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Archive for May, 2014

tree lizards

tree lizards

This recap is a day late and a dollar short, due to a sudden obsession with wining a cultural victory in CIV IV on monarch level. So far I have not done it. But I have a plan this time. It includes Pericles. Athens, Sparta, and Corinth will blaze with the glory of our heroic rise to perfection. But enough of that.

We started the night with a draconian ambush, which was hilarious because the players instantly accused me of falling back on the lame encounter I so deftly spiced up last week. Unfortunately, no, this is merely yet another squadron of dragonborn out to get the heroes at every turn. I can only assume that by the end of the series our heroes will each personally have slain hundreds of draconians.

The battle was unusual in that Caramon used his brother as an improv hurled weapon, to knock the draconians out of the trees. He did indeed hit one and barely managed to catch his fall, but was dismayed to learn that the draconian merely hovered in the air near where he was knocked off the branch. So that is what those wings are for!

They passed through the sla-mori, found the super sword, but ran into trouble when the sword SERIOUSLY did not like traveling with the TWO baby black dragons in the party. One familiar, and one tamed by rolling a 20. So far the dragons are staying 30 feet away from their owners, but it is merely a temporary solution.

Then they somehow ran into the midst of 40 zombies. 40. The midst. Everyone fought tooth and nail, and were each surrounded, alone with 5 zombies to contend with. Somehow, against all odds, it looked like thy would survive, as the heroes were whittled down to single digit HPs. Then Raistlin, who had defeated his zombies with a well placed Flaming Hands, got cocky. He was attacked and torn to shreds (-5 HP) in a savage zombie attack, just as the last remaining undead were being carved into pieces.

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Fightin' youths

Fightin’ youths

I told this story during the last game night, and it received enough laughs that I thought it would be worth sharing to a wider audience.

I have some experience wielding polearms, both as a hobbyist and professionally. I learned to fight with medieval weaponry as a kid growing up, and I had a chance to use my skills one day during Basic Training after I joined the US Army Reserves. This is the story of how that all played out.

While growing up in the 80’s, my friends and I discovered D&D, the Renaissance Festival, and the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) at about the same time. This triumvirate of awesome led us to spend a summer building weapons out of dowel rods, foam pipe insulation and duct tape. We primarily built swords with increasingly complicated hilts, but we experimented in other weaponry as well, including various pole arms built using long curtain rods with paper towel rolls duct taped to the end, and other embellishments.

For one full summer we battled it out in the yards of our neighborhood, suffering minor scrapes and cuts. No bones were broken but there were a few concussions, and once my friend Billy got knocked out by a savage blow to the temple. These were serious fights that took place at full strength. We had rules about fair fighting, which saved us from the worst injuries, but we were a tough group of kids not afraid to hit hard enough to make the other cry.

The amazing thing about this summer of melee is that we actually began to develop fighting skills. There were times when a bout would last for more than a few seconds, as we learned to position, feint, deflect, and wait for openings. I enjoyed dueling with long and short sword, but my specialty was the pole arm.

Life went on, and we grew up and out of our combat phase. A decade later, at 26 years old, I found myself newly married, about to be father, and I joined the Army Reserves. (The exact reasons for this are still obscure.) One fall day I set out for Basic Training, and spent eight weeks training with a great group of young men and women, most of them straight out of high school. One of these fine folks was a fellow named Richard Faith. He came from central Kansas, and he had to get a special waiver to join the army. His only available career path was as a boiler-operator. He was also my battle buddy, meaning we did everything together, and had to look out for one another. This big old corn-fed galoot was as big hearted as he was big boned, but he struggled mightily to pass all the requirements of Basic Training that would allow him to serve in the Army.

Faith had to stay after every night at the shooting range to try and get the required “Sharpshooter” badge. He had to run two miles every single day until he could get his time below the maximum. Both of these things he only passed on the day of graduation by the narrowest of margins. While we were getting our dress uniforms on, Faith was out shooting and running his two miles through the snow. When a drill sergeant entered our dressing room to tell us Faith finally earned his badges, a cheer went up. His graduation was truly an achievement, and though I never saw him again afterwards, I am sure he went on to become a success. I have rarely met another with as much grit as he had.

Faith had problems. He was slow, both physically and mentally, and had a hard time in stressful conditions. When it was our day to throw live hand grenades, he had to go around with a big white ‘X’ chalked on his helmet to let everyone know he was NOT ALLOWED to touch a grenade, god save us all.

One day during Basic Training, the drill sergeants led us out onto a playing field, and we all gathered around in a ring. The boxes we brought along were opened to reveal protective equipment as well as big double-ended padded pole-arm like training weapons. Here we go! I thought this would be a chance to really show off some of my skills. The fights were fun, with people cheering and calling out, and finally it was my turn to go.

I stepped out into the circle carrying my pole arm easily, doing a few tricks, spinning it, and moving in different attack and defense poses to the delight of the recruits. Faith eventually got his helmet secured and grabbed his pole arm. I was smiling, having a good time, and I moved into a position with the pole arm held out and up with both hands, ready to deflect and defend against whatever Faith could throw at me.

Little was I prepared for the mad attack Richard Faith unleashed. He held his pole arm like a giant club above his head and charged straight toward me at top speed with a guttural howl. I was surprised but moved into a position to easily deflect his crude blow, only I did not account for the superhuman strength of an enraged Faith who battered my weapon aside with a mighty sweep and them began to beat me into the earth. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

I stood up shaky, and as the sergeant held up Faith’s arm in victory, I shambled back to my place in the circle, bruised in more ways than one. Everyone around me clapped me on the back and said how great it was that I let Faith win. I just nodded, still stunned, and still trying to make sense of what happened. I still think about the episode from time to time, and there are many lessons I have taken from it. One lesson I learned is that getting cocky and underestimating your foe is a huge mistake. Another thing I learned is that victory will go to the person who wants it more, and Richard Faith, though he may have been lacking in skill and ability, made up for all his short-comings with a surplus of drive.

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The detritus

The detritus

Good night of gaming, with a delicious meal of Indian Curry over white rice to go with it. Tanis, Raistlin, sturm, Tasslehoff, Goldmoon, and Riverwind escaped the slave caravan after securing their gear, and followed the elf Gilthanas into the woods where they met the survivors. From there they travelled to the hidden city of Qualinost, where all sorts of role playing happened (to the tune of 4 pages of read aloud text, consolidated, condensed and made amusingly bearable by yours truly, despite his wife’s attempts to channel the incredulity of Shannon and question every assumption, and run things off the rails whenever possible.) Of course it was all completely justified considering the half elf grew up in Qualisnot and was at one point betrothed to the elf princess Lauarana. Tanis is now all growed up but she is still a wastrel waif.

And so it comes about that the teenage elf princess Laurana leads them to a secluded hilltop clearing to spend the night, and as she is leaving, she is captured by the hobgoblin runt Fewmaster Toede riding a Wyvern.

DM Interjection – The encounter as written has a few issues that I was compelled to revise for reasons of my own and the player’s playstyle. The first issue is that the module states that Toede automatically nabs Laurana and makes his getaway with no chance of intervention. I prefer to give my players just enough rope with which to hang themselves. In this case, I had the wyvern land and Toede throw a lasso around Laurana on a surprise round. The heroes were on the other side of the hilltop clearing, 100 yards away.

The other issue was that even though a wyvern makes its semi-aweseome appearance, it drops off six draconians to fight the party. Too boring. Why not fight a wyvern? So I replaced the six draconians with one draconian riding a wyvern. Thats right, dragon-on-dragon action. This second wyvern landed right in the midst of the party camp.

Quite a battle ensued. Tanis ran down the hill to try and save Laurana. She dodged the snapping jaws of the wyvern and stabbed Toede, bloodying him eventually. The next round, Tanis was bit, then stabbed in the heart by the poison dripping tail stinger of the wyvern. It was a tense moment as she had to roll save vs. poison or die. She rolled a sixteen, and lived. The next round Goldmoon ran down the hill to try and help, but Toede escaped into the air.

Meanwhile the battle raged atop the hill, as Tasslehoff tried to backstab the wyvern by cuttng its achilles tendon. The draconian riding attacked Raistlin, and was struck by the wizard’s flaming hands. ts armor caught fire, an it tried to leap onto the wizard who got to make an attack, and slew the creature which turned into a flaming pool of acid and immediately evaporated.

The wyvern was down to a couple hit points and it saw its master take flight, so it leapt into the air. Any hit would have killed it, but one by one every opportunity attack missed. Finally Goldmoon took aim with her sling at long range. She too missed. All the while, Riverwind was lining up a long range shot straight up into the air, and he struck the dragon in the heart, killing it instantly.

Suddenly 10 tons of dead meat was falling toward them. Everyone managed to leap away except for Sturm who was looking all around for more enemies but not upward. The wyvern corpse crushed him into a pancake. Or so it seemed, but a moment later the knight of Solamnia cut himself free from the steaming pile of flesh, bloody but whole.

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Dragons of Flame

Dragons of Flame

‘Twas another great night of gaming this week. We got started a little late but made up for it by playing until way too late, as I noticed my usual attention to detail self began to get shall we say a little loopy by the end. We munched on fresh pizza from the grocery store.

Inn of the Last Home

Inn of the Last Home

The night started with the heroes of the lance threading their way through the crude and ineffective patrol routes of wandering bands of evil humanoids. They sought their home of Solace, and found the forest village to be hacked and burned to the ground. The famous Inn of the Last Home no longer rested among the boughs of an ewok village, but lay in semi-ruins on the forest floor. Welcoming lights drew the group into the inn where they me Tika Waylan who proceeded to dump a steaming pate of potatoes into Caramon’s lap.

Draconians came in and tried to make trouble, but the heroes kept their temper in check until finally the hobgoblin runt Fewmaster Toede entered the tavern on his broke-back pony and announced the entire village was being rounded up for the slave mines. An elf stood up and announced he would surrender and whispered to the party they would e wise to do the same.
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Each member of the party attempted to hide some weapon or spell book, but few were successful. They were rounded p and put into a caged wagon. Their gear was stowed in the lad wagon, guarded by 16 hobgoblins, and behind them was a cage ful of the 35 gully dwarves, and then the women and children of Solace. For a day and a night they sat. At one point the smith was thrown into the cage with the bleeding stump of a severed arm, whom Goldmoon saved.

This is actually a caravan in a forest path with a tree blocking one end

This is actually a caravan in a forest path with a tree blocking one end

Eventually the elf introduced himself as Gilthanas, and then there was an elven ambush. The two hobgoblin wagoners were killed by elvish shafts, then the elves went to save the women and children. Fewmaster Toede ran off and left 20 goblins for the party to fight. Then they had to choose whether to fight the 16 hobgoblins to get their stuff back,but really there was no decision to be made – there was no chance they were leaving their gear behind, even though it was after 11 pm. So we fought another fight it it was fun and slapdash and somewhat slapstick as well. By 11:35 it was time to end, there were only 4-5 hobgoblins left, and victory was insured,so ‘i rolled for morale check, didnt even look at the result, and they ran off.

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