Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 45 – The Pyramid, Top to Bottom

Session 45 happened Monday, September 19, 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. I heartily recommend Dyson's Delve as a beginning adventure.

Adventuring Group:
Tre-ba Bel a sheer (female elf alchemist)
Elspeth (female half-elf rogue)
Harkaitz of the Red Soul (male human cleric of Ra)

Aziz of the Light (male human paladin, cohort of Harkaitz)
Sarisvati the Sun-touched (female Ifrit oracle, cohort of Aziz)
Estrela (female Aasimar druid, cohort of Tre-Ba)
Macha (female human fighter, cohort of Elspeth)
Short John Copper (male halfling expert, hireling)
The Red Keffiyehs (human warriors, followers of Harkaitz)
Carnish (male gnoll spellcaster of some sort)
Professor Walsh (male human expert)

Late Afternoon, July 29, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra.

As the legend we are following is unclear (or rather, vague), we had Elspeth scout the top of the pyramid before attempting an entrance. Carnish cast fly upon her and she flew to the top. There she found only the eroded tip of the pyramid – no place for the “Chosen of Ra” to sit or stand.

While there is an unknown amount of the stairs to the entry buried under the sands, the exposed part is still 30 to 40 ft and ends at a platform flanked by columns. Elspeth checked the area for traps and cleared it for the rest of us to proceed. The entry hall ended about 30 ft in at a T-intersection and a mural of Sylar fighting the Nightshade. Sylar’s sword is shown in detail and it is identical to the one Aziz carries now.

Following our standard procedure, Elspeth moved down the left passage, checking for traps. The narrow passage formed a large square with small shrines at each corner. There were four traps (two lightning bolt and two stonewall/poison gas) and Elspeth disabled three of them (she set off the first lightning trap and needed healing as a result).

Suspecting, almost knowing, there was more to this pyramid, we searched again, this time looking for hidden passages. Our diligence paid off and we found the (trapped) entrance to a large square chamber that fit within the boundaries of the passage. There were many stone coffins and the room appeared to have been searched and looted long ago. This is a common piece of misdirection used long ago and often still to discourage tomb robbers, so I knew to look closer.

The tops of the coffins were carved to appear in the likeness of the one ensconced inside and only three of these were paladins, the rest priests of Ra. Only one of the paladin coffins was trapped. After Elspeth disabled the trap, Aziz and I opened the coffin. The remains of a paladin in the service of Ra were inside, clasping his (or her) sword. I noticed the index finger of the left hand was straightened, not curved around the pommel. It was pointing at the next coffin!

We checked the next coffin (a priest) and found its index finger also pointed. Moving down the line, we had Elspeth check each for traps and skipped to the coffin on the end of the row, the only one trapped. After Elspeth disarmed the trap, Aziz and I opened the coffin. The priest interred here had his index fingers crossed in an “X”. Tre-ba observed that there were scratches on the floor, suggesting the coffin could be moved to the side. Aziz and I pushed and exposed an opening in the floor to a lower chamber. Cut into the wall were hand and foot holds, forming a ladder down.

Elspeth descended down the ladder (after receiving darkvision from one of the wands). The chamber below was about the size of the one we were in, but occupied by five giant undead crawling hands that dropped from the ceiling and moved to surround the base of the ladder. She immediately returned.

We formulated a plan of attack, with our combatants (Macha, Aziz , and myself) descending the ladder in rapid succession to draw the attention of the hands while Carnish used dimension door to bring in (Elspeth, Asmo, and Tre-ba) in a flanking maneuver.

This did not work out like we hoped.

The hands were quicker than we anticipated and surrounded Macha the moment she set foot on the floor, blocking me from descending and further. I did surround myself with a nimbus of light, which helped, but Macha took a pounding from the hands. I eventually just dropped on one of the hands, using it to break my fall. When it shrugged me off, I was able to land on my feet and press the attack. Carnish used a very powerful necromantic spell [undeath to death] to destroy many of the hands, finally tipping the balance in our favor. Carnish is more powerful than he lets on. Luckily, his heart seems to be in the right place.

We are almost done taking a break after the fight with the hands. Many of us were injured, some, like Macha, were heavily injured. I have healed everyone back to full health. The room seems to be a dead end, but we all suspect there is a hidden passage in at least one of the walls.

There was a hidden passage and Aziz was the one to locate it. He also swears he found a second one, but after careful investigation, it turned out to just be his eyes playing tricks. The first (actual) passage led to a wide corridor that encircles the chamber of the hands. While searching the hallway for traps, Elspeth found an illusory floor – by falling through it. One of the walls in the pit was also illusory and Elspeth stuck her head through to see what was on the other side. On the other side were two scorching ray traps, both of which hit her.

Once Sarisvati healed Elspeth, Elspeth set to disabling the traps so we could move forward. I will admit that my faith in Elspeth’s ability to locate traps was slipping at this point, but she later redeemed herself.

The illusory wall led to another ring corridor, this one slightly lower than the one we entered it through. A thorough search of this hallway resulted in the location of a summon monster trap (by stepping on it and which did not summon a monster but put us on maximum alert, leading to some very tense moments) and a concealed alcove in the far wall. Aziz opened the alcove door and was promptly dropped into a short pit with poisoned spikes. Luckily, Aziz missed the brunt of the spikes by landing on a dead body. The body was of an adventurer of some sort who succumbed to the spikes and the poison. He was carrying a rapier that detected as magical [+4] and a bag full of jewelry and coins [8000 gp worth of loot]. The coins mostly dated from 300 years ago, when the worship of Ra first spread across the Uskar Desert.

Inside the alcove was a small box, which was heavily trapped. Elspeth found and removed all three traps on (or near) the box, losing a set of lockpicks in the process. Inside the box was a golden amulet in the shape of a sunburst, an early symbol of Ra. Tre-ba has taken the time to identify its workings, during which time I have updated my log. The amulet empowers divine spellcasters, particularly those who serve Ra, enabling them to cast additional blessings [+1 spell slot for 4th and 5th level spells]. In the meantime, it is time to resume our explorations.

*End of Session*

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Working on Edits

No post today (other than this one, of course).  I'm performing some edits on a series of posts from Bat in the Attic on creating a fantasy sandbox.  I've been delaying it as I was waiting to see if he would finish the series, but that does not seem likely for a while, so time for me to get it done.  This is voluntary for me and a gift to him.  The series is well thought out, I'm just polishing it for him.

The other thing I'm doing right now is putting together the parts for a minis campaign.  I'm looking at the Paizo Kingmaker AP for the domain management rules (although I might jettison it if Hill Cantons: Borderlands gets released), rules gleaned from Tony Bath's Ancient Wargaming, and a set of miniatures rules that still need to be determined.  More on that project later.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pathfinder Kingdom Sheet - Version 2.1

So my wife and I ran a playtest of my updated Kingdom Sheet spreadsheet.  Good thing as I found some things I missed.  I also expanded the number of turn sheets to Turn 9.  The version 2.1 is now available for download in the Downloads box to the right.

Be aware that the cost of creating farmland still needs a blank of its own (I realized in this test that the cost is variable based on terrain and my flat multiplier based on number of hexes created was not valid.  That will be fixed in the next version.  I also want to create a sheet listing all the buildings and their mods to the kingdom attributes.

More later.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 44 – Hiking to the Pyramid

Session 44 happened Tuesday, September 13, 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.  I heartily recommend Dyson's Delve as a beginning adventure.

Adventuring Group:
Tre-ba Bel a sheer (female elf alchemist)
Elspeth (female half-elf rogue)
Luna (female elf sorcerer)
Harkaitz of the Red Soul (male human cleric of Ra)

Aziz of the Light (male human paladin, cohort of Harkaitz)
Sarisvati the Sun-touched (female Ifrit oracle, cohort of Aziz)
Estrela (female Aasimar druid, cohort of Tre-Ba)
Macha (female human fighter, cohort of Elspeth)
Short John Copper (male halfling expert, hireling)
The Red Keffiyehs (human warriors, followers of Harkaitz)

Evening, July 24, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, who guides our path.

We finished the today marching west.  It should be another five days before we get to the pyramid.

[NOTE: I received a reply from Wednesday on my sending, but I didn’t get a chance to write it down.  I’ll add it here when I can get the text from the DM.]

Late Evening, July 25, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, source of inspiration.

While making camp this evening, we spotted a blue dragon land relatively nearby.  Elspeth and Carnish went out to scout it and see what it was up to.  When they returned, they stated it was a female young adult blue dragon and it was digging for something in the sands.

Aziz stated his intent to slay the dragon and started quickly laying out a plan of attack.  We heard the dragon roar and realized it might be leaving soon, so we started moving in its direction.  We came into sight of it just as it was taking flight.  Thinking quickly, Aziz ordered our spell casters to attack it with fire.  Unfortunately, it dodged most of the damage from the volley of fireball spells and easily flew around my obstructing wall of fire.  It quickly outdistanced the range of our spells, heading north, roughly in the direction of the Mountain Gate.

We decided to investigate the pit the dragon dug in the sand.  Near the bottom we found the top of a stone pillar.  Whatever the dragon took, it was sitting on the pillar and had a rectangular cross-section.  The stonework on the pillar identified it as part of a temple to Ra.  This is not a good sign.  I am sending another message to Wednesday to warn her and the others.

“Young female blue dragon dug up something rectangle from buried Temple of Ra.  It is heading north.  Let us know.  It is scorched. –Harkaitz”

Evening, July 26, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra and His dazzling brilliance.

We ran across another patrol of skeletons, this one heading south.  The most significant thing to happen during the fight was Carnish casting enlarge on Macha, but it was mostly overkill at that point.

Shortly before Dawn
A wind storm came up during the night, but died down a few hours past midnight.  While Luna and I were on watch with her, Tre-ba noticed something in the darkness reflecting the light of our fire.  We went out to investigate, leaving the Red Keffiyeh on alert.  We found the partially buried skeletal remains of a paladin wearing magical full plate armor.  The winds must have uncovered the remains sometime during second watch.

We have uncovered the rest of the remains and carried them back to camp.  In the morning I will speak with the spirit of the fallen paladin.

Morning, July 27, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, His light brings humility to us all.

The fallen paladin was of the family Excelor, in Lagaskia, and was traveling there from Uru to visit his family when he fell.  I wrapped up his bones and secured them.  When next we are in Lagaskia, I will deliver them to the descendants of his family so he can be buried with his kin.

Late Morning, July 29, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, light of the heavens and protector of us all.

The last two days have been quiet, but we have now arrived at the pyramid.  It is immense, even partially buried it is easily the largest structure I have ever seen.  We will make camp nearby and prepare to explore afterwards.

*End of Session*

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 43 – Across the Desert and a New Companion

Session 43 happened Tuesday, September 6, 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-no-longer-in-training.  I heartily recommend Dyson's Delve as a beginning adventure.

Adventuring Group:
Tre-ba Bel a sheer (female elf alchemist)
Elspeth (female half-elf rogue)
Harkaitz of the Red Soul (male human cleric of Ra)

Aziz of the Light (male human paladin, cohort of Harkaitz)
Sarisvati the Sun-touched (female Ifrit oracle, cohort of Aziz)
Estrela (female Aasimar druid, cohort of Tre-Ba)
Macha (female human fighter, cohort of Elspeth)
Asmo (male Halfling mystic theurge)
Short John Copper (male halfling expert, hireling)
The Red Keffiyehs (human warriors, followers of Harkaitz)

Morning, July 21, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, who lights all paths.

Our extra day in Ozimar was well spent.  In addition to the wands of endure elements Tre-ba crafted, we have three newer traveling companions.  Tre-ba recruited an unusual druid named Estrela.  While Estrela’s skin is the dark tan of those used to the sun, her hair is pure white, almost luminescent.  While I do not believe as they believe, Brek’nok showed me the value of the followers of the Old Faiths. 

Elspeth found a previous traveling companion of hers while searching for a ring of sustenance, a human fighter named Macha, who is also a refugee from Terranor.  We have been missing a pure devotee of the fighting arts since Sahar left our group, so Macha is a welcome addition.

Finally, Short John recommended a fellow Halfling named Asmo, a sorcerer of some skill and power.  [See my comments at the end about this.]

With our team ready to head out, we are saying our fare-wells and good lucks to our friends going after the Mountain Gate.  For us, the Uskar beckons.

Morning, July 22, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, whose dawn rebirths the world.

Yesterday we made our way south and out of the mountains and resumed setting watches during the night.  It was a quiet night and they turned out to not be needed, but better safe than sorry when the fate of the world is in the balance.

The dawn is spectacular.  We are on some elevated land in the shadow of the eastern Ridgeback Mountains, but the Uskar to the south is in the light of the sun.  The morning light has bathed the sands in coppers shifting to gold.  The occasional rocky outcrops are red in the light, casting long shadows that are slowly shrinking, receeding into the feet of the pillars.

It is good to be back home again.

Evening, July 22, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, whose light gives evil nowhere to hide.

Today we marched to the southeast, looking for the marked trail Luna placed on our last trip to the Uskar Gate.  What we found instead is troubling.

In the late morning we ran across a small group of five animated skeletons.  This is not the first time this has happened and their remains had no identifying marks.  After putting them down, we properly buried the remains so they can sleep peacefully.

Near mid-afternoon, we came across a group of seven robed travellers.  When they got close to us, I hailed them, but received no response.  When they got closer and had still said nothing, I asked Aziz to determine their nature.  He stated they were creatures of evil, to which Asmo responded by casting a fireball upon them.  They then threw back their cloaks and drew their scimitars with their boney hands, exposing themselves as animated skeletons.  They were probably skeletal champions based on their fighting capacities but after another fireball from Asmo, my Nimbus of Light, and expert swordwork by Aziz and Macha, they were destroyed.

Going over the remains, their cloak clasps indicated they were from a nearby village, Kurast.  Kurast is known to me and known to be strong in the faith of Ra.  If the lich is animating this many from that village and sending them across the desert, it worries me that the village may no longer stand.  After we gave the skeletons a proper burial with blessings, we decided to change our course and head to Kurast.

We have made camp after walking further on our new course.  Short John is preparing a warm meal.  We should reach Kurast tomorrow.  I pray that it still stands.

Mid-afternoon, July 23, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, whose light draws together.

We are in Kurast now, preparing to eat an early dinner.  Pleasantly, the village still stands and the faithful of Ra still live here.  This was not the biggest surprise of the morning.

Late in the morning, as we were getting near Kurast, we observed a lone traveller, completely covered against the sun and sand.  Per our standard, I approached and greeted him.  He hailed us back and we started talking.  After Aziz verified he had no evil intent, we made an impromptu camp and sat for an early lunch.  The stranger is a gnoll, one of the hyena-men who occupy the southern fringes of the Uskar Desert.  His name is Carnish and he is a wanderer in semi-exile from his tribe.  Due to the reputation of his people, he finds it difficult to enter human villages to purchase the few things he needs.  Having gotten a feel for Carnish, I agreed to escort him to Kurast and vouch for him to the villagers.  He was very grateful.

We were all relieved when we came into view of Kurast and found things normal.  As we entered town, we gathered worried looks from the villager and it was not long before the local militia arrived to question us.  The leader of the militia is named Tylar and I explained what our mission was and that I would vouch for Carnish’s behavior while in the village.  This seemed to satisfy Tylar and he showed us to the village square, where Carnish could purchase the things he needed.  We took a couple tables as an open air tavern and shared news and information with Tylar.

After we shared news, we questioned Tylar about what he might know about the area we were heading to.  He related a legend that the tomb of a great paladin of Ra, Sylar, was buried somewhere near there.  Sylar fought and defeated the last nightshade to threaten the Uskar.  Sylar’s sword, the Light of Ra, is considered to be a holy relic, useful against undead, and supposedly kept in the shrine Sylar was interred in.  Thinking about the sword that Aziz now carries, one we retrieved from a holy shrine of Ra, I asked Tylar if there was a description of the Light of Ra.  He said there was and described a sword very much like the one in Aziz’s scabbard.

I chose to keep the location of the sword secret for now.  If the lich or its minions come through here, I do not want it to have a reason to harm the villagers.  For the same reason, I did not introduce most of my companions, which is rude.  The amulet I had created in Ttaeladra hides me from the lich’s scrying.  As I am the only one whose name it knows, this should protect us somewhat from its spying.  It is the best I can do at this time.  The lich knows we pursue it, we cannot afford for it to gather more information on us.

Carnish is done with his purchases and has returned to join us for dinner before we leave the village.  I enjoy Short John’s cooking, but food from home has its own appeal.  This will be a pleasant meal.

Noon, July 24, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, whose light illuminates knowledge.

We have found another wayward soul in the desert – Professor Walsh from Terranor!

After we left Kurast, we left a false trail and arranged with Tylar to tell anyone following us that we were headed to a shrine deep in the desert to the northwest.  Once we were out of sight of the village, we detoured around it on the west, covering our tracks, and then resumed or march to the Uskar gate.  We kept a cold camp to avoid drawing any attention.

Mid-morning we regained our original marked trail (Luna’s arcane marks) and resumed following that path.  A short while ago we spotted a weakly moving figure attempting to crawl across the sands.  We rendered assistance immediately, setting up a quick camp so we could tend to the traveler.  After we healed his wounds [and a lesser restoration], he told us he was an archeologist from the University of Terranor.  I asked if he was Professor Walsh and he was!

He was surprised we knew of him and we explained we had been in Terranor waiting for him as we had an artifact we wanted to sell to him but we were unexpectedly sent to the Forest of Angry Elves.  He related that he was returning to Terranor when he ran into refugees from the demon attack.  With nothing to return to, he used what resources he had to come to the Uskar and search for the Throne of Ra, a legendary temple said to be sunken beneath the sands of the Uskar.

We explained what we may have found the Throne of Ra and it was still buried.  I asked what the legends say about it.  He stated that there was very little anymore, but the largest fragment stated that “when the Chosen of Ra stands on the peak, the Throne of Ra will rise to the surface”.

This requires I commune with Ra.

I have communed with Ra and my soul is full of His light.

Ra has confirmed that the peak we need is the pyramid on our map.  More ominously, the lich works for the nightshade and is trying to bring the nightshade back from where it is imprisoned.  Ra also confirmed that the lich’s phylactery is in the Drow City.  This is awkward, as our agreement with Nionel was that we would never intrude on each other’s realm again.  I’ll have to give that some thought.

I am sending a message to Wednesday to update the other team about what we have learned.

“Lich phylactery in Drow City. Found Professor Walsh. Going to pyramid to raise temple under sands. Lich working for Nightshade. How goes mountain gate? Harkaitz.”

*End of Session*

[So, due to our need to split the group into two groups to accommodate Wednesday’s player’s schedule, we needed to bolster our ranks.  We picked up only one new player for the weekday group out of three we tried for, so the DM allowed us to mod Tre-ba and Elspeth retroactively so they had the Leadership feat and their cohorts would fill the missing gaps in our roster.

Also, since Luna’s player cannot make every session and will make either the weekday or weekend session as her schedule allows, the DM added Asmo to fill that gap.  When Luna is available, we have Luna.  When her player is not available, we have Asmo and hand-wave the difference to keep the game going.  To avoid issues in the adventure log, Harkaitz will not comment on this at all.]

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Post Delayed due to Illness

Went to the museum's this past Saturday as they were all free for the day.  Walked my feet off amongst the throng and came back with a souvenir - a cold.  Not as bad as con-crud, but I was not up to writing much yesterday and slept most of today to get rid of it.  We did game last night, which was a good session but probably not the best of ideas.

I'm writing up Session 43 of the Aldelle Group now and will also do Session 44 today.  I'll schedule them to post tomorrow at 7:00 AM (Houston time) and Thursday (at the regular time).

Sorry for the delay.  Later!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Early Draft of Pathfinder Kingdom Sheet

The Fragments game fell through tonight due to extreme player non-availability, so I've spent some time updating my Pathfinder Kingdom Sheet spreadsheet.

I deleted back down to Kingdom Start, Turn 1, and Turn 2 and upgraded the number of links and data entry blanks to cover all the things I think it needs.  I have drop down menus for some things that could be easily done (kingdom alignment, possible outcomes of the Upkeep Phase) and had direct effects upon Kingdom Attributes.  I also put in a bunch of comments to explain either what goes in the associated blank or what the options are (for example, the costs for Road Construction based on what kind of terrain is involved).

I haven't done the coding for what happens when the various Leadership Roles are vacant.  I can work out the flat modifiers, but I'm not certain how to do incremental modifiers yet - that'll take some thinking.  I also need to generate a list of Kingdom Events and their modifiers, but that looks like it will take some doing, so maybe next version.  I also need to find a way to include the information on the Improvements per Month Chart that is elegant.  Worst case scenario I just copy it in for the user's reference.  Maybe a display of some sort based on Kingdom Size.

Eventually I want to put in a list of buildings, their costs, and the modifiers they provide.  A city builder would probably need some Flash programming and that is beyond my skills at this point, but I'd love to have one.

The current version (version 2) is now a link over on the right side of my blog.  I used Excel 2010 to create this, so it is currently a .xlsx file.  Please let me know if this causes any issues and I'll re-save it as a .xls file.  I can no longer test it on Excel 2003 as none of the machines I have access to have it anymore.


DayJob Swamp

Sorry for the delay.  I'm swamped at the DayJob getting two last minute documents ready for review by the client's client.  I have notes on two sessions of The Aldelle Group: Team Uskar and tonight is the next session of Fragments, my Hero Traveller game (which I'm also not quite ready for...eep!).

This weekend I'll be updating my Paizo Kingdom Sheet Excel file to include the data entry points I believe it needs.  I'll post it Sunday for folks to see and test out.

That's it for now - back to the DayJob!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Experiments with Paizo Domain Rules

The latest Aldelle Group adventure log is delayed due to my wife and I spending an evening doing something geeky together: testing out the Pathfinder RPG domain management rules from the Kingmaker AP. I really want to tryout the domain rules ckutalik on Hill Cantons is putting together, but they're not published yet, so I'll have to wait on that.

I spent some time Sunday afternoon putting together an Excel spreadsheet that looked like the Kingdom Sheet form in Pathfinder #32 and partially automating it. Last night we started with a random map created by Hexographer and my wife selected a point to start her kingdom. Then we started working through my condensed notes on the domain turn structure.

This is when I realized there were usability issues with the Kingdom Sheet in general and my implementation of it in specific. The issues with the sheet relate to issues with the structure of the kingdom turn, so I'll go through that and discuss how it relates to the sheet.

The Kingdom Turn structure is:
  1. Upkeep Phase
  2. Improvement Phase
  3. Income Phase
  4. Event Phase

The first issue is that Upkeep is paid at the beginning of the Kingdom turn. Not normally a problem, except that you are paying the Consumption value set last turn, not this turn. But the value my sheet calculates is based on settings for this turn and there is no place to note Consuption for the previous turn. Now if I make the Consumption rate on the spreadsheet read from a previous page, that's fine, but the easy way is to put a blank for "Consumption Last Month" separate from the calculations of Consumption for this turn.

Additionally, there is only one blank for the Treasury, whose value will change through the turn. A better way would be multiple Treasury blanks:
  • Starting Treasury (equal to Ending Treasury for the previous month)
  • Treasury after the Upkeep Phase (it is possible to gain a build point [BP] during the Upkeep Phase in addition to spending for Consumption)
  • Treasury after Improvement Phase (to show BPs spent)
  • Treasury after Income Phase (to show effects of the Income Phase)
  • Ending Treasury (to account for any changes due to Kingdom Events).

It would also be nice to have a blank for BPs spent on Improvements (claiming land, building cities, building roads, establishing farmlands) and one for Income (deposit of adventure loot, withdrawal of cash, sale of items, and, oh yeah, generating income for the kingdom).

I'd like to point out that pronouncing Edicts happens during the Improvements. The benefits (or penalties) apply immediately, but none of it is paid for until the Upkeep Phase of the next turn. This caused an issue for my spreadsheet, as it was calculating this turns Consumption and applying it directly to the Treasury, which is not what happens in the rules. Not a major issue for an electronic spreadsheet, but it could get confusing if you were using the paper form.

Now, once we got all that squared away and I made some changes to my spreadsheet (plus the handy use of some paper to calculate expendatures), the system works fairly smoothly. The Kingdom Sheet Paizo supplies would work fine if Upkeep happened at the end of the process so Consumption paid was based on what happened this turn, but I like the dynamic that if you overspend (or fail to make enough income) and go negative Treasury, you have to deal with the Unrest penalties for the entire turn. Best to keep that Royal Assassin post filled in that case.

We also had to make some changes to the map after we started. My wife chose her starting location based on a tactical mindset as she had not read the domain rules. She started in a coastal wooded mountain hex with many forest and/or mountain hexes around it. Her thinking was that woods = timber = income source and mountains = defensible. The domain rules don't care about any of that except as cost inflaters (forests cost 2 BP for a road and 4 BP to prep for a city while mountains take 4 and 12 BP, respectively). [Oh, wait, I just found where it does take those into account. This brings up a point about readability and cross-references that I'm not going to go into here.] Additionally, farmland can only be established in plains or hills, which were nowhere in sight and there are no rules for clearing out a forest hex to make farmland. Farmland reduces consumption by 2 BP per turn, so farmlands are vital when starting a new kingdom. We solved this problem by converting most of the nearby light woods hexes to wooded hills and left it at that.

There are a few things that are not accounted for in the rules. There are 11 positions in the ruling council (that's what I call it - Paizo never names the group) that have serious consequences if they are not filled with at least a warm body. At no point is their salary covered. While several will be filled by PCs and possibly cohorts, some at least will be filled by NPCs who should expect some form of compensation for their work. I'm guessing that their salaries are expected to be dealt with out of the PCs pocket as a roleplay aspect or just hand-waved as part of the country's Consumption stat (after all, 1 BP = 4,000gp and skilled hirelings are paid in silver), but it would have been nice to see that at least meantioned somewhere.

After running 8 turns and feeling we had a handle on the mechanics, we realized we had forgotten to roll for Kingdom Events in the Events Phase after the first turn. Oops. Guess I still need to test those out to see how balanced those are. 
So long story short, the Paizo domain rules are workable, but need some tweaking and better cross-references as stuff gets lost. The Paizo form needs a lot of work to be really usable, but covers the basics. Hexographer is such a cool product that my wife almost instantly approved the purchase of it. Hoody-hoo!  Did I mention my wife is awesome?  I should because she is.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Fragments – Things I’ve Learned About My Game

One of the interesting things about starting a campaign is learning things you didn’t know about your own campaign as the players put together their characters.

The population of the starting world (Maresfield) in my Hero Traveller campaign was all human – until the PCs were created. Two of my players created non-humans (a Lante and a Low Waldi) and one created a human-alien hybrid. Suddenly I had to add a viable Lante population (as Maresfield has been cut off for 80-90 years) to the mix and enough Low Waldi that some would still be around when the game started. Plus I needed reasons why these races were on the planet.

As Maresfield was primarily a custom luxury starship manufacturing planet, it made sense that Lante from the technician caste would be on planet, working for the various corporations. The Low Waldi, on the other hand, were a different story. Discussing it with the player, we decided the majority of the Low Waldi in the Maresfield system were working as shipbreakers and salvage specialists. As there was not a lot of this type of work, they were a marginal population and now there are only a couple hundred left. The other Low Waldi were servants of some High Waldi waiting on their ships. What happened to the High Waldi? That’s a secret…

This left me with the human-alien hybrid. One of the other PCs backstory referenced a group doing illegal genetic experiments of an undetermined nature, so I made this character one of the few successes of the experimentation. I also made him blue, as the most likely group for hybridizing are the Lante, who have a blue skin tone. These two backstories also introduced a (currently unnamed) sinister corporation experimenting with malware, something I had not originally envisioned, but liked once the player introduced it.

This brings up the two distinct religious groups on the planet. First are the Owenites, a neo-Quaker type group that espouses simple agrarian living in arcologies. They originally started in a different system, but were persecuted there (or at least that’s the story passed down). The Owenites purchased a station in the Maresfield system and converted it into an arcology, growing their own foods in the station. Around the time of The Crash, the station failed somehow and most of the Owenites died. The survivors were granted refugee status on Maresfield and then stuck there when The Crash stopped all space travel.

The other religious group is a monastic order that prizes the preservation of knowledge. They are mostly human, but accepted an orphaned Low Waldi boy when he showed a knack for memorizing things. When the player presented this in his characters’ backstory, I immediately linked it to a monastic group I had already established in a different system. This was actually handy, as I had not worked out what they were all about and now I had a handle on them. Plus, at least one of the player characters was now motivated to go to that planet and see if the Order still exists.

The last thing I learned about Maresfield is that there is a black market for salvage OldTech. The same PC backstory that introduced the Owenites and the sinister corporation also wanted to introduce space pirates. This was a problem as the campaign baseline stated that there was no space travel for the last 80-90 years until just recently. So we talked and worked out that, while there were no space pirates operating out of an abandoned space station, there are pirates on the seas of Maresfield that hijack supply ships travelling between isolated settlement and scavenging OldTech on the planet from abandoned facilities and deorbited stations.

So I had alien races, religious groups on the fringes, sinister corporations, and pirates on Maresfield where none had existed prior to character creation. I love it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Fragments – Session 1 – Part 2: Guruphon Station

Session 1 happened Friday, August 19, 2011.

This campaign uses the Hero System, 5th Edition, with much Traveller material grafted on.  I am making use of the Hero Traveller books published by ComStar Games.  Sadly, these books went out of print when Mongoose Publishing purchased the rights to produce all things Traveller.  They are doing good things, so no hate mail.

The Company:
Maxwell Sloan (male human, communications and sensors specialist)
Cyrano Steel (male Lante, computer systems specialist)
Oscar Dougray (male human, salvage expert)
Ro Owen (female human, team security expert)
Nomen Fire-eyes male human hybrid, negotiator)
Braddock Grar, Lector (male Low Waldi, archivist)

The Crew:
Echo Salazar (female human, ship’s captain)
Ted Yahn (male human, ship’s navigator)
Albertha Trufin (female human, ship’s engineer)
Quinton Picknell, Doctor (male human, ship’s doctor)

Maresfield Trade Representative
Deadra Pagenkopf (female human, governmental trade liaison)

Ro quickly realized that the ceiling-mounted weapon was inert and not a threat to the away team.  While the rest of the team investigated the area, Ro checked out the ceiling-mounted weapon.  She found it to be a lightly modified automatic slugthrower with an empty ammunition hopper.  She immediately pulled out a small tool kit and started removing the weapon from the mounting.

Max investigated the desiccated body.  Based on the condition of the body, he estimated the person was shot dead by the ceiling-mounted weapon before the atmosphere was removed and before the artificial gravity was turned off.  Cyrano checked out the spray patterns of the bullets to try and determine if the weapon was randomly spraying or targeted the dead person.  Based on what he could see, the weapon was not randomly firing and at one point it seemed to have been targeting someone in armor of some sort.

After learning all they could at the gate area, the team made their way down the main concourse, towards the center of the station.  They found scattered evidence that fighting happened all along the concourse, including burned kiosks, damaged ceiling-mounted weapons, and surveillance cameras that had been shot out.

At the hub, the team found the remains of dead station personnel.  They also located a map display of the station, but it had no power.  The team scavenged the area for personal electronic devices and Oscar rigged the batteries they found together to get enough juice to activate the map display for about a half a minute.  This was long enough for Grar and Oscar to memorize the map.  [Both characters have eidetic memory.]

Rather than explore the other concourses, the team headed deeper into the station and entered the large, open customs area.  Here they found evidence of a major firefight.  Behind some improvised barricades, the team finds the remains of off duty marines.  [They were in civilian clothes, but wearing dogtags.]  Ro secured the weapons the marines were using while Grar removed their dogtags.

A partially obscured door in one corner seemed to lead to the security offices, an area the team wanted to explore.  Not having an access badge, Ro and Cyrano worked at bypassing the locking mechanism.  When they removed the plate, they recognized a silent alarm being triggered – station security still had some power!  [And the players totally blew their Security Systems roll.]

The room beyond the door was a reception area of some sort.  The only light active in the small room was on a security camera pointed on the door.  The team entered the room and looked around, finding the body of a security guard behind the station desk.  Ro was convinced to shoot out the security camera, as it was creeping out other members of the team.

Max decided at this point to go back into the customs area and sketch out some unit patches the team had found on the clothing of the marines.  This put him in the perfect spot to observe an active wheeled security bot move into the area and target him.  Trying to hide behind the barricades the marines had put up, Max learned why the marines had died here – the bullets from the security bot easily punctured the barricades, wounding Max in the thigh and foot.

The sound of the light machinegun firing alerted the rest of the team, who moved out, using what cover they could (mostly the desiccated remains of some large potted plants).  The team cut the bot into pieces with their laser carbines (well Ro’s and Cyrano’s laser carbines) and then checked on Max.  Max was seriously wounded and his vacc suit was punctured and leaking air.  A few emergency patches sealed the suit, but not Max’s wounds.  Ro and Nomen started hauling Max back to the Iron Pig, where there was atmosphere and they could do proper first aid.  Along the way, they noticed lights activating on the few undamaged video cameras along the concourse.  Ro fixed that problem with her laser carbine, and warned the rest of the team via commlink.

Back in the customs area, Grar and Cyrano decided to push into the security area while Oscar held the customs area and their line of retreat.  Through another door in the security checkpoint, they found a cubicle farm.  The lights were out, but they could see two active security cameras.  Grar had Cyrano shoot out the cameras so he (Grar) could search the area unobserved.  Shortly thereafter, two wheeled security bots showed up in the cube farm area.  One parked to cover the exits leading deeper into station while the other moved around the outside edge of the cube farm.  Grar took cover in a cube and hid.  Cyrano closed the door between the cube farm and the entry area and then retreated back into the customs area with Oscar.

The mobile security bot finished a circuit of the cube farm and then exited through the entry area, heading to the customs area.  Cyrano and Oscar fired on the bot, with Cyrano damaging it heavily.  The bot immediately retreated back into the cube farm area.  Grar was able to sneak past it while Oscar took the time to shoot out the now active cameras in the customs area.

The three company men decided a retreat was now in order and headed back to the Iron Pig.  There they found Ro and Nomen just finishing patching up Max’s gunshot wounds.  Max obviously needed better treatment from Dr. Picknell back on the Just Lucky, so Oscar flew the team back to the ship.

*End of Session 1, Part Two*

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fragments – Session 1 – Part 1: Getting to Guruphon Station

Session 1 happened Friday, August 19, 2011.

This campaign uses the Hero System, 5th Edition, with much Traveller material grafted on. I am making use of the Hero Traveller books published by ComStar Games. Sadly, these books went out of print when Mongoose Publishing purchased the rights to produce all things Traveller. They are doing good things, so no hate mail.

The Company:
Maxwell Sloan (male human, communications and sensors specialist)
Cyrano Steel (male Lante, computer systems specialist)
Oscar Dougray (male human, salvage expert)
Ro Owen (female human, team security expert)
Nomen Fire-eyes male human hybrid, negotiator)
Braddock Grar, Lector (male Low Waldi, archivist)

The Crew:
Echo Salazar (female human, ship’s captain)
Ted Yahn (male human, ship’s navigator)
Albertha Trufin (female human, ship’s engineer)
Quinton Picknell, Doctor (male human, ship’s doctor)

Maresfield Trade Representative
Deadra Pagenkopf (female human, governmental trade liaison)

After securing and refitting the Just Lucky (once a gambling ship [based on the Traveller lab ship design]), the partners of the Phoenix Salvage received a list of critical materials necessary for the resumption of starship construction on Maresfield. [As opposed to salvage of abandoned ships in orbit.] Going over the list and a (dated) star chart of the sub-sector, the company folks decided to chart a course to the adjacent system of Guruphon, once a source of “red gold”, a substance necessary for high end electronics and a critical component of the McGuffin [the anti-VIRUS device]. The payoff would be good no matter how much red gold they found and the Just Lucky can carry enough fuel to jump there and back safely. Once supplies and all the crew (and Trade Representative Pagenkopf) were on board, Captain Salazar was given the order to make jump to Guruphon.

After the one week jump, the Just Lucky exited jumpspace on the edge of the Guruphon system. Ship’s sensors detected all the planets records indicated the system should have, but no navigational signals. The scanty astrogational records available indicated that Guruphon was a T-type moon in orbit around the gas giant Symbian (second planet out from the primary). Scanning the area around Symbian, Max was able to detect weak radio transmissions. Captain Salazar was directed to make for orbit around the planet Guruphon.

After an 11 hour flight in-system, the Just Lucky approached Guruphon. At this distance the company and crew could see the ruined starport in orbit, still surrounded by a small cloud of debris. The fuelling facilities had exploded sometime in the past, nearly severing themselves from the rest of the station. The freighter docking area was a jumble of metal, but the small craft hangar seemed to be in reasonably good condition. The administrative structure was obviously damaged, possibly from small boat impacts, and there were no electronic signals coming from the station at all. It was inert.

Tracking down the source of the radio transmissions, Max located them on the surface of Guruphon. He located three clusters of radio transmissions, all of which seemed to be surface transmissions only.

The company decided to scout the ruined station first. If they could find some red gold mined and purified prior to the Crash, they would secure it for return to Maresfield. After that, if they decided to make contact with the surface and things went bad, they could still return to Maresfield successful.

The company suited up and boarded Oscar’s tug, loving referred to as the Iron Pig. It was a sturdy ship’s boat and could push aside debris if the need arose. Oscar took the Pig into the small craft hangar and found a docking port that was not too damaged. The company exited the tug and floated over to the port, manually cycling the airlock. Unsurprisingly, they interior of the station was airless.

As Oscar was the only one with any experience moving in zero-G, the company activated their boot clamps so they could “walk” along the deck. Heading down to a central gate area for several of the dock, they found a body floating against the far wall and a ceiling-mounted weapon deployed and pointing at them!

*End of Part One*

[I ran out of time on my lunch. Part 2 will post tomorrow.]

Monday, September 5, 2011


Borders bookstores is going out of business.  In fact, in most places it has already shut its doors.  This is not news.

The one near my home was not shut down and emptied immediately - it is still selling off its inventory and fixtures.  As a result, it really hadn't occurred to me that this was not the case everywhere.  I was in the Seattle area PAX weekend (but not at PAX - I had a great visit with my in-laws) and saw two Borders locations that were shut down and emptied as fast as they could be.  I'm assuming this is due to high rents - one was in a mid-to-high end shopping center and the other was in SEA-TAC (the Seattle Tacoma airport - I can't fault them as I'm from a city whose airports are Hobby and Bush).

So what does this have to do with anything?  Not much.  I have fond memories of that location as I would go there to write, sitting up in the coffee bar area, which has a good view.  We bought some books there just after the closure was announced and chatted with the manager, who was part of our book club.  She was willing to help regular customers as much as she could, but really didn't like the "piranhas" - people who had never been in the store before, didn't know where things were, were looking for "great deals" on high end popular books, and were rude about it when it was explained to them that the store had not received new inventory in two weeks and the inventory computers had been removed immediately by the corporate office.  The local Borders is now selling things 60-80% off and my wife and I could not resist going in on our way to the grocery store.

It was kind of spooky.  The upstairs is 60-70% empty, with huge swaths of shelves now empty.  The kids section was closed off (along with the restrooms - quite wisely I believe).  It being a holiday weekend, there were a lot of folks there looking around.  We picked up seven things for about $7 each.  I picked up a Penguin Classics version of Livy's Rome and the Mediterranean, the Stackpole Military History Series book Poland Betrayed (I'm a bit of a sucker for WWII books), the movie The Forbidden Kingdom (starring Jet Li and Jackie Chan), and the 2 CD Brian Setzer Orchestra The Ultimate Collection.  My wife picked up two books of her own and the NCIS 2 CD set of the TV soundtrack, which also has some interesting music on it. 

Both sets of CDs are going on my iPod Nano for regular listening to.  The Forbidden Kingdom is giving me an idea for my next One Day Movie Fest.  I'm thinking Hong Kong action stars: one movie from "back in the day" followed by a "Hollywood" movie.  I'd like to showcase Chow Yun Fat, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, and Michelle Yeoh, which would give a basis of eight movies and about 12 hours of screen time.  Suggestions are welcome.

As to the books, I feel a need to read more Livy.  In college, I studied ancient Greece and ancient Rome as part of my degree plan, but did not spend enough time reading around (spent WAY too much time playing RPGs).  I've spent the last 15 years working to fix that, getting more diligent as time goes on.  The military history book is part of a hobby within a hobby for me.  WWII has tons of story and gaming possibilities and is just plain interesting to read about.  That's the writer and gamer in me talking.  I'm expecting to take away some insight on how belligerent governments go after their weaker neighbors.  This will be handy for some tabletop miniatures gaming I want to set up.

That's it for right now.  Tomorrow, I should have my first adventure log for my Fragments campaign (Traveller using the Hero System).

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 42 – Into the Mountains and Split

Session 42 happened Tuesday, August 23, 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. I heartily recommend Dyson's Delve as a beginning adventure.

Adventuring Group:
Tre-ba Bel a sheer (female elf alchemist)
Brek'nok (male dwarf druid)
Luna (female elf sorcerer)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)
Elspeth (female half-elf rogue)
Harkaitz of the Red Soul (male human cleric of Ra)

Aziz of the Light (male human paladin, cohort of Harkaitz)
Sarisvati the Suntouched (female Ifrit oracle, cohort of Aziz)
Midnight (female half-elf witch, cohort of Frankie Hu)
Gil Gamesh (male uffik artificer*, cohort of Midnight)
Short John Copper (male halfling expert, hireling)
Brand and Zephir (mated pair of pseudo-dragons tagging along for the fun of it)
The Red Keffiyehs (human warriors, followers of Harkaitz)

Evening, July 18, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, in whose light we march.

This morning, before we broke camp, Brek'nok cast scry to spy upon Lucien, the vampire. Brek'nok observed Lucien in a small boat, rowing across a dark body of water. Just as the effect of the scry ended (and as we were discussing what Brek'nok was relaying to the rest of us), Lucien reached a rocky shore, more of a ledge, confirming our suspicion that he was on an underground body of water. We are not certain where, but suspect it is somewhere under the Ridgeback Mountains.

We spent the day hiking up into the mountains, following an obvious trail to Orzimar. When we arrived, I was not initially impressed. The trail ends at a relatively small cave mouth in the side of a cliff, guarded by two dwarves. I was expecting something more impressive.

Brek'nok and Frankie went up and chatted with the two guards in the dwarven language, which I do not speak. After a short conversation and some looks at the rest of us, we were granted entrance. Once past the cave mouth, there is a small cave. This cave suddenly opens up after a bit into an immense cavern that steps down with four huge terraces, one set on each side of the cavern and sides separate from each other. The city is on the same scale as the two elven cities we have seen, and that is just the parts we can see – the structures might extend back into the mountain.

Brek'nok led us to a structure named The Broken Mug, where we secured rooms. I am not certain if this is an inn with an attached brewery and tavern or a brewery and tavern with rooms for let. It may be both.

After a quick meal, Brek'nok and I will go talk to the local constable and ask about location on the map indicating the location of the gate.

Morning, July 19, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, who illuminates even our dreams.

Ra sent prophetic dreams to me last night. In my first dream, I saw a small band of firely lights moving on a map from Orzimar to the location of the Mountain Gate. The Mountain Gate turned a bright white, indicating that it was liberated, but then all of the Uskar desert fell into blackness. In my second dream, I saw the same band of lights leave Orzimar and head into the desert. There the Uskar Gar was freed, but all the lands north of the desert fell into darkness.

I consulted with Sarisvati as to what the dreams meant. She told me that Ra warned that if we went after either gate, the other gate would let through great evil and swallow half the world. The solution was to secure both gates at the same time. I think this makes our meeting with the constable more fortuitous than I originally thought.

Brek'nok and I met with Constable Morgrim last night. Along the way, I commented to Brek'nok that there seemed to be a large number of dwarves openly carrying weapons and in uniform and asked if this was common. He told me that it was common for soldiers to be about, but not this number of them. Our conversation with the constable confirmed this.

When we talked with the constable and explained our mission and destination in the mountains, he explained that the orcs had recently started attacking more often and were based in the same area as the gate. As a result of a new war against the orcs starting, he could not provide any troops to get us there, but he knew of some folks in town who might be what we need. He offered to arrange a meeting the next day at Noon so we could hire a guide familiar with the area. He also asked that we keep an eye out for dwarven prisoners of the orcs, particularly a dwarf named Dolgrim, and to free as many as we could. Additionally, there is an axe the orcs took in battle that belonged to the last king and the dwarves would pay a good reward for its return.

Today we will meet with the people the constable suggests, but instead of recruiting one to be our guide, we will likely recruit them all and split into two groups. I am not certain how we will divide up, but it is clear that Aziz and I will go south to secure the Uskar Gate and save our homes from the darkness.

Late Morning, July 19, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, who inspires even from the shadows.

Wednesday made a brilliant suggestion, all the more brilliant for its obviousness – we should try and sell the golden sarcophagus lid here in Orzimar. I actually slapped my forehead when she suggested this. We have been porting that lid for months, looking for a buyer and here, in a town where we are most likely to find one, we completely forget about it until Wednesday reminds us. [Wednesday’s player texted the DM to see how the game was going and then asked if we had sold the lid to the dwarves, something we had completely forgotten about. Good thinking Emmy!]

We located a potential buyer and have left the lid (and Aziz) there to have the lid assessed while we go to meet with the constable and our potential new recruits. Later we will return and see if the dwarves will buy the lid. They were very impressed with the quality of the work and the amount of gold in it.

Evening, July 19, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, whose light stays bright, even when divided.

We met with the constable and the people who were interested in our mission. We explained the situation and worked out the two teams. We were lucky that one of the new recruits was an accomplished lock and trap person. She is Elspeth, a half-elven woman, and will be joining the group heading into the desert. Wednesday and Brek’nok will take the rest against the orcs to secure the Mountain Gate. [The other roles still need the characters created, so I’m not naming them here, but I may edit them in later once that group gets started.]

We returned to the mortician interested in the sarcophagus lid and he agreed to buy it for a good price – 175,000 gold marks! After receiving payment, I split the coinage into shares and distributed them amongst the original members of the group. We also split the group fund in two to cover each team’s expenses.

We are going to delay leaving for a day so Tre-ba can craft some wands of endure elements. Elspeth is also searching the city for a ring of sustenance at Tre-ba’s suggestion. So in two morning’s time, the Aldelle Group will split into two teams to save the world. May Ra shine on us both!

*End of Session*

The Aldelle Group - Session 42 - Delayed due to vacation

Spent all day yesterday travelling, getting back from vacation.  Had a great time.  The latest Aldelle Group update will be posted after lunch today.  I may get the first posting for Fragments, my Hero Traveller game, up tomorrow morning, but don't hold your breath.  It will more likely be the Tuesday post next week.

Thank you for your interest!