Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Fragments – Session 4: Bhuddas and Bubbas – Part 1: Caraturth

Session 4 happened Friday, October 21, 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. Mongoose is doing good things, so no hate mail.

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

The Crew:
Echo Salazar, Ship’s Captain (female human)
Ted Yahn, Ship’s Navigator (male human)
Albertha Trufin, Ship’s Engineer (female human)
Dr. Quinton Picknell, Ship’s Doctor (male human)

Maresfield Trade Representative
Deadra Pagenkopf, Maresfield Trade Liaison (female human)

Week 5, Day 1:
The Company decides that the next system they want to explore is Krakatoa System. It will take two Jump 2s to get there, but it was known to be a source of Berynium, a metal necessary to produce the cores of jump engines and not naturally found on Maresfield.

Krakatoa is a T-type world, but is a large moon orbiting one of the system’s gas giants instead of having an orbit of its own. Its orbit is unstable and the world is slowly spiraling in to the gas giant, with an expected impact in 4,000 to 5,000 years. The pre-Crash star charts indicate it had a Class B starport, so The Company is somewhat hopeful of survivors and some level of technology.

Additionally, Caraturth, the mid-point of the trip, is the home of the Order Grar is a part of and he has a vested interest in stopping there. When he reports back in to the Order, he is entrusted with a copy of all records of the Order on Maresfield for the last 80 years. If the Order is still active on Caraturth, he is to submit the records to the head temple for approval. This includes Grar’s induction into the Order and elevation to Lector.

Week 5, Day 2:
Nomen files a flight plan with the Maresfield Exploratory Committee. It indicates the Just Lucky will jump from Maresfield to Caraturth to Krakatoa and then back along the same route. Normally, getting the flight plan through the Committee can take a week or more, but Nomen knows where all the right people sit and has all the right paperwork prepared, so the entire process only takes a day. The downside is that Nomen and his wife now have a dinner appointment with one of the chief bureaucrats and his wife, a couple they loathe. Nomen’s wife sets the date for the get-together two days after the Just Lucky is expected back. And he better not be late.

Week 5, Day 3:
The Just Lucky jumps out of the Maresfield system, heading to Caraturth. During the one week jump, Cyrano constructs five McGuffins, using one of the bars of Red Gold Phoenix Salvage held onto from the run to Guruphon. Grar spends the week memorizing all 80 years worth of Order records.

Week 6, Day 3:
The Just Lucky arrives in Caraturth system. An active sensor sweep of the system brings to life an old navigation buoy in orbit over the planet Caraturth. A recorded message from the buoy provides instructions on where to land and what frequency to contact Caraturth Station, which is down on the planet. The Company and crew has some worries about the buoy being VIRUS-infected, but they quickly determine that the buoy is too simple and small to hold the VIRUS.

During the flight in from the jump point, Max calls in on the frequency specified and gets a very surprised junior member of the order on the other end. After a delay to get a more senior member of the Order, contact is made and the Just Lucky arranges to drop off an away team while the ship itself goes to refuel. When the ship enters orbit, Grar and max use their psionics to verify there is a population on the planet. They do, plus they notice a few minds verifying them. Grar is able to get a lock on one of the minds, but does not have the power to get a message across from this distance. Max has the power, but cannot establish a lock. [This is a recurring theme between the two of them.]

The Low Port for Caraturth is a grass field – the only grass field on the planet, as Caraturth has no native biosphere. The Order of Sacre Illuminae on Caraturth consists of several interconnected monasteries built into adjacent peaks of a large mountain. They are sealed from the high CO2 atmosphere, but there are large window-walls exposing open areas to the sunlight from the red primary. A sealed walkway, consisting of several large sections of transparent material extends to the Low Port landing field, where it connects to a larger reception chamber with airlocks. There are several dignitaries there to greet the PCs. Grar can identify robes indicating all five branches of the Order amongst the assemblage.

As Grar is a lector in the Order, he is the primary speaker for the PCs. The primary speaker for the Order introduced himself as Abbot Balvis. Grar explained that the PCs are an exploratory/mercantile company, of which he is a member. He then presented the combined records for the Order on Maresfield to the Abbot for verification and validation. The Abbot accepted the records, handing them off to a member of the Archivae for review. He then invited the PCs to a meal while the records were reviewed and the Just Lucky was away refueling.

During the meal, discussion was had about how the Order had weathered the period since the Crash. The abbot explained that the monasteries were designed to be maintained over the long term with minimal resources, so they had not had any social upheaval or loss of life. The data systems were isolated from all external systems and so the VIRUS had not been able to spread here. They had been running short on supplies to maintain the datasystems and had initiated a project to hand copy the material into books for preservation.

After a quick discussion amongst themselves, the PCs offered what spare parts they had themselves and the computer core they had secured from Guruphon Station. The monks were overjoyed at receiving these items and offered access to all of the preserved astrogation data and technical specifications they had. The PCs tried not to drool too much while accepting the deal. The abbot also requested passage for a delegation to Maresfield so that formal communications could be re-opened between branches of the Order and official ordinations could be delivered. The PCs agreed to this, but explained they were going to Krakatoa first. The abbot asked if they could use a trained planetologist (albeit one with little field experience) for that part of the trip and the PCs stated they would be very grateful for the loan of one. And so Brother Kurts and his bodyguard, Sister Gunita, joined the crew of the Just Lucky.

Week 6, Day 4:
In the morning, Grar is informed that the Maresfield records have been reviewed and all ordinations approved, including his own. A small Ceremony of Ordination is planned for mid-day, where Grar will trade his provisional robes (which all members of the Order on Maresfield wear) for a set of confirmed robes appropriate for his rank. The ceremony would have been sooner, but they needed to get Grar’s measurements and have properly tailored robes created (as a Low Waldi, he is a foot and a half shorter than the other members, who are all human).

After the Just Lucky returns from refueling operations, the trade of computer parts and core for complete pre-Crash astrogational data and other technical specifications happens. At mid-day the Ceremony of Ordination happens and Grar receives his robes as a fully confirmed Lector of the Order of Sacre Illuminae. A few hours later, the PCs and the new crew members return to the Just Lucky, head out to the nearest jump-point, and initiate the jump to Krakatoa.

*End of Session 4, Part 1*

Monday, November 28, 2011


So the weekend before Thanksgiving I had a relapse of my cold and was miserable the whole weekend and Monday back at work (which was not the best idea, but I had already turned in my time for the week and felt obliged to meet that commitment).  Then we had tons of folks over for Thanksgiving and I had to help in preparations/keep my wife close to sane Wednesday through Thursday.  I was not terribly successful, but folks had a good time and were glad they came.

Friday was supposed to be low-key, but guests had to leave due to them falling ill or folks deciding to sleep in (plus some confusion in my wife's invites), so we ended up in our jammies watching DVR'd recordings of several seasons of Ladies of Ninja Warrior.

Saturday I slept in, still shaking off the vestiges of my cold while my wife was out with a friend, seeing a movie I had no interest in (the one with the vampire/werewolf/drama queen love triangle).  I slept most of the day and watched a few things on the DVR I'd been meaning to watch for months.

Sunday was chores around the house and grocery shopping for the week.

You may notice that no where in there did I mention writing.  There's a reason for that.

Now, however, I'm over my cold and the yearly chaos-fest of Thanksgiving has passed, so I can get back to my writing.  Expect Aldelle group updates and a batch of Traveller updates so I can close out my notes on that campaign.  I'll finish that up with some thoughts on what I did wrong (too much material for too little time) and where I plan on going when I resume running it (that part is secret for now).

That's it for today.  I will post several times this week to make up for the silence of last week.  Hope you enjoy and thank you for reading.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 53 – The Unbeating Heart of Darkness

Session 53 happened Tuesday, November 15, 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)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)
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)
Midnight (female half-elf witch, cohort of Frankie Hu)
Macha (female human fighter, cohort of Elspeth)
Estrela (female Aasimar druid, cohort of Tre-Ba)
Asmo (male halfling sorcerer)

Evening, August 4, Year of the Earth Rabbit (continued)
Praise Ra, who protects fools.

Aziz engaged in a duel of taunts and bravado with the lich, buying us enough time to cast some last moment spells.  I cast protection from evil on Aziz and Sarisvati cast blessings of fervor on all of us.  Tre-ba drank an elixir and the rest of my compatriots prepared themselves for the fight.  Then, with a final, “Have at you villain!” Aziz charged at the lich.

The lich was prepared too.

Before Aziz made it halfway across the chamber, the lich surrounded itself with a forcecage.  A rather potent one.  Thinking we were ready for such an eventuality, Macha, Frankie, and Midnight moved to Aziz and then Midnight cast her last dimension door to move the group of them into the forcecage with the lich.  Frankie, having readied for this, immediately struck the lich with an elemental fist.  It passed right through the lich with no effect.  It was an illusion.

The lich was very prepared.

Laughing maniacally, the lich cast circle of death on the group of us still at the doorway, felling Sarisvati [the rest of us were, luckily, too high of level for it to effect].  I immediately used my last breath of life to bring her back from death’s door.  The rest of my companions attacked as best they could.  Frankie located the lich in the back ten feet of the chamber, completely blocked off by the forcecage.  Asmo and the revived Sarisvati threw fireballs against the back wall, burning the lich slightly.  It responded with a prismatic spray that poisoned and killed Aziz, drove Tre-ba mad, and burned or electrocuted several others.  [Frankie barely resisted be sent to another plane, which would have been disastrous and likely led to a TPK.]  Frankie started attacking the forcecage with a continuous flurry of blows.  The lich responded with Evard’s black tentacles, grappling most of us, but not Midnight nor Asmo.  [Yes, I know it is not called Evard’s in Pathfinder, but that is what I will always call it, grognard that I am.]

Frankie (with help from Tre-ba, who was able to keep her mind focused a few seconds longer) finally sundered the forcecage, immediately followed by Asmo successfully dispelling the black tentacles.  This allowed me to move up to the corner where the lich was (spotted thanks to Midnight’s casting of see invisible on Frankie).  I then activated my nimbus of light and channeled positive energy, burning the lich’s unholy bones with the light and power of RA!

Asmo then dispelled the lich’s improved invisibility, allowing me to stare the lich directly in the eye-sockets.  I then slapped the lich across the skull, my hand imbued with the power of a cure critical wounds spell.  Combined with the nimbus of light and the positive energy I was channeling, it was more than the lich’s bones could stand and they started to crumble.  The lich’s last words were, “Fools!  I will only come back stronger!”

I grinned at the lich as it disintegrated under the power of Ra.  I know where its phylactery is and have already dispatched the others to seek and destroy it.  If they step quickly, they should get there either just before or just after the lich re-forms.  The vile thing won’t know what hit it.  Ha!

Sarisvati and I immediately set to healing ourselves so we would stay conscious.  The lich’s last spell was similar to a symbol of pain [I don't remember then name of the spell] and continued to cause us pain for nearly a minute after the fight ended, nearly knocking Sarisvati and I into unconsciousness.

Estrela cast quiet repose upon Aziz’s body and Sarisvati and I carefully wrapped it up for transport.  While this was happening, the others claimed the lich’s possessions (Elspeth removing a trap from its spellbook) and investigated the gate.  The glyphs around it were in Celestial and indicated that this locus of power was being used as a prison, not a gate.  Satisfied with that, we left, returning to our rude camp outside the pyramid. 

I have made a sending, providing Wednesday with an update of what has happened here.  We are exhausted, injured, and without any spells but our cantrips and orisons and my best friend is dead.  Tonight will be long and not very restful.

Morning, August 5, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, who honors his servants.

After my meditations at dawn, I restored the last effects of the bodak upon myself and with new insight granted by Ra [we leveled], I was able to restore Tre-ba’s sanity [cast greater restoration, which just became available].  I then summoned a planar ally, so the gate we cleared at great cost would remain in the power of the light.  I may have been curt with the messenger, possibly even rude, something I will have to do penance for later.  I informed the agent that we had secured the gate and would very much like Aziz either resurrected or to be delivered a diamond of sufficient quality that I could do the job myself.  We would wait here for an answer.

While writing this entry, I noticed a sudden gleam in my haversack.  Investigating, I found a diamond of great size and clarity.  I have my answer.  Time to bring my friend back to the lands of light.

Evening, August 6, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, Guardian of the True.

I have spent the last two days using wind walk to bring those left at the Red Temple here, to the Throne of Ra.  They were much pleased to see me and hear that we had succeeded.

Tomorrow we re-enter the Throne to finish clearing it out and hopefully destroy a vampire or two.  Ra’s will be done!

*End of Session*

[This was a very tough fight and the DM ran the lich very smartly.  If Asmo had not dispelled the black tentacles or Frankie had been sent to another plane, we would have likely all died except Elspeth, who stayed back outside the room as she had no way to harm the lich.  If we had fallen, she would have had to flee and get help.  Plus, her player was not available for the game due to a last minute switch of when we were playing.

Half way into the fight, we were convinced this was going to end in a TPK, but we kept fighting.  As it was, at the end of the fight, most of us were down to single digit hit points, dead, insane, or with no power to harm the lich (Midnight was in this boat with Elspeth, although Midnight could buff the other players, like that critical see invisibility spell).  We were also completely out of spells and elixirs.

THAT was a good session.]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Aldelle Group Teaser for Session 53

We fought the lich last night.

Two characters died.

Details to follow...tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 52 – Only the Penitent Man Shall Pass

Session 52 happened Tuesday, November 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 our DM.  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)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)
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)
Midnight (female half-elf witch, cohort of Frankie Hu)
Macha (female human fighter, cohort of Elspeth)
Estrela (female Aasimar druid, cohort of Tre-Ba)
Asmo (male halfling sorcerer)

[In game, this session only lasted an hour or so, with little time for Harkaitz to make notes in his diary.  As a result, this entry is a bit sketchy on when it was written.  “Why?” you may ask?  Wait until you get to the end and you’ll see…]

Evening, August 4, Year of the Earth Rabbit [Maybe]
Praise Ra, who protects fools.

If the vampire was close, we missed it.

After catching our breaths and quickly checking the boneyard for valuables (we found a variety of gold items worth 3,000 in gold coin), we pressed into the next chamber.  Beyond was a small room with a door on the far side and a passage leading back along the wall, hidden from the door we were entering through.  Elspeth checked around and found no traps, but we all felt an oppressive atmosphere to the area.  Down the side passage was a desecrated altar to Ra.

This was unpardonable.  The lich and his cronies have infiltrated and perverted many sites holy in the eyes of Ra, but this was too far.  Sarisvati cleansed the altar and re-consecrated it to Ra, dispelling the unholy aura and re-establishing the magnificence of Ra.  We then pressed on to the next chamber.

It was quite odd and suspicious.  It was rectangular and about 100 ft long by 30 ft wide.  There was a perforation in the floor, outlining a five foot area around the room.  The floor inside this perforation appeared solid and had a 10-foot square with a perforated border in the center of it with a small stand.  There were no apparent enemies.

Elspeth took the time to thoroughly search the outer ledge for traps and then the inner area, finding no traps.  Investigating the stand in the center square, we found a lever with three settings – it was in the center setting.  I tried to move the lever before thinking it all the way through, but it was locked in place.  We located the key hole and thought for certain the two-piece key we had acquired would fit.  We were wrong in two ways: it did not fit and we only had one part of the key – Wednesday has the other half!

Luckily, the lock was not beyond the skills of Elspeth, who disengaged the lock expertly.  I then moved the lever down to the lower position.  The floor around the 10-foot square area in the center moved back and retracted into the side walls below the 5-foot ledge around the edge.  Elspeth, Macha, Tre-ba, Estrela (in bat form), and myself were lowered on the center square 100 ft to a lower level.

The shaft was 40 ft wide and ended in a square chamber of matching width.  The platform was surrounded by a 10-foot gap between it and a 5-foot wide ledge.  The gap appeared to be bottomless.  I tested this by dropping a copper piece.  The copper piece hit floor immediately – the pit was an illusion!  This was a relief as I was not looking forward to attempting a jump in my armor.  As we looked around, the others made their way down using rope or fly or running down the walls (monks!).

There was only one door out and there was a plaque beside it, warning we were about to face six trials: The Trial of Stone, The Trial of Fire, The Trial of Air, The Trial of Water, The Trial of Darkness, and The Trial of Speed.  Only one of us could face each trial and we could only face one trial each.  After some discussion, we set our order as follows:

The Trial of Stone to be faced by Tre-ba
The Trial of Fire to be faced by Sarisvati
The Trial of Air to be faced by Estrela
The Trial of Water to be faced by Midnight
The Trial of Darkness to be faced by Harkaitz (myself)
The Trial of Speed to be faced by Frankie

The Trial of Stone

Tre-ba entered the first room.  It was a 30 ft by 40 ft room with a door in the south wall (she entered at the far end of the east wall).  Fifteen feet in was a summoning circle made of two intertwined squares inscribed on the floor.  There was nothing else.  Elspeth checked the door.  She found it untrapped and unlocked, but it would not move.  After we all stepped out of the room but Tre-ba, she stepped into the circle.  We saw a wall of force shimmer into existence between us and her and nothing else, until she started reacting as if struck by some invisible force.  After a bit, the force wall dropped and she staggered out of the circle, clearly injured.  The far door opened of its own accord.

What Tre-ba saw was entirely different.  To her, when she stepped into the circle and the wall of force appeared, the room itself expanded to twice its size and she was able to move freely.  In the room were now four statues, which animated and attacked her.  She used an elixir of fly to get above the statues, but they levitated up to her.  She flew away from them and drank an elixir of stone skin as they were hitting her with ease and she needed to stop the damage she was taking.  Then she started throwing acid bombs at them.  Each statue took two bombs to destroy, but as they could only levitate while she could fly, she was able to stay out of their grasps and destroy them all.

Based on this, we decided to change up who would face each test.  Asmo would now face the Trial of Fire and Aziz would face the Trial of Water.  While Sarisvati and Midnight could survive the environments those trials suggested (respectively), neither could harm creatures of those realms.

The Trial of Fire

Asmo entered the next room, which was physically identical to the first room with the exception of door placements.  It became obvious that the trial rooms circled the central shaft.  Asmo faced a large fire elemental in his trial, defeating it with cold spells.  He did not elaborate much further.  [This was an NPC-on-NPC fight.]

The Trial of Air

Estrela entered the Trial of Air expecting to face an air elemental in the same way Asmo had faced a fire elemental in the Trial of Fire.  Instead she faced a roc in the middle of an immense, treeless plain.  Faced with this unexpected opponent, she apparently panicked a bit and wildshaped into an air elemental when the roc started attacking.  Once she got her wits back about her, she was able to out maneuver it, switch back to her natural form, cast call lightning, and then switch back into an air elemental.  She then started up a whirlwind to ramp up the call lightning and out flew the roc, eventually killing it with lightning bolts from the sky.

The Trial of Water

Aziz was given waterbreathing by Tre-ba, I gave him freedom of movement, and he received haste from a wand before stepping into the circle for this trial.  He faced a “snake lady” (what we eventually worked out to be a lamia matriarch).  As he described it, he dashed “to and fro, bravely striking many a blow until she was undone.”  He then pinched Tre-ba on the rear.  Really.  In addition to inflicting heavy wounds, the lamia matriarch apparently drained off much wisdom.  A few lesser restorations healed up some of the wisdom loss.  Some.

The Trial of Darkness

When I entered the Trial of Darkness, the chamber was without light.  I expected this and immediately activated my nimbus of light.  This allowed me to see the bodak approach and attack.  Its touch drained me of vitality and I became less puissant.  I decided to power my way through this and continually channeled positive energy into the area around me, quickly burning up the bodak with the glory of Ra.

The Trial of Quickness

Frankie Hu faced four quicklings in this trial.  With his boots of speed he cornered them one after the other, unleashing a furious cascade of blows from his fists, elbows, and feet.  The trial did not last long.  When it finished, the final door opened.  The last chamber contained the Uskar Gate, surrounded by dark glyphs of power, twisting its energies in an attempt to free the Nightshade.

It also contained the lich.

*End of Session*

[This was our 52nd session, and after a year of excellent gaming and growth by the DM-in-Training, we had a party on Sunday to celebrate the game and toast the DM.  We ate great pizza from an awesome shop nearby and played boardgames (to give the DM a break).  We had both the weekday group and the weekend group in attendance (sadly missing Luna’s player) so folks could meet each other as both groups had a person that was had never met the other group.  We also told stories of what each group had been up to since splitting in Orzimar 9 sessions ago.  A good time was had by all.]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

War of the Mecha – Testing It Out

Back on November 5th, a friend and I went to out LFGS (Little Wars of Houston) to try out War of the Mecha, a one page set of rules by JB at B/X Blackrazor for having giant mecha combat each other, providing a feel that is similar to FASA’s BattleTech. They read fairly straight forward and seemed much more streamlined than BattleTech of old that I wanted to give them a spin.

So we packed a bunch of minis of different types (on 4 of which were actual battle tech minis) and what we thought was a pile of old BattleTech maps and went over to Little Wars. I brought extra stuff as I wasn’t certain how long this would take to play, so I also brought a copy of By This Axe I Rule, some fantasy minis rules by Chris over at Hill Cantons that I’m play-testing for him, Counterterrorist by Privateer Press (way out of print), and Wings of War – a WWI airplane combat game (by Fantasy Flight games) that I have minis for.

The first thing we realized was that that was not a stack of maps, it was a stack of mech sheets with two maps that happened to be on top. Then we worked out that most of the actual BT minis we had were too big for these maps. So both maps and minis went to the side and we looked through what we had. I ended up using three Ork gargants from my Epic 40K minis and a mech I didn’t recognize for my lance. He used two ostmechs, a blue plastic mech of some sort, and a Necron trooper mini for his lance.

We used three medium mechs and an assault mech for each lance and then equipped them. We used the basic weapons load out option (2 large weapons and 1 small weapon for the mediums and 4 larges and 1 small for the assault mechs), but selected what weapon systems we wanted. My mediums were armed with a ballistic weapon, an energy weapon, and jump jets (I took the option to swap the small weapons for jump jets). My assault mech had three missile weapons, a ballistic weapon, and a small ballistic weapon. My friend ended up using missiles instead of energy weapons for his mediums and took two energy weapons instead of two of the missile weapons on the assault.

Next we needed a map with terrain. As we were at Little Wars, I looked through their extensive amount of store terrain that is free to use. It is impressive in scope and quality, but we needed hexes and all of the store terrain is for games that don’t use hexes. So I made a quick trip home for my set of Heroscape and brought it back with me. We used that to create a good-sized map with a few hills and LOTS of trees.

Then we started playing.

I missed the addendum in the War of the Mecha 2 page of rules, so instead of alternating mechs, we alternated sides, which caused a few peculiarities, but we were still satisfied with the game we had played when we found those rules. I did a lot of jumping and shooting, which caused me heat problems with the energy weapons, but put me in good shooting positions often enough for it to be tolerable. My friend’s missile weapons kept his heat low enough that he rarely suffered heat issues, but his damage rolls tended to be poor. By the end of the game I had destroyed his assault mech, knocked one of his medium mechs down to 3 armor points, and put 18-20 points of damage on the other two mediums. One of my mediums was down to 7 armor points, but the other two still had better than 50% of their armor and my assault mech was untouched. I offered his side the cessation of hostilities and a retreat option and they took it. We had both been lucky/unlucky in the fight and were pleased with the game and the way things worked out.

Rules-wise, there are several things I like about this ruleset. I like that armor is just one pool of armor points. I like the simplified movement rules (no backwards movement and no torso twists). I like that the three weapons systems use different damage dice (missiles use 1d20, energy use 3d8, and ballistic use 4d6/3d6/2d6 based on the targets range – longer means less damage). With the heat differences (missile 7, energy 10, ballistic 3) the player got to balance damage done versus heat accrued and select weapons that matched what they wanted to do. My use of energy weapons meant I ran hot a lot of the battle, but my damage was fairly consistent. My friend’s use of missile weapons on his mediums meant heat was rarely an issue, but the damage range on a d20 meant he couldn’t count on what he’d get from shot to shot.

There are rules for swapping out weapon systems for more heat sinks or more speed or more (but smaller) weapons and we will probably give those a tryout in our next game. I need to put together a simple checklist for the options and print out half-page sheets for each mech. We used 6x9 index cards I had handy and had plenty of space, even with two mechs per card.

By this point, dinner time was approaching, so we packed up and headed out.  We'll have to try By this Axe I Rule another time.  When I do, I'll write up how that goes.

Now you may be asking why I tried this instead of using BattleTech. Two reasons: I have a desire to run a BattleTech RPG campaign and want relatively quick battles as the RPG is the point, not the battles, and the reason I stopped playing BattleTech was the 1001 fiddly rules that made a simple lance on lance fight go on forever. I think these rules will allow for quick battles and let the roleplay aspect become the primary part of the campaign.

An in case you were wondering, there are rules for using the Clans. No, I will not be using the Clans – they suck conceptual-wise and are poorly executed in the backstory. The rules by JB are probably just as functional as the regular rules, but I’ll never know.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Noisms Grab Bag of Topics

These are my thoughts on “Things Role Playing Bloggers Tend Not To Write About” from Noisms. I’m not certain I can do entire posts on these topics, so I’m covering them all here.  Once the DayJob and life slows down a bit, I'll get back to more regular postings.

Book Binding

See Hero System 5th Edition and 5th Edition Revised for how it should be done. You can run it through a dryer and it will hold together (although the pages will be a bit folded). Plus, it will stop bullets from handguns. Really. Look for demonstrations on YouTube.

Tangentially, I prefer paper I can write on, so I can write notes (or text corrections as some publishers are prone to typos – AEG, I’m looking at you). Slick paper sucks at this as ink either doesn’t stick or smears a lot. “Grainy” paper (like newsprint) tends to blob out a bit and is difficult to make small notes on and have them remain legible.

"Doing a voice"

Yes, I do “voices”. Not for every NPC, but for major NPCs or to differentiate groups, either by species or nationality. In my Southern Reaches game, each type of elemental had a different accent. Earth elementals had a Russian accent, which I did every time the wizard summoned one (which was often). Smaller species have higher pitched voices than larger species. Goblins are a bit more nasal while kobolds speaking Common sound like bad Viet Cong extras on a ‘Nam movie (“You die, adventurers! You die now!”). In their own tongue, they are more elegant, but tend to shout a bit.


For week-day games, folks step away from the table when they need a bio-break. We keep going unless we need their input (or it’s the DM). When we game on weekends, we tend to game all day, starting just after lunch, making a dinner break around 5:00 to 7:00 (depending upon what’s going on in game), with bio-breaks as needed. We do not currently have any smokers in the group, so that is not an issue, but when it is, they go out on the porch and come back after a quick smoke.


My descriptions are the minimum necessary to get the point across. During combat I may describe cool things the PCs or NPCs do based on how the dice rolled and what the PCs stated intent was (not all of my players give a lot of detail beyond “I swing at him”).

Where do you strike the balance between "doing what your character would do" and "acting like a dickhead"?

Creating a character who is a dickhead is a dick move and I police that. If you can’t play a character who is not a dick at least to the other PCs, I don’t need you in my game or really in my circle of friends. You are not normal nor an adult and I game only with adults, whatever their age. The point of the game is for everyone to enjoy the game, not just one person.

PC-on-PC violence. Do your players tend to avoid it, or do you ban it? Or does anything go?

My player group tends to avoid it (it can cause unnecessary issues), but if there is a story reason for it to happen and both players agree it should happen and are OK with playing it out, I’ll allow it. I would not expect it to end in character death outside of a Cyberpunk/Shadowrun game, where I fully expect it. Usually by ambush.

How do you explain what a role playing game is to a stranger who is also a non-player?

Assuming they ask, I use “It’s like D&D, but with slightly different rules.” A high percentage of the populace will get that, even if they have odd perceptions about it. If that gets a blank look, I go to “It’s like cowboys and indians but using Lord of the Rings characters.” Although really, I’ve never had to use either explanation before.

Alcohol at the table?

I don’t drink, but I don’t mind players having a drink. A drink. They are still responsible for everything their character does in game. Usually not an issue with my current groups.

What's acceptable to do to a PC whose player is absent from the session? Is whatever happens their fault for not being there, or are there some limits?

Usually we find a way to get them off camera for the session – they are doing something time consuming or the equivalent of “watching the horses”. Worst case scenario, they just fade into the background that session and fade back in the next session the player attends. Sometimes they just drop out of the narrative – see Luna in my Aldelle Group adventure log postings. Her player is often missing due to conflicting work and college schedule.

Now days, my campaigns are designed such that the PCs return to a safe point at the end of a session. Next session runs whoever makes it to the game. I have had to skip a session when someone critical to what is going on is unable to make it and then we do boardgames. For weekly games this is not a big issue, but for the monthly games I used to run it could kill a campaign if I was not careful about scheduling.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 51 – Mist, Fireballs, Statues, and Bone Heaps

Session 51 happened Monday, October 31, 2011.  Yes, we played D&D on Halloween.

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)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)
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)
Midnight (female half-elf witch, cohort of Frankie Hu)
Macha (female human fighter, cohort of Elspeth)
Estrela (female Aasimar druid, cohort of Tre-Ba)
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)

Yet Later in the Afternoon, August 4, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, whose unblinking Eye watches over us.

I’m taking a moment to update my journal while Frankie and Tre-ba disassemble a wall so we can get to the passage beyond it.  I’ll explain that in a moment.

When we awoke from the effects of the nap stack, Macha informed us a small troop of five zombies wandered out of the desert and into the pyramid while we were sleeping.  There of course was no sign of the vampire.  At this time of year we should have another three hours of sunlight, so if we must, we can retreat out of the pyramid.  I prefer pushing through until we seal the gate.

When we re-entered the first chamber, the room still reeked of burned death and acid.  Interestingly, the remains of the bloody skeletons were no longer present.  I forgot to bless the remains so they could not be raised again.  A bit belatedly I blessed the rest of the remains to keep them down.

The back doors still led to two different hallways, but now we could take the time to look down them.  Both ended 25 feet down in a bank of mist.  Tre-ba went and investigated the mist down the corridor going left and determined the mist was a standing obscuring mist spell.  Large amounts of flame counters these, so I asked Asmo to drop a fireball down at the far end of this hallway.  He willingly did so.  Unfortunately, I had him throw it a bit far and a five-foot band of mist remained, obscuring our view.

It was my fault, so I went and stepped through to verify the fireball worked.  While walking through, I stepped on a triggering plate of some sort and I saw four statues animating when I reached the far side of the mist.  I immediately backpedaled through the mist warning everyone of the trap and the animating statues, calling for Frankie to step forward.  My voice did not break much.

When the animated statues came through the mist, Macha, Aziz, and Frankie were ready to fight them, backed by Tre-ba and Asmo using acid-based attacks.  Macha and her adamantine axe and Frankie and his adamantine fists started knocking the statues to rubble while Aziz held the line and kept the statues from breaking through.  In the process Aziz took several hits from the statues and I needed to use the wand or cure serious wounds to heal him and keep him in the fight [5 charges left].

After the first statue was destroyed, Macha and Frankie leap-frogged each other down the hallway, destroying the acid weakened statues one after another.  Midnight and Sarisvati healed up Macha once all the statues were destroyed, but Aziz waved off their healing (for the moment).

At the end of the hallway was a chamber (now slightly scorched) with half-columns and placed for statues (now missing).  There was a door in the back, which Elspeth checked and pronounced clear of traps.  The room beyond had no other doors and was full of stacked treasure.  To say we were suspicious is an understatement.  We checked for magic and it all radiated illusory magic.  Investigating more closely, Tre-ba was able to identify it all as the product of the major creation spell.  A few hours outside of the pyramid and it would evaporate into the thin air from whence it was created.

After a search for concealed passages (and apparently finding none – I’ll get back to that), we reversed course and went down the hallway leading to the right.  This time I had Asmo place the fireball five feet closer and all the mist was eliminated.  Elspeth checked for traps but found none.  Suspicious, we edged further down the hall.  The room at the end was a mirror of the other room (but no animated statues).  The room behind it was also full of “treasure”.  This was all made of fool’s gold.  Again, there were no doors or concealed passages.

Find the path would have been a very useful blessing here, but I am not strong enough to cast two wind walks and it in the same day.  Additionally, as a cleric of Ra, I am granted the blessings of Ra at dawn and the sun had not set on today yet.  So we started checking and rechecking the rooms and passages.  After a thorough (and time consuming) search, Elspeth noticed something in the illusory treasure room that Frankie had missed – a line of missing mortar along the floor at the back.  This was the path the vampire must have taken in mist form.

Investigating further, we were able to determine there is a passage behind the wall.  Tre-ba is carefully pouring acid on the mortar of the stones covering the passage while Frankie pulls out the freed stones.  The smell is particularly acrid and the process is slow.

It’s done.

[In hurried writing]
Beyond the wall was a series of short passages separated by doors.  The floor of one chamber was covered in bones and one of the doors along the way was trapped.  The chamber we are in now is also covered in bones, but some of these were skeletons in hiding, including a skeletal dragon!  We spotted them with detect magic and held position in the door.  Tre-ba threw some acid bombs in, I activated my nimbus of light, and Sarisvati cast blessings of fervor.  These actions drew their attention and they rose from the bone piles.  Four of the skeletons burst into flames and three started oozing blood.  My joy knew definite bounds.

We bottle-necked the door and slowly destroyed the skeletons, including the skeletal dragon.  Aziz was heavily injured and nearly fell.  We are taking a moment to catch our breath and heal.  Then we push on – the vampire and the gate should be very close now.

*End of Session*

[Our 52nd session is coming up next week.  This makes one year of weekly game sessions.  Our DM-in-training is no longer a newbie nor in training.  To celebrate, we will be getting together on the 11th, almost exactly one calendar year from when we started, for a pizza party and social get together.

While I miss the dungeon delve we started in (I’m an explorer at heart), I’ve greatly enjoyed the campaign so far and look forward to continuing on.  As a group we discussed what we wanted to do after the Ra-Saves-the-World story arc.  The consensus is that we want to keep on with the same characters but put someone other than my characters (Harkaitz/Aziz/Sarisvati) as the center of the plot.  I seconded the motion as I’ve hogged the spotlight for long enough – time for someone else to shine.

I think the one thing I’d like to see is time passing a bit more.  When I started making the adventure logs Harkaitz’s journal entries it was April in-game and we had already finished the Dyson’s Delve arc in the campaign.  It is now just August 3rd in-game and we’ve gone up something like 7 levels (soon to be 8) in 4 months.  That’s a pretty good clip and our characters must be getting a bit frayed around the edges.  I’m thinking that we should be allowed to take the winter off after saving the world from complete destruction.  I’m just saying…]

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Aldelle Group – Session 50 – Wave of Undead

Session 50 happened Wednesday, October 26, 2011.  Play was delayed because the DM was scheduled to work every night this week, despite asking for Mondays off.  We almost didn’t play at all, but he was able to get Wednesday night off.

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)
Frankie Hu, Master of the Distracting Fist (male dwarf monk)
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)
Midnight (female half-elf witch, cohort of Frankie Hu)
Macha (female human fighter, cohort of Elspeth)
Estrela (female Aasimar druid, cohort of Tre-Ba)
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)

Later in the Afternoon, August 4, Year of the Earth Rabbit
Praise Ra, whose power smites the undead.

After some quick discussion, I sent the following reply to Brek’nok’s sending:
Go after phylactery soonest. Disguise Wednesday seriously before going down to drow city. Don’t get caught! Entering Throne of Ra now. ~Harkaitz

We made a deal with Nionel to “never see each other again” after killing the drow matriarch and sealing the Drow Gate, meaning they would not invade the surface anymore and we of the surface would not invade them again.  I feel bad about breaking that promise and if there was a way to destroy the phylactery without breaking the promise I’d take it.  I may have to do something to make up for it to Nionel after we save the world.  Maybe Wednesday and her group can do the job without killing anyone or getting caught.

Probably not.

We discussed using nap stack before entering the pyramid, but decided that there was not enough benefit from doing so.  Coming around a corner of the pyramid, we found three skeletons (skeletal champions as it turned out) guarding the entrance to the pyramid interior.  We took them out fairly quickly, but it made us wonder if they indicated the lich and Lucien are here.  Either way, we were committed to the attack at this point and entered the pyramid.

The first chamber we entered was 40 ft square with the ceiling supported by four columns equally spaced around a 20 ft quare in the center.  The walls were decorated with scenes of priests fighting the undead.  Elspeth searched the room and found a lever on one of the pillars.  It was a trap, rigged to drop the ceiling on anyone in the chamber.  She disabled it and then then pulled the lever.  This caused sections of the walls to slide down into the ground, exposing two doors each on the back and side walls.

After Elspeth cleared the doors as safe, Frankie opened the left-most door.  Beyond was a long room full of evenly spaced stone coffins and no other exits.  Contemplating this, we decided to open all of the doors first, and then decide which way to go.  The doors on the right and left walls each opened into a long room with many stone coffins.  The back two doors opened onto corridors, one leading left and one right.

While we were deciding which way to go, a patch of mist moved into the room from the left door on the back wall.  Aziz, suspecting what this was, detected evil on it and confirmed the mist was evil.  He warned us that it was a vampire and we stood ready as it formed into a corporeal body.  It was a vampire.  It was also a woman, not Lucien like we were expecting.  She was somewhat expecting us, claiming "the master" said we would eventually arrive.  After the usual threats she gave us “one last chance to leave”.  At this point there was an awkward silence because this is usually when our opponents attacked, thinking they would surprise us.  After a couple of moments of nothing happening, she turned to mist and left – just as several stone coffins in each of the side rooms opened, expelling undead.

Each room contained a different type of undead, with four or five in each room.  From left to right there were burning skeletons, regular skeletons, fast zombies, and bloody skeletons.  We quickly shouted out a plan to block the doors so we would not have to fight them all at once.  We were partially successful as we blocked two of the four doors before one of the burning skeletons and one of the bloody skeletons stepped just outside of their rooms.

I took a position in the center of the chamber and activated my nimbus of light, which slowly damaged all of the undead while I sent out multiple pulses of positive energy to further damage them.  Macha was enlarged and used her enlarged tower shield to completely block off the room with normal skeletons in it.  Frankie destroyed the bloody skeleton at that door and, after being enlarged by Midnight, blocked the door to that room and the fast zombie room at the same time.

This combat was long and a bit touch and go at points, but because we controlled the access points to the room, the undead could not swarm us.  We cleared the burning skeleton room first.  They explode in flames when destroyed, which was an unpleasant surprise.  Luckily, Sarisvati was able to provide fire resistance to those fighting them (mostly Aziz and Macha), which kept the burning to a minimum.

After the burning skeletons we destroyed the bloody skeletons.  They heal rapidly if left alone, so we piled damage on them until they were destroyed.  After that, Frankie finished off the fast zombies with assistance from Tre-ba and Asmo.  We then did some healing before Macha let the regular skeletons out of their room and we pummeled them to dust.

At this point we were out of most of our undead fighting capabilities.  With the sun still high in the afternoon sky and having access to nap stack, we decided to pull back and camp for two hours to recuperate.  Now it is time to sleep for a bit and then take on the vampire minion.  The sun should keep us safe, but we will still have a watch and Estrela will cast hide camp to cover us.

I miss having a good meal cooked by Short John at camp.

*End of Session*