Archive for January, 2011

A Rogues Gallery of Painted Ravenloft Boardgame minis

This is a gallery of how I spent my winter weekend. I have a pile of duplicate miniatures, and a box full of brand new Ravenloft Boardgame miniatures that I put off painting for a long time now. After a shopping trip to the local crafts store (Hobby Lobby) where I picked up the entirety of my supplies for under twenty – and that includes a mechanical pencil and some fabric for the kids – I was ready to begin.

In brief, I had a four step process: prime, paint, blackwash, drybrush. There are tons better web sites for painting like a pro, or an artist, and they are all much better than what can be found in this guide, with one exception: this method works no matter how lazy, busy, or lacking in skill or ability one might be. In other words, any fool can achieve passable results on the gaming table, as can be observed by the multitude of enclosed pics. This is intentional, because these cheap blobs of plastic deserve little in the way of respect or attention. There are exceptions to this rule, because many of the best plastic minis Wizards of the Coast produced in its 8 year run rival any miniature I ever owned in metal, but the ones we are painting today, mostly commons, are not generally the highly detailed molds of the best. Some of the Ravenloft minis are actually of the rare or coveted very rare variety, and my painting skills break down a bit on those, but with a little more effort I think I can improve those with a few extra steps, perhaps in Part 2: junky paint jobs get touched up.

Eladrin blade mistress, wierd stab-hands guy, henchmen 2, 3

One mistake I made was to not prime the pre-painted minis, which resulted in the paint not going on as even. I think think this was due to the difference between the paint on the pre-painted, and the type of paint I was using. One might even find a way to strip the paint from the pre-painted minis, but then we are veering into non-lazy territory, and nobody wants that. For the unpainted minis, a mixed gray was the standard primer coat I applied, unless it was going to be dominated by a specific color, like green for the hag or white for the skeletons, then I would use that color for the primer coat. Saves time!

The paints I used came in 6 ounce plastic tubes and were generally under one dollar apiece. These are general acrylic crafting paints that come in a million colors, and I chose them on advice from a friend – especially after seeing how expensive were the tiny half ounce acrylic bottles in the plastic model section, four or five times the cost. The brushes came in a pack of five, and the little mixing pallet was under two dollars. I did splurge and buy the slightly more expensive silver and bronze metallic colors, and was disappointed not to see a steel or any darker metal, but no matter. For colors there was a rainbows breadth of choice, but I was going simple and economical so I got the five most basic: red, yellow, blue, green and brown. Also black and white are critical.

One thing I might do change in the future is to add to the variety of basic colors. It is much easier to mix a color when you are starting with something closer to the desired result. Also, it may have been my choice of reds, but it did a poor job of mixing, turning either to light or dark pink and muddying up any blue or yellow I added. The green and brown, while not primary colors were some of the most used, and mixed well, as did the cobalt blue. The yellow was better than the red, but not a good mixer. Having some oranges, some darker earth tones, and some more shades of the basics would help achieve better coloration.

Custom bog hag versus typical blue hag

The original might look better, but they all have their own unique look. This will be helpful when using multiple minis in the same encounter, or alternatively could be painted to add distinction to an npc or monster. After the main coat has dried, or after a few hours, the mini should be painted, using as many colors as needed. Some monsters can be done in just a few different colors, like the wolves who were black, white, and gray. Others could use more varied color, usually determined by the subject.

They do the monster stomp

After the first coat, I waited until the next day to apply the blackwash. Essentially, this step involves getting some black and diluting it, and then really diluting it, then dunking your brush in the water before lightly applying it over the mini. Start in a place that is less visible, as it is easy to get some splotches of black if its not well diluted. The black can then be brushed into the corners and details, picking them out like outlining. If an area is too black, water and brushing can help spread it around, but even after a full day, the water was in danger of washing off yesterdays paint if applied too liberally.

Another amount of hours later, it was time for the final step, dry brushing. Basically what I understand this to mean is that I take paint on the tip of a very fine brush and highlight with bright or light paint, certain details and lines and edges, cuffs, claws, teeth and blades. This to me, is the opposite of the blackwash. Where a wash creates shadows in all the grooves and corners, the brushing brings out crisp edges and flashing details.

One, two, three little gargoyles

One thing I have noticed is they look a little chalky, and I think I will need to add a final step of some kind of permanent sealant. See Part 2: Ive got paintflakes on my fingers.

Its Salt n Peppa the vampire lords, with their wolves Smoke and Frost

The vampire could use a little more work. What I think would help it would be to pick out some highlights with paint, but then sometimes it means another blackwash, or it looks too garish.

So thats it. My next batch will be done in six steps: prime, paint, blackwash, drybrush, light blackwash, sealant – either matte, or semi-gloss, probably of the brush on variety, rather than spry, due to the tiny size of the minis.

I love me some Skelelingtons

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Hi Im Camus the Catoblepas, I ll be your harbinger of doom tonight.

The Isle of Dread was a realm of mystery and danger. After the battle with the undead ritualists, Thokk began training his pet displacer beast, using his natural athletics and some measured diplomacy on the quivering creature. The body of the succubus evaporated with a shriek when she was slain by Poppy, and all that remained of her was the black iron rod she was holding. Sharia picked it up and found that it had strange magical properties allowing it to hang immovably in mid-air. The vampire witch-doctor disembodied head still wore the crown of coral, which Hex knew to be magical, along with the sacrificial dagger (+3) still clutched in her hand. The crown allowed water-breathing, which would prove useful later on. Two paths led out of the clearing. The western path was lined with halfling statues every twenty feet or so, and the southern path ha none. The clearing itself was ringed with twenty or more outward-facing halfling statues.

Even before they had caught their breaths from the exertion of combat, another long lowing sound, as of cattle, was heard. They listened as the swishing of the branches to their north revealed a large dark beast who slowly shambled into the clearing. He was cow-like, somewhere between bison and mammoth in size, with a long neck that hung low to the ground. Its skin hung loosely from its bony body but its eyes flashed brightly. Many of the heroes were susceptible to the doom-dealing glance of its eyes, and were thus drained of strength while in its presence. Only Poppy, who was a devotee of the Raven Queen, the same deity as the catoblepas, was immune to its weakening affects. Two other figures darted between the trees behind the catoblepas, not revealing themselves. “I am Camus, reaper of souls in this land. You have upset the balance and your lives are judged forfeit.”

Seeing the carnage they had wrought upon the undead, Camus was convinced to suspend judgment, as long as they killed no more lawful living creatures of the island. They then learned from the catoblepas that their were other undead on the island,and they were an abomination that he would look kindly upon if they were destroyed. He could not interfere with their fates by telling them where they were located, but he did tell them that they were led by a fearsome draco-lich. He also let slip to Sharia that there were indeed living creatures on the island of the mansion in the great western lake. Finally, when Poppy gave him one of her gems, the catoblepas left one more message – the undead were not the only abomination on the island. He then knocked over a halfling statue with a swish of his tail. The stone halflings were also spirits lost to his mistress. One final agreement between the harbinger of doom an the heroes of WInterhaven granted them the right to kill as long as they killed more undead than otherwise.

So saying, they continued on the southen path, leading towards the lake and not lined by the unusual creepy halflings, each standing at attention or slumped over his spear, with little more than loin-cloths and a few bone adornments. The path followed a small stream that grew until it was a rivulet as they stepped out of the boggy forest to the lakes edge, which was a smooth grassy lawn in either diretcion as far as the eye could see (2.4 miles) Searching the area they found the week old remains of a camp, and spent a peaceful night under the blaring stars. The displacer beast, after another bout of half-orc athletic diplomacy, spent the night guarding itself against the guard who was on guard duty. Furious but afraid, it was not taking well to captivity, and its tentacles slithered and smacked.

The next day, Hex went for a walk along the lake bottom. At a depth of 100 feet, it became very deep and very dark. He began his return to the surface, and for a moment, felt he may have disturbed something… ominous. On shore, the island was just visible by the tallest member of the group, and thus it was estimated to be 11 miles away. (( \kappa=\sqrt{\left(\frac{R+h}{R}\right)^2-1}\ . )) They needed a boat, and Hex didnt see any sign of habitation on his underwater tour. Neither was anything found on shore, other than a week old work site, where the tanning of hide and the stretching of sinew was performed. They needed to make a boat, and Felipe leapt into the woods to find the perfect wood – strong, but flexible, and she found a stand of bamboo like trees right near their camp. She and Thokk performed the harvesting, while Poppy tied the bamboo together with her knotting skills. Ria took a leadership role, and spent her time inspecting the boat. Sharia and Hex also did important things to help. They wound up with a twenty foot square raft, with bamboo stakes pointing out of every side. It also had a small sail, but was meant to be rowed. They camped another night, and on the net sunrise, they began their journey across the lake.

Great lake kraken - devourer of rafts

Hex was underneath the boat, and at the halfway mark, he was the first to see the dark shape rising from the bottom, a large open mouth, two black rolling eye, and enormous spiked tentacle reaching up towards them. When it was fifty feet down, he knew its maw was big enough to swallow the raft whole. He climbed up onto the raft. And so began a doubled up effort to paddle the raft out of its trajectory. Ria cast her spell of non-agression down at the kraken, buying them a moment which she used to temporarily blind it. Most spent the time paddling as hard as they could. A part of the lake surrounding them had turned into crashing thrashing waves, and they sought to pull ahead. Hex, Felipe, Thokk, and Sharia all paddled, but Poppy used her magical skills to cause distracting, shimmering images in the water behind them.

The kraken was quick to shake of the divine peace from the cleric, ad it resumed its blind charge upwards, to broach the surface and smack it huge beak-like maw where the raft had been. They had managed to paddle just out of its reach. In blind rage, it thrashed its tentacles, but Thokk and Sharia both managed to dodge them. Now the counter attack began in earnest. Hex was first to react and in pure swordlock madness, he launched himself (while images of green devil faces danced in his mind) across the ten feet of thrashing waves to stab maniacally into the kraken and hang precariously from its mega beak. Thokk paddled while managing to convince his captive displace beast to lash at the kraken with its own tentacles.

The rest of the crew spent their efforts either paddling furiously towards the beach 5.5 miles away one square at a time, or attacking with their scant ranged powers, until the kraken regained its sight and launched itself at the raft. Its maw and tentacles latched onto the raft and began to crush and devour it. The raft buckled, split, and snapped, but somehow survived the initial clenching attack. But the next act of the kraken burst the raft asunder, sending them all into the lake, Those with metal armour had to expend all their effort to remain afloat, Ria in her chain, began to sink, but amazingly managed to swim close enough to Hex , that he hatted her with his coral crown. Poppy hacked away at the tentacle that held her, severing it and dropping he into the water. Thokk was also held by a tentacle. He went berzerk and in two swipes of his axe, severed the tentacle that held him and bit deep into the hard shell beak of the kraken. (Over 70 and 50 damage by the two raging attacks.) He began to sink, but held his head above water. The panther screeched like any feline dumped into cold water and paddled away. Sharia also began to sink, but with a burst of effort she pulled her arm up and out of the water, launching Skarn across the chopping waves. Like a streak of flame it struck the cracked beak of the kraken and blew it apart like broken crab-shell. The kraken shook and went limp, sliding down into the depths.

Over the waves, they heard the echoes of a despairing death cow, and without a second thought Poppy unked her head beneath the waves to grab the severed tentacle of the dying kaken. Calling on the Raven queen she transferred some of her life force to the kraken, healing just enough of its wounds that it might survive. When she resurfaced, she saw the bamboo gathered into bundles and everyone hanging on, while Ria read her water breathing ritual. They paddled on towards the lake and made landfall on the island, dripping and exhausted, in the late afternoon.

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The seige of Restwell

The penultimate encounter. For some reason, penultimate has always been a favorite word of mine, it just seems so…. Medieval or something. Being second best (or worst) is always under-appreciated, so having its own big and awesome word goes a long way towards alleviating the “always brides maid, never bride” feeling of being not quite the ultimate. So tonight we get treated to a real penultimate encounter, as the siege of the keep on the Borderlands continues. Due to last weeks cancellation for snow, I treated the returning characters with a brief description of what their exploits would have been had we played out the encounter.

So last week, as they stopped cold the frontal assault on the Keeps main gates, they paused to rest. The new halfling rogue, Merrick III, paused to skin a large swath of behemoth hide, and wrapping it around himself, he had a suit of armour comparable to darkleaf leather +1 (one of the magic items I divvied out to the new players – cards from the red box.) The other new players got +2 plate for the cavalier Razgar, 2 healing potions for the cleric Hagen, and an amulet of health for the new wizard Elysa. The rest of the returning players, Merrick the 1st and Kwyn the knight, were already decked out in magical finery. So, the characters heard the clarion call of Lord Drysedales commanders horn coming from the center of town, where he needed aid fighting the dragon. The characters left for the town square.

Along the way, however, they passed a house from which lizard men were spilling out. Out the windows, doors, even one crawled up and out the chimney, and as many as the party slew, more came out, until finally Merrick crawled DOWN the chimney to realize there was a tunnel they were coming through. They realized they would need to collapse the building, and a nearby catapult on the town walls was happy to oblige. That’s what the heroes would have done last week. But moving on…

The party was moving through the keep on their way to help Drysedale with the dragon. When they reached the central open area, they saw bodies sprawled across the courtyard, even some of the lords personal guard. Drysedale was nowhere to be seen, but the dragon was alive and well, leaping from roof to roof above the fray. Its eyes lit up when it saw the heroes and it roared loudly in anticipation of the blood letting. Then it unleashed its breath weapon into the narrow alley the party was creeping through, and hit them all with its spray of acid. Even the quick Halflings were drenched. Merrick the first tried to climb the building upon which the dragon crouched, laughing at their pain, but he fell from the slippery acid, and even took damage when he landed into a puddle of acid. Merrick the third, however, noticed a sewer cover in the town square and he managed to lift it and dive down, in hopes of crossing the courtyard to come up out of the other opening across the square.

From other alleys emptying in to the town square, more reptilians were approaching, specifically 2 lizard wizards each with a pair of brutish lizard man guards. Kwyn noticed Chendara, priestess, inn-keeper, and masseuse, waving from a window, and with a sign, he motioned for her to attack a lizard wizard as it passed. She struck him in the back with her holy light spell.

Then the dragon went again, being a master of battle, Yulbraxis was very swift, being able to attak twice in the amount of time any one else could attack once. He charges the cavalier razgar by dropping off the roof onto him. Being canny, the dragon actually found a spot where he could drop down and separate the cleric Hagen from the rest of the group. He then began biting, clawing and slashing at the party in front of him while keeping her occupied with his spiked tail slaps. Razgar got in an excellent blow against Yulbraxis, but unleashed a drenching of acidic blood over everyone adjacent. The party was slowly melting into a pool of acid.

Kwyn broke out of the pack, and with one of the surviving guards,he took on two of the lizard brutes and the lizard wizard. Hagen spent the round healing herself, and cast a heal towards the thief Merrick the first, who was down by acid bath. Elysa even managed to smack the dragon a good one with her staff as the dragon charged past her, then she took down a lizard man with her magic missile.

The dragon was tired of fighting, and he was losing blood fast. He decided to go for broke, and cast his gloom shroud over the gaggle in the alley, before leaping away to land on the platform in the middle of the square. But as he leapt up and over the surviving members of the party, Hagen and Quinn (while merrick the first was playing dead) each got in a whack, and did mighty damage, though it coast them another sheeting of acid blood. Merrick, however, instead of attacking, latched onto the dragons leg, and rode with him through the air to land on the platform. We ll know the rest, Merrick climbs up the back, and with a swing, and a misss, and another swing that connects, Yulbraxis head is parted from his body. With 1 hp left, Merrick slew the dragon.

On the ground unconscious was razgar, Elysa, Kwyn and hagen were nearly done for, and Merrick the third, keeping the lizardmen at bay across the map, leapt forward and slew the last lizard wizard. The square was cleared, and the looked through the inner walls, to see the last of the invading lizard men crawling over the entrance to Lord Padraigs castle.

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This week we find out heroes following a game trail down the side of the volcano towards the Dreaded Death Bog. Ahead on either side of the path looks what appears to be standing stones, but as they get closer, they are statues of two primitive halfling warriors bearing spears. The statues are extremely lifelike, and each of them depicts a middle aged warrior standing at parade rest. Examining the statues closely confirms that they are, or were, live Halflings at one time who were most likely petrified, possibly by the “stone eye basilisk” they believe to be on the island. The strange thing about the statues is that they are not fighting or fleeing.

Leaving the mystery aside, the party decides to camp, and so they find some trees to climb into off the trail, and pass a night without excitement. They do hear the lowing of a cattle echoing through the swamp, and it is a melancholy sound. When dawn cmes, they pass the statues and when the path enters the bog, it divides into three. One path curves northwards, the other path curves south, and the center path cuts straight into the bog, and this is the route the party takes. They spend the morning, stretching into late afternoon trudging through the bog until a second evening starts to descend. Ahead they hear voices, and Felip creeps forward to see a strange sight.

In a clearing near the center of the bog is a circle of standing stones, with a sacrificial alter at its center. A man lays on the alter, while two women stand over him. 5 other men stand in a semi-circle around the alter. As Felipe watches, one of the women, wearing a strange crown of coral, begins chanting a ritual. With a knife, she slashes open the chest of the sacrificial victim and pulls out its lifeless heart. She then takes a metal ring with a large red crystal and pounds it onto the open gash. At the appropriate moment, the other woman, who is strikingly beautiful, despite her red-tinged skin, the soft pink bat wings, and the horns and sharp fangs, taps the crystal with her red crystal rod, and the crystal begins glowing, and the newly created Heartless Vampire Zombie stand up and lurches over into line with his five friends. As they are dragging the 7th corpse onto the alter, Felipe, creeping invisibly closer while invisible, is noticed by one of the heartless vampire zombies who begins moaning “blooooood…”

Felipe bursts into action, and we mean that literally. S/he explodes into a furious swarm of buzzing, stinging insects, which completely destroys 4 of the heartless vampire-zombies. And with that combat ensues. Hex, Thokk, Sharia, and Poppy all charge into the fray. Sharia is first to go, and when she gets between the standing stones, she notices the wraith. An intense battle rages within the stone circle, as the heroes battle the succubus, the shadowy wraith, and the vampire witch, along with her remaining 3 minions.

Only Ria was outside that tightly confined area of battle, and she soon heard a familiar low rumbling growl as the displacer panther struck. Even as she was lifted in its tentacles, each of which was like an octopus pod but with a sharp hook in the center of each, the panther started dragging her away from the group.

As Ria was being dragged off, the rest of the crew were having their own troubles. The dark wraith stabbed Sharia with its shadow blade, and as the ghostly blade pierced her, she was blinded to all the world but for herself and the wraith. She crawled on top of the alter for better positioning. Thokk was swinging his axe at the succubus, but she deftly avoided his swinging weapon and snuck in for a kiss upon his lips. Suddenly attacking her didn’t seem like such a good idea, and he moved to another target. Hex was groped from behind by a heartless vampire zombie, who threw his long nailed arms around the swordlock and held him fast, bending in to plant his sharp incisors into Hexes neck.

Poppy faced off against the vampire witch Calypso, but she was hard to hit. Thokk eventually knocked her to the ground and used his headsman chop to send her into the afterlife. Since he was unable to attack the Succubus, along with Hex who also got kissed, Poppy stepped up and swung her massive sword in an unbelievably lucky attack that left the demon headless. Her body evaporated. By this time, Hex had disengaged and used his magic to instantly switch places with Ria. Suddenly, the panther had an unexpected prey, and this one had a much sharper pointy stabby thing then the luscious cleric.

The battle in the clearing was winding down as they chased down the last of the heartless vampire zombies down, but the real battle was just beginning as the panther found itself cornered when Thokk streaked his way across the clearing and down the path to flank the beast. Soon with the entire party surrounding and beating on the displacer panther, it was looking for a way out, but none came, and it was reduced to laying down on its side and mewling. It surrendered, and the party was left wondering what to do with a very big, very humiliated displacer panther.

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Where did the game store go?

Crazy amounts of snow are falling. With a heavy heart I feel I must cancel the game tonight. There will be a make up on Sunday at 2pm.

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The session began with the characters taking stock of their situation. They had just defeated the army of white apes that greeted their arrival in the ruined volcano temple with feral screams of challenge. They worked their way up the winding staircase to the lip of the volcano, where a small stretch of jungle overhung the steaming crater. From here, the highest vantage point on the island, they were able to take stock of their locale and spy some of the features of this island of mystery and danger, as well as discover that they had four options for descending the volcano.

The island was divided into three sections by sharp edged mountains ranges. To the north, the volcano sloped down to the coast of tall craggy cliffs which stretched the entire northern length of the island. They were able to see a fair number of flying creatures flying in and out of caves, and diving for fish between the rocks and small islets that dotted the northern waters. The creatures were large and looked to be four legged. One character thought they might be hippogriffs. This set off the imagination of some of the characters, who had visions of themselves flaying over the lands below.

To the west, the slope descended into a bog, and south of the bog, the western reaches were divided by a huge lake, with an island in its center. They could just make out what looked to be a mansion on that island, and it looked very out of place. South of the lake was an area of plains. The rolling plains led to the southwestern beaches, where they could just make out what looked like the ruins of a colony or some other walled enclave. It looked abandoned.

Heading down the mountain to the center of the island led to a raised highland plateau of broken lands and scrub. South of that was a jungle surrounded on all sides by mountains, and with a green river snaking through it, to break through the southern mountains and empty into the sea. More plains to the south showed what looked like a sunken ship in the shallows off the coast.

The eastern reaches were an area of hills closest to the volcano, and in those hills they could see large plumes of dust raised, but couldn’t tell what was causing it. South of the hills were more forest and plains, and they saw what looked like a thriving walled community. Floating in the protected bay outside the walled town was a ship with black sails.

There was another island connected to the mainland by the narrow strand of a natural stone bridge, all that remained of the mountain range where the sea had blasted through it.

Of more pressing concern was the campsite near the peak. Through the trees they could hear the hooting and calls of the silver backed apes, but they kept their distance as the party made their way to the old campsite which was made up of a torn teepee and a ring of stones for a cooking fire. On a stake planted in the ground near the fire was an ape’s head slowly decaying in the jungle heat. The fire looked weeks old, and no tracks could be found, other than ape tracks all around the campsite.

In the tent, they found a table, upon which was tacked a beautifully illustrated map of the island. The table and chair looked crudely made out of local materials, and across the back of the chair was a cured ape hide cut to be worn as a cloak. The bed was a small cot with a quilt patterned in arcane symbols. A moldering robe. Also in the room was a battered but locked chest. Thokk pried the lid open with his steel belted hands and showed little regard for the lock. Inside they found a bag of 10 small rubies, a scroll and a journal, titled “The Adventures of Shalazar Jones”.

The leather bound journal looked like it was once waterlogged. The pages were rippled and torn, and the ink was smeared. Nonetheless, it is mostly legible. The first few pages of the journal detail the sea voyage from Shalazar, the southern-most city of the main continent of D Erte, to the Isle of Dread. At least 20 days are spent on the voyage. The ship seems to become lost in a storm and is thrown up onto the southern beach of the Isle. Shalazar Jones is the only survivor. He trekked inland with a goal of reaching the top of the volcano to get his bearings. He describes a battle with a white ape, in which he was victorious, and since then the apes have not bothered him. The last few pages get harder to decipher until the last page, which is written in verse:

The mists cannot be breached nor bypassed
Without the Black Pearl held fast
The Black pearl cannot be found
Without first searching underground
The Black Pearl cannot be made
Without the natives aid
The broken planks cannot be fixed
Without woodwork masters tricks

The Black Pearl floundered castaway
Pirates have their own Black Pearl
Wizard knows but will not say
Where to search for pool a whirl
Hag knows spell, witch knows spell
Natives Know only where to fish
Tree monkeys hammer but fear the swell
Put them together and make a wish

The last few pages of the journal are empty. Also in the chest was a small wooden case that contained artists tools. The letter was written on fine vellum and was from Lady, the queen of Shalazar. It read:

By Writ of Her Highness the Immortal Queen of Shalazar

The bearer of this deed has been given the right to make an Expedition to the southern Isle commonly called the Isle of Dread on behalf of the people of Shalazar. The bearer is also entitled to demonstrate his prowess by bringing the following Fantastical creatures back to Shalazar, either the head or the living creature. For a well-preserved head, the bearer is entitled to no less than 1,000 gold pieces, and for a still breathing specimen 2,000 gold. The creatures rumoured to make their habitation on the Mysterious Isle are thus:

Fang Titan Drake
Death Cattle
Displacer Panther Packlord
Radiant Serpent
Stone Eye Basilisk

The adventurers wanted flying mounts, and so they headed north with the intention of gaining mounts, or even raiding the nests to raise hem for later. Soon however, as they were clinging to a cliff wall on a narrow natural stair that led to one of these caves, a glided into view, and it was no hippogriff, but instead had the body of a great lion, a scorpion-like tail laden with sharp thorns, and an angry old mans face. They immediately began heading back the way they came, and though the manticore saw them, it chose not to pursue.

Choosing the western route, with the intention of checking out the mansion on the way to the shore, the began coming down the mountain. The jungle had claimed the steep sides, and they followed a game trail that eventually led them into a clearing. As they crossed, unawares of course, they noticed a fragrant smell. The clearing was lined with dark purple flowers, and the ground was covered in an especially soft, spongy moss. A few of the group, the men actually, decided it was a good place to sit down and rest.

Of course, all was not as it seemed, it was an ambush, and the mossy floor began to undulate. They were sinking into the moss, and deadly acid was bubbling up, injuring them, while at the same time, their minds struggled with intense vertigo, unable to focus on the ground beneath their feet. They were under the psychic tortures of a dreaded Moss mind master. The triple M enemy was able to trawl the minds of those it was battling, and produce a duplicate made out of moss. The field was soon filled with shaggy green Hexes and Poppies. The mindmaster itself reared up off the ground and into a massive shambling mound, invisible to any who came too near by its vertigo inducing aura. It sent mind attacks to tear into the party and send their own attacks against them, while swinging a big spongy fist of dripping acid moss around. The moss duplicates cavorted around the periphery but collapsed under a direct hit.

The cleric backed to the edge of the clearing, and heard the first rumblings of a second ambush as a long sleek panther leapt out of the jungle in a surprise sneak attack. It was the same color as the lotus of the clearing, with a gaping jaw of fangs and it had strange writhing tentacles sprouting from just behind its shoulder blades. But what made the displacer panther more frightening still was that it seemed to be more than one place at once, and sometimes neither place. The cunning hunter had been waiting for just this moment to attack and it tore though the priestess scant armour, causing grievous wounds. The cleric was undaunted however, and she turned and cast a spell that instantly turned the beast into a pacifist, quelling its natural violence while the spell lasted. Rendered unable to attack the panther slunk back into the dark trees upslope, growling lowly, looking back often with its emerald eyes.

Mastering the moss followed suit, and the party continued down the mountainside. Eventually as the path starts to level out, and the twilight of evening darkens, they hear the chirp of insects and smell the fetid swampy bog that lies spread out beneath them.

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Keep on the Borderlands

This week begins the last four encounters and they are shaping up to be pretty amazing. There have been some great encounters over three seasons of this program, but this finalo chapter of Keep on the Borderlands combines a set of battles with a storyline full of intense action, great role playing opportunity, and awesome challenges. Not only that, but the author Chris Sims has managed to tie the entire adventure up in a really epic fashion.

With a table full of 8 characters, including three brand new players, a father and his kids, I knew that it was going to be difficult to get through the encounter in a timely fashion. The game runs between 6 and 8, and when the time’s up, everyone (and thing) does double damage. I find that the threat of this is usually enough to prevent it from happening, but at 8 pm, it is time to wrap things up fast. We went over by 12 painful minutes with this encounter.

The stage was set last week with the discovery of an imminent attack of the Keep. Trudging back home the the lonely bastion of hope and light on the edge of the wilderness, where the map is blank and reads “here there be monsters” they arrive and report to the lord of the keep. He bids them get some rest while they can, and by dawn the fields surrounding the high keep are crawling with reptilians, and an unnatural mist hangs low over the chill ground. The lowing of a great beast can be heard, and even as the heroes rush towards Lord Drysedale, who comes forth resplendent in his noble mail, a dark shadow passes overhead and a dragon comes soaring by to swoop through the central courtyard.

Drysedale hands each of them a horn trimmed in silver, for use in battle, and tells them to go command the front gates. He will handle the dragon. They can already hear a booming echo through town as the gates are bashed. The heroes rush to the front gate to find it manned by no more than 6 guards, and the heavy wooden gate itself was about to splinter into kindling from the beating it was taking. A huge lumbering behemoth, an ancient monster with a thick leather hide, armored head, and three massive horns is ramming the gate under the direction of a spell weaving lizardman, while three ranks of lizard men line up to rush the walls.

Each character takes control of one of the guard they hold off the firs wave of attacking reptilians. One of the guards is a young skinny halfling in a chain shirt two sizes too big, and Merrick takes control of him, ordering him to leap off the wall and onto the behemoths back. The halfling refuses, unable to shake the fear out of his leaden feet, so Merrick does it himself, stabbing into the creature with his flaying attack. The knight Quinn follows suit, but is unlucky and slides off the creatures back.

One hero stands at the wench that will lower the portcullis, steel bars that will drop down to bar the main gate, but he delays until the behemoth breaks through the gate and rampages forward, dropping it onto the behemoth and pinioning it into place. Unfortunately it also strikes the halfling riding its back. They riase the protcullis and try to get it a second time but the behemoth backs up and is not fooled.

Meanwhi;le wave after wave of lizard men are scaling the walls where vines have crept up the sides to aid their climbing. The lizard man witch doctor suppots them with spells that create poisonous swamp gas. Just then Pol Pot sees an old friend, the copper dragon Murolax, who is lazily circling above the keep, watching from above. Pol Pot hails the dragon with his silver’d horn and convinces the dragon o take a bite or two out of the behemoth, which the dragon begrudgingly does, and within a few moments the be3hemoth lies dead, felled by the halfing thief. Soon the rest of the enemies fall, and the last act of the witch doctor is to hurl his spear at the wizard Berrian, knocking him out instantly and coming within inches of piercing his heart and slaying him instantly. With 4 of six guards dead, the heroes barely manage to hold off the assault, but the sounds of alarm from behind them in the courtyard let them know that the battle is far from over.

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