed the Stainless Steel Rat to the wrong author – my fault entirely as I looked at the Wikipedia page for the SSR for the correct title name and should have noticed the different author.  Mea culpa.)  I this part I want to discuss some of the in-game rules, some of the meta-game rules, and what ship types the players will have to choose from.

In-game Rules
The in-game rules I want to lay out are just that: in-game.  These are rules the player characters should operate under, not the players.  These rules are designed to safeguard the most valuable thing the PCs will own: their ship.  The three basic rules are:
  1. Don’t bring danger to the ship.
  2. No weapons on the bridge.
  3. The Captain runs the ship.

Rule 1 means that if members of the crew get into danger on their own time, they will not endanger the ship by leading that danger back to the ship.  Or stated another way: “don’t go picking fights you can’t handle and then draw everyone else into the problem.”  Player characters on away teams should, if at all possible, solve what ever problems they run into before returning to the ship and should never flee to the ship with and angry posse at their heels.  Now player characters being player characters may ignore or bend this rule, but if the ship gets damaged, everyone else will blame the offending PC(s) and likely want them kicked off the ship.

Rule 2 is a safety precaution.  The bridge contains too many critical portions of the ship, both mechanical and personnel, for there to ever be weapons hanging around there.

Rule 3 is to keep those without knowledge of ship systems and procedures from ordering things be done that will damage or destroy the ship and/or the crew.  It also establishes the clear chain of command onboard the ship: everyone answers to the Captain only.  While the player characters, as the Company men, can tell the Captain where to fly the ship, the Captain will decide how it is done and who does what.  At some point, I would expect the player characters to work out their own hierarchy/command structure, but I really expect that to me an emergent thing that develops during play – my players are like that.

I also expect that as the game goes on, a list of standing orders and standard operating procedures will develop.  I’d hope that one of the early ones (if not the first) is “Don’t leave crew behind if at all possible.”  I’d rather the players develop these, but if they don’t, the Captain (meaning me through the NPC) will likely establish some.

Metagame Rules
Right now, the only metagame rule I have is that between sessions, one month of in-game time will pass.  This allows PC healing to happen if anyone was injured during the last session, so everyone should start each session at full health or close to it.  In a fantasy game, this can be shortened to a week or even a day due to healing spells, but sci-fi requires a bit more time for that.  This time passage also assumes that some trading is happening off-screen, once the players have explored enough for that to be reasonable.  I want to keep the adminis-trivia to a manageable level and not force the players to haggle for every little credit they make.

Available Ship Types
I’d like the first session to be character generation followed by a small roleplay session where the PCs explore the starship boneyard and select their ship.  As the background states that Start World (not its final name, just a working reference) made custom luxury spaceships.  Think of a world whose primary industries consisted of Automobili Lamborghini S.p.A., Orange County Choppers, and any custom-build luxury specialty company you can think of.  The shipyards were all orbital with supplier fabrication plants being a mix of orbital and planet-side.  There was some planet-side manufacture of parts, but a lot of the raw materials were ordered in a just-in-time fashion from nearby worlds.  When the Virus started to hit, its initial actions were not always fatal.  Faced with what appeared to be malfunctioning equipment, ship owners had their ships taken back to the manufacturers to be fixed, which also allowed the Virus to spread further. 

As a result of the above, the Start World system has a selection of abandoned luxury craft in various parking orbits.  It also has limited resources for the construction of new ships as some of the materials necessary are not native to this system (I’ll get more into that in the next post).  So the first half-session will be the newly minted PCs in a small system boat looking through the boneyard for a ship to call their own.  The basic choices will be:
  • A Cigarette Boat-equivalent, good for racing or hauling tiny (and usually illegal) hyper-valuable cargo at very high speed
  • A Quick Freighter-equivalent, good for small (usually legal) cargoes at high speed
  • A Medium Freighter-equivalent, good for carrying a variety of cargoes, including the possibility of passengers with moderate standards at a good speed
  • A Fat merchant-equivalent, good for carrying large amounts of cargo at a slow, steady pace

I’ll also accept player input if they want something different and design that.  The goal is to provide a ship the players feel comfortable with for the campaign as it will likely be the only ship they own for a while.

That’s it for this time.  In the next part I’ll discuss potential scenarios for the PCs to run into and some thoughts on starting tech and tech levels.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Traveller Further Thoughts – Part 1

First, an admission: I haven’t read a lot of space opera.

Frankly, the largest chunks of my sci-fi space readings have been Larry Niven’s Known Space books (stopping just shy of The Ringworld Throne, as in I own the book but haven’t read it yet – for 15 years), Harry Harrison’s tales of the Stainless Steel Rat (stopping after A Stainless Steel Rat is Born), some of the Retief books from my dad’s collection (books he said I’d appreciate more once I was out of school, so I’m way past due for going back and re-reading them), a smattering of Heinlein, and the first four John Carter of Mars books (which I should never have read after reading Terry Pratchett – flight granted by capturing the “8th color of light”?  Really?  Did Rincewind design your airship?).  TV-wise, I’m a fan of Babylon-5, Firefly, the original Star Trek series, and Enterprise (once they stopped with all the “fan service” in season one and actually got to telling a story – Trip is my favorite character).

So, that said, I consulted with a friend of mine (now referred to as E) who is heavily into space opera and whose perfect bound Lensmen books, printed on acid-free paper, I regularly eye when I’m over there.  We hashed out a number of things, giving form to my nebulous ideas about what I wanted.  This post and the parts that follow are a compilation of my notes from that conversation.

The Virus
Interstellar civilization crashed as a result of two belligerent factions going to war, ending with each releasing an A.I.-driven computer virus on the other.  The virii we coded to either a) take over computer-controlled equipment and make it malfunction or b) wipe databanks clean, with priority being given to engineering and military data.  This crippled production as most of it was performed by automated fabricators and made existing facilities and ships dangerous to deadly (not to mention the chaos caused when automated traffic control systems start crashing vehicles on densely populated worlds – or stop providing guidance to systems that no longer allowed human control).  While each side had the antidote to their own virus, neither side had adequate defenses against the other side’s virus, leading to massive data wipes and computer-controlled machinery that became dangerous.  Civilization broke down quick in a number of different ways.

The McGuffin
The players start with “the McGuffin” a device that, when attached to a computer core, will purge/cure both virus types and then install a rudimentary operating system, rendering the system usable, if barely.  How does it work?  Not necessary for the players to know – it just does.  The trick is, these things require very high end components, components that the Start World cannot manufacture – they only had enough components on hand to build a handful of them and the PCs managed to get one of those.

The Virus and the McGuffin allow several things to happen in the game.  First, I have a rationale for the loss of knowledge, but not all knowledge.  All the online material would get wiped.  Hardcopies would exist and data in storage devices would contain some material, but most of that would be in the form of early drafts or be subsystems to large items.  The McGuffin also provides a mechanism explaining why salvaged ships or facilities do not grant the cutting edge programs – all data systems have to be thoroughly erased before a basic system can be reloaded or the virus will re-spread.  Plus, later on I can tinker with things to add in new plots, like a variant of the virus that the McGuffin does not defeat, a variant that is sentient and mostly non-hostile, or even a variant that the McGuffin “awakens” instead of purges.  Why did that happen?  Instant mystery.

Starting Point
The player characters are assumed to have put all their funds and technical know-how into getting a McGuffin, getting all the permits necessary to claim one of the derelicts in the starting world system, and then the materials necessary to get the ship to a basic level of space-worthiness.  This leaves them starting with a ship and one share in whatever profits the ship makes.  Sound like a basic adventuring party?

E laid out the two basic themes of space opera: space combat or “away teams”.  I wanted the campaign to be about the characters doing things, not ships in combat, so “away teams” became the underlying model for the campaign.  To avoid marooning player characters on the ship when all the action was planet-side (and vice versa), it became clear that certain job functions needed to be NPC-only.  The following roles, therefore, will be NPCs:
  • Ship’s Captain/Pilot
  • Ship’s Navigator
  • Ship’s Engineer
  • Ship’s Doctor
  • Start World Representative/Trademaster

Each of these roles will get a share of profits as without them, the ship doesn’t move and things don’t happen.  The first four are fairly self-explanatory, but the fifth didn’t crop up until later in the conversation, so he needs some explanation.  Part of what the PCs will be doing is finding and negotiating for the rights to either raw materials or regular shipments of finished product back to the Start World.  This is pretty heady stuff for a planetary government to allow just anyone to do, so they require a government representative to be available to approve all trade negotiations.  He also maintains a database of what is needed back home and what is considered an acceptable price for goods and materials, so the players can consult him to find out what they can sell back home for a profit and how big a profit.

So who are the players playing?  First, they are the Company Men, meaning they represent the corporation/chartered company that has the permits from the government.  They can tell the captain where to fly the ship and what is going to happen when they get there, but they cannot interfere with how the captain runs the ship.  This is modeled on real world experience and provides a workable dynamic to keep the PCs active without shunting someone off into a role with a lot of dead time when the ship is not in flight.  This is a different dynamic that that seen in Firefly or aboard the Millennium Falcon where the captain is also the owner, but look how often Wash complained about being left behind with the ship in Firefly.  There was an entire episode covering this.

As to the roles the PCs will fill, these include:
  • Weapons "officer" (Jayne Cobb from Firefly)
  • Communications/investigation (Daniel Jackson from Stargate)
  • Scrounge/rogue/thief
  • Negotiator/Smooth talker (“Face” from the A-Team)
  • Computer tech/electronics warfare (the official hacker-in-chief and in charge of the McGuffin)
  • Medic (in charge of getting wounded PCs patched up enough to get back to the ship)

Now the medic role can be combined with other roles or remain independent.  It would probably be wise for ALL of the PCs to have some first aid skills, but that’s up to the players.  This list is not exhaustive and some of the roles can be split up or new ones added, but these basic roles should probably be covered.

This leaves a “faceless” crew of about 20 or so, from whence new PCs can be promoted, and one other special role, Ship’s Purser.  The Purser will be an NPC in charge of the storage and maintenance of all gear not currently in use, particularly weapons.  For an elliptical reason I have chosen to name the Purser “Arachne”.

Well that covers about one page worth of notes.  In the next part I’ll go into more detail on the Purser’s role and more material about the set up and the possible ships the PCs can start with.  After that I’ll discuss the types of scenarios I see the players engaging in and what plots I expect to tie to them.

EDIT: Corrected the author attribution for the Stainless Steel Rat series.
EDIT: Corrected reference to Trademaster from "fourth" role to "fifth".

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dyson’s Delve – Session 7 – Deeper Delvings

This session happened Wednesday, December 29, 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 (male human cleric of Ra)
Wednesday (female elf rogue)
Sahar (female human fighter)
Luna (female elf sorcerer)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)

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

After a good night's sleep and an early breakfast at the Aldelle inn, the adventuring group Super Rat returned to the sheriff's office to question their captive.  They found the sheriff's office in a state of agitation.  Once they were able to get in a question sideways, the adventurers learned that the prisoner had disappeared from the cell!  No one knew how the man had escaped as the cell was not damaged nor unlocked.  The adventurers suspected that Tim had something to do with it and decided to return to the Delve immediately.

After a few hours of travel, the adventurers arrived and started making their way back down into the Delve.  Arriving at the 5th level of the dungeon, the group decided to investigate the side passage rather than pass through the Tapestry Room.  At the end of the side passage was a T-intersection and the group went left, following a longstanding protocol.  The passage turned right shortly and opened into a 15 ft wide octagonal room with a passage leading out the far side.  Floating in the center of the room was a wand.  A closer look made the edges of a five foot by five foot by five foot cube of some gelatinous material.  The adventurers found this odd and had misgivings.  [Several of the players, however, immediately recognized the danger they were in.]  Their misgivings crystallized when the cube started moving towards them.  Luna and Harkaitz quickly broiled the cube with fire attacks.  The wand inside the remains proved to be a wand of cure light wounds, a valuable find.  It was also noticed that the side walls of the room were mirrored, if extremely dirty.  Luna used prestidigitation to clean them before the adventurers moved on.  [She likes to leave the dungeon cleaner than when we arrived.]

Past the octagonal room, the passage turned right again and eventually connected to another room.  There were several holes in the ceiling and the adventurers could hear something moving around up there.  Suspecting that this was a defense mechanism against the cube, Frankie called out in draconic, asking if there were any lizardmen up in the ceiling.  He received no answer, so Wednesday fired her crossbow up into one of the holes.  She received a vial of flaming oil to the face in return.

While tempers are high, Frankie called out again in draconic and started up a conversation.  The creatures were kobolds and they had indeed tunneled into the ceiling to avoid the cube.  They never attacked the cube as it kept larger monsters out of the area and could not reach them.  After some negotiations, the adventurers were able to secure passage through this room and the next, which returned them to the T-intersection.

Having no other path, the adventurers traveled through the tapestry room.  After a quick side trip to verify the carrion crawler corpses were still in the room to the left (they were), Super Rat followed the right hand corridor, skipping the side passage where they had fought the guards in plate mail, to where the corridor ended with a door.  Wednesday proclaimed the door safe and the door was opened.  Beyond it was a room containing the stairs down, another door, and three guards in half-plate.  A fight quickly ensued, during which Sahar and Wednesday were injured.  Harkaitz healed them before the group investigated any further.

Not wanting to descend any further without knowing what they were leaving behind, the group of adventurers decided to check the door.  Once again Wednesday checked the door and pronounced it safe.  As it turned out, the door had a pendulum trap attached to it, which Sahar found by opening the door and getting hit by it.  The room beyond contained another door with a pendulum trap attached to it as well.  Wednesday disarmed the second trap while Harkaitz healed Sahar.

Checking the next door, Wednesday heard the distinctive sounds of ghouls on the other side.  Super Rat sprung the door open, surprising the ghouls, and moved to the attack.  In a quick fight, the ghouls were hacked up and destroyed.  The room they were in was ringed in gargoyle heads sculptures.  In the mouth of one of the heads, three pieces of jewelry were found.  Everyone in the group expected a trap, so Frankie did his "snatching the pebble" monk trick to pull the jewelry out of the gargoyle mouth before it snapped shut.

The hallway past the ghoul room opened to a corridor that led back to the original guard room.  There were two doors along the way and, after verifying where the corridor ended, the group investigated the first door.  Behind it was a mostly square room with a number of lit candles floating in the air and a six-inch diameter circular groove carved in the center of the floor.  Not certain what the room was for, Super Rat decided to skip it for now and check out the next door.

The next room contained two statues that looked like standing suits of armor flanking a chest.  Wednesday checked the chest and declared it safe, so Frankie opened it and found an assortment of junk, immediately earning this room the appellate "the dungeon's junk drawer".  Frankie also found that the chest had a secret compartment inside it, which he opened.  While the main part of the chest was safe, the secret compartment contained a dart trap (which Frankie discovered the hard way) and three amulets.  The three amulets detected as magical, but neither Harkaitz nor Luna could identify them properly, so they were thrown into the haversack for later investigation.

Not ready to descend to the next level, the group returned to the "ominous floating candle room".  Sahar investigated the circular groove in the floor and worked out that it was the same size as the iron crown Frankie was wearing.  After fitting the crown into the groove, two wall panels dropped into the floor, exposing a magically locked chest [and returning the room to a square shape].  Luna and Harkaitz pooled their arcane knowledge and discussed possible ways to open the chest.  They noticed that there were eleven points on the iron crown and eleven floating candles.  They extinguished the candles, impaled the candles on the crown points, and relit the candles, causing the chest to unlock.  Inside was a golden crown that detected as magical, but again neither Luna nor Harkaitz could identify it, so it was put into the haversack.

Having cleared out this level of the Delve, Super Rat finally descended the stairs to the next level down.  The stairs ended at a T-intersection.  The passage to the left dead-ended almost immediately, so the group turned right.  This corridor went a bit and turned right at a door locked with heavy chains.  Having learned to avoid such doors, Super Rat turned the corner and continued down the corridor.  The corridor turned right again and then opened to a square room with stone debris on the floor and an open side passage to the left.  It appeared that the room was once ringed with gargoyle statue heads, but they had all been destroyed.  Perhaps someone was looking for something?

Down the passage out of the room Wednesday spotted three wizards.  [Pointy hats and arcane symbols on their clothing – dead giveaway.]  Harkaitz, being the most diplomatic, walked down the corridor to talk with the wizards.  While not the most forthcoming individuals, Harkaitz was able to learn that they work for Tim, who has tasked them to look for three amulets.  The three amulets would grant them some sort of power when used in conjunction with something Tim possesses.

Harkaitz knew the conversation would end in a fight - he intended to start it himself.  The wizards had a different plan.  Looking at the situation from their point of view, it appeared they were talking to a fighter of some sort with another person or two hanging back in the shadows.  Apparently they expecteding to be able to take down Harkaitz quickly and then deal with the others hiding in the shadows, all three wizards cast magic missile at Harkaitz, each launching two missiles.  This heavily injured Harkaitz, but did not kill him.  Luna immediately cast scorching ray and burned one of the wizards to the ground.  Harkaitz fell back to heal himself while Sahar charged forward with her +1 longsword/+3 vs. spellcasters and quickly cut down a second wizard.  Frankie then moved forward and, using a flurry of blows, knocked out the third wizard, securing a prisoner for questioning.

Searching the bodies, Wednesday found a map of the current level of the Delve with a room marked with an "X".  The part of the level containing that room did not connect to the current area – it appeared Super Rat would have to descend a level and then come back up before they could get to the marked room.  Super Rat took the time to check a secret door Frankie had noticed during the fight and verified the location of the stairs down before returning to the surface with their prisoner.

*End of Session*

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dyson’s Delve – Session 6, Part 2

Getting back from Lone Star and getting back into the rhythm of the DayJob (7:00 am to 3:30 pm with no ability to post to the blog) after an extended holiday vacation really did a number on me.  Add prepping for my Southern Reaches game (Friday) and my wife’s Interfaith Tea (Saturday) on top and that leaves me very behind on my blog writing.  I will do my best to start catching up on Sunday.  I have two more sessions of Dyson’s Delve in notes and four pages of notes on my Traveller-style game banked up that I want to get out before I have a month backlog.

This is the second part of the session that 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).

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

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

The morning after escorting the lizardmen past Aldelle, Super Rat returned to the Delve.  Returning once more to the manticore level, the group of adventurers checked the final room on the level, finding four dead and savaged goblins, the second manticore’s last meal.  How things might have gone differently if the adventurers had checked this room first!

With the manticore level cleared out, the adventurers returned to the stairs and descended deeper into the earth to the next level.  The first room here contained a statue of a four armed creature none of the adventurers recognized and two large air vents in the floor, giving forth more of the charnel smell.  Sitting on the head of the statue was an iron crown, well worn, that Frankie took a liking to.  After having Harkaitz verify the crown was not magical, Frankie removed it from the statue and put it on his head.  For a monk he seems to be very attracted to the bling.

Following the only passage out, the adventurers bypass a side passage to investigate a room with tapestries and a moaning breeze.  While creepy, there is no other effect from the sound.  The tapestry room has two passages out on the far end and the adventurers chose to go left.  At the end of this passage were two carrion crawlers in a room barely big enough for them, which sped up the fight for the adventurers.  Searching the room afterward, the adventurers found four human corpses the crawlers had been feeding upon and some loot, including a great deal of coin and a magic shield [+1].  Sahar was given the magic shield as the group’s primary protector.

Returning to the tapestry room, the adventurers followed the other passage east.  Frankie, scouting a little ahead, spotted a group of four humans wearing plate mail, standing guard.  After a failed attempt to bluff the guards into identifying themselves to him, a fight broke out and the rest of Super Rat moved forward.  This pitched fight lasted a bit, ending with two of the guards dead, one unconscious and captured, and one fleeing to raise the alarm.  Not knowing how many reinforcements they might face, the Adventurers scrawled some graffiti on the wall (“Super rat was here.  Super Rat was victorious!”), looted the bodies of their armor, grabbed the captive, and retreated back to town.

Back in Aldelle, the captive was turned over to the sheriff for questioning.  One of the three sets of plate mail was cleaned up and adjusted to fit Sahar, greatly improving her defense.  The other two sets (plus the rest of the looted weaponry and armor) was sold to the village trader for coin, netting a nice bundle.

*End of Session*

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Temporary Tangent into Boardgaming

First, Happy New Year to everyone!  I've been away attending a 4-day boardgame convention and have finally recovered enough sleep and dug out enough e-mail to post coherently.  I had hoped to achieve this state yesterday (the day after the convention), but spent 15 out of 24 hours asleep and most of my waking hours unpacking, putting things away, grocery shopping, and then watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, Season 1, disk 4, with my wife.

So.  Without a write-up of last week's Dyson's Delve adventure log ready, I'd thought I'd speak extemporaneously on what games I played over the long weekend.  This list is not all-encompassing as I started to forget to write down the names of what I played as the convention went on and sleep deprivation kicked in.

Power Grid:
I've played this before (in fact, I own it), but I've only ever played with the starter maps (U.S. and Germany) as I do not own any of the expansion maps.  This time we played a 4-player game on the Brazil map.  The map is good and makes for some interesting choices.  The only significant change to the rules was to the resupply chart, which made coal very rare and oil very cheap.  Our game used the basic power plant deck which seems to be heavy in coal, so the switch in the resupply rates made for some very unusual purchasing activities.  A very good map and one I now need to track down and purchase.  We also looked at the other expansion maps and discussed what they were like.  I think I want to try out the Korea map next with its TWO resource pools and follow that up with the Italy map, which looks very claustrophobic.

7 Wonders:
A very cool resource management game played with cards, 3-7 players.  I played this three times over the weekend, to give you an idea how much I liked it.  This is a card game played in three eras.  In each era, deck of cards for that era are completely dealt out.  On your turn you choose one to play and pass the rest to your neighbor, to the left in eras 1 and 3, to the right in era 2.  So there is a curious balance of choosing what's best for you versus what you don't want the next guy to get.  There are something like six ways to score points, all of which score at the end of the game, best score wins.  I played it twice with 7 players and once with 3 players and it played quick (30-45 minutes) and well each time.

A hex-based light little wargame where you run a nest of ants trying to eradicate the other nests.  If you kill a nests queen, you get all their food (needed to make more ants) and all their pieces are removed from the game.  Claims to play from 2-6 players, but 3-4 seems to be its sweet spot.  Two players seemed to have a slow start and 6 players (which I played) was too chaotic and the ending dragged out.  I'd play it again, but I wouldn't buy my own copy.

Red November:
A silly cooperative game where you play gnomes on the submersible Red November.  It has catastrophically failed and you are trying to keep it afloat until help arrives.  The rules are dense and have multiple redundancies, which might work with the Soviet-style theme, but made looking things up difficult.  Slimming down the rules and using some bullet points would have saved much frustration.  We came within a turn or two of winning, but failed due to a really bad combo of events.  Not certain I'd buy this at full price and I'd be tempted to re-write the rules into something easier to read.

Phase 10:
A gin rummy card game with a board to give you choices on how to get new cards.  Goal is to make it through all 10 phases to the victory phase, first one there wins.  Each phase requires a different hand combo (a mix of set and/or runs).  When someone goes out, anyone who didn't open (lay down the required cards for their phase) gets to keep half their cards.  I got stuck on Phase 6 (a run of 8 cards) for 6-7 rounds of play.  I don't think I'd play this again, your mileage may vary.

Tikal II:
Sequel to the game Tikal, in this game you are exploring a pyramid instead of exploring the jungle looking for pyramids.  This game is beautiful and has possibly the best component tray I've ever seen - holding all the components perfectly, including the board AND the rules.  Game length is set by action tiles set around the board, split up amongst six temples along a river.  They are face up, so the players can follow the river around the board clock-wise to the temple containing the board.  When you get to the end of the river, you have to pay a key to portage across to the top again, keys that you need to enter rooms and later score points.  Very fun game and I'll buy it as soon as I have the chance.  I may order it online to speed that up.

One of a series of games by the same designer (including Tikal, Java, and now Tikal II), I've long looked at the back of the box, but could not tell if it was worth purchasing.  I finally had the chance to do so and determined I must now own it.  Build the city of the Aztecs by dividing the land into districts (and scoring points) and then build more/better buildings than the other players for big points.  A bit more complicated than that, but it only took me ten minutes to read the rules aloud so four people who had never played it before could get started.  Very enjoyable.

Plague rats cover medieval Europe.  Your goal is to have more people alive at the end of the game.  This can be done two ways: move them off the board to the castle (which is safe) or just pile on the people and hope enough survive the plague rats to score at the end.  Players choose roles during each turn of the game, gaining powers to move rats or people as the cards state.  Rat tokens spread though the use of a plague marker that the players move.  The plague marker adds rats to adjacent territories and turns over rat token to see who dies in the territory.  The rat tokens require a minimum population to activate and then kill based on what roles are held by the players with pieces in that territory.  Plays well with 2, 3, and 4 players.  Another one I must own.

This is a fun game with a four-stage method for getting gold, the games victory points.  I'd have to use a full blog entry to describe it, but I liked the game very much.  Challenging without unnecessary difficulty, the interesting point is the players trigger scoring for themselves, which not only gets them points but pieces necessary to score more points.  If you get a chance, play this and make up you own mind.  Plays 2-4 players, but four is best.

One of my favorite styles of games, you build the board as you play, looking for resources (stone and timber) or plains to build villages or holy sites upon.  The goal is to get your four temple offerings to the temple before anyone else does (Hail Marduk!).  Offerings appear on the board under the villages you build and require mana to offer up at the temple.  Mana is generated by holy sites, but you have to have a piece (or two) there to collect the mana and you have a limited reservoir to hold your mana.  Your reservoir starts smaller than you need it to be, so you have to haul stone to the temple to expand you reservoir.  Oh, and the guy who hauls the offering to the temple and pays the mana joins the clergy and is removed from the board, so you have to make more guys too.  Plus, there are bonus cards which let you do different things outside the rules.  And you can only do one of these actions a turn.  Decisions, decisions, decisions.  I played this four times over the weekend, including a back-to-back set on the fourth day.  Plays best with four, but three should work as well.

Described to me as a "Dominion clone", I was just being sociable and listening to the rules explanation while waiting on something else.  I ended up playing two games, back-to-back.  Players start with identical small sets of cards and draw hands of six each turn.  They use those cards to buy stuff in the village (including hiring better adventurers) or going to the dungeon to kill monsters.  What items are in town is randomly determined at the beginning of the game, as are which categories of monsters are in play, so each game is different.  Killed monsters provide experience points and go into your discard pile where they will provide gold when you draw them later (player decks reshuffle when you reach the bottom).  This game was written by AEG, so there are many typos in the rules (as is typical of their products).  I've never played Dominion, so I cannot compare the two, but I liked the mechanism and would play either if given a chance.

Faerie Tale Dice:
This game is still at the end of the design stage and I scored the last of the 40 demo sets the designer put together (Thank you Kevin Nunn!).  You roll the dice and attempt to put together the best scoring set you can.  You get three rolls, keeping or re-rolling dice as you want, but "bad" dice always stay.  Your score is marked on the track.  After each player rolls and marks their score, the highest score chooses a victory point token, then the next lowest, then the next.  There are four tokens for the first four rounds, but only two after that and the game ends after a total of eight rounds.  Point tokens are then tallied and best score wins.  This game is being reviewed by a publisher.  I enjoyed playing this and treasure my copy.  Then the game is available commercially, I will buy one of those as well.

Small World:
A much improved version of Vinci.  If you don't know that game, let me sum up, explaining would take too long.  You start running a fantasy race that expands across the game board.  Combat is done by stacking more counters than are in a territory (plus two, so an empty territory takes two counters to conquer).  As you have a fixed number of counters (ten is average) and lose one each time one of your territories is taken over (and with a different board sized for each number of players, this WILL happen often), you eventually get to a point where you cannot attack.  So you put that race in Decline and select a new race to expand with.  Rinse repeat if neccessary.  Victory points are scored for all territories controlled, both by your active race and your race in decline, so don't attack your old territories.  Game play is for a fixed number of turns (8 in a four-player game) and who ever has the most points at the end wins.  Races have powers and are randomely assigned an additional power.  BUY this if you get a chance.  The expansion sets are also worth it and relatively inexpensive ($10-$15).