Friday, April 27, 2018

Session Report – Code Name: Parrot T-Rex – Session 7

[This session happened July 2nd, 2017, and was run by New GM.  This was mostly deciding upon our plan, which in Shadowrun is possibly one of the more critical points in a storyline.  This is the top of that first big hill in a rollercoaster - after this, things start happening quickly and there is no getting off the ride until it’s over.]

Baelthor – male human mage with a loud mouth
Void – female night elf physical adept B&E specialist, a shadow that blends in easily
Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)
Sin – male human rigger, knows exactly the wrong thing to say and says it
Wren – male human that registers as an elf, no explanation as to why
Prometheus – male human street samurai, handy with any firearm

Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Dai – male human fixer who operates in Cara’Sir, recommended by The Fin

July 3, 2076
After reviewing the two days of video of the New Dawn Technologies campus, the team made some decisions.  This job was going to have two major parts: Part A to get all the biosamples and setup the destruction of the lab and data, Part B to grab all the targets and trigger the destruction of the lab and data.  These two parts would happen on separate days.  This would keep the number of tasks the group needed to achieve at one time down to a manageable level.  It was confirmed that the paragoose (Bonus Job #2) was going to be too much a pain to pull off and too dangerous to have in the hyperjet afterwards, so it would still be ignored.  [This was the team giving up on 70,000¥, which says a lot about how far the team has come.  Their first job together as a team only paid 12,000¥ and that was only 8 months ago in game.]

While discussing how to eliminate the data files and backups, Bookie stated he had access to a program called Nuke-from-Orbit that obliterates targeted files and make Matrix recovery impossible.  That said, he would need to get the latest updates for it before use.  The team agreed this is how they will eliminate the online files, but Bookie, as Dr. Reynold, will need to meet with Dr. Valdi and find out if New Dawn Technologies keeps backups anywhere.  Bookie placed a call and arranged a meeting for drinks that evening.

Looking over the AR model of the campus the group [and by group, I mean Bookie] had assembled, it was clear that a roof-top entrance would be best.  The animals they needed to sample from were in two different labs in two different, but connected, buildings.  One of the buildings on campus came relatively close to a side street [Building 55 for later reference].  From that building it would be possible to run along the rooves to the target buildings with only one three-meter gap between two buildings to jump across.  Easy.  [This gap is between Building 36 and Building C.]  Bookie would need to adjust the sweep pattern of only one roof camera so the team could climb a line from outside the perimeter to the roof of the first building.

Once in the target building [designated Building A], the group would be able to move around between the buildings [through Building B to Building C] they needed via third floor skywalk.  The interior maps provided by Dr. Valdi showed a roof access hatch at the top of a stairwell that was pleasantly close to each of the first-floor labs they needed access to.  They would have to slip through a hallway patrolled by a basilisk in each case, but it looked do-able.

The interior maps also showed the server room for the building.  This offered several possibilities, which were discussed.  The group settled on inserting a remote access point here to give Bookie direct access to the servers.  The group also decided that these servers would be the highest probability place for back-ups, so the team would plant incendiary charges inside the servers and in the ceiling here, wired for remote detonation.  The chaos of a building fire would provide cover for the teams exit after Part B.

The plan for Part B of the job was a little more nebulous.  The residences on campus were across a large, open field from the target labs.  There was a kennel run for dogs and a picnic area on the far side of the residences, which put them relatively close to the perimeter, but with an intervening berm blocking line of sight [not to mention two layers of surveilled fences, the inner one electrified].  If Dr. Valdi could talk Dr. O’Seahnasaigh into a picnic with all the hell dachshunds in one place with “Dr. Reynold”, who would actually be Baelthor with some NeuroStun, he could trigger the NeuroStun to knock them all out [Baelthor, being immune to NeuroStun, would not succumb], allowing for easy pick up.  Then the data and servers would be taken out and the team would infiltrate the campus as part of the fire rescue.  This was pretty iffy, but the best the team had for the moment.

After this, the team discussed possible options for the delivery part of the job in the Czech Republic.  For the amount of pay the job was worth, the Pleiades Group could hire some local shadowrunner teams to act as decoys and still turn a nice profit.  Three to four teams with orders to shoot anyone following them would provide plenty of cover for the actual delivery.  Sin and Prometheus poured over the maps of the Czech Republic and plotted an indirect route that was would not add on too many hours to the trip.  There was no hurry on implementing this as they needed to concentrate on actually getting the target and packages first.

Bookie met with Dr. Valdi and discussed the data files.  There were backups in the server room, on an isolated, hardened server.  Also, Dr. Valdi agreed he could get Dr. O’Seahnasaigh and the hell dachshunds out for a picnic on either the 11th or 12th to meet Dr. Reynold in a social environment.  Bookie asked him to do so.

When Bookie returned to the Windsong Corporate Apartments, he relayed everything he learned from Dr. Valdi and that Dr. Valdi would arrange a picnic lunch on either the 11th or 12th.  This let the team finalize the plans for Part A and firm up the plans for Part B.

The plan for Part A now looked like this:
  1. Bookie resets the scan length of the camera on Building 55 so there is a gap on the western corner out to the street.
  2. The team will drive up on the side street and park in this gap.
  3. Prometheus will use his grapple gun to fire a line of stealth rope to the western corner of Building 55’s roof and secure it.
  4. Void will run up the line while Killroy, Wren, and Baelthor use climbing grips to climb up the line inside a Silence bubble.  Once everyone is up, Prometheus will apply a catalyst stick to the line and eliminate it.  Killroy will grab the grapple to return to Prometheus later and not leave evidence.
  5. The infiltration team will then move from Building 55 to Building 36, jump across the gap to Building C, move across Building C, rappel down to the roof of Building B, and run the length of Building B to Building A.
  6. The infiltration team will enter Building A through the roof access hatch and take the stairs down to the first floor.  There they will split up: Void and Baelthor to get the biosamples, Killroy and Wren to access the server room and plant the incendiary devices and access point.
  7. After completing their goals, both teams would meet back up on the third floor and make their way to Building C through Building B, avoiding any interior security [little to none was expected].
  8. In building C, Void and Baelthor would collect the rest of the biosamples.
  9. The infiltration team would return to the roof via roof access hatch on Building C and make their way back to the western corner of Building 55.
  10. Once there, they would contact Prometheus via micro-transceiver [just within range] and he would fire another grapple line to the roof.  Killroy would tie off the line and remove the grapple [again, to leave no physical evidence].
  11. The team would zip down the line to the ground outside the perimeter and apply the catalyst stick to the line.  They would then enter the vehicle and drive away.
  12. Bookie would reset the scan distance for the roof camera to close the gap.

The next thing to check would be for magical defenses and plan around them.  It was late [both in game and in real life], so the team decided to put that off until the next day.

End of Session

[In case it was not obvious, the buildings on the corporate campus are of varying heights, with Buildings A and B being two floors lower than buildings C, 36, or 55.  Also, the map New GM had of the campus had all the buildings numbered, but the numbers on some were blurry due to being a JPEG she found online, so we just listed the target buildings as A, B, and C to differentiate them from non-target buildings and not worry about their actual numbers.  We could retcon it to make it a form of information security – if we say Building B, no one listening in somehow would know which building we were talking about – but really it was just to keep the game going.]

[So I started having the characters build AR models of the target locations for two reasons: it would be helpful for the characters to have and you see them in heist movies all the time.  I’d like to think that in 2076 with ubiquitous AR, shadowrunners would no longer be looking at 2D maps but three dimensional representations of the actual locations they could zoom in on or virtually walk through.  Plus, I really like the visual in my mind’s eye.]

Session 8 (not yet written)
Session 9 (not yet written)
Hurricane Harvey!
Session 10 (not yet written)
Session 11 (not yet written)
Session 12 (not yet written)
Session 13 (not yet written)
Session 14 (not yet written)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Session Report – Barrowmaze – Session 2

[This session was a rollercoaster and nearly ended in a TPK.  Tripp and Radagast’s players could not make the game, so Brock, Harkyn, and Brother Thaddeus decided to go it alone.  Read on to see how it played out…]

[Also?  SPOILERS!  This series will spoil what’s in Barrowmaze, so take that into consideration before reading.]

Brock – male Dwarven Vaultguard, exploring Barrowmaze for the loot
Harkyn – gender fluid Elven Nightblade [yes, I said “elf” twice], also exploring Barrowmaze for the loot
Brother Thaddeus – male human Cleric, pillaging pagan tombs for the glory of St. Ygg! [Read: “exploring Barrowmaze for the loot”]

Norman – male human guide, hired to lead the adventurers to Barrowmaze but not fight
Dar – male human man-at-arms (0-level) with an axe, a shield, and a never-say-die attitude

Thorsday, April 4, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
Early in the morning, Tripp was feeling sore and a bit feverish from the zombie wound he took two days ago and needed more bed rest to recover.  Radagast, a fast friend, volunteered to stay in Helix and keep an eye on Tripp (and make certain none of the townsfolk took advantage of Tripp and his bag of coinage).  [Neither player could make it to the game, so I worked out a reasonable in-game reason for the characters to remain in town.]  Harkyn, Brock, and Brother Thaddeus still wanted to go back to the Barrowmaze, so they went by the Mercenaries Guild to bulk up their numbers.

Osen, the guildmaster, was happy to see them again.  Norman had provided a very positive review of the group and was willing to work with them again.  When asked about the availability of men-at-arms, Osen looked through his rolls to see who was available, but only came up with one name, Dar.  Dar fought with axe and shield and had his own chain mail armor.  The group asked to hire both.  After Brock and Harkyn put up the 5 gp death benefit deposit for each, Osen sent a runner to find each hireling and have them meet the adventurers in the common room of the Brazen Strumpet.  Less than an hour later, the entire group was assembled and headed south, into the Barrowmoor.

Unlike the easy trip through the Barrowmoor earlier in the week, the group drew the attention of a pack of four crocodiles this time.  Not wanting to tangle with the beasts [especially to no profit], they fled through the marshes, eluding the creatures.  [I, the GM, remembered to roll for an encounter on the way this time.  Four crocodiles would have been tough for 1st-level characters, so I think the PCs were right to flee this encounter.]

About an hour past Noon, the group arrived at the field containing the barrows.  There was some discussion about having Harkyn double-check the barrows already explored but the group decided they might do this if there was time before they needed to leave for the day.  [Harkyn’s player wasn’t present for most of last session and so never got rolls to check for secret doors.  The players wanted Harkyn to check this session, but could not justify having a dwarf ask an elf to double-check the dwarf’s work.]  Instead, the group decided to start by finishing the exploration of the 5th barrow.

Brock checked the soil he’d scattered on the steps down to the barrow.  It had clearly been disturbed in the intervening two days, but he could not read the signs to tell by what.  The group cautiously entered the barrow, leaving Norman on the surface as look-out.

The group checked to see if the two already explored rooms [the entry room and the room on the left] looked any different than last seen.  When they did not, Brock forced open the door to the room on the right.  From the door, this room widened out in a funnel shape to be 50 feet wide.  Standing in the center of the widest part of the room was a stone sarcophagus.  The floors and walls were bare stone.  Harkyn and Brock searched the walls for passages or traps, respectively, while Brother Thaddeus walked into the center of the room to get a closer look at the sarcophagus.  Dar stood guard at the door.

As Brock and Harkyn were completing their examination of the chamber’s wall, Brother Thaddeus noticed a glop of something fall to the floor next to him and start sizzling on the floor.  Looking up, he discovered that a 10-foot patch of wet-looking ceiling was rippling and congealing just above him.  Brother Thaddeus let out a cry of panic…er, warning and took a quick step back.  The now active gray ooze slammed a pseudopod into Brother Thaddeus’ chest, dropping to the ground as it did so.  The ooze’s acidic slime immediately started eating up Brother Thaddeus’ banded mail.  Brother Thaddeus frantically stripped the now useless armor off before the slime ate into him.  Brock drew his short bow and sunk an arrow into the ooze while Harkyn’s shot from their composite bow went wide of the mark.  [This unfortunately was the beginning of a pattern for Harkyn...]

The next round Brock and the ooze attacked simultaneously.  Brock’s arrow hit the ooze again, but failed to kill it.  The ooze’s attack, on the other pseudopod, did not fail to hit and kill Brother Thaddeus, slamming the young catechist across his back, dissolving much of his torso.  [It took him to -6 hit points.]  At this point, Dar, enraged by what the ooze had done, rushed forward, swinging at the ooze with his hand axe and killing it.

After catching their breath, the remaining characters bundled Brother Thaddeus’ remains up into a cloak in order to return him to the Shrine of St. Ygg in Helix.  [I missed the part of the rules where characters can roll on the mortality table after receiving some sort of treatment.  We later discovered this and rolled on the table.  He received the result: “That’s a bad way to go. What’s left of you isn’t pretty.”]  They then opened the sarcophagus, hoping the contents would make the death of Brother Thaddeus meaningful in some fiscal way.  They found a mummy inside, luckily it was the inert kind.  With a sign of relief, they set to unwinding its bandages.

The corpse inside the bandages was wearing a silver ring and a necklace with a red stone pendant.  They also found a potion vial in the sarcophagus with the mummy.  Unfortunately, the people they knew who could evaluate these treasures, Tripp and Radagast, were back in Helix, so they bagged up the treasure and moved on, returning to the surface.

Looking around outside, they noticed two barrow mounds relatively nearby that were not on their map.  Eyeballing the distances, Harkyn and Brock decided to check out the closest barrow next, which happened to be one of the two “new” mounds [#6, in fact].  They walked over to check it out and found it still sealed.  Brock pulled out his sledge hammer and proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes breaking down the sealing slab of stone.

Entering the exposed barrow, carefully and specifically checking the ceiling, Harkyn and Brock found a long narrow room with five, eight-foot tall statues, each in its own alcove.  Harkyn noticed that the eyes of the statues were gems, rubies for the two statues on each side, black opals for the single statue at the end of the chamber.  [We also noticed that the description of this barrow mentions that all the doors are bronze, but the only doors in this entire barrow are secret doors!  I should have noticed that BEFORE I read aloud the part about the doors and marked those words out instead of tipping my hand that there was more to this barrow than the one chamber.  My bad.]  Brock also noticed that the statue with the very valuable black opal eyes was trapped – there was a small metal tube just barely detectable in the back of the statue’s mouth.

After a great deal of discussion while taking a break, Harkyn and Brock decided to remove the ruby eyes from the side statues before messing with the trapped statue.  During the 20 minutes this took, Harkyn’s elven keen eyes noticed that there were two secret doors in this chamber: one behind the trapped statue and one behind the statue to its left.  They decided to hold off opening the secret doors until setting off the trap in the statue [Tripp being the only one able to disarm traps the safe way].

To try and side-step the effects of the trap, they used a torch to partially melt one of Harkyn’s candles and stuff the pliable mass into the statue’s mouth.  Once ready, Brock took a position beside the statue [and partially on it] and Harkyn took position at the foot of the stairs at the far end of the chamber.  Dar was sent up to the surface with Norman [explaining what kind of crazies the adventurers were to Norman - "You won't believe what they're about to do..."].  Both adventurers were convinced that the trap was actually a flame trap of some sort, so they were trying to not be right in front of it.  Then Brock started prying loose the black opal eyes.

There was a grinding sound as the statue’s mouth opened wider and then a pause.  Just as Brock was sure the wax had worked, the gas pressure popped the wax wad out of the statue's mouth and the area around the statue filled with poison gas.  Brock staggered out of the gas cloud coughing, but easily shrugged off the effect of the poison.  Harkyn sprinted back to the surface until Brock called the all clear.  [Clearly the elf was starting to get skittish.]  As the trap did not reset, Brock spent the next ten minutes calmly prying the black opal eyes the rest of the way out.

With the gems secured, it was time to try the secret doors.  Brock and Harkyn decided on the secret door on the left and opened it.  The chamber beyond was lined with burial alcoves, but all the contents were piled in the center as part of a giant-rat nest.  Brock realized there were more than five of the giant rats [the player specifically asked me if there were more than five], but charged forward anyway.  He was quickly surrounded by eight of the giant rats defending their nest.  The remaining four moved to attack Dar and Harkyn near the door while a black rodent of unusual size lurked in the background [the pack leader].

For the first couple of rounds it seemed like the adventurers and their man-at-arms would be able to slog through the fight and eventually win.  Brock was killing one rat per round and only getting bit by one rat in return while Dar killed two of the rats attacking him.  Harkyn’s shots tended to go wide, fear of rats filling Harkyn’s eyes.  Then came the round where Brock failed to kill a rat and three of them sunk their fangs into him at once.  Brock went down under a pile of greasy, black fur.  This shook Harkyn’s confidence.  The black pack leader squeaked at the rest of the pack and they stopped feeding on Brock’s fallen body to attack Harkyn and Dar at the door.  Harkyn targeted the black rat specifically with arrow fire while Dar fought whichever rat was within arm’s reach with his hand axe.

Standing in the doorway, Harkyn and Dar only faced two giant rats at a time, but numbers were on the rats’ side.  Half a minute later, Harkyn finally killed the black pack master, but the rest of the rats were in a blood frenzy and kept attacking [high rolls on their morale check].  Then Dar fell, and it looked like he too was dead.  Harkyn took a half step back in preparation to flee.  Harkyn’s next shot went wide and, even though Dar stood back up at this point, Harkyn’s nerve broke and they fled, leaving Dar to face the last three giant rats on his own!  [Dar, an NPC, was being played by Brother Thaddeus’ player so he had something to do.  He misread Dar’s AC (5) as his hit points (6) and thought Dar had died when he really still had one hit point left.  Harkyn’s player was already planning to flee before we discovered the error and had Harkyn flee rather than die under the onslaught of the giant rats.  Honestly, I don’t blame her at all – I’m surprised she and Dar stayed as long as they did.]

Harkyn ran back to the stairs and prepared to shoot at any rats that came out of the secret door while Dar stood firm and continued the fight.  Dar killed another rat, protected by the banded plate keeping the rats from reaching his bloodied flesh.  This seemed to shake the last two rats out of their blood frenzy and they fled through a gap in one of the burial alcoves [first morale roll under an 8 for the entire combat – a 2].  Dar staggered out of the statue alcove and announced it was done.

Harkyn and Dar returned to the chamber past the secret door and attempted to revive Brock.  Brock was just barely alive, but lost both of his arms to the rats hurried feasting upon him.  [I made a GM call here as I initially missed the part of the Mortality Table where he needed to be healed to one hit point within one round or he’d die.  I decided to let him live rather than die a second time.  This is also when I realized we should have rolled for Brother Thaddeus and I retconned the roll.  It didn’t help.]  After two tourniquets were applied to Brock, Harkyn and Dar searched the rat’s nest for any potential loot and found a couple handfuls of coins and a scroll tube.  They then called Norman down to help them carry the barely conscious Brock out of the barrow so they could head back to Helix.

As bad luck would have it, the wounded group ran across 2 skeletons on the way back to Helix.  The group tried to run and evade the skeletons but were slowed by the heavily wounded Brock.  The battle went badly.  Harkyn’s first two shots missed and it took two hits for Dar to kill one of the skeletons before the second skeleton sunk its boney fingers into Dar’s chest, damaging his heart and lungs.  Dar fell to the moist ground, coughing blood.  Harkyn finally hit with their bow, destroying the last skeleton before it could attack Harkyn back.  Norman badly bandaged up Dar and the bloodied group staggered back to Helix, arriving several hours after dark.

Banging on the door to the Shrine to St. Ygg, they woke Brother Othar and explained the situation to him.  As Brother Thaddeus was brethren of St. Ygg, Brother Othar agreed to cast cure light wounds on Dar, Brock, and Harkyn if the three of them would transport Brother Thaddeus’ body to Ironguard Motte and the Temple of St. Ygg there.  They agreed to and received enough healing to ensure Dar and Brock would not die that night from their wounds.

Freysday, April 5, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The next morning Harkyn had Tripp and Radagast identify the loot found so it could be sold to pay for multiple castings of restore life and limb in Ironguard Motte.  The red stone on the chain was a Bloodstone Gem.  The potion was a potion of clairvoyance and the three scrolls were of magic missile, levitating disk, and web.  All of these were sold at The Rosy Quartz Jeweler and Money Lender for quite a good amount of coin [and XP].

It took the entire rest of the day to make it to Ironguard Motte.  Arriving at the Temple of St. Ygg with a letter of introduction from Brother Othar, the Temple took 500 gold each to cast restore life and limb on Brock and Dar.  The temple took all of Brother Thaddeus’ money [even though that was more than 100 gp less than the spell cost] with the understanding that Brother Thaddeus would owe services to the Temple to pay off the rest.  The spell could only be cast once a day, so it would take three days to cast it on all who need it.  Brother Thaddeus would go first, but the adventurers were welcomed to stay at the temple while they wait.  They gratefully accepted.

Saturday, April 6, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The rite of restore life and limb was cast on the remains of Brother Thaddeus.  It utterly failed to bring him back and the brothers announced he was now one with St Ygg.  [This is not true.  With modifiers, the player rolled -6, 1 on the table, which reads “Your soul is extinguished in the oblivion of nothingness. No additional attempts are permitted.”  The Temple will not admit that St Ygg could not save one of his own, so they claimed Thaddeus was “one with Ygg” to cover.]

Yggsday, April 7, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The rite of restore life and limb was cast on Brock and his arms miraculously regrew!  However, the new arms had opinions about him, his companions, and anything Brock happened to be doing and now he could now hear those opinions.  Continuously.  [“Whispers from beyond plague you. It is difficult for you to ignore them and you suffer -2 to hear noise throws and -2 to surprise rolls.”]  Brock focused on the positive: he had both of his arms back, even if they kept talking to him.

Moonday, April 8, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The rite of restore life and limb was cast on Dar.  It healed the grave damage to his heart and lungs, but the brethren told him his soul was marked and outsiders will now attack him on sight.  [“Your soul is marked and all extraplanar beings wish you dead, targeting you over your allies. Every week, there is a 1 in 6 chance an invisible stalker will be sent to destroy you.”]  Dar decided that exploring the Barrowmaze was no longer for him and chose to stay at the Temple to figure out his path.  He thanked the adventurers for their generosity and paying for the casting of the spell.  Harkyn and Brock parted ways with Dar on good terms.

They also spent the rest of the day shopping the market with their pile of loot.  Each purchased a potion of cure light wounds from the Temple of St. Ygg.  Harkyn was able to locate a small bookstore named "Solutions" that was also a stop-over place for mages travelling through [I made this up as a likely solution to Harkyn's lack of master to go get spells from].  Harkyn bought a scroll with shield on inscribed on it and starts studying it.  [Harkyn is barely 100 XP from 2nd level and getting their first 1st-level spell.]

Tuesday, April 9, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
Harkyn returned to Helix to meet up with Tripp and Radagast for another expedition to the Barrowmaze.  Along the way they picked up two new adventurers travelling to Helix.  [New player joining the group, the GM from the Rise of the Runelords game I'm in, plus a backup character from Brock's player as Brock is on bed rest until in-game April 21st.  I'll properly introduce them in the next session report.]

End of Session

[So there seems to be some gray areas in the ACKS rules for when you get to roll on the Mortality Table, so I made a ruling, sticking with the OSR tradition.  I decided that after a fight anyone can attempt an 18+ check to bandage another character’s wounds and stabilize the victim, even without the Healing proficiency.  The Healing proficiency gives much more and can actually heal damage.  I’m using this as a form of first aid.  This also allows the access to the Mortality Table, but roll high.]

[I’m also messing with the day names for the calendar.  I have not settled on all of them yet – so they’ll be in flux for a bit, but generally it should be clear.  I’ll post the full list and go back to retcon the entries once I settle on a list of days.  I haven’t made a decision about the months yet.  It probably won’t come up in play, so I’m inclined to let it go, but I thought that about the day names and changed my mind between sessions 1 and 2.]

[As it turns out, a pack of giant rats is pretty threatening and a gray ooze is downright frightening.  Luckily the PCs weren’t surprised in either fight, even though Brother Thaddeus died anyways.  Dar turned out to be a bit of a surprise.  In the first combat I rolled high on his morale and it stuck with him, even when I had Brother Thaddeus’ player run him.  And he almost got away with it.  I expected the encounter with the skeletons to be quick and end in the players’ favor.  Unfortunately Harkyn’s dice betrayed the group and just would not roll double-digits to hit until after someone died.  Maybe next session they will behave…]

Session 1

Session 3

UPDATE: corrected dates - there were two April 7, now only one.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Session Report – Code Name: Parrot T-Rex – Sessions 5 and 6

[Oops!  Our router died so I spent a weekend without internet access.  I typed this up but couldn't post it (I do all my writing in Word) and then forgot once the week started and the repair guy replaced our router.  Mea culpa!]

[These sessions happened June 19th and June 26th, 2017, and were run by the New GM.  After writing up Session 5, I saw how short it was and how short Session 6 would be, so I decided to combine them.]

Baelthor – male human mage with a loud mouth
Void – female night elf physical adept B&E specialist, a shadow that blends in easily
Killroy – male human street samurai, specializes in hand-to-hand combat (and apparently machineguns)
Sin – male human rigger, knows exactly the wrong thing to say and says it
Wren – male human that registers as an elf, no explanation as to why
Prometheus – male human street samurai, handy with any firearm

Bookie – male elf alcoholic hacker, favors whiskey with a whiskey chaser
The Fin – female human con artist and gambler from India, by way of Russia, posh and elegant
Dai – male human fixer who operates in Cara’Sir, recommended by The Fin

June 30, 2076
7:23 AM
The team would spend the day establishing their cover story.  Bookie, as Dr. Reynold, called Dr. Valdi, the inside man in New Dawn Technologies, to meet for lunch.  The cover story for this meeting was that Reynold and Valdi were old college friends meeting to catch up.  Dr. Valdi picked a place off the New Dawn Technologies campus and agreed to me Bookie there at Noon.

Prometheus and Void took the list of significant Post-Awakening North American Elvish Architecture sites and started scouting them out for filming.  Two of these sites “happened” to be adjacent to the New Dawn Technologies campus, allowing for unobtrusive scouting of that site.  This led to the realization that the group was going to need another mage for the level of magical support that was needed.

Bookie met Dr. Valdi for lunch.  They spent some time “catching up” [actually explaining Bookie’s cover ID to Dr. Valdi], during which Bookie dropped the correct code words to indicate he was a safe contact.  After they ate, Bookie explained the team was in Cara’Sir and working out a plan for the extraction and Dr. Valdi should go about his business normally.  Dr. Valdi asked if Dr. Reynold would like a tour of the facilities and Bookie accepted.  He was wearing one of Sin’s FlySpies, so everything would be recorded and added to a virtual model the team could plan off of later.  The two of them went back to the New Dawn Technologies campus and Bookie received a tour of the interior as Dr. Valdi’s guest.

3:17 PM
Prometheus and Void returned to the Windsong Corporate Apartments.  Prometheus contacted The Fin and asked if she could recommend an available mage in Cara’Sir, preferably an elf of some sort.  She said she had “an elf of some sort” who would be perfect and arranged a meeting at one of the few barbeque joints in Cara’Sir.

4:30 PM
Bookie returned from his tour and relayed some of the security items Dr. Valdi had given him.  In the evenings, the main halls of the research building's first floors had basilisks wandering them, from 8:00 PM until 5:00 AM.  Each hall section was locked off and had a single trained basilisk wandering it.  Further, during the day 310 biodrones flew around the campus, disguised as part of the large bird population.  Finally, cockatrices roamed the campus at night.  This was far from good news.

5:23 PM
Prometheus and Void met Wren at the barbeque joint.  Wren was an elf…except he had round ears, round eyes, and…holy shit, he’s actually human!  Void later confided to Prometheus that Wren felt like an elf to her and if it wasn’t for her Shadowrunner attention to detail [read: paranoia], she wouldn’t have noticed he wasn’t.

Void outlined the rough edges of the job to Wren and asked if it was something he was interested in.  Wren said he was interested and they discussed what he could bring to the table.  His spell selection included infiltration spells, surveillance spells, and some offensive spells.  This was exactly the mix the team would need and so Wren was brought on board.

The trio headed over to the safe house at the Windsong and Wren was introduced to the rest of the team.  The details of the job were explained to him and the team started discussing their next steps.  The team decided more information was needed on New Dawn Technologies’ physical site security.  Ms. Johnson was contacted and a set of wireless video cameras and recording equipment were requested.  Ms. Johnson said she could get the equipment to the team by 9:00AM, which was good enough for the team.

July 1, 2076
9:00 AM
A set of all-weather, low-light capable, video cameras and a receiver set arrived at the apartment office from a local retailer.  Void went down and signed for it in Dr. Reynold’s name.  Sin did a quick check on the cameras and set them for encrypted transmission.  Void spent the next two hours deploying them in hidden locations with a clear view of the east end of the New Dawn Technologies campus.  Sin set them to record for the next 48 hours.

The team spent the next two days in character as their cover, driving all over the city investigating Post-Awakening North American Elvish Architecture sites.

July 3, 2076
After a morning filming Bookie pretend to be too drunk to record architecture lectures [very successfully I might add], the team returned to the safe house to review the recordings of the New Dawn Technologies campus.  What they learned wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great, either.

The video confirmed that cockatrices roamed the campus at night, but they were confined to the perimeter by a series of fences.  Further, the biodrones were only active during the day.  At night they all returned to roost in hutches on the other side of the campus from the labs the teams was interested in.

One thing the video showed that Dr. Valdi had not mentioned were video drones on the rooftop perimeters of the buildings.  The drones moved back and forth along a guidewire all night, providing regular, but not total, video coverage of the grounds around each building.  On the plus side, they appeared to be wireless, so Bookie should be able to hack into them, but only one at a time.

This was going to take some serious planning.

End of Sessions

[There was much more to the discussion between Bookie and Dr. Valdi, but I wasn’t involved and didn’t get much in the way of notes because I was helping the new player finish up his character, Wren.  Wren’s player is a friend of mine from back when I ran a game store and was one of my employees until he went into IT for better money (retail doesn’t pay that well and I eventually followed that path as well).  His job recently transferred him to a site near where I live and my wife and I had a spare room, so he moved in with us and became available for the game.  (He is not the first roommate we’ve had and the amount he kicks in helps with bills.)]

[We started late for Session 6 and it was mostly an information dump by New GM, so a separate write-up would have been very short.  Therefore, I combined sessions 5 and 6.]

Session 8 (not yet written)
Session 9 (not yet written)
Session 10 (not yet written)
Session 11 (not yet written)
Session 12 (not yet written)
Session 13 (not yet written)
Session 14 (not yet written)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Session Report – Barrowmaze – Session 1

[I’ve had a hankering to run a fantasy campaign for a while.  I have an idea for a campaign set in the Holy Roman Empire around 1640, but the system I want to use is new to me: Adventure, Conqueror, King System.  It has been nearly a decade since the last time I even looked at a BECMI-based system and I never actually ran or played Basic D&D when it was being published.  I played ADVANCED Dungeons and Dragons, not BASIC.   As a result, while I’ve read the rules, I’m still learning them just slightly ahead of the players, most of whom started D&D with 3.0/3.5.  One player also played 1st edition, but, like me, hasn’t looked at the rules for decades.]

[So before I run my politics and adventure campaign, I’m running Barrowmaze as a warm-up.  I have the Labyrinth Lord version, which should need the least amount of translation to run under ACKS.  So far, it’s just AC changes (I think LL uses THAC0 while ACKS just adds monster AC to player To Hit for a target number on a d20), but monster selection has been limited so far.  I’ll need to spend a little time to prep ahead, but it shouldn’t be onerous.  I wish ACKS was in Hero Lab, it would make this easier.]

[One other note – I will be the only GM for this.  The Other GM might decide to run something else in ACKS later, but Barrowmaze is all me.]

[OK, two other notes - Barrowmaze write-ups will appear on Tuesdays, a week after the game happens, while the Shadowrun write-ups will appear on Thursdays until I catch up to where we switched games.  This will take about 20 more entries, including this Thursday's posting.  What happens after that depends on where I am in 4-5 months.  Meanwhile, the job hunt continues...]

Brock – male Dwarven Vaultguard, exploring Barrowmaze for the loot
Tripp – male human Thief, exploring Barrowmaze for the loot
Harkyn – gender fluid Elven Nightblade [yes, I said “elf” twice, 😉], also exploring Barrowmaze for the loot
Radagast – male human Mage, exploring Barrowm…you know the rest
Brother Thaddeus – male human Cleric, pillaging pagan tombs for the glory of St. Ygg! [Read: “exploring Barrowmaze for the loot”]

Norman – male human guide, hired to lead the adventurers to Barrowmaze but not fight
[Generated using Meatshields!]

Monday, April 1, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
In the village of Helix, a recently arrived group of adventurers [Brother Thaddeus is local, but met the rest on his return to town from being ordained in the Church of St. Ygg] are ready for adventure, but none of them knew exactly where the Barrowmaze was, other than “a half day south of Helix, in the marsh”.  Not wanting to get lost in the marshes, they decided to hire a guide from the Mercenary Guild.

While waiting to talk with Osen, the guildmaster, the group overheard another adventuring group, the Boon Companions, finalize their contract.  It became clear that the Boon Companions were paying an “adjusted” rate for their hirelings that was higher than normal.  The adventurers took this to mean the Boon Companions were weak and a small level of smack talk happened between the two groups as the Boon Companions left. [Rival adventuring group, established organically: Check!]

Tripp was able to bargain Osen down in cost an extra 10% in price.  The group hired a guide for only 4sp/day with a 5gp Death Benefit if the guide died while working with the group, death benefit as a deposit to be refunded at the end of the contract [Tripp happily fronted the money himself].  The good deal might have been because Osen recognized Brother Thaddeus as a fellow local and cut the group a deal [but was really because Osen rolled a 1 while Tripp was bargaining - not necessarily the rules as written, but I like to check to see how things go for NPCs in the negotiations].  Osen gossiped with the group some about the Boon Companions, who have a reputation for getting their hirelings killed a little too often, and then agreed to have Norman meet the group early at the Brazen Strumpet the next day.

Tuesday, April 2, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The group ate a breakfast of fruit, bread, and some nuts with a small beer to wash it down at the Brazen Strumpet.  Norman arrived on time about an hour after dawn, just as they were finishing.  After introductions, they headed south out of Helix, into the Barrowmoor.

Four hours or so later, a little after Noon, the group entered the slightly raised field that Barrowmaze was under.  There were dozens of barrow mounds scattered across the field, but even at mid-day, there was a mist on the field that obscured the far half or so of the field.  And it was quiet.  No bird song or insect noises could be heard, despite the surrounding marshes.  An overgrown pathway, lined with small stone cairns, led toward a large central mound, encircled with standing stones.

The group discussed with Norman how long they could stay and still make it back to Helix safely.  Norman suggested they had about 4-5 hours before thy needed to leave.  It would still be daylight when they left, but the area was known to be more dangerous once the sun set.  This seemed a prudent plan to the group.

Consulting a partial map of the nearer barrows they bought back in Helix [and I lifted from here], the group decided to apply The Left Hand Rule, and approached the first barrow on the left [Barrow #1 as it turned out].  Twenty noisy minutes later, Brock’s sledge hammer cracked open the stone slab sealing the barrow.  Descending into the single-roomed barrow, the group found two skeletons laid out on stone slabs.  Each had an amphorae and a bowl with gold coins.  Tripp scooped the handful of coins from each bowl into a sack, but left the amphorae until later.  They were very fragile and he had nothing to safely pack them in.  Brock scattered some soil on the steps down to the barrow so he could tell if someone entered the barrow while the group was looting a different barrow.

At this point the group took a rest.  Breaking into the barrow and thoroughly searching it had taken 50 minutes, so a rest was needed [ACKS rules require a 1 Turn rest after 5 Turns of dungeon activity].  During the rest, they worked out they could easily check another three barrows before needing to leave, possibly four if they were all single-chamber barrows like the first one.

After the rest, the group went over to the next barrow on the left [Barrow #2].  Brock spent another 20 minutes hammering away at the sealing slab of stone before cracking the barrow open.  [My random encounter die liked the players and again rolled no noise-generated encounters.]  Down in the barrow was a single chamber with a large stone sarcophagus.  Brock, Tripp, and Radagast used crowbars to pry the lid off and over, releasing the zombie within!  Brock and Tripp dropped their crowbars and drew weapons to attack, Tripp taking two points of damage for his troubles [the zombie rolled high for initiative and tied Tripp in initiative order].  Radagast tagged the zombie with a magic missile spell on his action.  Then Brother Thaddeus called upon the power of St. Ygg and compelled the zombie to flee.  The zombie fled to cower in a corner [the PCs were between it and the exit], while the adventurers pelted it with ranged attacks and quickly destroyed it.

Brother Thaddeus used his healing knowledge to place the sloppiest bandage on Tripp’s wound [he rolled terrible on his proficiency check].  It probably stopped the bleeding.  Amongst the treasure found, Radagast identified a magical ring of protection [+1] and the group unanimously agreed that the unarmored mage needed it the most.

Back up on the surface, the group took an early rest and then headed over to the next barrow mound [#3 for those following along at home].  This barrow had clearly been looted already, but out of habit, the group searched anyways and found a gold ring missed by the previous looters.  The adventurers were confused as to why the ring had been missed, but accepted their good fortune and headed on to the next barrow, ahead of schedule.  There was some discussion of when the Boon Companions might arrive and the group estimated they had another hour or so alone here at the site.  [This wasn’t accurate, but the PCs didn’t know that.]

Brock hammered away at the slab sealing this barrow until it was broken.  The group entered the barrow, leaving Norman and Harkyn at the surface as lookouts in what was quickly becoming a standard operating procedure.  Just as Brock, Tripp, and Radagast started searching the single chamber, Norman and Harkyn came running down the stairs, saying a patrol of six skeletons, apparently attracted by the noise, was right behind them!

The adventurers took defensive positions with Brock at the base of the stairs to bottle up the skeletons, backed by Brother Thaddeus.  The rest took cover behind the single stone sarcophagus, bows and spells at the ready.  When the skeletons came down the stairs, they were limited to two at a time.  The group concentrated attacks on the first skeleton, destroying it, then Brother Thaddeus once again called down the power of St. Ygg and compelled the skeletons to flee.

This gave the adventurers just enough time to search and loot the barrow, taking some bottles of antique perfume, and then hoof it to the next barrow.  This barrow was off the edge of their map, but close enough to get to and set up with ranged weapons.  As the skeleton patrol marched back to the recently abandoned barrow, Tripp started plinking them with arrows.  The patrol turned and marched at the adventurers, but with 100 feet of clear space to attack the patrol from range, the adventurers destroyed all of the skeletons before the skeletons could close for melee.

The adventurers rested a bit and retrieved what arrows and darts they could.  [I could not find rules for this in ACKS, so I improvised a 50% chance of recovery.  Anything rolling over 50 on the percentile dice was unusable or lost, the higher the result the less useful and more likely completely lost the missile.]  Tripp retrieved about half of his arrows, but Radagast lost both darts he had thrown.

After breaking into the barrow under their feet, they discovered this barrow had more than one chamber.  The main chamber had twenty alcoves carved into the walls with a stone door to the left and the right, plus an iron statue straight ahead.  Starting to run low on time for the day’s exploration, the group held off examining the alcoves and instead forced open the door on the left.  The door led to a room with well over 100 alcoves carved into the walls.  Calling in Harkyn, the group started searching all the alcoves in this room and the first room.  With all five adventurers searching, it took 40 minutes to find all the loot in these two rooms, including: a pouch with some platinum pieces in it, an electrum goblet, some holy writs, 200 in loose electrum pieces, and a dagger of throwing [+1 and returns to the hand of the thrower after being thrown].

It was now about two hours or so before sunset and Norman strongly suggested it was time to go, before really dangerous things rose.  The group agreed.  Brock spread out some soil on the steps for evidence anyone else entered the barrow while the adventurers were gone [there was still that door to the right to open and they wanted to investigate the statue more].

The group walked back over to the first barrow to pick up the amphorae they had left behind.  In the eerie silence of the field, they noticed that they did not hear the sound of any other adventurers hammering their way into any of the barrows.  They made note of this, but were now in a hurry to leave before it got dark.  They found the first barrow undisturbed and retrieved the two amphorae there.  Then they headed north, back into the Barrowmoor and to Helix.

The group arrived back in Helix two hours after sundown, having lit their way with torches and Tripp’s lantern.  They bought drinks and a fine meal at the Brazen Strumpet to celebrate their first foray and good fortune.  [I should have rolled for an encounter on their way back, but forgot to do so.  I've made a note for next session to do that.]

Wednesday, April 3, 23rd year of the reign of King Shurik the Nimble
The group sold off most of the items they retrieved from the barrows the previous day, which took some time, and split the proceeds.  [It was getting late, so we just glossed over this part and awarded XP.  Next time I may make them role-play it out more.]  Tripp also spent the day resting and healing up from his zombie wound.

End of Session

[Observation about Barrowmaze as a product:  It could use a once over by a professional copy editor.  The organization is good in general, but falls down in a few places.  Two examples: 

  1. In the gazetteer portion on Ironguard Motte, it says “Ironguard Motte offers all the services available in Helix in addition to…”.  This would be fine if Helix had been described already, but the section on Helix is AFTER the section on Ironguard Motte.  This is a document flow issue – good flow helps the reader, irregular flow can leave the reader wondering what they’re missing.  
  2. Travel from Helix to Barrowmaze is in a south-southwest direction.  The map of the field containing Barrowmaze assumes the adventurers start in the southwest corner.  For this to happen, the adventurers would need to circle around the field for no good reason and approach from the opposite side.  Adventurers from Helix would much more likely arrive on the north-northeast edge of the map, which would have them stumble onto something they should NOT find until much later.  SPOILERS.  This is a gaffe from not comparing the two maps together and verifying which direction the PCs will arrive from.

A professional copy editor would have caught both of those and similar issues and either fixed them or marked them for the writer to address (and then verified they got fixed in the next edit).]

[Incidentally, 1) could easily be fixed by putting the Helix section first or listing out the services, and 2) could have been fixed by reversing the direction of the compass rose (and checking the text to reverse any cardinal directions mentioned in descriptions) or rotating the map 180 degrees and flipping the labels right-side up (then checking the text for cardinal directions and reversing them).]

[This is a relatively small issue, but it makes some use of the material more difficult than necessary and runs throughout the document.  Page number references in the text for tables that appear in the back of the book (200 pages later) would have been very helpful as well.  Numbering the tables is helpful, but if the reader doesn’t know where those tables are, it’s not as helpful as you’d hope.  Also, bookmarks in the PDF for at least the basic chapter headings and major subsections would be a god-send.]

[All that said, the content is good so far and I’m excited to keep running it.  It has a good balance between complexity and ease of use I need.  I don’t feel I need to spend days working out what happens next and how the giant complex set of machinery moves between sessions.  It really hits that sweet spot.  I also like some other behind the scenes things it details out, but my players read this blog, so SPOILERS.  I’ll talk about them in later blogs, once the players are aware of them.]

[Oh!  But the rival adventuring parties are an excellent feature.  The PCs have already met the Boon Companions and started talking smack about them.  I plan on having fun with that.  Heh. Heh. Heh.]

Session 2