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Archive for September, 2010

The new oldWeek 2 finds us back at The Basement game store in Zone Rosa, northland Kansas City, for another round of killing bad guys and taking their stuff. Tomight we had a full table of 6 players, using all pregens with the exception of one of the clerics for a second wizard made using the Red Box. Three of the players were returning from last week, and three were new. The three new players were two kids in the 10-12 range, and their mom who I convinced to play. (I am good at convincing people to play.) I probably could have convinced a few more people to play, since I recognized one or two walk-ins from last week, but since I had a full party, I decided to let them come over if they want. Instead the ended up at the Magic card game table.

Aside: It was very strange playing in the store this session. There were quite a few people playing Magic. They were very quiet, almost silent as they played. Meanwhile, my voice, so used to large crowds packed into small spaces, was literally ringing out through the store. Sometimes I felt like I was describing the action to the whole store as we played. It was cool. (I am a closet exhibitionist. I know, closets are not the optimal place for exhibitionism, but I am crazy like that.)

The nights encounter began in the cave that had been so recently full of living, breathing reptilian humanoids, including the dragonborn Kesk, and his drake-hound Fido. They were now crumpled bundles in the corner. The party retrieved a shivering, ill Gordi from a shallow pit in the cave floor, found a stack of healing poultices in one corner of the chamber,and also a few coins for their trouble. The cleric Sola was pre-occupied, so one of the Eladrin wizards Faverel, tried a healing check on Gordi. The natural 1 he rolled, untrained in healing, led to a worsening of Gordis health. When Sola finally arrived on the scene, her healing skills were able to ease Gordis pain somewhat, but she could not make sense of his delirium. There was a puncture wound in his arm that glowed red and hot from some kind of poison. She wrapped a cloak over him, Quinn threw him over his shoulder, and the party started back for Restwell Keep.

The darkening clouds that had been threatening all day finally opened wide as afternoon turned to evening. With the added burden of Gordi it took longer to reach their new home. Questioning him along the way, the got the barest bit of a picture of what happened. Jumped from behind after work by unknown assailants, he was knocked out and woke up with the lizards all around him. He kept repeating “No more lizards…”

The fat, jolly friar was waiting impatiently just inside the gates as the party trudged up the road towards the keep. Benwick couldn’t wait to see his friend and rushed forward to help with Gordi. He seemed very relieved that the man was alive, and congratulated the party on their success. He handed Gordi off to his assistant Juriel, and with half the party, the took Gordi to Benwicks apartment to see to his health, while Benwick led the other half of the party to the tavern for a meal.

As the first group saw to Gordis health, the second sat and spoke with Benwick for a moment, who informed tham that he had a room reserved for their use, and that he had spies set out around Ronnicks bank. If anything happened, he would know where to find them. Otherwise, in the morning, if Gordi was feeling better, they would deal with the corrupt banker.

So saying, he left the inn and met the other half of the party in the town square, just coming in from getting Gordi settled. Benwick told them the same thing he told the others, and ambled off towards home. Meanwhile, the little Halfling Merrick watched Benwick leave the tavern, and was surprised to notice another of his kind tucked in behind the coat rack next to the door, spying on them. The other Halfling saw he was spotted and slipped out behind Benwick. The party followed and regrouped outside the tavern just as the Halfling spy set off an ambush of thugs crouching in the shadows of the rain-soaked town square.

There were many thugs, but the majority wore rags and carried improvised clubs. They were led by 3 ‘captains’ with heavy iron maces and hardened leather armor, and by the Halfling spy who turned to attack once his allies were engaged with the party.

The battle was fast and furious, and it was surprisingly dangerous for the party. The minions went first and they all charged, two on each fighter, and one got a lucky hit on the other wizard Berrian. The dwarf held the north end of the battle, while Quinn the knight held the south. The bandits were next to go, and two of them held back and threw daggers, while the third charged the wizard Faverel. Next up Merrick the Crazy climbed a nearby building. First he threw his dagger and did massive damage against one of the thugs, and next turn he followed it up by leaping off the building onto the thugs back, driving a second dagger next to the first.

On the third round of combat, each of the wizards and the Halfling rogue went down. Faverel was cut off on the other side of the town square, and the mace man prepared a coup de grace. The wizard Berrian couldn’t stand up to the thugs at close range, and poor Merrick, after flying off the roof, was caught between two thugs and took a double pummeling.

The cleric was dazed by one of the mace men, but even with butterflies buzzing around her head, she still managed to stay standing, and cast a healing spell that healed Berrian with a little left over for Merrick. Poor Faverel was down and out, and slipped closer to eternal slumber with each passing second. Luckily, he had help when Quinn turned his back on the thug he was sparring with to run to stand over Berrian. He couldn’t heal him, but he could make life difficult for the mace man trying to splatter Faverels brains onto the cobbles.

Meanwhile a group of children had taken up watch from an alleyway and were chucking rotten potatoes at the robbers, who were strangers to the townsfolk. As Quinn took out the thug threatening Faverel, the slayer was chopping through the minions on his end of the field. One thug remained standing, and the slayer turned his anger on his enemy. Just as he swung his axe for the kill a starving dog ran out into the melee and the dwarf grabbed that dog and hit the thug twice, once with his axe, once with the dog, killing him. The battle was won, though it was a close call.

Hopefully their bowls of gruel were still warm.

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a little like this maybe

Last week saw two opposing teams of gladiators join sides to form a small army in an effort to defeat the trickery of the Templar of Tyr, Insadorous, overseer of the eastern wastes. After the successful abduction of the young queen who had come to the arena to watch her champions defeat the hand-picked team of Insadorous, the templar invaded the arena and attempted to disarm the gladiators. He did not, however, reckon on his recently press-jumped team of veteran combatants to side with their erstwhile opponents, and the templar was forced into a pitched battle as he invaded through the front gate backed by 4 of his elite street mansabars. From the stands near where the White Rose sat, his 5 mercenary soldiers jumped down to surround the heroes of the White Rose.

Surrender your arms, this contest is over! the templar cried, but the gladiators had a different idea. As one, they proclaimed themselves for the White Rose, and as they did so they were healed of wounds they had suffered in combat. The White Rose had suspected treachery, and so she had prepared against it by secretly casting a ritual which would send out a wave of primal healing magic to those on the arena floor if the lawful covenant of gladiatorial combat were broken. Her suspicions proved correct, and though she was blinded and abducted by unknown assailants, the ritual she prepared healed her gladiators as well as the new-comers who had been warned that they fought on the wrong side of justice.

Templar

The wizard Navarra es the first to react to the changed situation. Her spells require her to be perceptive of the positions of all her opponents, and though none had struck in anger yet, the close grouping of Insadorous and his mansabars was too good a target to resist, and she cast a spell that would ignite them all. The crowd cheered and booed the battle as if it were just another match, though its outcome would change the plans of everyone involved.

After the flaming burst, the rest of the champions sprung into action, with half the party heading towards the band of mercenaries closest to where the White Rose was abducted, and the other half facing off against the templar and his badge-wearing thugs. After the wizard, Felipe unleashed her hoard of buzzing insects against Insadorous and his men. The hexblade saw the wizard was too close to the line, and used his magic to switch places with her.

Dwarf Slayer

On the other end of the field, they faced off against a crazed shirtless dwarf with spiked red hair and beard and a great chunk of petrified tree-limb for a club. He charged towards Thokk, not liking the look of the green-skinned barbarian. Behind him bounded a thri kreen with his whirling claws. Then leapt down another half-giant, also wielding a tree limb club. He smiled as he saw another of his kind on the field, and after snapping the neck of one of the surviving bodyguards of the White Rose, he leapt onto the field heading towards Kindrock.

The next to go was the mul chainfighter. This tough had a spiked chain he whirled and struck out with. He too attacked the half orc Thokk, but when he saw the wizardess alone and unprotected, he struck out with his chain. It tore through her robes as it lashed around her and with a powerful yank, he brought Navarra spinning into his arms, grabbed. For two rounds she struggled against his iron grip until Hex saved her again, this time by force pushing the mul into the quicksand in the center of the field.

The 5th enemy to leap out of the sands was the elf warrior, wearing leather harness and wielding obsidian short swords. He knocked Sharia unconscious with his surprise attack, but was himself surprised in turn. As darkness enveloped the kidnapping of the White Rose, the abductors thought they had pulled an undetected heist. However the archer Tara was down below, and just before the abduction Tara was awakened by the tinkling of bells. Then she heard a loud gonging, more bells, and before she was fully awake, she felt the presence of some one in the slave pens with her, but they were gone as quickly as they came. She rushed up the stairs, notching an arrow as she went, and arrived just in time to place a long deadly quarrel in the evil elfs back. Tara followed up with a second arrow that brought him to the ground, the crowd went wild.

The battle ended when Insadorous and his last remaining mansabar Capt Lederhosen were felled beneath a roaring audience, but there was little time for the exultation of the crowd. The White Rose, thier queen, their hope, was kid-napped! She must be rescued, and they had the first lead. They spoke for a moment with Ocham the old one eyed elf peddler and Ellodar, one of the surviving eladrin. Niether had any information, so the party followed up on Taras clue and descended into the slave pens beneath the Sabratha Coliseum. They also collected the bag of gold thrown into the ring at the start of the battle, and found 1,000 gold coins. Not the gold-enameled ceramic trade coins in use, but true gold coins, worth twice the amount of trade coins. The survivors each got 120 gold coins.

Up or down?

There is a door in the slave pens beneath the Sabratha that stands out for its strangeness. It is of solid stone and the heavy hinges are crafted such that it strives always to remain closed The outward facing side of the doorway looks beaten and bashed. Through the doorway is a landing with passageways branching upwards or down into darkness either way. When the door is ajar, a wind picks up that increases until it is a howling gale, but stops with a great swirling of dust and debris when the door is finally shut. 80 feet up the ascending passageway is a wooden door, locked. Similarly, the steeper sloping descent also ends at a door after only 40 feet. It is stone and unlocked.

They found the first white rose petal curled in the dust inside the door. The party shuffled into marching order and began ascending the passageway, keeping a wary eye. The only thing Poppy noticed with her mystically sharp almond eyes was that the floor tiles at the top of the stairs seemed cracked and damaged. She stepped forward to inspect the locked door for traps, but as her fingers brushed its surface the trap was sprung. A trapdoor above her opened and a 2 ton spherical boulder dropped onto them. It careened into the ground, smashing everything in its path and bounded down the steep passage,barely fitting. Everyone was smashed, dazed, and knocked prone by the boulder as well as cracked and broken bones except the little halfling Kina, who managed to squeeze in the crack where floor met wall and so missed its tumultuous rolling.

As they stood up and shook away the butterflies spinning around in their minds (boar headed butterflies of Felipe to be exact) they heard the boulder strike the door they recently passed through, before continuing its crashing way down the lower tunnel. Poppys keen ears did not hear it crash into the door she knew was at the bottom of that descent, and she looked up in fear just in time to see the boulder once again drop above.

This time Felipe and Navarra were able to avoid the worst affects, one by transforming into insects, the other by timing her fey step . Meanwhile they discovered the means of disabling the trap, and working together, the arcaninsts among them caused the teleportation field to collapse, and the trapdoors instantly slammed shut. They heard the thump of the boulder above them, but the disarming was successful. Kindrock burst through the locked door like he was charging into battle against a slab-sided enemy of solid oak.

Fey-shadow Market

The open dooway revealed a large chamber under a great dome of sand. THe lightin was dim, from an unknown source, and a mist hung in the air. It looked to be an elven market. Ubiquitous throughout Athas, the elven markets in every city shared common traits. Often near the slave trading and gladiator fighting, the elven makets were filled with tents and other meager shanties and shacks. Under the vault of sna,d this market looked as though it had been abandoned for some time. A forest of mushrooms and other fungi grew in the chamber, and a thick mat of intertwining roots lay covering everything. Near the center of the market was a stone stage and a giant mushroom grew upn it with roots going off in every direction. There were several man-sized mushrooms that seemed to shift or move slightly, as though they were recently disturbed. Positioned around the chamber are strange floating whose tendrils hang down to brush against the carpet of roots.

Into this the chamber the characters snuck along the wall to the left or right of the entrance, trying to get into position before they had the inevitable conflict with these mushroom men. When everyone was in position, Felipe moved into the front ranks of the tallest mushrooms and unleashed her hoard of insects within. As she exploded, she set off a round of explosions as one gas bag after another exploded into poisonous spores. Poppy ducks into the nearest tent to avoid a nearby floating gas spore, and she comes face to face with the skeleton of an elf, seated hunched over in a chair grasping a big bag of gold coins in its lap.

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This is the story of Sharia, sword mistress of the Eladrin of Mithrendoom, and how she came to be known as the Princess of the Flame.

Part 1 Sharia and the Flame Spirit

Sharia pulled back on the leather reins and forced her bulky war camel to slide to a halt through the loose sand of the desolate boulevard. Dismounting, she patted its rump and gave it a small push to let it know it was free to wander.  The inix-shell armor barding radiated the crimson rays of the noonday sun as the camel ambled off, leaving Sharia alone in the open space.

She let the scarf fall from her face and relished the breeze on her sun-pinked skin, blinking the ever present dust from her wide almond eyes.  Pulling off her turban allowed her to shake her hair free, and for a moment it looked like a second sun blossomed above Sharia.  Her vibrant  red hair curled and twisted about her face, lightening to pink near the ends. Her ivory ears poked their long tapering  tips out of the tumultuous topping. They were limned in the same rosy hue of eladrin sun exposure as the rest of her youthful body.  Her people were not bred to this harsh environment – when the great city of Nazerak was in its prime (and indeed for millenai before its name was changed to Nazerak) it was surrounded by the unending preternatural wilderlands of the Fey realms.  But over the centuries, as the sands encroached on the ordinary world, so too did they diminish the Fey realms until little remained. Now her people lived on the edge of the ruins of Nazerak, and the village of Mithrendoom was a mere fragment of the glory of the lost metropolis.

Sharia turned and a smile played across her lips as she examined the ruins.  She had no interest in the old times: content to live, fight, and eventually die in the present.  For her, ancient Nazerak was nothing but a playground, an arena to test her mettle against the harsh world. She was of Mithrendoom, and her people had forsaken the old ways.  Sharia believed in the strength and glory of youth.  To die in battle was the greatest glory of her people, who knew instinctively that it was this sacrifice of blood that sustained the fairy realm, and hence her peoples survival.

The clearing was empty and the stone well stood alone at the far end of the courtyard. Sharia  sauntered towards it, the heavy curved blade at her side slapping her thigh with every step.  Her sandals were laced up her calves and she wore the same inix-shell armor as her mount. Woven harness held carefully formed plates over her most sensitive areas. She was a skilled warrior and had earned her weapons and armor in battle.  Though only 17 years had passed since she came into the world, Sharia had become a great leader in her tribe.  Her will was unshakable, being a warrior who saw every sunrise as her last. She was tall and lithe and her strides were long and measured as she made her way across the sandy courtyard.

The rubble of old buildings lined an area that must have been a market square.  Occasional cobblestones poked through the sand along with briar thorn bushes and cacti of various shapes, colors and sizes.  Nazerak was unique in that it was built over vast subterranean water resources so long ago, yet even now plants that could not flourish anywhere else, might find a protected niche in Nazerak. Around the base of the well, between its sinking roots, grew the tiny Nimbis flower, which blooms twice per day.  At dawn it has a small white blossom that closes as the suns rays touch upon it, but at dusk it re-opens in shades of blue.  The Nimbis only grows near water, and there were always blooms around the Well of Flame.  This was the only known place to get fresh water by day within many long leagues. Finding water at night in the cursed city of Nazerak is a tale for another time.

She stood over the well and marveled.  It was gray stone, the gnarled petrified trunk of a tree that once swayed in breezes long gone from this world.  The trunk was hollow, and seemingly bottomless.  Even as Sharia peered into the darkness she caught the first glimpse of the spirit of the flame as it scampered up the shaft, a red spark of light circling ever closer until with a leap that caused Sharia to step back from the sudden heat, the creature landed on the rim of the well. It was the approximate size of a house pet, with a coat of burnished flames and a long flickering tail of fire, perpetually ablaze.  It licked a paw a few times, sniffed the air, became extremely interested in something happening behind the paladin.  Sharia stood transfixed.

After a moment, the spirit of flame took notice of Sharia for the first time.  His gaze turned her way as his dark orbs inspected the girl.  After a while of this, Sharia felt a tugging at the back of her mind, and she realized the spirit of flame was attempting to communicate.  She kneeled, bringing her face close to the spirits.  It did not flinch or move away, and the intense heat lessened as it shook out its ruffled fiery fur. By concentrating she was eventually able to hear words of the spirit echoing in her mind, though there was no outward sound.  It seemed to be telling its story.

…and when the trees turned to stone, I was cast out to wilt in the sand. For days I lay there and the sun burned away all that I was.  But I was not fated to die. I had served Nazerak in its glory, and now  I would serve her still in ruination.  My skin, so dry and cracked, burst into flame when I rose and the rays of the sun strengthened the flames that consumed my old body and now you see me as I have become, a spirit of flame. For a moment the spirit looked down upon her perch, at the whorls and ridges of rocky bark, and her little clawed feet scratched shallow lines of frustration into the stone. They were not the only scratches in the old cracked stone.  I see urns strapped to your camel.  Water urns, are they?

Sharia listened to the tale, and though it made little sense to her, she could feel the lamentation of the flame spirit for its lost tree and lost self.  The spirit was a dryad when the such a thing still existed, a spirit of the great tree of Nazerak, and its tap root sank itself into the cold swift waters of the depths.  When the spirit addressed her, Sharia was unsure how to answer.  Her upbringing had been martial and she dealt with problems with the edge of her blade. She took a proud stance, and tried to remember the words she had prepared.  “Hear me O Spirit of Flame.  My people need water to live.  This well is our only hope, we must have it.  Will you give me leave to fill my urns with yon bucket?”  She waved her hand to a silver ring set atop the wall, and a pail of the same silver lay in the sand amidst a coil of silvered cord.

The spirit continued to stare at Sharia unmoving.  You are a foolish child from a foolish people.  You forget the past and live only for todays sip of water.  Tell me how I, living flame, can provide water for your people and I will consider.  Toss the pail in and see what you pull up without my aid. Three times Sharia dropped the pail into the darkness and never hearing a splash, three times she brought it up empty.

Her voice quavering in frustration, she beseeched the spirit.  “Tell me O spirit, what must I do to gather your water for my people?”

The little spirit jumped down into the sand.  It became playful and dashed between Sharias legs and circled around her.  The flames licked about Sharia but she felt no heat.  As the spirit leapt and danced around the confused youth, it spoke again into her mind.  I have asked you a question.  How can I, the fiery anathema of cool water, bring such bounty to your people? Answer me and you take the first step to understanding. Now Sharia knew she was being tested.  They had told her, the elders, that there might be tests, and that not all who sought to become a princess of the flame were successful. Not all returned from the quest either.  Above all, none spoke of what they endured to gain access to the well. Sharia was beginning to understand.  She sat down on the edge of the well.

“O spirit, you confuse me with your riddles, but I am called wise by my brethren, so I will test my wisdom against your games.  “How can you carry water?  You are too hot for one, and too little for the quantities I need.”  Sharia paused, and her smooth pink brow furrowed in to three thin lines of concentration.  “No, you could not carry it, so there must be another way.”  The spirit of flame came and perched next to her and looked up into her face with its burning coal eyes.

“When I first met you, the heat was overpowering, but now I seem to feel a cool draft when you are near.  How can this be, O Spirit?” the girl asked innocently.  The little fire-furred animal lifted its chin off her knee, and seemed to grin as his little tongue of flame flickered out and back in.  I can burn with the heat of the sun when in need.  Other times, I am as cool as the breezes that blew through my leaves when my home was living wood instead of dead stone.  Does this knowledge give you your answer?

“Nay, Spirit of the Flame.  I am only beginning to unravel this mystery.”  She wanted to run her fingers along  his shimmering coat, but was not sure how he would react.  “How does water move without aid?  On its own, water finds the deepest cracks to spill into, always down, never up.  But if I pour water into a stone bowl, does not the suns heat burn it away?  Where then does it go, up like smoke?”

To answer that question child, would mean answering my own riddle.  Where does it go, indeed?  There was a time in the past when water fell from the sky in great torrents, have you heard such tales around your cooking fire at night?

Sharia stood with a laugh.  “Ah ha, you give me a subtle clue, sly spirit.  When I put a pot of water on my cooking fire, steamy clouds rise off the boiling water.  You, O spirit, must heat the water that lies so cold below, and vaporous billows rise up for me to gather in my urns!”  She clapped her hands together in the sudden joy of knowing she was right.

The spirit of flame seemed to catch her optimism and he danced around her.  Soon enough he jumped up onto the rim of the well and stood on his hind legs until he could place his front paws on Sharias shoulders.  Once more his two flickering coals gazed into her wide almond eyes. I give you the gift of flame. You are Sharia, princess of flame, bearer of the water of life to your people.    While you live, you command the flame that will ignite this well. So saying, he took his fluffy, burning tail and ran it through his forepaws until he collected a ball of fire. He held it out to Sharia who plucked it from his paws.  It was a ball of living flame, and it danced around her fingers, and up her arm, never injuring or burning her, though it left lines of darker pink where it rolled across her fine skin until she was criss-crossed with its markings.  It rolled down the length of her curved scimitar, Skarn, and the blades edge flickered with an inner flame.  The spirit instructed her to toss the ball of flame into the well, and a few seconds later a blast of white cloudy vapor exploded like a geyser from the well. As Sharia dashed around trying to catch the clouds of steam in her arms, the spirit of flame rolled in the sands laughing his peculiar silent laugh.  Fetch the urns, girl.

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Once more into the breach

And so we begin our 20 week adventure round and about the Keep on the Borderlands and the Chaos Scar. Played out over the next 20 weeks every Wednesday night from 6 – 8pm at The Basement Games in Zona Rosa, northland Kansas City, we follow an intrepid band of adventurers as they explore the dangerous lands outside Restwell Keep. Tonight saw a full table of 6 players, and every pre-gen saw use, however, the game didnt start until almost 7, partly because very few people showed up to play, but also because we were hanging around talking. Thankfully, my son (who plays Thokk the Half orc barbarian in my Friday night game) agreed to come with me, and the two store owners also agreed to play (dwarf slayer and halfling rogue.) With the three walk-ins (one of which had called ahead, thanks Bill!) we had us a full party. It was time to invade the borderlands, old-school style.

That brings up an area of focus on this encounters season. The fact that it is essentials, and that it has a distinct old-school vibe. I carry my books (the two essentials trade backs) in my red box starter, along with the adventure and my dice and minis. The box is my favorite part of that boxed set, and it helps set the scene for the season. Old School. FOr example, I will quote again, my opening paragraph, which is taken driectly from the introduction to the original B2 Keep pon the Borderlands, penned by the father himself, Gary Gaygax. I read it twice tonight (okay the second time was overkill, but I couldnt resist)

The Realm of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always
the forces of Chaos press upon its borders, seeking to enslave
its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasures. If
it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed
fall prey to the evil which surrounds them. Yet, there are always
certain exceptional and brave members of humanity,
as well as similar individuals among its allies – dwarves,
elves, and halflings – who rise above the common level
and join battle to stave off the darkness which would otherwise
overwhelm the land.

Following that, I took another page out of the original B2 (literally) and used the random rumor table. Following their arrival in the town, and their meeting with Friar Benwicks assistant, they had a few hours to kill, and this was an opportune time to use some skill checks to snoop around town and pick up rumors. The rogue halfling used his perception against a moderate DC to gain a roll on the rumor table. He learns the following:

Tribes of different creatures live in different caves.

The human Knight goes into the smithy and speaks with him. Surprised at his lean form, he wonders that he should do such hard work, but laughs when the smith offers an arm wrestling contest. He learns the following:

There are hordes of tiny dog-men in the lower caves.

And so on. A few more rumors are heard, and some more towns folk are met, before the dinner with Benwick. The jolly friar spins his yarn and asks the characters for aid. When payment was brought up, he replies that he is just a poor beggar, but that bankers tend to have lots of gold lying around, and that they could keep any treasure they looted. It was agreed. And so they went back into town, for even more snooping around, checking out the inn, everyone loves a gorgeous half elven worshiper of the goddess of luck, no? Worship services 10 gold per hour. Finally, I knew we were going to run late, so I had to push them forwards with an OK, time to roll initiative! That line there will always focus the table. That is old school. (And there is much to be said for the surprise round, which is another great kick-in-the-door way to begin a battle.)

Deciding to eschew any fancy sneaking and peeking I just had them show up at the entrance, place their miniatures on the edge of the board, and roll initiative. I love this method, which I discovered through encounters. It seems like prior to Encounters, the parties I DMed for would do everything they could to avoid actually triggering encounters, always sneaking up, peeking, getting ready and attacking from the furthest range possible, but with the Encounters program it is like BOOM there are enemies 10 feet in front of you, what do you do? That is old school.

The initiative was rolled and the rogue went first he tumbled sneakily into the room before launching a dagger at the sneaky slitherer near the pit, bloodying it with his ranged back-stab. The fighter was next, and he charged the drake, and the two clerics charged after him, until there was a front line. Next darts came flying out of nowhere to strike the dwarf, thief and fighter. I described them as being a small wound that instantly turned red and burning. For a moment they felt light-headed, as though they were about to pass out, before shaking it off (this represents the special critical power) The next round, the lizard man darters were revealed atop the darkened ledge at the far end of the room. There were 4 of them and they held long bamboo blowguns.

Then Kesk the draconian mocked them for rushing in without proper greetings and charged into the fray. His battle axe caused much grief amongst the party, and the halfling was struck by a big whirling attack, barely surviving. He was then caught in the breath attack, which knocked him unconscious.

The wizard, far to the back of the party, suffered naught but a single darts damage throughout, and killed two of the enemy, the first with his magic missile, and the second, when he slew the twice-electrocuted drake. The drake was electrocuted when Kesk, who was revealed to have blue scales, unleashed a cloud of lightning breath attack. His drake Fido, was caught in the blast and suffered a critical for max damage.

All four of the healing words of the cleric were used in this tough, but easily won battle. the dwarf was especially hilarious., He had enough movement to charge up the side of the cliff at a minion, and only needed to roll a 3 to pass his athletics check. He rolled a 1. In old school style, I had him land flat on his back, ending his turn (thinking back, 1d10 damage would’ve been evil.) What was worse, was that after that poor dwarf slayer laid there prone an entire round, he stood up, and charged up that cliff again, this time rolling a 2. At this point I intervened as DM, demanded he spend his action point, and he rolled a 12 to make it up the hardest cliff of that young dwarfs life. He slew the minion, and as the final act of the night, slew the last remaining minion, using power attack for good measure.

Great night, fun adventure, and I Cant wait to see how the season pans out. I am planning on going really old school. Oh yes.

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The original classic reborn

Tomorrow night marks the opening night of Dungeons and Dragons Encounters Season 3: Keep on the Borderlands, chapter 1 of 5: Seasons of Serpents. Nice title. Kingly, even. I will be DMing at a brand new store, Basement Games in Zona Rosa. The store opened recently, and is very near to where I live, thus am I doubly interested in its success!

The Realm of mankind is narrow and constricted. Always
the forces of Chaos press upon its borders, seeking to enslave
its populace, rape its riches, and steal its treasures. If
it were not for a stout few, many in the Realm would indeed
fall prey to the evil which surrounds them. Yet, there are always
certain exceptional and brave members of humanity,
as well as similar individuals among its allies – dwarves,
elves, and halflings – who rise above the common level
and join battle to stave off the darkness which would otherwise
overwhelm the land.

Restwell Keep on the borderlands of the Chaos Scar

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Two bands of survivors struggled through the wastelands of Dark Sun. One group, the heroes of Winterhaven, came from another place, cast into the world as retribution for killing one too many daughters of the Lord of Time and Space. The other group had conquered the Fury of the Wastewalker in fifteen harrowing weeks across the desert, through the mountains, into the forest ridge, out of the cook-pots of cannibals, and finally to the capital city Tyr. Like sturdy cable woven of individual threads, these two groups would merge into one in an epic event that would shake the foundations of the ruined city of Nazerak.

In the Sabratha Coliseum, the champions of the White Rose fought for their rights to claim the city, first against other eladrin, then against their shadow cousins, before the planned finale which would be against the chosen bodyguards of the Templar of Tyr Insadorous, governor of the eastern Wastes. But as afternoon turned to evening with no sign of Insadorous, there were whisperings of trouble brewing.

Meanwhile, miles away, 5 weary explorers crested a dune to finally gaze upon the sight they sought: a deep valley in the dunes was filled with the stone remnants of a petrified forest, ringing the ancient wind-swept streets of a deserted city. To the south, hours away through the jagged pillars and beams stood the cities largest intact structure, the coliseum, and smoke fires could be seen rising from the area. Suddenly, an eladrin stepped out of the dunes and asked the party if they were there to rob and plunder or if they were seeking freedom, and they replied appropriately. (By hemming and hawing, and beating around the bush of course.) The eladrin warned them that tyrants of Tyr were approaching, but that if they proclaimed themselves for the White Rose when in need, then they would be saved from the Templar.

As the eladrin vanished, thugs of the templar appeared, riding on their harnessed war-birds. They are a familiar sight in the city of Tyr, who suffer under the oppression of a tyrannical sorceror king, but they are a surprise so far from the city walls. The templar thugs surrounded the Wastewalker Furiosos and marched them to the templars camp in the market square out front of the Sabratha Coliseum. Insadorous tells them they must fight for him in the arena tonight, but that if they are victorious, they shall be rewarded with gold and riches from the plundering of Nazerak. They had little choice but to obey.

Meanwhile, the champions of the White Rose met with her as she joined in the crowded stands. She told the party that there was intrigue afoot, and that she had prepared a healing ritual that would protect them by healing anyone who called out to her while in the arena. This would prevent foul play, but it could only be invoked if the sanctity of the lawful combat were broken.

Soon Insadorous marched in carrying a bag of gold coins. He tossed them carelessly into the silt sand in the center of the arena, where burnished gold dazzled in the reflection of the four flaming braziers in the corners of the arena. Old Ocham, the one eyed ancient elf peddler had a look of shock and dismay and uttered a squeal of pain as he recognized the vintage of the elven stamped gold. These coins were minted by his ancestors a millennium or more removed. Part of the reason Ocham signed his elves up for this mission was the hope of finding the lost elf hoard of Nazerak, and here was a bag of that hoard thrown casually into the dust. His jaw yammered as he searched for the words to express his outrage but Insadorous gave him no time. Call this fight! My champions have arrived, and I am adding this bag of gold to the victors as incentive.

Fight in the Sabratha Coliseum

In one corner, with home field advantage, we have the champions of the White Rose. 4 strangers to the land who have managed to survive and even prosper in the harsh world. Poppy the little elf with a big sword; Felipe the fierce, and lover of pink; Thokk the Half Orc, the one and only orc (or not orc, depending on where you side in that debate) and Sharia the Paladin Princess of the Flame. In the other corner we have Insadorouses conscripted combatants, a motley group of 5 toughened survivors. Two were halflings, of the non cannibal tribes, Midget the intimidating sorceress and Kina the paladin, in shining chitinous armour of insect plates. In front stood the warriors, one one side Hex Hackenstab (amiright?) the githyanki space cowboy swordmage-warlock and on the other end loomed the rocky outcropping that is Kindrock. Navarra held the central position, an eladrin practitioner of the arcane arts from a distant clan.

The White Rose sent out a telepathic communication to every one on the field that she suspected foul play. They must follow the ancient rules of the arena and fight to their best abilities, but that if foul play occurs, a ritual is prepared that will heal any of her allies of injuries suffered through the interrupted match.

DMs Aside: Yes, you read it right, dear reader, I have set two groups of PCs up to fight each other. This is a tricky situation. There have been a few occasions where one characters has turned on another (usually some form of domination) but I have never played out an entire PvP battle before. In a way it was a risk as there is lots of tension in a battle, and it is possible for that to turn into annoyance or even resentment. Luckily none of that happened, an everyone had a great time with it, but it was a worry of mine beforehand. The telepathic message of the White Rose was the key to the two separate groups coming together, as they would be healed of injuries suffered together, and made allies as we shall soon read. Final thoughts on the experiment are that character vs character combat can be fun, but there are limits to how far it can go before fun turns into annoyance. I think that fun lasts until right about the bloodied level, possibly the knocked unconscious level, but never the coup de grace and loot the corpse level, at least for half those involved.

The first to act was quick Felipe who charged the center, where her clouds of boar-faced goring butterflies could do the most damage. Unfortunately for Felipe, the opponents were ready, and as she stumbled, they knocked her into the shifting quicksand in the center of the field. Restrained, immobilized, and chagrined, Felipe continued to fight from range until she could break free when the tables turned. Felipe took the center of the arena and stayed there until the very end.

The swordlock Hex attacked the elf avenger Poppy, and they traded blows on Poppys end of the field near the northwest brazier. Kindrock charged Thokk and the two massively built axe wielders held nothing back as they fought toe to toe. The wizard was next and she brought down the cold rays of moon magic on the heads of Felipe and Thokk, and the half orc howled in rage Thokk! as his sun burned skin peeled off and sheets of blood splashed into the sands of the Sabratha. The crowd erupted in cheers for Navarra, who felt the glory of the arena crowds for the first time.

Instantly the sands near the center of the arena erupted and two thorny brambles rose from the sand. They began rotating faster and faster until they tore free of the ground, and picking up sand, stones, and shards of obsidian, they flitted randomly across the field before exploding into an avalanche of blinding sands. Both Hex and Poppy were subjected to the first dust devils blinding attack. Only Poppys magic saved her, but Hex was blinded. Sharia attacked the dust devil nearest them. The other dust devil moved into the back ranks of the new arrivals, and both the wizardess Navarra and the halfling Kina were blinded by the wretched air spirits. Poppy saw her chance and slashed at her opponent and brought Hex to his knees in one final blow. Exaltation from the cheering crowds rained down glory upon her.

Almost as if some signal was given, the moment he falls, everyone on the arena floor hears a message from the White Rose. Proclaim yourselves and be healed, there is treachery… before her message is cut off by a scream from the stands. Looking over,the entire area is covered in a darkness deeper than mere shadows. A magical blackness has descended over the area. First one, then a second eladrin body goes flying onto the sands, slain.

Seconds later, the main gate slams open and in charges the templar Insadorous behind 4 of his men, the scourge wielding thugs. Near the pools of darkness that hangs over the area around the White Rose, 4 more of the Templars men leap down into the stands with their weapons drawn. The first is the dwarf chieftain. He has a red mowhawk, his beard is oiled into three long red spikes, and he wields a greatclub. Next to him leaps a mantis man, and then a half-dwarf mul, and a another thug wielding a length of chain with cruel barbs and spikes. In the stands a 5th thug could be seen strangling an eladrin bodyguard of the White Rose.

As Insadorous shouts out Put your weapons down and surrender! the darkness lifts, and the White Rose is nowhere to be seen. The gladiators on the field have each decided to work together, and proclaiming themselves for the revolutionary queen, every combatant is healed up to their first-bloodied level. Enemies instantly become allies as they see themselves surrounded by a greater evil. Now the real fight begins…

Afterword: The battle continues on for a surprise round and the first round of combat before we had to call it for time, so I will append any description of this battle against Insadorous and his thugs to next week. This week saw the addition of five new players to the game, bringing the number of characters to nine. It was incredibly fun to have nine players around my table, and I am so so glad, that after all the work and all the nervousness, and the preparation, and everything I went to wondering how to make sure that it was fun and awesome (which I really have to do every week so no big deal, but still…) after all that, Im just so glad my table was actually big enough to fit everyone.

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The grand finale of Dark Sun Encounters: Fury of the Wastewalker is finally here. For 15 weeks now, our dauntless party has been chased across Athas by the furious Wastewalker. They started oh so long ago as the only survivors of a freak storm, but as they fled across the desert seeking shelter, they realized the storm was more than it appeared. It was tracking them, herding them towards its allies, the sun-baked reptilians of the region. With reptilians, sussurans, silt runners, and the obsidian storm hot on their heels, they found a cave entrance in the Ringing Mountains. A new leg of their journey began as they explored the ancient tomb and searched for a way to escape. After defeating the undead horrors (and bunnies) they emerged on the far side of the mountain range, in a forested land of legend. They were instantly captured by the cannibal Halflings who protected and defended this preserved land. They escaped the Halflings, fought the weird denizens of this wet land while trying to escape back over to their side of the mountains. After 15 weeks on the run, just outside the gates of safety and refuge, the capital city of Tyr, they were confronted by the wrath of the Wastewalker in all his fury.

Due to vagaries of existence, only four players were able to attend the final episode, and their characters were Phye II, Yuka the Strongman, Navarra the Wizardess, and Kindrock the unkillable. For those I have had the pleasure of dming for this season, thanks for the great times, I look forward to future opportunities to kill your characters. (I will also be DMing season 3 of Encounters at a new location starting next week, hint hint.)

Over the course of this season I have had the pleasure for DMing for nine or so regular players. Another five or six played once or twice, most of whom were friends of other players or had found their way to my table somehow or another. Many of these people had never played the game before and I feel like my chance to teach the game and to show how much fun it can be has helped add new players to our hobby. For this I am grateful, and satisfied that I am helping expand the hobby I love. A few others, after playing at my table, have gone on to become DMs themselves, and for this I am doubly pleased: I was once one of those players who saw the chance to guide a group of unique individuals on a journey through the imagination, to create and populate worlds of my own, and to describe in great gory detail every piercing, stabbing, head-exploding, worlds-colliding moment of that journey. What could be better?

Only one thing stood before the heroes and their destination, the Wastewlker and his allies, arrayed before them for battle.

Yuka. Brawler, strong-man, wrestler. He could push a mountain with the right footwear. He has torn spiders off ceilings, and ridden them crashing to the floor like subterranean rodeo. He has grappled dust devils of living swirling stones and shards. He has grabbed lizard men and thrown them from their rocky perches. He is Yuka, indomitable. No one passes Yuka without a swing of his weapon. He may not always hit, but he ALWAYS has a presence. And he has not fallen. During the final encounter, he led the charge and drew the enemy to him like kestrekel to a fresh corpse. In the center of the battlefield, he grappled and shoved the reptilian in front of him while parrying the one to the side and back. With help from Phye, his battle sweat ran clear until he was the only one standing, dead or fled were those he fought. After his work on the front line, he charged back to a reptilian threatening the wizardess Navarra, and finally stood toe to toe with the Wastewalker, a sun warped reptilian sussuran who had gained control of vast primal forces. A deadly storm of obsidian shards swirled about him.

Kindrock. The Rock. Kindrock has faced every challenge with the edge of his great axe. He has hewed his way through innumerable enemies. Kindrock despises his foes, and laughs at every pin prick and paper cut he receives. Kindrock armors himsefl in blood, his own and his enemies, and he has been bathed in moire gore than any other among the party. Kindrock the statue. Though slashed, bruised, bloodied, and wounded, toppled even, he rebounds to full power like a regenerating tembo. When Kindrock falls, he rises stronger than before. His single minded objectivewas the Wastewalker from the moment the arch villain appeared, and he had a plan. Eschewing his usual tactics, he hurled his great axe fifty feet tough the air. Flashing in the sun as the cruel axe twirled, it struck the wastewalker and in a flash, axe, wastewalker, and obsidian storm were instantly transported within easy reach of Kindrock. From Kindrocks opening move, the fate of the Wastewalker was sealed, it was merely a question of how he would meet his particular doom. Kindrock knew the answer to that as well.

Navarra, wizardess. Mystical, brilliant, and level headed, Navarra has a solution to any and every problem. Most of them involve blowing someone up. She has a magic missile and she knows how to use it. Cool, calm, and collected, she lets her allies charge wildly into the fray, then picks off her enemies one by one. In this final battle, that plan went fine until a sussuran broke free of the line and came hurtling her way with a massive club. No matter, she had a plan for that as well, and blasted him away from her, but even she felt the pain of the Wastewalkers ever-present shard storm and sent her arcane magic to torment him until he was slain.

Phye, noble warrior. Phye was a tactical warrior who charged into battle with spirit and boosted allies with ardour. Phye helped Yuka when he was surrounded, and then attacked the Wastewalker. Phye was a front line soldier as well as a healer, and though the ardent could save others this battle, it was almost inevitable that Phye, so low on reserves, would fall before the last enemy was defeated. Luckily, the last vision was of the Wastewalker meeting his final doom before the shard storm let out a blast of damaging lightning, knocking Phye out for the end of the battle. Out, but having done diligent duty, and performed admirably, such is Phye, noble warrior.

And so the Fury of the Wastewalker was ended forever, and the heroes made it safely back to their home city, wiser, stronger, and richer in both treasure and experience. But all things must come to pass, and so our time in Dark Sun is at an end. As summer ends, and the colors of the leaves change, so must the seasons of Dungeons and Dragons Encounters come to an end, but only in order to make room for something, bigger, better, badder than before. The Red Box makes its return this month, and there is a keep on some strange borderland somewhere and methinks it needs heroes willing to drive away the evil that surely must threaten.

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