Archive for the ‘Games we Play’ Category

For dinner this week we had very inexpensive pizzas from our local grocery store that were oven ready. They came out pretty good and there is much to be said for three enormous pizzas for fifteen dollars. The key to pizza, or baking in general, is the timing. Pizza is most delicious when it is cooked just the right amount so that the crust is neither burnt and too crispy, or underdone and too soggy. The toppings as well must have the golden brown crisped edges that a good baking gives them. To cook three large pies takes patience, but it can be done quickly, by giving each pizza a few minutes alone in the center of the oven for the first half of the cook time, then moving it to the lowest rack while putting pizza no. two in the middle. Continue rotating every 10 minutes and voila 3 large pizzas in 30 minutes or so. Also the oven should be preheated to more than it says on the box. I like to cook everything at 450 deg.

hile playing the adventure Hoard of the Dragon Queen, it has been worth it to excise the adventure from the default Forgotten Realms setting, and place it into our group’s “home brew” setting, D Erte, which we have been adventuring in for several years now. It’s not that I have anything against the Forgotten Realms (which I do) but it is more like I love the spontaneity of things we come up with as we play, and the well-detailed published campaigns feel very constraining in that aspect, much like store-bought adventures. My brain just does not work that way, and the amount of joy I derive from playing dungeons and dragons is directly proportionate to the amount of random absurd bullshit that happens while playing. That is really the entire secret. It is why I love critical hits and misses; it is why I describe every action in battle in loving detail; it is why I design traps without solutions; it is why I love dice rolling in general. The scientific name for this game style is Emergent Gameplay, and it is the foundation and objective for every game I play.

This week I was in the mood for some desert action, and it just so happened that there was a desert nearby, needing to be crossed. The home town of Greenest was on one edge of the desert, and their destination, the foreign city of Leucrotta, was on the other. (Factoid: I am naming all the cities in this new region from monsters that were in the original Monster Manual but have been left out of the newest edition, like the leucrotta, a worg-like creature.) Beyond the outpost of Leucrotta, further to the east were the mysterious foreign metropolises of Catoblepia, Ki-Rin, and Su.

The night started out with crazy amounts od die rolling. The journey from Greenest to Leucrotta, was seven to fourteen days. For game purposes,each day a different character would be in charge of ‘blazing the trail’ that day, as well as overseeing the camp. Using the desert environment section of 4e’s Dark Sun Campaign Manual, I created a series of rolls for what type of desert they would encounter, then they would roll a d8 to see the weather affects (a 1result would be a haboob, an 8 is clear skies) Then the character would make an ability check to overcome whatever type of terrain it was. Failing that, they would be set back a day and have to roll for an encounter. They would also have to roll for an encounter if it was dangerous terrain. Everyone rolled extremely well and they made it across the desert in record time without a single encounter and near perfect weather.

I had to entice them to an encounter by mentioning on the third day out, while crossing some mud flats or something, they saw the glint of shiny in the distance. They were hesitant. I then enquired who among them had magical treasure. None. Had we missed out on all the loot in the adventure so far? Four chapters without a single magic item? Then pointedly mentioned again the glint of shiny in the distance. They could just make out a broken down wagon.

What followed was a fight with an ettin and his to wolves, in which the ettin hurled rocks for a few rounds before charging into the meat grinder that is the party. He only got a single swing from his weapons before becoming chop suey. The ettin was able to leap over and avoid all obstacles with the boots of striding he wore. He also had on bracers of ogre strength, wielded a morningstar +1 Lightbringer in one fist, and used a +1 breastplate as a punching glove in the other. Oh and he had a ring of protection +1 in his pocket. One magic item apiece for everyone present, all ripped directly from the last page of the Starter Adventure. I added the ring at the last second because it seemed unfair to give out four items when there were five players present.

The verisimilitudinous reason for the ettin to have all that loot was that he recently ambushed and killed a veteran of the nearby wars, who was on his way across the desert to make his fortune with his booty.

My favorite part of the night actually, was watching the players divide the magic items in the most equitable fashion possible. Only the gnome rogue, with her boots of striding, felt shorted (get it?) and is trying to sell off her item.

They arrived in Leucrotta and met their benefactor who paid them 150 gold apiece for the information about the cult. Then he got into an arm wrestling contest with the dwarf,who performed so poorly (he has an 8 strength) that he rolled an effective ZERO (a natural 1) and not only lost the match, but immediately passed out with exhaustion.

One other interesting aspect of this game night was that we all decided once and for all to use the Pathfinder Critical Hit and Miss deck with our 1’s and 20’s. In fact, when I finally reached up and pulled the two decks out for use, a cheer went up around the table.

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What lurks in yonder caves

What lurks in yonder caves

The past two weeks have been spent exploring the hatchery. After making it through the first few chambers, the characters made it to the human leader’s chambers. They subdued her and tied her up but after discovering a secret trapdoor that lead down into a shrine to Tiamat, they attracted the notice of Cyanwrath the blue half-dragon who was down there with a pair of female berzerkers in business attire. Rather then allowing them up into the room they hurl the leader down the hole, not realizing that the enemy would be able to heal and rejoin the fight.

Approximately five rounds later, Mondath the human and Cyanwrath the half dragon attacked from behind with a horde of kobolds gathered along the way. The party kept the berzerkers from climbing out the trap door and eventually defeated the others.

They gained a level, to third, and hunkered down for a long rest. It passed uneventfully and afterwards, the party continued down the trapdoor and did battle with the berzerkers who were dutifully awaiting the return of their leaders. They found a treasure chest but it was trapped and released poison gas into the room. Everyone took damage, but it could have been worse if not for a fair amount of luck, and the combined affect of a wind spell combined with the chicken character’s wing-flapping .(Long story. We have a character that’s not a man, it’s a chicken.)

They moved on to another chamber with a ledge along a dark natural cavern, with a set of wooden steps leading down. Their were some kobolds hidden in an alcove and the rogue trickster put them to sleep with her shiny new spell, then slit their throats while they dreamed their lizard dreams. No one wanted anything to do with the long dark natural cavern below, so they tried the other route, which led them past a kobold guard room (which they stealthily made it past) and into a different room with a ledge and a long dark cavern below. They fought some more kobolds here.

The only choices left were the fungus garden room (which they were avoiding like the plague) or the first or second cavernous chamber. They went back to the first one and were looking around, when a roper struck. A long tentacle lashed out and grabbed the warlock and dropped him thirty feet to the ground. Knocked out. The next round, the roper pulled the rogue off the rickety staircase, and she took falling damage, and then the dwarven cleric dove off the staircase to inflict some falling damage on the roper. The monk is the only one who avoided falling.

The next round two guard drakes attacked and it looked like the battle was lost. With one down, and one grappled by tentacles, and everyone on their last few hit points it was time for drastic measures. Somehow, as improbable as it sounds, they survived.

They saw the glow of the dragon eggs in the back of the chamber. They had to get them and get out. They came up with a plan. The cleric had a spell that transformed the ground under the roper into mud or something, and it fell a few inches, forced movement causing the tentacles to release the warlock and rogue. The monk dashed across the room, grabbed the eggs, and avoided the guard drakes, while the rogue grabbed the unconscious chicken, and they ran uo the stairs and out the dungeon as fast as they could. It was a great game but it was getting late and ended with a miraculous victory against overwhelming odds.

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dm cornerFinally Friday arrived. Some weeks seem interminable and this was one of those. Car troubles (on top of more car troubles) have been a major element of recent poverty, so we were especially thankful that a couple of the players stepped up to supply us with food for the night. Khar brought sandwich fixin’s and I was able to make a mouth-watering “Dagwood” and James brought a pumpkin pie (’tis just about the season) and he even brought my favorite food to go with it – whippped cream. So let that backdrop of deliciousness flavor the following story of what happened this week.

One more aside. James also brought a wargame called ‘Ogre.’ which s from Steve Jackson Games, and vame out int he early eighties. This was the classic edition in a small ziplock baggie, with a hex map and a bunch of cardboard cutout counters. We set up for a game = me on defense with a combined arm force against his one ogre. I have never played this game before, so I fell back on traditional combined arms defense for my set up. I put the objective – a command center, in the back corner and built an infantry ring of defense around it and my three heavy artillery. I had three rockets tanks placed near the infantry and on the left flank I had three heavy tanks meant to protect the flank and direct his approach and maybe if I am lucky, immobilize him before he ever gets to my side of the map.

Didn’t work out that way. He took a direct approach and my bullets pinged off his shell. On the third or fourth turn of maximum direct-line movement, he was in range of my command center, and automatically hit and destroyed it, winning the game. It was a sudden and anti-climactic victory, due mostly to my ignorance of the rules, but he did a great job of sloughing off my combined arms layered defense.. It goes to show you that a knowledge of warfare is not always enough to win a wargame. One must also have at least a passing knowledge of the rules. The game really comes down to the ranges – 8 for artillery, 3 for rockets, and 5 for his ogre, so getting him in the 6-7 range is key to victory. Never letting the ogre within 5 of the command post is key to not losing pathetically.

The discussion of Car Wars, also by Steve Jackson, came up, and I will be on the lookout for a retro-release of Car Wars. It is the only other game I ever played as seriously as dungeons and dragons, and I would totally play it again. I waonder what would happen if one game night, everyone showed up to autoduel? I actually still have all my car wars stuff from the eighties, including pages and pages of yet to cut out vehicles and roads. I might own just about every accessory released for Car Wars, up to a certain year,and that includes many Uncle Albert’s catalogs. Enough said.

Dungeons and Dragons Section

Play began with the party standing over the corpse of the blue half-dragon Langredossa in his tent in the center of the raider’s camp. The tent was empty except for a small folding chair and table, upon which a map lay unfolded. It showed the path of the cult heading across the desert towards the far off eastern city of Leucrotta. They now had all the information they needed and just needed to save the slaves./ Looking around, they notice they have not been spotted yet. There are three more commanders, who seem to be in charge, standing by a cave entrance at the back of the ravine. One is a black half dragon in purple robes,the other is a human female in shiny purple armor, and the third is a female blue half-dragon who might be the mate of the slain Langredossa at the heroes feet. The three commanders break up and start walking towards their three tents – the blue one is the one they are in.

The party sneaks out of the tent and of course the dwarf cleric has trouble being stealthy with his elephant mount. He rolls a natural one on his stealth check, with his modifier becoming a zero. This cannot be allowed to pass, so I ask him to roll on the penalty roll table. Thinking that double damage will still be zero, he scoffs at the idea but rolls – and gets knocked unconscious for 2-8 rounds. Not all damage is hit points!

More shenanigans happen, an eventually they save the prisoners and escape up a hidden back staircase just behind where the prisoners are kept. Convenient! Once back at Greenest,they spend a couple days resting and recuperating while doing a little home improvement on their new headquarters – a Sirius Black type mansion near the center of town. The cleric also trades in his big elephant for a pair of easier to handle dwarf elephants.

Once the monk npc whom they rescued is healed from his time in captivity, he comes around to thank them and ask a favor. He is going to his home town of Leucrotta to tell his master what he has learned of the cult, but he needs them to go back to the raider camp and check out what is in the cave. His master will pay them 150 gold each when they make it to Leucrotta. They (eventually) agree.

Heading back to the camp, they decide to use the secret back entrance near the cave mouth. They find the camp to be deserted but can’t see the cave from above, so the dwarf decided to go down to investigate. He chooses to ride his dwarf elephant like a surf board down the ravine’s edge, rather than leave the wide hipped elephant up top. I asked him if he is sure he wants to do this foolhardy thing, but he insists.

Of course I ask him to make a dexterity check on the way down, to stay atop the elephant as it slides down the nearly vertical jagged, rocky surface. Of course he rolls a two with his modifier becoming a one. Oh Joel. You never should have attempted this. The elephant decides to ride the dwarf down the final half of the ravine, and they end up at the mouth of the cave, the dwarf unconscious at zero hit points, with only his boots visible under the elephant’s seated butt. The rest of the party chose to descend using the secret carved staircase. Dwarf elephants have a long memory and the will not forgive the dwarf for his treatment of them. The other one he painted black, by the way. As the dm, I may need to take those elephants away from him.

They entered the cave after killing the guards and reviving the dwarf. They avoided the fungus garden and came to a cross roads. One had lots of feet traveling down it, the other one less so. Then the dwarf, in a scene out of Aliens, had his nose to the ground and said “feet many feet, getting closer. They are right on top of us! Where are they?!?” With his nose to the ground he couldn’t se any o the feet, so one of the players said “I look up” and there were three flying kobolds, six floating feet, coming towards them. It was a short battle, and we might have ended it there,or continued a little further, I can’t remember anything that happened after the feet incident.

Non dnd game night Saturday

Since I started with Ogre I guess I will not end with fantasy foot fetish, but instead go out like I came in, with talk of games other than dnd. On Saturday we had a non-dnd game night (Kind of specific, huh? prejudice one might say) that included the game 7 Wonders, which was a lot of fun to play. We did not use the feature about building your own wonder, which i think is a shame, and I blame losing because we were leaving out that major component.

I started off the game night with a three player round of Smash Brawl for the Nintendo Wii. It was vaguely fun, but not knowing what was going on 95% of the time made me feel like a 95 year old grand ma, so I don’t think I will ever play that game again. I did have much better success as Star Fox than I did as Donkey Kong. But at the end of the game I had 5 kills to my son’s 75 and joel’s 50+.

I had wanted to try out Dominion but it is for 2-4 players and there were around seven of us. Other games choices were Small World, which I won the one time I played,I think as ice barbarians or something. That was a fun game which I would play again. My favorite board game however, is Settler’s of Catan, which we also didnt play. There is only so much time in a game night!

The rest of the group went on to play a game I think might be called Resistance, where two of the five are spies, and they go on missions to succeed or fail (Wil Wheaton can tell ou more…). I had to go to bed, but I heard the rest of them playing that game, and they seemed to really like it, tons of laughter and what not.

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This week the weather broke and it was quite chilly, so we celebrated with chili. It was good. We also continued our new 5th edition campaign with newly minted second level characters. After protecting the town-folk from the raiders, in the cold light of day it was important to find out where they went and where they were going to attack next.

The characters gathered their mounts together – an elephant, a war camel, a warhorse, a mule, and a riding panther. They met some stragglers from the raiding party and slew them and took their stuff, including shiny new leather cult of the dragon uniforms which they put on. They then installed the gold dragonborn as a new general for the raiders and bluffed their way past the rear guard and into the camp. The procesion wound its way through the huge raider camp towards the large leadership pavilion at the back of camp. They strode up to the leaders tent and demanded an audience.

The leader Langredose strode out. It was the blue half-dragon the party had fought the night before drung the raid, and who tricked a blue dragon into thinking he was a big chicken sandwich. Many emotions flashed across the raid leader’s face as he realized his foes were on his front stoop.Combat ensued.

The fight was quick and brutal and the party knocked him and his guard drake out, only to find they were now stuck in the middle of the raider’s camp with no way out. What will happen next? Find out next week, same time same place.

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Temple of St Cuthbert in Greenest

Temple of St Cuthbert in Greenest

Week 2 of our new 5th edition campaign took place this weekend, and it was just as fun and exciting as the first week. We left off with the crew securing the town Mill. They needed to protect the winter food supply from the riaders until a relief force can arrive. They hold on for an hour and manage to take a short rest.

During the fight to retake the mill, the tiefling pirate was killed by a single lightning strike. Whne the relief force shows uo, the mother of the children theheroes saved is among the militia, and Lianin sees the body of the child-saving pirate, she immediately offers her family’s prized possession – a raise dead scroll.

Aside- I actually called it a reincarnate scroll and thought about making the player roll on the old 1st edition reincarnation table. The player retains all his class skills, but takes on the racial traits of the new species.

Druid Reincarnation Table (1st edition PHB)

Druid Reincarnation Table (1st edition PHB)

(Note, on rolls above 86%, it switches to the Wizard reincarnation table, which is all humanoids.)

In the end I let her keep her species and went with normal resurrection, but it was a fun idea, one I have meant to use time and time again, but never quite managed to slip in. Some day! We are getting ahead of ourselves however. There is a story to tell. Because Khar’s character was dead, I let her run Lianin until her character was revived. Lianin had all the exact same stats as Khar’s fighter,just without any racial or class abilities. (simplified!) It worked out.

So the characters needed to save the tiefling. To do so, they needed to get the body to the priest of St Cuthbert,who was being besieged with a group of innocent townfolk in the temple to St Cuthbert across town. Also, there was a tunnel under the temple that led into the dungeons of the keep, but a monk staying at the temple has the key to the secret one-way door under the temple. If they can greak the siege, raise the tiefling, find the key, and escape with the civilians throuh the tunnel to the keep, it will be a total success. That is what they set out to do.

The temple to St Cuthbert (pictured above) was a stout old fieldstone structure, with a heavy iron-barred doors in fron and back, and a peaked slate tile roof. A cordon of kobolds and their pet drakes had encircled the temple and were cavorting and dancing around it, while splinter groups tried to break in. The back of the temple was shrouded in smoke from an on-going attempt to burn through the rear entrance, while a group of cultists used an improvised battering ram(made from an over-sized pencil sharpenerer) on the front doors.

Above, a group of flying kobolds were breaking the narrow stained glass windows but are unable to get past the metal bars, and they move to the roof, where they begin tearing through the tiles. The heroes have only a few minutes before the temple falls.They head around back stealthily but at the last second the bard kicks a tin can, and one of the babies the npc mother is holding begins to cry (smoke in the eyes.)

Another aside – Our group is legendary for their callous disregard for the livelihood of those they encounter along the way, and there have been more than one encounter which has not ended well for any babies or children involved. It has become a joke thet if there is a baby in the scene, it will most likely end up shish-kebab’d. barbecued or worse. Even last week, there was an ‘incident’ but this time, with the totally absurd idea that a spear maiden would have her babes at her breast while fending off an invasion made us all realize that maybe it is not so much that the players are terrible people that destroy all babies, but that I AM THE TERRIBLE ONE for always putting these babies where they don’t belong, and just daring the players to do something about it. Yes it is true, I am the evil one. And for the rest of the night babies popped up literally EVERYWHERE. I will not document these instances, but let the kind reader insert the imagery himself.

So the party is discovered, but they gain surprise on a group of kobolds led by a produce-flame casting dragon cultist. The bard literally runs into the cultist, and he takes aim and places a hand-crossbow bolt at point-blank range through his left eye. He heard a satisfying thunk as the bolt passed through the cultist’s brain and lodged in the back of his skull, leaving only the colorful feathers where his eye once was. The cultist’s other eye slowly loses focus and he falls in a heap. Reaching a higher level of bloody-mindedness than I thought was possible, I began describing each enemy killed during the surprise round as luridly as I could.

The wizard with a gizzard cast ray of frost, and turned a kobold into a block of crystal ice. One peck of the beak and it shattered into a million pieces which slowly dissolved into a pink paste. The monk did a flury of blows which brok a kobolds neck. He then popped the kodolds head off, and holding the body like a bag-pipe, began fire-hosing everyone down with the spewing blood. The thief requested a clean kill, so she got a pass and took out her foe without a fuss. However it didn’t las long, when she went to unlock the door with her “human hands” as she called them, I reminded her she was a gnome, and so I retroactively described how, as the bard was putting a crossbow bolt into the human cultist’s eye. the little gnome bard was calmly sawing off his hands for “use later.”

No one excaped my bloody-mindedness. In fact when they made it into the temple at last I lost control and screamed that all the innocents were slaughtered, it was a blood-bath. That was not what happened. I called a five minute break, and we continued on with the gore level turned back down to 11. I did not know I had it in me, and was even starting to scare myself, except that it was so damn funny. Moving on.

The monk they had come to find was missing, gone out to save town folk, but he never made it back after his last trip out. The ragonborn monk was sad that his companion was missing, but fond the key to the secret tunnel in the monk’s chambers.

It was going to take 15 turns to do the ritual to save the tiefling (I should have made it 5) so the party split up. One group went to the cellars to lead the people to safety, while the other group defended the hole in the ceiling through which 1d6 kobolds were entering per round. I only rolled ones and twos, so that part was pretty easy. The three skeletons of the founding fathers of the temple, however were not so easily dispatched, especially since I house-ruled on the spot that skeletons have resistance to slashing and piercing damage, as is right and true.

It was getting late, so they made it to the keep and we could have ended it there, but ONE MORE ENCOUNTER and we could finish the scene, and they could gain a level, so they agreed. How bad could it be, fifty dragons? No just one. As they emerged from the tunnel, they saw that the exhausted Governess was wounded but still holding off the raiders with her handfull of gendarmes. she thanked the heroes for all their help, but said she had one last task for them. The dragon who she thought had left, came back and was circling for another attack. Kill him or drive him off! Um, ok.

They thought I had tricked them and this was a suicide mission, but they climbed dutifully to the roof of the tower and prepared to attack as big blue swooped down. The rogue pluckishly tried to talk the dragon out of attacking, bu he was having none of it. They all got a ranged attack as the blue dragon charged, then the monk and fighter got melee attacks as he crashed to the rooftop. Both hit, doing major damage and really angering the dragon, who took over 25 hp damage that round. It unleashed a mighty buffeting of wings, which everyone but the fighter and warlock saved against, who were blown off the rooftop to shatter into bloody heaps on the flagstones below. As they landed, the sun crept over the horizon, the dragon used the powerful buffeting wings to launch into the air and fly away, the raiders withdrew with their booty, the town was saved, and they gained a level.

Great night of adventuring. Great adventure so far.

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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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