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Archive for August 22nd, 2010

Here it is in all its glory, my entire collection of Dark Sun material for 4e DnD. It is so beautifully crafted, and the covers themselves are so incredibly beautiful. The artist has created great covers for this set, and the rich adn dark orange just make me want to pick up the books themselves.

My collection in all its completeness and glory

It is a fact thet due to mis-communication between the publisher and printer, the Creature Catalog was supposed to be soft cover. It is instead a hard cover and yet its price remained at the lower 20 dollar price. Way to go Wizards, and I feel bad for that printing company, I bet they lost out on that one. Hopefully they make it up in volume!

Besides the store bought items in the picture, are all three segments of Encounters Season 2: Dark Sun Fury of the Wastewalker. whicch I am DMing every Wednesday night at Game Cafe in Independence. The other two special items are Bloodsand Arena which I DMed at Game Cafe earlier this year for Free RPG Day 2010, and Lost Cistern from Game Day Dark Sun. I made a deal with a new player and rising star dm that I would happily set aside DMing for the chance to play a character – if he would be willing to let me have the adventure afterward. After all, otherwise I couldnt take the above picture. woot

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Tonights game was highlighted by the big pot of curry Shannon made, so it was a little more laid back and distracted than most. Usually it seems like I am always trying to keep things on track and moving forward at a respectable pace, but sometimes I like to sit back and just enjoy the evening and let things happen without constant prompting. This was one of those nights, and while we may not have accomplished as much, it was still a relaxing and enjoyable evening of gaming with friends.

We started with a meeting between the Jackal men and the party. Tasked by the White Rose to help bring order and safety to the city of Nazerak, she sent them on a mission to do what they could about the jackal man menace. The pack had taken over one of the less dilapidated of the estates in the northern sector of the ruined city, and they were a disciplined violent bunch. The party was able to speak with the chief, and throughout a morning of negotiation, came to understand that the jackal men were already in the pay of the Half Elf consortium, and that they were scheduled to fight them this night.

The negotiations lasted all morning. The Jackal men were in no hurry and seemed open to the talks, though they were a violent and restless bunch. Thokk fought their most barbaric member in a duel to first blood, which Thokk easily won. The vanquished jackal man was speared in the back by his own chieftain as he tried to rise from the dust. Later on, Tara the ranger got in an archery duel with a Spear chucker, and the beast men were in awe of how much damage the arrows did. nonetheless, the best deal they could work out with the head Jackal chieftain was that they would be willing to fight here and now. Otherwise they would see them again this dusk in the arena.

So having finished with them, the party still had most of the day, so they went down the list White Rose had given them and decided to tackle the underground passage that led from the center of the city to the arena itself. This passage had become infested with reptilians, and they would need it when the arena became functional.

Suss-suss-suss Surans or Sleestaks

The tunnels under the city were a dangerous place, being haunted both by the shadowfell denizens that remained ,as well as the shadow eladrin, and any other subterranean creatures that might forge and defend a sheltered haven. One such group of creatures were the Ssuransm also known as Lizardmenm, or in the Eladrin tongue of Nazerak, as Sleestaks. They were an ever present threat from the mnountains, and groups of the sleestaks were always making ther way across the wastes to infiltrate Nazeraks water rich underworld.

This scouting party was composed of a pair of sneaks, 4 blackscale bruisers and a shaman leader. They ambushed the party in the narrow sewers and came at them from both ends. The sneaks attacked the rear while the rest charged from hiding in front. The party was trapped in a narrow passage and had to fight on two fronts. Additionally, between the water and the spells of the poisonscale, the entire area became difficult terrain and it was a close fought battle.

The sleestaks however, were no match for this battle-hardened party of heroes and they tore through the reptilians in little time. With few resources wasted on the attack, the party was ready to get through the afternoon and prepare for the nights special attraction – Nazeraks first Gladiatorial Arena Spectacle in centuries.

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Special players perspective edition

or the Short Happy Life of Bennybe the Rogue

Before today, my last character was a human druid named Shmuckly. He was known for having invented a backpack for transporting potted plants. He would hurl a plant as his opening salvo in an engagement and in this way he was able to cast his main spell, entangle, in almost any environment. It was Shmucklys way of spreading nature, like Jhohnny Appleseed. This character only rose to 5th (or was it 7th… hmmm…) level, and I last played Shmuckly in 1985. I then became the dm for my group of friends and never played a PC again with little regrets. That all changed today, when I took up the reins of the PC once again, and rolled up Bennybe the Eladrin Rogue 4. Bennybe was a wastewalker though I forgot to use his encounter power the entire time we played, much to my chagrin. I did use most of my powers though, and while I am mixed as to my final verdict on Bennybe as an effective character, I had a lotta fun. Read on to find out how Bennybe and his friends, the tiefling warlock, the goliath barbarian, the thri kreen seeker, and the half elf bard went in search of the lost cistern of Aravek. I cant remember any of the characters names, so from here on out, they will be known as Ron the warlock, Midget the half giant, Dr Flamulus the Mad Guitarist Bard and my son the seeker who well just call Pakcha why not. I might be called Bennybe, Barnaby, Bugz Bunny or a few others.

Well, the plan was to play from noon to 4 pm, and I was late by almost half an hour. Not being the dm had instantly converted me back into my slothful, chronically late and unprepared usual self. Once we got started, we still managed to get through two encounters in our time, so it wasnt too shabby. The adventure began in the usual Dark Sun tradition, a doomed expedition into the Wastelands on a hopeless mission. This on involved water, magic wter perhaps, so we knew it was serious busiiness. I reminded everyone to buy survival rations and sunrods. And healing fruit. I wanted a bunch of healing banana fruits. So my first roll of the day was part of a group endurance check, and I rolled a 20! Auspicious beginnings indeed.

Some more skill checks happened and might have included zombie cactus, butin the end a few of us lost healing surges and we were attacked by a herd of elves. To me, it was worth failing a skill challenge if it meant we could rid the world of another herd of elves. And so we commenced to do just that.

They must be destroyed

We were surrounded on all sides and attacked by 8 or so of these elves. There was a leader who stayed well back, a group of slinging minions, then 4 or so regular old elf dune striders. The battle went ok, and it took a while for us to whittle them down, but in the end we were victorious and no one dropped. Most of us however, were bloodied, especially Bennybe and Midget. It was during this battle that I noticed my rogue was not quite meeting the min-maxed damage output I was expecting.

Bennybe was an eladrin, a dagger wielding cunning sneak rogue, multiclassed into assassin for the shrouds. He was +12 to hit with his basic at wills, and with combat advantage (+4) he could put out 1d4 + 2d8 + 1d6 +6, for a minimum of 10 points damage and a max of 32. In addition, I had a minor encounter attack (low cut) which gave me a great opening salvo. My fey strike dagger was my other secret weapon, a dagger that once per encounter would allow me to make a melee basic from 20 squares away and once daily would allow me to teleport the target to any square adjacent. Oh yes. bennybe was hitting on all cylinders. His dex was 20, and everything else was 14 or 10. In his other hand he wielded a long sword, and I often switched between longsword attacks (1d8 but only +10 to hit)) versus the puny dagger d4s. It didnt seem to make a difference, I rolled a 1 for damage either way :( Over all, he was a great character to play. I used my ninja mini for him, which might be the first time that mini was ever used as a pc. Ninjas are very out of style now. it is all about pirates, or it looks like actually pirates are on their way out the door, what is next, maybe mental mutant psychic purple giants?

One big difference between playing and dming is the delay between my turn, and well, my turn again. This is obvious to all players in DnD, but a dm sometimes forgets the importance of moving the turns along, since in some ways it is always the dms turns. In fact, as a dm I sometimes get annoyed when a monsters initiative comes around, since it takes me away from keeping track of whats going on to actually DO something. Thats not entirely true, as I am i on the edge of my seat, hoping against hope that the monster survives the tide of players turns to even get an attack. So the half hour spans between turns can really add up. Our dm did a good job of keeping the game rolling, so I never felt too distracted, it was fun just to hang out and try to be funny and play the game, regardless of whose turn it is. That pretty much sums up my gaming philosophy right there, though.

After the elf battle we moved directly into the battle with the solo, a Tembo, a frightening creature of Dark Sun who uses its hideous strength and deadly prowess in combat in combination with its ability to drain the life out of its enemies. This level 6 solo proved to be one tough cookie and it killed us all, but it was a quite close battle and the outcome was never fore-ordained.

I rolled my second natural 20 of the night for initiative, and it meant I would go first. I knew this would be my last battle of the day, as 4 oclock was fast approaching, so I decided to use my three secret weapons: my action point, my daily power, and my daggers daily power. The layout of the battle pitted us on one side of a flowing underground stream of unknown depth and the tembo on the other. I cast my dagger at him, struck, but when I attempted to use the daily teleport power, the tembo stopped it. Arggh! This did not bode well. In the end he came over of his own accord, and that proved to be worse than him staying far away, and besides the water wasnt that deep. I didnt want t waste my minor action to examine the stream at the moment.

The battle continued on for many rounds. As we fought over the course of the next few rounds I used my second wind, activated my daily which was a stance that gave me a free attack against anyone who attacked me, and I administered a healing potion to the fallen barbarian. This proved to be a mistake, since the tembo had an aura that reduced all healing by half, as well as doing 5 damage at the start of the barbarians turn. So she was not saved. Oops!

Our options looked better when later that round the thri kreen rolled a natural 20 on his death save and made a surprise recovery. It too would prove worthless, as the tembos damage aura had gone from 5 to 10, and no amount of healing could save us by this point. Pakcha fell the instant he rose just like Midget before him.

The bard had the greatest daily power ever, which gave us 5 healing hit points back whenever we struck the fell beast, and in the early part of the battle this seemed like it would be the defining cause of our victory, but after the tembo reduced it to 2 hp healing, it was less effective, though still important!

FInally it was Ron the warlock and Benneby left standing. The warlock got off one last curse that did massive damage. Impossibly the beast still lived! The dm informed us that it had been minionized (a term I define to mean it was knocked down to 1 hp.) The warlock fell and it was the monsters turn, then mine.

I had 1 hp left, it had 1 hp left. Either way, if it attacked or delayed, I would get the first blow, since I had my daily power stance activated. I was sure that victory was mine. The minor inconvenience was that all my allies lay dying about me, thus I had no combat advantage. No matter, he attacked, I retaliated with my immediate interrupt. I rolled a 5. I missed. he didnt. I died, and with me the hope of our entire party, and possibly that village or whoever it was that needed the water. WHo cares, though right, cause I know Bennybe dont.

Yeah, so my first character played in 25 years or so bites the dust in his second encounter, taking the whole party down with him. Not quite the ending I had hoped for for the session, but it was still loads of fun. As I said, after many years of watching my minions die at the hands of blood thirsty player characters, to have a single little guy like Bennybe last for as long as hed did was amazing to me. And besides its all about the hanging out, the joking around, the fun and camaraderie. The killing things and taking their stuff is just like a bonus on top of everything else. And sometimes, you get slaughtered mercilessly instead of that sweet desert, thems the ropes, and they make the victories we do see all the sweeter.

Special thanks go to Jake, who ran the session that killed me (us.) The battle with the solo was a really complicated battle, but he did it by the book and with skill and tactical awareness. Thinking back over the encounter, I am not sure we could have done much else to win. There were plenty of little things, like the healing fruit mistake, or possibly not activating my stance soon enough – I should have done it in the first round, but waited till round 3. But most of my mistakes came down to being unfamiliar with the character. I think the biggest cause of this, and many TPKs like it, come down to the player not being entirely familiar with their characters. By the time we were 4th level, we all had 2 pages worth of powers to choose between, and many of them have subtle differences that if applied at the right time and place can make game changing differences.

all dead here

And a level 6 solo, 2 levels above the party, was a challenge to begin with. Dark Sun is known for its tough foes, and the game itself has become noticeably tougher with the new Monster Manual 3 design philosophy of monster creation. This involves giving the monster much higher damage output, without increasing the slog by raising its defenses and hit points in the same amounts. This monster was particularly designed to wreak mayhem with healing while fighting it, and its combination of high hit points and low defenses were mitigated by other actions of the thing. Becoming insubstantial was a very frustrating thing to happen, and when you add it all up, it ends up that we players were doing tiny thing for minuscule amounts – our healing nullified, our damage cut in half, if we could even see him to attack, while the tembo tore us up repeatedly, multiple times per turn and multiple turns per round. We became muppet babies fighting godzilla.

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