This week’s game fell the Friday after a mid-week Halloween, and since we were forced to cancel the previous week’s game (due to SCIENCE!) this became the hallow’s eve game night. I like to add current holiday events flair into my weekly game. Lord Strahd made an appearance last year around this time, and the year before that kicked off a Tomb of Horrors adventure, and the year before THAT we playtested 4th edition using Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh. This year was no exception. Ghosts of seasons past possessed us.
Pizza was the fuel that powered us, lubricated by fanta both orange and red. Let me digress by saying that I have changed after a lifetime of never being that fond of Strawberry soda, nor most artificially flavored strawberry sweets (except for starburst, yet even then cherry wins out) mostly because I am very fond of real strawberries, in shakes and on shortcake, for instance, and I never really accepted that artificial strawberry even remotely resembled the real flavor. A few months ago, I was drinking a glass of Strawberry Crush when I suddenly tasted the strawberry, rather than the non-descript sweetness of before. Can’t explain why, but it happened, and it goes without saying that as a diabetic, I really shouldn’t be having any of it, real or artificial. So… there you have it. Two last things, first Fanta is not as good as Crush (too bad, the commercials are better) but it was on sale; finally, adding a shot of watermelon schnapps to the rocky red soda is delicious, and allows one to categorize it as wrong for different reasons than diet. so there, diabetes, your move.
um,back to the regularly scheduled program.
The evening began with a time consuming character re-creation process. (There is always some reason or extenuating circumstance why we never get as far along per session as I hope, and this was tonight’s.) The player of the warlock converted her charater to a rogue, and everyone advanced to 3rd level, using the newest playtest packet released that week. Thankfully the party wizard knew the updated rules and had recreated his character as a series of business cards. The clerics needed to pick a new deity “domain” or whateve they were called. I liked that the deities were broken out into vague categories (warbringer, lightbringer, etc) which allowed both clerics to worship the same deity (Melora) yet have different aspects of her. Protecter for the elf, and Trickster for the gnomeling.
I felt the specialties section of the packet was a step backward from the previous themes, at least in terms of presentation and style. Skill Specialist, Divine or Arcane Specialist are incredibly mundane and lack any interesting elemnts so far as I can tell, other than baldly and gracelessly assigning feat packages. Each class has one or at most two preferable choices, and some of the specialist choices veer into “class ability” territory that should just be given to the class, such as wizard’s familiars. There are few meaningful options for fighter or rogue, and Skill Specialist is so incredibly lame, its feats merely grant more skills. The specialties of the previous packet, or even themes before, are much more evocative and useful.
After character recreation, the story resumed. Having seen the colony founded, and the giant owlbearzilla slain, the characters decided to explore the island, using the pick-axe of booty looting to guide them. It as soon discovered that the axe pointed continuously westward, towards the ruins of a “city of the ancients” to be on the western coast of Numenoria. Ater travelling for many days between the fjords, cliffs, and peaks of the new world, one afternoon, just as the sun was setting, th pick axe of booty looting suddenly shifted its focus from the west to the north, and grew more insistant than ever before. they were climbing a forested rise next to a brackish inlet, when they saw three small figures climbing the same game trail ahead.
It was soon discovered that this was Bim the petty dwarf, and his two son’s Nim and Mim. The petty dwarves were supposed to be an extint offshoot of the dwarven line of hill and mountain dwarves. They were said to be a craven, useless lot, ill-suiited to the heavy labor of mining or the industrious nature of the metal workers, nor the fine motor skills of the jewelers and artisans. Taking one look at the stoop-shouldered, long torsoed, tufted-beard dwarf cringing before her, corporal Agnes knew the tales to be true. Her own beard was more masucline than these wisened old turtles.
Nonetheless, the petty dwarves offered hospitality and the party accepted. upon entering their home, a cave mouth just above the crashing waves of the inlet, which was so ancient and weathered that its original purpose was unkown, Bim led the party to a stone chamber with rounded stone benches lining the walls. In one corner an iron cauldrom steamed and gurgled over a small fire, Which Bim moved towards while explaining that they could take of the pot if they were hungry, and would be obliged to add to the pot if they had surplus. he then dropped a fresh killed rabbit, bones, ears and all, into the pot before stirring the turgid porridge in wide slow circles. “Oh and scoop from the top, not the bottom” he warned, pulling up a fresh deep-dredged ladle-full of unspeakable dreck and sniffing it appreciatively.
“One last thing,” he warned, “do not open that door at the bottom of the stairs there, on threat of your life.” So sayung he exited the room through a side door, and the charatecrs could hear it being locked from the other side. The main door leading to the exit still remained unbarred.
Agnes kept guard that night and her pick axe would not let her forget that a rich treasure lay beyond those doors. A soft moaning of wind could be heard beyond them, and finally, Agnes could resist no longer and woke the others, but not the petty dwarves. She explained the wind sounded odd, and the human rogue went to investigate. She heard the moaning of ghosts intermixed with the sound of wind. Soon they agreed they needed to go in that room, despite Bim’s warning, and lining up in fighting order, the elf rogue opened the door.
It was a long wide chamber, finely carved though covered in dust. At the far end of the chamber, a pile of gold and silver coins glinted in the light of the wizard’s staff, and a jeweled sword, and a few other things lay propped upon a dais. Standing between the treasure and the open door were three ghostly figures. They each gave off a freakish glow, and their long bony claws trailed tendrils of cold blue smoke. Their eyes glowed red and all three wraiths rushed forward in unison to strike the leading party members while emitting a high piched wailing scream. (I rolled poorly all night, and only one or two attacks by any monsters actually hit. it was pathetic.)
The next round, bim opened the door, with his two sons behind him, ready to defend his property, bbut the wizard was ready for him. being an illusionist, he had every rick in the book prepared to send the dwarves reeling. He created a huffing puffing dragon, then moved into the illusion to cast spells from within. the sons were sent screaming, but Bim was somehow able to overcome the illusion (he had experience with dragons, having served one in an earlier time) and he threw a dagger at the illusionist, trikig him in the chest before slamming and bqarricading the door.
meanwhile, a horrific face appeared and started wailing a fear-inducing attack in the basement, while two more invisible ghosts mov3ed into the party ranks to attampt to possess the gnome cleric and the elf rogue with limited success. The elf archer (sharpshoot specialist or whatever dumb name) shot arrow after arrow into the spectral creatures, wraiths and ghosts both, sending ectoplasmic goo splashing with every shot, while the elf cleric was able to destroy one wraith completely and send one ghost fleeing.
Finally the three wriaths were destroyed and the elf rogue shook off the possession, and the remaining two ghosts fled, the battle won. The tresure gleamed, the pick axe of booty looting thrummed,and we ended there.
This game session was also the last game session of long-time party member Beth, also known as bethlehem and betty, depending on whether she was good or bad. She started playing d&d with us on Friday nights over two years ago, after befriending my son when they were both in the eighth grade. Now as a sophomore her school duties (and pep club and marching band, and other things) call her away from us. Beth brought a level of vitality and excitement to the game that will be missed.
She began her gaming career by taking over the 6th level NPC eladrin paladin known as sharia the Flame Princess. Her initiation into the game was in the deserts and ruined boulevards of Dark Sun, where she adventured until 9th level, then took part in the Tomb of Horrors and the Isle of Dread. By 12th level, she had found her favorite character archetype; the elven archer, and for the next year she played a series of archers in the various short-lived campaigns following our long game. Last night was no exception, and her earthly arrows tore gaping holes through the ghosts all night.
Some memorable exploits of Beth’s character: once in the begining, she was knocked down and forced to crawl over damaging terrain, while taking opportunity attacks from a frenzied witch, to reach her hand up to lay on hands and save an ally. This, just after she hid behind the wizard in order to avoid being targeted. Later on, as a grizzled vet, her character found herself on watch one night at the Welcome Wench Inn in Homlett. She witnessed with her elven eyes a farmhouse on the edge of town being attacked by a band of wild rapacious gnolls. Remembering the villagers in question as being rude to her when they entered town days previously (they were) she just sat at the window and watched, not bothering to wake the rest of the party. Classic beth.