Undead, and more Undead!

Today’s Cast

  • Fain, a shadowy stalker of the night (Illusionist/Assassin)
  • An as-yet-unnamed cleric from the Barros temple
  • Flynn Rider, a ranger with a troubled past

 This session, the players went deeper into the tombs (for the map, check out Dyson Logos’ Medusa’s Chasm [SPOILERS FOR MY PLAYERS]). Last week, they were standing in a room littered with bones (almost knee-high). This week, the bones began to rise up and attack as skeletons, so the PCs moved on. Still avoiding the room full of skeletal scorpions, they dealt with some zombies, scared away a wraith, and a massive super-zombie with gold plate and a +2 greatsword.

After very cautiously crossing the rickety bridge over the chasm, the party found their way to a large chamber with huge zombie pits. A vampire (dubbed “Many”, for reasons I’ve forgotten) demanded that the party surrendered. Predictably, there was a massive fight, with many hp and XP lost, and temporary negative levels given (a la 3.5, as we’ve all gotten sick of PCs actually losing levels). Eventually, the party beheaded and staked Many, and found the treasure under his coffin. It was a good haul, and Flynn finally levelled up.

My house rule for new characters is that they come in at the bottom of the party’s lowest level (with multi-classed characters having the total XP of an equivalent fighter split between the classes). After over a year of scraping along at level 6, the party has finally all made it to level 7, to much joy and happiness.

On the down side, nearly two years of weekly DMing has worn at me. Once the Horn of Tirea is found, we’re going to take a break from this campaign, and try something new. I offered to GM some sci-fi, but one of the players has taken an interest in Star Wars: Edge of Empire from FFG, so he’s going to take us through the beginning adventures, and we’ll see where that goes.

[EDIT: the following was in my drafts folder for AGES, so I decided I would add it here, to the previous session report, rather than make a new post over a year later.]

We’ve had the last session of the Dragon Hunters campaign for at least the next few months. The party also came as close as they ever have to a TPK.

First, on the bridges over the pit, they encountered a pair of DOOMBATS!!!! (which I’ve been dying to use to a while). Next, they took some time to finish off one section of the dungeon (the skeletal scorpions hanging out around the vampire’s den). Then it was time for the moment they’d all been dreading: facing the demon.

They spent a good half-an-hour discussing exactly what they were going to do. The cleric steadfastly kept out of the conversation, mostly on religious grounds. Then it was mostly back-and-forth between the others for a while over who would get to turn the key and claim the demon’s prize. Eventually, Fain (assassin/illusionist) just went and did it. Everyone waited with baited breath, fearing that the demon would go back on his word (he is a demon, after all), but, being bound by an archon, he had no choice. Fain got his Cloak of Night, the demon was free to go his evil way, and the party was pointed in the direction of the Horn (the secret door was beneath the placewhere the demon was chained, so there was no way they could find it without dealing with the demon in some way).

The steps below the arena led deep, deep, deep. It took the party about 4 hours to get to the bottom, leading them to wonder if the demon hadn’t screwed them over anyway. But eventually, they found the bottom: an ancient complex, half-flooded with dank water, that led out into the Roots of the World, and thereafter the Sea of Night (as per the clues they’d found). Making their way through the complex, the party got attacked by tentacle-eye monsters. As they sailed through the Roots of the World, their boat was ambushed by the big-daddy version. In this fight, all manner of bad things happened. The d12 damage from each of the four tentacles, combined with the paralysis effect, and general bad rolling from the party, led to one character unconscious and bleeding, two paralysed, and one on exactly 1hp (and that after almost dropping his +2 greatsword over the side). But they found the Horn of Tirea, guarded by some (strangely dormant) devil archons, and escaped the dungeon alive.

A Demon in the Room

The PCs have explored much of the Deeps now. The latest session has mostly been an attempt to see where the few unexplored passages go. So far, all the options they have are: a bridge, on the other side of which is (allegedly) a Drow city; a pair of tunnels full of spider-webs, that probably don’t go very far; a cave owned by massive Fowl Trolls, one of which is still paralysed (and probably dead) from a previous encounter; and the place the PCs are exploring now, which seems to be a haven of undead (at least, there’s scimitar-weilding zombies, a room full of bones, and skeletal scorpions, so it’s a safe bet).

Oh, yeah, and there’s a demon who says that he is the only one who can help them find the Horn. According to him, he was bound by Tirea, the holy being who made the Horn in the first place. If the PCs unbind him (with a key they found), he will not only give them the location of the Horn, but grant a boon to the one who turned the key. Oh, let the in-party fighting begin.

The party cleric has been promised the true name of the demon’s son, who just happens to be one of the Ten (the demons that are being summoned to bring forth Ragnarok). The illusionist/assassin has been offered the Cloak of Night, a mantle which will allow the wearer to pass “unseen, unheard, unfelt through the night”. The ranger has been offered a lead towards someone who wronged him badly in his past. And the fighter (when he returns) will be offered the resurrection of his fighting dog, who died the last time he was here to crystal scorpions.

The players I live with reckon that the cleric’s offer is the best for the party as a whole, but since it’s the cleric, he won’t be the one to turn the key. The Cloak of Night is probably the next-best one, but the fighter really loves (loved) his dog, so it won’t be an easy sell. Blood will probably be shed over this. The players have called me evil.

They’re right. Muahahahaha!!!!!

Play report & status report

It’s been a while since I made a post of any sort. Thought I’d catch you up on what the party’s been doing lately.

They’re hunting for the Horn of Tirea, a holy artefact designed to battle demons–even destroy them utterly, if their true name is known. The dungeon it is contained in is a deep series of levels, around a deep, potentially bottomless pit.

In one area, the party encountered heavy resistance from a lot of Drow, and learned that there is an entire Drow city down there, on the other side of a Khazad-Dum style bridge. In the first encounter with the Drow, I totally forgot to apply their magic resistance, so they all got fireballed to death. Every fight after that, though, ended up being fairly skin-of-their-teeth escapes for the party, except for the last one, in which the Illusionist/Assassin PC was totally awesome. First, he sneaked up behind the Drow leader while she was praying with her armour off, and backstabbed her to nearly dead (with the d30 rule), then let loose on the rest (still resting in their barracks) with a Wand of Ice, rolling nearly maximum on the spell penetration. One small negotiation (admittedly at the fangs of some giant spiders), and the Drow fled, leaving their loot behind.

In another area, there are crumbling corridors and collapsed rooms. Open-air cells look out over the pit, and the players have found what appears to be a subway system. At the top of the deeps, the dungeon was a dwarven mine, but now the architecture has changed dramatically, and there’s ancient writing all over. Oh yeah, and in an arena in the centre, there’s a chained demon who says that he knows where the Horn is. Whoever unchains him, he’ll tell them how to find the Horn, and also give them their greatest desire. It took a while, but I finally have something for all the PCs. Now, if they decide to deal with the demon (which the cleric is very much against), I can watch them all fight for who gets to do the deed.

In other news, I’ve been working with a generic RPG called LORE (available here), outfitting it for use in a sci-fi campaign I plan to run someday. LORE is quite a lot like GURPS, but simpler, with elements from other RPGs thrown in. There’s no sci-fi sourcebook, so I shamelessly ripped off Stars Without Number, GURPS Space, d20 Future, and whatever else I could find. I hope it ends up being palatable. I would have been fine with SWN, but I think the guys want a change from the D&D system. The only problem is that, now that I’ve finished it, it’s probably going to be months (if not years) before the current campaign ends. *sigh*

Back to D&D

Finally! It’s been ages–more than a month–since we’ve had the chance to play a game in our regular D&D campaign, what with absences and trying Dragon Age. To celebrate the end of the semester, we took the afternoon off, with more junk food than normal and pizza.

Two of our players decided to try different character classes for a change. One was sick of being a cleric, so multi-classed into Assassin/Illusionist. The other was bored of being a thief (in two different games), so took a fighter, because it has more hp. These characters were already pre-rolled, so we got into the game fairly quickly, sending the old characters off on a sabbatical.

Today’s Cast

  • Eenya: a barbarian wizard, who believes that she’s a lost princess.
  • Garrik: a wizard with a pseudo-drake familiar.
  • Fain: a shadowy stalker of the night.
  • Cedric: a grizzled veteran from beyond the sea.

The first part of the session was spent further exploring the abandoned dwarven fortress we found (read: broke into and started looting) last time. The ogres/ogre magi from last time had been cleaned up, so the party proceeded with some caution, but found the top level to be entirely empty (with the exception of a green blob, and a beserk “I’M ON FIRE!!” dwarven mining construct). While trying to open one of the smaller chests found here, the lock-picking attempt failed, so the chest was smashed–revealing the shattered remains of an expensive, antique drinking horn. Oops. The next level (which is, by the way, Dyson Logos’ fabulous “Circle of Doom“–check it out, if you’re not one of my players) had a huge, deep shaft, spanned by bridges.

Since the first bridge in the level was broken, the party roped down to the next one around the circle, and began exploring there. They slaughtered a pair of Ettins, and then had to contend with the 14 or so gargoyles the male Ettin released just before being killed. Since only Garrik had a magical weapon, it took 3 fireballs to take them out. The rest of the loot was extensive, however: coins, gems, a lot of alchemical equipment (taken to be used by Fain in his poison experiments), a potion of some kind, and a magical (*cursed*) ring, amongst other things. By this point, Cedric was on 4hp, so the party decided to leave. An ogre mage gave them dirty looks from the other side of the shaft, but let them be (the party have already torn up several parties of ogre magi and cave trolls to date, so one can assume they’re quite infamous now).

Back in town, after selling loot and getting over the cursed ring, Fain’s player found he was ~60xp away from levelling up in Illusionist, so he tried to make a bit more money. Since it happened to be tax time (thank you, rollD12), he took to knocking the doors of dwarven forges on the riverbank, trying to see how much extra money he could extort. The biggest of the smithies turned out to be a bit of an obstacle, with armed guards, and a spiked back wall. In the rear courtyard, Fain found a whole bunch of dwarves working on what looked like a huge plate of armour. Sneaking in upstairs, a dwarven artisan was gold-plating a massive, odd-shaped helmet (a failed secret-wisdom check did not yield any results). Talking with the artisan, Fain found out a few tiny secrets, and then extorted enough money to level him, as well as getting the artisan to agree to make two sets of mithral armour from the bullion found in the fortress.

Some Thoughts
1. MAKE SURE YOU AND YOUR PLAYERS HAVE THE SAME SET OF ASSUMPTIONS!!! Fain’s player ended up spending more money than he would have normally, just because I assumed he was putting on the magical ring identified as a ring of invisibility. He said “I’m taking it”, and I took that to mean “I’m taking it, and putting it on.” Therefore, I started the curse right away. But he didn’t think he’d put the ring on, so when they got back to town, he got cure poison cast on him at great expense, because he thought the potion he tasted was poison. It wasn’t until an NPC remarked on the ring that he clicked. This sort of thing seems minor, but it pays to get it spelt out.

2. It’s a lot of fun, having a conspiracy going on behind the scenes of a campaign, dropping hints here and there. One thing that was particularly frustrating, while Fain was sneaking around the dwarven forge, was that he didn’t speak dwarven, so I couldn’t drop hints via overheard conversation. It’s also interesting to see what hints the players pick up on, and which they don’t. There’s one clue that I’ve been repeating for months now, and nothing. But they picked up who was behind the massive armour really quickly (but not who or what it was for). It’s that sort of thing that makes D&D really fun for me–not the fighting of massive monsters, but weaving threads together in a frantic state just before the PCs stumble across them, based on a few tosses of the dice, and then trying to make sense of what you’ve just said before they do. It’s like writing, but much more dynamic, in a way. I actually wish I could write like I DM.

A Foray into Dragon Age

Tonight, we decided to take a break from our regular D&D. One of the guys wants to start a game of the  Dragon Age RPG, so we thought, since not many showed up, we would give him a “test run” as a GM. This was a good idea, as it took a while to get our collective heads around the new system.

We didn’t really get very far. Character creation took a while, and then we got into our first combat… Oh, boy. There were three of us, a warrior and 2 mages. Four genlocks (darkspawn-cursed dwarf monsters) jumped out of the chasm in front of us. After the first surprise round, the warrior got shoved a short way down the chasm. My mage character cast a fire spell–and rolled nearly minimum damage. That was laughed about for a good minute or so. Next round, the other mage ran out of combat range of the genlocks, so the ones that resisted his paralyzation spell decided to gang up on my character, who promptly started dying.

The warrior got shoved into the chasm a few more times, and finally lost his grip and tumbled to his death. The other mage just started running circles around the genlocks, hitting them with spells until they died from attrition (at least, they would have if we’d kept going).

So, all in all, an entertaining near-TPK, and a great learning experience for Josh. He’ll probably end up taking more sessions in the future.

More Play Reports: Demonic happenings

The last couple of sessions have been a bit spares, as far as combat-type stuff goes. There’s been more of the politics going on.

Our Heroes:
–Helios, a devout cleric sworn to defeat the demons encroaching on this world.
–Ainia, a barbarian wizard convinced that she’s a lost princess.
–[part] Hyber, a disgraced dwarven general.
–[part] Lendai, pick-pocket extraordinaire.

A few sessions back, the PCs were carousing, and Lendai rolled a result (on a different table from Jeff’s, I think), which said that he woke up next to a body. I rolled d00 to see just how bad it was, and I rolled 100. So, very bad. Turns out that Lendai just killed a High Lord from one of the provinces.

Skip forward to last week’s session: the other nobles from that province turn up to Barros to demand recompense. At the guest banquet that the local ruler, Lord Sayle, holds (to which the PCs come along, of course), the son, Lord Thaen, of the dead lord accuses Lord Sayle of conspiring in his father’s death, and demands trial-by-combat. Lord Sayle is known to have fought 8 hill giants in close combat, and won. Not being that stupid, the young lord picks a champion from amongst the guests. The champion, the PCs have figured out during the course of the proceedings, is the minion of a noblewoman who is radiating an evil aura on par with the sun–a demon, or demon-possessed.

(As a DM, I figured that it would be best to roll the combat before-hand, so that I could narrate the duel to the players. I noted it down round by round, so that if the players wanted to intervene, they could, and I would know what was happening.)

The next day, a crowd gathered in the square on the north bank to watch the duel. The townsfolk are all ready to see their lord and hero crush this young upstart’s champion into the dust. The High Priest is going to set up a holy circle once the duel starts, to prevent “those of foul intent” from stepping over. The PCs, of course, are all ready for mischief of the worst sort.

To begin with, the duel goes quite calmly. A few harmless blows and parries are dealt. Then Lord Sayle gets his beat on: in three rounds, he knocks the champion, a sir Kez, to the ground (and down below half hp). Then, as Lord Sayle offers Kez a chance to surrender, Kez jumps to his feet, and knocks Lord Sayle halfway across the circle, dislodging his shield in the process. [The PCs cast detect evil again, and now most of the evil is coming out of Kez, big suprise]. Kex proceeds to beat Lord Sayle up, knocking him back and forth, so that Sayle doesn’t have enough time to even try to hit–Kez is becoming far too ferocious. [Helios goes to talk to the High Priest, and Ainia edges around to the pavilion where Kez’s mistress is with the young lord]. Kez delivers one last blow to Sayle, and the lord is on his knees, utterly out of breath. Kez rips his helmet off, and his face is disfigured, with glowing red eyes.

He demands (in an evil, echoey voice), that Lord Sayle ‘confess his sins’ in the matter at hand. Lord Sayle (rightfully) protests his innocence. Just before Kez delivers a final stroke, Helios holds him. The demon returns to the noblewoman, who then polymorphs back into her true form, Myrbis the Confessor, daughter of Eequor the Blue Lady of Dismay. She and her wizard consort start killing people.

In the ensuing battle, the demon is slain, as is the wizard. The characters are proclaimed as heroes of the town, and rewarded (Helios, in particular, receives a platinum holy symbol).

Temporally, it gets a bit confusing, because this was spread out over two sessions. In the first session, Hyber’s player (who turned up for the first time all year) had to leave before I could prepare for the big duel. But he didn’t want to leave without killing something, so we skipped ahead some, and went back to Zaedis’ Tower, so that he could have a crack at killing the scary tattooed guy who had intimidated them out of the tower a few sessions back. He succeeds, handily. Jeff Rients’ wizards-as-monsters may have a lot of firepower, but when it comes down to it, a dual-wielding barbarian with a Ring of Protection +3 is always going to slaughter 4HD, no matter what’s behind them. Once Hyber’s player left, the other players kept searching through the dungeon, and found the third key of four to unlock the DOOR that keeps teleporting around in an obnoxious fashion.

In the second session, with Lendai’s player instead of Hyber’s player (although Hyber was tagging along as an NPC), the PCs went about filling in the gaps in the map. They found their way into a maze full of traps–at which time, the mapper’s skill and design drawing proved very handy. After several pit traps (Hyber nearly drowned in a 20′ deep one full of water), the PCs found the DOOR, and tried one key after another, trying to get it to take them somewhere meaningful. On the third key, they guessed a password correctly (it was Zaedis–another example of poor password choice. People, we can learn from this), and found their way to the vault (which still needs the fourth key to open). Amidst all of this, they ran into three ornate stone doors, which were locked. Each time, Lendai failed to pick them (to be fair, there was a -2 penalty to it), so the players still have no idea what intriguing thing lies behind them.

So that’s the last two sessions. It sort of had to wait until both were finished, so that causality could keep up. Oh, and I was fiddling with my LEGO, and I was inspired to make something which is going to have to go into the game somehow: Dwarven War Mecha. I’ll post a pic of it, once it’s done.

My 2 cents on the 5e playtest

I got the playtest today, and I had a fairly mixed reaction (going into it with a neutral state of mind, unlike many grognards out there). There was good, and there was bad, as far as I could tell.

Good: the Advantage/Disadvantage rule. This states that, if there is a situation that would give you an advantage in an action (e.g. attacking from higher ground, etc.), you could roll twice and take the better result. Disadvantage is the same, but opposite. This, I think serves to reduce rampant situational modifiers. The best bit is that you can only reroll once, not once for every advantageous circumstance.
Saving throws are folded into ability scores: so you make a Wisdom saving throw, not a save vs. spells or a will save, etc. Much easier to explain to the beginning player.

Bad: A first-level wizard has like 3 spells, not counting at-will cantrips (like light, or FREAKING MAGIC MISSILE). Clerics are the same (with an at-will magic crossbow). Too much power, too quickly. We don’t see progression beyond third level, but this is way more powerful than any old-school thing.
There are no detailed rules for this, as such, but we will still have extensive skill lists with high modifiers (from what I saw, they’d easily get up to 6 at first level for PCs with a high stat).

Also, I got a bit confused about hit-points, but at first level a PC has at least his CON in hp. But, something I did like, a CON modifier doesn’t act as a modifier to your HD roll when you level, but a minimum.

So, I think it could go either way. That said, there’s probably enough free RPGs out there for me to use (and/or hack mercilessly) that I don’t think I’ll ever use more than ideas from this as house rules. But, we shall see with future releases.

Session Report

This week’s session was fun, and full on. It started by finishing the combat we had paused in the middle of last week, and then a disappointingly unclimactic showdown with a major villain of the campaign: Argos of Sanor, the merchant-lord. After almost successfully evading spells on his way through the combat zone, the PCs managed to turn his mercenaries against him, allowing the invisible thief to sneak up and backstab the merchant. We’ve recently introduced Jeff’s “Purple d30” rule, so the thief used that for his (doubled) damage. He managed to deal 51 damage with that hit. Argos had 1 hit point remaining (he had been so close to teleporting out, too).

Following that, the party delved into the dungeons below the wizard’s tower, and stumbled across a fun machine I’ve had planned for ages: a device which can shift points between stats, in a random and occasionally painful fashion. After the 15-hp thief got a bad lot by gaining wisdom and losing MORE constitution, there was a lot of dithering from the other players, who wanted to play with the machine to boost detrimental scores, but didn’t want to risk weakening a good stat and/or take a ridiculous amount of damage (they hadn’t puzzled out which lever did which, or that I was just rolling 2d6 for damage. Since I rolled 5 and 10 for the thief, in that order, they assumed that the next lot of damage would be 15 or 20). In the end, only 2 other players dared try the machine out, and got some pretty good deals (the fighter gained 9 DEX, up from 5, and lost 2 CHA and about 6hp). Then there was a fight with some scorpions with a teleporting poison, and the session drew to a close.

Some Thoughts…
I’m glad that we finally got the opportunity to use the “Purple d30” rule, even though it’s red. I got it weeks ago, but nobody’s ever remembered to use it. So I built a stand for it out of LEGO (pictured left with some of the minis we use).

Another thing: it was quite gratifying to see the PCs playing with a metagame tool that would allow them to change themselves. It’s the kind of thing that Telecanter mentions on occasion, and that I always wanted to specifically try, but it never seemed to happen until now.