Archive for August, 2014

Saving the mill in Greenest

Saving the mill in Greenest

As we were wrapping up tour first time playing official 5th edition this Friday, a player mentioned this was one of the best nights we have had in our six year span of Friday night gaming. It was raucous, hilarious, fast paced, and it was indeed one of the best sessions ever.

Credit goes out to all the players first and foremost, because without their interest, engagement, and participation, none of it would be possible. The new, fifth edition of dungeons and dragons also played a part in the night’s success. The rules do a great job of evoking an atmosphere, laying out a simple mechanical resolution, and then getting out of the way. The designers have created a game that is better than the sum of its parts. The adventure itself, written by two of the most storied game designers in the industry, Steve Winter and Wolfgang Baur, provided the foundation for a great night of adventure.

Last week was character generation, and we ended that session with a brief description of the campaign set-up. The characters were staying in a small town on the edge of the desert called Greenest. I let them know that it was their town. They knew the people, had homes (they shared an old bunk house donated to the soldier John Smith by the Governess, for him to use while assembling a team to go after the cult of the dragon.) Each of the characters had a reason for being in the town, and many of the reasons dealt with a fear/hatred of dragons and/or the cult of the dragon. Guess what was about to show up…

As the party rounds the holy rock outcropping supplying Greenest with a natural-spring fed babbling brook, they see a sight of horror. A band of raiders has encircled the quaint hamlet with its waist-high walls of tumbled stones. Fierce horseman wielding flashing blades and torches ring the city as other bands enter on foot, terrorizing, capturing, and killing the innocent civilians as they make their ways through the outer edge of the tiny town. The stout stone keep in the center of town is a beacon of hope for the poor simple folk, and the party can see that the guardsmen are holding open the keep doors to allow people in for safety.

They also see a huge blue dragon perched atop the keep, idly munching on a cow. An archer appears from a window and takes aim at the dragon. A flash of blue lightning and the archer and window frame are gone, but the dragon launches itself into the air, to lazily circle over Greenest, 300 feet up, to let the raiders do their work.

The warlock is a psychic soldier in service of the crusades, and has recently been dispatched to Greenest; the bard has a girlfriend at the tavern; the gnome trickster owes the people of Greenest for adopting her, and calls the town home; the dragonborn monk is a hermit dedicated to looking after the holy shrine/freshwater spring outside town, and each of them knew that in the event of a raid, the keep was the safest place to be. Also present were the elven ranger, tracker of dragons and far from the forest, and the tiefling pirate, far from the sea and proficient in a water mount, or hippopotamus I suppose. They hid their mounts at the outcropping, and made their way into town, by way of the tavern.

They had to make a group stealth check to make it past the ring of horsemen, and as they approached they realized that while the horsemen burned and pillaged, bands of kobolds armed with daggers and sacks were entering each home and looting them, then handing the sacks to flying kobolds who were delivering the loot into wagons outside town. Suddenly a family of five comes rushing from behind a farmhouse, chased by kobolds and the heroes take action.

Of course during the course of the battle, the children were almost used as some sort of bait or trap, but that is a tradition with this group of murder hoboes. The best part of this battle was when the elven ranger decided to sneak behind a building to get the drop on the cultist. As she hid there, one of the raiders, who did not see her, ran around the same building to get to the children. he was a very bad man. So he ran right past the elf, and when I asked her if she would like to take an opportunity attack against him, as he ran obliviously past, she declined. She did no want to upset her chances of taking out the cultist, which she soon did. However, that was not in the best interest of the children, and thankfully one of the other characters came forward to slay the creeper before he got to the kids.

In the end the family was saved, and they continued on toward the keep. At the tavern they surprised a group of raiders, led by a cultist, who were about the raid the tavern and a bloody fight ensued. When it was over the party stood victorious and the tavern wench rushed out to thank them. I set her miniature down next to the dragonborn by mistake, instead of next to the bard whom she was dating. Instead of correcting it, I had her hug and kiss the dragonborn, so relieved was she to be saved. I asked the player if he wold like to use this opportunity to steal the bards girl away, an of course he accepted the challenge. I asked for a charisma roll and (ow!) he rolled a natural 1. He got a slap across the face because clearly the wench was not excited about a slithering 18 inch forked tongue. the bard did not even need to roll to retain his girl, as she ran back into his arms.

(That bit of randomness was my favorite moment of the night and I am retroactively bestowing an inspiration point on both the bard and the monk or the hilarious hijinx. It is for this type of “emergent gameplay” that I consider the height of gaming, and why we do what we do.)

During the rescue the inn-folk, the bard cast Tasha’s Hideous Laughter on one of the raiders, whom they subsequently captured. The group made their way to the doors to the keep. There they found the governess, her silver-haired pony-tail flying, as she commanded the guards at the doors. They held back any encroaching raiders, while a second group of guardsmen forayed into town. The governess was pleased to see the adventurers, and asked them to rest, for she had a need for them when they were ready. Without even resting they agreed to head back into town and secure the mill for up to an hour, until a relief force arrives.

They made it to the mill, and decided to use deception. The bard wore the costume of the captured cultist, and with the soldier and the eldritch pirate, led the dragonborn around like he was a captured prisoner named Chewbacca. They met a cultist instructing two raiders to set the mill alight but strangely they notice the fires being set look unable to actually do much damage. The bard convinces the cultist they are sent to put the prisoner in a cage here at the mill. The cultist doesnt know about any cages so they send him inside to look for one, while the ranger and rogue sneak around to the back door.

Just then they hear a roar and the cultist comes running out of the door with an enormous dragonman chasing him. “What’s the mening of this?!” he bellows before catching sight of the gold dragonborn. To anyone other than dragonbon and half-dragons, there is o difference between the two races, but to the dragon men, the difference is everything. The blue half-dragon’s eyes narrow to slits as he looks the gold dragonborn up and down.

He then challenges him to a duel, which the monk accepts. The ranger an rogue discover the mill is full of kobolds. They prepare to sneak attack when given the signal. The two dragon people fight and the monk is felled in one round. Suddenly all hell breaks loose and the fight begins. The half dragon is incredibly powerful and he turns his breath weapon on the eldritch pirate, who is dealt 27 hp damage in one savage lightning strike.

Though most of the kodolds are dead, the warlock is down to 1 hp and decides to run. He is in a magical duel with a cultist who continues to fire blast after blast of sacred flame, but the warlock evades, going so far that he goes off the edge of the map to reappear on the other side. It was weird.

The party was desperate so they hatched a desperate plan. Call down the blue dragon circling overhead. Working together the ranger, whose favored enemy is the dragon, gives an excellent rendition of a dragon mating call, a series of low pitched chuffing. It was very effective, and the dragon swerved in his flight. Next the warlock and arcane trickster worked their illusions together to create the sight and smell of the dragon’s favorite food over the half dragon. It turns out the dragon favors turducken. The ploy was wildly successful, and not at all because the dm said why the hell not, and the dragon swooped down and with his claws he plucked the half dragon of the battlefield. The enemy was routed and the party was victorious.

I’m sure I left stuff out, but those are the highlights I remember from one of our greatest nights of gaming.

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Hoard of the Dragon Queen

Hoard of the Dragon Queen

This week’s session was all about rolling up new characters. We never even got any playing done, other than a brief description of the starting location and setup at the very end of the night. Instead six of us, with two player’s handbooks, took our time to create a party of potential heroes. We also had bowls of vibrant “artisan salad” and plates of succulent “hot-n-naked pasta” for dinner. ‘Twas a good night of gaming and bodes well for the upcoming campaign.

Background Setting

The setting for this campaign is the same setting we have used for the last 5 or 6 campaigns, the world of D Erte, created when we started gaming in 2008. The world has been wracked by war, invasion, and apocalypse but now it has entered a period of relative calm. For the past few decades peace has settled over the civilized lands, and has led to a period of expansion. The great eastern wastes known as the Beastlands are now experiencing a crusade as armies of the western kingdoms attempt to expand their territory by driving out the savage monsters who dwell in that dry, barren rocky land.

Scholars had supposed the Beastlands extend forever, much as the Great Western Forest is expected to extend beyond time and distance into the realm of Faerie.However the trail-blazing warriors, scouts, and scholars instead found that the high plateaus gave way to a vast desert, and across that desert was an exotic civilization with valuable trade goods. In the twenty years of crusading and sporadic trading, the tiny village of Greenest has sprung up along the main route between the western kigndoms and the eastern New World. though the village is little more than a poor and dusty water-stop along a vast trade route, it sees much wealth pass along its one main street. The town lies along the border between the rocky wasteland and the lonely desert, and it boasts a shallow fresh stream, springing from a nearby rock formation to end in a deep, fetid pool a few miles away.

Having also purchased the first adventure for the new edition, Hoard of the Dragon Queen, I wanted to integrate some (or most) of its elements into our game. However I prefer to use my own setting over published settings such as Forgotten Realms,and I am also unable to remain constrained to a published adventure. Knowing this about myself, I have attempted to create a hybrid campagin adventure using key elements of Hoard, but set in my own setting amidst a backdrop of another over-arching storyline. Ok enough about that, let’s get to the characters.

High Rollers

We rolled 4d6 and dropped the lowest, adding the three highest together six times in any order. One could discard the fll set and re-roll the six sets as often as one liked. This led to most people taking their first or second set. I wanted to be very lenient because even though I detest extremely high ability scores for starting characters, I have found it to be more important that the players are comfortable with their characters, and this usually means higher scores. So I made sure and said “if you are unhappy with your scores, re-roll!”

Personally I like to see at least one score below average, to give the character some character upon which to build, and a flaw, so to speak. The new edition has personality charts (attuned to backgrounds, which is a good idea) which may help in this respect,but still, one low score makes up for a lot of 18s and 19s.

Dragonborn monk

Moving around the table, our first up is James who rolled up a Gold Dragonborn monk. I have to admit I was a little surprised by this choice, because I assumed James was more a traditionalist. I like being surprised though, and I was doubly surprised to realize how perfectly that would mesh with one of the optional backgrounds in the Hoard of the Dragonborn: a reincarnated gold dragon of Bahamut sentenced to live as a puny demi-human and looking for a way back into the good graces of the gold dragon deity. What could be more perfect? He chose hermit as his background, and the holy shrine is the natural water spring that supplies Greenest with its fresh water.

Gnomish Arcane Trickster

Next up is my wife Lori, who was tempted by the avenger paladin (And who played an avenger in a long-running 4e campaign) but ultimately chose to become a forest gnome rogue, planning on specializing in arcane trickster. She likes being sneaky and small, but also doing major damage. Most of all she likes rolling 2d20 and taking the best. Her background was that a wandering wizard saved her after her family was slain by a dragon, and left her off with the good people of Greenest to raise her. He left her a purple silk handkerchief emblazoned with a B in gold thread.

Tiefling Eldritch Knight

Khar chose to become a tiefling fighter, an Elrtich knight. She is also a pirate according to her background, and something important has brought her inland, as far away from the sea as possible. I can’t remember what it was that brought her to Greenest. Originally it was a lost love, but we decided to re-roll, and she was right about that, but I cannot remember what her new bonds were. Hopefully she wrote it down.

Human Bard of Valor

Will chose human, and took a feat that made hm a crossbow specialist. He wields a hand crossbow and rapier, and his background is that he is a singer. Compare to spell singer series by Alan Dean Foster. (Great series, no seriously.) Will has a childhood friend who was captured by the Dragon Cult, for whom he is searching.

Human Warlock

Last up we have Joel who broke with wizard-or-ranger tradition to create a human warlock with a pact of the Great Olde Ones but stuck with tradition by naming his character John Smith. His background is a psychic soldier in a scout regiment, and he was sent to Greenest by an officer of the crusades to search for information about the Dragon Cult.

Half-elf Druid

FInally I the dm rolled up a character for an absent player – a half elf druid. She is named Sheela Labouf and wields a scimitar and wooden shield, or a sling for ranged attacks. She has animal friendship and cure wounds memorized, and her cantrips are druidcraft and produce flame, which she can hurl up to thirty feet as a little fireball attack. Her background is a folk hero, and she has protected people from dragon attacks in the past. She also has nightmares of Tiamat the queen of Dragons. She will start with a previously befriended animal companion, but I have yet to locate the appropriate stat blocks. The character is unique in that she has a high dexterity, but a low constitution. Her flaw is that she secretly loves the corruption of city life.

Everyone got a trinket or two, and most people chose the preselected equipment packs, though I suggested they roll for wealth and buy stuff out of the equipment section. Everyone also got a free mount due to their character having been established in Greenest prior to play.

The characters have been helping escort caravans into and out of town, making a few gold coins while going about their business. The governess of Greenest has given John Smith an old bunkhouse to use to gather a team and investigate rumors of a dragon cult. One day they are late getting home from escorting a large caravan and they smell smoke before they see the town below being raided. Enemy on horseback circle the village with torches throwing them onto thatch roofs. But truly chilling is the large blue dragon sitting atop the town’s only stone structure, the governess’ keep, munching on a cow and watching the destruction.

Summing up

Character creation was fun and offers lots of customization options to go with the great selection of iconic classes. It took us about two hours, but we had a shortage of books and an excess of hilarity to slow us down. Everyone seems happy with their character and are ready to start on a long journey. We have quite an eclectic party, and with all the dragonborn, tieflings, and warlocks, it is very reminiscent of a 4th edition party. However the party also seems uniquely suited to adventuring in the Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Good times ahead.

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So a new version of Dwarf Fortress has released, after a two year wait since the last update. We are now on version 0.40.05. Yes that is a zero at the front. 9-12 years in and we are almost halfway through the aplha phase of development! This game takes stamina.

Fleshy Arches was a short-lived Frotress that looked like it would go places, but was quickly doomed over the ourse of a few months due mostly to stupidity. I shall not spend too much time on this prefix of a fortress, but its downfall is worth noting.

It started out between grasslands and mountains, with a brook meandering through. There was not a tree to be found on the entire map, and I made do with three wagon-wood beds for the first year of existence. There were upwards of 80 dwarfs hot-bunking it by the end. I finally got some wood when I reached the caverns below, but the giant mushrooms gave out paltry amounts of usable lumber.

The other strange thing about this site were the forest gnomes. the site was lousy with them, and at first I didn’t even notice, until they started stealing booze. Then an angry dwarf got mad at a gnome and smeared his carcass across the drawbridge, and whenever another dwarf saw the carnage they became horrified. This was new, the horror of the dwarves. The forest gnomes were more like gremlins, and I found them to be the root cause of many of the ills of Fleshy Arches. They were very easy to kill however, and horrific gnome corpses began turning up all over the place, horrifying any dwarves who stumbled upon them. It is as if the dwarves couldn’t believe that one of their kind would treat a fellow bearded fairy in such a manner, yet each of them had their own personal tale of tearing a gnome to shreds over some stolen trinket or prank.

While digging out fortifications in the mountain above the entrance, two legendary miners fell to their deaths. That was almost impossible to overcome, and due totally to my stupidity. It is too risky to trench over open spaces! Why do I continue to do it?! Never again. I thought it would be okay since there was a moat below to soften the fall, but they drowned. We need dwarf life guards.

And then the trade caravans never came. The gnomes were stealing more and more booze, even though I had none, and I discovered the remains of a human trading party, with all their goods scattered about. I thought at least I had hit the jackpot with some free loot, but none of it mattered when what I really needed was booze and food, of which those damned gnomes had taken everything.

Although Fleshy Arches never received a full trade caravan, the dwarf liason brought a tale of woe for two years, of a civilization called “The Elven Cobra of Gazes” who were on a rampage of invasion. The Snake Elves might be the reason we were receiving so many migrants, as the entire world was being overrun.

But back to our own trading woes, how the forest gnomes managed to slaughter a human trading caravan I will never know — when my dwarf cook could kill one simply by rolling him up into the dough and flattening him out (horrifying every dwarf in the kitchen) — but it was the first and last caravan to ever arrive at Fleshy Arches, which meant it was cut off and there was only one way to go. I dug deeper, hoping to find magma, because I had no fuel for forges. I thought I found riches beyond wildest belief, and broke open a tube. It led straight down. All the way down.

The fortress was destroyed to the last dwarf within days. It was sad watching a handful of dwarf children (who do not count against population) running back and forth looking for a way out, while the last dwarf standing, the mayor, tried to get to them. His last words:

Kikrost Akrullimar, mayor: Can it all end so quickly? This does not scare me.

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OgreThis game report will be short as Dwarf Fortress has released a new update after a two plus year wait. The fort is calling me and I may have more Dwarf Stories to tell soon.

But tonight is about d&d. We had a smaller group this week, of four players. For dinner I prepared a fresh salad, which was delicious.The characters were wizard,rogue, cleric, and fighter (a perfect mix!) and the night began right after the villain Glasstaff was captured by being tackled around the knees by the party wizard.

They questioned him and realized the hideout was still full of bugbears he had hired, and that there were some kidnapped civilians needing rescue on the way out. This worked like a skill challenge, and a loss would have meant encountering the bugbears, but they made it out safely and with three rescued captives and three captured gang members.

A nght in town followed, and then they set out for Cragmaw castle. They were riding their new mounts, including a pair of riding horses, a pony for the dwarf, and a mastiff for the halfling. Whils en route, they encountered an ogre who chased them while throwing javelins, but his aim was off so he soon gave up the chase. He caught up with them hours later after they made camp qand a fight ensued, where the ogre took a swift demise. The game ended next morning at the entrance to the clearing that holds Cragmaw Castle. Good game.

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