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Pathfinder-Osirion

The store-made oven-ready pizzas were so good last week (and cheap!) that we decided to have them again this week. No, not the same ones, new ones, but they were the same three toppings: pep, saus, chee. This time I made sure to get all regular crust (would have got thick or pan if they had it) because who wants thin or cracker crust, eh?

It was another small group of four adventurers for tonight’s game: cleric, rogue, bard, and monk. Good mix. I was in the mood for some urban adventuring, and the adventure at this point is vague to the point of absent on any detail about adventuring in the towns. They meet a paladin of the fist, and are offered the chance to join a couple of brotherhoods with similar goals of defeating the Cult of the Dragon. The ultimate goal of the adventure is to follow the hoard and find out where it is going, and to what end. And then to foil the cults plans of course. So the first thing I did was to come up with a list of “quests” for the characters to pursue while in town:

1. Find the location of the Hoard. The monk Leosian trailed the cult of the dragon as they made their way across the desert with their wagons of stolen booty. But when they arrived in the city, the three wagons each went different ways. The one he followed was off-loaded with the chests and trunks, each being carried off in a different direction. So he lost sight of the hoard.

2. Find out which caravan it will be leaving with. The town of Leucrotta is an important trading hub in a very dangerous region. Very little stays in the city but much wealth passes through it. Heavily defended Caravans leave from each of the four cardinal gates and, the cult will likely sign onto a caravan to make the journey deeper into the region towards its ultimate destination.

3. Sign up for the caravan and follow the cult of the dragon. There are other wagons full of treasure being hauled in all across D Erte, and even if the heroes could defeat the gaurds and take the loot, it would not be enough to halt the cults nefarious desires. The treasure must be followed back to the cult of the dragon’s lair.

4. Save home town of Greenest from dying out. A religious icon was stolen from the church of St Cuthbert in Greenest during the raid by the Cult of the Dragon. The icon is tied magically to the spring that flows through Greenest, giving the town its life-blood and its name as the greenest place between the desert and broken lands. Now the spring is just a weakening trickle.

None of that is written into the adventure itself as far as I can tell. It is just some city research type shite I came up with that sounded fun. I also ripped this adventure from its roots in the Forgotten Realms and supplanted it onto the edge of the known world of my long-runnong campaign world of D Erte. (There is nothing much special about the world of D Erte other than it is a blank slate acrost which I can splatter-paint my grandiose designs for adventure.)

The goal of this campaign is to be a journey through a strange land. The world of D Erte has had many earth-shatering events over the years, from undead invasions and sparring demon-lords, to wars with giant armies of giants, and maybe even some aliens from outer space/other dimensions. The edge of the known world of D Erte is the eastern steppes called the Beast Lands. Across them are the broken lands. During a lull in the wars and doom of D Erte, the great civilizations of the west pushed into the beast lands in a series of crusades to bring order and wrest new lands from the savage evil around them. During this time the humble town of Greenest came to exist, the furthest eastern outpost wrested during the wars of the beast lands. It stood on the border between the broken lands to the west and a vast desert to the east.

For the first time the great western civilizations of elf, dwarf and man could cross that vast distance made up of the steppes, then the rocky broken lands, and finally the tall duned desert of the east and learn of the flourishing civilization known as the Lorient. The great cities of the Lorient were situated along the rivers that flowed south from the mountain known as the Ziggurat, far to the north. The merchant cities of Leucrotta, Ki-rin, and Oni; the dark and mysterious city of Su, and the gleaming capital Catoblepia, were each named for an extinct creature (missing from the 5e monster manual.)

The land of Lorient is also known as the land of werewolves. This is because each sentient being bears the resemblance in greater or lesser extent to one of a myriad of natural animals. Whether it be the whiskers of a seal (like Othar was exhibiting) or the black wet nose of a fox, every person living in the Lorient will eventually take on the traits of what some call their spirit animal, or daemon from some popular work of young adult fantasy.

There are two systems of law, each dependent upon the percentage of spirit animal infusing oneself at the time a crime is committed. For example, if an accused thief is determined to be 51 percent or greater raccoon or badger for instance, during the theft of a pie, then the sentence would be lighter than if they were deemed 49 per cent badger. It is all very complicated. Most people only exhibit a few traits of any animal, but periods of intense stress can cause a person to suddenly ‘pop’ into its animal form. It can take months or years ,or sometimes never, to revert back to human from a complete animal transformation. This is magical in nature, not genetic.

The people of the Lorient also wear really tall shoes and clothing made of bark. These are the defining characteristics that make the Lorient a unique place.

So I better wrap this up. The characters went to the east gate, from where they surmised the hoard would leave the city. They spoke to Gorgo, who wore a huge iron bull’s helm and no one ever saw his face. His motto was, Once you sign onto Gorgo’s caravan, no questions asked. That is a very dumb motto, and for some reason during my prep for this game, I left his motto blank, assuming I would just come up with something snappy in the moment. Didnt happen. What happens in Gorgo’s caravan stays in Gorgo’s caravan? No way.

He was meeting with “Lady Octavia” to book passage, and a bard with her called Rodrgio, invited the players to visit them to possibly hire on as guards. On the way to visit Octavia, they went through the poor part of town who were being terrorized by kidnappers. There was a mob. They had seen an alligator-man coming and going through the sewers.

The characters immediately jumped into the sewers except for the gnome who got sick of the “floating solids” and had to leave the nose-deep sewer. The dwarf on the other hand, relished the experience and developed (through the rolling of a natural 20) a natural immunity for all fecal matter. He eats it for breakfast in other words. (We got a lot grosser than that at the table. Well…I did.)

The sewer led to a portcullis beyond which was a small stone dock in a cellar under the city. There was a pile of large empty sacks next to a door. Beyond the door they found stairs leading up and a room with two yuanti. One had the head of a snake and the other had the body of a snake. They stood beside a pile of squirming gunny sacks. Battle ensued.

Up above, the gnome rogue learned that one of the children kidnapped was also known as “alligator boy” due to his features. This led her to an abandoned mansion where she fought an animated sword and dodged out of the way just as an animated carpet started to roll up at the corners. She heard the sound of battle down below (after about 15 perception checks) and because of all the cursing and mis-haps, she knew it was her crew fighting.

After the fight with the yuanti malisons, which both turned into giant snakes but couldnt hit for shit, a giant alligator man reared up behind them out of the sewers. But they did not attack first, ask questions never. Instead they learned that he the the strong man Skryllix from the carnival known as the Traveling House of the Macabre and Phantasmagorical. He was hunting for his son Alligator boy, who was recently kidnapped by these snake people. (The players pointed out that I made a huge deal out of the animal traits being magical, not genetic, and called me on it. I guess the boy just really relates to his dad and alligators. Could be social rather than genetic. But his dad is a carnie who he probably only sees once a year at most, or possibly never, so who knows.

So now the characters have met three principal NPC’s of the carnival: Rodrigo the bard, Skryllix the alligator strongman, and Lady Octavia the mysterious woman in black lace burka.

There you have it, a night of random urban adventuring, with a healthy dose of what the internet tells me is called furry fandom. Yiff.

dwarf-fortress

After reading an update on the ongoing development of the explored universe’s most difficult computer game, Dwarf Fortress, I realize it must immediately be added to lore of all dwarves, everywhere. He spaketh thusly:

I decided to go with a stepladder tool. Dwarves can build them, carry them around and climb up on them to access an extra 3x3x2 block of potential fruit above their heads (not including whatever is sitting around in the 3×3 on the ground). When a dwarf is standing on the ladder, they appear one z-level above it, and they have a hold on it in a way which’ll hopefully translate to things like climbing statues or standing on tables in the future. I allowed reach from the ladder to go up 2 levels since many trees don’t end up with fruit-bearing branches 1 level above the ground (and the higher fruit will still be inaccessible even with this system, though you could build a platform or something). I still have a bit more to do to keep the system moving quickly and allowing dwarves to retain the ladder between jobs if they aren’t returning with their fruit haul.

Yes, and so it was envisioned, so it shall be. All dwarves build and carry their own custom step-ladder, allowing them access to areas otherwise unreachable to them. The ladder can be foldable, integrated into the dwarf’s clothing, or simply slung over a shoulder, each in preference and skill of the owner. Some ladders might even be built of, or inlaid with the bones of their ancestors. The step-ladders are made according to the wealth and prestige of the dwarf, being invariably built of the finest materials attainable, and the higher a dwarf can step, the higher in dwarven society he will climb.

Needless to say, there is little indignity worse than stepping on another dwarf’s ladder. Ain’t it always so?

Hmm…

I suppose there could be a counter-culture of dwarves, say dwarf druids perhaps, who forgo the cultural norm of step-ladder envy, but instead they are measured on their ability to construct quickly and efficiently as possible, a step-ladder right there on the spot, whenever one is needed. Interesting how so many of these “rebels” always seem to have a bundle of twigs tightly wound with twine nearby.

For dinner this week we had very inexpensive pizzas from our local grocery store that were oven ready. They came out pretty good and there is much to be said for three enormous pizzas for fifteen dollars. The key to pizza, or baking in general, is the timing. Pizza is most delicious when it is cooked just the right amount so that the crust is neither burnt and too crispy, or underdone and too soggy. The toppings as well must have the golden brown crisped edges that a good baking gives them. To cook three large pies takes patience, but it can be done quickly, by giving each pizza a few minutes alone in the center of the oven for the first half of the cook time, then moving it to the lowest rack while putting pizza no. two in the middle. Continue rotating every 10 minutes and voila 3 large pizzas in 30 minutes or so. Also the oven should be preheated to more than it says on the box. I like to cook everything at 450 deg.

hile playing the adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen, it has been worth it to excise the adventure from the default Forgotten Realms setting, and place it into our group’s “home brew” setting, D Erte, which we have been adventuring in for several years now. It’s not that I have anything against the Forgotten Realms (which I do) but it is more like I love the spontaneity of things we come up with as we play, and the well-detailed published campaigns feel very constraining in that aspect, much like store-bought adventures. My brain just does not work that way, and the amount of joy I derive from playing dungeons and dragons is directly proportionate to the amount of random absurd bullshit that happens while playing. That is really the entire secret. It is why I love critical hits and misses; it is why I describe every action in battle in loving detail; it is why I design traps without solutions; it is why I love dice rolling in general. The scientific name for this game style is Emergent Gameplay, and it is the foundation and objective for every game I play.

This week I was in the mood for some desert action, and it just so happened that there was a desert nearby, needing to be crossed. The home town of Greenest was on one edge of the desert, and their destination, the foreign city of Leucrotta, was on the other. (Factoid: I am naming all the cities in this new region from monsters that were in the original Monster Manual but have been left out of the newest edition, like the leucrotta, a worg-like creature.) Beyond the outpost of Leucrotta, further to the east were the mysterious foreign metropolises of Catoblepia, Ki-Rin, and Su.

The night started out with crazy amounts od die rolling. The journey from Greenest to Leucrotta, was seven to fourteen days. For game purposes,each day a different character would be in charge of ‘blazing the trail’ that day, as well as overseeing the camp. Using the desert environment section of 4e’s Dark Sun Campaign Manual, I created a series of rolls for what type of desert they would encounter, then they would roll a d8 to see the weather affects (a 1result would be a haboob, an 8 is clear skies) Then the character would make an ability check to overcome whatever type of terrain it was. Failing that, they would be set back a day and have to roll for an encounter. They would also have to roll for an encounter if it was dangerous terrain. Everyone rolled extremely well and they made it across the desert in record time without a single encounter and near perfect weather.

I had to entice them to an encounter by mentioning on the third day out, while crossing some mud flats or something, they saw the glint of shiny in the distance. They were hesitant. I then enquired who among them had magical treasure. None. Had we missed out on all the loot in the adventure so far? Four chapters without a single magic item? Then pointedly mentioned again the glint of shiny in the distance. They could just make out a broken down wagon.

What followed was a fight with an ettin and his to wolves, in which the ettin hurled rocks for a few rounds before charging into the meat grinder that is the party. He only got a single swing from his weapons before becoming chop suey. The ettin was able to leap over and avoid all obstacles with the boots of striding he wore. He also had on bracers of ogre strength, wielded a morningstar +1 Lightbringer in one fist, and used a +1 breastplate as a punching glove in the other. Oh and he had a ring of protection +1 in his pocket. One magic item apiece for everyone present, all ripped directly from the last page of the Starter Adventure. I added the ring at the last second because it seemed unfair to give out four items when there were five players present.

The verisimilitudinous reason for the ettin to have all that loot was that he recently ambushed and killed a veteran of the nearby wars, who was on his way across the desert to make his fortune with his booty.

My favorite part of the night actually, was watching the players divide the magic items in the most equitable fashion possible. Only the gnome rogue, with her boots of striding, felt shorted (get it?) and is trying to sell off her item.

They arrived in Leucrotta and met their benefactor who paid them 150 gold apiece for the information about the cult. Then he got into an arm wrestling contest with the dwarf,who performed so poorly (he has an 8 strength) that he rolled an effective ZERO (a natural 1) and not only lost the match, but immediately passed out with exhaustion.

One other interesting aspect of this game night was that we all decided once and for all to use the Pathfinder Critical Hit and Miss deck with our 1’s and 20’s. In fact, when I finally reached up and pulled the two decks out for use, a cheer went up around the table.

Here be monsters

Here be monsters

The Monster Manual for the Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons is rampaging out into the wild and pouncing on wallets everywhere. The publication of the newest edition of the oldest fantasy role playing game continues apace, and this book is the second in the sacrosanct triad that has formed the core of every edition of the game since the original Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Players Handbook, Monster Manual, and Dungeon Masters Guide.

Thin, thick, thicker, THICKEST

Thin, thick, thicker, THICKEST

Comparing this tome to its progenitors, one immediately discovers that it is the thickest, heaviest, and bears the most pages of the lot. In fact, every edition of the Monster Manual has upped the page count since that first slender folio, and every edition has attempted to up the quality of it pages therein with bigger, better, more colorful art, fan(ta)cy page design, and eye-catching covers. This manual of monsters has exceeded expectations on every level of design. The art is fabulous, with many varying styles and artists represented. The cover is gorgeous to behold and has a unique tactile quality with a brushed back cover that is a joy to hold.

But it is what is inside that really matters. Can it inspire a sense of wonder and adventure? It was while leafing through the original Monster Manual one afternoon as a child that my imagination opened to the idea of how incredible Dungeons and Dragons could be. Finding that first Monster Manual was instrumental in piquing my curiosity to learn what this game is all about. In many ways, it is about the monsters: the danger they pose, he difficulty to overcome, and the treasure they hoard. Thus the Monster Manual is the essence of Dungeons and Dragons.

The iconic monsters of Dungeons and Dragons, have always been a mix of creatures of myth and legend, popular culture, and the wild imaginations of the game’s creators. The Monster Manual then, must maintain the status quo by containing all of the monsters from that first hoary tome (or at least all the good ones). It is also expected to contain all the best additions to the game since inception. In forty years and five editions, vast quantities of new monsters have spawned, from innumerable sources, both official and not. It would be impossible to contain every new species and critter created, so there must be a process of curation to maintain the best, most iconic monsters from the game’s long life.

While the task of being a fair curator alone seems insurmountable, there is also the daunting task of faithfully representing those icons of infamy with fun and exciting mechanics for the enjoyment of the players around the table. The designers of this edition worked very hard to create THE quintessential Monster Manual. During the public playtest many polls and articles sought to discover what thousands of players felt were the essence of each monster, in appearance, origins, and actions. When the first batch of monsters appaered in the playtest, oover two years ago, I wrote an article assessing their classic qualities.

Let us now turn our attention to our brand spanking new 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons Monster Manual, dear reader, and evaluate how Iconic are the Monsters of Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons?

Never to be spoken of again

Never to be spoken of again

Aarakockra – I have written extensively on the aarakocra previously, one of my faves:

Has there ever been a better avian race? I think every mountain pass and rocky tor the PCs ever passed were inhabited by some nest/tribe/civilization of aarakocra. Often times the savage battle that broke out when the aarakocra dive bombed the party from surprise would end in dialogue if the party were able to get them to listen to reason. After the party convinced the avians of their good intentions, they would get embroiled with the aarakocra against some evil avian race, which he aarakocra warred against for aerial territory in the mountain passes.

Their connection to eagles was another favorite element to use, including rocs. I always used them as a highly noble race, but also savagely predatory and territorial. They were animal-like in those areas, but had a strict code of honor. Once in a campaign they were used as enslaved warriors and the characters were forced to fight and kill them until they were finally able to save the few who were left, ha ha. Big favorite and definitely not very rare in my campaigns.

I once sent in an article idea to WotC describing a delve that involved a war between barbaric tribes of Aarakocra and Kenku over the rights to a certain ravine. The Aarakocra were above, and the kenku tribe lived on the ground, forever at war. I just love the aarakocra (and the kenku!)

The aarakocra made an appearance in the 4th Edition Dark Sun Creature Catalog, where they were turned into vulture-men,and lost a little bit of their noble luster along the way, but became pretty cool ferocious dive bombing raptors from the sky.

The Aarakocra have regained their egalitarian aspect, thank goodness, and maintian their dive bombing abilities, while also gaining an ability to call air elementals under certain circumstances. The creatures also get a full write up on their history of being guardians of the elemental planes of air, greatly expanding on the original themes laid out in the Fiend Folio.

Aboleths are bad-ass as ever. I just can’t go into it right now.

Tara swings from the beholder by the hilt of the Spirit Knife as Thokk looks on immobilized.

Tara swings from the beholder by the hilt of the Spirit Knife as Thokk looks on immobilized.

Beholder. One of d&d’s very own creations, infamous and deadly enough the cover to grace this very manual. The beholder is one of the toughest high level monsters in the game. Their deadly ray attacks kill indiscriminately: death ray… disintegration…

Being such high level foes means the are rarely encountered, and I can only recall one time I used a beholder in battle. The fight took place in the Inn of the Welcome Wench in the village of Hommlet, much of which burned down in the epic conflagration. The 5th edition Beholder maintains all of its power and grace, and is given a five page write-up with three different varieties. Besides their ecology, origins, disposition, the book also details the lairs of the legendary creatures, which are evocative and dangerous for players. Just for one example, walls may sprout eye stalks the shoot rays of death.

Reading this, I realize there have not been enough beholders in my player’s lives. This will need to be rectified STAT. I would say to the 5th edition Beholder: Mission Accomplished. Reading the entry has given me the seeds of ideas for battles, adventures and entire campaigns full of freaking insane beholders. The picture of the undead beholder depicts one scary dude.

Roper. We fought a roper in our game last week, and it was one vicious foe. In fact, the characters were victorious merely by escaping its tednrillous clutches alive. One thing that makes the roper so terrifying (beside the obvious killer tentacles and gaping frakking maw full of great white shark teeth) is the huge amount of hit points it contains. This is a feature of the monsters of fifth edition in general, that the hit points are higher on average all around, than the first three editions. For low level monsters like kobolds, 5 hp instead of 4 hp is a tiny difference, but that twenty percent increase gives you ropers with a hundred hit points that can reel you in and bite your head off over and over as you stab at them with you puny little arms.

The monsters of this edition are powerful, terrifying, engaging to run and fun to fight. The literature and art is beautiful and evocative. Eevery entry provides insight into how and where the creatures might be encountered, and what they are doing. There could be a part two of this article, where I ramble on about monster after monster in the book, but the major topic of this article has been covered: to show how thick the book is physically and with promise of adventure. Mission Accomplished.

Advanced Dm of Doom has spoken

Advanced Dm of Doom has spoken

What lurks in yonder caves

What lurks in yonder caves

The past two weeks have been spent exploring the hatchery. After making it through the first few chambers, the characters made it to the human leader’s chambers. They subdued her and tied her up but after discovering a secret trapdoor that lead down into a shrine to Tiamat, they attracted the notice of Cyanwrath the blue half-dragon who was down there with a pair of female berzerkers in business attire. Rather then allowing them up into the room they hurl the leader down the hole, not realizing that the enemy would be able to heal and rejoin the fight.

Approximately five rounds later, Mondath the human and Cyanwrath the half dragon attacked from behind with a horde of kobolds gathered along the way. The party kept the berzerkers from climbing out the trap door and eventually defeated the others.

They gained a level, to third, and hunkered down for a long rest. It passed uneventfully and afterwards, the party continued down the trapdoor and did battle with the berzerkers who were dutifully awaiting the return of their leaders. They found a treasure chest but it was trapped and released poison gas into the room. Everyone took damage, but it could have been worse if not for a fair amount of luck, and the combined affect of a wind spell combined with the chicken character’s wing-flapping .(Long story. We have a character that’s not a man, it’s a chicken.)

They moved on to another chamber with a ledge along a dark natural cavern, with a set of wooden steps leading down. Their were some kobolds hidden in an alcove and the rogue trickster put them to sleep with her shiny new spell, then slit their throats while they dreamed their lizard dreams. No one wanted anything to do with the long dark natural cavern below, so they tried the other route, which led them past a kobold guard room (which they stealthily made it past) and into a different room with a ledge and a long dark cavern below. They fought some more kobolds here.

The only choices left were the fungus garden room (which they were avoiding like the plague) or the first or second cavernous chamber. They went back to the first one and were looking around, when a roper struck. A long tentacle lashed out and grabbed the warlock and dropped him thirty feet to the ground. Knocked out. The next round, the roper pulled the rogue off the rickety staircase, and she took falling damage, and then the dwarven cleric dove off the staircase to inflict some falling damage on the roper. The monk is the only one who avoided falling.

The next round two guard drakes attacked and it looked like the battle was lost. With one down, and one grappled by tentacles, and everyone on their last few hit points it was time for drastic measures. Somehow, as improbable as it sounds, they survived.

They saw the glow of the dragon eggs in the back of the chamber. They had to get them and get out. They came up with a plan. The cleric had a spell that transformed the ground under the roper into mud or something, and it fell a few inches, forced movement causing the tentacles to release the warlock and rogue. The monk dashed across the room, grabbed the eggs, and avoided the guard drakes, while the rogue grabbed the unconscious chicken, and they ran uo the stairs and out the dungeon as fast as they could. It was a great game but it was getting late and ended with a miraculous victory against overwhelming odds.

but-when-i-do-i-play-advanced-dungeons-dragonsThe joke is that this newly released updated edition of the worlds first and foremost role playing game is the one we will die playing. Like any good joke there is some truth and longing in it as well. I wish we could have one version that continued to grow and evolve over the years (at a sedate pace, mind you) rather than the abrupt and jarring breaks of the past three ‘editions’ of Dungeons and Dragons. This Fifth edition seems to be the one capable of doing that, if it is even a desire or plan of the publishers of the game, which I know not.

Irregardless, while so far this edition is proving to live up to the qualities it aimed to attain, there is always room for, and a need for minor tweaks or improvements to the rules to better mesh with the playstyles of each individual group of players. Thus are house rules created, and below is a list of rules we have adopted for our game group.

1. Critical hit and miss tables – These have been published previously on the blog –LINK–. Fifth edition codifies the idea of critical hit and misses, by giving double damage on a 20, and always hit, and making a natural 1 always miss. That of course does not go far enough. My tables, written around 1983-84, when I was twelve, involve much more gory, embarrassing, and weird affects and were voted into use by due process over the course of many games, many editions, before being finally settled upon once and for all. Any rumours that I may have ‘skewed’ the results of the vote are pure hearsay.The dm gets one vote, and the players get one vote as a group. Ties go to the dm. Perfectly fair process. Moving on…

2. Natural 2 – I have coined a phrase – “natural 2, the only roll worse than a natural 1.” The reason being that a player will still probably miss if they roll a 2, but it lacks any of the pizzazz of a critical fail. So I have a house rule, even less official than the critical hit and miss tables, that on a natural 2, if they miss, they still have humiliating, embarrassing, or weird things happen to their character, just without any actual game mechanical affects. This rule is adamantly opposed by the players (and what player wouldnt jus thate the whole idea of it) so I have to slip it in subtly. One method is to use a natural 2 as a doorway to getting the character to give into the characters flaw, which is a new personality trait in this edition.

3. Skeletons resist piercing and slashing damage.

4. Inspiration point – These can be used to re-roll any roll, rather than to grant advantage or whatever the official rule may be. Why not? Stop being so uptight about things. Also the bard can store a second inspiration point on occasions, but in that case “he is like a race car with its engine running in the red.” Or at least that is what happened the other night.

5. Mounts – If a land vehicle is a horse, then is a water vehicle a hippopotamus? Yes.

6. Hit points – Characters roll for HP at each level but if they roll poorly they may take 1/2 the maximum die roll instead. It’s more or less what everyone did anyway.

7. No multi classing. I have no explanation for this other than a certain “swordlock” who will remain unnamed. It would have been a TPK, it should have been a TPK, and dammit it WAS a TPK, I don’t care what that “survivalist” says.

This is an evolving document, both because I might have forgotten some rules, and because more may come along as the final two core rulebooks are released (and beyond!) and because our temperament may change over time. When I began this article I thought there would be more, but instead we get short and sweet.

dm cornerFinally Friday arrived. Some weeks seem interminable and this was one of those. Car troubles (on top of more car troubles) have been a major element of recent poverty, so we were especially thankful that a couple of the players stepped up to supply us with food for the night. Khar brought sandwich fixin’s and I was able to make a mouth-watering “Dagwood” and James brought a pumpkin pie (’tis just about the season) and he even brought my favorite food to go with it – whippped cream. So let that backdrop of deliciousness flavor the following story of what happened this week.

One more aside. James also brought a wargame called ‘Ogre.’ which s from Steve Jackson Games, and vame out int he early eighties. This was the classic edition in a small ziplock baggie, with a hex map and a bunch of cardboard cutout counters. We set up for a game = me on defense with a combined arm force against his one ogre. I have never played this game before, so I fell back on traditional combined arms defense for my set up. I put the objective – a command center, in the back corner and built an infantry ring of defense around it and my three heavy artillery. I had three rockets tanks placed near the infantry and on the left flank I had three heavy tanks meant to protect the flank and direct his approach and maybe if I am lucky, immobilize him before he ever gets to my side of the map.

Didn’t work out that way. He took a direct approach and my bullets pinged off his shell. On the third or fourth turn of maximum direct-line movement, he was in range of my command center, and automatically hit and destroyed it, winning the game. It was a sudden and anti-climactic victory, due mostly to my ignorance of the rules, but he did a great job of sloughing off my combined arms layered defense.. It goes to show you that a knowledge of warfare is not always enough to win a wargame. One must also have at least a passing knowledge of the rules. The game really comes down to the ranges – 8 for artillery, 3 for rockets, and 5 for his ogre, so getting him in the 6-7 range is key to victory. Never letting the ogre within 5 of the command post is key to not losing pathetically.

The discussion of Car Wars, also by Steve Jackson, came up, and I will be on the lookout for a retro-release of Car Wars. It is the only other game I ever played as seriously as dungeons and dragons, and I would totally play it again. I waonder what would happen if one game night, everyone showed up to autoduel? I actually still have all my car wars stuff from the eighties, including pages and pages of yet to cut out vehicles and roads. I might own just about every accessory released for Car Wars, up to a certain year,and that includes many Uncle Albert’s catalogs. Enough said.

Dungeons and Dragons Section

Play began with the party standing over the corpse of the blue half-dragon Langredossa in his tent in the center of the raider’s camp. The tent was empty except for a small folding chair and table, upon which a map lay unfolded. It showed the path of the cult heading across the desert towards the far off eastern city of Leucrotta. They now had all the information they needed and just needed to save the slaves./ Looking around, they notice they have not been spotted yet. There are three more commanders, who seem to be in charge, standing by a cave entrance at the back of the ravine. One is a black half dragon in purple robes,the other is a human female in shiny purple armor, and the third is a female blue half-dragon who might be the mate of the slain Langredossa at the heroes feet. The three commanders break up and start walking towards their three tents – the blue one is the one they are in.

The party sneaks out of the tent and of course the dwarf cleric has trouble being stealthy with his elephant mount. He rolls a natural one on his stealth check, with his modifier becoming a zero. This cannot be allowed to pass, so I ask him to roll on the penalty roll table. Thinking that double damage will still be zero, he scoffs at the idea but rolls – and gets knocked unconscious for 2-8 rounds. Not all damage is hit points!

More shenanigans happen, an eventually they save the prisoners and escape up a hidden back staircase just behind where the prisoners are kept. Convenient! Once back at Greenest,they spend a couple days resting and recuperating while doing a little home improvement on their new headquarters – a Sirius Black type mansion near the center of town. The cleric also trades in his big elephant for a pair of easier to handle dwarf elephants.

Once the monk npc whom they rescued is healed from his time in captivity, he comes around to thank them and ask a favor. He is going to his home town of Leucrotta to tell his master what he has learned of the cult, but he needs them to go back to the raider camp and check out what is in the cave. His master will pay them 150 gold each when they make it to Leucrotta. They (eventually) agree.

Heading back to the camp, they decide to use the secret back entrance near the cave mouth. They find the camp to be deserted but can’t see the cave from above, so the dwarf decided to go down to investigate. He chooses to ride his dwarf elephant like a surf board down the ravine’s edge, rather than leave the wide hipped elephant up top. I asked him if he is sure he wants to do this foolhardy thing, but he insists.

Of course I ask him to make a dexterity check on the way down, to stay atop the elephant as it slides down the nearly vertical jagged, rocky surface. Of course he rolls a two with his modifier becoming a one. Oh Joel. You never should have attempted this. The elephant decides to ride the dwarf down the final half of the ravine, and they end up at the mouth of the cave, the dwarf unconscious at zero hit points, with only his boots visible under the elephant’s seated butt. The rest of the party chose to descend using the secret carved staircase. Dwarf elephants have a long memory and the will not forgive the dwarf for his treatment of them. The other one he painted black, by the way. As the dm, I may need to take those elephants away from him.

They entered the cave after killing the guards and reviving the dwarf. They avoided the fungus garden and came to a cross roads. One had lots of feet traveling down it, the other one less so. Then the dwarf, in a scene out of Aliens, had his nose to the ground and said “feet many feet, getting closer. They are right on top of us! Where are they?!?” With his nose to the ground he couldn’t se any o the feet, so one of the players said “I look up” and there were three flying kobolds, six floating feet, coming towards them. It was a short battle, and we might have ended it there,or continued a little further, I can’t remember anything that happened after the feet incident.

Non dnd game night Saturday

Since I started with Ogre I guess I will not end with fantasy foot fetish, but instead go out like I came in, with talk of games other than dnd. On Saturday we had a non-dnd game night (Kind of specific, huh? prejudice one might say) that included the game 7 Wonders, which was a lot of fun to play. We did not use the feature about building your own wonder, which i think is a shame, and I blame losing because we were leaving out that major component.

I started off the game night with a three player round of Smash Brawl for the Nintendo Wii. It was vaguely fun, but not knowing what was going on 95% of the time made me feel like a 95 year old grand ma, so I don’t think I will ever play that game again. I did have much better success as Star Fox than I did as Donkey Kong. But at the end of the game I had 5 kills to my son’s 75 and joel’s 50+.

I had wanted to try out Dominion but it is for 2-4 players and there were around seven of us. Other games choices were Small World, which I won the one time I played,I think as ice barbarians or something. That was a fun game which I would play again. My favorite board game however, is Settler’s of Catan, which we also didnt play. There is only so much time in a game night!

The rest of the group went on to play a game I think might be called Resistance, where two of the five are spies, and they go on missions to succeed or fail (Wil Wheaton can tell ou more…). I had to go to bed, but I heard the rest of them playing that game, and they seemed to really like it, tons of laughter and what not.

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