Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 17 – Demons and Devils, Oh My!

This session happened Tuesday, March 8, 2011.  This campaign used the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game as a starting point, but has now moved on to new material from the DM-in-training.

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)

April 1, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Blessed is Ra, in whose Light we thrive.

Today we returned to the cave, delving deeper in search of the vrock said to inhabit it.  Past the side caves where we fought the barghests, the descending tunnel made a turn to the left and then split.  Frankie was scouting ahead, taking advantage of the dwarven ability to see in complete darkness.  He reported the right-most passage quickly opened into a chamber with opening high in the walls, wherein he heard flapping noises, but saw nothing.

To my ears this sounded like a stirge nest.  Having suffered their blood-draining attack before, I was resolute in avoiding it this time.  I stepped forward and filled the chamber with the holy fires of Ra [Harkaitz cast fireball, granted by the fire domain], confident that the blood drinkers could not stand against it.  Sadly, I was mistaken in my evaluation and we were soon set upon by what turned out to be quasits.  We quickly killed the evil pests before they could fly deeper into the cave and warn of our presence – or so we thought.  Pooling our knowledge after the fight, we realized that quasits were vulnerable to cold iron, something we did not have.  We discussed returning to Terranor to acquire some, but decided against it as, according to Tre-ba's knowledge, vrocks were had no vulnerabilities to cold iron.  (Note to self: Tre-ba seems to know a great deal about demons and devils – why is this?)

Deeper into the cave we came across a bearded devil and another quasit, one that had escaped earlier while invisible.  While a bearded devil is a fearsome foe, against our party it did not fare well (nor did the remaining quasit) and the fight was quickly over.  After putting down the bearded devil, we were faced with two possible passages to investigate, both leading further from the sunlight.  While we contemplated which way to go, I felt the presence of Ra in my soul and had the definite feeling we should follow the path on the right.  I announced this and, lacking any stronger opinions, my companions agreed to follow.

At the end of this passage we found a locked door.  Wednesday  picked the lock and Frankie opened the door.  Beyond was a shrine to evil, pure and simple.  The stained altar radiated palpable evil that filled the room with its unholiness.  I borrowed the waterskin of holy water from Wednesday [acquired early in our explorations of Dyson's Delve] and poured it upon the altar.  I then channeled the pure power of Ra into the altar [channel positive energy], cleansing it.  Evil would be supported here no more.

After the cleansing, we backtracked to the chamber where we fought the bearded devil and followed the remaining path.  This led to a deeper chamber where a battle had been recently fought.  There was much blood and the bodies of a demon of some sort, a quasit, a human, and an elf.  The human and the elf matched the descriptions of Michael and Lilss, two of the three members of The Comet of Katin.  Being only recently dead, it was still possible to return them from Duat.  That so, we cleaned their bodies (through Luna's use of a minor magic [prestidigitation]), wrapped them in their cloaks, and placed them in two of our bags of holding.

We pushed on deeper down a tunnel and came across the final member of The Comet of Katin, the halfling known only as Stunty.  He was fighting a dark angel with coal black wings and a burning bow.  Tre-ba identified it as an erinyes and stated that we should kill it.  I had no doubts of this.  This fight was fast and dangerous.  As we gained the upper hand on the dark angel, she took wing (literally) and flew down a tunnel to escape us.  Unfortunately for her, she expired from blood loss, a result of Wednesday's dire skill with her blade.

I healed those who needed it while Frankie retrieved the erinyes' weapons.  Wednesday claimed the eternally burning composite longbow the erinyes had ben using.  Frankie warned us that there seemed to be a much larger cavern ahead.  We were all tired and ready to return our fellow guild members to the guild house, so returned back to our camp.  Tomorrow we will escort Stunty and his dead companions back to Terranor. 

While we found two of the three adventurers we had been sent to assist dead, our confidence is high.  We feel certain that we have cleared most of the terrible denizens of the cave and after our side trip back to Terranor, we will return to put an end to the vrock and purge this cave.

In the meantime, Short John has prepared an excellent dinner of stew, bread, and a slab of sharp cheese for each of us.  Hiring him has turned out to be an excellent choice and worth paying the 5 silver marks a day for his salary.  He also knows several good tales from his time as a ship's cook, even if his way of telling the stories is a bit salty.

*End of Session*

[This session was played at Beck's Prime, one of the best burger places in the Houston area.  Yes, it is a chain, but they make excellent burgers and shakes you need to eat with a spoon.  We grabbed a table in the front corner and, after eating dinner, broke out the game materials and played.  We got a few curious looks from the other patrons, but had a good time and a good meal.]

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Status of Things

I realized that, looking forward, I will not get a timely posting here until Thursday morning due to a busy schedule and no ability to post during the day.  That’s a long time to go, so I’m writing what I have in my head at the moment and posting it now while I wait for dinner to cook.  Tonight is, of course, my Tuesday night Pathfinder game (The Aldelle Group) and since my wife and I will miss next week (due to our Anniversary), we don’t want to miss out tonight.  Yes, I married a lovely woman who games.  You may be jealous if it makes you feel better.  ;-)

I’ve been working on the world descriptions for the starting sector for my Hero Traveller game.  I’m taking what Stars Without Numbers’ random sector generator spit out as a starter and embroidering from there, then tacking on Traveller’s planetary codes and naming the worlds.  It’s a bit slow as I mull each world over, but I can get 2-3 worlds done when I sit down to write for an hour or two.  Still, it’s a good thing I’m starting now as it will take me some time to generate the entire sector, let alone the neighboring sectors the PCs can easily get to.  The next sector I generate will use the sector generator from the MGP Traveller rules for comparison.

I want to post some of the material here, but I know several of the players read this (occasionally) and I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’m thinking of writing what the Pre-Crash blurb for each world would have read like and posting that.  I usually envision what the world was like prior to The Crash so I can develop how things went south after the Crash, so this may be a matter of just re-writing part of my entry and adding some additional color that is no longer true.  Should make for some interesting disinformation amongst the players: what’s still accurate and what has completely changed.

I’ve had an insight on my Southern Reaches game.  If I expect the PCs to make 15th level by the end of June and want them to build cool stuff, why am I being so stingy with experience points and treasure?  This is a habit from the old days that I think I’m going to jettison for a while.  I want the PCs to do cool things and achieve fame and wealth.  Time to stop GMing like I’m running a gritty, scrabble-for-your-wealth kind of game.  I’m not going to go all Monty Haul or anything, but wealth will be there to be had and big time monsters (with big time XP) are making appearances.

That’s it for now.  I’ll have time to type up one or two actual adventure logs tomorrow (Wednesday) and post them to appear Thursday and Friday mornings.  Later!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hero Traveller - First Peek

So here is my first draft of the starting world for the Hero Traveller game I'll start after the Southern Reaches PCs achieve 15th level.  I've randomly generated the starting sector (Akab Sector, but it is my homebrew universe, so don't bother trying to look it up) and am now writing blurbs for the planets,  I started with the starting world because I have definite ideas about how I want it to be.  After this, I'll let my imagination wander from the rough outlines randomly rolled up with the Stars Without Number game system.

So here it is: Maresfield, home system for the player characters:

Maresfield  0605  B765544-12 Ga Ht

Once home to manufacturers of luxury starships, Maresfield stayed relatively unified after the collapse despite (or rather because of) its low and dispersed population.  The generally favorable weather of the world and a cultural gardening hobby allowed the populace to establish a sustainable food supply quickly after The Crash and avoid any major starvations.  In the last 12 years Maresfield has reactivated the orbital spaceport and begun refurbishing/repairing the starships abandoned in-system in the last days of The Crash.  This was made possible by the invention of The McGuffin (see below).

Home to three custom starship design houses, dozens of custom parts designers and luxury manufacturers, and a minor luxury hotel industry, Maresfield maintained a small but well educated population prior to The Crash.  The wealth of proprietary data and artisan starship designs led to a modular and semi-isolated planetary compnet, which incidentally kept the [VIRUS] at bay long enough to safely preserve a great deal of engineering data past the end of the war.

After The Crash, the hodge-podge of ship and subsystem manufacturers pooled their talents to find a way to defeat the [VIRUS] as the [VIRUS] attacked their livelihoods by destroying the market for luxury and custom starships.  Fifteen years of halting research eventually resulted in The McGuffin, a device containing software able to purge a system of the [VIRUS] and load a rudimentary operating system in its place.

There are two limitations to the McGuffin.  The first is that the action of purging a system of the [VIRUS] also wipes out all previous data housed on the system in question.  This was unavoidable due to the severe virulence of the AI-based computer virii.  The second is that some of the components in the McGuffin require exotic elements not available in the Maresfield system.  The existing McGuffins were built using spare parts on hand after the Crash, but the previous "just-in-time" supply train no longer exists and the original source world has been beyond contact for decades.  Locating a new, closer, supply is a priority for all explorer ships leaving Maresfield.
So, thoughts and feedback?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fighting Words

I like the Hero System, better known by its superhero rules set, Champions.  I also like D&D in every version since 1E (never played OD&D, so I have no opinion there).  I run both.  Champions has a reputation for being math-intensive, which intimidates a lot of folks.  To them I say the following:

Champions uses the THAC0 system, but simpler.

That’s right – I said it: Champions combat uses a simpler mechanic than AD&D.  Don’t believe me?  Let’s run it down:

  • THAC0 uses the number your character needs to roll greater than to hit AC 0 as it’s base number.  This base number changes based on class AND level.
  • THAC0 subtracts positive AC values from this number and adds negatives to reach your targets AC.
  • THAC0 then subtracts any positive magic bonuses you have from this number.
  • Various modifiers are then applied based on cover, position, range, et cetera to reach the final target number.
  • A d20 is rolled: if you rolled over the target number, you hit, otherwise you missed.  If you rolled a 20 on the d20, you may have done critical damage, depending upon the edition you are playing.  You may have to hit again to confirm the critical.
  • You roll damage based on weapon (or spell).  If you made a critical hit, you may roll additional dice and/or multiply damage modifiers.

Hero System
  • Hero System uses a single target number (11) as the number you need to roll higher than to hit.  This base number never changes.
  • Hero System adds the targets DCV (armor value) value.
  • Hero System then subtracts your OCV (bonuses to hit) from this number.
  • Various modifiers are then applied based on cover, position, range, et cetera to reach the final target number.
  • 3d6 is rolled: if you rolled over the target number, you hit, otherwise you missed.  There is no critical damage.
  • You roll damage based on weapon (or spell).

Also, figuring out a Hero System character’s OCV is as simple as (if not simpler than) determining bonuses to hit for a THAC0 system.

So let’s review: fixed target number, opponent defense applied one way, no re-rolls for crits, no doubling dice and multiplying damage modifiers (no crits).  That sounds like the same basic system but simpler to me.  And if you balk at adding multiple d6, talk to your wizard’s fireball damage.

[Disclaimer: Yes, I know character creation in Hero System is points based and D&D isn’t, but A) once your character is built in Hero System, that math is over and does not need to be repeated while a THAC0 character has several things that change every time it levels (THAC0, saves, and hit points to name a few), and B) build a D&D character over first level and then equip him and you are getting just as complicated, especially if magic items are available for purchase.]

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Skyping in Players

I’ve recently added virtual players to my Southern Reaches game via Skype.  The first player was a regular who was sent to a different state 440 miles away for 3-6 months by his employers.  It’s a small town and he knew no one there, so he requested we try using Skype so he could stay current in the campaign and get his gaming fix.  He even offered to supply the camera.  So we gave it a try.

The second player is a friend I’ve chatted with online (Erin Palette of Lurking Rhythmically fame) and done some editing work for who showed some interest.  The Southern Reaches game is designed to be easy to add players and I now had the capabilities to do so, so I made the offer.  She prefers to not transmit video (in fact, does not have a camera), but is willing to set an avatar and communicate verbally.

Things we’ve learned:
  • Having some folks present and some only on a screen takes a little getting used to, especially if, by request, the camera only points at the map.  The reduction in facial clues and body language sometimes makes for awkward communication, with folks either talking over each other or huge pauses while everyone waits for someone else to speak.
  • Microphones are important.  The camera I have has a directional mike, which I point up to catch as talking as possible, but a lot of the more quiet stuff gets dropped or missed, especially if multiple people are talking at the same time.
  • Voices need to be projected.  As part of my job I attend teleconferences with some small regularity, so I’ve learned to project my voice at the microphone when communicating through an open mike.  Not everyone in my gaming group has those skills, which contributes to stuff getting dropped.

I’m still adjusting to the remote players myself.  I am not certain that this is providing as good a game as could be had, nor am I 100% certain that it is something I want to keep doing.  I think things would go better if we were all using a virtual table top of some sort, but that side-steps why we get together in the first place.

So to sum up: We are still experimenting with this and I’ll have more to report in the future.

[So I've been more busy at the DayJob in the last five business days than I was the entire five weeks prior to that.  This has eased off, so I should be able to maintain a regular posting schedule again.  I have a post queued for tomorrow already and will write up an adventure log for Friday (I have notes from multiple campaigns ready to type up).]

EDIT: Named a name - Erin at Lurking Rhythmically.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Been Ill

So I came down ill with a cold Sunday afternoon and it knocked me on my butt the next two days.  I returned to the DayJob today and spent the day digging out of two missed days of work, so I'm behind on posting, obviously.

I'm not certain I'll be able to get a regular post up for tomorrow as I finish catching up around the house this evening, so I'm going to give you a rain check today and post an extra post over the next two weeks to catch back up.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 16 – Joining the Guild

This session happened Tuesday, March 1, 2011.  This campaign used the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game as a starting point, but has now moved on to new material from the DM-in-training.
As we are no longer exploring Dyson’s Delve and we are now using a different group name as a result of joining the Adventurer’s Guild, I am changing the reference name for the campaign as well.  Additionally, I will be changing the format for this set of adventure logs to a personal journal format from the perspective of my character, Harkaitz.  Journal dates will be in-game and the GM is using the real world calendar for ease of communication.  It will take me an entry or three to find Harkaitz’s voice, so please bear with me.

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)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)

March 30, Year of the Earth Rabbit
After two days of praying, Ra’s blessings have finally rid me of the accursed mummy rot I acquired in the city museum.  I am exhausted from the ravages of the disease and being forced to sleep in the barn to avoid frightening the other clients of the Murdered Manticore.  Considering the disreputable clients the place attracts, I am still not convinced that that would have been a bad thing.

Tomorrow I and my companions will seek something to do here in the capital [Tyrannor] that actually pays coin so we can improve our living standards.

March 31, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Today we tracked down the Adventurer’s Guild and joined it.  The local guild house is located outside the city walls in a building that resembles a hunting lodge more than anything else.  Inside there were a few other adventuring types whiling the day away with some friendly gambling.  Wednesday went to observe their game while Sahar and I went to talk with the local guild leader.  After some discussion, we paid the entry fee to join the guild and were issued guild badges.  I picked up an extra one for Luna, who apparently found someplace entertaining to sleep last night and sent a message she would join us later in the day.  Elves.

I was somewhat surprised at how easy it was to join the guild.  There was no testing of ability or swearing of oaths.  I suspect that the members of this guild have a high mortality rate due to the hazards we face and anyone willingly identifying themselves as an “adventurer” is good enough.  I think this says something, but I am not willing to dwell upon it at this time.  The only potentially awkward point was when we were asked what our group name was.  As tempting as it was to give Super Rat as our name, I could feel Tre-ba staring daggers into my back.  Instead I went with the simple name of “The Aldelle Group”.  It seemed safe and very unlikely anyone else had would have taken it.

One of the reasons we joined the guild is that they had a job that needed doing.  A cave about a half day’s walk from the city needed to be cleared of what sounded like a vrock and its minions and the guild had accepted the work.  A small group of adventurers calling themselves The Comet of Katin had been sent a couple of days ago, but had not been heard from since and there was a guild reward for rescuing them if they needed it.  As the reward was 500 gold kroner per rescued guild member, this would be worthwhile just for that.  Plus, it was good to know that the guild paid to rescue its members.  The Comet of Katin had three members: a human named Michael, and elf named Lilss, and a halfing using the nickname of “Stunty”.  This did not speak well of the halflings stability.  Before leaving, we picked up some holy water and some tanglefoot bags from the guild supply.  The supply was one of the things our guild dues went to pay for, which was very nice.

We gathered up “Short” John, our cook, and some supplies and left a message for Luna as to where to find us and then headed out to the cave.  It occurs to me that, as our halfling cook goes by “Short” John Copper, the halfling we were to rescue using “Stunty” as a nickname is not as strange as it might seem.  We made the trip in about half a day and spent an hour locating the cave itself before making camp in a defensible spot nearby, where we left Short John and the food supplies.  I wonder if there is any advantage of hiring some camp guards in the future?

At the entrance to the cave, Tre-ba brewed up and passed out some extracts, mostly barkskin and bear’s endurance.  They looked odd and smelled worse, but turned out to be very useful.  Inside the cave entrance was a largish chamber showing signs of a battle, particularly claw marks on the walls and some blood spilled on the floor.  The tunnel at the back sloped down noticeably.  Frankie took the lead, using his darkvision to scout ahead.  I activated a sunrod and slotted it into my shield to provide light for the rest of us.  Elixirs were quaffed at this point.

About twenty feet down the tunnel, Frankie found some side caves, out of which came three barghests, a kind of demonic goblin werewolf.  We eventually defeated them, but it was a tough fight and the lack of our sorceress [Luna] was telling.  Checking out their lairs, Wednesday and Frankie were able to find a mixed collection of golden trinkets.  Individually they are not worth a lot, but as a whole Tre-ba appraised them as worth about 2000 gold kroner – a nice haul.  We then fell back to our camp to finish healing and wait for Luna to catch up with us.

It is time for my turn on watch.  More tomorrow.

*End of Session*

[Much of this session was devoted to joining the guild and prepping for the trip to the cave, so after the barghest fight, we were pretty much out of time.  The next session will be played at a local restaurant, Beck’s Prime, a high end hamburger place.  Normally we eat separately and then get together for the game, but we are trying out eating together once a month and then playing.  Last month we did a pizza order from Pizza Zone, one of the highest rated places in Houston.  Beck’s is slow on a week night and we’ve gamed there before when my A/C went out during the summer just before one of my monthly games.]

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SR38: Cheap Crypt ("He's tight!")

This session happened Friday, March 4, 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)
Tycho von Helmont (elf alchemist)
Agnes Sunbeard (dwarf rogue)
Thorngrim (half-orc sorcerer)
 – Kainen (Thorngrim’s human fighter cohort)
Sal Ty (elf wizard) [via Skype]
– Maenwen (Sal’s human wizard cohort)

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

After the disaster of the stone giant fight, the adventurers spent time recovering (Maenwen needing a week before Su Bel could recast restoration and remove the remaining negative level she was under) and then making or improving some magic items to address flaws in their camping procedures (not enough fighting types ready on each watch).  All told, this entailed staying at Drop-off Tower for 17 days before heading back out.

Seeking to supplement their experience and wealth, the group decided to travel west and revisit the Terrace of Fallen Horses.  They rode on horses west, following Gravemarker Road to the Woodcutter’s camp.  There they discovered that the camp now boasted a ditch and earthen wall to protect the camp from auroch stampedes.  Continuing west, they took Terrace Road out into the Sea of Grass.  The grasses the road was cut through were not as high as they expected.  At the bend where the road turns southwest to the Ruined Hills, they found a new trail splitting off and heading northwest.  It had none of Thorngrim’s arcane marks – in fact it had no marks at all.  Curious, but on their way elsewhere, the adventurers made note of the new road and continued to the Ruined Hills.  They arrived at the Terrace of Fallen Horses as the sun was setting and made camp.

The next morning, the adventurers started off surveying the site, attempting to see if anyone else had explored the area during the two months since they had last been here.  To the best of their ability, this did not seem to be the case.  Having checked all but one of the tombs on the lower terrace, the adventurers decided to investigate that last tomb.

Sadly, they were disappointed.  The wall paintings along the entry hall were generic and of a lower quality than the other tombs on the lower terrace.  The first chamber they entered was decorated with a sky-scape.  The domed ceiling was supported by three columns, the bottoms of which were carved to resemble goddesses of some sort.  As Sal entered the room to scan it with detect magic, the “goddesses” animated and moved to attack.  After a short fight, the animated statues were rubble and Sal let the rest of the adventurers enter the chamber before re-entering himself (he had run to the back of the party during the fight).

With nothing supporting the upper halves of the three columns, the ceiling started to groan and cracks appeared.  Agnes was able to identify a pending collapse and warned the rest of the adventurers.  Su Bel quickly stepped up and cast a wall of stone in the shape of an upside-down “U” and braced the ceiling with it, stopping the impending collapse.  Agnes continued to investigate the now safe chamber, eventually identifying a door concealed behind some plaster work.  This was protected by a minor pit trap, which she easily disabled with a few spikes, and a puzzle lock, which she quickly solved.  Beyond was the tomb itself with a huge granite sarcophagus.  Inside, the king was entombed with a red dust (fake cinnabar) and low quality beaded clothing.  Clearly entombed on a budget.

Disgusted with this, the adventurers decided to return to Drop-off Tower, rather than check any of the other tombs.  [Actually, we needed to stop earlier than normal so my wife could go to a friend’s house that was near a business conference she was attending all weekend and we had gotten a late start.]  Just as they were passing the Woodcutter’s Camp, they met an elderly human leading three burros loaded with sacks and crates back west, away from the Iron Keep.  This was very unusual, so they stopped to chat with him.

His name was Curtains (he admitted it was a nickname, but he had been using it so long it was the name he regularly used) and he was a merchant for a new place named Westcastle Crossing.  The adventurers learned that Westcastle Crossing was a new settlement in the coastal hills to the west, apparently based around a tin mine and a stone quarry.  Very curious about this, most of the adventurers decided to follow Curtains west, back to Westcastle Crossing while Su Bel and Dame Yasha returned east to Drop-off Tower.  Westcastle Crossing turned out to be more of a walled village, but showed signs of expected growth.  From the flags being flown, Sal was able to determine that whoever ruled here was a minor member of a different duchy than the one the Baron belonged to.  Suddenly possibilities started appearing in the adventurers eyes.

The adventurers very nearly did not enter the village when the gate guards asked for a five copper a person toll for entry.  [Actually, the PLAYERS balked at paying the toll until it was explained that this was a historically common practice.  You’d have thought I was asking to pay with real money from the way they squawked.]  After having the toll explained to them and paying the five copper each, they went to the village’s tavern/inn for drinks.  They were pleasantly surprised to find that goods here had no 40% upcharge as they did at the Iron Keep.  Considering how much this saved them on meals and drinks that night alone, the five copper entry toll suddenly seemed a minor inconvenience.

*End of session*

[So this is where I finally introduced the new, competing “town” to the players.  I had originally thought to put it on the coast to the east of the Iron Keep, possibly in the ruins of the old village the PCs had discovered at the mouth of the eastern river (still unnamed), but eventually decided that the coastal hills to the west were more defensible and a better place for a new colony.  The entry toll was a last minute addition, mostly to test the player’s reactions to minor taxation.  They reacted about how I thought they would – they squawked like outraged chickens.  I’m interested in seeing how they react when the Iron Baron demands an actual oath of fealty in exchange for allowing the construction of Drop-off Keep.  Or the yearly taxes, which are due soon.  This skirts really close to breaking the sandbox mantra “there is no adventure in town”, but I think it is worth doing.  Name level should require some maturity on the PCs part and picking a fight with the Baron should not be their first option.  Although it is what I’m expecting.  We’ll see.]

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

SR 38 Post queued

Forgot to post today's post when I got home and ran off to play in the Tuesday Night Pathfinder game.  It is now uploaded and queued to appear at 7:00 AM tomorrow morning (Wednesday).  My apologies for the delay.

Real Life Intervenes

With my wife returning from a business trip and me giving a guest lecture, I was not able to get the Tuesday posting finished.  I will post it when I get home from the DayJob, around 5:00 PM CST.

Monday, March 7, 2011

SR37: Dragonslay…er, No. Not Really.

This session happened Friday, February 25, 2011, and was the only session I ran this past weekend.  There was no game on February 18th due to player scheduling issues (and the DM, me, not really being ready).

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

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

With the group of adventurers still out in the mountains, Sal used reduce person on the others (so he could carry everyone) and then teleport on himself to get back to Drop-off Tower without hiking the entire distance.  Back at the Tower, the group dispersed to pursue their own preparations for fighting the red dragon, having decided that they would be able to defeat it easier than the banshee in the copper mine.  [Despite not knowing where the dragon lairs or, really, anything about it.]

As pert of his preparations, Sal went to the Iron Keep to consult with the few sages there and perform some other errands, like updating the Table Map in Spider's Bar.  At Spider's, he was introduced to Xin, a human wizard new to town.  Xin had some peculiar understandings about how things were here in the Southern Reaches (like he thought a cabal of wizards ran the place), but was still very much interested in joining up with the adventurers to expand his knowledge.

Sal teleported both Xin and himself back to the steps of Drop-off Tower (without warning Xin first).  There he dumped Xin off with Su Bel to have her verify Xin was on the up-and-up.  She did so after talking with him a bit (and casting a few discreet spells).  She then gave Xin the five copper tour of the tower.  [As a note, construction of the keep walls has started, requiring Thorngrim to dispel the illusionary walls he was using to plan out the constructions.  This made him slightly sad, but the workers demanded it be done so they could see what they were doing.]

Once Xin was introduced to everyone, planning for how to fight the dragon started in earnest and continued far into the evening.  Once the tactics were agreed to, Sal set to inscribing the necessary scrolls support the group against the dragon.  This took another day, during which the rest of the group made their own last minute preparations.  The following day, Sal used several spells to transport the group [minus Agnes and Tycho as their players were not in attendance] to the plateau in front of the Banshee Copper Mine.  There the adventurers made camp while Sal cast scrying several times, attempting to locate the dragon's lair.  The only time he was able to locate the dragon, it was flying high in the sky.  Having used most of his high-level spells, Sal needed to rest [only two hours – he does have a ring of sustenance] before re-memorizing.

Late that night, during the second watch, the camp was attacked by six stone giants.  Mog, Sal, and Maenwen were on watch, with the rest of the adventurers up in a rope trick, sleeping.  The giants achieved tactical supremacy early in the fight, killing Mog and Maenwen during the fight.  Su Bel was able to save Mog by casting breath of life on him [see end note], but she was not able to save Maenwen.  After this point, the dice turned in the favor of the players, allowing them to get their tactics in order and turn the tide of the battle. 

While the adventurers eventually defeated the stone giants, they had clearly been punked.  This seriously shook their faith in the odds of defeating the dragon, let alone without anyone dying (but the dragon of course).  When the dawn arrived, Su Bel cast raise dead and restoration on Maenwen, then Sal cast reduce person on everyone and teleport on himself, teleporting everyone back to Drop-off Tower with their tails firmly between their legs.

*End of session*

[Well after the fact, I realized that Su Bel's Healing domain granted power, Healer's Blessing, only works on cure spells, not healing spells.  This means that she would not have received the +50% increase in effect from breath of life, which would have left Mog dead until the next day, assuming the PCs would still have won the fight.  His body might have been lost if they had to retreat to live.

I allowed it based on incorrect input from one of the players who generally knows the rules extremely well.  I'm not certain how I want to deal with this.  His advice was exactly the opposite of what the correct ruling was and his character may have died permanently otherwise, along with one or more other characters as his character is the damage-dealer in the group.  I'm not going to go back and require a re-do as that is lame.  If I retcon that Mog died and then was raised by Su Bel, that would seem to have little impact other than the use of resources (I require that they have the diamonds necessary).  It may be that I just bring it up at the beginning of next game and let it go, which seems the most likely, but I'm not happy about being told the wrong thing by a walking rules encyclopedia.]

Sunday, March 6, 2011

No Post Today - Post Tomorrow

Hey, it took longer to get the post written as I was doing several other things at the same time, including talking to a new player who will be Skype-ing in (assuming we get all the technical issues correct).

So, the post I promised for the weekend will post tomorrow morning at 7:00 AM CST.  There should be the two regularly scheduled posts for the week, which will put me back on "schedule".

We used Skype to include a regular player who had to go out of state due to work.  It worked OK, but we need to do a few things next time to make it smoother, mostly dealing with putting up a monitor so the other players can see him instead of just me.  If we can work our conference calling, we should be adding another player from out of state - Erin Palette.  That should happen this Friday, so I'll let you know how things work out.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

No Post Today

There will be no posting today (other than this, of course) due to nose on grindstone project.  I should have time to post this weekend to make it up to you.  I hope yesterday's Godzilla movie fest post will tide you over.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Go-Go-Godzilla Day!

So I’m a fan of giant monster movies, especially Godzilla movies.  I have several friends who are also Godzilla fans, one of whom my wife and I gave a collector’s set of Godzilla movies for Christmas.  For Christmas, my in-laws gave my wife and I a 32” flat panel television.  When my friend started telling us how cool the movie set we got him was, I had a plan.

Go-Go-Godzilla Day! – an all-day movie fest at my place, showing only Godzilla movies.

So we put together a list of movies, worked out the times, allowed for a one hour dinner break where pizza would be delivered, and sent out invitations to our local friends two weeks before the planned event.  Out of the 20-something invitations I sent, we got eight attendees and one friend who could not stay to watch (he was flying out of town) but was able to drop off some excellent fire-breathing salsa for folks to snack on.  Before the start of each movie I played Blue Oyster Cult’s Godzilla through speakers attached to my iPod Nano to get everyone back into their seats and in the “proper” mindset.

We were supposed to start at 10:00 AM, but were 20 minutes late.  It was OK, as I had built in some padding in the schedule and by the third movie we were back on time.  That said, I realized we had forgotten to allocate time for a lunch, so we grabbed a quick meal (sandwiches) and ate while the second movie started.  I also realized that I had dropped an hour from a movie’s run time.  We fixed that by dropping All Monsters Attack, a kid’s movie that is an extended dream sequence and not part of the Godzilla canon.  Well, not mine anyways.

We also quickly adopted the rule: “You may heckle this movie or compare it to earlier movies we watched, but you may not invoke movies not yet seen.”  This made watching the movies very entertaining for everyone, including folks who had never seen any of the movies.  (Shocking, I know – who knew there were people who had never seen a Godzilla movie before?)  Another fun game was “Spot the recycled actor” as Toho re-used actors in different roles from movie to movie.

The final show listing was as follows:

Gojira – the original Japanese version, not the Raymond Burr version
Godzilla Raids Again
Mothra vs. Godzilla
Ghidorah: The 3-Headed Monster
Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (originally scheduled to be Invasion of Astro Monster)
Terror of Mechagodzilla
Godzilla: Final Wars

All of the above were shown in their original Japanese versions, which are all slightly longer than the English versions of the same movies by 3 to 15 minutes.  You will also notice (depending upon your level of fandom) that these are all early Godzilla movies except for Final Wars, which was the last one made before Toho recently retired the Godzilla franchise.  Again.

Invasion of Astro Monster was switched with Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla as Terror of Mechagodzilla it up – so instead of two Ghidorah movies, we had two Mechagodzilla movies.  This switch was made based on recommendations by the two Godzilla experts in attendance.  After watching the two Mechagodzilla movies, it was clear that Terror of Mechagodzilla would have been harder to comprehend without first watching Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.

Final Wars was a treat.  One of the actors was Don Frye of UFC fame.  If you want to see a live action version of the Admiral Gloval archetype, Don Frye is your man, especially in the hat.  It was also interesting to see how things changed from the early movies in the franchise, where the monsters were the main event and people moved around them, and the end of the franchise, when people were the main event and the monsters were just a plot device.

Watching seven Godzilla movies back-to-back pointed out several themes that we had not noticed before:
  • There is always a mad scientist.  Some times it’s a mad paleontologist, sometimes it’s a mad psychologist, but always Science! is under their control.
  • The air branch of the Japanese Defense Force can’t hit the broad side of anything with rockets if it is moving.  Mountains they can hit (sometimes with their plane), but moving targets are right out.
  • JDF tanks, on the other hand, are darned accurate, if not very effective against giant monsters.  I don’t think we ever saw a tank miss its target.  Ever.
  • There is a clear, upward trend in technology to deal with Godzilla.

At the end of the movie fest we were all talking and discussing the movies for another hour or so, until my wife and I kicked everyone out at 1:00 AM.  Tons of fun was had and I am already planning another themed movie fest for the summer.  I want to do my Day of Sevens theme, but I’m not certain I can get all of the movies (and one has a questionable tie to the theme).  If that fails, we will do a second Go-Go-Godzilla Day!, starting with the Raymond Burr Godzilla movie followed by Godzilla 1985, where Raymond Burr reprises his role from the first movie.  We would also include movies from the Heisei era (1984-1995), which were missing from our lineup the first time.

That’s it for now.  I’ll post updates as the next movie fest starts forming up.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dyson’s Delve – Session 15 – Mystery at the Museum

This session happened Tuesday, February 22, 2011.  This campaign used the Dyson’s Delve dungeon pages on A Character for Every Game as a starting point, but has now moved on to new material from the DM-in-training.

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)

Having arrived at the city of Terranor, capital of the Kingdom of Abaloft, the adventurers secured rooms at the Murdered Manticore, an inn whose theme they could get behind.  Short John was let go on his own recognizance with the admonition to check in each morning and evening as he was still on the payroll until the end of the week.  The adventurers then discussed where they might try to sell their sarcophagus lid and how they wanted to approach it.  There was serious (and not-so-serious) discussion about the group’s name.  “Super Rat” was well and good when dealing with goblins, but here in a human kingdom, it would not be as impressive and would likely reduce what wealth could be realized from the sale of the sarcophagus lid.  Several alternate names were discussed, but none of them quite worked, so it was decided to go without a group name unless/until it became necessary.  Unless the sheriff was a goblin, then we’d introduce ourselves as Super Rat in his native tongue.  It could happen.

Harkaitz, Wednesday, and Tre-ba then made their way to the Royal University as their first likely prospect.  Once on campus, the trio asked around and were eventually pointed to the College of History.  There they learned that a Doctor Walsh was in charge of antiquities, but he would not be back for a week.  Harkaitz made an appointment anyway, asking that any response be sent to the local Temple of Ra.

[Pro Tip: When the DM chose the name of the NPC we would have to deal with, he did not realize that he had chosen my last name by accident.  This led to me giving him a look when he told us the doctor’s name and him not knowing why I reacted as I did, until my wife clarified things by asking about it.  This is a danger of picking real world names for your NPCs, especially if you don’t know the full names of all the players at the table.]

Having made arrangements at the University, Harkaitz led Wednesday and Tre-ba to the local Temple of Ra to make arrangements there.  After querying an acolyte (named “Chuck”), the trio were introduced to the high priest of the temple, Beckett.  Harkaitz asked if it would be acceptable if he had correspondence for him sent to the temple (it was) and if there was anything he could do to help the temple while he was in town.  Beckett suggested that investigating and resolving some trouble at the Royal Museum in the temple’s name would be appreciated.  Harkaitz agreed to look into the situation and resolve it if it was in his power to do so.

[A note about the museum: The DM adapted the kind of things you would find in a museum today and cast them through a D&D filter to achieve what we ended up facing.  As a result, it is kind of odd, but makes sense at a core level.]

After picking up the rest of the group from the Murdered Manticore, the adventurers went to the city museum.  There they found the sheriff and his deputies blocking of the museum.  The museum was an odd collection of buildings set on a large, semi-open parcel of land.  It very much stood out against the otherwise crowded city.  Harkaitz accosted one of the deputies and asked for the person in charge.  He was directed to Sheriff Reynolds.  The sheriff (who, sadly, was not a goblin) was willing to let the adventurers investigate the three deaths in the museum as it meant he could keep (most) of his men safe outside the museum.  The letter of introduction from the High Priest of the Temple of Ra did not hurt either.

After a very brief explanation of the situation (three people dead by three different means in a museum with magically animated exhibits), the adventurers entered the museum with two deputies to keep them honest (Reynolds and Reynolds - no relation).  The museum was divided into four sets of exhibits: Nature, Science, History, and Pre-History.  Of the four, there had not been a death in the Nature branch, so the adventurers started there under the assumption that the killer(s) were smart enough to not kill near where they rested.

After moving through all seven rooms in the Nature wing, each dedicated to a different environment, it was in the first room of the History section where a problem appeared.  This room contained two sarcophagi, which Harkaitz suspected blocked his detect magic spell, so he opened one – and was immediately grabbed and slammed by the mummy within, contracting a very unfortunate case of mummy rot in the process [-1 CON, taking him down to 9, and -5 to CHA, also taking him down to 9 - I hammed it up].  During the fight, a second mummy also animated and the adventurers had to work hard to avoid being double-teamed.  Luckily for the other adventurers, Harkaitz was the only one to contract the mummy rot, something he felt he could cure the following dawn.  The effects of the cursed disease did creep out Reynolds and Reynolds, who nearly fled upon seeing Harkaitz’s now very unseemly face.

In discussion after the fight, Reynolds and Reynolds offer up that the sarcophagi were part of a new exhibit.  Seeing a possible solution to the mystery, the adventurers asked about what other exhibits were new.  Reynolds and Reynolds offered up that there was a new stone exhibit in the Science wing, which was near where two of the deaths occurred.  The adventurers rushed to get to that room to see if it was interfering with the older exhibits and causing them to attack.

Just prior to achieving the room they sought, the adventurers were passing through a room with three animated dog statues, each made of a different metal.  Then the dogs went berserk and attacked the adventurers.  The adventurers had learned to hate animated statues back in the Delve and this fight confirmed their dislike of the infernal things.  This was a hard fight, hard enough that several fireballs were dropped into the room, knowing that members of the party would be caught in the blasts and trusting in their ability to evade the effects (Frankie and Wednesday) or having enough fire resistance to deflect most of the damage (Harkaitz due to the fire domain).

In Wednesday’s case, this trust was misplaced and she took the brunt of an early fireball.  Heavily wounded and ineffective against the constructs, she withdrew to a previous room, attempting to work out how to use the mechanical tentacle device [think Doc Ock's arms] there so she could fight the mechanical dogs.  She did eventually work it out, but the fight was over by then.

With the group injured and demoralized after the fight with the animated mechanical dogs, the adventurers withdrew from the museum.  They reported their findings and suspicions to the sheriff and returned to the Murdered Manticore to rest.  The next morning, Harkaitz cured himself of the mummy rot and healed his companions of their wounds.

*End of Session*

[This session was interesting, but also a test in patience.  The DM-in-training had set a 1-in-4 chance of each display going berserk and attacking.  We made it through eight rooms before the attack was triggered in the mummy room.  This led us to believe we had the answer to the problem, which we will likely find to be erroneous in the next session.  Our recommendation to the DM-in-training was to not rely on the dice so much and make an event happen earlier next time.  Eight rooms of nothing was tiring to the players and ate up a lot of game time.]